Monday, December 31, 2018

Monday Montage!

My friend Christy (@chrstyilstrates  on Twitter and on Instagram) and I are doing a new series! The series is called Monday Montage.

Every month we are going to create one full illustration due the last Monday of the month. Even though we are only posting one final image, every Monday we'll be posting process posts. We will be sharing these images with you on our blogs and social media. Christy's blog is here:

YOU CAN JOIN US! Just make a post on Mondays and use the tag #mondaymontage on your post. This will help us find your posts and comment on them. I'm also hoping to set up a few things so that we can all grow our audiences!

Are you in?

The first prompt is: Goals 

You can interpret it as you'd like. January 7th (The first Monday in January) will be our first post. I'm thinking I'll be doing some character drawings first. What are you planning on creating?

Sunday, December 30, 2018

New Year's Goals!

The holidays had me really busy! How about you? I got really sick just before Christmas, yay? I've got tissues, and will be typing my goals between blows.

I make goals every year instead of a Resolution. I've gotten off resolutions because they are pass or fail. I tend to make my goals higher than I can achieve so it pushes me to work harder.

My 2019 Goals

1. Redo My Portfolio

I've redone my portfolio so many times. I've got a few great digital programs now and it's time I go to town on this goal! I really need more work that's kidlit infused. My last redo was focused on Fantasy art, but too many adult characters! I'd also like to do more backgrounds (indoor and outdoor) and more comic/graphic novel looking work.

2. Send Work Out to Editors/Art Directors (Early in 2019)

I've had some interest in my new digital art style. I need to make it a habit to send out new art every few months. I don't have anything new completed right now, but I'm hoping to change that soon.

3. Win the 12x12, Storystorm, Smart Dummies and My New Writing Challenge

Sign up for Storystorm is open now! The 12x12 is a challenge to get 12 picture books written in 12 months. Smart Dummies will help you get your Picture Book Dummy done in September. More info coming on the writing challenge soon!

4. Blog More (More Info Tomorrow)

My friend Christy and I have come up with a fun illustration challenge that we'll be starting January 7th. More info about this and how you can join tomorrow!

5. Create at Least 2 More Dummies 

I have one dummy that's fairly solid. I'd like to have 2 more so I have more work for agents to see! Once I have 2-3 dummies finished I'll start submitting to agents.

6. Rediscover My Love of Writing

I don't write enough anymore. I'm really seeing it in the things I do write. While I will be working to complete the 12x12 this year I'm hoping that this will include strong stories that I can easily take to dummies.

7. Find More Ways to Include Family in My Art 

I will try to spend more time with my family, but I wanted to change this to something that relates directly to the business side of my art.

My husband helps me a lot already with my work. I've been creating some comic style art lately and he has read a lot of comics, so his feedback is invaluable. I've read a lot of comics too, but it's great to get more feedback from someone close to me.

For my kids it will probably be taking pictures of them doing kid things, turning what they do into art and seeing what they'd like drawn.

8. Asking For Feedback on My Art

I almost didn't include this, but it's important. I don't ask for enough feedback on my art and serious mistakes (that could be avoided) are causing me issues. I need to ask early in the sketching stage, because that stage is the most important for the whole piece.

What are your goals this year? 


I didn't get all my 2018 goals finished. Let's see how I did:

1. Win Storystorm I did this! 
2. Win the 12x12 Challenge I'm still working on this. I finished last year, and I hope to do it again.
3. Look for Freelance Illustration Work I had some offers that I had to turn down.
4. Finish 2-3 Picture Book Dummies I was only able to finish one dummy this year, but it was an awesome one.
5. Submit at Least 6 Different Manuscripts to Editors/Agents I had some health problems and it derailed me a lot, but I did have an art director interested in my work!
6. Spend More Focused Time on Social Media Oh I focused more on social media, but not in the right ways.
7. Spend More Time With Family I think I did this. I know for a fact that I did this more around the holidays than previous years. Gave me time to relax and catch the toddler's cold.

While I didn't get everything done on my list I had a few surprises happen! I took Dr. Mira Reisberg's class. The Craft and Business of Illustrating Picture Books is top notch! Check out the Children's Book Academy here: and make sure to sign up for the emails. An Art Director from a great publishing company loved my work and I made that contact through the Children's Book Academy Class! I hope you look into this and take a class as well!

Thursday, December 13, 2018

My Christmas Wish List #4: Rebelle 3 -- Digital Art Program

My Christmas Wishlist #4

This year my Christmas Wish List includes Rebelle 3 from Escape Motions. You may know that I already have Rebelle 3 on my computer. So why include it on my wish list? Right now I don't have full capability of the program right now. It

To read more about the program you can go here: There is both a downloadable demo, and an online demo for this product.
Created digitally with Rebelle 3's  pastels
and inked with Clip Studio Paint

I like Rebelle 3 for many reasons. I have used Photoshop extensively. At this point I cant afford to buy a subscription for Photoshop. I'm not sure that Photoshop is right for me anymore. I'm use to using traditional methods for my art and Rebelle 3 seems to be the best at mimicking watercolors. If you are talking about oil painting Adobe Photoshop and Corel Painter are decent digital substitutes.

