Wednesday, June 20, 2018

What Progress?

I need all the naps!

What I'm Creating:

Still working on the Smart Dummies planner/guide!


Things are going to be off until the end of the school year. I'm hoping to finish the planner this week, but things happen. We'll see if I can get it done!

Ongoing - Find more people to interview and to post on Instagram. 
June 30th - Finish up the Smart Dummies planner.
July 15th - Drafts for Dummy (Hoping to finish this sooner).

Next Interview

Wendy Martin

Share your progress here! Don't know what to do? 
What Progress? is created by Dani Duck. It is a Wednesday event for you to share your progress!

Monday, June 18, 2018

Monday Coffee - I Knew There Was Something I Forgot

I completely forgot about Monday Coffee today! Nothing in particular happened last night, but there was craziness. I was on my phone looking through social media and then realize OMG I FORGOT TO POST! I'm not sure if the last link-up was set correctly (dates were wrong when I logged on), so I've made sure that people can add their links this time!

Anyway just wanted to know your feelings on something. I've had a lot of people ask me for advice lately. Eventually I'm going to start charging for this advice, but why charge when I can give it out for free?

If I started doing portfolio website critiques would you be interested? I've done several so far, but would love to do more. Every other week I'd be giving them away. If you don't have a website/portfolio I can give you suggestions on how to start one. If you are a writer I can give you feedback on your website as well (let's not leave anyone out here).

I have had over 18 years of experience as an artist. I have a BFA in Fine Arts and an Associates in Graphic Communications. I have experience in both digital and traditional media.

Edit: Don't forget about the logo contest:

Join me with your own Monday Coffee post! Monday Coffee is a joint effort between Dani Duck and Christy Illustrates!

Friday, June 15, 2018

The Extraordinary Jade Johnson

Jade Johnson is a Artist, Teacher and Cartoon lover. I love how Jade always has wonderful things to say and share on social media. Her style is very cool and I love how she's constantly working to improve her craft. I'm happy to share this interview with you!


Dani: What was your favorite illustration project?

Jade: My favorite project is usually my most recent! I’m particularly proud of my Imaginary Friend piece, made as a guest artist for Square Carousel. The theme was “extraordinary”.

Dani: Where do you find inspiration?

Jade: Inspiration strikes me in the strangest places. A nicely colored advertisement, a cute stationery pen, a funny line in a book I’m reading; they all can ignite that spark. More than anything though, my work is driven by character and story. Wanting to put them onto paper is what sees me through to the end of a project.

Dani:  I know you like cartoons. Which cartoons are your favorites?

Jade: I do love cartoons! Adventure Time, The Amazing World of Gumball, Craig of the Creek, and Bob’s Burgers are some of my favorites. They all have quirky and unpredictable storylines that keep me coming back for more. I also like Steven Universe but I’m behind. I need to catch up!

Dani:  How did you get started as a teaching artist?

Jade: Before I applied for my current position, I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I felt the draw to teach but wasn’t confident in my ability to command a classroom. Initially I’d been interested in teaching adult workshops but thought kids would be more fun and engaging, so I took the plunge. I got the job at my program, Upturn Arts, teaching 3-12 year olds and as it turns out, I love working with kids! It helps that I’m a big kid myself.

Dani: What's your favorite thing to teach?

Jade: Any type of printmaking! I taught basic foam printing techniques to my after school class and thoroughly enjoyed myself. I hope to teach block and screen printing this summer/upcoming school year.

Dani: What is your dream job?

Jade: To find a home for my children’s book We Found An Island, in which a band of researchers crash-land onto a strange island. Little do they know it was no accident! The story struck me while on a walk and has stuck with me ever since. I hope to have the dummy completed for querying soon. Wish me luck!


Thanks again for including me, Dani! Everyone can find me on Instagram, Tumblr, Twitter, and more recently YouTube as @jadejohnsonillo. Find my portfolio at!

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

What Progress? - I Think I'm Awake

I was out all Saturday. Exhausted, in pain and just not feeling great. It's thrown my week all off so I'm trying to catch up now.

What I'm Creating:

I am going to be finishing up the Smart Dummies planner soon. I've had some eye strain (still do) which is a problem for doing things on the computer. The plus side is I can type without looking at the computer screen so I can do 90% of it blind if I have to. I think that's a good thing!


Is there even a schedule anymore? I'm not even sure. In any case this is my closest approximation!

