Let's get one thing out of the way right up front.
I'm not an expert at writing stories, or illustrating, or book publishing. The practices and process I used to complete my first children's book was a process of learning each step, one at a time. All I knew at the start was that I had a little story that needed to be heard. And the more I tried to ignore it, the louder it got. I didn't even share it with anyone for a long time. Until I did. And that someone was Brian, my youngest son.
Fortunately for me, he has a degree in Design and English. He understands how to use the technology that we would be using to make it a reality, and being a creative himself, he understands the way my brain works and (he loves me!) so we were a good team from the start. I also told a few close friends and family about my little project and they helped keep me moving forward with it by asking about my progress from time to time.
Telling the story to someone else makes it real.
Even with a very qualified partner, the entire process took much longer than I thought it would.
Approximately three years!
I'm sure it's possible to do it faster. You can create all of your illustrations, type out your text, and simply upload them to Bookbaby.com and allow the nice people there to turn it all into a book for you. It may cost a bit more. It may be faster. But this little story was too personal and too precious to me to hand it over to a stranger.
There were many lessons along the way for both my son and I to learn. The first thing I learned was how to create a storyboard. I really wanted to skip that step! But Brian talked me into doing a very rough version, and I watched some illustration classes on one of my favorite resources, www.Skillshare.com. So much goodness there! It was really worth it in the end.
There were things I had never drawn before that I had to learn to draw. I'm not very patient and redrawing something over and over makes me a bit crazy, so I allowed myself to bounce around from page to page to keep things fresh. Brian, being a shrewd editor, convinced me to add several illustrations to my list in order to help the story flow better. He also made me cut a few lines of text out in order for the text to fit on the pages properly. But not once did he ask me to compromise the heart of my story.
I began my sketches on over-sized paper because I find it easier to draw things a bit larger and then shrink them later. This actually made things harder in later stages because the illustrations were too large to scan on a normal sized scanner. Brian had to photograph each one and do a great deal of editing in Photoshop. I also painted all of my illustrations on watercolor paper which required additional editing to remove the texture and lighten the backgrounds. A very time consuming activity! (Thank you Brian!)
We didn't commit to a finished book size before I began drawing and painting, so there was some painful cropping to be done in later stages too. More lessons learned!
I did some research early on to choose a publisher. I already knew that the chances of getting a children's book seen by a traditional publishing company was slim to none. However, online, print-on-demand publishing is available to everyone. www.Bookbaby.com was my final choice for several reasons. They allow you to print a single book as a test for $20. You can make changes or corrections and print another one to make sure it all looks good. They offer a print-on-demand service so you don't have to order hundreds of books and store them yourself. They set up the distribution of your book on places like Amazon and Barnes and Noble. They have really good customer service. They give you a dedicated web page to showcase and sell your book from. And they offer the best royalties. Even though my intention for writing this book was to share a message, not to make a lot of money, I've found www.Bookbaby.com to be quite generous compared with other sellers. They have services to do as much or as little as you like in the process. So you don't need to have a graphic designer in your family. And overall, the quality of the finished, printed books is outstanding!
As I was working though the process of sketching, re-sketching, learning to draw people and animals, and learning all of the ins and outs of creating a story that shares a message, I was reminded of that message myself.
"If you want to fly, let go of everything that weighs you down!"
I had to set deadlines for myself and stick to them. I had to set other projects aside for a while. That was hard! I had to know when a drawing was "good enough", and when to move on. I had to let go of some details on the edges that eventually had to be cropped. I had to cut out whole scenes and characters that didn't contribute to the story.
Over and over, I had to let go of perfection!
Creating Light as a Feather was a great deal of work. But it was a labor of love. I developed new skills, and strengthened others, built some courage for using technology, increased my confidence around following through on big, multi-part projects, and most of all, I strengthened my relationship with my son. Priceless!
I've been asked several times if I would do it again. Absolutely! After taking a few months off to just paint, play, and rest, I'm happy to say I have three more books in the works. I know it will take a long time. I know some parts will be easier this time, and some will still require lots of re-drawing. No worries! I've ordered plenty of erasers.
My top tips for first time authors and illustrators:
If you need a little reminder every now and then, you can get Light as a Feather here!