Watercolor: Rebelle 3 has a fascinating way of creating realistic watercolors. It allows you to put water on the canvas and your colors to blend in a way that's very much like actual watercolors. You can pause the reaction with the water and instantly dry or wet your entire canvas. There is more of a chance for mistakes and fun discovery with this program compared to other programs I've seen.

Pastel: I think this is my favorite for black and white images. I don't use pastels much but I love how well you can build up the pastel color. There is also a blending tool that allows pastels to look softer and (of course) blended.

Ink: I like the options that you have for inking. Much like the watercolors you can use water you can blend the inks. With these digital inks (like traditional inks) the colors are fairly fixed after they dry. India ink is the same way, so if you want to be able to change the colors after the fact, then you'd go with watercolor rather than ink. If I could change anything about this I'd want a bit of a stabilizer for ink so its easier to draw using a tablet.

Eraser: This one is fun, because it basically reverts your paper back to normal! It's not that impressive when it comes to pencil, but when you have 15 layers of watercolor down it's kind of awesome to remove them and start back at the beginning.

Other Media: Rebelle 3 also has acrylics, pencil, markers and spray paint available for use. I have not used any of these extensively so will not comment at this time on their uses.

The "bad" thing about the program is it is very memory intensive (see website for more details on system requirements). You have to have a lot of RAM on your computer for it to run well. I have 8 gigs of ram on my computer and a decent graphics card. While it can run on 8 gigs, this program is best with 12 - 16 gigs. The amount of undos are limited to 1 with a 10.5" x 16.5" image with 4-5 layers (the size I use for picture book spreads). An 8" x 10" (or slightly larger) doesn't seem to have many issues. I'm hoping to get more RAM soon!

Edit: I also forgot to mention that with 8 gigs of ram it's not possible to run Chrome or other software. You can, but the Rebelle software is very likely to crash or have other problems if you do so. Often I'm running near the top of what my computer can handle without opening anything else!

Where to buy:

Both Escape Motions and Smith Micro sells this software. The difference I've noticed between the two is the availability of software download after the fact. With Smith Micro there are more sales, however the digital download is only available once with Smith Micro. An extra $13 is required to download the software for only 1 year. With Escape Motions you can download the software indefinitely so I strongly suggest ordering it through the company. For $90 USD it's not an expensive program!

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

My Christmas Wish List #3: 12x12 Challenge

This was going to go much lower on my list, because it was something I felt like I was going to do for sure. Now I'm not sure if my finances can handle it. I believe I started in the 12x12 a year after it began, and I've been a member every year since.

The 12x12 is a year long program starting in January and lasting the whole year. The idea is to write 12 picture books in 12 months. How is that for fantastic? It is a challenge, but there are tons of winners. In fact there are prizes given out every single month!

Registration for this event will start soon! For more information and to sign up to Julie Hedlund's newsletter please go here:

Here is some of what you get:

1. A huge community of people who help one another achieve their goals.

2. Wonderful webinars that teach and help keep you motivated.

3. A great forum to get feedback on your work plus industry information. There are people dedicated to helping you with the first 250 words of your manuscript and cover letter help is available! 

4. If there is a technical problem, or other question it gets answered quickly.

5. The 12x12 is getting to be well known, and something you can use on a resume.

6. There are so many success stories in this group that it will make your head spin!

For Gold Members: A chance to get past the slush pile for editors and agents! There are featured agents each month and detailed instructions on how to submit.

I was going to post this sooner, but I was creating this image of Cringer from He-Man for no reason whatsoever today! 

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

My Christmas Wish List #2: The Craft and Business of Writing Children's Picture Books


I have known Mira Reisberg for many years now. She has a love for teaching and wants those who create children's books and illustrations to succeed! Mira often has free webinars she hosts and these are packed with wonderful information!

I took "The Craft and Business of Illustrating Picture Books" from The Children's Book Academy earlier this year. I don't have time to post a full review of the course, but I'll give you some of the highlights! This is the writing course, but a lot of the main components stay the same.

SCHOLARSHIPS: DECEMBER 15th Deadline. There are diversity scholarships (and low income scholarships) for this course! There were not enough people applying for the diversity scholarships last class, so be sure to apply. Let's make the children's industry more diverse!

There is also a discount code on the page and that's good until the end of the week! Find the code here, but hurry, because it will be gone soon! Save $100!

* Course Materials There was just so much information packed into this course! There were hours and hours of videos to watch. Techniques, tips and tutorials were discussed.

* Good for All Skill Levels This course contains information from all skill levels. If you are just starting out you can get a strong foundation for art. For more advanced students this class pushes you to do your best.

* Dedicated Staff  Like I said, Mira cares about the people in her course. The people helping out with the course are absolutely wonderful. They all take the time to answer questions.

* Golden Tickets This is the exciting part of the class! You can get your work seen by editors and agents (and art directors in the illustration class). 

* One on One
I kicked myself for not getting a one on one for the illustration course. These give you 1 hour with Mira Reisberg (Clear Fork Publishing) or Kelly Delany (Random House/Knopf). Their normal consulting fees are much higher than the $100 you'll pay, so this is very much worth it!

It takes a lot of work to catch the eye of industry professionals. The illustration class is absolutely what I needed to get to the next level in my art career.

The reason this class is #2 on my list is because I'm still processing what I learned from the past class. It's an ongoing experience, really. I have learned so much about my illustration and now I'm working on dummies and my portfolio so I can show what I can really do with my art! Even had said this, Mira's writing class is definitely in my future!

