12 x 12 in 2021 – Back after a long break!

It’s official! I’ve signed up for the 12 x 12 Challenge hosted by Julie Hedlund! My first time doing so since 2013. I had started participating the previous year, in fact here is my original badge from 2012. I can hardly believe it’s been that long! So far I have 1 full draft, 2 partials & 2 revisions under my belt for 2021. 12×12 will be the extra boost needed to stay motivated this year! There’s still time to sign up if you’d like to join in on this fun picture book writing journey. Now-Feb. 28, 2021.

My original badge from 2012!

What is this challenge all about?
The premise is simple. Write 12 full picture books (with a beginning, middle, and end) in 2021. It’s ok if they’re not submission-ready. The idea is just to put pen to page, while motivating yourself and other writers in the process.  You can even earn prizes!! How about that?

Epic! App for Kids: The netflix for children’s books and research gold for writers

appstore_audio_480x360Raise your hand if you have young children? Now keep your hand raised if you also like to write books for children? Still have your hand in the air? Then you NEED to try Epic! An amazing app available on apple and android smart devices.

They have thousands of children’s ebook titles available, and are adding more each day including huge, mega popular titles and characters such as “Ramona”, “Peter Rabbit” and “Where the Wild Things Are.”

Here’s what my evenings look like now that we have Epic in our home. First, I set up a profile for my daughter and I to read together. Her current favorite books include “Old MacDonald’s Letter Farm”, “Duck Goes Potty”, and “Hello, How are You?” to name a few. That last one has taught her how to engage in a conversation with others. It’s very sweet!

Kids Profile_300x250After, my daughter is asleep for the evening, I switch to a second “research” profile and devour as many picture books, chapter books, and middle grade titles that I can before going to bed myself. If I find stories with structure or prose I admire, I can add those to my favorites to come back to and observe again later. I do this because, as a writer, it is difficult to write in your genre of choice without first taking the time to read many, many books in that genre! This is certainly helping me to shine up my very rusty writing skills.

lifestyle_fourkids_thousands_300x250You can try out Epic for yourself for 30 days for FREE!! Thereafter it is 4.99 a month to keep your subscription. That’s the cost of 1 board book per month, which I would likely easily be doing. (Or making special trips to the library to check out books, but who am I kidding? I’m a busy mom of a toddler … How often do I reliably make it to the library? In a perfect world we’d attend twice a week and engage in 20 minutes of uninterrupted storytime, but I digress.) Epic! makes life so much easier. We are building up a list of favorites and introducing new books here and there as well. She just loves the Beth and Bert stories from Highlights! Yup, Highlights! One of my favorite children’s literary magazines. Did I mention they have stories from Highlights?

Picture Book research at Barnes and Noble

This past sunday, I was able to get out and do something I haven’t done in quite awhile! I walked into a yummy book-scented Barnes and Noble complete with a cd section ala Blockbuster Music, and headed to read some popular picture books! Of course, whenever I pass anything that might of interest to my little one, I get distracted.

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I mean, come on, what 22 month old wouldn’t enjoy a soft barnyard full of chickens, ducks, cows, and pigs? Then again, maybe it delighted me just as much!

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I finally made my way to the picture book section, and pulled out these five fun stories — and devoured them! A new Enya song I’d never heard came on for my listening pleasure making the experience even more pleasurable!

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This little book, “Shh… we have a plan!” by Chris Haughton made me laugh out loud. The tiniest character on the left — That’s my daughter to a “t.”

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I left feeling refreshed, inspired and ready to write my own manuscripts. Being a children’s author certainly has its perks!

Back to School Picture Book Reads

Back to school time is here! I like to start off the school year with a healthy mixture of themed picture books. “Starting school” is the obvious choice, and I always include a few books on the topic in the bunch. I also like to share picture books with other important themes such as friendship, self-esteem, manners, and also books that are just pure fun. Here are five of my favorites.

I love sharing Clifford the Big Red Dog with children, especially when he is a not-so-big puppy, just like them.

Jane Yolen’s ‘How Do Dinosaurs’ books are always delightful reads that deal with relevant concepts for 3-6 year old children. Readers will enjoy the silly dinosaur illustrations and the sing-songy refrain.

Press Here by Herve Toullet is pure, interactive fun. I love sharing this book with a new group of children, so September is the perfect time to introduce this book. Changes happen to the story based on how they interact with it. Clap and the dots get bigger. Rub and the dot changes color.

Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus by Mo Willems is another highly interactive story. Readers will love trying to convince the pigeon to listen to the bus driver when he tells him not to drive the bus! A bonus with this book, an idea shared by a fellow children’s author, is that children will feel empowered after reading this book because they will be able to draw the pigeon. Satifsying, wouldn’t you say?

The Story of Fish & Snail is a beautifully illustrated friendship story. It is told mostly in dialogue and deals with the emotional ups and downs involved with friendship. Themes of resilience, trying new things, and friendship are plentiful and promote discussion.

What are your favorite back to school reads?

 

Library Days: Rancho Santa Margarita Library

My latest library visit led my to Rancho Santa Margarita Library in you guessed it — Rancho Santa Margarita, CA. This visit happened shortly after the LA13SCBWI Summer Conference, so I was really in need of a decompression day.

I started my day with a manicure at the Luxe Organic Nail & Spa and had my nails painted with my latest color obsession — mint! I love that they use organic products and natural cleaning products. Not all of their polish is organic but they do have some options that are.

PolishThen I headed for a sushi lunch at Sake Sushi. Can you see the steam rising from my lightly salted edamame?

IMG_2075Finally, I made my way to the library. Naturally, I looked at the return cart first, curious to see what the children were reading. The books were arranged in such a haphazard way it made me believe that the picture book section was being thoroughly enjoyed that day. A storyteller was there as well reading aloud several picture books to a handful of cheerful and inquisitive children.

IMG_2060I also grabbed several books to study that were recommended by Deborah Halverson at the Summer Conference as excellent examples of picture book rhythm. Her suggestions were spot on and included:

Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons by Eric Litwin and James Dean

Ella Sarah Gets Dressed By Margaret Chodos-Irvine

I Ain’t Gonna Paint No More by Karen Beaumont

An excerpt from my favorite, Pete The Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons, a fantastic example of picture book rhythm that I could read over and over any day.

Did Pete cry? Goodness, no. Buttons come and buttons go.

 He kept on singing his song:

My buttons, my buttons, my two groovy buttons. My buttons, my buttons, my two groovy buttons.

Overall, I had a glorious outing. I have two more weeks of summer, and hopefully a few more trips to the library left. I love my summer library days.

Virtual Book Launch Party for Right This Instant

Screen Shot 2013-07-03 at 8.02.48 PMI am hosting a Facebook Virtual Book Launch Party for my recently released MeeGenius picture e-book tomorrow from 4-8pm.  If you’d like to attend please click here. I will be buzzing around sharing tid-bits about the book, activity ideas, and more. Stop by on the hour for Q&A and a chance to win a $10.00 itunes gift card. The winner will be announced at the end of the launch.

You can purchase RIGHT THIS INSTANT online at http://tinyurl.com/righthisinstant on your computer or on the MeeGenius App for iphone, ipad, or android. It is currently listed under the ‘New and Noteworthy’ section. You have to scroll down quite a ways to find it listed alphabetically. MeeGenius offers a ‘Read to me’ feature for younger children and read by ‘myself’ feature for older children.

I hope to see you there!!

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My first picture book ever written

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Yesterday I visited my Mom in Pinon Hills, CA. We ate delicious organic plums from her local co-op and celebrated her soon-to-be born baby bull terrier puppies. We also rummaged around in old boxes and shared old memories. That’s when we found the picture book that started it all “Kimberly’s Time Machine”, written by 10 year old yours truly. This book single-handedly stirred up the creative-writing bug in me for years to come!

 

I did all the writing and illustrations. I even went through revisions with my editor (teacher). The story was about a young girl who built a time machine to visit the future, and all the mishaps that ensued.

IMG_1992I was a little obsessed with the name Kimberly. At least four of my stuffed animals and barbies shared that name. Oh and did you know that candy and money grow on trees in the future?

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Kimberly met a friend in the future who gave her a walkman that played CD’s. Little did I realize the disc man would actually be released a few years later.

I did dabble in other genres of creative writing throughout the years including poetry, songwriting, and a few young adult novels. (Well as a teenager I thought they were novel length). But for me, my heart’s passion still remains in creating fabulous, fun, and poignant picture books, and always has.

Sunflower Scribe Spotlight: Tiffany Laurencio, Illustrator

625507_518103440475_307001398_nToday’s guest taking center stage is none other than talented illustrator, Tiffany Laurencio! Our e-book RIGHT THIS INSTANT was recently released at the MeeGenius Bookstore. When I learned I was being paired with Tiffany I was thrilled! She truly helps the words and characters come alive with her vibrant, whimsical illustrations. I was especially delighted at how Eli and Grandpa’s personalities are captured. I am honored to be sharing her interview with you today.

sunflowericonHello Tiffany! Let’s start things off by having you share  your favorite flower?