Till next time,
I've loved books my whole life, especially children's books. My mom read to me every night before bed and I read to my sons as well. There was always a little dream in my heart to write one of my own but first you need a story to tell and that special story hadn't found me, until it did.
It arrived very unexpectedly. I wasn't trying to think of ideas for stories, I was thinking about how parts of my life had begun to feel heavy. There were things I was holding onto and carrying around that kept me from doing what my heart was really craving. Most of those things were just old habits, imagined responsibilities, and ways of thinking that didn't really fit me anymore. I had also reached an age where I didn't have the same control over my body that I used to have. Worries about my looks and my weight were taking up too much of my energy. They were weighing me down.
At the same time, my husband and I had been doing more traveling than ever before and I had been teaching myself to pack lighter with each trip we went on. I love being able to hit the ground running and not be burdened with a big suitcase to lug around. So each time we returned home and I unpacked, I looked for items that I hadn't really used or needed while traveling and set them aside. So far I'm down to just a carry-on bag and a backpack.
I still tend to pack too many art supplies!
If you know me, then you know how much I love birds. I find so much enjoyment just hanging out in the garden watching, feeding, drawing, and photographing them. They come and go throughout the year, building their nests in my backyard and bringing their babies to the feeders. They are a constant inspiration for my art and for my soul. They represent lightness and freedom to me. Hope and possibility!
Well one day, in mid-summer, I was watching the birds from the window and reminiscing about our recent trip to Scotland. I was wishing it was easier to travel more often, if it wasn't for all the things we have to take care of, and suddenly, a little idea landed right in front of me! The fact is, a lot of those things I felt responsible for were not really that necessary. They were obligations and responsibilities that I had taken up years ago and just didn't know how to put down. And if you want to fly, you have to be free to take off. You have to be as Light as a Feather!
I've been traveling down this creative path for a few years now and I meet people all the time who tell me how much they used to love to paint, or draw, or take photographs, or travel. I see their eyes light up when they talk about it. And I feel the weight they are carrying when they list all the reasons they are not doing those things that they love so much.
I really didn't write Light as a Feather for children. I wrote it as a reminder to myself.
I hope it will help you remember too.
"If you want to fly, let go of everything that weighs you down!"
Pack light! It's time to fly!
ps: My little book has flown all the way across the world! Here are some beautiful illustrations by 5th graders in Iceland who were inspired to make their own art after their teacher read it to them. My heart is melting!
Do you get all excited about the start of a new year and hit the ground running, only to find yourself still buried in a pile of ornaments and papers and tax forms by the 10th of January? Me too! I had such good intentions. I think I've had a touch of Spring Fever since November.
I wanted to have everything wrapped up and put away by New Year's Day so I could start 2019 fresh and clean. But when I found myself rearranging the garage in order to put the holiday decorations away, it all came back to me.
This happened last year!
I remember thinking then that the whole New Year's resolution thing might work a lot better if we allowed ourselves to start on February 1st. After all, the holidays are so full of extras and it takes time to clean up, rest up, put away, and maybe recover from the cold you caught from cousin Joanie. And like many of those little "aha" moments, I noticed when it happened last year, wrote myself a note, and then filed it away on some yellow pad in my desk drawer. When I noticed the same pattern repeating itself this year, I made myself a cup of tea and decided to give myself a break and ease into the year a little more gently.
I have so many ideas to share with you this year!
For the past few years I've been a busy bird, gathering knowledge and experience, (and a rather large art supply stash!) building my skills, and learning techniques from some of the most exciting artists around. I've made new friends all over the world and created my own art in many different mediums. But for the most part, I've kept to myself.
It's been a wild and colorful ride and I want to invite you to join me. I don't have it all worked out yet but I'm ready to start giving back. Blogging, teaching, online tutorials, who knows?
I'm exploring the possibilities!
By September, I already knew that my Word of the Year for 2019 was going to be
But before I jump into this big new puddle with both feet, I'm going to take time this month to look back on 2018 and appreciate all the little steps I took. There were hills to climb and bridges to cross. I didn't do it alone and I want to take time to say thank you to everyone who held my hand along the way. It will be a long list!
As I review the events and actions of this past year, I'm also thinking about what I'd like to see on the list next year. In January 2020, what do I want to be able to write on my 2019 Year In Review list? How do I want to have grown? What skills would I like to have learned? These are not goals, written in stone. They're just little "what ifs".
