Vacations are exhausting

I got back from visiting family in Vancouver, British Columbia, under a week ago. Family visits are not so much vacation as eating lots of good food and returning to my old haunts while enduring stress. My dad, sister, and cousins live far away enough that I only visit but once a year. And every year, the schedule goes like this:

  1. spend the first couple of days gorging on dim sum while being lazy and getting over jet-lag
  2. do a few things things while trying not to be annoyed with my father
  3. at the one week mark, I wonder if the whole trip was worth it and vow I won’t return next year
  4. spend the last few days trying to cram in everything we didn’t get to do for the first 1.5 weeks

Rinse; repeat.

Anyway, I’m wiped from vacation and then wiped from trying to catch up this week, so I’ll leave you with a resting squirrel (pretend it’s me) and will be back next with with Vancouver photos.

Hope your July is going well!

My first ever graphic novel pitch

I’ve spent the past 16 weeks in the 20-week Kids Comics Intensive (the link is for you to find out more about the one coming next year). The first 10 weeks are on the craft of creating a graphic novel. We were promised that if we did the work, we’d come out of it with a fully fleshed idea and pitch, and, wow, did it deliver!

Taught by the very talented and approachable Rivkah LaFille, the craft section had me working harder than I’ve ever done on a project before (outside of school anyway). But in the end, it was worth it, and I’m quite happy with the idea I came up with, which is a science-themed easy reader graphic novel. 

Here is the opening page of the story for your viewing pleasure…

I still have to edit my pitch some more but I’m hoping my agent will think it’s a worthwhile project and send it out come September (because publishing has closed its doors for the summer siesta already). 

I ain’t afraid of no hands

A couple of weeks ago, I attended San Diego SCBWI’s MayFest virtual conference. Brian LaRossa, Art Director at Scholastic gave a fascinating and engaging talk on the “dos and don’ts” of an illustration portfolio. I’m a huge sucker for talks that have numbered points because those are often laid out in a clear, logical way that I can wrap my brain around.

One of the things he urges you not to do is to hide hands. A good illustrator needs to be able to draw hands. That was good news for me because I love drawing hands! I don’t do it often enough and I’m probably rusty at it, but I do enjoy it.

Here are some hands I did quick sketches of a number of years back…

You may have noticed that most of the drawings are of the left hand. That’s because I’m right-handed and my left hand serves as the model. That happens a lot, apparently. The one drawing of the right hand is of Kid1’s hand as they ate a noodle dish in Xi’an when we were there in 2013.

Have you ever tried to draw hands? What about feet? Now, THOSE I don’t like to draw. As I said to a friend, feet are like the ugly, malformed cousins of hands. Heh.

Non sequiturs

I saw this “quick and easy” cleaning schedule post from The Spruce. Quick?? Easy?? Good gravy, if I followed this schedule, I’d be doing nothing but cleaning from Monday to Friday. At the end of my life, will I remember fondly all the hours I spent cleaning? I doubt it. I would rather relive the memory of writing all the books I wrote that touched the lives of kids and adults.

And not-speaking of art, this was an illustration I did after I got my first iPad and was trying out a free illustration program. So, I’ve not yet been hired by an art director, but no matter, my drawings still make me chuckle.

Which are you–the clueless monkey with bravado, the clueless penguin with curiosity, or the clueless polar bear with trepidation? Heh!

Chinese people (at least the Hong Kong Chinese with whom I’m most familiar) are fond of dates and cooking with them. Me, not so much. I feel like I really should like dates more, but the only dates dish I like is a duck gizzard soup my mom used to make. It was sweetened only with large brown dates. I never asked her for the recipe because I don’t know where the heck I can buy a pound of duck gizzards where I’ve been living for the past 30 years.

The Spousal Unit loves dates. He didn’t grow up eating them, but some time in the past 10 years, he suddenly decided that they are one of his favorite things. *scratches head* And he claims he has found a new absolute favorite of favorite:

Why buy one bag when you can buy 3?

I’m still not a huge fan of dates, but these, I will admit, are pretty good. So if you’ve ever wanted to try dates, we heartily recommend them.

What happens in critique groups

Let’s suppose you write a Little Red Riding Hood type story. You send it to your critique group.

3/4 of your critique partners reply, “Oh, I see you’re trying to write a Little Red Riding Hood type story. Very good. Here are some ways you might want to consider to possibly improve it.”

1 of them replies, “This is nothing like War and Peace. I don’t understand why there’s a little girl and a wolf in it. The red cape makes no sense at all. Here’s how I would rewrite it.”


There’s always that one person…and I’m hoping I’m not that one person for someone else who never understands their work.

Drawings, part 2

Happily, my talk at the Montana SCBWI virtual conference went pretty well last weekend. This weekend, I’m giving the talk at the Highlights Foundation online class on nonfiction. So I’ve been a bit distracted with updating that (I’d previously presented it in February), and am glad that I already have a post planned for today.

Day 6 – Faber-Castell pen + Tombow Dual Brush Pens
Day 7 – Faber-Castell pen + Tombow Dual Brush Pens
Day 8 – Faber-Castell pen + Lyra colored pencils
Day 9 – Faber-Castell pen + Lyra colored pencils
Day 10 – Faber-Castell pen + Lyra colored pencils

And that’s all folks. Have a lovely weekend!

Challenge yourself

Because I wasn’t swamped and stressed enough with deadlines last month, I decided to try an illustrated journaling challenge on Skillshare.

Some people say that doing art lowers their stress level, but I don’t find that the case for me because I’m very critical of my own work. Despite that, it turned out to be surprisingly fun. And because I didn’t hate the results too much, I thought I’d share a few with you.

Let me know if you try this yourself! I’d love to see what drawings you come up with.

Past issues

I found drawings I did back in December of 2016 on my hard drive. I had a lot of anger issues over a certain event that November. Bet you can’t guess what precipitated those feelings.

But to end on a slightly upbeat note…

I don’t know why I don’t do more ink drawings. Could it be that I don’t have enough time between writing, authoring, baking, knitting, volunteering for SCBWI, 12×12, and a few more things?

Doodle Day 5 #poem and #illustration

“At the drop of a hat” was the idiom for today.

Is Chivalry All Wet?

A drop of rain
was what provoked
Walter to act
so she wouldn’t get soaked.

He dropped to his knees,
undid his cravat,
dropping his cloak
at the drop of a hat.

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