Writing Challenges 2016

2016 is already 3 months gone, but I’m still catching up. As they say in New England, I’ve been wicked busy so far this year.  I wanted to give a little shout out to two writing challenges that I have found really helpful.

Julie Hedlund’s 12×12 writing challenge is a paid subscription program, but the cost for a year of membership has been worth it in terms of both manuscripts completed and connections I have made with other writers and illustrators. It’s a wonderful writing community that spans absolute beginners to published authors.

Last year I did not manage to complete 12 drafts, but I did complete 8, which is pretty wonderful. This year I doubt I will make the magical 12 number either, but I continue to write new drafts, and revise last year’s, all while trying to complete the illustrations for the 2 book dummies I am working on.

The second is ReFoReMo, run by Carrie Charley Brown. Reading For Research Month challenges participants to read 100 picture books in a month. Last year ReFoReMo sparked a new habit of deeply researching books related to manuscripts I am working on, for use as mentor texts, or just to see what is already out there. This year I did not even try to keep up the reading pace during the month of the challenge, and instead, I plan to spread out my catch-up reading over the next couple of months.

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It’s hard enough to find enough time to write, and read, and make art. So why participate in these challenges?  For me, there is something about being part of a culture of productivity that spurs me to produce more. So time spent on these writing challenges, and reading blog posts, isn’t time wasted if it leaves me inspired and motivated to get back to the drawing board.

 

Picture Book Valentines

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This is both a list of books that make great Valentine’s Day gifts Valentine’s Day love note to some of my favorite picture books, new and old.  Warm fuzzies everywhere.

This year, I am sharing the love by giving books to my children’s teachers and librarians on Valentine’s Day.

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Worm Loves Worm

by J. J. Austrian, Illustrated by Mike Curato

Jane Yolen called it “a word perfect (and picture perfect) picture book, and I couldn’t agree more. Worm Loves Worm is a simple story, with simple text, about simple invertebrates, that boils down all the complexities that adults attach to words like marriage to the simple point that love is love.

In Mike Curato’s own words:

“In Worm Loves Worm, no matter the opinions and criticisms of others, Worm and Worm hold fast to what is most important to them: each other… People will love who they love. This is what makes us human. This book is a celebration of love.”

Valentine:  Yes, Worm and Worm, it really is that simple. Love you both.

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Be a Friend 

by Salina Yoon

Be A Friend is a sweet story about a little boy named Dennis who only communicates through mime. He feels isolated and alone until a classmate, Joy, reaches out to him and they become friends.  Salina Yoon’s illustrations are charming and the simple text lets the visual storyline of acceptance and love shine through.

Valentine:  [Gestures unwrapping a gift of Be A Friend] [Hugs self] [Smiles]

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Stella Brings the Family

by Miriam B. Schiffer, illustrated by Holly Clifton-Brown

Stella Brings the Family is set on Mother’s Day, but the message of a child’s love for her family is perfect for Valentine’s.  Stella is a little girl with two dads, who is told to invite her mother to a school Mother’s Day party. Unlike the adults in charge of party planning, Stella realizes that her family is really made up of all of the adults who love and support her every day.

 Valentine: Happy Valentine’s Day to all of you!  Really, ALL of you!

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I Love You, Stinky Face

by Lisa Mccourt, illustrated by Cyd Moore

An oldie-but-goodie, I Love You Stinky Face is one of my favorite bedtime read-aloud books. The text and illustrations work together to create a comforting, yet silly, reassurance of love and complete acceptance of the child by the mother. The child main character is dressed in gender-neutral clothing and is never identified with a gendered pronoun.

Valentine: I made you this Valentine out of bugs and slime. I love you, my little swamp monster. 

PiBoIdMo 2015

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Gearing up for my fourth year of PiBoIdMo. (Wow. How is that even possible?) I unearthed my 2013 PiBoIdMo sketchbook and found some surprisingly interesting ideas hidden in there, that I had forgotten about. Going to dig out my notes from the other two years so I am ready to go November 1!

Thundermist Community Health Center Donor Wall

I recently had the opportunity to design a donor wall for Thundermist Community Health Center in Wakefield, RI. The organization has just opened a gorgeous new building, and the donor wall as designed by the architectural firm was not going to work in practice.  I was asked to create a design that fit the distinctive design of the new building, which made use of multicolored acrylic panels inset into the walls in squares and rectangles, in a sort of randomly-scattered-yet-balanced placement. It also needed to fit into an entry space that had existing door opening hand plates, and make use of existing materials.

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Here is the end product. Acrylic Lumicor strips in a randomly-staggered-yet-balanced arrangement, with brushed aluminum hardware and donor name plaques. The Thundermist staff wanted the name tags scattered randomly as well, with plenty of room for new donors.

This project was very different from a lot of my recent illustration, and challenged me to brush off my old urban planning design skills and think mathematically. It was a lot of fun to work with this great community organization and help them materialize their vision for this donor wall.