2018: The Year of Little Bat
Wow, a fresh new year, and the first blog post in 6 months! I didn’t think it would be so challenging to keep with blog updates once a month, but just looking at the date for my last post, I seriously underestimated my time. Not to say that I haven’t been creative, it’s just more of a commitment to actually sit down and write about what has happened when it’s already happened. For now, I’ll start off my once a month blog writing anew for 2019 (just barely squeezing it into January!) with a look back at 2018 and the amazing journey with a little bat.
2018 was the year for Wake Up, Little Bat! and stepping up my writing game.
Working on the illustrations for Wake Up, Little Bat! Felt like running a marathon, requiring lots of time, patience and perseverance. I would know, I ran the L.A. Marathon in 2015, crossed it off my bucket list, and can proudly say I’ve run one, and now I’m done. :) But unlike the grueling the marathon I finished, my writing journey is just beginning.
My debut picture book released on October 1st, just in time for the Halloween season, and we threw the most exciting and most fun release party at the Griffith Park Merry-go-Round that I could’ve ever imagined. It really was a magical night, with an amazing turn-out of friends, family, kiddos to sing songs with, and of course, introduce Little Bat to, all set in front of the twinkly lights and jolly music of the merry-go-round. I was so lucky to have the help of my husband, close friends and family to add the special touches, chock full of Halloween candy in a customized Little Bat bag, delicious alfajores (those delightful shortbread and dulce de leche sandwich cookies so many of you raved out), and hot chocolate. Thank you so much to all of you who came out to celebrate this memorable occasion with me - big thanks go out to Julio Gosdinski (the generous owner of the merry-go-round, my neighbor and close friend) and Brienne Moore (my lovely and musically talented bestie) for adding their special touches to Wake Up, Little Bat’s exciting debut
I was also fortunate enough to share more of Little Bat with young readers, visiting local pre-schools and even participating in a Skype interview with my cousin’s class all the way in North Carolina! It was such a treat to introduce Little Bat and Squirrel to the excited kids (and also an unexpected surprise to see my huge face on such a big screen).
I have to say, after all the hard work and late hours illustrating Little Bat, receiving texts and photos of kids with my book, and hearing how much they love Wake Up, Little Bat has been my absolute favorite! It still blows my mind to hear how many times parents have read my book to their little ones, and how much kids enjoy the story, time and time again. And it was an extra special treat to see my book made it all the way to the Seattle Public Library shelf for new books! (Thanks for the photo, Josie!)
Little Bat’s journey is only just beginning! I’ve got lots of exciting things in store for this new year, and I can’t wait to share them with all of you very soon!
Thank you all for your continued support of my writing and Wake Up, Little Bat! I would’ve never imagined a very persistent little bat who couldn’t stay awake at night would lead me on this incredible experience of creativity. I look forward to seeing where things are headed for 2019!
Japan Vacation- Part 2: Kyoto
Here it is! Episode 2 of my vlog Book Shops in Japan, aka video travels and the picture book hunt in Japan. (You can watch the first episode of Athens Books in Osaka here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w86Y9VTgQMs&t=5s
Visiting Kyoto was like stepping through time, from the hustle bustle of modern department stores and hotels on the main street of Naramono-cho where we stayed, to the tiny streets and shops where the geisha strolled. One of my favorite parts about traveling to Tokyo was visiting Arashiyama, a small riverside town outside of Kyoto, where my husband and I went to visit the famous Bamboo Forest and relax under the swaying trees. The snacks were delicious and every little shop had the cutest knick knacks to take home. Here we stumbled upon London Books, a charming second-hand book store where I found several picture book gems:
I found SO many great deals at London Books, it was tough to pick a few since we were only traveling with a small carry-on (I ended up shipping most of my books back home anyway). I patiently waited almost three months for my books to arrive, and then I asked my friend Atsuko to help translate them. She has the most adorable one-year old daughter, and an amazing Japanese picture book library for her. I spent a fun afternoon discovering amazing Japanese picture books and discovering the cultural differences between American and Japanese picture books. It’s fascinating, and I’ll share my findings in a later post. Thanks Atsuko, for generously translating the weird picture book, and sharing your books with me!
These are just a few of the picture books I found:
1. はじめてのおつかい (Her First Shopping)
by: Yoriko Tsutsui, illustrated by: Akiko Hayashi
The adorable little girl on the cover immediately caught my eye, and kind of reminded me of myself when I was a little girl, which is something I never saw in picture books when I was little. The story is also an interesting one to see portrayed in a book for children, with the young girl going on a shopping trip by herself! I would be very surprised to see a story like this printed today in the United States, but this was published in 1977 Japan.
