Saturday, December 15, 2012


My 2013 Tomie dePaola Illustrator Award entry - Tom Sawyer.
I have pretty well burned myself out with everything I've been doing lately and I'm looking forward to a break before I start back up again. I finished up November and NaNoWriMo with a Steampunk inspired novel and some well developed characters to illustrate. The genre picked me and I'm glad it did. I'll be creating some black and white interior illustrations and a couple color ones too.

On the current illustration front, I squeezed in my Tomie dePaola Illustrator Award project. Although I had been working on thumbnails and roughs for a while, I had a tight week to do the final. I began the project by picking which literary work I would be illustrating. I chose Tom Sawyer because the imagery was most appealing to me. I only really remembered a graveyard scene, the cat scene "spell" and a cave scene from reading it as a kid. (My favorite story elements were always creepy and scary.)

I listened to a Librivox reading of the book and at points had a tough time getting through it - mainly because of the social interactions of the day. I don't consider this story picture book material as is, but it was perfect for my middle grade illustrations. The over the top theatrical nature of the story gave some nice opportunities for visuals.

I like the way the illustration turned out, but would have worked longer polishing the final if I had more time. Check out more Tomie dePaola entries here.

Stay tuned for Steampunk in the New Year. In the meantime, Happy Holidays!

Friday, November 2, 2012


My new design for my illustration and web design website.
November is always a busy month for me. NanoWriMo starts, I begin work on my Tomie dePaola illustrator award submission and, of course, I'm submitting promotional postcards to publishers. This year I've got another source of buzz too. I've redesigned my cyber reality. A Journey Illustrated has a new look and so does my general illustration and web design blog. This is because I've revamped my website to better reflect my business as a whole. I'm realizing that many people don't know that, along with being an illustrator for the last 27 years, I've also been a web designer for 10 years. I specialize in empowering small business owners with the knowledge to manage their cyberselves and stand out in a sea of cookie cutter solutions and cloned websites. Over the last 4 years, most of my time has gone into studying children's illustration, but now that my children's illustration portfolio is circulating in the publishing world, it's time to take new web design clients again. I thought it would be a good idea to let people know, so I'm spreading the word.

So, have a look at my new website. It's a responsive design which means it adapts to whatever size screen you're viewing it on. (Responsive also means you can play with it, so when you get there, check out what happens when you grab the bottom right corner of your browser window and drag it to the left.) Have fun and if you feel inclined...I hope you'll help me spread the word!

Thursday, August 30, 2012


An illustration created for my conference portfolio.
While preparing for the SCBWI Summer Conference, I thought a lot about my journey so far. It began when I joined SCBWI in 2005. Suzanne Morgan Williams, the SCBWI Regional Advisor to Nevada at the time, was one of the first people I met and I was instantly struck by her genuine enthusiasm to find out about me and help me get where I needed to be. She truly cared. I didn't realize how important that was at the time. I also didn't know much about children's publishing. Since I was already an illustrator, I figured I would just submit my work and start getting jobs. (What a knucklehead.) I wasn't fully invested in my pursuit for another four years. That's when I finally accepted how much work I needed to do and started working - hours and hours every day. In my mind I would do this concentrated work on my portfolio for a couple years and I would be in. (Again - knucklehead.) But the years ticked by and I realized working on my portfolio 8-12 hours a day (unpaid) and then moving on to several more hours of client work (paid) every single day wasn't realistic for the long haul. I know illustrating is an endurance sport, but when desperation creeps in I start to wonder how long I can or should keep up this pace. Was anyone else going through this? Was I kidding myself?

A quick sketch of Bryan
Collier during his keynote.
Enter Bryan Collier, whose soulful illustrations inspire me tremendously. He gave an amazing keynote at the SCBWI Summer Conference that was like an illustrator's sermon comparing this journey to the planting and growing of a seed into a fruiting tree. It was such a relief to hear someone acknowledge the struggle, the sacrifice, and as he put it - being so close to the dream it's like looking at it through a glass wall. He described it so well. He knew. Bryan Collier took his portfolio to publishers every week and looked through that glass wall for 7 years before he was published. He acknowledged the sacrifice many of us made just to come to the conference - hours and hours preparing, spending money that perhaps we needed elsewhere in our lives. He knew. The room was full of passionate hardworking people on a quest with these struggles, many of them with tears pouring out of their eyes. I've heard plenty of great stories about illustrators and writers being discovered at conferences, but this year I needed to hear something different. Bryan Collier provided that and so did Tony DiTerlizzi, who worked on and sent his portfolio to children's publishers for 10 years before he was published.

This opened an important dialogue with my friends about maintaining hope and sometimes losing it. These are things we don't often talk about - not really. We pretend the struggle doesn't exist or we believe so strongly that something is about to happen and if we sleep a little less and work just a little longer, it will. But now we're talking - about being realistic, being balanced and how important our peer connections are. Otherwise we might just drop out and disappear like others we know who were so close to breaking through that wall.

