Sunday, December 06, 2009

A Heart-felt "Hello"!

It’s 2:00am, and I’ve stopped drawing for the evening. Before I turn in, I had to let you know I’ve been thinking of you. We haven’t talked in a while, so I thought I should check in, say hello, and wish you a happy Christmas with your family and friends. I mean it sincerely.

Thanksgiving was wonderful for me this year. My husband and I were invited to my brother’s house.
“What time should we be there?” I asked. “Whenever you’d like,” he replied. Then he paused, “ early can you get here?” Now, mind you, dinner wasn’t to be served until around 3:30pm. I knew this from a previous conversation. He had everything under control, as he always does, bless him. He didn’t need me to rescue him in the kitchen; the guy can cook up a storm. So when he asked us to come early, my heart did a little dance inside my chest. His question was code for “I love you, and I want to spend special time with you before everyone else arrives.” Why do brothers have such a hard time saying the actual words? Maybe it’s a man thing....I don’t know. Anyway, I would walk through fire for my brother; so needless to say, I was thrilled by this gentle display of affection.

It’s so nice to be wanted by a member of my family, instead of being an obligatory afterthought. But then, I’m sure that I can be a real pita sometimes, so who could blame them for often inviting us when it’s obviously too late to attend?

Back to the party. The food was delicious, my brother and sister-in-law were awesome, the other invitees were quite animated, and I think I managed to get through an entire day without boring the snot out of anyone...a new record for me!!

Christmas is arriving too quickly this year. The moderator of my illustrator’s critique group came up with a great idea, everyone swapped names and they’re working on Artist Trading Cards for each other. I had my head in the sand when the idea was presented to the group, so I missed out. Instead of boo-hooing, I took it as an opportunity to do something that would make me feel “Christmassy”. I decided to make cards for everyone in the group! What fun it has been! The images you see in this post are a sneak peak.

I’ll check in again when I have the rest done. I’ve got to work fast!

In the meantime, I’m getting close to the finish line with my picture book, “Alphey Loves Letters”. I have an exclusive new line of rubber stamps coming out in the Spring, which will be available for purchase at AND, I’m about to sign a contract to produce a coloring book for kids! Life is good.

One more important update that I MUST mention. My great-nephew, Alexander is almost 7 months old now! He is trying so hard to talk, mouthing the words without any sound escaping his lips. It’s too cute! He’s also eating stage 2 baby food now, and sitting up all by himself. He became one giant sweet potato at Thanksgiving, wearing it from his nose to his toes! Too funny. He’s brought life back into our home, and holds my heart in his chubby little fingers!

All my best to you my friend. May the season bring you as much joy as you have given me throughout the year,...and that's a lot!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Author/Illustrator Dilemma

Being both an illustrator and an author can be frustrating. Those of us who wear both hats have to DOUBLE our efforts for success, and be equally as talented in both arena's. In today's market, there's no room for weakness.
Authors must constantly update blogs, research publishers, spend time critiquing and assisting colleagues, work on promo material, Twitter, Facebook, etc.

Illustrators must create new promotional pieces in addition to their current assignments, send out illustration packages and post card updates, seek out publishers for submissions, research visual trends and constantly work at evolving their style.

Individually these jobs are difficult enough, but combined they are nearly impossible to maintain. Those who are singular in their efforts seldom comprehend this dilemma, so quite often, author/illustrators are left feeling isolated from colleagues, and overwhelmed by the weight of expectations.

If you are like me, both an author and an illustrator, there is a new place where you can go to learn, vent, share and feel truly understood. It's called, "Manic-The Author/Illustrator Network" at Our numbers are rapidly growing.

My personal solution is to accept the fact that there will never be enough time to address both the author and illustrator side of me. There will always be an ebb and flow, with one winning out over the other at different points in time. I can not control either of them any more that I can the ups and downs of my personal existence.

The inspiration that ignites them comes in waves, rolling over me until they are spent and a new swell begins.

I may be an illustrator today, but tomorrow, words may arrive that beg me
to lay down my beloved paint brush, and take up my pen.
It's as if they were my children, each wanting to be held
in arms already overflowing, each demanding equal time,
knowing they must be patient and wait their turn.
I sincerely hope that soon, conferences will have Author/Illustrator guest speakers who understand and address the unique problems that exist for those of us crossing over and mixing the lines between writing and illustrating. The publishing industry is showing signs of acceptance, and perhaps even preference towards those who are capable of filling both rolls. It makes sense. One contract is cheaper and easier than two. Communications are easier when there is only one individual to consider, and funding is less complicated when there is only one check to be issued! Hang in there my friends, our day is coming.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

A Touch, a Smell and a Feeling.

Wow, I can't believe a whole month has passed since my last blog entry. It's been a crazy time too, what with the Swine Flu knocking me upside my mellon head! I almost ended up in the hospital. Well, you would too if it felt like a thousand pound pachyderm had taken up residence on your chest! Thank goodness it was cleared up in time for my trip to Evansville!

Two days after I'd taken my last antibiotic, and notified all my blogging friends and critique groups that I was off to the land of no computer access, I drove from Florida to Indiana with my aunt Janie (my mother's sister). We went to see my great-aunt Bonnie (my grandmother's sister).

Aunt Bonnie is an 82 year-old pistol. She'd called my aunt Janie three times in September to remind her that we'd promised to return for a visit (4 years earlier), "...and it's high time you girls made good on your promise!" she scolded. "Besides, I could drop dead at any moment, and then wouldn't you be sorry!" Mind you, this old woman is the only person on the face of the earth who could convince me to walk away from my keyboard and drawing table for a week! You see, "Bonnie Jean" (my mother's namesake) holds my heart in her hands.

From the time I was a little child, I looked forward to aunt Bonnie and uncle Paul's yearly trek to Florida, with my three cousins in tow. I couldn't wait for them to pull up in our driveway. The excitement was overwhelming. It meant that summer had truly arrived and along with it, someone who loved me more than life itself. I couldn't wait to sit beside her and receive the love that oozed from her very pores. She smelled clean, like fabric softener and she wrapped her arms around me in the way that I wished my mother would. I longed for it, and it was as if aunt Bonnie knew it would have to last me the whole year long.

During those summer visits, the boys and uncle Paul would pack up their fishin' poles, grab a cooler full of cokes, and run off with my grandfather and his boat. We all knew we'd be having fish for supper all week long and that pleased me just fine! Grandaddy had moved to Florida to fish, so he was in his element when Aunt Bonnie's boys came to town. I knew that he'd be smiling for the duration of their stay, and it was the most smilin' he do all summer. This very fact was all that allowed me to share him for a while without any argument. My granddaddy was my hero.