Ongoing - Find more people to interview and to post on Instagram. 
June 15th - Finish up the Smart Dummies planner.
June 30th - Drafts for Dummy (Hoping to finish this sooner).

Next Interview

Jade Johnson

Share your progress here! Don't know what to do? 

What Progress? is created by Dani Duck. It is a Wednesday event for you to share your progress!

Monday, June 11, 2018

Monday Coffee -- Why Haven't You Killed Your Darlings Yet?

Picture 1: Spinach and lettuce all jumbled together.
You've probably heard it over a hundred times: Kill your darlings. It's practically beat over every new writer's head. You have to kill your darlings for your story to survive. I'm not going to tell you anything new today, but I'm going to tell you why these darlings must be killed.

I learned an important writing lesson from my garden. There are several things you grow that grow best with lots of similar plants around it. Kale, spinach, lettuce and carrots (to name a few) are all great when grown with other plants around them!

Picture 2: Thinning out these plants from
Picture 1 will allow them to thrive!

After a few weeks it becomes an apocalyptic situation. Spinach starts attacking spinach. Brother attacks brother. Okay, no, what happens is they run low on resources so they continue sharing them. Having to share these resources the plants stay small.

A couple years ago, when I first started growing my plants from seed, I found out that I need to thin them out so they can grow. I grew them from seed. I gave them life. AND NOW I'M BEING TOLD TO KILL MY LITTLE DARLINGS? I was crushed. Yes I know they are plants, but it takes a long time to grow these things. SO MUCH TIME AND EFFORT!

Picture 3: The middle two plants (under the big plant from
Picture 4) never got big because they stayed too close
together and too close to that big plant!
Much to my dismay, I killed my darlings. Of course I tried to save as many of my darlings as humanly possible. I put them in little pots hoping to find a place for them in the garden. I have a fairly large garden (you are just seeing pictures from my small garden here) but the space is still finite! I was able to give some away to a friend, but it still wasn't enough. In the end I had to let my precious little darlings die.

It isn't a sad story. In the end I had the best kale and lettuce crop I've ever had! All summer long I was able to go to the garden to get a range of salad greens and I didn't have to worry about having to buy any of these things all summer. We actually weren't able to eat it all, so I've changed what I put in the garden this year.
Picture 4: This plant has grown this size because it
 grew strong with other seedlings around it and then it's
mates were killed violently so it could grow.
(Same plant as Picture 3.)

Unfortunately I have come to the conclusion that you also have to kill your writing darlings. Maybe your darling is a beautifully descriptive paragraph, or maybe it's a character that you love. Once you've established that these darlings are of no use to your story then get rid of them! You may give them to another story, or find another place for them in your current story (or series). I'll say it again: IF YOUR DARLINGS AREN'T HELPING YOUR STORY THEN KILL THEM FROM THE STORY.

Though, never kill them from your mind. Put them in their own special file and maybe one day they'll grow into their own little garden. Or maybe they'll die in that file. Either way your story will be allowed to flourish!

Friday, June 8, 2018

Jen "Book Guru" Robinson

Today on my blog I have book blogger Jen Robinson on my blog. Jen's Twitter feed is interesting because you can tell Jen does her research when she talks about books. This research really shows when she shares her feed on her blog, except on her blog she sorts everything into subjects so books are easier to find. I love her articles. Her recent post about summer reading is great, and is a great read for parents!


Dani: How did you get started book blogging?

Jen: I always loved reading children’s and young adult books. I also cared very much that children, those I knew and those I didn’t, would grow up with the chance to love reading. I was always talking about that (giving people copies of Jim Trelease's The Read-Aloud Handbook when they had babies, buying picture books for baby shower gifts, etc.). In late 2005 two different friends said to me, independently, “You should start a blog.” The message that I took from those suggestions was: stop talking about this and take action. So one December day I started my blog. I looked around online and connected with some of the relatively few people who were blogging about children’s books at that time, and I started reviewing books that I read. The blog took off from there.

Dani: What do you do when you aren't blogging about books?

I have a PhD in Industrial Engineering and I co-own a small software firm that sells a web-based reporting product for high-tech manufacturing companies. I also have a husband and an 8 year old daughter. So I juggle most of my time between responsibilities for my family, my work, and my blogging. When I have downtime I mostly read and exercise (often at the same time). I’m also a Boston Red Sox fan, and I like to watch baseball when I can. I live in California, and my husband and I like to go wine tasting. 

Dani: Why is reading so important for you?