Want to know more about "The Craft and Business of Illustrating Picture Books"? Click here:

Monday, December 10, 2018

My Christmas Wish List #1: "Make Your Marks And Splashes Course"


Okay, I've thought about it long enough and I'm starting on my Christmas Wish List. It's a bit late, but most of the things on this list will (hopefully) be things you can still get before Christmas!

I absolutely love Mark Mitchell's newsletter for artists. I have learned so much from his newsletter and his blog. I have a few of the posts saved and refer back to them often. If you go to his website check out the post 'Charging' up Your Watercolor. It just changed my life! You can help me with the number 1 thing on my Christmas list by signing up for the class yourself here:

Here are  reasons this children's illustration course is #1 on my Christmas list this year!


Mark gives out great information free on his website. No purchase necessary or expected. People who freely tell you useful information


Mark is an experienced illustrator. He has illustrated over 20 books (20 from other authors, 3 he wrote himself and tons of magazines. This experience gives those who take


Everything is covered in this course from design and color to how to market your work!


There is nothing better for being creative than joining a good community of artists. I have tried creating art in a vacuum and my art suffered greatly for this. I have found being part of a good creative group is essential to being a great artist!


The cost of the course is really inexpensive for an all inclusive course. It's only $249! If you can't afford that much at once you can do a payment plan. My favorite thing is that you can use Paypal to pay. I love finding any excuse NOT to use my credit cards.

Still not sure? Here is a preview of some of the things you'll be learning. Sign up to his FREE news letter and you'll receive 4 short videos and a .PDF lesson!

Things are tight this year. If you join the course using my affiliate link I'll be able to afford to take the class with you! Let me know if you are taking the class and I'll give you some extra bonus help and motivation!

If you use my affiliate link here:

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Count Down to the New Year - 22 Days Left!

Only 22 days until the New Year. What are you planning on working on next year? After Christmas I'm going to be posting my New Year plans. These plans are not a resolution. They are purposely made difficult for me to finish. I focus on the positive, so if I achieve any of my goals I'm doing well!


1. The one thing you don't want to receive as a gift.

2. The worst thing about winter.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Countdown to the New Year: Scholastic Book Fair

26ish days left in the New Year! Here is my book haul from the Scholastic Book Fair this year. Only book not here is "I Am Not a Chair" by Ross Burach. David's teacher is the lucky one who gets this book for her class!

The rest of these are Christmas/Birthday books for the kids!:

If you have access to a book fair, which books did you buy?

Prompt: What would you do if you were stuck overnight at the library?

Other than above, where would you like to be stuck overnight?

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Countdown to The New Year - Let's Have Some Cookies

One of my favorite times of year for making cookies is December. What kinds of cookies do you make in December? I like making sugar cookies, but honestly they are so much work that I only want to do them once a year.


Create a scene/story with a baking mishap.

Write or draw a scene containing cookies (can be a continuation of the first prompt).

Monday, December 3, 2018

Countdown to the New Year - Day 1 Prompts

I have had the worst luck lately with being ill! I feel like doing some extra prompts and fun stuff to end off this year. 

You can use these for either pictures or stories. If you send them to me at I will post them here and give you a link back. Also you can send me prompts to share if you'd like!

1. Your perfect holiday scene.

2. How you feel about snow.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Monday Prompts: A Look at Color

Sorry this is late! I was not feeling well all last week which has thrown everything off. Including this week!

Writers: Describe color to someone who can't see colors.

Artists: Create the feeling of a rainbow without using a color (black, grey and white is ok.)

Monday, November 19, 2018

Monday Prompt

I'm starting Monday Prompts today! These prompts are for artists and illustrators.

Draw or write about:

1. A child's mishap while getting dressed for school.

2. Your favorite holiday outfit/costume.

You can share any of these on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook with #smartdummieschallenge

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

What Progress? Changes are coming!

I was pretty sad when I realized that I can't participate in #folktaleweek2018. I've had major burn out this week and I have some family issues come up. I could have participated, but I wouldn't have any quality work to show. I have gotten some good ideas from the prompts, and will work on some portfolio pieces from these.

EDIT: Please take 2 minutes to fill out this Smart Dummies Survey!

What I'm Creating:

I've been doing some sketching but no completed pieces. I hope to get some finished work soon.

I have plans for my blog! I want to find time to blog more so I need to make some changing. The linky list is not working, or doesn't work for everyone, so anyone who wants to post their blog links to their "What Progress" post then just post in the comments below!

I've decided to cut Monday Coffee, because I usually don't get enough time Monday to drink my coffee and write a post. I'm changing it to Monday Prompts. This will be one or two prompts that can be used for writers and artists (or at least one for each).

I'm also cutting interviews for now. I'm not against doing them, but the act of finding people to interview is more than I can do right now. I'm considering doing some picture book reviews instead, because they will take less time.

I'm also considering a writing challenge for. Is anyone interested? I'd love to spend more time writing and I think this would be a good time to write! Let me know your thoughts!

If you created a process post this week then please post your link below!