All of these conversations came full circle at the airport after the conference. I had the great fortune of flying home with my friend, Suzanne Morgan Williams. The timing couldn't have been more amazing. I was actually sitting there writing an email to her when she said my name. I had an important story to tell her. She didn't know that four years earlier she was the reason I hadn't succeeded in giving up on my own dream. I had already stopped going to conferences and submitting my work when Suzy took the time to contact me - out of the blue. She had been looking at my website and said if I was serious about illustrating for children's books I needed to take advantage of the Nevada SCBWI Mentor Program. I considered what she had to say and it was then that I committed to the work it would take to attain my dream. I applied to the program, was accepted and had the amazing opportunity to work with Yuyi Morales. It was a turning point. I would love to give you a publishing success story here, but I'm still looking through that glass wall.

Who knows how long it will take, but I will continue working on the illustrations I love at a slower pace now, keeping in mind what my wise friend Suzanne Morgan Williams says to do. Live your life.  It's something we can forget as we push for our dreams and work one more hour, just one more day, or one more year because we are so close, but living our lives to the fullest gives our dreams the best place to grow…

It is no wonder that Suzanne Morgan Williams received the SCBWI Member of the Year Award at the 2012 conference. She has made a difference to countless members over the years - including me. Congratulations Suzy!

If you get a chance, do look for Bryan Collier's illustrations. At the time this was posted, his website was not working.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012


Heading to the 2012 SCBWI
costume party at the LA conference
This is the longest I have been away from this blog since I started it in 2009. It has been a time avalanche since I began preparing for my March workshop (which was absolutely fantastic). I spent the rest of my time getting ready for the 2012 SCBWI conference in Los Angeles and, of course, doing client work. I also had a lot of important family events to give special attention to. Something had to give and it was the blog. I am back now and look forward to posting about the conference very soon. Until then, I will be processing it all...and unpacking...and catching up with my family. See you soon...

Friday, March 2, 2012

So you want to write and/or illustrate a children's book. NOW WHAT?

Parts and pieces for a past submission
I have been illustrating and designing professionally for over 25 years, but I didn't discover children's books until after our daughter was born. That's when I truly fell in love with them and became serious about pursuing children's publishing. It was quite a humbling experience and I made a lot of mistakes. Tahoe publisher Bona Fide Books has asked me to give a talk and workshop on the subject. This month I will be sharing my mistakes and everything I've learned in order to help others get a better start in children's publishing. If I had known all of this information when I started out, it would have saved me years! If you are in the area...I hope you will join me.

Information from the publisher:
Bona Fide Books is offering a two-day session -
“So You Want to Write and/or Illustrate a Children's Book. Now What?”
Thurs. Mar. 22 from 7:00 - 9:00 p.m. (FREE)
and Sat. Mar. 24 from 10:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. ($75)
Writer and illustrator Kristen Schwartz will be leading this two-part session aimed toward helping writers and illustrators of children’s, middle grade and young adult books find their footing in the publishing industry. The Thursday session is a Q&A and a breakdown of top tips and tricks for creating and submitting marketable work for younger audiences. This session is free and open to the public, to be followed by a $75 intensive, personalized class Saturday Mar. 24 from 10 a.m.-2:30 p.m., including a half-hour lunch break. Part two will include familiarizing writers and illustrators with industry tools and the query process, and working directly with attendees on how to publish their personal projects. Space is limited; call now to reserve your spot in the Saturday session. 530-573-1513.

For more information, contact Kim Wyatt at Bona Fide Books or visit our website
The Saturday session is intended to help writers and illustrators learn what specific steps need to be taken on their individual projects to keep them moving forward toward publishing. I will also be introducing the art of talking about your work, so that when an opportunity comes up to tell people about your project, you don't draw a blank (been there, done that). This will lead into the query process and researching publishers that are a good fit for you. It will be a full and productive day, so bring your projects with you!  Feel free to contact me if you have questions.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

PubSubPackMo 2012: FINALE and BONUS DAY

Past promotional postcards
PubSubPackMo 2012 was an even greater success than last year. My mailing list has nearly doubled, my new postcards have been ordered and my labels are ready to print. I did things a little differently this year and it went pretty smoothly. Along with names I collected throughout the year, I used lists of publisher names I found online and didn't pick up the 2012 Children's Writer's and Illustrator's Market, although I did use past editions. Things are changing way too rapidly to rely on anything other than publisher websites these days, so all I needed were publisher names to get me started.