I think that being a voracious reader as a child helped make me who I am today. Some of my core values were at the very least reinforced by things that I read in books. Books helped me to develop empathy and imagination. Reading many books left me with an excellent vocabulary and an ability to process information. I believe this in turn helped me to get into a good college, and to become successful professionally. I feel that reading has given me many gifts over the course of my lifetime. I blog because I want to help children accrue those same benefits.

I’m also extremely introverted, and reading is my number one way to recharge.

Dani: Describe your perfect reading area.

My favorite place to read is in a comfortable chair somewhere outside, with a view, in the shade. I once spent an entire day reading on a lounge chair on a little peninsula in Bar Harbor, Maine. I had ocean on three sides of me, and multiple books to read. It was pure bliss. In my mind, I sometimes try to go back to that spot. But these days, my backyard and a cup of tea or a glass of wine works pretty well, too.

When I was a kid I would read in a tree in our yard, and sometimes on the roof (my bedroom had a dormer window, so it was pretty easy to get out there).

Dani: How do you decide which books you are going to read?

I read a number of book-related blogs and magazines. When something catches my eye I often send myself a Kindle sample. Then I’ll periodically go through and read the samples, and decide which ones are interesting enough to read in full. I’m very picky, because my reading time is so precious, so I will stop reading anything that isn’t working for me. I do have quite a number of authors that I know I love, so I’ll read whatever new books they publish. I do a lot of my “reading” in the format of audiobooks, and I find that works especially well for series books. These days I’m reading a lot of mysteries, mixed in with some science fiction and some nonfiction.

Dani: What are your goals for the future?

My blog is in a bit of a transition at the moment - I’m reviewing fewer books, and talking more about the joy of learning in general. I think this is influenced by where my daughter is in the educational process (she’s about to finish second grade), and perhaps a bit of burnout after reviewing children’s and young adult books for 12+ years. A primary goal for me right now is making sure that my daughter continues to love reading. I’m particularly concerned that schools (AR programs and whole class novels and reading logs) sometimes quench the joy of reading, I don’t want that to happen to her. Because it’s what I do, I will be sharing the ups and downs of this process on my blog.


Follow Jen:


Wednesday, June 6, 2018

What Progress? The "Is it Summer?" Post

I am so tired. Is it summer yet? Please tell me that tomorrow is June 28th and school is over for the year. It doesn't have to be true, except it does.

I haven't been able to use the computer much recently. I've had a recent bout of eye strain. I'm hoping that it will get better soon and I can get back to work. 

What I'm Creating:

I've been working a lot on Smart Dummies things. I'm hoping to get a Smart Dummies booklet done soon. Have to do a lot of the planning for the event left to do.


Ongoing - Find more people to interview and to post on Instagram. 
June 15th - Have the print booklets for Smart Dummies up for presale. (PDF will be free to download).
June 30th - Have a complete dummy done (or at least pencil depending on eyesight and other factors)! 

Next Interview:

Jen Robinson - June 8th 

*More interviews on their way*

Don't forget to add your blog link in the linkup below!

Monday, June 4, 2018

Monday Coffee -- Help Smart Dummies Succeed!

I need your help! It's not just for me, but also for the winner of the logo contest. Right now I only have $35 to give to the winner of the Smart Dummies Logo Contest: but that's not enough! I'd like to be able to give them $50 or more. You can donate at: You can also donate a prize. Please send me a note via my contact form to donate a prize!

Your donations will help to fund this logo contest and the Smart Dummies Planner that's coming up soon! The planner will be offered for FREE as a download. I will not be able to afford to keep offering fun things if I don't get more Patrons! Please show the love so we can have a lot more great events and offers.

Friday, June 1, 2018

Design a Logo for Smart Dummies!

Smart Dummies Artwork
Announcing the Logo Design Contest for Smart Dummies!

This year I decided to have a logo design contest for Smart Dummies. Your logo will be used for the Blog Badge, Facebook, the Smart Dummies website, in the Smart Dummies shop* and any other social media where Smart Dummies is advertised. Please feel free to ask questions about this event here, or on the Smart Dummies Facebook Page in case someone else has the same question. You can contact me privately if you have concerns you'd rather not share with the group.

I have about $35 USD saved up to give as a prize for the winner. I wanted to have much more for this contest. There is still a chance to increase this amount! Visit the Smart Dummies Patreon and donate to Smart Dummies. I would love to give at least $50 as a prize. The final prize amount will depend on how much is donated between now and the end of the contest.

What does a Smart Dummies Logo Look Like?

