Monday, November 1, 2010

Working like crazy!

I have been so buys with so many little illustrating and writing jobs that I just realized I have not updated this site with any new pictures of things I am working on...

There are a couple really exciting things happening and I will fill you in when I get a second and wash the paint and pencil shavings out of my hair!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

My very own Manuscript Catalogue...

I took some time today to go through ALL my WORD DOCs and file folders filled with completed, partial and developing manuscripts...


I am quite excited. The downside to that number is, when you approach an editor and/or agent, they would like to see your (sometimes top 3) strongest piece. Well, that  is such a subjective call... it could potentially take me the next 400 years to circulate these one by one and wait the 4-6 months for a response.

Have you ever had an editor or agent sit down with you with ALL your ideas? Do you need to have at least ONE published book under your belt before anyone will devote that kind of time to your projects?

What are your thoughts and insights?

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

NEW Coloring/Activity Page

Feel free to COPY and PRINT... just send me a pic of what your child creates!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Kids T-shirt Line...CLEAN!

I had an epiphany last week...


a kids' clothing line...
simple black line design on white Ts that champion staying "CLEAN" ...
in EVERY sense of the word ...
body, mind, spirit, environment, words, actions, etc....

the monster won't be part of the CLEAN line... was just for fun!
the other design says, "i'm treasured"

Saturday, May 22, 2010


Some of these photos were taken with my cell phone right before they were stuffed with lunches so I apologize for the clarity.

These have become quite the hot commodity at my kids' middle school...I even have teachers asking for custom ones! How fun! It puts a little bit of a crunch in my morning while trying to get three kids off to school (b/c having an artist brain does not lend itself well to preparing ahead of time...that's not how my muse works! LOL!) but it's worth the stories and smiles they come home with!

I only wish I would have started taking pictures of them at the beginning of the year...there's about 150+ of them floating through a recycling plant somewhere.

...stay tuned for more...

I'm planning on illustrating a wordless story on the ones for the rest of the year! From beginning to end. Can you see the lunch table 'chomping at the bit' to see the rest of the story each day?!

Friday, May 7, 2010

More from my art desk...

So, it's FRIDAY, my house is filthy but I have been painting!

Here are some things I have been working on...

This is a commissioned collage for an office manager recently diagnosed with adult ADD!

This is Jasmine...not sure what I am doing with her, yet, but I had a blast getting to know her!

This is Antoinette...she is celebrating herself!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

From my art desk...

I have been working on a couple things simultaneously and those things have been keeping me from blogging regularly...both HERE and on my OTHER BLOG.

I have devised a giant list of WHO I will be sending my latest manuscripts to...and then my printer ran out of ink and for some UNKNOWN reason, Kodak ink is NOT something that is carried by Office Max OR WalMart...grrrrr!

I have been working on a commissioned piece that is a collaged scene using "Benny" as the main focal point. Someone on Facebook saw him and had recently been diagnosed with adult ADD and thought a scene of Benny in an office would be PERFECT for her to giggle at while she was working in HER office.

And of course, I have been drawing and doodling in my sketchbooks.

I have also been doing a lot of reading on mixed media art. I used to do mixed media and somehow got out of it. But after chatting with Judy Schachner at the last SCBWI conference I was inspired to start it again. She gains most of her inspiration for SkippyJon Jones while creating beautiful mixed media projects. She had some with her and they were amazing!

I found a new MIXED MEDIA magazine with an interactive website and I am addicted!

So, back to work! Headed to my desk to organize my acrylic paints in my NEW organizer and get started on  a wood block collage piece!

Pictures to come!


Thursday, April 22, 2010

Back to the YA while the Picture Book submissions simmer...

I just finished Gayle Forman's if i stay and my brain switched back from finishing up the last of the picture book tweaks to working on my favorite child. I enjoy writing picture books, it's the art of it that fascinates me...the painting pictures with words. Keeping a 4 year old's attention with my quirky jump roping squirrel, Benny, is brilliant bliss. But YA is living and breathing inside of me at all times!

I walked away from this latest manuscript almost a month just needed to gel. I wanted to be able to READ it like a teen would, not like the writer who already knows what is going to happen.