While the boys were out in the Gulf, it gave us girls a chance to visit. I got along fine with my cousin Tammie. We played sweetly together, but I was always aware that she was a year older than me. She seemed so smart, and she fought with her brothers in a way that I wouldn't have dared. I thought it was odd that aunt Bonnie defended her so. It was usually Tammie who started the fights!

It's been years since I thought about those summers. I remember thinking aunt Bonnie must be rich, because they could afford a hotel on the beach for a whole week! I always had a dark tan by the time she left to return to Evansville....taking my heart with her.

When aunt Bonnie knew we were coming, she could hardly wait until we pulled up in the driveway. Her excitement was overwhelming. It meant that Fall had truly arrived and along with it, someone who loved her more than life itself.

If it's true, and this was my last opportunity to be with her, then the last hug will be all the sweeter. It will have to last longer this time. She hugged me goodbye as if she knew it. The soft smell of her will be with me always, and there's great comfort in knowing that all that love will be waiting for me on the other side.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

"What If"- Creativity at Play

I've been told that playing the "what if" game is a waste of ones time, and that we should all be focused on what is. I'm not so sure about that.
To me, "what ifs" are equal to day dreaming. Some people probably think that's a waste of time as well, but ask any creative person and I'll bet you'd have a fun argument on your hands.
Some of my most inspiring moments are when I'm asking myself things like, what if I'd become a traditional, fine artist instead of a children's book illustrator/authorsWould I be having a gallery show right now instead of plunking out a blog entry on my keyboard? At one point (long ago) it could have gone either way. Would I be sipping champagne instead of trying to decide what to scrape up for dinner? What if it's not too late? Should I give it a go? Put my career (ha, ha, ha) as a "professional" children's book illustrator/author on hold?? Hmmmm?
Now here's what I'm talking about! All this contemplating has given me ideas! There could be a character for a story here, or a great illustration. Imagine a bunch of stuffy, stiff rich folk, sipping martini's at a gallery opening for a Picasso-like, overly plump arrrr'-teast! And here's the kicker, we are seeing it from a mouses point of view! I'm sure that's the same sort of brain-storming that made "Ratatouille" come to life!
Back to the game.
What if I'd played it safe, and had become an English teacher? Well, I'd have a steady job, making more money than I ever have as an illustrator. But, I'd also be full-swing into the first semester after a long, un-paid summer. I'd have tests piled high on my desk, waiting to be graded and my check book would be running on empty after shelling out what's left of my savings on supplies that the county couldn't afford to provide for my classroom!

I'm seeing a wild-eyed, exhausted teacher. Her chin is propped up in one hand, elbow on her desk. There's a exaggerated mountain of test papers next to her on one side, and a big stack of books on the other. Now back up. We realize she's in her pajama's and fuzzy slippers. There's a laundry basket piled high with laundry in front of the desk, there's toys everywhere, and the kids are having a pillow fight behind her...feathers are flying. This is probably close to the reality of a teachers life. I'm suddenly glad to be an illustrating the scene instead of living it.

Being a creative person does have it's advantages. We get to play the "what if" game and actually get something out of it besides remorse and regret. There's an up side that not too many people experience, so they avoid it, unaware of it's true potential. The truth is, I wouldn't trade my life for any other and being fully aware of that fact makes playing the "what if" game enjoyable.
Imagine how many wondrous things would not exist if not for the game! There would be no cell phones, (we should all be thanking Gene Roddenberry) microwave ovens, or even computers.
For those who would run from the game because there's a possibility for negativity, I say;
"What if you could learn to see your glass half full?"

Thursday, August 27, 2009

A Perfect Example for "Newbies"

Every now and then, I get a wild hair to venture out into the publishing world and see what's really going on. I skip merrily along, hoping that my new adventures will be an improvement on the last, yielding pleasant results and restoring my faith in the industry as a whole.

I imagine myself being yet unjaded, the perfect picture of wide-eyed innocence. After all, who knows? There are new experiences yet to be enjoyed, right??

Hold on partner, not so fast...

In my last post, we discussed self promotion. It's a necessity if you want to find work and keep the money rolling in to pay the bills. Heck, most of us would be happy if we could make enough (using only our artistic talent) to just buy groceries! But such is not usually the case, and talent has NOTHING to do with it. It's all about the "vultures".

Usually this image conjures up an ugly scene, one of giant, grotesque birds. They are circling above a decomposing corpse of something that once contained life, something that was full of wonder, something that was once new and unspoiled. Something now broken and as black as the hideous things that feed upon it.

There are people out there waiting to pounce on you, hoping to find you in your weakest, most desperate moment. They lurk in the shadows, waiting for the innocent, using every means possible to lure in unsuspecting victims. Their favorite meals are the naive, full of spirit and sensitivity. Those yearning to please and prove their worth, only to be spit out, used and wasted.
Still with me? Good, I'm glad you're paying attention. This darkness is not my usual approach. If you know me, you know I'm almost always the optimistic one in the crowd, with my cup half full. But today, someone reminded me of what can happen if you can't see or don't know the warnings. I thought I'd share the reality, with the hope that it will shed some light on yours....the new kid on the block.

The scene; Craigslist.

Cartoonist/Illustrator Needed (New York)

Skilled cartoonist/illustrator needed for a new children's book series. Please email the art director at with samples of your work and your online portfolio information. If considered a candidate, you will be contacted within a week with further details on the project and a request to provide a few specific samples based on our main characters.
Strict deadlines. Moderate pay from first-time author.

Compensation: paid-contract

The truth is, this is a typical advertisement for a work-for-hire illustration project. It is very vague on purpose, baiting readers with the possibility of further work (new children's book series) if they're chosen. It also mentions that you'll be working with an "art director", something that most newbies dream about. It mentions that samples will be requested, but avoids the fact that they will be unpaid "spec" work. It lists the pay as "moderate" when, in fact, it's well below industry standards. It mentions a contract, lending to it's presumed credibility.

But wait, it gets better....

After sending them a response, along with my website portfolio address, here's what I received. Please note my comments inserted throughout.