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I have 2 favorite flowers! Is that okay? I love the combination of Hydrangeas and Sunflowers!

sunflowericonTell us a little about yourself? How did you get your start as an illustrator?

Screen Shot 2013-07-14 at 5.50.37 PM I’ve always wanted to be an illustrator and I knew I wanted to go to college for it. At Montserrat College of Art I majored in illustration and had some amazing teachers who were children’s book illustrators and authors. Although I took the usual painting, drawing, and liberal arts courses; I was also offered a lot of classes on business and self promotion. That gave me the confidence to pursue freelance illustration while still in school.

sunflowericonYour style is so whimsical and beautiful. Can you tell us a little bit about what inspires your work?TiffanyLaurencio
Screen Shot 2013-07-14 at 5.50.37 PMThank you! Inspiration for my work comes mostly from the New England area whare I live and grew up. When Iwas little my family lived in New Hampshire where there were a lot of woods and farms. It was very secluded. Our house was on a dirt road in the middle of the woods. We also spent a lot of time on or by the ocean in Gloucester, Massachusetts. I had the mysterious woods and the dramatic ocean to daydream about all through my childhood. My Mother’s family all come from Lowell, Massachusetts which is an ethnic melting pot. Diversity is celebrated there through lots of festivals and so I also love to make illustrations with cultural themes.
sunflowericonWhat medium do use to create your illustrations?
Screen Shot 2013-07-14 at 5.50.37 PM I use a few different mediums in my illustrations. It’s a technique that I learned and worked on with a few of my teachers at Montserrat (specifically Kelly Murphy and Lee Wolf). The paintings is mostly acrylic; but over and under the acrylic are washes of watercolor paint layered with gel medium. Sometimes I also use a layer of collaged paper, oil paint, or transfers.
sunflowericonYou seem to wear many hats as an illustrator and a designer. What is your favorite part of what you do?
Screen Shot 2013-07-14 at 5.50.37 PMCreating characters is my favorite thing to do! Especially when they are in an environment.
sunflowericonWhat are working on right now?
Screen Shot 2013-07-14 at 5.50.37 PMRight now I’m halfway through my second book for MeeGenius. It’s called ‘The Queens Game’. I also do a lot of product designs for a pet product company and so I’ve been doing a lot of characters for toys in the last couple months. Product testing with the dogs is always a blast!
sunflowericonWhat is your favorite animal?
Screen Shot 2013-07-14 at 5.50.37 PMUnicorns are my favorite animal. They totally count, right?
sunflowericonWhat piece of advice can you offer young artists and designers to help advance their careers?
Screen Shot 2013-07-14 at 5.50.37 PMDraw, doodle and sketch as much as possible.

Thanks for joining us today, Tiffany! You can view more of Tiffany’s work at her website and in the e-book RIGHT THIS INSTANT from MeeGenius. You can also check out the Activities page to download fabulous coloring sheets designed by Tiffany that pair with the book.

Hats, hats, and more hats…

Today I spent a relaxing Sunday in Del Mar, CA with my sister and her fiance. We had brunch at The beautiful Brigantine situated adjacent to the Del Mar Race Tracks. They are preparing for the first horse race of the season. I spent much of my youth in San Diego and not once have I headed out to the races. That is going on my bucket list for sure!

After brunch, we made our way to the Cedros District. And we could not help but try on all the gorgeous hats! We can’t show up to the races without fabulous hats after all.

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IMG_1988Several wonderful picture books featuring hats have been published in recent years, such as This is Not My Hat by Jon Klassen and If You Have a Hat by Gerald Hawksley. Even so, after today I may just be inspired to pen one of my own!

Giveaway Winner for Away We Go by Chieu Urban

It was such a delight interviewing Chieu Urban last week. She is such an amazing and creative women. Can you believe she designed this diaper cake?diapercake (1)

The colors a vibrant, bright, and bold. A wonderful reflection of the colorful that awaits AWAY WE GO readers. I can just imagine mom-to-be’s face when she saw this display. Today’s winner is in for a delightful treat.Away We Go! cover

So without further adieu, I’d like to announce today’s giveaway recipient is …

Romelle Broas

Congratulations Romelle! Enjoy!