I really connected with Forman's interview in the back of the book when she talks about how a "total stranger popped into [her] consciousness." That is exactly how I met M, my character. I sat down to take my mind off of the days stresses and I started to type...a sort of stream of consciousness. That's when I wrote this:

"His eyes were pale, pained and hopeless. His Manson t-shirt was torn down the center and stitched back together with dozens of safety pins. Was this the state of his soul? Held together by something sharp and painful? His eyebrow twitched, he spit at my feet and turned and walked away. This was the boy I loved."

That's when you know...Gayle Forman will agree.
You just "KNOW!"

I'm off for a husband's-night-to-take-care-of-the-kids writing conference of my own. Just me, my iPod, my memories from my 1st job, the high school art room filled with students I will never forget and my laptop. It's like meeting an old friend for coffee...I can't wait to "hear" what happens next!

Managing Submissions

I've got myself in quite a pickle!
Because I am very impatient and have a creative mind that NEVER shuts off I have sort of shot myself in the foot..maybe.
Four years ago when I wrote my first book and started submitting, I got into a nasty habit of collecting only a handful of rejections before putting THAT book on hold and starting something new.
Therefore, I have collected about 15-20 picture book manuscripts in varying degrees of completion.
A writer-friend of mine recently told me about a friend of hers who had never written anything, never gone to a conference, never read how-tos for the children's publishing industry but she garnered herself a book deal with the VERY FIRST THING SHE HAD EVER WRITTEN!
She simply sat down with the CWIM and started at "A" and went clear to "Z" making a list of all of those publishers whose needs fit her book. She got one call. ONE. From Walker & Co.
Walker! "W"
Had she stopped after "M" she would STILL be wallowing in self-pity...maybe...I would be! LOL!
I don't give up easily - obviously - I have been at this for FOUR YEARS and counting.
So today I decided to sit down and do the same thing. I chose my TOP 5 favorite picture books I have written and I am making a list. I am making a list in a way that I can simply cc and paste the publisher's address into my Query letter and hit PRINT....then on to the next one.
I have also given myself specifics that I can add into my query like, looking for special needs stories, want to inspire and ignite a passion for reading, etc.
My list looks something like this:
Helen Harriss
Freesone/Peachtree, Jr.
Peachtree Publishers
1700 Chattahoochee Avenue
Atlanta, GA 30318-2112
*animals, folktales, special needs, humor
*send full MS?
*responds to queries/mss in 6 mos
Thomas J. Greene, Publisher
Greene Bark Press
P.O. Box 1108
Bridgeport, CT 06601-1108
*originality, imagery & color. Intention is to fire up a child’s imagination
*prefers full MS w/ illustrations
Health Press NA, Inc.
P.O. Box 37470
Albuquerque, NM 87176-7479
*complete MS
*responds in 3 mos
*100% 1st time authors
*simult subs
So, 37 years from now when I have made my rounds with these 5 books, I will tell you how it went!
Happy Writing!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Henrietta Hamsterface WIP

Worked on her today instead of cleaning my house - gotta love the artist's life!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Teaser Tuesday

An excerpt from my latest WIP:

"This third-floor bathroom of Blessed Children’s Home has become my home away from home away from home away from home.
Once upon a time I actually lived in a house with a mom and a dad on a nice cozy street in your typical neighborhood. I was dumped by the child welfare system into the home of Jim & Holly Marshall after ‘Mommy Dearest’ beat the crap out of me for smoking pot with my friends instead of her. Most girls go shopping with their moms after school and on the weekends. Not in the Kelebek house, we bonded over a fresh bag of hash. The Marshalls were really nice people. Trouble is, I despise nice. I purposely made their lives a living nightmare to take my mind off my own God-forsaken one. When the Marshalls couldn’t find the new kitten they thought would “soften” me and I smirked from behind the curtain of my raven hair, I moved here, Blessed Children’s Home or BCH. And if that isn’t bad enough, this group home for hard to place foster teens is right smack dab in the middle of ridiculous Amish Country. Just a cruel joke. Me. The Amish. Seriously?"

Back to characters are waiting!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Market Trends in Children's Publishing...

I was reading a great article this week and was blown away by all the amazing information I gleaned from it. HERE is the link so you can glean, too. But I summed it up with a listing of the market trend predictions by some leaders in the industry.