Based upon samples viewed of your work, we believe you are an excellent candidate to illustrate our upcoming children's book series!
Notice, they're still throwing in that word (series). This is to be work for hire with payment offered for each completed book as well as limited royalties. A more precise explanation of this contract is listed below. If these terms are agreeable to you, please read on.

$15 per completed page, (excuse with royalties of five thousand ($5000) per book . Royalties terms: $.25 (twenty-five cents) per Book sold for the first Twenty Thousand (20,000) Books sold.

So, for a 24 page Children's Book, which consists of 22 full color, ready for print illustrated pages, they're talking a total of $330 dollars. If this book were to be done for a traditional publishing house, the pay would be possibly ten times this amount! With regards to royalties, the way this is worded, you will only get .25 cents for each book sold. Who's going to sell this "first-time" author's book? Most likely, the author. So who's going to buy it? Most likely it will be friends, family members and people attending his/her author workshops! Remember, he/she will have to sell at least 2000 books for every $500 the illustrator receives.....what are the odds? I'll tell you....SLIM!

So, if that all sounds good to you, please do the following before 12:00 am this Monday, August 31 (That's this Friday at midnight).

Attached you will find illustrations of our two main characters.
Okay, so let's ask ourselves, who's art are they ripping off? We are very happy with them and would like to maintain their essence as much as possible, if not completely replicate them. RED FLAG! Can you say, COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT boys and girls? If you can successfully mimic this style, that would be terrific and probably ideal. And also THEFT! If however, you are inspired to ad your own twist or style, then feel free to do so. The quality of your work I have seen thus far tells me that this may yield a pleasant result. Like I said though, we're very happy with what we have. I'll bet, since they most likely didn't pay for it! I'd describe it as a cross between Disney and anime. (If you'd like to submit a couple styles, that's fine). They should both look about 5 years old. Whatever you choose, here's what I need you to email us before this Friday at midnight:

One fully finished and colorized illustration of a lush, mountainous and tree-filled landscape with a few buildings in the midground. Also, in the background, midground and especially foreground I need to see 3 "clones" for each of the two characters attached to this email (totalling 6 "clones.") These "clones" should be drawn in various action poses at various angles (profile, top-side profile, upshot, back w/turning head, twisting bodies, jumping, running, etc.). The purpose of these "clones" is to demonstrate your ability to create various dynamic images and angles, while maintaining continuity of the characters' appearances. This comment made me wonder if they even LOOKED at my samples, which contained a child in various poses to prove my ability to draw with continuity.
This submission of your work WILL NOT BE USED for publication, profit or promotions in any way. I wonder if they said this to the artist they are ripping off? The sole purpose of this submission is for me to gauge your ability and compatibility for our book series. He couldn't tell from my portfolio? Why did I bother sending the link? You WILL NOT be compensated for this submission. WOW! BIG surprise!
8X10 jpeg please.

Please understand that this and all deadlines are final. Late submissions will not be considered. The earlier you can submit this work, the better. Both quality and turnaround time are crucial to this project.
Typical, they are always in a hurry. They want you to ignore your instincts, make a hasty decision and go for it!

Upon viewing your submission, I will contact each of you... With this statement, it becomes clear that you are competing with other artists, who all received this exact same letter....and YOU thought you were special! let you know my thoughts and thank you for your time. Our top artist choices will be contacted for telephone or in-person interviews (depending on where you live.)

After that, one artist will be offered the position.
And that person will probably be asked to copy YOUR submission!

Computer skills are a must. Please note these skills with your submission (Photoshop, Illustrator, In-Design, Web Design, Flash, etc.) Final illustrations for this book must be submitted as digital files meeting specific requirements for the printer which are yet to be determined.

Thank you very much for your interest in our project. It is very close to our hearts....
AND their wallets! Please respond to this email as soon as possible to let us know you will be submitting the sample explained above before this Saturday. This comment explains why they think each illo is only worth $15.00! At the time of this correspondence, this deadline was only 1 day away! They believe that a professionally rendered illustration, fitting their description could be sketched out, cleaned up, tweaked, painted and formatted overnight!

And now for my response......

Dear Sir,

Thank you for considering me for this position, but I must decline your offer. Respectfully, I feel that $15 for full color, full page illustrations that include elaborate backgrounds is ridiculous. To offer a professional illustrator such a small amount is a clear indication that your company has no concept of the time-consuming work involved. It is insulting.

Even though the characters you need are simple, creating professional looking backgrounds is not. Good composition, balance, and character and text placement is a complicated matter. It requires a great deal of time and consideration. In order for me (or any other illustrator) to create quality images that one would be proud to associate themselves with, it would take much more time that you are willing to pay for.

Given today's wages, $15.00 per hour is less than most illustrators will consider. The amount of time necessary to produce your request (from concept sketches-thru change requests-to completed, full color images ready to print) would far exceed this as an hourly wage.

To quote $5000 in royalties is misleading. It looks nice in print, but seldom pans out. The illustrator's compensation is left entirely in your hands, with no guarantees of proper marketing and nothing to ensure the successful sale of 20,000 copies. Even the sale of several hundred copies would not be compensation enough for the task you are proposing.

This contract may look good to amateur illustrators, who cannot do the math, have low self esteem and are desperate for payment and exposure of any kind...but it is really an elaborate way for you to lure the naive and innocent into uncharted waters, while you reap the rewards for their hard work and talent!

Remember, you get what you pay for. Maybe you'll find someone in India or China...I hear they work cheap there.

Please note; although you will remain anonymous, I will be posting your proposal and my response on my blog! One of my personal goals in life is to inform and protect my fellow illustrators from deception by unscrupulous and unprofessional companies or individuals. Although you have been up front with regards to compensation, newly emerging illustrators need to witness and understand that their talents are deserving of a fair wage.

This proposal is a perfect example of what's wrong in the current publishing market today.

Thank you, Lisa J. Michaels

As you can see, follow-thru is not an issue for me. If you are a new illustrator, or even someone like me who's been around a while, I hope this post has alerted you or reminded you how easy it is to be taken advantage of by clever bottom feeders. They are a dime a dozen, and getting smarter by the minute.

I wish I could say that this adventure was pleasant, but at least it yielded something for your consideration. Now,....I'm off to refill my cup and search for my rose colored glasses.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Self Promotion

I'm happy to be back with Part 2 of "Increasing your Illustrating Odds". It is my sincere hope that these postings will help those who are just starting out, redirect those who have lost their way, and refresh those who have become weary from the daily grinding of graphite that seems to lead nowhere. Chin up my friends!