There is no image that defines Smart Dummies. In the past all of the logos have featured birds. I will have volunteers help me judge this contest, so you do not

Submit a design that will work both as a Facebook Banner and a Small logo. You can either submit one piece of artwork, (or two of the same image but formatted for Facebook and Blog badge size). Please leave enough room for text. Do not sign the artwork you submit for judging. A signature can be on the final image and credit will be given to the winner.

Blog Badge size 1.5" x 1.5"
Facebook Size: 851 x 315 pixels.

Design Size: All final images you create must be at least 4" in height and 300 DPI (so I can resize it for different purposes).

How to Enter:

One entry per person.** Submit your design (or designs if you are submitting 2 of the same image). Total attachment size should not exceed 1 MB. You should keep a larger file of the image(s) ready to send. No text should appear on the image nor should your signature.
Smart Dummies Logo 2017

Send all images with the Subject: "Smart Dummies Logo Contest"

Please include your name and contact information in the body of the email (not on the image). This information will only be used to contact you in case of a win, or if other confirmations need to be made before the deadline. If you do not receive an automatic email confirmation within 24 hours please contact me through my contact form or via Facebook to confirm. 

*Money from this will go to the Smart Dummies challenge:

**Anyone donating more than $5 to Smart Dummies can enter twice for this and all other contests.


Midnight PST June 27, 2018

Facebook Header


The winner of Smart Dummies logo contest gives Dani Duck, Smart Dummies and participants of Smart Dummies the rights to use the winning logo on Social Media for advertising. The winner also gives the rights for the 2018 logo to be used on Dani Duck: Artist Obscure, on participant web pages and blogs, for the cover of the Smart Dummies planner and on merchandise in the Smart Dummies shop. 50% of all Smart Dummies shop profits of anything with the winner's logo* and 15% of Planner profits, with the 2018 logo printed on it, will go to the winner.

The winner retains all other rights to their work including publication in any form. Smart Dummies will not be selling prints of the logo, and the winner has the rights to sell both prints of their illustration and the original without any payments to Smart Dummies.

All commission payments to the winner will be made quarterly through Paypal.

*Please note that there have been no sales in the Smart Dummies shop to date.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

What Progress? The "Am I Progressing?" Post

Sorry for the late post! I accidently scheduled this for Friday!

I have had a MONTH this month. What does that mean? I've had almost no time to work on any artwork. I've been in all the pain and have a possible allergy? I've also gotten some bad news and I hope things are going to work out. I'm hoping June will be better!

What I'm Creating:

Not enough. Just not enough. I'm hoping that I can get more work done now that I'm feeling a bit better. May was basically a terrible month for me. What it's not over yet? GAH!


My schedule was blown to pieces last month. I was okay with posting my interviews, but sadly I've ran out of people because I've had no time to send out emails. 

Ongoing - Find more people to interview and to post on Instagram. 
June 15th - Have reasonably good pencil drafts for my dummy. *moved*

Interview Schedule:

April 27th Jardan J. Scavone - Done!
May 4th Benson Shum - Done!
May 11th Katherine Locke - Done!
May 18th Ashley Howland - Done!
May 25th Nick Patton - Done!

I have an IMPORTANT announcement on Friday (if no new interview answers come in) to replace the sadness that is no interview. So Friday will be a good day!

Monday, May 28, 2018

Monday Coffee -- This Page Unintentionally Left Blank

Monday Coffee was unintentionally delayed today. I have an injury that caused me a lot of pain this weekend. I was not able to get any artwork or posts scheduled this weekend. I will be doing "What Progress?" Wednesday, but I'm not sure about the interview for this week. Hopefully next weekend will be better!

Friday, May 25, 2018

Picturebooking Magic with Nick Patton

I don't know about you but I love to listen to podcasts when I draw. It's something that's not too distracting and helps improve my mood while working. I started listening to The Picturebooking Podcast when it first came out. At the time there were a few podcasts created by writers, but only Nick's (that I knew) podcast was from the perspective of an illustrator. This makes Picturebooking near and dear to my heart, because it's great when you are getting started as an illustrator to hear from other people who are in the same boat as you. Nick's podcast is insightful, creative and a ton of fun to hear! Nick isn't just awesome to listen to. His artwork is great as well. Check out his Instagram and Twitter pages to see his practice drawings and original artwork!


Dani: What is your favorite thing about running a podcast?
Nick: My favorite thing about the podcast (by far) is getting to have in depth con
versations with picture book creators who love the craft as much as I do.

