Art, creativity and the time for it is a dream I’ve been searching for my entire life. It hasn’t been easy, but I am happily handing over every spare minute I have to drawing and thinking about Little Bat these days. But the thing about illustrating is it’s a solitary activity. Sure, I bounce my ideas and show my drawings for feedback to my creative partner/husband when he’s home, but for the most part, the creating happens with me alone at my desk (or more times than not, with a very bored Peanut curled up on the floor behind me, springing into action each time I get up to use the bathroom).
I’m finding that for the sake of my sanity and for overall happiness in general, balance is key. And one of those nuggets of happiness always comes from getting together with the ladies for our monthly book club meets. Throughout my life, books were a form of escape for me. And when I moved away from my bubble in the South Bay to a new neighborhood in Los Angeles, books helped me pass the pre-Peanut days of waiting for my then-boyfriend (now husband) to get home from work. Back then, I craved the company of friends and connecting with others with the same interest, so I went in search of a book club.
At the time, all I wanted was to find a fun group of ladies to have a drink with and share my thoughts (good and bad) for the book I had just finished. Cue The Girly Book Club on meetup.com. It was described as “a global book club for like-minded women to discuss great books!”, and it was just what I was looking for. A week before the meetup, there was still no host and no location. I volunteered to host and find a place to meet, just that one time. There were eight of us ladies, all meeting for the first time at the restaurant I had chosen, the ATX Kitchen (now Momed) in Atwater Village. We read Wool by Hugh Howey (not one of my favorites) but our love of books is what brought us together and I had such a great time. Fast-forward four years and we’re still going strong. We’re no longer a part of the official Girly Book Club, and I no longer officially host, but month after month, we still get together for that drink, brunch and some good conversation in a different, fun spot all over L.A. The most memorable for me are:
1. Brunch at The Front Yard in North Hollywood (http://www.thefrontyardla.com/), where we met on the outdoor patio of the beautiful restaurant, under the shade of the olive trees and umbrellas. This is the most recent, but it was a check on the book club bucket list. Our lovely Rebecca suggested we read a book written by her boss’ friend, who volunteered to come and hang out with us for a book discussion afterwards. It’s been a long lived wish of mine to have an author attend one of our book clubs, and having Anne Cherian, author of A Good Indian Wife, brunch and chat with us about her book was so amazing. She was so warm, smart and open with us about her experience, and we even got an alternate ending to her book! The experience was so much fun, and an extra special treat for us. I would definitely recommend Anne’s book, a work of fiction with an interesting view on arranged marriages in Indian culture and the U.S.
2. ATX Kitchen (now Momed Atwater Village www.atmomed.com/aw/) This place will always have a special place in my heart, as it was the place for the first book club meeting. The food was always pretty tasty, and I loved the open outdoor space, the community tables and the train whizzing by every half hour. (These photos were taken back when it was ATX Kitchen. I miss the personal touch of the mural of owner's mother or grandmother- I can't remember which.)
3. Our 1-year anniversary in North Hollywood at the clubhouse of the condos member Leslie managed. It was the first time we had gathered for a potluck celebration, and it was so fun to have a special place just for us to celebrate! Next year will be 5 years together for us, so I’ll have to plan for something just as special. (Please excuse the low-res, blurry photo, this was from back in 2013.)
We have gone to so many fun spots throughout L.A. (See end of blog for the delicious and fun spots for a drink, and easy parking situations we’ve checked out- all a MUST for an ideal book club hangout.)
Now, the newness has settled into a warm and comfortable friendship. I love these ladies so much! We still see each other every month, have attended each other’s weddings, baby showers, and said sad good-byes to those who have moved away from L.A. We also rotate hosts to pick the book and location, to keep things fresh and casual for everyone. No matter how busy I get, I always try to come back to my girlies to catch up and fill my creative cup with connection, laughs, and delicious food and book conversation. Shout out to my book club ladies! Thank you for your friendship and for sharing your love of reading with me.
If you’re a book-loving lady in the L.A. area looking for a book club, let me know! We’d love to have you join us. Are you reading anything interesting that would be a good book club suggestion? Have you gone anywhere fun and delicious for brunch in L.A.? I’d love to hear your favorites.
Book Club locations for...
...a weekday drink and snacks
Bow and Truss, North Hollywood
Bon Vivant, Atwater Village
Oeno Vino (formerly 55 Degrees), Atwater Village
...delicious brunch and lovely outdoor space
The Front Yard, North Hollywood
The Culver Hotel, Culver City
Chado Tea Room, Pasadena or Little Tokyo
Off Vine, Hollywood
Cliff's Edge, Silverlake
Favorite books we've read...