Creating an image

In my opinion, the question of the day should always be, "What should I be doing?"
A lot of illustrators never have lift off because they refuse to think long-term. They think if they put themselves out into the world, the work will find them! That's the farthest thing from the truth. You must consistently lay the ground work for tomorrow by living the life of a successful, working illustrator TODAY!
  • Create a portfolio of your work, and add to it weekly.

  • Create a professional looking website portfolio, which contains only your very best work to date. You may want to consider having two separate portfolio websites, one for graphic illustration and one specifically designed for showing your Children's Publishing illustrations, like illustrator/graphic designer Aja Wells. Your websites should be kept separate, for a plethora of reasons!

  • Always keep a stock pile of ideas on file, and take time to replenish it constantly. You may be working on a paid assignment when an awesome idea for a Picture Book floods your mind and gets your blood pumping! Stop for a minute, and jot down highlights to help refresh your memory later and then place the note in your "ideas" file. When you have completed your paying assignment, you'll have great ideas waiting in the wings. Soon, you'll have a reputation as someone who never misses a beat, and is constantly in creative motion, like my friends, Ginger Neilson and Cyn Narcisi!

  • Develop a daily routine. Get up and dress as if you're going to work! It will remind you that you are a professional, even when you don't have a paying assignment.

  • Use your assignment-free time wisely. It's easy to feel sorry for yourself when paying jobs seem to keep passing you by! If you were sitting in an office, would your manager allow you to sit around and whine or would he/she tell you to get back to work on finding new ways to bring in clients?

    Free time is opportunity time! It gives you the chance to update your websites, help other illustrators, try new techniques and mediums, take on-line classes, or create that dummy-book you've been longing to work on! It's an opportunity to do ALL the things you don't have time for when you have a PAYING job with a deadline!

  • Keep a calendar nearby. Schedule time each week to look for more work by sending out samples, postcards, and resume's.

  • Always have six irons in the fire! Yes, that may seem like a lot to juggle, but chances are, five will either get turned to dust or put on hold.

  • Keep excellent records of places where you've applied, what you sent, and who you addressed it to. (I keep separate folders for each project.)

  • Avoid illustrating books for new, self-publishing authors. (authors, please refrain from sending me hate mail! I acknowledge that there are exceptions to every rule.) The truth is, most can not afford to pay you as a publisher would. They have no concept of the time involved in illustrating a picture book, and most rely on you for every step of the production process (extremely time consuming).

In the end, you will average about $3.00 for every hour you painstakingly put in, hand-holding your client through each dramatic hurdle towards completion. When you're done, you'll have invested tons of precious time (that you can't get back) in a book that the author must then self-promote to family and friends. Most never see a bookstore shelf, and it is seldom considered a publishing "credit" by the publishing business. Don't make the mistake of thinking, "Well, it'll help me to build my portfolio" (I've heard this a hundred times). You can do THAT on your own, using common sense and all that you've learned instead of taking art direction from an author who knows nothing about illustrating books! The illustrations you produce on your own will be much stronger and more challenging, just ask my friend Sam Kirkman!

  • Pay it forward. You will find that professional illustrators are a caring, sharing bunch! You'll receive an abundance of help along the way, so be prepared to give back, like illustrator Gina Pfleegor. Gina has given me countless lessons in "illustrator etiquette", jumping in with much needed assistance whenever I hit bottom. (Yes, even I need a pep talk now & then!) You'll gain a good reputation and you'll make connections that you never dreamed possible.

Don't ever be cocky or stingy with information, experiences, or lessons. It will come back to bite you when you least expect it! Mr. Murphy's law almost guarantees that you will find yourself in the same on-line critique group with someone you ticked off! What if someone you slighted gets published and you need their help someday? You never know how the chips will fall, so BE NICE!

There are many websites to help you with the process of getting illustration assignments and knowing what to do when it happens. None of them compare to a live person, who is willing to walk you through this difficult (and sometimes scary) time. For this reason, I strongly emphasis joining the SCBWI, critique groups, and creating personal contacts.

Blogs have become one of the greatest ways of meeting other illustrators. You can learn about their process, their current projects, and their personal journey. Some of my personal fav's are; Kelly Light, Becky Driscoll, Wilson Williams, and Sherry Rogers (to name but a few).

Twitter has also become a popular tool for keeping up with and participating in the community of children's book illustrators. I highly recommend you try your hand at both, as a means of getting people to visit your portfolio website. Traffic to your site can lead to freelance opportunities that you don't have to spend time hunting for, leaving you more time to do what you love most, drawing!

Monday, August 03, 2009

Increasing your Illustrating Odds-Part 1

Every other post or so, I like to discuss a bit about this biz we're in. There are so many new illustrators trying to find their way. They have so many questions, that trying to answer them all individually often eats away enormous amounts of my drawing time. Yet, remembering how it felt to be the new kid in town, makes me inclined to do my best to try and help. So here goes kids....everybody paying attention?

Quantity vs. Quality - Where to Begin

There are thousands of talented illustrators, but successful ones have something more than talent, they have tenacity and perseverance. Here's a few things I recommend to help you get started.
  • Find your own style. You don't have to be the best illustrator in the world, but you must be original. It's okay (and smart) to learn several techniques, but stay true to yourself and don't attempt to copy someone else. Do your best to be your best, and your own unique look will emerge on it's own. Although this generation is leaning towards the production of more computer generated images than ever before, the children's publishing industry still seems to prefer "traditional" illustration techniques. Don't be shocked if you're asked to do illustrations in oils! You'll consider it if you want the job bad enough!
  • Keep working at improving your work. Hone your skills and look for ways to get the desired results faster. Once you start getting assignments, you'll find it much easier if you can knuckle down and work quickly.
  • Do your homework; keep on top of industry trends.
  • Build connections in every way possible. Network with other professionals. Learn to recognize who they are by asking questions like, do they have a great website?
    Have they been published? Are they getting the assignments you're only dreaming of ?

  • Be careful how you spend your time. Don't fall into the trap of giving away the farm. Your time is precious and must be protected. Once you're off and running, people come out of the woodwork looking for guidance. Helping newbies can be very rewarding, as it reinforces what you know...but it can be creatively draining as well. Decide how much time you can afford to spend "giving back" and then stick to it.

  • Join critique groups on line and in person. Listen to the feedback from other professionals. Critique groups make you accountable for creating new work everyday, and they are a great source of inspiration.