Friday, November 2, 2018

Margo Sorenson -- Color and Light

Margo Sorenson talks about Color and Light today and everything else that Alessandra finds in Italy in her new book Secrets in Translation. This is not Margo's first rodeo on my blog. I interviewed her back in 2015! Interview is here if you'd like to see!  Since we just had a big art event she thought it would be fun to write about the visuals in "Secrets in Translation"! You can buy her new book here: Fitzroy Books more links after this post.



By Margo Sorenson

When Dani asked me to write about visual writing to create a sense of place, I was thrilled! After all, who doesn't love to pick up a book and feel transported to another destination? In my newest Young Adult/Crossover Adult (not "cross adults!" 😉), SECRETS IN TRANSLATION (Fitzroy Books), the setting in Italy is vital, because it serves as one of the key motivators for the main character, Alessandra. Italy itself is almost like an actual character in the book, and so I needed to make Italy vibrant and colorful for readers, so they could feel as if they were really there.

Lemons on the Amalfi Coast

From the back cover: "Seventeen-year-old Alessandra returns for six weeks to Italy, where she grew up. Pressured by her parents into babysitting a rebellious twelve-year-old—ruining holiday plans with newfound American friends—Alessandra resigns herself to a tedious summer in Positano. Her babysitting gig, however, turns out to be anything but boring! Not only does Alessandra fall for the handsome son of the Bertolucci family, renowned for their limoncello production, but when a body mysteriously turns up on the beach, the influence of organized crime in Positano become frighteningly real. As Alessandra is drawn further into an elaborate conspiracy, she must risk everything to protect herself, her family, and those that she loves, and in the process, she finds herself—and her Italian heart".

The novel takes place in Positano, which, if you've ever been there, has one of the most stunning, drop-dead gorgeous views in the world.

Photo Credit: Nicki Storey @NickiPositano on Instagram

So, when I set out to write a book with Positano as its background, of course words of sight, touch, scent, taste, and sound became some of my world-building blocks. Positano had to come alive for the readers, so that Alessandra's feelings about Italy and her journey would seem real.

Many of my readers have never been to Italy, so it was key to try and find vivid words for all the senses, beginning with sight. As you know, if you've ever been there, most of Italy looks nothing like the United States, so I had to paint with a detailed brush right at the beginning:

"My feelings churned as I looked out the window at the hills dotted with olive trees, the occasional random, crumbling castle, the tiny villages clustered around an ancient church bell tower, and the AGIP gas signs."

Chianti Hills 

Once Alessandra and her employer family begin the drive to Positano, I wanted the reader to be able to grasp how unusually beautiful the setting is, because that setting actually nudges Alessandra into her realization at the end of the book (not a spoiler!):

"Two hours later, we drove through Sorrento across the Amalfi peninsula to the Amalfi Coast road and began the terrifying drive that I remembered vaguely from previous trips to the coast. The sheer cliffs dropped into the bluest sea imaginable. Tiny villages clung to the steep mountainsides, making me wonder how it was they managed to hang on."

Positano from Treville 

As the drive continues: " Looking out the window, though, at the little shops and restaurants and the signs for each little cliffside town, a feeling of familiarity began to tug at me. The boys hanging out on the street, looking over a motorino. A gaggle of girls whispering outside a store. The plump figure of a nonna all dressed in black, market basket over her arm, making her way gingerly across the cobblestone street."

Readers would know instantly that this setting is so definitely not the United States! That realization is one of the keys to the plot. Once the visual is established, then come the all-important other descriptive words to create the atmosphere in depth, by using touch, sound, taste, and smell:

"But my smile faded as we hiked down the narrow, winding streets to find our apartment. I was back—I was really back. All around us, Italians laughed and gestured as they walked by us on the narrow sidewalks; motorinos and scooters whizzed past, drivers hollering to each other and at pedestrians. The familiar scents of Italy surrounded me—sweaty humanity, ancient buildings, the suddenly pungent fragrance of geraniums in window boxes, the acrid smell of benzina, and fresh bread wafting from bakeries. It was as if I’d never left."

Then, as Alessandra and the family settle in, the word choices need to create a renewed sense of belonging and positive feelings:

"We breakfasted on oranges and hard, crusty rolls and yogurt, sitting at the square table under the window, the Italian sunlight streaming in through the gauze curtains. Through the open window, we could hear the sounds of Positano waking up, people calling to each other, the cars braking and accelerating, and the high-pitched zoom of scooters."

Alessandra starts to relax and begins to enjoy being back in Italy: "I hated to admit it, but being out on the streets in Positano was fun. The fresh, salty breeze met us at open turns, encouraging us to continue down through the town to the shimmering blue sea. Shops displayed their wares on small tables outside their doors. Blue and yellow dishes, decorated with lemons, were stacked alongside woven sandals; light summer dresses, embroidered with lemons and flowers, hung outside the shops and fluttered in the sea breeze. Lemons were everywhere, it seemed."

Positano Street Scene
Positano Plate

As Alessandra begins to let her guard down about her Italian feelings, she finds that her journey to find who she really is becomes even more complicated…because of a dangerous conspiracy—and because of, yes, crush-worthy Carlo! As a writer, I hope readers are firmly planted in Italy by now, because of words used as building-blocks of color and light, so they can be with Alessandra on her journey back to Italy. Maybe they will discover their hearts are a little bit Italian, too!

