New Book Release by Arthur Yorinks and Maurice Sendak

 Last week was the release of Arthur Yorinks’ new book, PRESTO AND ZESTO IN LIMBOLAND, which is his lost collaboration with Maurice Sendak. The book launch held at the New York Public Library looked fabulous, one worthy of the author and illustrator. I so wish I could have made the trip in person to celebrate with the Sendak Fellowship family! 

In May 2017, I had the honor of spending a month on the former farm of Maurice Sendak, attending the Sendak Fellowship retreat, hosted by The Maurice Sendak Foundation; Lynn Caponera, Dona Ann McAdams, and Arthur Yorinks. The experience was, in one word, incandescent. 

The Fellows (Terry and Eric Fan, Rashin, and I) were given a sneak peek of Maurice’s orginal art for PRESTO AND ZESTO IN LIMBOLAND, and were able to hear the story of this artwork, which was lost for many years, and then found in Maurice’s archives. Arthur had written a story to go along with Maurice’s artwork many years ago, but both the author and illustrator got busy with other things and the project fell by the wayside.

Photos by Dona Ann McAdams

Here’s a Newsweek article written about the project: 
A New Book From ‘Where the Wild Things Are’ Author Maurice Sendak, Six Years After His Death

And here’s an interview with Arthur on NPR. 

Arthur served as a mentor during our time at the Sendak Fellowship Retreat, and gave inspiring talks to us about books, film, art, and writing. Living in and amongst Maurice’s belongings and hearing the stories about him from Dona, Lynn, and Arthur made it feel as if we had spent time with Maurice himself. 

There are so many more things I want to, and have been meaning to, share about that experience, but for now, I’m sending all my best wishes and congratulations to Arthur Yorinks and the Maurice Sendak Foundation on the release of this amazing project!

 

 

My SCBWI LA National Conference Keynote

 Last month I attended the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators summer conference in Los Angeles, and was invited there by Lin Oliver to give my first keynote speech for one of their national conferences. It was an incredible honor to be invited, and it marked a big milestone for me as an SCBWI member (and also as an introvert).

I recall years of sitting in the audience at these conferences and while listening to keynotes thinking, “I could NEVER do that!” 
Haha! says The Universe. 
What I didn’t know then was that, by now, I would have something to say and something to be excited to share from my experiences over the past 5 years of working full-time as a children’s book artist.

For my presentation, I was able to share about my experience of getting published quickly, and that the difficulties and the learning curve started, for me, after I’d published my first picture book, MISS MAPLE’S SEEDS. In the early days, I approached creative work as though it was a straight line from idea to final painting, and my process was built around a search for the quickest way from point A to point B. I spent years struggling in my approach to the work, focusing on productivity and the end goal, and found that instead of enjoying creating this beautiful work for books that were a dream to be hired for, I was finding myself chronically stressed and creatively burnt out. 

Creativity is not a straight line.  

With each book I worked on, I learned new things about working as an artist, and found that 
#1. Creativity does not work like a straight line. My focus on productivity and getting to the end product as efficiently as possible was the nail on my creative coffin. So…

#2. In order to enjoy the work, I had to focus not on the end product, but on the process of creating the work itself. 

   By shifting my focus onto the creative process, and how to make that daily process more enjoyable, I found stages of the work where I encountered resistance on a regular basis. This can be summed up best by this blogpost I wrote from a few years ago, which is a creative condition I call “THE ‘I SUCK’ DILEMMA”. 

Post about the creative “I Suck” dilemma

There are lengths of time—days, months, years—where the work we’re doing doesn’t look good, and it’s during this time that we experience the most resistance to doing the work. Not only do we not need to resist sucky work, but we can use it and embrace it as an important (and fun!) part of the process of getting to the better stuff.