I don’t know about you, but the majority of people in my life don’t let me talk for hours about Melissa Sweet’s art or how darn funny an Aaron Reynolds story is. Not only do I get to geek out about this art form, but I get to do it with the people who created it. The whole thing just blows my mind. I’m so lucky.

Dani: How has having a podcast affected your own illustration work?

Nick: Studying and talking to professional illustrators made me want to step up my game. It made me want to toss everything I’d ever done out the window and start over. I have personally done a lot of thrashing and flailing.

For the first couple years of the podcast I’d find myself studying someone’s work and then twisting my own art to their style.

But recently I’ve been listening to some past interviews and I’m finding clarity in what Dani Jones, Ovi Nedelcu and others have told me.

Dani is all about keeping it simple. Just make stuff and show it to people.

And Ovi created his “look” out of necessity. He made sure his art fit into his whole life. This is something I’m trying to do more of. If a piece of art takes me weeks to create, it isn’t a viable way of telling stories.

I still love putting on someone else’s style, but now I just copy the art as a learning exercise … something Amy June Bates mentioned in our talk.

Dani: What is your favorite food?
Nick: Well I did the illustrations for a newly released picture book title SAM AND THE SEVEN POUND PERCH. It’s a funny story about a boy and his dream of catching a record perch. I don’t want to give to much away, but if I was Sam, the story would end with a Friday Fish Fry!

The first Friday of the month a church does a fish fry in our town. They get the perch from the local fish market and they use a recipe that was gifted to them by an old restaurant owner. It is amazing perch! And it’s where we will be this Friday night!

Dani: Do you have a favorite podcast (or podcasts)? Could you share what you learned?

Nick: My first conversation with Dan Santat, days before he won the Caldecott for BEEKLE was special. Vanessa Brantley-Newton singing on the show brings goosebumps. The playful sarcasm of Mike Lowery, the energy of Rafael López and the thoughtfulness of Antoinette Portis come to mind. Asking Peter Brown about peeing was pretty memorable, and just sitting back and listening to Will Terry talk was fun.

So many good moments that it’s hard to bring one to the top.

But if you want a show about actionable tips to break into the children’s book industry … I did an entire episode on the topic with 19 past guests!

Here is Kelly Murphy’s advice in that episode:

Determination. You have to keep telling yourself that this is important and why it’s important. Self evaluation. What are you doing and how does it work with what the publishing world is doing. Thick skin. Rejection is part of this deal. It’s part of this profession. So a thick skin is important.

Dani: Why did you start a Patreon Page?

Nick: My Patreon page is all about sustainability. Patreon allows listeners of the show to contribute a monthly amount for the content I produce.

I want to continue having these conversations and promoting this medium. The goal of the podcast is to showcase the authors and illustrators behind my favorite books. But I need the show to be sustainable.

I’ve read some marketing books and blogs. I’ve googled “how to monetize a podcast.” And I don’t feel like being a true internet marketer. It’s just not fun or interesting.

So maybe my Patreon page is just me being to lazy to truly monetize the show with ads and such. But I’d prefer to think it’s an opportunity for my listeners to support my art. It’s a simple way to give me the ability and freedom to make Picturebooking my way.

Dani: What's next for the Picturebooking Podcast?

Nick: I’m inching closer to the 100th show! And I’ve been asking a bunch of people why picture books are important. It’s going to be an inspiring podcast and it reminds me why I get up every day and work on this craft.

If you or your readers would like to answer the question and potentially be included in the 100th episode just record your answer and email it to me at Please state your name in your answer … “Hi I’m Nick Patton and picture books are important to me because …”

Dani: What are your goals beyond the Picturebooking Podcast?

Nick: Four years ago, when I started the show I had this self-publishing vision. I really thought I was going to tell and share stories in some untraditional ways. But like monetizing a podcast, this self-publishing path runs headlong into internet marketing.

I’m not interested in doing everything myself. I get tired just thinking about posting on Facebook, let alone setting up an internet marketing campaign.

So my goal this year is to rebuild my portfolio, complete some “smart” dummy books and go fishing for an agent. When I catch one, we’ll have a fish fry … you’re invited!

Follow Nick:

Twitter: @nickpattonillo

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

What Progress?

Tufts of cottony death are floating around my neighborhood again. I don't usually have any allergy problems but this form of puffiness seems to be my one weakness. I will breathe much better once this part of the season ends!