Author of thirty traditionally-published books, Margo Sorenson spent the first seven years of her life in Spain and Italy, devouring books and Italian food and still speaks (or tries!) four languages. A former middle and high school teacher, Margo has won national recognition and awards for her books, including ALA Quick Pick Nominations, recommendations from Multicultural Review, and was named a finalist for the Minnesota Book Award in YA Fiction. After having lived in Hawaii and Minnesota, Margo and her husband live in Southern California.


Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Research and Resources for Submission

I know a lot of people are asking me where to send their work, but I can't give a generalized answer to a very broad audience. Even if everyone who read my blog was submitting picture books, it's there isn't one answer to give. My biggest piece of advice is to do research. I may not know exactly where you should submit, but I can give ideas where to start researching.

Identify Your Needs

First you should identify what you are planning on researching. I'm planning on searching for an agent rather than an editor/art director when I'm working to get a book published. My last blog post: talks about agents and other general people who might receive your work. I'd like to find someone who likes humor, fantasy, superhero, LGBTQIA+ and animal books. I will also be sending my portfolio work/mailers to art directors/editors so I can possibly get illustration jobs as well. For both of these I want to see what kinds of books they look for, research as much as I can about the company/individual and try to look for someone who has a need I can fill.

Submission Research 

There is a lot of information online. For agents: find interviews about them and read their bio. Social media as is important as well. You can tell a lot about a person from their social media! For publishing companies (and agents) look to see what they've done in the past and see how your work fits into what they already do.

Where to Find Markets

Children's Writer's and Illustrator's Market -- Give great information on a number of publishers. Is big but doesn't cover everything. The Artist's Market and Writer's market have some of the same Children's Markets, but has additional market info as well. This is one of my favorite market books. Mine always come with digital access as well, but I haven't used it that much!

The Book Essential Guide to Publishing for Children The digital guide is free and the printed copy is inexpensive (at least in the US) to have shipped to you. This book is much like the Children's Writer's and Illustrator's market, but has huge chapters on marketing your book, and what you need to do before you send out anything. It's 317 pages, so not at all a small guide.

#MSWL on Twitter #MSWL is not for submitting anything, but for you to find out what editors, publishers, agents etc. are looking for in a book. Submission goes by their individual guidelines. This is very much more weighted to the adult/writing market. Even then there are lots of agents looking for kidlit and a few looking for illustrators. With the website you can skip Twitter altogether and search directly on their sites for agents you want.  Be aware that some agents don't certain hashtags so it helps to search similar terms (some will use PB, #PB or Picture Book) it may take several tries to find all the markets for your book. I've also found the unofficial website to be useful:

#PBpitch on Twitter This is where you pitch your work on Twitter using #pbpitch in the text. These happen I believe quarterly (check their website for more info). They also have a huge list of Literary Agents on their website! You do need Twitter to participate.

Kidlit411 Tons of information for everything kidlit all on one site! I use this website

#kidlitart on Twitter I was not able to pay attention to much of the market chat on #kidlitart last Thursday. If you missed it as well you can read the recap here: To particpate in the weekly chats just log into Twitter on Thursdays at 6pm PST/ 9pm EST and search for #kidlitart. Remember to use #kidlitart in your tweets!

Query Tracker This is only towards the bottom of my list because I haven't used it yet! I've heard a lot of my friends using this and they've raved about this. This helps you find publishers and agents for your book.

I know I missed a lot of information, but maybe it's because there are things I don't know! Let me know in the comments what I've missed.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Who Should Receive Your Work?

Starting With the "Who"

There is so much to talk about. Today I want to write about the general people who should receive your dummy. Much of this is my opinion and in many cases doing something different may not be wrong. Obviously what I write on my blog is my opinion, but in some of these cases I will be talking about my preferences. Please do your own research and know that you can find success if you disagree with me on any of these points.

If you are planning to send out your dummy there are a lot of things to think about. Who wants your dummy? How do they want it? When do they want it? All these are great questions. Today I'm going to talk about the "Who". 

Who should receive your dummy? It use to be an easy answer. About 20 years ago the answer was almost always Editors and Art Directors. Agents back then usually came after the first book. I know this information came from at least one of the Writer's Digest books back in the day, and may have even came from one of the "Writer's Market" books.


Recently I listened to Jennifer Laughran's Literaticast. You can find her podcast here:  The podcast is absolutely wonderful and this one in particular is the most current one: "Schmagents get a Schmackdown with guest agent Kelly Sonnack" (@literaticat and @ksonnack on twitter) Near the end of the podcast Kelly talked about how if you want to work with an agent you should send the work to an agent first! If you shop your work around too much first, then you agent wont have any place to send your work! If an agent gets to you first they may offer invaluable advice about your manuscript. Also in most cases they will share the work with other agents within their agency.  (This whole podcast is great and talks about what an agent should do for you and how to get an agent.)

It should be noted that an agent will usually review your manuscript and get back to you more quickly than a publisher. Some publishers get back to people quickly but it's not uncommon for them to take a year (or more) to get back to you. I believe that it's usually assumed by agents that you are sending your work out to several other agents, while publishing houses it's assumed that the work is only being sent to them. Because of that you may not need to tell an agent that you have a simultaneous submission, but you will need to tell a publisher. Also many publishers do not accept simultaneous submissions. Be sure to check the guidelines for more information!

