Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Accountability groups and time boxing to help find focus

When the pandemic hit last year, I struggled to focus as society and the world as we knew it changed before our eyes. I had deadlines to meet, and projects to finish, but I was perpetually distracted, sleeping badly, and anxious. And it makes sense -- nothing this past year has been normal and it's even less normal to push through it and work anyway

In those early weeks, all I could do was draw coloring pages for families stuck at home, posted to Instagram, as some small way to help someone out there who might be struggling, too:

I'm part of the community at You Belong Here, an arts and co-working space here in San Diego. Last March, when I presented my focus problem during our entrepreneur meetups (now happening virtually on Zoom), my friend Nic enthusiastically suggested: CAVE DAY! Cave Day runs 1 and 3 hour work sessions on Zoom (like a silent study hall) facilitated by trained guides who lead participants through stretches and refreshing periodic breaks.

This combination of accountability and time boxing -- has really helped me, and maybe something like this will help you if you're struggling with focus, too.

A painting by Susie Ghahremani, created during Cave Day virtual co-working sessions

Accountability to me means setting goals or making plans with others in the same position. 

At Cave Day, hundreds of people working from home join sessions daily, all hoping to move the needle on our projects or work. Our cameras are all on as we video conference in silence together. We are a community of people who want to improve our focus and to have better boundaries around our work. At this point, I typically participate in Cave Day 5 days a week, and have logged hundreds of sessions. They continue to be helpful to me.

Accountability can also look like joining a group like 12x12, Storystorm, entering your work in a SCBWI manuscript review or portfolio show, a 100 Day Project, or taking a class -- all of which meet a specific challenge with SMART goal criteria.

What are SMART goals? SMART is an acronym that stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-based.

For example, in the 12x12 challenge: it's writing / revising 12 picture book texts during the course of a year. For Storystorm, it's generating a picture book idea every day for 30 consecutive days, in January. Specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-based -- with a community engaged in the same.

Time Boxing for me means dedicating a specific time to a specific task. By signing up for a 3 hour session on Cave Day, I can plan the work I want to do during that period of time. That has helped with the toxic feeling of Always Needing To Be Working. It also helps me set up an actionable plan around when I'll focus and what I'll accomplish. It also helps me to time box things like learning, revisions, working on new artwork, emailing, using social media, etc.

One hallmark of this past year is that time has felt basically meaningless when every day feels exactly the same, so time boxing helps with that feeling as well. Here's more info about time boxing.


It's hard to believe we're coming up on a year of pandemic life. During this time, folks here at KidLitArtists have continued illustrating, writing, creating, and releasing new books, while also tending to their kids and parents and friends and communities and mental/physical health. It's a lot! It was a lot even before the pandemic.

If you're not able to focus -- or you're feeling like you're just barely getting by -- you're not alone. Hope these tips help you, and please share your tips in the comments!

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Susie Ghahremani (@boygirlparty) is the author and illustrator of picture books STACK THE CATS and BALANCE THE BIRDS

She is also the illustrator of WHAT WILL GROW by Jennifer Ward, WHAT WILL HATCH by Jennifer Ward, LITTLE MUIR'S SONG by John Muir, SHE WANTED TO BE HAUNTED by Marcus Ewert, and LITTLE MUIR'S NIGHT by John Muir.

She paints with gouache, wanders in forests, listens to vinyl records, and snuggles her baby nieces.

Find her at: Boygirlparty | Patreon | Etsy | Fb | Twitter | Instagram | TikTok

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Online Portfolio Showcase Winners from the 2021 SCBWI Winter Conference

 by Debbie Ridpath Ohi


Congrats to everyone who submitted portfolios to the SCBWI Winter Conference Portfolio Showcase! Whether or not you won an award, kudos for putting yourself out there. Editors, art directors and agents have been looking through your work, as well as fellow creators.

For those who missed it, you can still browse all portfolios until March 31st, 2021.

You can find a list of the winners of the SCBWI Winter Conference Portfolio Showcase on the SCBWI Winter Conference Blog, but here is a list along with links to where you can find out more about everyone's work.


Portfolio Showcase Grand Prize Winners:

Leanne Hatch - LeeanneHatch.com. Represented by Janine Le at Sheldon Folgelman Agency. You can find Leanne on Instagram at @leannehatch_illustration. Previously Leanne won the SCBWI Narrative Art Award in 2020 and an Honor Award at the 2020 SCBWI Winter Conference.

Xin Li - LiXin.no.  Xin is a freelance illustrator based in Norway, born and raised in China. You can find Xin on Instagram at @lixin.illustration and Twitter at @lixinmakesart.

Portfolio Showcase Honors:

Anne Appert - Also on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. Represented by Charlotte Wenger at Prospect Agency.

Reggie Brown - Also on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. Represented by The Cat Agency.

Lenny Wen - Also on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. Represented by The Cat Agency.

Estrela Lourenco - Also on Twitter, Instagram. Represented by James McGowan at Bookends Literary Agency.


Congrats to all!

You can find more news and takeaways from the 2021 SCBWI Winter Conference at the SCBWI Conference Blog; I was on Team Blog this year!

