Did you always want to be a writer and artist?
No! I tell this story in my About page. Truthfully, I thought I would work for a corporation and make my way to the top through my tenacity. Less than a year into my first job, I realized was not meant for that! Looking back, I mean WAY back, I was always the writer. Always the maker. Always the befriender. Always the rooter for the underdog. I think it was merely a matter of time before I would be drawn into the “emotions” business and my brain surgery in my 20's happened to be the gateway to my true calling.
Did you go to art school?
I did not. I started with my desire to create my own greeting card line wayyyy back in the beginning. I had no idea what I was doing but the very authenticity of the effort connected with buyers for my simple creations. From there, I practiced. Refining, refining until I landed with an artistic style that worked for me and complimented the messages in my books and other creations. I paint mostly with watercolors and acrylics. Sometimes I use collage. I always encourage people to see what comes from their own heart before automatically assuming it’s not good enough.
Where do you get your ideas?
By listening. By paying attention to the universal emotions that connect us and giving voice to those. Our stories are vastly different but our emotions are not. Marketer Seth Godin once wrote a piece entitled, “Millions of words and only six emotions.” He said our stories are merely costumes for the six emotions built deep in our soul: Anger, disgust, fear, happiness, sadness and surprise. I would also add love. I want my work to inspire connection between people: For people to think, “Wow - that's how I feel, too.” When we feel seen and understood, we feel loved. And more love helps everybody.
Do you have a favorite book of yours?
I have a couple! And they are the books to which I have the most emotional attachment. I love Hooray for You, I Love You So... and If I Could Keep you Little because they are inspired by meaningful stories and /or happenings from my own life.
What’s your best part of your job?
Many things. Landing on a good idea. Figuring out how to bring it to life. Hearing from people who have bought or received one of my books. Speaking with groups to share inspiration, ideas and connection. Watching people own their uniqueness. Helping workshop participants create something beautiful and meaningful. Basically, whenever my work is a bridge to the message of one's heart — mission accomplished!
And your least favorite part?
Taxes! Truthfully, sometimes my least favorite part is that last 4-5 pages of artwork I need to do when finishing a book. Writing is my first love and art (surprisingly) is probably down the list a bit. I'm a writer and communicator. I'm an idea girl. Totally jazzed about ideas. Feels like play. Execution and follow through is the real work!
Do you ever get writer's block?
All the time. Even more common is starting a book and then stalling on it because I cannot figure out where it goes after the first 1-2 pages. I've had to abandon many ideas when I just couldn't make it work in my mind. I do save these efforts, however. You never know when you'll look back on some paragraph you wrote and see something completely new within it! I always re-read something in the morning as well. It's amazing how crystal clear things look in the morning!
Do you have advice for me if I want to publish my own book?
I self-published my first book in 1997! This was LONG before it was easy to do so (through programs like CreateSpace and Ingram Spark!). After running my own business for 16 years, I sold my entire book line to Chicago publisher Sourcebooks, Inc. What I can say is this: It's all about distribution. It's easier than ever to get your book made. And this is the “easy” part. But who is going to buy your book and how will you reach him or her? And even before that to know your objectives. Why do you want to publish this book? To make money? To touch lives? To see your name in print? This, too, may inform your publishing journey.
Alexandra Franzen, a Portland-based writer, pondered the publisher vs. self-publishing question and offers some great food for thought.
Here are several other people, organizations and websites that may be helpful to you:
Jane Friedman is a long-time publishing insider whose blog and e-newsletter is a wealth of information to help you on your writing journey!
John Kremer is an expert on book publishing and marketing. His book 1001 Ways to Market your Books is brimming with great ideas of how to get your work into the world.
The Society of Children's Book Authors and Illustrators — Membership in the SCBWI is open to anyone with an active interest in children’s literature or media. Local chapters offer a place to network and learn.