Agents After the Fact

If you do decide to send your work out to an editor or art director then you still have a chance to get an agent after receiving a contract (but before signing the contract). I have two friends who recently went with this method and both got an agent quickly after the fact. This somewhat decreases options as you will have to go with the house that has offered you a contract.

Small Publishers

There is the option to send work to smaller publishers. They are a bit easier to publish through. Advances and royalties may be expected to be lower (at least at first). A popular Small Press book may be in run for decades and may be a good source of passive income. 

PAL Memberships

Make sure that your publisher is a PAL member. PAL membership allows you to become a full member of the SCBWI. Do your research. Just because a publisher is a PAL member it does not mean that it's the right fit for you. If you have friends who have published with a particular publisher first ask them about their experience. PAL publishers have a list of guidelines to follow. These do not mean that a publisher is perfect by any means. To read more about these guidelines look here: There is also a list of pal publishers here:

Sending Out Work

If you want to send your illustrations for publishers to consider for their books you can send that directly to publishers. I asked on #kidlitart chat on Twitter (Follow @kidlitart and search #kidlitart Thursday nights at 9pm ET and 6pm PT) and everyone who was asked said they sent their work directly to both art directors and editors (you could do the same with the full dummy). It should be also noted that many publishing companies have Acquisitions editors that have the ability to acquire books for their publishing companies.  

Monday, October 15, 2018

Even More Winners!

I'll have some more info for you this week. Weekend was crazy here! Birthday celebration and all. Here's are the last of the winners!

  a Rafflecopter giveaway

a Rafflecopter giveaway

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Want to make a one time donation?
Buy me a coffee from Kofi:

Friday, October 12, 2018

Cover Letters and More Winners!

It should be noted before I start that the poster from Vivianne is not 8x10 it's 12x18'. I changed it in the post but forgot to change it in the rafflecopter! I'm going to quickly talk about cover letters. You should do a lot of research on cover letters to craft a letter that compels an agent or editor to read your work. Here is an example of what a cover letter looks like. The letter is in regular text and extra info is bolded.

The opening of the cover letter should always be a specific person's name.

Dear Jane Doe,

1st Paragraph-- These first lines should tell the agent/editor why you are sending them your book and introduce your book. Some people like to leave this out, but I've heard more people say they prefer a personalized letter!

I have been following you for some time on Twitter. I love your thread about publishing mistakes! I heard you were looking for funny stories with heart. I believe my story "Two Peas Too Many" is just what you are looking for. Choose at least 2 stories that are like your book. It's a mix between "Baa Baa Black Sheep and Harry Potter" and is 490 words. (Always use picture books comps if you are pitching a picture book.)

2nd Paragraph -- This part is your pitch

Two peas are in an epic feud about which side of their pod is the best. Poor Little Pea is stick in the middle of the fight and the pod! Only Little Pea can see the danger outside the pod. Little Pea must push back against his pushy brothers so they can escape the jaws of hungry caterpillar.  I'm not saying this is a good pitch, but pitches are the most important part of your cover letter! If nothing else make sure this goes through several revisions before you hit send!

3rd Paragraph -- This tells about you. Include any formal training, publishing credits, memberships, your website with portfolio, email and your phone number. It's a good idea to have your name and your email or website on your dummy as well as it could be separated from the cover letter. 

I have a BFA in Illustration. My recent publishing credits include the June issue of "Highlights" and the October issue of "Cricket". I am a current member of the SCBWI. I received the cool award for my snowman drawing (Only include awards that you don't pay to have on your books). You can find my work at My email is and my phone number is (123) 555- 5555. I have many manuscripts and a polished dummy if you want to see more of my work. I look forward to hearing from you.


Your Name Here   

Here are some more winners! I'll announce the rest on Monday! I'll have more information for you on Monday for finishing your work and publishing. I'm so sorry this week has been really busy! a Rafflecopter giveaway a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Smart Dummies Prize Winners!

Here are the first prize winners for the Smart Dummies! I will be emailing the winners soon, and then sending their details to the prize givers. Congratulations to all the winners! a Rafflecopter giveaway a Rafflecopter giveaway a Rafflecopter giveaway a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, October 5, 2018

Practically Porcupine Laura Renauld

Laura Renauld's first picture book Porcupine pie comes out on October 9th. Laura told me about her book and showed me the cover. I just had to know more. What's in the pie? Who is this wonderful writer who writes about porcupines and pie? Are there more pies in Laura's future? I just had to interview Laura to learn all I could!

You can buy Porcupine Pie here: or at anywhere online that sells her book. If you pre-order from the US now Laura will send you a signed book plate!


Dani: Who influenced you most in your writing career?

Laura: When I was a teacher, I had a colleague who encouraged my writing. She gave me Georgia Heard’s book Writing Toward Home and was a valuable source of quotes and texts that she called ‘literary gifts’. With her by my side, I found the courage to begin. That was over ten years ago, but I will always be indebted to my friend for supporting me as I took my first baby steps as a writer.

Dani:  What kind of pie is Porcupine's Pie?

Laura: Good question! I decided that Porcupine’s specialty for Fall Feast Day was her Famous Cranberry Pie. But when she loses an important ingredient, her friends support her and together they create a new tradition: Friendship Pie! There’s even a recipe for Friendship Pie at the back of the book.