Mr. Penumbra's 24 Hour Book Store
The Fates and the Furies
Girl on the Train (mostly because we also watched the movie together)
Me Before You
The Rosie Project
It’s September and back-to-school time is here! I am also joining the kiddos and students of all ages going back to school as I start the very exciting Children’s Book Academy Craft and Business of Illustrating Children's Books course on Monday (www.childrensbookacademy.com). I’ve always loved learning and reading books of almost all kinds (aka was a nerd in school), but this new-found passion of mine has ignited a whole new spark of inspiration to learn as much as I can about the kidlit world.
The problem is, as an adult trying to navigate this journey of writing and illustrating my very first picture book, I find myself scrambling to stay organized. Sure, I add all the events to the calendar on my laptop and use the notes app on my phone to keep my thoughts organized, but I still miss things. (I can’t be the only person out there who still needs a calendar on her fridge to get a bird’s eye view of what’s happening that month, can I?) Even with all this pocket-size technology, to be honest, my organizational skills can be somewhat non-existent at times. (I’m trying really hard not to fall into the artist’s stereotype here, but that could possibly be to blame). However, I refuse to fall into my old disorganized ways, and was determined to find something better.
This time, my phone came to the rescue! A surprisingly easy and very practical solution scrolled right through my Instagram feed: a friend’s post about her planners, organizers and colored pens. Of course, so genius! (Are you kidding me with these amazing photos? Just looking at them makes me want to curl up with some tea and organize the heck out of my life. Thanks @runningmona13, you’re a lifesaver!). Why didn’t I think back to my own school days and love for hard-covered planners and brand-new highlighters? Could the answer really be as simple as going old school and using the tried and true pen and paper?
Luckily, with Amazon Prime, I was only a few clicks and two days of waiting away from receiving the little notebook with hopes that it will keep me sane while I juggle an illustration course, my full-time job and life in general. I went with the Simple Elephant and fine line drawing pens from Sipa. This is not an official endorsement, but simply my own personal and quickly researched choice for the following reasons:
I’m really looking forward to taking this Illustration course head-on, adding important class notes and homework dates to my paper calendar, and using my colored pens to stay organized. Added bonus: plenty of space for colorful sketches in the margins just like my doodles (I mean incredibly detailed and studious notes) back in high school. ;) Do you have a favorite planner or go to tips to stay organized? Please share with me so I can keep it up and stay motivated while I’m ahead!
Stay tuned for an update on “Wake Up, Little Bat!” and my experience with my first ever illustration course online, hopefully a very neatly organized one, thanks to my Simple Elephant!
Starting on this writing journey has motivated me to connect with others. Not only the kids I want to share Little Bat with, but those on their own creative path, no matter what it is. And with people picking up the pieces of their lives after the hurricane devastation in Houston and Florida, there's been a heightened awareness for helping those in need around us. So this past week, I focused my creative efforts on two things:
1. volunteering for Reading to Kids and connecting with kids in my local community
2. contributing an illustration for an amazing anthology through Clear Fork Publishing, the company publishing Little Bat next year, with all proceeds going to the Salvation Army for the victims of Hurricane Harvey in Houston.
Its been a very rewarding and inspiring past few days. Last Saturday, I got back in touch with the kid inside and volunteered for Reading to Kids, a non-profit organization promoting the love of reading to elementary school kids in Los Angeles. It's been a long while since I’ve joined in, but with my new kidlit journey, I thought I should work on my reading aloud skills. Engaging young kids in a picture book and grabbing and keeping their attention really is a skill, and mine were pretty rusty. But once I got back into it, it was easy as pie. Who wouldn't have fun reading a picture book to kids and seeing what they thought of the funny little fish characters inside?
I thought back to my last volunteering experience, when I was unexpectedly re-assigned to reading to the older fifth graders, ones who were disinterested and ready for the summer to begin (which could be the cause of my long hiatus, but can you really blame kids for wanting to just be out for summer break already?) This time was completely different. I signed up early to ensure I would get my chosen age group, the little kindergarteners. There were only three of them, and since the school year has just begun, they were a bit shy at first. We read The Pout Pout Fish Goes to School by Deborah Diesen. As the reading went on, the kids opened up, with a few entertaining moments of distraction. By the end of the craft session, the kids were drawing, cutting and letting their imagination run wild on the page. It was so fun to see the creativity these kids had in them. I will definitely be returning next month for the October special and my favorite holiday, Halloween! I’ve even gone against my usual procrastinating ways and signed up already to read to the younger kids again. :) I'll be volunteering as a skunk next month at Gratts Elementary School if you want to join me!
