Finding My Illustrator

Where did it all begin? Or should I say how?

I had the story, Step One, Step Two, Step Three and Four, so all I needed was the illustrations. Where did I look? I solicited local artists. I was knocked over when I found out price per page. And if you’re going to pay that type of money you better love it. Well I didn’t love them. So I waited. I researched. One of my writer friends had her book totally done by Createspace. It’s when they had an illustrator team. They did away with it.

I found dragonpencil. You could do everything there in one spot. The illustrators were priced low to high. You could tell why they were priced that way. But nonetheless, there was some good ones in there. Still I wasn’t satisfied with the price. I kept looking. I heard a lot about Some people having great luck and some did not. I thought I’d give it a try. I plugged my book in and in seconds had a good handful of offers. Most or shall I say all were from other countries. I checked their turnaround time, their star rating and reviews. Some were relentless and wanted a chance at illustrating your book. I requested an illustration. Some will agree for no fee. I took those seriously. I felt they wanted to work. One gal caught my eye after she illustrated a sketch the way I had envisioned. She was from Romania and wrote clear emails. She knew english quite well. I created an illustrator contract on my own and we both signed and were off and running. The book took four months to complete. Way longer than the contract anticipated. We had a difficult time getting the measurements right for Createspace. I’m not sure if measurements are different there. We were both frustrated. The time change was a killer. One message went between us each day which dragged this out.

Would I have used again, yes. Was it economical? I got to say it was a price I could live with. I definitely would be thinking more around the same time zones. Nbearot soon after, I was seeking another illustrator for My Big Tree since it had it rounds with the agent. We exhausted the industry and I didn’t want to shelve it for five years. I thought it had a multi-premise and saw big things for it. But, this time I didn’t use I chose a different route.

I heard a lot about I was curious. How could people do stuff for five dollars? Well not everything is five dollars. That’s just to get you to check them out. I thought it couldn’t hurt to take a look. I researched children’s illustrators and went through screens and screens of candidates. I found a gal from THE STATES who could draw a pretty fine looking dog. I fell in love with him. I wanted him but I didn’t have a dog in my book. I messaged her and asked if she could draw me a bird. Boom! Amazing and adorable. We signed the contract. The relationship was flawless. I assumed from her handwriting she was a senior citizen with a slew of grandchildren who lived on a farm and raised chickens. Boy was I wrong. Fresh out of high school and into her first year of college. In three months the the illustrations were completed (even with adding a dog last minute) No problems with the cover or set up. If I did she was very accommodating. Would I do again? Yes, best experience. Did I pay five dollars per illustration, no. It goes by how many characters per page, etc. Was the price fair? YES! Be careful because some want you to pay a fancy rights fee which I didn’t think they should charge. If you have a contract to buy all rights you shouldn’t need it. Only drawback is you cannot contact them off the site. The website won’t let you trade information.

I had it set up My Big Tree with Createspace. I was waiting to get the cover uploaded. In the meantime, I went to the Texas Library Association in Houston. I met a publisher who said he’d mention my name to another publisher and three days later I received a call. We chatted about my work and My Big Tree found its home.

Hey, look at me, I’m an Indie author!



Tiny Talk Tuesday with . . . Jim Averbeck

headshot by Sonya SonesI had the pleasure of meeting Jim Averbeck at a LA SCBWI conference.

Jim joined the Peace Corps in his late twenties and went to live in Cameroon in western Africa for almost four years. It was there he first realized he wanted to write for children. You can tell in his portfolio that he paid close attention to detail while living there. Ten years later he sold his first book.

hitchcockJim is the author of the Charlotte Zolotow Honor Book, In a Blue Room and the author and illustrator of except if, Oh No, Little Dragon and The Market Bowl. He studied writing and illustrating for children at UC Berkeley. He was the Regional Advisor for the San Francisco chapter of The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. He continues to create  wonderful work in San Francisco, California.

I couldn’t be more pleased for Jim to say yes to my tiny talk interview. Enjoy!

ME:  How do you want to be remembered?

JIM: I’d like to be remembered for writing stories with endings that are either surprising, emotionally satisfying, or both.

ME:  Finish this sentence. A perfect day would involve . . .

JIM: A perfect day would involve peace of mind and a feeling of being grounded in the present moment.

ME: If you can spend a day with one of your book characters who would it be, and why?

 JIM: Alfred Hitchcock is a character in my book A HITCH AT THE FAIRMONT. I would love to talk to him. I think he would have a lot to teach any writer about storytelling, and any artist about doing it visually.