(As a side note, my first inkling of this idea was a jot in my notebook that said “How to Make Porcupine Pie”. That sounded a bit too macabre! Needless to say, I pursued a different angle, making Porcupine the protagonist, instead of the victim.)

Dani:  Can you tell us a bit about the #KidsNeedMentors initiative and why you joined?

Laura: #KidsNeedMentors is a way for educators and authors to team up in pursuit of our common purpose: exciting kids about reading and writing! Authors Ann Braden and Jarrett Lerner, and fifth grade teachers Kristin Crouch and Kristen Picone, are the team behind the movement. During this pilot year, author/teacher pairs are encouraged to connect by mail, by video chat, and maybe even in-person. Students build a relationship with one author over the course of the school year.

I signed up to participate because #KidsNeedMentors sounded like a game-changer to me. Teachers and school districts often lack the resources they need to bring authors to schools. And writers feel isolated at their desks or amid the book-signing crowd where connections with readers are fleeting. With this partnership program, authors can bond with the very people they write for: kids! I am looking forward to sharing my writing journey with the learning journey of the students I’m paired with.

Dani:  What do you wish you knew about writing when you were younger? 

Laura: Oh my! Where do I start? I wish I knew that writing a “breakfast to bed” story is not very satisfying. It took me a very long time to realize (and I still need reminders!) that a picture book develops from one key moment; one emotion; one unexpected circumstance. It has to be super-focused in order to explore the heart of the story with insight and depth.

My foundation for creative writing actually came from teaching Writer’s Workshop to my third graders. I learned as much from those mini-lessons as they did!

Dani:  What's next for you?

Laura: Now I get to enter the world of book signings and school visits! Visit my website to see where I’ll be next:

My next book is a picture book biography called Fred’s Big Feelings: The Life and Legacy of Mister Rogers. It is scheduled to release in Fall 2019 from Atheneum, with Brigette Barrager illustrating.


Connect with me online at: and on social media:

Twitter - @laura_renauld

Facebook – @kidlitlaura

Instagram - @laurarenauld


Laura Renauld is a former third grade teacher who now spends her days imagining and creating. When she is not writing picture books about porcupines, pirates, and pickles, Laura can be found on a trail, at the library, or in the kitchen. She lives in Northern Virginia with her husband and their two story-telling sons. This is her debut picture book.

Monday, October 1, 2018

Smart Dummies Oath!

Winner Badge!
Here it is! The Smart Dummies oath. If you completed at least 24-30 pages (or 12-15 spreads) CONGRATULATIONS are in order! You have completed the Smart Dummies challenge! Your images just need to be black and white. The images can all be done in pencil. If you did more than good for you!

Please do not send me your Dummies! We are on the honor's system. You MUST COMMENT on this oath in order to be eligible for the big prizes and have registered at the beginning of the event. You MUST comment on the posts of the prizes you want! I posted all the links yesterday.

Your dummy does not have to be perfect. You can even say that you will be changing everything. You just need a reasonable draft. Reasonable draft = Clean and clear enough that you can give it to someone for feedback. You can interpret this however you want.

The Smart Dummies Oath:

I do solemnly swear that I have completed the Smart Dummies challenge. I have completed at least 24 pages (or 12 spreads) for my Children's Book Dummy this month. I will continue to get my dummy submission ready so I can send it out into the world. 

I will give everyone about a week (Drawings will happen on October 7th and I will begin posting the winners on the 8th ) for people to comment on this and the prize posts. Thank you all for being a part of Smart Dummies this year!

I will be posting info soon for sending out your dummy!

Help out Smart Dummies:

If you enjoyed Smart Dummies this year please consider supporting the event on Patreon! Smart Dummies will always be free. Every year I will update the planner and have free downloads for the planner. Please support me so I can continue to motivate illustrators to create their dummies, and keep up with different costs that come up for the event!

Want to make a one time donation?
Buy me a coffee from Kofi:

Thank you for joining Smart Dummies this year!

Friday, September 28, 2018

Share Day Week 4!

It's Share Day. Week 4! Thank you all for sharing your wonderful work with me and everyone who reads this blog. 

While share day is over, I will still be sharing art over on Instagram! If you have an account let me know and I can share your art. My account is:

Diane Gronas --

Diane Gronas --

Arthur Haywood --

Katie Carrberry --

Lisa Burvant

Stephanie Hermanek-Olsen --

Tamar Dolev --

Tara Santoro --


Virginia Rinkle --

Virginia Rinkle --

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Giraffe Instructor Viviane Elbee -- Plus a PRIZE!

Viviane is one of the members of my fantastic critique group I found thanks to Julie Hedlund's 12x12! I'm very lucky to find two group (writing and illustration) that give me invaluable feedback. When any of my critique members get good news I think it's absolutely wonderful. I was over the moon when I heard "Teach Your Giraffe To Ski was now on Pre-Order!

I love Viviane's writing style. She has such animated characters and she puts so much hard work into all of her stories. I know this is only the first of many of Viviane's stories that I will be sharing with you!

Check at the end of this post for a PRIZE!

Dani: How did you get started writing?