2. たなばたプールびらき (ピーマン村の絵本たち)
by: Hirotaka Nakagawa, Yasunari Murakami
I loved the simple, colorful illustration style of these happy swimmers. I especially liked the pages depicting all the goodies swinging on the trees, something I saw everywhere I went while in Japan. Nakagawa and Murakami have worked on several other adorably fun picture books for kids together.
by: Masamoto Nasu, illustrated by: Yoshifumi Hasegawa
My friend Atsuko translated this one, and it was the strangest tale of a doctor deceived by a magical fox. I really like the watercolor techniques used in this picture book, and the rich use of the dark color palette, with rich reds melting into the grays and blacks.
Highlights from Kyoto:
I was awe-struck by all the temples and shrines we saw in Kyoto. We were blessed with sunny days during our stay here, and along with visiting Arashiyama and the bamboo forest, we also took a day to walk around the amazing temples of Kiyomizudera. The spacious temple grounds has a main hall that stands several stories tall, giving visitors the most gorgeous view of the Otowa waterfall and city of Kyoto down below. The surrounding town of the Higashiyama Disctrict was really fun to explore, and we had the most delicious sushi and steak lunch.
Cute cafes and delicious treats!
Kyoto has an abundance of cute shops and cafes to enjoy a sweet treat. I especially enjoyed Snoopy Chaya (with everything Snoopy!), and Qu’il Fait Bon, a creekside cafe with delicious matcha tiramisu and mango tart. Yum! The outside patio had the most picturesque view of the canal, and I could’ve stayed there for hours. And let's not forget the famous cat cafe! (I peeked in from the outside- we all know I'm more of a dog person.)
Fushimi Inari Temple at Night
With so much to see, we even took advantage of sight-seeing at night, which is a wondrous experience in itself! We were surprised by the fantastic light show on the main stairway at Kyoto Station, and took in the sights from above before heading out to Fushimi Inari. We wandered through the famous red bridges at night, with only a handful of other locals enjoying the peace and quiet. It’s a bit eerie exploring the empty park in the dark, and you have to keep an eye out for wild boars, but it’s definitely a sight to see without all the tourists there. I would highly recommend it as a different experience at this famous tourist location.
Nara: Todaiji Temple, Golden Buddha and the scary deer
In Nara, we visited Nara Park including the Todaiji Temple and the famous deer. The temple housed the most massive Buddha statue I've ever seen. Being in it's presence was truly magnificent, and the photos truly don't do it justice. As for the deer, as much as I really wanted to feed them, once I got there, it was more of an anxiety ridden experience for me. The deer, very much accustomed to being fed by locals and tourists alike, are very pushy, and zero in on you as soon as you have their crackers in hand. I wasn't ready for one pushy deer, let alone a growing crowd, so I broke my crackers into little pieces, threw them on the ground, and walked as quickly as I could in the opposite direction. (My one close photo was pre-cracker and I was still nervous about getting as close as I did.)
I truly loved my visit to Kyoto, with its traditional ways, beautiful architecture and expansive, lush parks. I can't wait to return one day. Big thanks to my awesome husband/creative partner/vlog editor for all his hard work on this series. Renaldo, without you, these videos wouldn’t be nearly as awesome, and I would sound 10x more awkward on camera. I can’t wait to share Crayon House in Tokyo with all of you in the next couple of months!
How do you stay inspired when life throws you for a loop?
What do you do to get back on track and start huslin’ again?
How do you keep the creativity and motivation going when the unexpected happens and you just can’t focus on getting the work done?
I’m not talking about the times when you wake up in the morning grouchy as all hell because your child/husband/dog/ghost startled you from your beauty rest.
Or even when you’re feeling just a little bit lazy and want to put off that one thing you need to do just one more day.
I’m talking about times when something happens to you, your health, your family, and it shakes you up and spits you out again. You just can’t focus on anything else. THOSE times.
You know what I’m talking about. Everyone goes through it. I’ve been through it recently, and it sucks. We all have our own struggles to deal with, the battles we fight against those things we can’t control. What did I do? Besides Netflix and veg out on the couch or take walks to Wanderlust for the most delicious, uplifting waffle cone of ice-cream?
I did absolutely nothing creative. I just let it all go because my brain just said no. No to drawing. No to chasing the next story to write. No to sharing on social media. Just nothing.
And it’s just what I needed. We all need it sometimes. Just un-plug and let go.
Take some time for yourself and start over. Recharge. Refresh yourself. Creativity cannot float through the heavy fog in your brain when your body just won’t let it.
