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.


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Monday, September 24, 2018

Traci Van Wagoner Making The Rainbow's Connection --- Plus a PRIZE!

Smart Note: Both Groups Stepping Back/Take Photos -- Pages 5-6

I owe so much to Traci for all the work she puts into Smart Dummies every year. Her support has help make Smart Dummies a wonderful event. This year she has really outdone herself with her post.

I have always adored Traci's work, but recently she's been doing some new work that I hadn't noticed before. I had a lot of fun looking at Traci's "Paint Play" illustrations and I started thinking about why I liked Traci's work so much. Part of the reason I love Traci's work is the lovely colors she uses in all her images. I asked Traci to write a post about her color choices this year.

Check the end of this post for a PRIZE!

Taming the Rainbow
By Traci Van Wagoner

When Dani asked me to write about how I pick my colors, my mind sort went into panic mode, “I don’t know, I just slap color down.” It’s big question with a lot of years and experimentation behind it. I took a long time to tackle this subject, and I must thank Dani for her patience while I went back through time to figure out the answer.

Let me start at the beginning. Well, sorta. I started my illustration journey in traditional media during my first stint at college, where I experimented with pretty much every media. My favorite was oil and then acrylic because it was less messy and smelly — although I still to this day miss the smell of oil painting. My basic palette was titanium white, mars black, alizarin crimson, pthalo green, ultramarine blue, burnt sienna, burnt umber, cadmium red, yellow ochre, cadmium yellow, and a few others in and out.

When I moved to digital illustration after graduating from toy school (my second stint at college), I was gob-smacked with the endless possibilities in the color pickers in Painter and Photoshop, and I now had to worry about gamut, and printing, and how my art looked on different monitors. Eek! I started with finding color swatches online that matched the paint colors I knew and started from there. I settled on a color palette I liked, created my own paper textures and brushes, and that was that … for a long time.

After a while, what I was creating felt stale, overworked. Not fresh. Not fun. For many years I didn’t paint much. I created a lot of product illustrations for my clients at Imagine That! Design, so I had some creative outlet, but it was not fun, not really.

But life has a way of shaking things up. The product design work dried up (long story) which forced me to push my illustration work more. I got off my butt and got some more picture book jobs (for very little money I have to admit) which pushed me to explore and experiment a little. Then one day I saw Will Terry’s Santa snowboarding image which set off a switch in my imagination. I wanted to have as much fun as he seems to with his paintings, playing with color and light and unique perspectives. This set me off on a road of exploration still painting on the computer with Photoshop. My time creating was limited and confining, and painful, really.

Then a wonderful thing happened…

The iPad + Procreate = #PaintPlay

And shortly after, I discovered @colour_collective on twitter, a weekly challenge based on a different color each week.

Cue starburst of colors and wonderment.

My art side was set free. I had been so busy containing it with purple lines, and now I gave myself permission to just paint. I played with color, textures, the wide variety of brushes in Procreate. I pulled out old sketches from picture book dummies and from sketchbooks and painted many of those. I painted without having any goal or idea where I was going when I started. I could paint anywhere. I could paint anything. Paint play. And it has been a blast! You can see my #paintplay journey on Instagram: TraciVWCreations.

But the question remains: How do I pick my colors?

One color usually starts things off. Sometimes it’s dictated by the client, or the project, or by a licensed character. It can be a feeling or mood I want to create: happy-warm, sad-cool. Or the reddish colors of sunset vs. sunrise with pinkish tones. Or the time of year, the weather, a holiday, summer, winter, snowy, rainy.

The yellow raincoat was my start in my Singing in the Rain painting with primary colors complimenting.

A word can be the starting point, like a prompt word from a challenge: SCBWI Draw This Heat + colour_collective

The blue sample was my original since the warm of the girl and dog played so nicely off the cool blue, but then I decided to try the #colour_collective prompt #peach. I liked it that way better for telling the story of heat. I still debate. Do you have a favorite?