What I'm Creating:

Mostly a big mess in Clip Studio Paint! I think I came close to having a full palette to work from last night. More work than I bargained for, but I'm glad I'm done. It will be useful for any artwork I do. 

I found a few people to post on Instagram. I'm still working on getting more interviews. I'm hoping to find more people tonight for both!

Ongoing - Find more people to interview and to post on Instagram. 
May 30th - Have reasonably good pencil drafts for my dummy. *moved*

Interview Schedule:

April 27th Jardan J. Scavone - Done!
May 4th Benson Shum - Done!
May 11th Katherine Locke - Done!
May 18th Ashley Howland - Done!
May 25th Nick Patton 

I will add more people to this list soon!

As promised here is a badge for "What Progress?" I will make a fancier one later, but might as well get this started!

Monday, May 21, 2018

Monday Coffee - May 21

Weird week this week, sorry everyone! I forgot today is Monday because it's a long weekend here. Victoria day messed me up!

So I've been working on a lot of things lately and one of those is working in Clip Studio Paint. The problem is I like making my own colors, so I took a red, blue, yellow and brown I liked and got to mixing! I didn't quite end up mixing all the colors I'd needed but I got a good pallet started. It's one I can use in other paintings, so I'm happy. I got most of the colors of my painting changed and I hope I can continue working on my painting soon! 
What are you working on now?

Monday Coffee is a joint effort between Dani Duck and Christy Illustrates

Friday, May 18, 2018

Interview with Puppy Approved, Ashley Howland

I had technical difficulties with this post today! I had it all set up and ready to go, but when I went to look at the pre-scheduled post today there was no post! 😰 I do not know what happened, so I'm posting this and hoping it sticks.

When I was talking to Ashley about doing an interview I was convinced that she had done an interview with me before. I was looking through my blog to find the old interview and I found nothing. Well I found an old blog hop we did, and talked about her more than once on my blog, but there was never any interview! Well time to fix that oversight. Here is the wonderful Puppy Approved Ashley Howland!

Dani: Why did you decide to write for children?

Ashley: I’m not sure it was a decision. My brain is just wired that way. I have children, I work with children. It’s more than that though, I love to read and my favourite books have always been children’s books. They are the things memories are made from. Reading to my children has always been one to the best parts of the day. We still love to read stories together and share these adventures. I write because I love to share stories with my girls and with other children. Naturally I write for children, it’s the best way to share adventures.

Dani: I know you are a dog person, but how do you feel about cats?
Ashley: Ahh the wonderful cats. I love big cats, as in tigers, lions and cheetahs. Now the pet cat, I guess I can see why some people like cats. I just prefer dogs. Partly because my husband is allergic to cats. Mainly it’s a personality thing. The thing with dogs is they need you. They want to be with you, do things with you and be a part of your life. Most cats want you only when they need something from you. I also have issues when people let their cats roam the country without any thought for the environment. No bells, no curfew. That of course is the minority of cat owners. There are of course cats that are great pets, but unless it’s a part of the big cat family I would rather have my dogs.

Dani: What do you do when you aren't writing?

Ashley: I am a teacher, mainly Physical Education now. I teach in a primary school and have taught Science, Japanese and classroom. I have interests in digital technology and love to integrate subjects all together. I often teach through stories, it’s one of the reasons I started to write. When I’m not at work I am with my girls, often on a soccer pitch. That’s all part of being mum. I am currently coaching, but generally I just try and help as much as I can. I love to spend that time with them and their friends. Between work, the kids, the dogs (who also love soccer), and occasionally getting to the gym life is quite busy. Writing is my time out, my release and while I don’t get much time, I try to make the best of the time I have.

Dani: Who influences your work the most?

Ashley: I would have to say my daughters. They are part of all my writing. At times we have worked on ideas together. Each of them has helped develop characters, ideas and even the plots. The places we go, the things we do, our daily adventures, the books we read and the holidays we go on all form part of my writing journey. My girls also help with my editing. Before I sent any of my stories off for editing I read them to the girls. They are fantastic at finding any plot holes and helping to fix any issues. The best critics come in small bodies. They are honest and straight to the point. If they hate it they tell me, if the find it funny they laugh and if they love it they ask for more!

Dani: What's the best job you've ever had?

