Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Our 2017 Books!

This year was a bumper-crop of books for our group! Here are twenty-two titles by fourteen mentees that were published this past year; so many folks even had multiple books coming out – look at them go! As the years go by it is just so exciting to see more and more of our folks with published books.

2017 Mentee Books

A touching and magical journey as a mother tells her daughter how much she is loved: "I whispered these words as I held you near, for all time, for all space, for the world to hear, I will love you."
Available here

Jayna, Bumsie and Pep are three goats who live in fear of being eaten for dinner by the legendary chupacabra. The impetuous threesome set out on a zany quest to find the beast and scare it away.
Available here


Animals and families celebrate blankets of love, from a blanket of flowers in a field to a blanket of kisses that soothe a baby to sleep. Snuggle up. It's story time!
Available here

Cats of all shapes and sizes scamper, stretch, and yawn across the pages of this adorable counting book. And every now and then, then find themselves in the purrrfect fluffy stack! 
Available here
Seeds can be big or small, round or pointy, and all sorts of colors. They can become flowers, trees, fruits, or vegetables, and they sprout all times of year. But all seeds have one thing in common – inside each is a new plant life waiting to emerge. Wait and see what will grow! 
Available here

When Mama hears her boys fighting over yet another toy, it gets confiscated! It's only when ALL the toys are confiscated that these brothers finally learn how to work – and play – together.
Available here
Claudine thinks Santa is a pretty rude guy! After all, he sneaks into your house! Uninvited! She is determined to keep Santa away from her house this Christmas, and the only way to do it is to be as NAUGHTY as possible. Too bad Claudine's actually a pretty good kid at heart...
Available here

This biography examines the life and career of naturalist and artist Anna Comstock, who defied social conventions and pursued the study of science, eventually pioneering a movement to encourage schools to conduct science and nature classes for children outdoors. 
Available here

A little spill could be a small mistake... or the start of a big idea. This deceptively simple story shows how the biggest blunders can spark the brightest innovation. A celebration of creativity and exploration.
Available here

El príncipe knows this girl is the one for him, but, as usual, his mother doesn't agree. The queen has a secret test in mind to see if this girl is really a princesa. But the prince might just have a sneaky plan, too...
Available here

Hush a Bye, Baby
written by Alyssa Satin Capucilli, illustrated by Shahrzad Maydani
Designed to be one of the very first books to start sharing with your baby. In this sweet board book, a parent gently reassures a baby that they will be watching over them as they close their eyes for sleep.
Available here

Yvain: The Knight of the Lion 
written by M.T. Anderson, illustrated by Andrea Offermann
Eager for glory and heedless of others, Sir Yvain sets out from King Arthur's court and defeats a local lord in battle, unknowingly intertwining his future with the lives of two compelling women in this graphic novel.
Available here

The Last Spell – The Thickety #4 
Written by J.A. White, illustrated by Andrea Offermann 
The spellbinding conclusion to the Thickety middle grade novels: Kara and her brother Taff must find the hidden pieces of Princess Evangeline's grimoire to defeat Rygoth and her army of witches in one last good versus evil battle. 
Available here

Sam & Eva 
by Debbie Ohi
When Sam starts drawing a super cool velociraptor, Eva decides to join in. But Sam isn't too happy about the collaboration. Soon Eva and Sam are locked in an epic creative clash, bringing to life everything from superhero marmots to exploding confetti.
Available here

Mitzi Tulane in What's That Smell?

written by Lauren McLaughlin, illustrated by Debbie Ohi
Mitzi Tulane knows how to follow a trail of evidence and solve tough mysteries. From the strange happenings in the kitchen to the sudden arrival of every family member she's ever met, Mitzie pieces together the clues to her own surprise birthday party!
Available here

Ruby Rose, Big Bravos 

written by Rob Sanders, illustrated by Debbie Ohi
Ruby Rose has the best idea ever: she'll put on a dance recital. But when all is finally ready, her audience gets caught in the rain! Will Ruby Rose let a little thunder and lightning ruin her performance? With some swirling and twirling, Ruby Rose finds a way to star in the best recital ever!
Available here