---

Debbie Ridpath Ohi is the author and illustrator of SAM & EVA and WHERE ARE MY BOOKS?, both with Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers. Her illustrations have appeared in books by Michael Ian Black, Judy Blume, Aaron Reynolds, Linda Sue Park, Rob Sanders, Lauren McLaughlin and others. You can find out more about Debbie and her work at DebbieOhi.com, Twitter at @inkyelbows and Instagram at @inkygirl.

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Art & Fear— Wisdom for Working Artists PLUS: Book Giveaway

 by Dorothia Rohner

Recently, I reread a book that my mother gave me years ago. Since then, I have referred to it many times on my artistic journey. 

Art and Fear–Observations On the Perils (and Rewards) of ARTMAKING. An Artist's Survival Guide. By David Bayles and Ted Orland

This book is filled with nuggets of wisdom that discuss the importance of finding your own work. The authors explore the nature of being an artist and pose questions and offer suggestions for those of us who have a passion to create.

Each time I read the book, it helps me to examine why I create, what I am trying to achieve and how I want to execute the work. Making books for children takes patience, determination, imagination, grit and patience among other traits. This books discusses why some artists keep going and some fail to find the courage to forge on. 

I have selected eight quotes to share with you here. I hope that these quotes will remind you that you are not alone on your creative journey and give you the courage to keep making books for children. 

The world needs more books made by kind and gentle people. 

Book Giveaway: 

I will be giving away a copy of Art and Fear.  Scroll down to see how you can enter to win.

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Parallel Stories

 After attending Toni Buzzeo's wonderful workshop at The Writers' Loft on picture book structures, I started noticing them everywhere – Mirror, Circular, 3-tries, and Parallel stories: this is where the plot follows two characters on separate journeys through the story. Sometimes the two characters come together at the end, and sometimes they don't but their experiences echo each other. You see a lot of compositional mirroring that is frequently found in any plot where there is a lot of symmetry either between characters or between parts of the story.

Todays examples are all from author-illustrators! Toot and Puddle by Holly Hobbie, Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey, and Emma and Julia Love Ballet by Barbara McClintock.

Toot and Puddle by Holly Hobbie: 
This story follows two friends: one who is a homebody and one who likes to go adventuring. Puddle stays home and enjoys life there, while Toot travels the world and sends back postcards. The months of the year serve as a framework, and at the end of the year Toot comes home.

A typical spread shows a scene with Toot and a postcard on the left, and a scene with Puddle on the right. The two stories progress side by side.




I personally think this is one of the most perfect parallel stories I've ever read. This story alternates the two main character's adventures: first you see Sal eating blueberries with her mother, then Little Bear follows in almost exactly the same fashion. A lot of humor comes from anticipating that what you just saw happen to Sal will now happen with Little Bear, or vice versa. The two main characters never meet, but a great amount of delight can be found in reading about their two, almost exactly the same, adventures. 

Image © Robert McCloskey
Image © Robert McCloskey
Image © Robert McCloskey


Image © Robert McCloskey

This story involves a day in the life of the two title characters: Emma, who is a little girl taking ballet lessons, and Julia, who is a professional ballerina. At the end, Emma goes to Julia's performance, which sweetly ties the characters together as well as ending the day. 
Image © Barbara McClintock
Image © Barbara McClintock

Image © Barbara McClintock

I hope you find exploring story structures to be as fun and helpful as I do! 

...................................
Jen Betton wrote and illustrated HEDGEHOG NEEDS A HUG (Penguin-Putnam) and illustrated TWILIGHT CHANT by Holly Thompson (Clarion-HMH). Her newest book, BARN AT NIGHT, written by Michelle Houts and published by Feeding Minds Press will be published in winter 2021.

You can find more of her work here:
www.jenbetton.com
www.facebook.com/jenbettonillustration
@jenbetton

Monday, December 7, 2020

Things that are keeping me sane during the pandemic (aka cute and useful things from Susie Ghahremani)

I wanted to do a quick post to highlight a few things made by our very own Susie Ghahremani (available from her shop, boygirlparty.com) that have been really helpful during the past 8 months.

Growth: A Journal to Welcome Personal Change

I know that during the past 8 months, I've developed a lot of bad habits. This journal is full of prompts to spur your change, allow you to reflect, and celebrate your progress. Perfect for starting a new year and keeping you motivated while making improvements in your life!

If you want to see more images of some of the interior pages, check it out here.


Send Some Mail!


I was looking around for some cute cards and wanted to support an independent artist, when I remembered Susie's shop. I've sent more snail mail this year than I've probably sent in the past 10 years. Now that my son and I can't see his grandparents in person, we have been writing them cards to keep in touch. Plus, it's always fun to get mail! 

Susie has a variety of cards available here: https://shop.boygirlparty.com/collections/all/card



Get Organized!


And finally, this weekly organizer is helping me keep my life and my kid's homework assignments organized. Not only has the passage of time seemed very confusing lately, keeping on top of online school assignments has been a huge challenge. Using this organizer has been massively helpful to see everything that is due at a glance. 