I know this isn't exactly an exciting topic and I heard a lot of crickets in my blogging audience, but it's important to stay on top of things when you're putting your best work out there. I came up with 26 new publishers to mail postcards to, 6 that want email submissions and 6 that need a separate mailing list. The last 6 look promising, but I don't have the right work to send to them yet. I need to create a new category of work to fit their subject matter. The main type of new work I'm considering is in nature, which I've done for other markets and would love to do for children's books. I will continue to collect publishers in this category throughout the year and create some pieces that could cross over.

Stay tuned. I'll be doing another post in a couple days to announce the details of my March workshop for writers and illustrators embarking on their own journey into children's publishing. Contact me if you'd like information sent directly to you. Until then, it's back to the drawing board for me...

Sunday, February 19, 2012


Stacks of books everywhere...
It's day 19 of PubSubPackMo. Have you discovered any new publishers? Are you feeling disheartened? Have no fear. This kind of research really makes you take a hard look at your work to figure out where it fits best. That's why it's important. As you familiarize yourself with different publishers, prospects might become more difficult to find as you narrow things down. Last year I got stuck about halfway through the month and threw a brief pity party for myself. (Read my post about it for a pep talk - How Do You Find Hope Again?) This is often when breakthroughs happen and new possibilities emerge.

If you're stuck, maybe your thinking isn't broad enough. It's easy to get into the mindset that big, well known publishers are the ONLY ones out there or at least the only publishers that matter. Not true! Setting a goal to work with the big houses is fantastic, but don't overlook independent publishers, small publishing houses, regional, niche, educational, etc. Here are some ideas to keep you going:
  • Do you have specialties or interests in any particular subjects? Some niche publishers and organizations publish quality kids books that might complement an interest of yours. Start with your state and work out from there.
  • Does your work fit the educational market? There are scads of educational publishers that may not already be on your radar.
  • Check out novelty and gift book publishers to see if anything in those areas fits your work.
  • Take a field trip! Research isn't only done in front of the computer. Take a day at the museums and go to museum gift shops to check out the great publishers that specialize in books of all kinds for kids. Jot some down to look into. Go to the zoo and look at their shops. Visitor centers are another great place, as well as independent bookstores and specialty shops of all kinds. Any interesting place that has stuff for kids is a great place to research.
Give it a try. Getting off the beaten path might just lead you to some new inspiration. I'll check in again before the end of the month with more tips on finding the right publishers. Until then, happy researching!

Saturday, February 11, 2012


It's day 11 of PubSubPackMo and whether you're researching publishers to familiarize yourself with the many houses out there or developing a growing mailing list for promotion, it's probably time to think about creating a database. There are many ways to do this. Here's what I do:

Throughout the year I list publishers and notes about publishers in a text file for later research. I come across leads all the time and it's usually when I'm in the middle of a job. If I stopped to research every time I found something, I would never get any work done. This text file serves me well at PubSubPackMo time, but it would be a mess to have as my mailing list. That's where the database comes in.

You can see my column for notes in
this partial view of my database.
(Click for larger view.)
Developing a database allows you to organize your information based on different criteria that you specify. For my databases I have columns for publisher name, contact person, and address, but I also have an unlimited area to keep notes about each publisher. In this spot, I list my impressions, what types of work they publish, guidelines specific to the publisher, what work I have that is a good fit and what I want to send first. I also have categories where I list what I send each time and the date sent.

A big part of setting up the database is using it for mailing labels. When I'm ready, my software - the same software that houses my database - takes me through the set-up where I decide which fields from my database will print. I obviously don't want my notes and some of the other information to print. My software gives me options for which mailing label I want to use and then adjusts the text to fit.

What software to use? I use open source software for Macs called NeoOffice, but there is a lot of software out there to choose from. A great place to start is with the most popular office software recommended for your computer. Read the reviews and technical notes to make sure you know what you're getting into. Many programs give you options and "wizards" to help with your database set-up, but if you're having trouble navigating your database software, there are lots of tutorials and videos online. You can also pay $25 for a month at and take a mini-course to get up to speed really fast.

One caveat about databases - software changes, crashes, becomes obsolete and otherwise useless. I keep my original text only file of all my publisher information as a back-up and I also print it out and keep it on hand - just in case. Over the years I have had several instances where I've been glad I did. Don't let your time and hard work be wasted!

I'll be posting about different types of children's publishers next. In the meantime - keep on researching!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

PubSubPackMo 2012

Last month we had an unexpected death in the family and our lives have been in an upside down state of suspended animation ever since. As all freelancers do when something like this happens, I've modified my workload to fit the circumstances the best I can. Even though I'm getting a slow start, I'm determined to get going on PubSubPackMo and I hope you'll join me. What is it? It's a month of children's publishing research. Researching one publisher a day during the month of February will take you a long way for the rest of the year and beyond...