As creative beings, yes, we have to set goals for ourselves. We have to keep creating because if we stop sometimes we can’t find our way back. We have to keep moving. But when our minds and souls have their feet firmly planted on the ground, sometimes it means they just need a little rest. The creative cup is empty, let’s stop and enjoy the shade and a nice cold glass of water before we dust ourselves off and pick ourselves back up to continue chasing that creative muse.
Don’t beat yourself up. Take however long it takes. As someone who just can’t shut off the swirling thoughts in her brain, I broke out the puzzle I bought on a whim and finished it in three days. Yup, a 500 piece puzzle in three days. And THAT felt so good. I immediately went on Amazon and proceeded to buy another 500 piece puzzle, which I finished in a few more days. Then I bought a 1000 piece puzzle, and it’s still sitting on the office room floor.
Not because it was the most difficult puzzle I’ve ever encountered (even though it probably is).
That beautiful iconic wave of a puzzle, the one I am determined to finish one day and proudly hang on my wall, is still sitting on the floor unfinished because my mind is at ease, my emotions have settled, time has passed and the creative muse came calling anyway. Or maybe more like a swirling, twirling girl came dancing my way.
And now will begin a new endeavor, another mile marker on the kidlit writing journey. I, like many aspiring children’s book writers and illustrators also work a full-time job, and I continue to struggle with making time for this new passion of mine. I thought, “I can’t do it all. I need to focus on my writing if I want to get better at it." So, I put illustrating aside for a while. But when that well runs a little dry, the illustrations come tapping on my shoulder. I looked down and said, "Well, hello there new friend!"
A very devious little voice in my head has always told me I am terrible at drawing people, and somewhere I still believe it’s true. So all my life, I’ve very rarely made any art with people in them because of that little voice saying, “no, the face isn’t right,” or “ugh, the proportions are off.” But this little break has also sparked something else…
Why not try to figure out how I want to draw people? Everyone has their own style, why don’t I try to figure mine out? So this summer, I’ll be doing just that, drawing different eyes, noses, hands and limbs trying to figure out what I want people to look like. I call it my summer series, and I will be drawing out my favorite summer scenes as I figure out what my people style is. What are your favorite summer activities? If this goes well, I’ll be looking for more summer activities to draw soon!
Good luck with your spark of creativity or enjoy that much-needed break. Thanks for joining me on this creative journey!
Japan Vacation - Part 1: Osaka
I caught the Japan travel bug a couple of years ago, and in April the timing (and the amazing steal on flights) was finally right - my husband and I spent an amazing two weeks in Japan. We explored the city streets in Tokyo, were awe-struck by the temples in Kyoto, and enjoyed the whirlwind energy of Osaka. We were surrounded by beauty in nature and ate delicious meals every day, but the icing on the cake for me was the hunt for picture books along the way. I knew Japan would be an inspiring trip full of color and beauty, so I’m spicing up my blog with a few videos of the cutest Japanese book shops where I found my picture book gems.
Osaka is a busy, electrifying city, and we stayed right in the heart of the tourist area in Namba. We only spent a couple of days there, but we ate delicious street food the area is known for, tried our luck at the arcade, and explored the city streets. Here’s a little video on Athens Bookstore, a small bookstore we went into while in Osaka. Hope you enjoy it!
If I Were a Book
written by: Jose Jorge Letria | illustrated by: Andre Letria
Here's the little book I bought at Athen's Bookstore. I love the way the simple text goes hand in hand with the graphical illustrations. Since I don't read or speak Japanese, I found this to be a perfect example of how strongly illustrations can speak louder than words.
Without even knowing the title of the book, which I didn't at the time I bought it, I found the illustrations created a story all their own- we can imagine ourselves swimming through the ocean, flying high above the bustling city or scaling the tallest mountain in the adventures we take while reading a book.
I found the English translated version of If I Were a Book on Amazon, providing snippets of the actual text written by Letria:
"If I were a book, I'd be full of new horizons"
"If I were a book, I would not want to know at the beginning how my story ends"
Didn't you already get a sense of these words just by looking at the illustrations? The power of art and words, even art without words, experienced inside a picture book is exactly why I love them so much.
Highlights from our short but delicious stay in Osaka.
Our stay in Osaka was a rainy one, but the days were perfect to get lost among the tall buildings, surrounded by the endless posters calling our name to try one savory treat after another.
Delicious street food and cute desserts everywhere!