So you see, a lot of my #paintplay really is about slapping down color and seeing what happens.

One thing’s for sure, each week I play with a new color inspired by #colour_collective.

Once I have my main color, I pick additional colors.

I might pick complementary colors (opposites on the color wheel) or analogous (on the same side of the color wheel). Do I want to compliment that color with like colors on the same side of the color wheel to keep mood consistent and create a sense of harmony — warmth and happiness on one side or on the side cool colors creating a sense of melancholy, or a peaceful tranquil feeling. Or do I want to jar the reader with opposing colors?

Here are few hints:

• It’s more dynamic to use blue and orange (complementary colors) to play off of each other, but it can also be too much, especially if they are next to each other and at the same value. Then you get scintillation, which can drive your eyes crazy.

• Which brings me to value. You need to keep the value of colors in mind and how those play off each other.

• You get a more urgent feeling if you use primary colors vs. secondary colors.

I generally use the complementary color as splashes of color to draw the eye, to play off the main color and make it dance. This all gets into color theory, a big topic that is worth researching if you don’t know about it. Here’s a link with more information to get you started.

And since I LOVE value and light and shadows, after I have my color palette, I choose a light source, or multiple sources. After all, you don’t have color without light; and the color of the light will change the tone of your colors. Sun — yellow, orange. Or the moon — blue, purples or even greens. I love to play with value, shadows, reflective light, the contrast between warm and cool, how light plays off things, and how you can tell a story through a shadow.

I try to paint with light as much as color. I’m not always successful at that, but I’m having a blast trying. It’s still and always will be an evolving process. So, I paint on having fun trying to tame the rainbow.

Feel free to join in the fun of #paintplay with me on twitter (@TraciVanWagoner) and instagram (TVWCreations). I also share on Facebook , but you’ll get a lot of other stuff there too about my roof garden and my pets.

Also, keep an eye out for my latest book to be released October 1st, Ruth Asawa: A Sculpting Life by Joan Schoettler, illustrated by Traci Van Wagoner, Pelican Publishing

Happy painting!


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One person will win poster of Traci's art through her Redbubble store!*

*Prize shipping limited to the US.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Look at the Week September 22 - 30

Sorry I didn't post this sooner! I went in to edit it the other day and somehow kicked it off the schedule!

This is your last Look at the Week post!

Other than Substrates both groups should do the following Tasks

September 24th: Stepping Back/Take Photos -- Pages 5-6 

September 25th:*Optional* Final Illustrations -- Page 19

*Optional* Reg. Substrates Pages -- 20 - 21

If you are doing final illustrations you should make sure to lay out your images like on pages 20-21. This is important if your spread is made up of a single image. If your spread is made up of two separate images are single images then the set up is slightly different.

 If you are creating an 8" x 10" image you want your image area to be 8.5" x 10.5" for both digital and traditional media. If you are working traditionally you'll want a 2" border on the 8" x 10" so your substrate size will be 12" x 14". You save more paper by making the full spread on on sheet of paper, but it's likely easier to scan a smaller piece.

September 30th: Scan All Artwork (Traditional Artists) and Celebrate!

Make sure that all of your dummy drawings have white backgrounds, have easily discernible characters, and have all stray marks erased! I tend to de-saturate all my black and white sketches because it usually makes it easier to photo edit. Also try to get the best scan possible so you don't have to edit afterwards. If you don't have photo editing software you can download Gimp for free: 

Friday, September 21, 2018

Share Day Week 3!

Share Day is a day late this week. I was so tired yesterday that I couldn't post anything! Here is some great work by the people participating in Smart Dummies this year!

Diane Gronas --

Diane Gronas --

Arthur Haywood --

Brittanny Handiboe --

Heather Bell --

Julia Maisen --

Katie Carrberry --

Larel Aylesworth --

Lisa Burvant

Lisa Burvant -- "Aquatic Encounter"

Stephanie Hermanek-Olsen --

Tamar Dolev --

Tara Santoro --

Virginia Rinkle --