I’ve been spending the past few years evolving my own creative process, and also reading about how the body, brain, and creative mind work together. This led me to break down a creative process for myself into 7 1/2 Stages, each that have a unique mindset and important function in our work as writers and artists. These phases don’t need to happen in order, and we move organically around them: 

1. DIG for ideas inspired by your childhood interests and your current interests. Ponder them, journal about them.
2. INSPIRE with reference photos, inspiration from other artists, research and information. Study the work of your heroes.
3. COLLAGE together quick thumbnails, studies, sketches, pieces, color swatches, paint tests, lists. This is about quantity over quality. Move quickly, and don’t judge, edit, or analyze. Think later.
4. SIMMER: Let it rest. Put it away. Go do other things and let your brain make connections on it’s own.
5. IGNITE: Moments of insight, clarity, inspiration often come at times when we’re not actively in the work…be ready at all times to capture these ideas. 
6. REFINE the work. Bring your thoughtful, discerning, honing eye. Here’s where you can think and edit. Pull the pieces together. This is about quality over quantity.
7. ASSESS: Step back and look. Share it with people and get feedback. Go to your critique group or an honest friend.
½ step: CHECK in constantly, while in the midst of each stage, to see if you are pushing, straining, angsty, or feeling bored. If you aren’t flowing, then you may be in the wrong phase and probably need to go back to inspiring, collaging, or simmering. 

After my presentation was over, it was awesome to hear feedback from so many writers and illustrators about what resonated with them. 
For those who weren’t there, I’ll share more about my 7 1/2 steps in more detail in an upcoming post. 
I also talked about our creative brain, and shared some really fascinating science that explains how we get ideas, which I’ll also share more about in another post as well.
Stay tuned!

To share a few other personal highlights from the conference: 

This kidlit group from Utah came dressed as Miss Maple and her seeds! Ahhhhhh!!!  ♥♥♥ Amber Alvarez as maple seed, Cari M Lee as Miss Maple, Heidi M Rogers as bluebird, Kristen Shelley as a pea, Elizabeth Child as the acorn

Doing a breakout session for illustrators with my agent, Jen Rofe. (Photo by Debbie Ridpath Ohi; debbieohi.com)

Hearing the legendary author Lois Lowry share stories about writing and her books (Photos by Alan Baker)

Gathering with art director, Cecilia Yung, and several of her illustrator clients for drinks and sharing

Watching Debbie Ohi give a presenation at the Illustrator’s Intensive

Visiting with fellow faculty Lynda Mulally Hunt, Bruce Coville, Debbie Ridpath Ohi, and Greg Pincus at Lin Oliver’s staff party

All of my love and thanks to Lin Oliver, Steve Mooser, and the SCBWI for everything they’ve done to build this amazing community, and for all the opportunities they give their members, myself included. Of the hundreds of people who have asked me “How do I start out in children’s books?” my answer is always the same…join SCBWI. 

Prints for sale!

This has been a long time coming…
I have had numerous requests for prints of my illustrations from book fans, and they are now here.
Find prints of my children’s book art at:

Society6: Eliza Wheeler 

You can choose from a variety of sizes, frames, and other various gifts for teachers, family, and yourself. 

A huge thank you is owed to my husband, Adam, who has been working on getting the shop set up. We will have more art to come from more of my books! If there is a piece of art from a book that you don’t see available, comment on this post, or tweet me (twitter: wheelerstudio), or comment on my facebook page, and I will get it posted for you. 

Thanks for the patience of those who have been waiting, and please do share with people who you think might be interested!

Amazon Best Books 2017

THE POMEGRANATE WITCH  made the Amazon’s ‘Best children’s books of 2017′ list — and to make it extra sweet, it sits alongside illustrator friends’ books; THE ANTLERED SHIP by The Fan Brothers, and THE BOOK OF MISTAKES by Corinna Luyken. Congrats to all!

Check out the full list here: Amazon.com: Best Children’s Books of 2017 

 

 

THE POMEGRANATE WITCH…new release!

 A new book that I illustrated, written by Denise Doyen, came out last week; THE POMEGRANATE WITCH. It’s here in time for the fall season coming up, and is such a fun romp between a group of neighborhood kids from the suburbs, and the old Pomegranate Witch who guards a legendary pomegranate tree.

This release kicked off with an awesome starred review from Publisher’s Weekly!

“Luscious rhymes and an atmospheric eeriness immerse readers in a neighborhood battle: five children versus the witch who guards the tempting pomegranates that hang from a tree on her property: “Its unpruned limbs were jungle-like, dirt ripplesnaked with roots,/ But glorious were the big, red, round, ripe pomegranate fruits.” Wielding tree branches, rakes, and badminton racquets, the children mount an assault in what is quickly dubbed the Pomegranate War, but hoses blasting water, a scattering of walnuts, and the thrashing tree itself foil their efforts. On Halloween, the witch’s sister, the Kindly Lady, invites the town’s children over for cider and celebration—but could the two women be one and the same? Working in ink and watercolor, Wheeler (Tell Me a Tattoo Story) contrasts the rich red of the pomegranates with washes of pale, sickly green, saturating the pages with a sense of otherworldly magic. And yet: Doyen (Once Upon a Twice) leaves many hints that the Pomegranate Witch is less a malevolent presence than a woman who happily plays that role in the children’s imagination-fueled games. Delicious. Ages 5–8. Agent: Jennifer Rofé, Andrea Brown Literary. (Aug.)”