Natasha Ferrant, literary scout
There's a real buzz about YA literature, which is tremendously exciting. I'm hoping to see less of the paranormal stuff and more good, original writing. Much as I love them—I do, I do—I don't want to read any more vampire books, probably EVER AGAIN. What I really want to find is simple and oh so elusive: a strong middle-grade series with great writing and an even better story.

Rob McMenemy, senior v-p, Egmont English Language and Central Europe
I'm expecting still more YA, although I sense the pendulum is just about to swing back to middle-grade and picture books. Indeed, there are signs of improvement for picture books, in so far as the quality is as high as it has ever been, and more and more publishers are investing again—consumers are, of course, a different matter.

Stephen Roxburgh, president and publisher, namelos
Previous generations of e-ink readers had no impact on picture books, but the advent of color readers marks a new platform for content that was restricted to and constrained by print formats. I believe this will initiate an evolutionary leap in the picture book form and dramatically impact children's book publishing worldwide.

Klaus Humann, publisher, Carlsen Verlag, Germany
Recent successes in children's publishing show us that good books always have a chance, on the fiction side as well as on the picture book side.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Teaser Tuesday...

A small excerpt from my latest work in progress.
As always, I welcome your feedback...

I’m not like them. I never will be. My faded concert Ts showcase bands they would never listen to. The lyrics I find cathartic, naked and raw, they see as “dark, evil and scary.” I will never carry a Dolce &[Gag]bana purse, I will never wear sparkly blush and I will never be so consumed with myself that I step on those who don’t measure up to the standards of a magazine cover. I would cut through the tendons on the tops of my feet before I would sell out to the Pretty People. Trouble is, when you fear the attention of others, you are left alone. It’s what you want most and also the reason you cry yourself to sleep.

Post your own Tuesday Teaser and leave a comment so we can share in the WIP process!

Back to characters are waiting!

What am I reading?

I get this question a lot.

"So, if you write, do you ever have time to read?"
Yes. I do. As a writer you HAVE to read. It's all part of learning the craft, seeing what is being done, sparking new inspiration.

What I read, though, varies from week to week.

This week my nose is buried in Tina Ferraro's the abc's of kissing boys, Laurie Halse Anderson's Wintergirls , John Ortberg's the ME I want to be and of course, my rough draft, M. Nope, no link to Amazon... not yet.

I am also always reading Writer's Digest or some other magazine about the writing process and something I read today really rang true for me. I was reading an article about Meg Cabot's writing process and how she creates her storylines. There were no strict guidelines she follows. She simply follows her muse.

She said, "If I really like an idea, I don't outline, because I've found that when I do, it feels like I've already told the story, and then I don't have the excitement about actually writing it."

This was so refreshing to me as a writer who tries to get my hands on every tried and true method of writing the best book the world has ever seen. But, that compulsion goes against everything creative in my soul. I want to live the storyline WITH the character and have, at times, felt as though that was a novice way of attacking a manuscript. Well, Meg Cabot's 15 million books sold tells me otherwise!

I am all about the writing raw and following a seemingly natural direction to get down the skeleton to make sure the story CAN get where I want it to go. I also employ my avid reading friends to take a peek from time to time.

A note to all my writer friends: Meg Cabot sent a query EVERY day for FOUR YEARS before she got a bite. That's over 1,000 of those all too familiar, "Thanks, but no thanks" letters!

Will be posting some more mini-excerpts from my latest work in progress.

Back to characters are waiting!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

How my former students are inspiring this novel

When I taught 9-12th grade, art was important but I was also sensitive to what the needs of the students were on an emotional level. Yes, the needed a grade, but when they needed a mental health day they knew they could use my art period to regroup.

I will never forget the day a 10th grade boy, the star football player, came in flushed with bloody knuckles. He respectfully sat in his seat breathless and agitated as the other students filed in. I know he was expecting me to draw attention to him, tell him to get over it and get to work. Instead, I got the class started and quietly walked over and told him he could take a walk to the bathroom, clean himself up and gather his thoughts - as long as there was no more "trouble" involved. When he came back with no incident and thanked me with a look and nod of his head when he left with the bell, I knew I had made the right call.