Below: Earl grey rye pancakes topped with fruit and ice-cream, adorable and yummy roasted green tea latte, okonomiyaki (savory pancakes filled with grilled octopus) takoyaki (flavorful octopus balls topped with fish flakes on a stick) and a warm an pan with vanilla ice-cream inside. For dinner, we had the crispiest, tastiest salt and pepper chicken wings I've ever had in my entire life. Osaka is food and dessert heaven.
My husband and I are not gamblers, but in Japan, there were arcades with bright lights and playful music everywhere. I just had to include these photos of the adorable prizes teasing us and the Miyazaki game that lured me in. Only 1000 yen later ($10) and my husband won me the "ultimate prize"!
Thanks for watching my first ever video blog! Coming soon: Part 2 of my picture book hunt in Japan featuring an adorable little shop in Kyoto!
Hello 2018! Where have you gone already? I told myself 2018 would be full of writing, and it’s already March and this is my first post of the year. (There has actually been lots of writing going on over here, just not much anyone else has seen but me. This post was originally dated February 9, yiikes! Time flies in the blink of an eye.)
Tara Lazar’s Storystorm! 30 days of an incredible almost literal storm of idea inspiration and writing techniques to jumpstart my writing creativity. 30 days in a row of writing! Sarah 2017 would’ve never thought I could manage writing every single day, but that’s what I did every day in January. And while most of those 30 ideas are total garbage, a handful of them are in the works for picture book manuscripts this year. Yeah!!
12 x 12 Challenge! January meant the 12 x 12 challenge registration opened, a kidlit community I waited almost all of 2017 to join, since I found out about it when registration had already closed. This is a challenge of writing 12 manuscripts in 12 months! What?! How would that be possible?! Sarah 2017 spent all of last year writing and re-writing “Wake Up, Little Bat!”, then barely managed to squeeze out a couple of half-finished stories the rest of the year. The motivation was there, but where would I find the time? Answer: there is always a way to make time for your passions, especially with this the community of supportive kidlit writers. I even found a critique group of author/illustrators to bounce my stories and drawings off of- score!
I got back on track with Little Bat! The truth is, it’s been one heck of a challenge! I knew I wanted 2018 to be my year for stepping up my writing game, but life happens and things never go as planned. Things like a husband breaking his leg smack in the middle of the holiday season. Then a double whammy of me getting so sick, not once but TWICE, while picking up the slack of daily life x 2 while the husband was on the mend. Whew! Once I recovered, and the husband was able to walk without crutches and drive on his own, it was time to really buckle down and get serious about Little Bat. I can’t believe I’ve gotten this far, but by the end of March, Little Bat full color illustrations will be FINISHED, and I will be the happiest girl on the block. Happy dance on hold until the end of this month.
L.A. Writer’s Day and filling my creative cup! This was my second time attending the local conference at the Skirball Center, and my first time pitching to an agent. The talks were inspiring, and speaking to other children’s books writers was so much fun. I thoroughly enjoyed Fiona Kenshole's keynote talk and breakout sessions, (especially with her British accent) and Bethany Barton's sense of humor and tips on social media for authors and illustrators The best part about this day was connecting with other incredibly supportive local writers. I now officially have an in-person writing group that meets at one of my favorite neighborhood cafes. When we put ourselves out there and align ourselves with what we feel we're meant to be doing, really great things happen. And I am so grateful.
The beginning of 2018 really threw me for a loop and feeling a little out of whack is a bit of an understatement. The anxiety really built up when I felt the productivity time going down the drain. But I realized there were other pockets of time I could also take advantage of while I wasn’t at home on nurse duty. Lunches on my office work days were split into mini-writing sessions. And I traded late night TV time into illustration hour, even if it was less than an hour after a long work day. When you really don’t have any spare time, even half an hour moves you forward.
The biggest lesson I’ve learned through all of this, is to be kinder to myself. I will always have some looming deadline or a pile of dishes in the sink, or an idea I’ve been dying to turn into a story, but no time to get to. And that’s ok. I can’t do it all, and I don’t want to drive myself crazy trying to.
Listening to podcasts have also kept me sane during this time. Not only creative motivational ones, but stories I can escape with also. Here are a few that get me through my long drives to work and moments when my creative cup is sitting a little low:
Don’t Keep Your Day Job with Cathy Heller (my creative savior and inspiration pitcher filling my creative cup every single week, including the inspirational quotes on my IG sketches. Check out the episode from February 5- How Everything is Possible with Shelli Varela. You will burst from inspiration and all the feels.)