Some peeks into the book: 

Delight yourself with a copy of your own, or ask your library to order one!

Buy THE POMEGRANATE WITCH at your local indie bookstore
-or-
Order from Barnes and Noble here
Order from Amazon here

THIS IS OUR BABY BORN TODAY book birthday!

My new picture book, with author Varsha Bajaj and Nancy Paulsen/Penguin Books, came into the book world today! THIS IS OUR BABY, BORN TODAY celebrates the birth of a baby elephant. Over the course of one day the jungle family and friends rejoice the baby’s arrival. The book is set in the lush wilds of India and is a tribute to all little ones getting their first warm welcome into the world.

I’m so excited to share more about this book, its author, and the process of creating the illustrations later this week on the Picture Book Builders blog.

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A box of real books arrives!

So far the reviews have been lovely:

Kirkus Reviews
When a baby elephant is born, “wrinkled and gray,” not just the herd, but the whole world rejoices, from morning to night. From the proud Mama to the grand Aunts, from the “fertile and firm” Earth to the ancient Banyan tree, everyone and everything around the new baby elephant joins in celebration and care for the Baby “who warms the hearts of the world today.” Glowing with warm golds and greens and shadowed with deep blues and greens, the gorgeous artwork lushly illuminates the day of an elephant’s birth as it is cared for by its family and surroundings. The expressions on the elephant faces are sheer joy to behold; the elephant smiles are realistic and yet radiate affection. Seemingly simple, this gentle rhyming story works on two levels: the playfulness of the young elephant and its friends ensure that young children will be able to see themselves in the story, and given the depiction of the natural scenes, at least some young readers will become fascinated with the lives of elephants as well. An author’s note at the end provides background from the Indian-American author’s own life and also draws attention to the present-day need to protect elephants from poaching and the loss of habitat. The soft cadence of the rhyming verses and the joyous pictures of the elephants will make this a bedtime favorite. (Picture book. 2-5)

Publishers Weekly
Bajaj (Abby Spencer Goes to Hollywood) traces the first day in a baby elephant’s life, an event celebrated by family members, other animals, and even elements of nature itself. The soft, gently repetitive text quickly establishes a soothing message of love and acceptance: “These are Aunts,/ caring and grand,/ who circle the Baby/ born today.” (There’s a hint of “The House That Jack Built” to the episodic structure, minus the cumulative aspect.) Bajaj focuses on a female-centric cast of elephants, subtly referencing their matriarchal societies, and glancing mentions of monkeys and peacocks give a fuller look at the book’s Indian setting. Working in pen, ink, and bright watercolors, Wheeler (Wherever You Go) evokes a lush environment of towering banyan trees and dense vegetation, helping create another personified character in the setting (“This is the Lagoon,/ calm and waiting,/ to bathe the Baby/ born today”). It’s an intimate and celebratory look at the early days of an elephant’s life, and a reminder that human births are pretty special, too.

9780399166846Buy THIS IS OUR BABY, BORN TODAY at your local indie bookstore
or
Order from Barnes and Noble here.

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Published by Nancy Paulsen Books
Aug 02, 2016 | 32 Pages | 9 x 10 | 3-5 years | ISBN 9780399166846

CODY Book Birthday & WHEREVER YOU GO Trailer

Cody pg 1

Page 1 of CODY AND THE FOUNTAIN OF HAPPINESS

Today!
In the life of children’s book creators, many things are beautiful:
A book’s birthday.

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Happy Book Birthday to Tricia and Candlewick!

If you’re looking for a positive book with sweet writing and diverse characters for a 7-10 year-old, this is your book!
MORE INFO

A brand new book trailer.

My husband, Adam, created this beautiful video for a new picture book I illustrated, WHEREVER YOU GO (coming April 21, 2015), by Wisconsin author Pat Zietlow Miller. Thank you, Adam!