Sea Monkey & Bob
written by Aaron Reynolds, illustrated by Debbie Ohi
Two delightfully anxious friends learn they can overcome anything – even gravity. Sea Monkey is terrified he'll sink straight to the bottom of the ocean, while Bob is worried he will float up to the surface. How will they stay together? Sometimes you just have to keep holding on...
Available here

John Ronald's Dragons: The Story of J.R.R. Tolkien
written by Caroline McAlister, illustrated by Eliza Wheeler
John Ronald loved to imagine dragons wherever he went, and especially when life got hard or sad. But he never actually found one, until one day when he decided to create one of his own. This is a picture book biography of the life of J.R.R. Tolkien.
Available here

The Pomegranate Witch
written by Denise Doyen, illustrated by Eliza Wheeler
When the witch's pomegranates are ripe, the neighborhood kids wonder how they can get a taste. So starts the pomegranate war – a fun, rollicking romp of a battle between the rascally kids and their clever witch neighbor.
Available here

Hooray for Books!
by Brian Won
Turtle has looked everywhere for his favorite book, but it's nowhere to be found! Maybe his book was borrowed by Zebra, or Owl? As Turtle searches, his friends offer to share their own favorite stories, but other books just won't do! Unless maybe it's time to try something new?
Available here

Spunky Little Monkey 

written by Bill Martin Jr. and Michael Sampson, illustrated by Brian Won
Sleepy little monkey won't get out of bed. Mama called the Doctor and the Doctor said: "Apple Juice, Orange Juice, Gooseberry Pies – Monkey needs some exercise!" A dancing, singing book to start the new day!
Available here

An alligator dancing ballet? When the reptile takes her place at the barre, the other dancers are very surprised. They let her stay (Would YOU say no to a 450 pound alligator?), give her a name and even a special ballet to highlight her larger-than-life talents. 
Available here

Jen Betton wrote and illustrated HEDGEHOG NEEDS A HUG (Penguin Books) coming June 2018. She also illustrated TWILIGHT CHANT by Holly Thompson (Clarion-HMH).
You can find her here: 

Monday, November 27, 2017

The Power of Routine: Part 1

This year has been full of adventure and change. We moved across the country (from California to Florida), got married and for the first time in my career I have had the opportunity to pursue art full time!

All of this really began last fall. We had been talking about my art career for months. I love to tell stories with pictures, but it never seemed to go anywhere. I was ready to give up and relegate it to the “hobby slot” in my life. To have a solid opportunity to not only pursue art, but to do it full time seemed like a faraway dream!

After multiple conversations my husband and I came to an agreement: move across the country to Florida and spend a full year dedicated to making art. It was a devastating but necessary change. I felt I needed to take that leap of faith and go all in or I would regret it in the long run.

Scoot forward a couple of months and here I am, suddenly a full time, freelance artist! Change is exciting, but it is also SO scary! Here’s what I realized after the first week on the job:

  1. I LOVE making art every day. It’s AMAZING!
  2. I need to be consistent in order to attract clients and work
  3. I need a consistent portfolio that I feel confident showing potential clients

In many ways, I was starting from scratch. I was making a lot of new work, but I often felt that I was running in circles with no clear vision of what I needed. Although I was putting in 12 - 14 hours daily, I still wasn’t feeling satisfied with what I was accomplishing. So I started doing some research to solve this problem.

Here’s what I learned:

  1. You really can’t go on an adventure without a map - Big picture goals are the guides that get you to your destination

  1. A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step - Breaking big picture goals into bite-sized tasks is necessary to keep from getting overwhelmed

  1. Plan your tour before you go - Prioritizing your goals helps define your daily routine

  1. It’s okay to get off the beaten path - It’s great to have a daily routine, but if something isn’t working don’t be afraid to be flexible or take a break!