Ashley: That’s a hard question. There are bits of all the jobs I have had that have been amazing. As a teacher I love to work with students. It’s so incredible to see them achieve their dreams. To be a part of the growth of any person is incredible. There are aspects of teaching that are not so enjoyable, the paperwork, the data, test scores, things like that. If you can put all that aside and just focus on the development of the students then teaching is incredible.
I was also lucky enough to work with at risk youth to train Labrador retrievers as companion dogs. This job was really rewarding. The dogs were always a laugh and the students grew so much from the program. It was an incredible experience. One that has shaped me as a teacher.
I guess I have been lucky and had opportunities to work with some great people. In my spare time I have coached volleyball and now am coaching soccer. The best part about this has been the people in the clubs. That community is what makes it all worthwhile.
As for the best job – it’s all about the experiences and what you make out of all opportunities. There is no perfect job, just what you make of it.

Dani: What are you working on now?
Ashley: I have a few projects going now. I really want to get the second book in my Super Hero series published. I just need to organize the cover and the chapter illustrations. That’s job number one. Then I have books three and four in this series to edit.
As I like to keep busy I have a pirate story I need to edit and I really want to get the second book in my Not So Boring Series drafted. The first one Write Your Own Story was are fun book to put together. In this book anyone can develop their writing craft. What’s even better is in each chapter they get to focus on one story and will have something worth publishing at the end. I love hearing the stories people come up with. The second one is a travel / writing journal with a difference. I just need to get moving with it.
I have lots to work on and not much time, but that’s all part of writing. It’s my release, so I will make time when I can.

You can connect with me here:
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Wednesday, May 16, 2018

What Progress?

Crazy days have been happening lately my friend. I'm thinking most of these are because it's so close to summer! My children are feeling it and are determined to drive me crazy. They might do it too if I weren't already there!

What I'm Creating

I finished my post sticker for Monday Coffee this past Monday. You can join me for the linkup. I have Christy helping me with this project so it should be twice as fun. There are a few kinks to work out, but I'm sure we'll smooth them out over the coming weeks! I will be making one soon for What Progress, so you can join me for this too (or just choose one)!

I am still working on my draft for my dummy. I got distracted with using Clip Studio Paint lately. I finally found a paint tool that I feel comfortable using! So now my brain wants to work on all the digital work while also trying to get to work on a dummy and sent out work to publishers. FOCUS BRAIN, FOCUS! Slow down, work on one thing at a time. If you work on too much at once nothing will get done. Okay, I think I'm good now.


Ongoing - Find more people to interview.
May 19th - Have reasonably good pencil drafts for my dummy.
May 30th - Have at least one of my dummies finalized.

Interview Schedule:

April 27th Jardan J. Scavone - Done!
May 4th Benson Shum - Done!
May 11th Katherine Locke - Done!
May 18th Ashley Howland
May 25th Nick Patton

I will add more people to this list soon!

Monday, May 14, 2018

Join Me for Monday Coffee!

Here is your chance to join me every Monday for Monday Coffee! Every Monday I'll be posting my regular Monday Coffee posts with one little difference: A link-up so you can share your own Monday Coffee post! You will have a couple days to add your name, but do it right away so everyone can see your link!

What is Monday Coffee? Monday coffee is literally anything you want it to be. You could post tips for artist, what you did for the weekend, how you are feeling or anything you want! There are no wrong answers here. 

The Monday Coffee badge is below, and under that is a little button for you to put in your own link to your blog! This may take a few weeks to get going, but I'm hoping this becomes a fun thing to help creative people connect! Be sure to include the badge below (linked back to my blog) in your post.

I will be creating a badge for "What Progress?" soon as well. Might as well get this one started!  

Friday, May 11, 2018

Dreamer, Katherine Locke

I love Katherine's Twitter feed. Kathrine is funny, interesting and just plain fun! I love how she shares her journey with her followers. She also shares some of her favorite books on her feed, so be sure to follow Kathrine! My words are failing me today, because I feel like I'm not communicating all of Kathrine's awesomeness, but believe me when I say she is awesome. 

Dani: Why YA? 

Katherine: I love the precipice of change, liminal spaces. And adolescence is one of the best liminal spaces: you're not a child, not quite an adult. You're forming your own independent opinions about the world, but you're usually reliant on your family for basic needs. It's a really neat time in which you're growing and expanding really rapidly, but everything can feel like you're just holding your breath, waiting for real life to begin. I remember feeling that way and I love writing characters who feel that way too. The other reason is that teen readers (and really all kids) are the most open-minded about what they read. Whereas adults sometimes struggle with the types of books I write because they don't fit neatly into one category or another, teen readers just care if you're telling them a good story. I love that. 

Dani:  What are the most important aspects of your job as a writer?