Later that year I got an early morning call alerting me to an impromptu crisis meeting before school. The popular football player had hung himself in his basement the night before... my heart broke. R.I.P. Jeremy

THESE ARE THE KIDS WE HAVE A RESPONSIBILITY TO TOUCH! There are too many stories like this!

You would think after years of editors telling me that my ideas were too big for picture books I would have considered writing a novel. Now, I DID consider it but I worried I would get "writer's ADD" and not finish it.

I had no idea I would be as passionate for the characters in my head as I was for my high school students. I was/am quite attached to my picture book characters but their existence is mere minutes. A novel character comes with a past, lives the present and aspires to what the future brings.

Back to characters are waiting!


Saturday, February 27, 2010

Another excerpt from "M"

First day, first detention. There was this kid with a smothering smile. I swear he had his own happy theme music that followed him everywhere. Well, the Happy Fairy, mistook me for the newest delicate flower he could pollinate. Luke Bennett skipped a bit too close to this Venus Fly Trap. I knocked him on his ass for invading my personal space.
“What the hell was that for?” he said with a thin line of blood dripping toward his lip
“Don’t ever twirl that close to me again, dork!”
“No worries,” he shoved a tissue up his nose and continued, “I’m Luke. Welcome to the halls of Penn Valley,” he said spreading his arms open wide like he was a host on The Travel Channel.
“Whatever,” I rolled my eyes and turned quickly to escape his pathetic obligatory cheerfulness.


Friday, February 26, 2010

Illustration Friday: Perspective

Your perspective of yourself may be a bit too much for others to handle...

(This is a character development sketch for a project I am currently working on)


Monday, February 22, 2010

A fork in the road...

These last couple months I have felt like I was drowning. I felt unsettled and restless. I have about 5 picture book manuscripts going at one time and I was trying to get some illustrations banged out for them and for the SCBWI Pocono retreat where I will have a table in the Illustrator's Gallery. (that was a big run-on sentance, but this is MY blog so it's OK!) I felt like I was grasping at straws. I didn't like the feeling of not "knowing" which book to develop, which illustrations to complete, what dummy to send. I know I have the passion for children that it takes to be a good author but that didn't seem to be connecting with what I was writing.

Something happened this weekend that I can barely explain. Someone came to my rescue and she isn't even real. A character popped into my head and I haven't been able to shake her. However, this character is unlike any other I have developed.

I sat down at my computer and just started typing. It was like I was taking dictation. The words, came out of my fingertips as I watched her thoughts appear on my screen almost as quickly as someone would speak them.

"There was no one around. No one would know. If I cut, maybe it would release the pain he has caused me. Maybe it would heal my broken heart."

"His eyes were pale, pained hopeless and his Manson t shirt was torn down the center and stitched back together with dozens of safety pins. Was this the state of his soul? Held together by something sharp and painful? His eyebrow twitched, he spit at my feet and turned and walked away. This was the boy I loved."

"My ten biggest fears are not unlike most teens. They're pretty normal, I guess. But most girls my age don't walk down a dark, narrow path toward each one and stare it in the face and say ---. Sigh. But, neither do I. And that will be my downfall. My certain death."

"Do it," she said as she shoved the pipe in my face. Everything I was prepared to say in this situation, everything that was right dispersed like the fingers of smoke burning my eyes. I took it. I sucked in its poison. It felt ugly inside my lungs. I could feel it clawing to get out. But right now this was the only thing in my life I had control of so I held it."

This was certainly not a picture book character. She reminded me of many of the students that filed into my art room...Room 62 of Vestal High School (12 years ago).

Then I got to thinking of the groups that I have taught or led over those 12 years that I have been a stay-at-home mom. Never have I gone too long without somehow being involved with kids... and it is always the tween and teen age group! Those children I taught for years at Vestal were my first children, they taught me a lot about the world I never entered as a teen.

So, after talking to a few author friends about HOW this character came out of nowhere, I was encouraged to follow my muse. Over the next 24 hours, the story of this girl evovled so much that every thought that entered my head was part of the puzzle I will fit together to make her as real to readers as she is to me. Even in the shower I was sticking my head and arm out to reach the notepad so I wouldn't forget a piece of what she was whispering.