Viviane:  I've always loved writing, but I started writing seriously for children after my first child was born. I had written a few rough drafts when I saw an ad in the newspaper for a local SCBWI critique group. Joining the critique group and SCBWI was one of the best decisions ever. I later joined 12x12, which is an organization specifically for picture book writers. Joining these organizations helped me learn so much, and I've met so many talented, supportive & encouraging people. (Dani is one of them!) :)

Dani: What is your absolute favorite animal?

Viviane: I love so many animals I don't think I can pick a favorite! Unfortunately, some of the animals I love are endangered. I hope that humankind can figure out a way to save them, because I'd hate to see so many wonderful animals disappear. Giraffes are on the endangered list, and so are some species of elephants, tigers, leopards, dolphins, whales, turtles, birds, honeybees, wombats etc... Some programs to help endangered animals are already making a positive impact - such as sea turtle conservation programs. Everyone can help, even by doing little things, like setting up birdhouses that are just right for endangered birds, or planting flowers that honeybees like.

Dani: Who inspires you the most?

Viviane: Kids inspire me the most. They're so smart and imaginative and fun.

Dani: How did you get the idea for TEACH YOUR GIRAFFE TO SKI?

Viviane: I got the idea during my family's very first ski trip, which coincided with the 2014 Winter Olympics. My kids packed many stuffed animals. During the day they were learning to ski, and in the evening, the stuffed animals tried all sorts of winter sports too. This led to a lot of funny jokes about skiing giraffes.

I wrote a longer blog post about the inspiration behind this story -

Dani: How many giraffes have you taught to ski?

Viviane: None. But I keep my eyes open for giraffes on the ski slopes, because you never know, maybe one day I'll meet one!

Dani: What are you working on next?

Viviane: I'm working on several other picture book manuscripts. I'm still learning and taking classes to improve my craft too. Currently I'm doing some classes with Arree Chung's Storyteller Academy.


Follow Viviane:
Poster Prize!
Here is a pre-order link:


Here is my website:

For those who want to buy through an Independent Bookseller:


Viviane is offering an 12x18" poster from "Teach Your Giraffe to Ski"!*

*This prize is limited to those who live in the US.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Ksenia "Kind Killer" Anske

Smart Note: Both: Final Illustrations -- Page 19
Reg: Substrate - Page 18

I have wanted to trap Ksenia's words on my blog forever. Now I have that chance! Ksenia is a genius at writing and marketing. The thing about Ksenia is she doesn't really market. She socializes like mad. Over the past few years Ksenia has laid the foundation of her book empire. I am just in awe of the way Ksenia interacts with people on social media. She's even known to give out a book or two thousand. I mean, she is probably planning on murdering us all later, but I'm still in awe!


Dani: Where did you learn so much about marketing?

Photo Credit: David Peterman
Ksenia: I have over 15 years of experience in marketing, which I had to do for my startup, to survive. I wasn’t even sure at the time it was called marketing. All I did was, I wrote monthly newsletters to our customers, as I heard somewhere that it’s a business-must to stay in touch. So I did it. And my customers told me that they loved reading them—that my newsletters were like stories. I guess even back then I couldn’t help it but to do storytelling.

Dani: Which fantasy being or animal would you become if you had the choice?

Ksenia: Dragon. I was born in a year of a Dragon, and ever since I learned that (as a little girl), I imagined myself as a Dragon.

Dani: What is your favorite form of social media?

Ksenia: Patreon is my latest love, and it’s going to be my love for years to come, I have a feeling. It’s the best place to create a community that’s private, loyal, and supportive. I’ve shifted most of my social media presence to Patreon now, and I couldn’t be happier (I only wish I did it sooner!).

Dani: How did interacting with people help you grow your following?

Ksenia: It’s all a conversation. A dialogue. A building of friendships. I don’t view it as a following, I view it as my tribe, my people where I belong, and where they belong. Where we belong together. As one community. I can’t be me and create and thrive without my community, just like any other artist. And so we’re growing together, all of us, by having a conversation.

Dani: What's the one thing that propelled you most in your career?
Ksenia: The stubbornness of not quitting. There were many times when I was tempted. The book didn’t sell well. The idea didn’t develop the way I wanted it to. Someone criticized me harshly. I was blocked, tired, discouraged. Or writing was so painful, I didn’t think I could go on. It was only sheer stubbornness that carried me through these moments. Or propelled. Or pushed me forward. And it was thanks to those moments that I was able to look back and realize, it’s not me who has to make it. It’s not about me. It’s about all of us. I’m one with my readers, and with other writers, and they’re all one with me. After this clicked for me, quitting became a non-option.

Image taken by We Love Reading
Dani: Do you have any advice for writers or artists trying to sell their work on social media?

Ksenia: Selling is serving. It’s very easy to serve your readers if all you do is ask questions and listen. Listen until you find the need they have, then and only then, when they ask you in turn, tell them about your book. Often at that point, if you’ve exercised enough patience and truly listened, truly saw the other person, truly heard them, the sale happens on its own. It’s not always monetary. Quite often it’s the commitment of your reader to give you time, or offer some other help. And you never know to how many people they’ll talk to and tell about you and your work. It’s an exercise in faith in humanity, in people. Give them love, and they’ll want to return it. It might take them days, or maybe even years. Never falter. Never stop. They will. It’s human nature. We all want to give. We’re simply scared of giving because we’ve all been burned. Give your reader enough space to vent, to talk, to be heard, and they’ll move mountains for you. I promise.


Follow Ksenia