Still warm from the fuzzies of reading to the little kiddos, the following week was filled with late nights of finishing my illustration for the Hug for the World anthology from Clear Fork Publishing. I'm so proud to be part of a publishing company with such a big heart and love for its community. As a Texas-based publishing house, the publisher and owner, Callie Metler Smith, rallied the authors and illustrators in an effort to bring poems, stories, and art into a book to raise money for the people affected by Hurricane Harvey in Houston. The book comes out October 10 and you can pre-order it here:
Sometimes all it takes is giving a little good to the people around us who need it to spark inspiration and love. Have you been inspired to volunteer lately? Share it here and let's keep that spark going!
Happy September everyone, wow this summer has flown by! If you scroll down a bit, you can see I’ve been at this blogging game for a few years now, but only really in little spurts (and somewhat secretly since I'm only now sharing this with all of you!)- my trip to Peru, our wedding, moments of inspiration I’ve been trying to capture for future times when I need a creative push. I think that future is right now. I’m so incredibly excited and grateful to have the opportunity to illustrate my very own picture book! I haven’t been this immersed in art and drawing in years, and a new spark ignited since I’ve started this journey. But to be honest, the day to day is definitely a challenge. I have goals to meet and milestones to hit for each phase of my picture book illustrations, but the reality of balancing creating artwork, a full-time job and keeping up with life can get a bit overwhelming at times. Ok, A LOT overwhelming at times.
With social media, we get inundated with all the exciting and fun parts of a project or path. It’s fun to share exciting times in our lives with the ones we love, and get a glimpse of what our friends are doing too. I’ve been so thrilled to share the progress of Little Bat with all of you, and the encouragement always keeps me going. I can’t wait until the illustrations are all finished and I can share the entire story with everyone. But the truth is, there’s so much hard work, late nights, frustrating and defeating thoughts behind every creative achievement. And sometimes the creative cup feels like it’s gone empty. But it’s all a process I’m trying to get a handle on, and when the creative river goes down to a trickle (or God-forbid, bone dry at times!), it’s important to step back and fill the creative cup back up again. (Creative cup metaphor credit goes to my book buddy, Emily! It’s a good mental exercise to think about renewing your inspiration, almost like filling your glass up with a refreshing ice-cold glass of water, or margarita if that’s more to your liking. I personally prefer a tall glass of Earl Grey iced tea these days- if you’ve never tried it, you really should, it’s amazing!)
I'd love to share moments of filling that creative cup with all of you, in hopes of spreading that spark of inspiration. And please share yours too!
Thanks for reading! Let's keep that spark going!
July 28, 2017
My last filling of creativity came from an impromptu visit to The 14th Factory in L.A. with my little brother. (Sure, he’s a head taller than me and has been for the past ten years, but “hermanito” will never change in my mind.) To my surprise, the art bug bit him not too long ago, and he’s been inspired to visit new art galleries and museums. I’m all for it, little bro! Even though we didn’t have much time, it was incredible to be surrounded by all the different forms of art- from walking through a dark tunnel and towards a spiraling, and somewhat disorienting web of human figures, to the hot, bright room of the interior of a mid-century bedroom, relaxing indoors on a field of grass and swings, and viewing paintings, drawings, videos and everything in between. The art was incredible and so diverse.
It was really fun to catch up with my brother and be surrounded by all the intriguing, beautiful and sometimes dark and haunting artwork displayed at The 14th Factory. We left feeling content and inspired, having quenched our thirst for art after a couple of hours being drawn into it. I think this exhibit of The 14th Factory is closed now, we caught it on the last day, but here’s the website to keep up with future exhibits. http://the14thfactory.com/
It’s so important to expose ourselves to all different kinds of creativity, even if what we’re looking at has nothing to do with what we’re creating. There’s a certain kind of energy and indescribable emotion that exudes from being in the presence of someone else’s creative expression. Be open, get lost in it, and let the creativity cup fill to the brim.
Have you been anywhere inspiring lately? How do you fill your creative cup?
The SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrator’s) LA Conference was held early July, and I had no idea what I was getting into, in the best way possible. When I started on the path into the kidlit world, there was a list of things I had to do to get the best start. One of the most important was joining SCBWI to immerse myself in the children’s book world. Luckily, I dipped my toe in this world when I attended the regional meet-up earlier this year because otherwise I would’ve been completely overwhelmed by the event that was the huge L.A. conference.