Kind of funny how things evolve. For years agents and editors at conferences have had similar comments, "You have a strong, unique voice, BUT, your story is too big for a picture book. Cut it down." So, why did it never occur to me to flesh out those stories? I believe it is because none of them were THE STORY. I don't regret the last 4 years of submitting picture books...they were a stepping stone that taught me about the industry and brought me some amazing friends. I'm not giving up on those little characters and their stories but for now I am giving them a nap and tending to the needy one in my head.

I posted the excerpts above on my Mommy Blog and someone left this comment:

Anonymous said...
"My daughter is 13 and not "lost" and it scares me to think about her reading any of those books!"

My feelings about this comment were so passionate as I wrote her a response.

these books would be FOR those kids who are lost to give them hope, show them it's never too late to make a change, or to tranform into something lovely.

If your daughter is not "lost" then I would hope she wouldn't have the NEED to read any of these books.

That's the beauty of books - you pick what you like and stay away from what you don't.

I would never be crass enough to hope EVERY child read my books.

I write for those who NEED it. And pray they are someday in the category of those who DON'T.

Blessings to you and your family."


Monday, February 15, 2010


Meet Sarah...coming to a BOOKSTORE near you!
(not like tomorrow, or even next month...but she's on her way)
The book is called SARAH IN THE BUBBLE.
Sarah is a little girl who feels very different from everone else so she keeps to herself...inside a bubble. Her bubble protects her. It keeps her IN and the world OUT.
There is no mention in the book of WHAT Sarah is dealing with...maybe it is simply shyness, maybe it is a learning disability or some other affliction that keeps her seperated from her peers.
In the end...Sarah grows and beauty abounds.
A beautiful story of confidence and perseverence.


Thursday, February 11, 2010

The birth of Betsy...

Well, Pennsylvania got 4 feet of snow in the last week. It's been a "warm and cozy" kind of week...with three kids with cabin fever, of course, so I didn't say anything about being "still" until last night, that is.

Everyone was whooped from being outside - my husband snow blowed (is that a word?), snow blew? Anyway, he BLEW the snow for 6 hours... 2 in the morning, 2 in the afternoon and 2 in the evening. The 4 yr old was in bed and the bigger two were camped out on a bunch of comforters in front of the TV in anticipation of American Idol.

And the fire was burning!

So, there I sat, sketchbook in hand, legs draped over a sleepy husband and I drew...and drew...and drew...

And that's how "Betsy" was born! :)

I painted her this morning (just the first variation of her) while the kids buried each other in the flaky white stuff!

Now, Betsy needs a's coming...I can SEE it in my mind - just have to get the words to the paper...what time is it? Nap time should be soon, right?! I LOVE MY JOB! Can you call something this fun a job? Maybe if I SOLD somethone on the rabadabbazillion characters lurking in my studio it would be! LOL!

But that's cool...they keep me company. They are quite fun. I'm serious.

Gotta LOVE a snowday! Or LOTS of them!


Monday, February 8, 2010

New Books, New Characters, New Inspiration

I have been working hard on a couple NEW stories and a couple characters that go with stories I banged out a while ago. The illustration below is a rough draft of 'Sarah.' The book is called SARAH IN THE BUBBLE. Sarah is so shy that she imagines herself inside a bubble...she doesn't let anything get close enough to possibly pop her bubble.

Here is the final Sarah!

I just love her! She is exactly what I wanted to show as far as her meek personality goes. In this story Sarah overcomes her shyness in an unexpected twist that gives the plot a special Oomph!
This character was inspired by my 2nd child, my only daughter. She was so incredibly shy as a preschooler but has since grown into an amazingly sure-of-herself 'tween who is more self-confident than I was in my 20's. This beautiful story is my Emily's story...although she probably doesn't see it as dramatic as I have. But that's what makes Sarah's story so special!

I'm not sure who this boy is...he appears to be quite helpful, though...

That's the best part about what I do. The characters just come. My pencil follows and then pretty soon I am saying, "Wow! Very nice to meet you!"

We will see where these stories take me...
I am preparing a couple book dummies for the Illustrator's Showcase at the SCBWI Pocono retreat in April! I am SO excited to be going!

Have an amazing Tuesday!