  • Surround yourself with positive, supportive people. Drop those who aren't. If you can't, re-evaluate what you are getting from the relationship. Are you sabotaging your own success?

  • Join the SCBWI. It is THE best resource available!
  • Build a diverse portfolio before you build a website. I've seen too many websites that contained every piece of work the illustrator has....all six of them! Either that, or they have a huge body of work, many of which should not be on the website. Your website portfolio should be a statement. It should say to the world, "This is who I am and what I am capable of doing for you." It should contain your BEST work to date, not every piece you've done since high school! A great portfolio should contain images that editors and art directors are begging to see. It's not about showing off your work to friends or your Aunt Martha. It should contain images of children and animals, scenes with diverse backgrounds, outdoor & indoor scenes, close ups and interesting perspectives, etc. AND, it should have black & white illustration samples as well as color.

Okay class, that's it for today. Next posting, we'll discuss "Self Promotion", so if you haven't got a clue where to start... stay tuned!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Time to Catch Up

I'm always amazed by time. When we're young, it moves much too slowly. When we're bored or somewhere we'd rather not be, it barely moves at all. When we stop paying attention, it takes flight and rushes past us at the speed of light, stealing opportunities, flaunting it's importance, and reminding us that we cannot escape it's passage. A month evaporated while my mind was on auto-pilot. It is now The Awakening Hour, and time to share what I've discovered.
It's been a very interesting journey since my last post. I was granted the privilege of caring for my eleven week-old great-nephew, "Alexander", twice a week. This use of my time has opened my eyes in ways I never thought possible.
Every moment that I am with him, I am painfully aware of each word that slides over my lips. I know he listens in ways that grown-ups have forgotten. He really hears what I have to say, so every word must have meaning. I know he's secretly saving them for future blackmail.
I analyze every move his little body makes, making sure I don't miss the subtle hints that babies fling into the open air, trusting that you'll receive each one and respond accordingly. He's too little to understand that I'm not psychic, so I try to be, just for him. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Time is suspended when Alex is with me. It gives me the rare opportunity to contemplate what these moments will look like in the reflections down the road. I must ensure that the memories we are making are as honest and pure as he is right now...before the realities of life change him and self doubt worms it's way into the core of his very being. Inevitable though it may be, I have committed myself to denying any faults he may inherit. I shall speak to him only of his greatness, and see in him all that is possible and good.

I have also discovered a strength in my niece and nephew (Alex's parents) that I did not know existed. Until Alex's birth, these two were children in my mind. I now know that it was I who needed to open my eyes, so that I could witness the unfolding of these two beautiful butterflies.
Since my last entry, my dad has come through surgery to remove his colon cancer. He is in pain, but the prognosis is good, or so say the doctors. I tend to think that it's really up to the powers that be and the man himself.
I'm beginning to see death as a perfect alignment of timed events, which may suggest that everything is preordained. The jury is still out on that one.

So many people have gone while this month whispered past me. Some expected, and other's by complete us. I have wondered about each one, and thought how it seemed as if they were ready, even if we were not. It's interesting and odd to be having such thoughts in the midst of a new infant in my life. Curious indeed.

I'm also finding it curious how the course of my life seems to resemble the ocean. Sometimes it's so still that I can see myself in it's reflection. Everything is so clear, constant and healing. In these times, I can give a lot of myself without losing energy. It's where I am now.
A few weeks ago, I met a very young, talented new illustrator, "Jesse". Getting to know him has made me realize how much I enjoy helping people get started on the road to fulfilling their dream. I can't do it for them...(let's face it, I'm not there yet myself!) but I can give them the tools that they need, and steer them in the right direction. It isn't much, but I remember how rare it was for me to find guidance in the beginning. There are so many questions, and not too many people who will personally take the time to answer them directly. They don't realize how kindness boomerangs back, in ways could you never imagined. For now, Jesse is all the proof I need.
There are times when you just know that you are where you should be.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Father's day, a day for "Dad's"

This Father's day is rather special for me. You see, my "Dad" is driving down to visit. It's a 8 hour drive, which isn't much for most people, but for a man who's just been through a battle with colon cancer, it's more than a lot. It's huge.

I know why he's doing it. He's coming for his kids, to prove to us that he's o.k., to show us, in the flesh, that he's still here for us. To make up for the few times when he wasn't.

I put "Dad" in quotes, because that's what I've always done. It's a way of separating (in my mind) the man who raised me from the man who fathered me. They are very different people, yet they have always had one thing in common, their love for me.

Looking back over my life, it saddens me to think that I couldn't love them both equally, but time and circumstance wouldn't allow it. I was with him until I was six, but my "father" is, and will always be, only that. My father.

Passing years have helped me to understand and even appreciate the role he played in my life. He did, after all, give me gifts. My life and my passion for art. A kind heart and a degree of patience my mother was never capable of. A love of teaching, and a need to be in the limelight. Because of my "Father", I see the world differently than most...through rose colored glasses, or so I've frequently been told.

I never thought of my "Dad" as a stepfather, although that was what strangers said he was. He was the man who took me everywhere and didn't seem to mind. He was the man my grandfather trusted with my life, so who was I to question? As far as I was concerned, my grandfather made the world I lived in and he knew everything there was to know!

Daddy was the person who paid attention to me, who treated me the same as my brothers and taught me how to throw a baseball. He didn't worry that I wouldn't be "girly" enough...he knew how easily my feelings were hurt.

He went fishing with us in Grand-daddy's boat, and long after my grandfather had passed away, Daddy made sure I still got to go, to help ease my "missin'" heart. He'd bait my hook, and never complain about my reluctance to handle worms or squirmy shrimp. I'm sure he thought is was funny how a little girl who wouldn't bait a hook, had no trouble gutting and scaling a bucket full of smelly fish.

Daddy stood between my mother and me, pleading my case on many occasions. I know for sure she'd have yanked my head bald many a time if he hadn't! I've often wondered how many trips to the store were made just so that I wouldn't see her at her worst. But even Dad couldn't save me from that in the end.

My Dad's always remembered my birthday as though he'd been there for the actual event. Christmas was always the best. I never knew we couldn't afford it, it just came none-the-less. He played games with us 'till late at night, yet got up every morning and went to work. He taught me to play the guitar, and then puffed up with pride every time he heard me play. He cheered from the bleachers as I graduated, and cried because it meant I was no longer his little girl. Together, we had learned. He learned how to be my dad, and I learned how to be his daughter.

