Friday, September 15, 2017

Sunshine Sweet Susanna Hill

Susanna Hill is a big bowl of sunshine. She helps the kidlit community on her blog by giving writing tips (and other fun kidlit stuff), contests, and recipes for sweets. I know I'd never be able to create if I didn't have enough sweets! Thank goodness for Susanna keeping us knee deep in fantastic recipes.

Susanna is the author of several books including:"The Road That Trucks Built" illustrated by Erica Sirotich, "When Your Elephant has the Sniffles" and "When Your Lion Needs a Bath" illustrated by Daniel Wiseman. Susanna has some wonderful critiques that she offers. Susanna is such an accomplished and professional writer, that I thought it was a good idea to have her write a post about illustration!

All right, class!

*claps hands*

Settle down!

It’s time to get to work.

This is Picture Book Art 101, and I am your Incredibly Accomplished Mixed-Media Wielding World-Renowned Professor of Illustration, Dr. Hill.

Hreh hrem.

Today, I will be teaching you to draw.

Are you ready?

Please look closely at Exhibit A, paying special attention to the use of line, form, and white space:


*gasps with laughter*

I can’t even say that with a straight face! 


So, maybe I won’t teach you to draw… unless you happen to feel passionate about stick figures  I think I speak for the world at large when I say it’s best if I leave the drawing to the professionals!

Dani asked me to talk a little about my involvement in the kidlit community and, as I guess you can see, it is not because of my special talents as an artist 

Although I think visually, I struggle to get graphic images on paper. Instead, I write picture books, putting my words on paper and relying on illustrators to turn my thoughts into art.

I’m pretty old and I got started in this field when email was still a novelty. Online classes didn’t exist yet. Nor did online communities for writers and illustrators. The picture book writing life was a pretty solitary one, and it wasn’t as easy as it is today to find information on how to do it well

As I inched along the path of writing for children, writing, revising, getting an agent, submitting, eventually getting an offer! signing a contract! seeing my book in print! going on my first school visit, and trying, at the encouragement of my publishers, to create an online presence, I saw how very much there was to learn. I wished I’d had someone to help me, and I wanted to give other writers and illustrators whatever little help I might be able to to make their journey easier and more fun.

As a result, my blog evolved into a place for kidlit writers with features like Would You Read It (pitch practice and feedback), Short & Sweets (writing prompts), Oh, Susanna! (questions about every facet of picture books answered), and writing and illustration contests. I also wrote an online picture book writing class called Making Picture Book Magic and I do picture book manuscript critiques. I tried to think of things I find helpful and fun and incorporate them in the hope others find them helpful and fun too. Not all my ideas pan out… there have been quite a few clunkers along the way  But you don’t know unless you try, and I try to come up with ways to share information, skills, and encouragement with other kidlit folks because we can all support each other.
Dani also wanted me to talk a little about how I get inspiration and how I get past artists’ block.

I think inspiration is all around – everywhere you look, things you hear, feel, experience, places you go, topics you find fascinating – and if you’re lucky enough to live with or teach kids, you’ve got a constant source of ideas. I can almost always tap my own childhood or my children’s childhoods for story sparks. I find nature and animals very inspiring as well. Also, the process of how to do things, like build a road, or give your lion a bath  

I think you can find inspiration in anything you find interesting. If you like it, someone else is sure to also! Look for angles that allow you to use your interests in a way that kids will find appealing, engaging and relatable.

As for artist’s block, when that happens to me it’s usually because regular life is sucking down a lot of my energy, or because I’m suffering a bout of self-doubt, either of which makes it hard to be creative. But I can often get past it by just setting a timer for 5 minutes and writing ANYthing! If I’m hungry, I might write about what I want for breakfast. If I’m struggling with something in my life, I might write about how it makes me feel. Just the physical act of writing gets me going. And once I’m going, I can usually keep going. Ideas beget ideas, and what I want for breakfast can easily evolve into any number of potential stories, as can an emotion I’m experiencing. As I’ve shown you, I can’t draw  but if I could, I might use color to express how I’m feeling, or draw a picture of something that catches my eye… or what I imagine I’ll have for breakfast  

Although those things are not intended to be actual creative work, they often spark ideas or simply melt that feeling of being frozen and unable to create.