MORE INFO ABOUT THE BOOK

Some New Things

It’s hard to imagine two months have already passed in this new year of 2015! With a new year comes new things. Here’s an update on what a few of these things are for me:

Picture Book Builders Blog

PB builders

I’m excited to join a handful of children’s book writers and illustrators on new blog that’s solely dedicated to discussions around picture-books. For each post, the blogger chooses a picture-book or a quality of picture-books to discuss. DSantat_Beekle_CoverWe cover a range of picture books, from new to old, well-known to little-known.  So far I’ve written about: ‘The Steadfast Tin Soldier‘ (Andersen/Rylant/Corace), ‘The Little House‘ (Burton), ‘The Spider and The Fly’ (Howitt/Diterlizzi), ‘The Arrival’ (Tan), and Dan Santat’s newly Caldecott Medal-donned book ‘The Adventures of Beekle: an Unimaginary Friend’.

Check it out at picturebookbuilders.com

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Miller_WYG_jacket_72dpi

On April 21, 2015 the picture-book I illustrated comes out called WHEREVER YOU GO (Little Brown), written by Pat Zietlow-Miller, author of SOPHIE’S SQUASH (which received SCBWI’s Golden Kite award last year!). We were thrilled to get a star and absolutely sweet review from Kirkus:

“A rabbit’s cross-country bike excursion introduces the open road . . . through an animal kingdom of forests, treehouses, country cottages, bustling seaside villages, glimmering cities and mountain overlooks. The sunshine-hued, delicate artwork embraces both the panoramic vastness of the countryside and the definitive details nestled in its valleys, meadows, towns and treetops. Each double-page spread invites readers to stop and look closely at the lichen hugging the tree, the bending roses, the bouncing musicians, the twinkling carnival, the romantic dinner parties, the ships’ many sails, the cactus’ sharp needles, the wisps of clouds on a mountain ridge . . . Children, thanks to captivating artwork and rhyme, will want nothing more than to ride his handlebars, bouncing and merry.”

Here’s an interior spread from the book:

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Another book coming out in May 2015 sporting my illustrations is an early middle-grade called CODY AND THE FOUNTAIN OF HAPPINESS (Candlewick), written by Tricia Springstubb, which is the first in a series.

076365857X

For whimsical Cody, many things are beautiful, especially ants who say hello by rubbing feelers. But nothing is as beautiful as the first day of summer vacation, and Cody doesn’t want to waste one minute of it. Meanwhile, teenage brother Wyatt is moping over a girl, Mom is stressed about her new job as Head of Shoes, Dad is off hauling chairs in his long-distance truck, and even camp has been closed for the summer. What to do? Just when all seems lost, Cody bumps into a neighborhood boy named Spencer who is looking for a runaway cat. With a new friend and a soon-to-be-found cat, Cody is on her way to the fountain of happiness.

Tricia Springstubb’s writing is playful, musical, and endearing. Through the process of illustrating this book I found myself grown attached to lovable Cody and her friends and family. There are over 30 black and white interior illustrations in the book. Here’s one of them:

68-69 copy

After over a year in the making, I’m eager for these new projects to go out into the world and be shared with everyone!

 

Happy Book Birthday SPIRIT’S KEY!

SpiritsKey Invitation

Today I was able to attend Edith Cohn’s book party for her debut middle-grade novel, SPIRIT’S KEY, at Children’s Book World in West Lost Angeles. It seems a rare opportunity to have the author and artist who worked on a book living in the same city, and it was a special experience to finally meet Edith in person and celebrate this book together.

There was a great crowd, raffle prizes, a reading, and dog-bone shaped cookies–what better way to spend a Saturday afternoon?

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A packed house!

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Edith and a professional voice-over artist reading a scene from the book

20140913_150247One thing I learned from Edith was that she was asked by her publisher, FSG, what kind of  cover she wanted, and she said that she liked the cover of DOLL BONES–which is why they approached me to do the artwork for this book! I’m so glad they did.

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Andrew Arnold at MacMillan Publishers did such a fabulous job with the book design work! I’m enjoying finding all the details he used for the jacket and throughout the book. Special thanks to Andrew for choosing me to work with him on this project.

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Decorative element for the chapter openers.

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This map was a fun new challenge for me. I totally loved it.

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So sweet Edith mentions me in the acknowledgements

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Awwww . . . shucks!

Congratulations to Edith, and SPIRIT’S KEY!

To learn more about the book, visit Edith’s site: www.edithcohn.wordpress.com

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