Almost twenty years has passed since my Daddy walked me down the isle. He knows I'm hoping for at least twenty more. I hope to show my appreciation to the man who taught me the meaning of the word "Dad", and the reason for the special day.

It's true what they say, any man can be a father, but it takes a special man to be a "Dad".

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Dear Frustrated Newbie...a letter of encouragement.

Dear Frustrated Newbie,

Rest assured, every writer has doubts and set-backs when they first start out. The reason is that we are bombarded with rules that most were not aware existed! They are a test of our dedication to the craft and a meter for our degree of passion.

If you are passionate about learning how to create stories that will flood a child's memory and instill in them a life-long thirst for well written literature, then you will survive the rough beginning.

Remember, if it were easy, everyone would be a "published" professional...lord knows, everyone with a computer has tried it. Just ask the editors who are buried underneath mountains of slush!

In my opinion, it's the exceptional people who become successful writers. Those who are ever mindful of the impact of their words, because they feel it themselves. They have a different level of dedication, driven by a longing to be heard above the noise of a deafening world.

Like anything else, you must learn to be a good writer. Only a handful of people in history of man were born with the talent to sit down and scrawl out perfection. The rest of us have to study hard, and keep studying! You are among friends who understand your frustration. We all deal with it.

As an easy comparison, think of writing in the same way as raising a child. Almost any woman can be a mother, but she must learn how to be a good one. I'm sure that in honing your mothering skills, there were ups and downs, failures and triumphs.
I'm sure there were days when, BECAUSE you loved your child so dearly, you thought maybe someone else could do a better job. I'm sure there were many times that you were ready to turn tail and run, but love and the knowledge of your responsibility to your commitment made you stay and stick it out! You knew that the rewards would greatly exceed the complications and loses. Writing is exactly like that!

A writer must have that same level of dedication and passion, because in many ways,

our stories are our children.
In the same way that you raised your child, and reluctantly pushed her from nest to find her own life, we writers nurture our written thoughts. We hone them and love them, until they are strong enough to make it on their own. Then, we reluctantly set them free. Just like children, they often return home, needing more from us! But eventually, with tender care and coaxing, they shine.

Often, when a manuscript is kicking my butt (as trying teenagers can do) I will lock it in the closet until it's ready to behave. I know you've silently wished you could do that to your kid now and then, ha! The truth is, we are often too close to our own writing to see it objectively. By locking it away for a while, and moving on to something new, we can come back later with a fresh perspective. I have found that when I do this, I usually return armed with new writing skills that I didn't have when I first sat down to write. When I pull out the old manuscript, the problem I didn't see before, is now staring me in the face!

"Ah-ha!" I yell, "There you are!!!!"
Nine times out of ten, my newest manuscript taught me just what I needed to know to fix the old one.

Well, I hope that helps to lift your spirits. I remember all too well how it feels to be where you are. I have been struggling to write a winning Picture Book for years! It isn't something you learn over-night. We live in an instant-gratification world, where we have grown to expect instant results. Writing teaches humility and patience above all else.

Best of luck! Lisa

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Great Crit Groups - Worth the Wait

I have been fortunate enough to find and belong to three of the best critique groups in the business of children's book publishing. I know this because I've tried lots of them, only to be disappointed in the end.

I searched high & low for a really long time to find an illustrator's group until, believe it or not, they found me. How lucky is that? I wish everyone could experience the bliss of being found by creative, talented, and caring people such as these. It is not only a blessing, but a foundation on which to blossom your career. Wonderful things begin to happen when people get together in the spirit of creative collaboration and unified, eager support of one another.

My first illustration critique group inspired me to begin my search for a similar writing group. Again, I tried several, but always found them lacking. Although it's true that not every group is for everybody, I've always played nice with the other kids in the sandbox and stuck it out until all professionalism died in the hands of an almighty ego.

It seems that in writers groups, a dominant character always emerges and takes over while the moderator's back is turned. This person can ruin the collaboration if the moderator allows it, and unfortunately, that has always been my experience. Often, it's the moderator herself who sabotages the group and eventually things turn sour and begin to unravel.

I couldn't bare to watch it happen again, so I did something about it. I applied what I learned to a group of my own, and founded "The Yellow Brick Road". Actually, I don't see it that "my own". A great critique group is the sum of all it's parts. It's the level of dedication that's given to the group, by the group as a whole.

By dedication, I don't mean that each person in the group has to constantly be posting new manuscripts and critiques, (although that would be nice). Dedication for me, means that each member is dedicated to supporting each other in every way possible. That could be by providing the group with important information, passing along helpful URL addresses, or alerting the group to a publisher submission deadline, etc. It means understanding when a group member must take time away from the group for personal or business reasons. It means celebrating together when one member achieves the success that we are all seeking. There is no room for back biting or petty jealousy. It takes away from precious writing time.

Having been an innocent bystander in a collapsing house of cards, I decided to be a different kind of moderator. One who stands in the shadows, like a school teacher on the playground. I quietly watch whats going on, and...
I only step in when clouds begin to gather
and thunder rumbles in the distance.

Other than that, I am a participant like all the rest. I have the same responsibilities as everyone else in the group, and I am determined to keep what little ego I have in check. After a successful year, with many in the group achieving the much sought after title, "published author", YBR is going strong. We have a waiting list of writers who wish to join us and a happy, talented cast of characters in 'Oz".

If you have witnessed the rise and fall of many a critique group, I suggest you follow my lead and form your own.
The SCBWI message boards are a great
place to recruit new members,

as they are filled with eager, dedicated writers who are looking for a new on-line home. provides free web pages that are simple to set up (just follow the prompts) and they're user-friendly. You can have your own private critique group up and running in just a few hours, and with any luck at all, your critters will also become life-long friends!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Sharing space

The awesome critique group I work with suggested we share pics of those who share our studio space. I thought it was such a cool idea that it spilled right over into my blog!

Say hello to "Snoop"! He's our resident stalker. He likes to hang out on the windowsill, next to my studio. This was a rare occasion, as he usually only comes out at night to spy on me and tell me his troubles. I just happened to snap this pic early one morning, before he'd had a chance to retire to our attic!

Here's "Buttons", my precious Lhasa-apso. She was having a bad hair day and was awfully unhappy with me for sharing it with the world. Not to mention, she hadn't even had breakfast yet. The nerve of some people!

Her bed is right beside my desk. It's there because if it weren't, she'd lay on the cold, hard floor, just to be near me. She never leaves my side, unless I have to go out into the world. That is something she really resents. Now that she's really old, I treasure every minute with her.