ME: Definitely a fascinating man.
ME:  Who influenced your writing/illustrating career?

JIM: There are so many people who influence us, but for this interview I am going to give a shout out to my high school art teacher, Mary Ann Meyer. Before she came along, art classes in school were all given at about kindergarten level. She was the first teacher to demand that you work hard at your art. She was even willing to fail you if you didn’t. Suddenly art wasn’t a joke. It was a discipline.

ME: She must be beaming right now. Hail to all room amazon cover

ME:  Describe your writing style.

JIM: My greatest joy when writing is playing with language. So I’d say my style is simple and lyrical.


Thanks so much Jim for be part of my tiny talk. I really appreciate it and wish you all the best in your future successes.

Tiny Talk Tuesday with . . . E.B. Lewis!

lewis I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to meet E.B. Lewis at a LA conference. His work in watercolor is wonderfully rich in detail and expressive.

E.B. Lewis has illustrated sixty-five books for children. Yowsah! Lewis displayed artistic promise as early as third grade. He attended Temple University Tyler School of Art where he discovered his love for working with watercolors. In 1992, he began painting illustrations for the book, Fire on the Mountain, and his career as an “Artistrator” was launched.  E.B. Lewis has received numerous awards, including a 2003 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award Winner for Talkin’ About Bessie; a 2009 Coretta Scott King Honor Award for The Bat Boy and Circle-Cover-353x400His Violin; a 2005 Caldecott Honor for Coming on Home Soon; and a 2009 Coretta Scott King Honor Award for The Negro Speaks of Rivers. He won the Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award in 2003.

His work is owned by numerous private collectors and sold by art galleries throughout the United States. His most recent book is Jacqueline Woodson’s, Each Kindness. You can find him at

I hope you enjoy this special “tiny” talk.

ME: Finish this sentence. A perfect day would involve . . .

E.B. : Walking along the Seine river, with a special friend.

ME: Tell us something that has been in the vault. Something hardly anyone knows about you.

E.B. : Not ready to reveal those secrets, that’s why they’re in the vault.

ME: Describe your illustrating style.

E.B.: Poetic

ME: If you could sit and have a drink with famous artist/illustrator dead or alive who would it be, and why?

E.B. : Picasso. I’ve always loved is approach to art. He used his work to express what he felt about life.

ME: Who influenced your illustrating career/passion?

E.B. : Every artist I’ve come in contact with, both dead and alive in every genre.

It was my pleasure to interview E.B. Lewis. I thank you for taking the time to chat. I look forward to seeing more of your brilliant illustrations in the near future.

Tiny Talk Tueday with . . . Jessica Lanan

I gal from Colojessicarado spent her free time drawing pictures. She created her first picture book at age eight, called “Skeleton Dog.”

Later, she earned a BA in fine art with a focus on sculpture. She was the recipient of the 2011 Portfolio Mentorship Award at the SCBWI Los Angeles conference, and is currently working on a new picture book with Lee & Low Books, slated for sometime in 2015. Jessica has written picture books, Good Fortune In A Wrapping Cloth and Great Uncle Alistair.

I noticed Jessica’s work through Facebook. Her black and white drawing were so detailed. They evoke a lot of emotion. Her color drawings are just as wonderful. Jessica does her work from Denver, Colorado.jessica 1

And now for my Tiny Talk interview with Jessica.

ME: How do you want to be remembered? 

JESSICA:  I think I’d like to be remembered as someone courageous, who wasn’t afraid to break the rules, and who wasn’t afraid to fail spectacularly. There’s a lot of rejection and self-doubt that comes along with writing and illustrating, and I think it takes courage. I think there’s something respectable about someone who can fail, then pick themselves back up and keep going. 

ME: Great advice to us writers and illustrators.

ME: Finish this sentence: A perfect day would involve…

JESSICA: Coffee, spending time outside, my husband, laughter, good food, and a sense of accomplishment, chocolate.
ME: Can’t forget the chocolate!

ME: Who influenced your writing career/passion?
JESSICA: My grandfather loved illustrated books, and when I was a kid he would send my sister and I the most beautiful picture books he could find. I treasured these books and still have most of them. I feel a little sad that he was never able to know that I pursued illustration as a career path.

ME: That is the best answer ever. A great memory.