The weekend was packed with inspirational keynote speakers, informative break-out talks by authors, agents and editors in the industry, and brunch with children’s writer and legend Judy Blume! The days were filled with so much inspiration, I hardly knew what to do with myself. I was constantly torn between attending one talk over the other at the same time, both sounding equally intriguing. But I think the best part of all was meeting all the wonderful people I had connected with online through my children’s book writing class. I spent my days learning from my instructor and "fairy godmother", Dr. Mira Reisberg, and eagerly sitting in on talks and sharing ideas with my book pals Emily, Jodi and Bryan. It was so surreal to meet my book friends in person after sharing my stories and ideas with them for months online. I found my tribe!
The Silver Linings social on Saturday night was really something to experience, with writers and artists dancing, mingling enjoying the appetizers and snacks galore. The drinks flowed and the ice-cream sundaes called my name. I even spotted my kidlit hero, author and illustrator Jon Klassen (but did not give in to my fan impulses this time- next time Jon Klassen, next time). This was kidlit heaven!
Of all the speakers who shared their wisdom and experiences with us (and all of them were so amazing), there were two in particular that really struck a chord with me. Opening keynote speaker Vanessa Brantley Newton and break-out session speaker Leuyen Pham. Newton spoke with an emotion that connected with the audience. Her story of perseverance and unrelenting will was so touching and inspiring to hear. And I hope her story about the goat falling into the well and the words of, “Shake it off and pack it under” will resonate with me when I’m struggling to push through on my creative journey.
Pham is a magical unicorn all her own. She’s illustrated an incredible number of books, and hearing her process absolutely blew my mind. How does she illustrate more than one book at a time and maintain her sanity while raising her young children? This woman is an illustrating machine! Regardless, it was reassuring to hear her speak about her experiences of illustrating, searching for inspiration, and realizing that even though she’s extremely talented, she’s also very, very hard-working. I am a big fan, Leuyen!
When I first told my husband I would be attending the SCBWI conference, he was so supportive, and in Renaldo fashion, could probably see how taken I would be, even more so than I did at the time. I’ve caught the kidlit bug and it’s not letting me go! I came home from each full day at the conference, lit up with energy and newly inspired, though exhausted. I hope I remember this feeling. It was incredible to live in a kidlit bubble for one fulfilling weekend. And even though this event has come and gone, I’ll return to the memories again and again to keep me going on this kidlit journey. There is always next year, and perhaps the Winter Conference in New York to look forward to! My creative cup is now full.
Happy Summer, everyone! I would've never guessed when I wrote my last blog post that even more exciting opportunities would arise. I am now officially a blogger, a Blogateer to be exact! Amazing things happen when you follow your bliss, and it all started with one picture book class with The Children's Book Academy. I would not be here without the generous spirit that is Dr. Mira Reisburg. She surprised me with the incredible opportunity of writing for her website's blog, what an honor!
Writing and following my passion for it really has opened so many doors in just a few short months. And now it looks like all those extra hours I'm putting in getting lost in the children's section of the library and book stores is sparking inspiration two-fold: exposing me to the incredibly fun world of children's literature and giving me the resources to write on the fourth Wednesday of every month for the Blogateers. I think I might already have all the books I want to review for the rest of the year, and it's only June!
It's an understatement to say there are books to fill multiple lifetimes spent in the aisles of the children's books section. My first blog post was on Swatch: The Girl Who Loved Color by Julia Denos (who I even connected with on Twitter, thanks to Mira of course... wow!) . There is just an abundance, but these are my favorites for June:
The Storm Whale in Winter
by: Benji Davies
Big Wolf and Little Wolf: The Little Leaf that Wouldn't Fall
by: Nadine Brun-Cosme and Olivier Tallec
Maybe Something Beautiful: How Art Transformed a Neighborhood
by: F. Isabel Compoy, Theresa Howell, Illustrated by: Rafael Lopez
Nana in the City
by: Lauren Castillo
Monster and Son
by: David LaRochelle, Illustrated by: Joey Chou
I feel so blessed to be learning and exploring on this journey. And the summer has only just begun! Next adventure: my first SCBWI summer conference in July!