Magic Lessons with Elizabeth Gilbert (Elizabeth Gilbert has written several acclaimed books including Eat, Pray, Love and Big Magic. I love listening to her podcast while I color Little Bat. Listening to her reach out to artists in need of getting over their creative hump, and helping them with her talks with other equally inspiration artists and speakers really keeps the creative energy flowing.)
This American Life (slices of life ranging from intriguing, emotional, controversial and just plain entertaining)
Radiolab (It's been a while since I've listened to this, but there's always something interesting and fun to learn about the world around us with every episode.)
My Favorite Murder (This was my guilty pleasure for a hot minute, until there were later nights alone with Peanut before the hubs got home for work. That and this girl’s most active imagination make for the worse combo, but maybe good writing material for a kidnapping or murder mystery? I’d rather not find out)
Do you have a favorite inspirational podcasts to keep the motivation high? Or an entertaining one to pass the time on your long commutes? Share them here!
Next up on the blog, my favorite motivations audiobooks for April. Or, more realistically, I’ll be back in June for a super fun re-cap blog post from my vacation to Japan in April. Let’s not forget, March is the home stretch for Little Bat!
Happy Holidays and Farewell 2017!
Friends, for those of you reading this, thank you for taking the time, and for your continued support on my kidlit journey. This is a love letter to 2017, a year that's been so good to my creative soul. And to you friends, who ask me about Little Bat and how the progress is going, I am so grateful for your thoughts and wishes of good luck. It means so much to me. Love you guys!
You've been so good to me. On days like today, when my body is achy, my nose is stuffy and all I want is to disappear under a blanket, I think back on the amazing opportunities I've had this past year, sip my tea and just feel grateful. On evenings after a long day at work and a long commute in traffic, when all I want to do is veg out ,and binge on Terrace House or Broad City, I remind myself that Little Bat has been waiting for me all day, just to get a few more of his expressions drawn out (sometimes I give into TV anyway, because nobody's perfect and a girl needs a mental break now and then).
There's no better time than now, while my body recovers from an annoying cold, to take a minute and catch up on my blog before the end of the year. Let's see... I took my first online illustration course with the Children's Book Academy and it was so much fun! The timing was perfect, as I'm still smack in the middle of illustrating “Wake Up, Little Bat!” The structure of the class, the exercises for each week and the lessons and interviews were just what I needed to keep the inspiration train going. I'm telling you, illustrating can be a lonely pass-time, so it was really fun to see other illustration styles and other projects the very talented students were up to. I submitted to the Golden Ticket contest (didn't win this time, but you can't win 'em all!), and it pushed me to think about color (yay!) for Little Bat.
I sent in my final sketches for “Wake Up, Little Bat!” to my editor and publisher! Thats right folks, my entire book is all sketched out! And while there are still changes to be made, I feel ECSTATIC to say I can check this milestone off on my illustrating path. What an amazing feeling!
I also took some extra time to connect to inspiration and fill my creative cup. December was jam-packed with events and I had to take advantage of meeting the very delightful Oliver Jeffers and the positively energetic Cathy Heller. If you ever feel yourself in a slump, get out there and look for events with people who do what you want to be doing. Just feeling the energy of being out at an event will give you the refresher you're looking for. (It didn't hurt to bring along a couple of my closest gal pals for a ladies night of creativity too!) If you're on your own creative path, do yourself a HUGE favor and listen to the Don't Keep Your Day Job podcast on iTunes. Cathy Heller is an amazing force of motivation every one of us creative folks need in our lives. I could do an entire blog post on all the episodes she's hosted alone... (hmm.. now that's an idea.. inspiring podcasts and audiobooks!)
Last week, I reconnected with my book buddy, Emily, a fellow kidlit writer and lover of picture books to catch up on her writing journey as well. So fun and so sweet to chat with someone who loves children's books as much as I do! And did I mention, I was a part of an AMAZINGLY fun webinar through the Children's Book Academy, filled with published writers and illustrators ? Wow, what an honor to be a part of this talented bunch. I learned so much and am so excited to be a part of this kidlit community. (For anyone interested, the live webinar was recorded and is available here bit.ly/AnAwesomeGIFT )
And lastly, this has nothing to do with my writing journey, but I hosted our first ever family fiesta at our house, and it was so full of love and warm fuzzies, I had to include it here too. December, you have been so fun and inspiring, and it's not even Christmas yet....wooooohoo!
You've been an amazing pal, 2017, but I can't wait for what my new friend, 2018, has in store for me!
Staying inspired through the holidays and into the new year!
L.A. Ladies Book Club
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
Back to School time!
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!
Here you'll find...
a little about me, thoughts on my writing journey, hopefully a spark of inspiration. Enjoy!