Susie also has a variety of to-do lists and some other organizer designs to keep everyone on track, available here: https://shop.boygirlparty.com/collections/all/organizer



Sunday, December 6, 2020

Our 2020 Books (Year in Review!)

What a year 2020 has been! We've been busy making books, though! Here's the year-end review of what came out this year. 


Amber Alvarez

by Diana Murray and Amber Alvarez


See lions snuggle on the savanna and groundhogs play on the prairie in Diana Murray's Wild About Dads, a heartwarming picture book that celebrates dads of all kinds--featuring illustrations by Amber Alvarez!


Lisa Anchin
by Linda Elovitz Marshall and Lisa Anchin


Learn about the importance of vaccines and the scientific process through the fascinating life of world-renowned scientist Jonas Salk, whose pioneering discoveries changed the world forever.

Brooke Boynton Hughes
by Barbara Bottner and Brooke Boynton Hughes



















Help Archer find his missing turtle hiding in the pages of this picture book!


Allison Farrell
by Joan Holub and Allison Farrell
















When the road signs take a vacation, chaos and hilarity ensue--
and they quickly learn how important they are.

Kimberly Gee


Bear is very, very, very GLAD today! He’s taking his first ballet class. 
But he’s a little nervous too. This sweet and silly picture book is an honest exploration 
of feelings that little ones—and grown-ups!—are sure to relate to.


Susie Ghahremani
Marcus Ewert and Susie Ghahremani


With whimsical, rhyming stanzas, She Wanted to be Haunted offers a delightful, 
lyrical twist on the ever-important question of how to be your very best self.


Susie Ghahremani
John Muir and Susie Ghahremani
August 2020

An original board book that encourages a bedtime in tune with nature.


Susie Ghahremani


A journal can be so much more than an outlet--it can also be a companion, a resource, and a place to find answers.

Jessica Lanan

 Megan Dowd Lambert and Jessica Lanan


In this fresh and funny follow-up to the Ezra Jack Keats Honor Book A Crow of His Own, rooster Clyde is forced to adjust to new roommates on the farm when Fran the goat and her kid, Rowdy, take up residence. Can Clyde handle having a new kid in town?


Maple Lam
Raffi and Maple Lam



Shake, clap, jump, and wiggle your way through this classic Raffi sing-along book!


Corinna Luyken
Kate Hoefler, Corinna Luyken


A tender and timely story of compassion and finding common ground with others, 
perfect for fans of I Walk With Vanessa and Thank You, Omu!


Juana Martinez- Neal
Beth Ferry, Juana Martinez-Neal


From New York Times best-selling author Beth Ferry and Caldecott Honor winner Juana Martinez-Neal comes a sweet-and-salty friendship story perfect for pirate-lovers learning new ways to communicate while at a distance. 


Debbie Ridpath Ohi
written by Linda Sue Park, illustrated by Debbie Ridpath Ohi


This wildly imaginative, crayon-inspired picture book shows that with a bit of teamwork and a universe of creativity, anything is possible!

Dorothia Rohner
Written by Dorothia Rohner, illustrated by Vanya Nastanlieva

A simple, friendly game of Duck, Duck, Goose goes off the rails in giggle-inducing 
confusion when a silly goose tries to make it all about him.


Robin Rosenthal


Count up to 10 and back down again in this picture book starring 
10 traveling dogs and one very tenacious cat!



written by Duane Armitage and Maureen Doyle, illustrated by Rosin Rosenthal




An exciting board book series that asks deep questions in a wonderfully accessible way. Even little children have big questions about life.


Molly Ruttan


Adopting an extraterrestrial leads to hilariously mixed results!



Rob Sayegh
written by Holly Berry-Byrd, illustrated by Rob Sayegh Jr


Ho, ho, ho! Join Santa as he prepares for his big day. It's Christmas eve in the North Pole, and Santa's elves are busy making toys to deliver to good little girls and boys.


K-Fai Steele



Okapi Tale, the much-anticipated sequel to Noodlephant, is about what happens when the phantastic noodler—a public good—falls into the wrong hands (a rich okapi). But to whom does the machine really belong? Just one greedy Okapi, or the whole town of Beaston?


Alexandra Thompson


A foodie French bulldog finds a forever home in this heartwarming and adorable debut 
picture book, sure to appeal to fans of Gaston, Ellie, and Little Elliot, Big City.



Heidi Woodward Sheffield

A striking debut celebrating the warm bond between a little boy and his dad as they work hard to achieve their dreams.

Heidi Woodward Sheffield
Leslie Helakoski and Heidi Sheffield

In beautiful, evocative rhyme, this lovely picture book helps children consider 
the colors of their everyday lives . . . and imagine how others around the world 
experience the very same things.

Liz Wong
Helaine Becker, Liz Wong


The most powerful pirate in history was a woman who was born into poverty in Guangzhou, China, in the late 1700s. When pirates attacked her town and the captain took a liking to her, she saw a way out. Zheng Yi Sao agreed to marry him only if she got an equal share of his business. When her husband died six years later, she took command of the fleet.


Andrea Zuill
Nelly Buchet, Andrea Zuill


Here is the oh-so-hilarious and adorable story of a blended family-- using just a few 
words in various configurations-- from the pets' point-of-view!