Other things that work for me are typing out the text of someone else’s picture book – it kind of gets me in the swing of things - and I’m guessing you could do the same thing as an artist by copying someone else’s illustration – or going for a walk or a run – any kind of outdoor physical exercise. Something about it allows my brain to gear up in a way that sitting at my desk staring at my blank computer screen and gnashing my teeth because I can’t think of anything to write does not

I hope everyone is feeling creative and inspired today, and I hope anyone who is interested will come on over and check out the activities at my blog and join the fun if you’re so inclined.

Thank you for having me today, Dani, and best of luck to everyone with whatever projects you’re working on!

Susanna is the award winning author of over a dozen books for children, including Punxsutawney Phyllis (A Book List Children's Pick and Amelia Bloomer Project choice), No Sword Fighting In The House (a Junior Library Guild selection), Can't Sleep Without Sheep (a Children's Book of The Month), and Not Yet, Rose (a Gold Mom's Choice Award Winner and an Itabashi Translation Award Finalist.) Her books have been translated into French, Dutch, German, and Japanese, with one forthcoming in Chinese. Her newest books, When Your Lion Needs A Bath, When Your Elephant Has The Sniffles, and The Road That Trucks Built will be published by Little Simon in July 2017. When Your Llama Needs A Haircut(Little Simon) and Alphabedtime! (Nancy Paulsen Books, an imprint of Penguin Books) are forthcoming in Spring 2018 and Spring 2019 respectively, with additional titles coming in 2018 and 2019. She lives in New York's Mid-Hudson Valley with her husband, children, and two rescue dogs.
Follow Susanna:



Face Book Author Page:






Making Picture Book Magic (online picture book writing course):


  1. Thank you for your blog Susanna! :3

  2. Good Morning Susanna... I also think visually, but my problem is getting my words down on paper! A total opposite of your process but thankfully, as one of your long-time followers, I have developed techniques to accomplish my goals because of you! When stuck, I still resort back to your Short & Sweet writing prompts! They are the best as are you...thank you so much for sharing with us.

    1. You are so sweet, Phyllis! I'm very glad if the Short & Sweets are helpful to you! I'm trying to bring them back a bit, posting once a month on Mondays, so holler if there's anything in particular you want to work on! :)

  3. Following you on Facebook! Love your books.

  4. I follow your blog and absolutely love it. You seem as sweet and genuine as those chocolate dessert pictures that you post, Susanna. To. Die. For.

    1. Aw, shucks! You made my day saying you love my blog. That really means a lot to me! And really...everything is better with chocolate! :)

  5. Hi Susanna! Thanks for the inspiration and all you do with your blog! I love following it and your books!

    1. Thank you so much for your kind words, Cortney! I so appreciate them and I'm so glad you like my blog and my books!

  6. I enjoy your blog and your books are wonderful. Thank you for sharing some inspiration Susanna. :)

    1. Thank you so much, Heidi! It means so much to me to know you enjoy my blog and books! I am glad if something I shared gave you a little inspiration!

  7. Dani, thank you so much for including me in Smart Dummies! As a non-illustrator I feel a little out of my league, but I am honored to have been part of your amazing series!

  8. Thanks for sharing here, Susanna. I am often inspired by your blog, but what really inspires me is you, yourself. Your enthusiasm, commitment and support for this community are amazing.

    1. That's very sweet of you to say, David. I just feel lucky to be part of this community!

  9. You had me at "when e-mail was still a novelty"! I remember it well:) Thanks for sharing the experiences along the way.

    1. I'm glad I'm not the only one who remembers those days! :)