In 2010, after getting so much accomplished with NaNoWriMo and PiBoIDMo, I decided to create an entire month dedicated to researching and submitting work to publishers. I really like taking a bite out of big goals one day at a time. I call my month Publisher Submission Packet Month or PubSubPackMo and it has made submissions a lot easier.

In the past I found I would submit to 10 publishers at a time and then let the whole thing drop for months because the research was overwhelming, but it's best to keep submissions going out several times a year so you'll stay in front of the publishers you're interested in. If it becomes a part of what you do all the time, the habit should be as easy as brushing your teeth and before long you'll have a good list to send your work to. From there, if you're producing great work, sending it out consistently and continuing to grow your mailing list, your odds of being signed on for a project will go up considerably.

How to start? First take a serious look at your work and think about the type of assignments you want to do. Do you have a strong voice or are you more generic in what you do? Start looking at the books publishers are publishing to get a sense of where you fit in. Look online, in catalogs, at libraries, bookstores, on Amazon, etc. If you are having trouble getting a clear picture of which publishers fit you, your voice may not be strong enough or maybe you have several styles that need to be promoted separately. You might even need someone else to look at our work and give you some feedback.

It's a common notion for newcomers to think they should get the Children's Writer's and Illustrator's Market and send to every publisher in there. How do I know? About 16 years ago, I was illustrating botanicals and thinking about going into children's illustration. Not knowing anything about the children's publishing market, I approached a children's illustrator I knew and told her my plan to blanket the entire industry with my samples. The look on her face was one of amused pity as she patiently explained why this was a bad idea. It was clear that I would need to research each publisher individually to match my work to the right ones. Back then, this generally involved making a lot of phone calls. Horrified, I abandoned the children's publishing idea for quite a few years and stuck with the publishing opportunities I had doing botanicals.

These days it's a lot easier to research publishers. Phone calls to verify addresses are rarely necessary and most submission guidelines are online or in the Children's Writer's and Illustrator's Market. Always make sure to use the most recent information you can find. Even then, information will sometimes be wrong. In my last batch of promotional postcards I had two come back for incorrect addresses, but it could have been much worse had I not been so careful in my research.

I will be posting throughout the month about the submission process and different information I find during my research. Feel free to join me and share what you find or ask a question or two. In the meantime, I'm off to research my publisher for the day!

Monday, January 9, 2012


I have a very well worn copy of Alice in Wonderland. It was mine when I was a kid and it was my mom's when she was a kid. I love that book. In addition, I used to have a vinyl recording of Alice in Wonderland. I think I wore the grooves away listening to it so much. I wish I still had it. I can almost hear the masterful narrator and the voices of the characters. (It seems masterful in my head anyway.) The images of the story have swirled around in my brain for as long as I can remember. I've wanted to illustrate it for a while, but it wasn't a priority until last week when I finally began working on my Middle Grade Alice in Wonderland series. I started with a scene of Alice falling down the rabbit hole. Then one morning the phone rang. It was one of those phone calls that turns the world upside down. Now I feel like I'm in the rabbit hole suspended in time while the world spins out of control. I'm working as much as I can to keep myself busy while things are in limbo and I found some other worthwhile distractions to keep my mind occupied. Here are some of them...just in case you need a distraction too:

The winner for the Tomie dePaola Illustrator Award was announced. Click this text to see the winner and runners up. The entries for the Tomie dePaola Illustrator Award are fantastic. You can see some of them at Diandra Mae's Unofficial Gallery. The last time I counted there were 140, but more appear every day. Over 300 illustrators entered and hopefully all of them will end up in the gallery. Click the acorn to go.

This month I've joined the 2012 Comment Challenge and have discovered some great people and blogs. (This has been a phenomenally great distraction. Thanks everyone!) This is a 21 day challenge to build community in the kidlit blogosphere by commenting on other kidlit blogs.

January is also the start of the Picture Book Dummy Challenge - a 25 week picture book challenge with online support from a fantastic community of children's illustrators and writers. I've joined up to create and illustrate the story that intrigued Marla Frazee in my portfolio critique this summer. She saw an illustration I did from an idea I had a couple years ago and challenged me to write the story and submit it. Here I go!

February is PubSubPackMo (Publisher Submission Packet Month). I'm continuing the tradition to increase my submission list for my illustration postcards and future picture book dummies. This is the month that I research publishers to find the ones that are a good fit for me. My goal is to add one new publisher to my list every day, but I like to add an even 30...just because. Join me if you like! I'll be posting along the way.

In March I'm scheduled to do a workshop on children's publishing at Bona Fide Books - our local publisher. Details to come.

And finally, because I love seeing other illustrators in action, I've put together some links of other illustrators doing their thing in a little blog tour. Enjoy these links:

If you have any illustration process links to add, please feel free to put them in a comment.

I'm off to find another worthwhile distraction in Wonderland...