Wow, it's been a whirlwind of a Spring! And what a great few months for writing inspiration! After I completed The Children's Book Academy picture book writing class, I dove right in and applied for their Andrea Pinkney Scholarship for the Middle Grade Mastery class. This scholarship aimed to give opportunities for diverse authors to get their stories out there, and guess what? I won a half-scholarship to the Middle Grade writing class!! Woooo! What a great start to a writing class that would change my writing journey. I went through 4 weeks of learning how to write intriguing characters and a story that would grab the reader from the first page. It's been an incredible journey learning from Dr. Mira Reisberg and Hillary Homzie, published middle grade author of several books including The Queen of Likes.
April was the month for amazing book events and author signings. I stumbled upon Jon Klassen's author appearance at my local gift shop in Atwater Village. It was such a wonder to watch him read to a group of rambunctious toddlers and give a little illustration demo. He even graciously signed my favorite picture book of his, and gave me advice to publishing picture books.
I finally attended the Los Angeles Times Festival of books, where I was enthralled by the Middle Grade book talk featuring authors Danielle Davis, Steven B. Frank, Erin Estrada Kelly, and A.S. King. What an incredible panel of inspiring authors! I bought three of the middle grade novels, collected more author autographs, and snuck in a few insider questions when meeting the authors.
And to round out my collection of author autographs for the season, I stopped by Leanna Lin's Wonderlands' author event with Genevieve Santos!! What a sweet and down to earth soul. I talked illustration and writing with her, got a fun sketch and author signature in her newly published chapter book and bought a wonderful, custom drawing of my husband and I for our upcoming Paper wedding anniversary!
Whew! I've really hit the ground running with this writing thing, and I can't wait to see what wonderful, and inspiring experiences summer will bring!
I knew 2017 would be THE year for creativity. To be honest, there hasn't been a year where there hasn't been creativity or some kind of art in my life. Whether I'm sketching my thoughts on a random piece of paper, sharing some late-night doodles on Instagram, or participating in the local art show, there's is no way I could go a whole year without creating something. But this would be THE year for it- I could feel it, and I just had to jump at looking for a way to make this something happen.
I had a children's story jumbling around in my head for more time that I'd like to admit, but never got it past several preliminary sketches. But late last year, I decided 2017 would be the year that I would make my character come to life. I really wanted to dive in and write the story out well, so after a long and windy journey down the rabbit hole of the internet, I found the Children's Book Academy online. (www.childrensbookacademy.com) There were so many courses offered, and the instructor and creator, Dr. Mira Reisberg, was not only the most qualified and knowledgeable person to take my first leap into children's book writing (she's had many years of experience in children's literature and worked in pretty much all aspects of the field possible), but her photo also made her seem like a very warm, and likable person. I decided to take a chance and sign up for The Craft and Business of Writing Children's Picture Books, which started in a few short weeks!
I could not be happier with my decision. It was a six week class, which flew by so fast, and I missed being a part of it as soon as it was over. There was so much material to learn about the children's literature world and how to write picture books, it really was the best way to really dive in to what I wanted to achieve. Mira Reisberg was so kind and generous with her time, and really cared about her students and what we were learning in her class. She, along with Kelly Delaney (an editor at Random House), and Bryan Patrick Avery (who was also a magician on the side!), really made the class enjoyable and engaging. One of the best things I've taken away from this class is the online community of children's book authors and illustrators who also took the course, and the wonderful connections I've made (including a book pen pal in San Francisco who I've continued to share book ideas with!) . In addition, the big bonus of the course is the Golden Ticket- an opportunity to submit directly to an agent or editor at a publishing house, and bypass the slush pile. So exciting!!
I'm so thrilled to say that this class has sparked my passion towards writing for children. There's not a day that goes by without a new idea swirling around for a possible picture book or character illustration. I have learned so much in the short six weeks, and cannot wait to continue to learn more about the kidlit world and work towards getting my stories published. This class has not only been a great educational resource, but also a very inspiring beginning for my passion of writing and illustrating for children.
What an exciting, whirlwind of a time! Renaldo and I were engaged November 2015, and we got married in May 2016 (hence the hiatus.. or detour of creative efforts). This was the perfect opportunity to really dive in and make the wedding ceremony our own. Save-the-dates, wedding invitations, bouquets, boutonieres and ceremony decorations were all DIY. I recruited my wonderful bridesmaids and incredible mom and aunt to help me with paper flower decorations for the ceremony. It was the most fun and amazing day to get married to my love, and celebrate with all our closest friends and family. (Photos taken by our very talented and sweet wedding photographer, Adriane White)
Here you'll find...
my thoughts, and hopefully a spark of inspiration. Enjoy!