PiBoIdMo 2014 starts tomorrow! Are you in?


Have you heard? PiBoIdMo starts tomorrow! What is PiBoIdMo? It’s Picture Book Idea Month. Inspired by NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), PiBoIdMo is a kid-lit-focused, month-long challenge to come up with 30 picture book ideas in 30 days. The idea could be a title, a character, a concept, a doodle, a plot line – anything!

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The founder of PiBoIdMo, Tara Lazar, hosts this incredible event on her blog with daily guest bloggers to help you get inspired. Check out her blog to learn more about how the event came to be and all the cool things that are going on during the month.

As someone who loves the ideation process, PiBoIdMo is immensely fun for me. The best part is that you’ll likely come up with more than 30 ideas if you take a little time to brainstorm every day. And remember it’s brainstorming! Not all of your ideas need to be gold. 🙂

If you need a creative boost, this could be for you! I think kid-lit authors and illustrators at any stage of their career can benefit from PiBoIdMo. I hope you’ll join me and the many, many others embarking on this fun Novemberly creative journey!

Learn more about how to sign up here!

SCBWI WI Fall Conference Recap from a Newbie’s Perspective


As I mentioned in my last post, I attended my first SCBWI conference last weekend. Here are a few highlights and thoughts from the experience.

Folder artwork by David Diaz. Design by Sarah Baker.

Folder artwork by David Diaz. Design by Sarah Baker.

What surprised me

It was a smaller group than I had anticipated. Maybe 100-ish people? It was a very welcoming group, and it seems easier than I expected to get involved and make lasting connections.

What I learned

I learned a ton! I won’t go into great detail as to respect the presenters’ content rights, but it was definitely a worthwhile experience and I learned tons of tidbits on writing and illustrating various levels of kid’s books. It was really helpful to hear from author, illustrator and agent/publisher perspectives. I would definitely recommend this conference to anyone pursuing the craft of children’s books. Connecting with and learning from like-minded individuals was awesome. I look forward to attending again next year!

Two tiny (random) tidbits

Thing 1:
Conference attending 101 – keep business cards in the back of your name tag lanyard. This super basic but super convenient bit of advice was shared at the new conference attendee session lead by Melissa Gorzelanczyk. It allowed me to swiftly swap business cards with a number of people without digging in my bag like an awkward panda.

Thing 2:
“You can’t tinker a novel into working.” These wise words were spoken by Susan Campbell Bartoletti who did an extremely informative presentation geared toward novel writing called “Home Repair Tips for the DIY Writer.” I took a ton of notes, and I think a lot of her methods and recommendations translate into picture book writing as well. You can’t just tinker with the words until the story “works.” You need to make sure the fundamentals of the story are sound before you hone in on making the language just right.

Did I have the guts to use my promo materials?

Confession time. I didn’t work up the nerve to hand out my one-sheet for Run, Cheetah, Run. It just didn’t feel right! I focused more on making connections and swapping business cards vs. promoting. Maybe at a larger conference with more editors and agents it would make sense. I’m still glad I went through the exercise of making it, and I hope to use it in the future.

I’m really glad I brought an illustration portfolio. It was helpful when talking to other illustrators, especially those who also had portfolios. It was really cool to see other people’s work. I met several very talented individuals! In summary, the business cards and the portfolio were great to have.

More on illustration portfolios

I also learned a lot during a session with Martha Rago the Executive Art Director at Harper Collins Publishers. I gleaned helpful tips from her presentation and some quick, in-person feedback on my portfolio. Good news: she likes spiral bound portfolios as it supports a tidy presentation. Yay for doing one thing right! Overall though I need to ditch illustrations that aren’t telling a story and add in more sequences and narrative-building illustrations. This is something I kind of knew, but it was good to hear firsthand as it relates to my specific illustrations.

One last highlight – my manuscript critique

My in-person manuscript critique with JoAnn Early Macken was an immense help. She provided very thorough written feedback that I received the first evening of the conference. I then had 15 minutes with her the next day to discuss and ask questions. I have a lot of great actionable feedback for Run Cheetah Run to tighten and build the story. She also had a lot of positive things today say regarding the language and the premise (yay!).

To sum it up, the Wisconsin SCBWI Fall Conference was a great experience that I would wholeheartedly recommend to kid-lit authors and illustrators alike. Maybe I’ll see you there next year!

It’s conference time! Promo materials: Round 1


I’m going to my first SCBWI conference this weekend – the Wisconsin chapter’s fall conference “Risks and Rewards.” I can’t wait to learn stuff!

I’m also looking forward to networking (eek!) even though it’s outside my comfort zone. I put together some promo materials that I can hopefully share in a non-awkward way. I got some business cards printed with my favorite illustration to date.

Business Cards

I also put together a one-sheet for Run, Cheetah, Run. I haven’t found a lot of examples of people doing this for picture books – it seems more like a novel thing, but I thought I’d give it a whirl. After all, I’m trying to pedal myself as an author/illustrator and this gives me the visual space to show that.

Based on what I gleaned from the World Wide Web, I included book-jacket/query-type copy about my story in the prominent spot, an image that supports the story, and then a short bio and small picture of me. I managed to put this together in InDesign. There’s room for improvement, but it’s not too bad for a silly word-slinging copywriter, eh?

Run Cheetah Run One-Sheet

The third thing I put together is an illustration portfolio. I wasn’t wild about using a sheet-protector-style portfolio with a black cover, so I designed a cover and used plastic snap-ring binding instead. I included a clear plastic sheet on the front and back. Not sure if that’s cool or not, but I’ll find out! One of the sessions I’m going to offers a portfolio critique, so I’m excited to get feedback and learn more about what to do and not to do. Oh, and the blurry parts in the photo below are my address. I figured since you put them on your manuscript, they should go on a portfolio (but not on the internet). 🙂


Well, that’s all for now. Here’s hoping I work up the nerve to make connections! Nerd squad here (that’s me!) is mostly just looking forward to learning stuff.

Later, gators!