I also share my space with Button's brother, "Levi". He deserves a blog entry of his very own, so stay tuned!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009


It's interesting how inspiring a little one can be. The mere presence of my new nephew "Alexander" is all it takes to brighten my day and lift my spirits. The world takes on a new glow when I see it through these little eyes that are experiencing everything for the very first time.

As an artist, I imagine how bright colors must be...can he feel the warmth of orange, or wonder about the taste of purple? Trees must be so green and pink must surely be soft and squishy.

When you hold a new little life, how can you not feel transformed? There's a tiny face in front of you, who doesn't know anything but joy when they see you. They don't know your dark side, or the fears that have held you back all your life. Looking at him, I wonder where those fears really came from. Did someone plant them, or did I let them sneak in?

Either way, for now, Alex doesn't have any fears or faults...he's perfect. A miracle that makes all he touches turn to magic. For this brief moment in time, his eyes reflect the person he sees as flawless. To him, I am the aunt who will always be there for every birthday, every ball game, and every performance. I'll let him build tents in my living room, finger paint at my kitchen table, and I'll blow giant bubbles for him on hot summer days. I am given another chance to be a better aunt, friend and person than I have been in the past. How could I not love someone so small, who already believes in me and Winnie the Pooh?

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Awakening Hour

There's a special time at night when the house gets quiet. The hum of the refrigerator stops and the air conditioner kicks off, signaling that it's finally cool outside. The dogs have fallen asleep, softly breathing. The squawking parrot is finally silent, all puffed up in her covered cage.

It's what I call, oddly enough...

"The Awakening Hour".

It's comparable to what happens when you first begin to wake up in the morning. You're still dreaming, but awareness is creeping in as your dream begins to fade. If the dream is sweet, you resist and try not to wake. You want it to last as long as possible so you'll remember the faces, but you know the odds.

In the Awakening Hour, the rhythmic sound of soft snoring lulls me into a peace that has eluded me throughout my day. My mind opens up and I imagine the world as it could be. Kinder, clearer, full of possibilities and endless hope. Ideas take flight and thoughts of what I might do and be if I could live in this moment forever, make me feel whole once again. Although my body is tired, my mind is alive and along with it, the need to share and express and become a conduit through which creative energy can flow freely. It is the time when I can be who I was meant to be, uninterrupted.

The Awakening Hour is when I am most creative. Words become as precious as raindrops to dying marigolds, quenching my soul as they flow from my fingers. I feel renewed and rewarded, grateful for the vision that's come before I close my eyes, lie down and surrender.

Some say it's crazy. To be writing and doing while the world slumbers is a curious thing to most. But not to me. It is where I find bliss and understanding, magic and confidence. The Awakening Hour is when I'm most alive.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

In Another's Shoes

Once in a while (like everyone else on the planet) I get frustrated in these shoes. I want to fling them off and try standing in someone else's for a while...just to see how it feels.

Today we went to a wonderful art show in Tampa. It was 82 degrees in the Florida sun. There were beads of sweat on my forehead that welcomed the occasional breeze and reminded me that the blazing heat of summer is only weeks away.

The same summer heat that brings tourists flocking to the beaches to broil like lobsters in the sand. The same heat that rises from the pavement while you sit parked at a stoplight, praying your car won't overheat or your air conditioner won't sputter and die. The same heat that threatens to send you to the hospital, as your garden shears plow through the De'Leon jungle that has suddenly become your backyard. And the same heat that sends you into air conditioned hibernation from June until September - when you realize that one more trip to the mall just might send you over the edge!

I remember standing there, (at the show) wishing I could be one of those tourists strolling by, vacationing here and then going back to a place where the weather is milder. I knew they were wishing they could stay. I wanted to offer them my shoes.

Then there was the artists to consider. I knew what they were thinking as the patrons walked by. I could read their faces, each line and wrinkle speaking volumes. Humiliation, as a voice mutters, "He calls that art?", followed by a snicker and a fake smile. Exhaustion, having spent the morning setting up displays in hopes of selling at least enough to pay for the entry fees, the gas to get there, and a bite or two of a sandwich in between people "just browsing". Longing, as their neighbor in the booth next door makes a sale that dwarfs their entire days receipts, leaving them to wonder where they went wrong and whether or not they've chosen the right path. I've walked in their shoes and decided they were too uncomfortable to live in for long.

After the show, I rushed off to my nieces baby shower. As she laughed and ripped through the brightly colored paper and bows, I imagined what it must be like to be beautiful and young, with a life growing inside of you. Something I myself had missed.

As I snapped photos and zoomed in on her, I allowed my mind to linger in the place behind her eyes. I stared out at all the faces, the center of attention. I felt adored, hopeful, cherished and loved. All of the things I had wished for her. All the things I had wished for myself, a long time ago. It felt warm and my heart swelled. Tears threatened to spill until I wiggled my toes in old familiar shoes.

As we drove home, my husband chattered away. I slipped off my sneakers for the long drive home. My socks clung to the carpeted floorboard and I could feel the hum of the engine under my feet. It felt good to be without shoes, and I began to feel like myself again.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

The Changing Face of the Industry

Believe it or not, there are people who think writing is easy. They honestly think that they can sit down and dash off a children's book and everyone will be amazed and captivated by their brilliance. As a result, the mountainous slush pile grows daily.

Those of us who hit the "delete" button more often than "save", are well aware of the havoc such fools have created on the industry of late. Because of their stupidity, writers who agonize over every word and struggle to "measure up" to their mentors are forced to wait, while frustrated editors sift through the garbage that's been piling up since the affordability of the home pc.

In my opinion, it's as much to blame for the current state of publishing as the failing economy. Don't even get me started on the recent boom in the self publishing market and e-publishing! Self publishing used to be about intelligent people with ambition and a can-do attitude. Occasionally it still is. Once in a blue moon, excellent manuscripts are self published. But more often than not, it's cheap and all about ego.

The industry has changed, and serious writers must adapt.

Years ago, publishers focused on finding brilliant, and well written manuscripts. Today it's equaled by the search for writers with the ability to build connections, self promote, mentor others and speak in public forums.

We must fearlessly force ourselves to keep up with rapidly expanding technology, and rise above the swell of acceptable mediocrity, refusing to give up while facing extinction.