First I needed a map. What are my goals as a freelancer? Do I want to focus solely children’s illustration or do I want to branch out more? If I branch out, what other types of work should I add to my portfolio? Do I want to work with companies who are known nationally/internationally or do I want to appeal to the local community as well?

Once I had those questions answered I needed a way to break things down into bite-sized pieces. First, I tried bullet journaling thinking it would be fun to create goals and lists that broke down each step. Unfortunately, that method didn’t work for me. I spent more time making pretty pages than I did actually organizing my goals and time. I then tried going straight to a calendar planner. I tried to break down every hour with what I thought I should be doing. This left no room for flexibility and added unnecessary stress to stay on schedule. In the end, a good ole’ Google Spreadsheet saved the day.

I broke my big picture goals into categories such as (Marketing, Portfolio, etc.). Then I created smaller goals/projects that fit into each category. For example “Update Website” was a project listed under “Marketing”. Then I took the time to break each project into tasks.
Once I had a list of tasks for each project I began working to create a daily routine. I have discovered it’s important to keep my routine simple so that I can still have flexibility throughout the week. Right now my routine has manifested into two “To Do” lists.

The first is my Weekly List. At the beginning of each week I look carefully at all of the outstanding projects and their deadlines. Then I decide how to best tackle each one so I can move forward and meet deadlines efficiently with (hopefully) no stress. I ask myself questions like “Which of these projects is going to take me the longest?” “Is there any project or piece of a project I am struggling with?” “What am I excited about working on right now?”  The answers to these questions help define what will go into the Weekly List.

I try to take a variety of things and space them out so I am not doing a ton of things I am not excited about all week or really spoiling myself by only doing the things I am excited about and neglecting other projects that will be helpful to me later.

After all of those decisions are made, I take all of the tasks and divide them into 5 smaller lists. Each of those lists becomes a Daily List. I try to keep Daily Lists between 8-10 tasks (depending on how long I think each task will take). This becomes my road map for each day so that I have clear goals, but it also allows me to look ahead so that I can still be flexible enough to take breaks or seize other opportunities that pop up.

There are definitely days that I don’t feel motivated or productive, but I have noticed that giving myself structure and clear goals has helped me be more productive and a lot less stressed on this new adventure!

What are some things that you do that help you feel more productive or give you structure each day?

 ~Jeslyn Kate
Jeslyn Kate writes/illustrates for children and teaches art.
You can find her work at 
these different locations:
Twitter: @jeslynkate
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jeslynkateart
Blog: http://jeslynsart.blogspot.com/

Friday, October 27, 2017

How to Get Work Done While Raising Kids: Interview with a Freelancing Mommy - Zara Gonzalez Hoang

Introducing the fourth of four freelance mommies, the very talented Zara Gonzalez Hoang.

Zara has been an illustrator and designer for years but she recently finished illustrating her debut book, Thread of Love written by Surishtha Sehgal and Kabir Sehgal  (Beach Lane Books / Simon & Schuster - Fall 2018). You can find more of her work at www.zaralikestodraw.com. When she's not illustrating, she is taking care of her 3 year old.

Me: Hi Zara! 

Zara: Hey Meridth!

Congratulations on finishing your debut picture book, Zara! And thanks for letting me interview you! With all your projects and raising an adorably squirmy kid, how is it that you manage your time?

Zara: Very haphazardly. I’ve tried a number of time-management strategies but at the end of the day I always come back to the simplest things. I make lists (usually on whatever piece of paper is closest by, which isn’t always the smartest idea) and my most consistent tool is Evernote. I have a set of notebooks called “Top of Mind” where I keep my weekly todo list (a list of all the days of the week with my checklist of things to do for each day – at the end of the week I erase it and start over again.), my shopping list, my list of what to make for dinner for the list and my list of what’s in the fridge (to help facilitate what to make for dinner this week). It's simple but it (mostly) works.
How do you make and keep your goals? 
Zara: Pretty organically. When I am between projects I try to spend some time evaluating where I am and where I want to be and then try to make small goals to try to push myself towards a bigger goal. I’m constantly re-evaluating where I am and what I am doing to keep moving forward.
I’m sure I could be doing much more to facilitate this but since my time is limited this is what works for now and I am content to know that I am making slowly making progress.
Zara's ToDo List.