What if I create an online course?
What if I take a trip to England to sketch?
What if I write a blog post twice a month?
What if I publish a second book? Or a third?
What if I actually practiced learning French every day?
When you write them down, they tend to grow little roots. Some will turn out to be weeds, while others will sprout beautiful blossoms and toss their seeds all over the place. That's how your garden grows!
I invite you to take your time moving into this new year. Clear up the clutter, throw out the stale cookies. Buy yourself some spring flowers. Look back on last year's garden before you start planting the next. There's plenty of time.
Ease into it.
Don't be shy! I'd love to hear about your plans. Remember, it's only when you share your dreams with someone that they become real! Let me know how I can help. Comment below or send me an email. Let's do this together.
Have you ever gotten all excited to start painting and then stepped up in front of a big, blank canvas and suddenly started to hear voices in your head telling you terrible things?
Things like, "Who do you think you are?"
"You have no talent!" "It won't be pretty, so don't even start."
"No one will like it."
"You are not an artist!" "It will be a total waste of time!"
"You can't draw, so what makes you think you can paint?"
More often than you'd think.
It's a common problem for so many artists. Yes, even after painting for years, those ugly little voices can still come back now and then to haunt you. Especially when you're about to try something new. Those little voices all belong to one beast, and it's name is Fear.
Fear is quite talented and can sound like many different people from your life. It can sound just like your mother, your aunt, your spouse, or your 5th grade teacher! And when you're staring at that big white space, about to put your first brushstroke of beautiful color on, those voices can have so much power! They can stop you in your tracks.
A few years ago, I created a class to address those voices and that ugly little monster, Fear. I've learned that if you name your fears and share them with others, they tend to lose some of that power. They get quieter. So one of the first steps my students and I took was to talk about all of our fears about starting to paint. We took turns sharing them out loud while I wrote them down on my own big, blank canvas, with a Sharpie!
My clean, white canvas was quickly covered with FEAR in black permanent ink!
Further steps involved choosing favorite colors, getting really messy and laughing a lot. We made lots of new discoveries and even shared a few tears as we painted beautiful color over all those fears. I finished up my demo painting later at home and the painting above is the end result. "Fearless"
All our shared fears are still there, but they have been transformed by layers of beautiful, juicy color, courage, and open hearted curiosity.
Unexpectedly, and to my great delight, this piece has become a special gift, a symbol of courage and strength for women going through life's toughest challenges. I hope it inspires you too!
"Life is a great big canvas, and you should throw all the paint on it you can." Danny Kaye
Now go make some art!
I'm really good at starting things. My mind never stops thinking up new things to try or learn. It's getting it all finished that's the challenge. Because while I'm in the middle of working on one project, I'm thinking up three more ways to use it or change it into something else. Of course that doesn't seem to happen when I'm doing things like laundry or making dinner. It happens when I'm painting or drawing or wandering in the woods with my camera. When I'm doing those kinds of activities, I'm lucky if I remember to eat at all! Those are the things that fill me with energy and spark my creativity. They're also things that don't require me to think in an organized way. I can just let my mind, my hands, and my feet wander. Writing a blog is something else.
Writing means sitting still. Writing means having something purposeful to say. Writing a blog means sharing personal stuff with people I've never actually met, and worrying that no one will read it anyway. It could all just be a waste of time and I could've been in the studio with my hands in wet paint. I could be walking in the woods looking for owls or working on the sketches for my next children's book. I could continue to hide. But something tells me it's time to begin again. Something tells me there might be other beginners out there who need a nudge, a map, a friend.
So here I am, at the beginning once again. I've written blog posts before, but that was in a past life. Everything feels new again. I feel ready to start this new project. I have things to share with you! I have tips and tricks and lessons to teach. They say, "Just be yourself!" "Be authentic!" Well if being terrified is being authentic, then here I am! (Wearing an old gray t-shirt, with paint in my hair.)
This will take some practice. Probably a lot of practice. But I've got a few ideas! And there is no deadline. Every day we get to wake up and begin again. I think I'm ready. But I'll need some company for this journey. I'll need an occasional nudge to keep going. I'll need some friends to let me know if what I'm sharing is helpful or inspiring or trash. I don't have a map but I've been here many times before. I hope you'll come along!
Till next time...
Hello and welcome!