Disappointment in the current trend can knock an excellent writer off track. It's getting increasingly harder to keep up, and the odds against success are staggering. So what's a writer to do?

I think we all need to take a step back and admit that what got us here in the first place was the challenge. Although it is mightier, it is still doable. This is proven by the excellent writers who are finding their way onto bookstore shelves, despite everything. For those who find pleasure in beating the odds, the game is still on.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Bitten by the Doodle Bug

I have decided it's time for me to let go a little and revisit what got me here in the first place....doodling. Let's face it, when you've turned your passion into a daily JOB (I shudder just saying the word), it's easy to forget why you started doing it in the first place.

It's true for those of us who write as well. Your passion can quite unexpectedly become your torment. You seize up and suddenly every previously precious word that spills into your word processor seems jaded, cliche, or just plain boring.

Every writer, illustrator, artist, and creative person goes through it. It's how we deal with it that counts. We're all drama queens. I haven't met a creative being yet that couldn't do a bang up job of wallowing in their own self pity for at least a day or two. We moan and groan and convince ourselves that it's just not worth it. Our passion is gone, never to return! Grumble, grumble, grumble.

People who have seen us through previous funks, roll their eyes at our self loathing and praise us in an effort to relieve our "suffering", while secretly reaching for the nearest bucket! Can you blame them?

If you're born with a talent that most can only dream of, whining about it is really stupid. Lighten up and do something different and forget about what it's worth in U.S. currency. It just might remind you of where you started, and why you can never stop!

Sunday, March 01, 2009

The Swirling Tides

It seems a lot of my colleagues, friends and family are changing course these days. It could be in keeping with the economy. It'd be really easy to follow the trend, and place the blame on Washington, but I think it's more than that. There's been a change coming in the air since way before the election, and the economy has been bad for a really long time.

No, this is different. Choices are being made. Lines are being drawn.

Ideas that had been placed on the back burner for years, are now coming forward and being acted upon.

People who have always taken the back seat, are getting behind the wheel and taking back control.

Many are standing up, tired of sitting on the sidelines and accepting only what is offered when there could be so much more.

I'm witnessing greatness in people who are willing to cast aside their doubt and reach for their passion.

I know followers who have suddenly stepped forward and found the strength to lead.

Change is coming. Do we dare to plan, when so much is in motion?

Then there's 2012. Everybody knows about it, but only Hollywood's talking. Maybe we're all subconsciously dealing with it by finally doing whatever it was we've been holding back on. Maybe that's the explanation for the swirling tides of change.

Whether you choose to believe that it's all coming to a cosmic close-or not, you have to admit that something is going on. I have a feeling we'd better all grab a hold, get a firm grip, and prepare for the windy days ahead.

Even I've been checking my compass and preparing to test new waters. Wherever my boat takes me, I'm sure it'll be an adventure!

Saturday, February 07, 2009

What exactly IS "Bliss"?

The element of surprise can be a wonderful thing. Not knowing you're about to witness something profound, or receive something totally unexpected is pure and sweet bliss...right?
When the unexpected pleasantry arrives, you experience a rush of euphoria. You want the warmth that suddenly blankets you to last, so you rush to tell everyone and anyone who might care to share in your bliss.

You stare at in amazement, able to see the lesson through your gratitude. Recognition, appreciation, kindness and thoughtfulness have found you and you feel alive, part of everything that surrounds you, the seen and unseen.

The moment is mentally recorded, labeled, and filed away for safe keeping among all the other captured memories of the past, your mind a vast warehouse of people and places long forgotten.

But what of the surprises that were not so wonderful? Not knowing you're about to witness something profound, or receive something totally unexpected is still pure and sweet it not?

When an unexpected unpleasantry arrives, you experience feelings so deep they cannot be described. You want the chill that leaves you frozen where you stand to melt away, so you tell everyone and anyone who might care to help you find your way through the darkness.

You stare at in amazement, unable to recognize the kindness and thoughtfulness that envelopes you as you tremble. You fail to see the lesson in the madness. You feel cold, unaware of everything that surrounds you, the seen and unseen.

These moments as well are mentally recorded, labeled, and filed away for safe keeping. Cautiously they nestle beside the other more pleasant memories on the shelf. Decades pass. Grace and time soften them. They get comfortable with each other.

When it's time to get out the boxes and pack up the warehouse, I have a feeling that the positive moments in my life will balance out the negative. That's when I'll know the true meaning of bliss. Until then, I'm grateful for the kindness of friends.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Thriving through Lifes Changes

Notice I didn't say "surviving"? There's a reason for that. It makes us sound like we are somehow victims of life's ever-changing journey. I was brought up believing that. I thought that I was on a roller coaster ride and someone else had hold of the wheel. It took a long time for me to realize that at every waking moment of every day, I was creating my own painting of the future. How could I be a victim if I was the one holding the paint brush?

That's when I started to look at other people differently. If I was painting my own picture, weren't they doing the same thing? Funny how that brings the BIG picture into focus. I'm not as sympathetic anymore, but since then I've begun living more "in the moment", ever mindful of the future I'm creating. Change doesn't scare me at all, because I know now that I'm the one who most likely caused it.

Now don't misunderstand me. We don't ask for lightening to strike. Sometimes there's no shelter from the impending storm. All I'm saying is that I've discovered how to tell the difference!

There's been quite a few changes around here lately, and I'm holding myself accountable. My biggest problem is that I'm a "yes" person. I want to help everyone, and quite often it gets me into trouble. I bite off more than I can chew. I'm a "people pleaser", and it seems to be hard-wired into my brain.

While working on a new Picture Book assignment, I got side tracked. The holidays snuck up on me and BAMM! I had multiple things going on all at once. My mouth, the one that's attached to my hard wiring, agreed to all sorts of things that are now getting in the way of the future I was creating! I lost my vision and my life's painting has begun to look a a bit muddy. But I have the advantage that "victims of life" do not! I know how to change what is.

Cleaning up your own mess isn't fun, but that's what I'm doing. It's working too, because I feel like I'm picking up steam and plowing through the haze. In less than two weeks, my new site- "The Visual Storytellers Showcase" will be up and running. It's a new gallery for some of the best Children's Book Illustrators in the nation to show off their best work to the viewing public. I'll be inviting critics, editors, publishers, teachers, parents and more, with the hope that publishing will be offered and contacts made.

I have also made progress on updating my web portfolio, soon to be re-opened. And I've started writing again....okay, well a little bit. Big messes take a while because the changes keep on comin'!