Be content with where you are at and be patient with what you can accomplish... I love that! How do you balance your life between the demands of a freelancer and the needs of your spouse, kids, and your personal needs?
Zara: Poorly. I rarely feel like I’m doing everything in perfect balance. Something is always getting more attention and other things are being neglected. I have tried to make peace with the fact that nothing is ever in balance though. As a freelancer projects are never consistent so sometimes there is a lot of work and that needs most of my attention other times my family needs more attention and I don’t get to do as much work as I’d like. In every case I tend to short my personal needs the most but I’ve been making more of an effort to take “me” time even if that means stealing the time when my son is napping to read a book instead of working on something that would be better for my career. 

I totally identify with that.
Zara: Things have been a bit easier to balance since my son started going to a half-day preschool 5 days a week but even then things still get crazy.

I'm glad to hear it. What do you do about the mommy guilt?
Zara: Try to ignore it. The choices that I’ve made to be the primary caregiver for my son and be a freelancer mean that there is tons of guilt to go around. If I’m working too much (or if I want to work more) I feel guilty I’m not spending enough quality time with my son and planning super awesome activities for him and if I am spending a lot of time with my family then I feel like I am shorting myself and my goals. 
It's such a tough balancing act. Any tips on keeping a clean house? (It’s definitely something I struggle with.)
Zara: I’m not sure if this is a tip exactly but my best advice is to just accept that you can’t have everything. If my house is spotless then I am probably not spending as much time working as I’d like or not spending as much time hanging out with my family. Honestly, I’d rather have a messy house and a bit more time to work. That being said for my sanity we have a cleaner come in about once a month to do a deep clean and our house is not enormous so we take an hour or two on the weekends do a bit of a “reset” of the house. (put things back where they should go, vacuum, wipe things down, empty out whatever has gone off in the fridge etc) 

Good point! Spotless house means less work done... What have you given up to make more time to accomplish your goals?
Zara: Time with friends, time with family, time at the gym, sleep, a steady paycheck, a clean house. I’ve given up all sorts of things to make more time for my goals. The key is to not give anything up for too long. As a creative person I need external stimulus to keep me inspired. If all I do is work (even if it is towards something that I want) I find that my work becomes lifeless or just impossible to do. So while I do still give up things I try to make time for things that seem frivolous once in awhile.
 How long has it taken before you felt like you had your major breakthrough?
Zara: My major breakthrough in my career or in life? In my career I feel like I’m constantly having major breakthroughs. My career has gone through so many different iterations I feel like I am constantly reinventing myself and figuring out new things about myself. I think my best breakthroughs have come from just consistently sitting down and working towards some goal. I don’t believe breakthroughs come from nothing but from consistently working towards something.
That is such good advice! You can't get anywhere in your career if you are stagnate. Are their any resources that you've found helpful?

Zara: I like this article. It very much expounds on my philosophy of "just keep moving forward." 

Thanks! That is a good article! :) 

Any more advice to us freelance mommies? 

Zara: Be kind to yourself. Everyone is struggling to find balance and the best thing we can do is just accept that we are doing the best we can.

I need to remember to do that! Thanks Zara for all the advice! 

All art posted above is (c) Zara Gonzalez Hoang.

Meridth McKean Gimbel is a freelance writer and illustrator who loves anything art related, story infused, and chocolate covered. When not working on her illustrations or writing stories, she is busy building a time machine so she can hang out with her pirate buddies and find buried treasure. 

Meridth is happily represented by Linda Pratt at Wernick & Pratt. You can follow her work at:
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