Katherine: To me, the most important aspects of my job as a writer are to tell a good story, and to always be growing. First, I don't have an audience if I don't tell a good story. I'd be failing at the most basic part of being a writer! But I also want to be growing as a writer. I never want to tell the same story twice. I never want to dip my toes into the same pond. I want to learn as I go, and I want my writing to improve as I go. 

Dani:  How did you know your agent was right for you?

Katherine: I'm represented by Louise Fury at The Bent Agency. She challenges me to always be improving and leveling up with each book that I send her, which is great and definitely what I need. But I knew she was the right agent for me because I'm a flighty, anxious, dreamy sort of person/writer, and she's very grounded, no-nonsense and business-focused. She makes sure that I don't get too carried away with my emotions and that my dreams are always grounded in reality. Publishing can be a rough industry on one's emotional and mental well-being, so I appreciate that she's there to support me. 

Dani:  Do you prefer coffee or tea, and what are your thoughts on the other?

Katherine: I drink a lot of chai tea lattes. Like, a lot. It's a problem. (Says my bank account AND my kidneys.) Coffee's too acidic for me, so I end up putting tons of milk and sugar in it, and that defeats the purpose. And I do drink regular tea, especially if I'm just looking for a hot drink and not necessarily a ton of caffeine. 

Dani: What's one book you can read over and over?

Katherine: Emery Lord's Open Road Summer. I bet that comes as a surprise to people because it's a straight, contemporary YA romance but everything about that book is my catnip. I love the enemies to lovers, I love the fierce female friendship at the heart of it, and I love prickly girls in YA books. Reagan is prickly. 

Dani:  How much research do you have to put into "Girl with the Red Balloon" and "The Spy with the Red Balloon"?

Katherine: A lot of research. For GIRL, it was a lot of internet research--listening and watching interviews, movies, TV shows, using all sorts of different resources on the web to research East Berlin and the Holocaust (which I had a great deal of background knowledge in.) For SPY, I read a lot of books about Nazi science programs, the Manhattan Project, spies in WWII, parachute troops in WWII, etc. People often ask me if I research before or after, and the answer is I'm pretty much always researching. I do a surface level dive, then begin to map out and sketch out the book's main plot/conflict and characters, and that as I'm writing, I'm also reading and tweaking and researching and checking. I really like the research though. I'm a Ravenclaw through and through. 

Dani:  What's one thing that readers should know about your books? 

Katherine: Hmm, this is a hard one! I guess readers should know that I trust my readers, completely, to think and carry and question, and to be comfortable with being uncomfortable sometimes, to be open-minded and hopeful. Though my books deal with fairly dark times and topics, I like to think that they're ultimately optimistic and hopeful books. 


Katherine Locke lives and writes in a small town outside Philadelphia, PA, with her feline overlords. She writes about that which she cannot do: ballet, time travel and magic (though not yet all in the same book.) She secretly believes most stories are fairytales in disguise. When not writing, she can be found horseback riding, tweeting, or browsing the aisles of a bookstore, buying more books than one person can reasonably read in a lifetime. The Girl with the Red Balloon was her Young Adult debut and a 2018 Sydney Taylor Honor Book. The Spy with the Red Balloon releases October 2, 2018 and is available for pre-order now. Katherine can be found online at 

Follow Kathrine:

Twitter: @Bibliogato


Wednesday, May 9, 2018

What Progress? May 9th

I'm really exhausted right now. I've just had a busy week running around. I worked on my garden over the weekend so that alone was enough to make for an exhausting week. 

What I'm Creating

When I'm tired I get bored easily. It's hard to focus on certain tasks. Especially if the task is sitting down and working. If I were polishing or painting my illustrations it's not hard to stay on task. 

In any case I've put my kitty dummy aside to work on a new project. Part of the problem with the kitty project is that I finished it and reimagining it is probably a bit more difficult than starting over. Especially since the story is wordless to begin with. I'm working on a new story with a baby in it. I also have another idea for a mermaid story. Hopefully I can travel between these and previous stories so I don't get bored. 


I'm not sure how far I'll make it with my schedule. Here is an update!

May 13th - Find more people to interview.
May 19th - Have reasonably good pencil drafts for my dummy.

May 30th - Have at least one of my dummies finalized.

Interview Schedule:

April 27th Jardan J. Scavone - Done!
May 4th Benson Shum - Done!
May 11th Katherine Locke
May 18th Ashley Howland
May 25th Nick Patton