ME: Where do you get your inspiration from?
JESSICA: Creativity is something that grows organically for me. I really can’t force it. All I can do is try to foster an environment where it can grow. It helps when I get up early and create something just for me before the day begins. I’ll sit down with just a pencil and paper and think “where do I want to go? Who do I want to meet?” Often those morning doodles and drawings are much more interesting and have a much truer sense of voice than my other work. They might not be finished illustrations or ideas, but can end up being the seeds for future projects.

ME: And it truly shows in your work. They’re beautiful.

ME: If you could sit and have a drink with a famous artist or illustrator dead or alive, who would it be and why?
JESSICA: Just one? I guess I’d have to go with Trina Schart Hyman. I’ve adored her illustrations since I was a kid. I’d have her sign my battered copy of “Saint George and the Dragon.”

ME: Perfect!

I want to thank you, Jessica for taking time out of your day to answer my questions. I look forward to more of you beautiful work. Good luck in your future successes.

Tiny Talk Tuesday with . . . Bob McMahon


I noticed Bob’s illustrations while doing an illustrator search. Then I asked him to be my friend so I could get a first hand look at his WIP (work in progress). His illustrations have a certain quality that makes you want to squeeze the cheeks of each character he illustrates. His digital artwork is expressive and full of detail.

For 20 years, Bob McMahon’s work has ranged from advertising, toy concepts, movie posters, educational and children’s books. Bob enjoys creating his unique humorous illustrations from his home studio in Southern California. He is represented by Ronnie Herman.

I hope one day one of my manuscripts can be Bob McMahon illustrated. I’m just in love with his illustrating style.


ME: How do you want to be remembered?

BOB: I would like to be remembered as an artist who drawings make you smile a little. Maybe that’s a pretty modest goal but seeing the horrific things that are happening out there in the world it’s pretty important accomplishment.

ME: Your work brightens my day!

ME: Finish this sentence. A perfect day would involve . . .

BOB: My perfect day would involve sitting down with a nice cup of coffee and working full time on my own children’s book ideas. As fun as it is doing illustrations for other peoples books, I really yearn to work on my own lunatic ideas.

ME: And I look forward to that book that says written and illustrated by Bob McMahon.

ME: Describe your illustrating style.

BOB: Fun. I hope people can see how much fun I have doing these illustrations.

ME: Your work is definitely full of life and vibrancy.

ME: What book character would you be and why?

BOB: Most definitely I would be Harold with his purple crayon. I would love to bring my artwork to life like he does!

ME: Who doesn’t love Harold?

ME: If you could sit and have coffee with another artist dead or alive who would it be and why?

BOB: I would love to sit and have coffee with Chas Addams. I love the dark and completely original way he looked at the world.

Thank you, Bob for taking the time to chat with me. It was a pleasure, and I hope one day we can meet in person to get a photo. Good luck with all your future endeavors.

For my readers, please leave a comment if you enjoyed the Tiny Talk interview and don’t forget to check out Bob’s work.

Tiny Talk Tuesday with . . . Joel Cook

My apologies for not getting this post out this morning, but I’ve been in the midst of moving from one house to another. I did not want to miss an opportunity to share my Tiny Talk, especially on a TUESDAY!

Joel’s self portrait

I met Joel at the SCBWI 25th anniversary conference at the Westin in Houston. This was where I got to know Joel. He not only is he a terrific illustrator but a great dancer as well.

Joel is an art teacher in Houston by day and an illustration all day long.  He is a big fan of art, archaeology, robots and strange stuff.  Some of his that he illustrated are The Littlest Vampire Story and Mayor Jalapeno Hal. He is also extremely talented as comic illustrator. Any kid would love to get their hands on these. Joel likes to work in a variety of media: from traditional to digital.


I asked Joel a couple of simple questions to get to know him a little better.

ME: Tell us something hardly anyone knows about you.

JOEL: Um, let’s see. My studio is also a pseudo art gallery. I collect comic book and children’s art. I have been very fortunate to collect pieces that I have always loved…. I still have a bucket list of around 10 artists whom I would love to get a piece of original art. It’s like treasure hunting sometimes.

ME: Sounds like a fun hobby.

ME: What is your greatest accomplishment?

JOEL: I don’t think I have one that outshines the others, but I have been very fortunate to have a “normal” job (teaching art) that I love going to each and every day. This year I am also teaching sculpture and thinking that I didn’t live a full, complete, exciting life.

ME: I’ve seen some of your sculpture work on Facebook. I love it.

ME: What is your greatest fear?

JOEL: I don’t believe in being scared, which probably sounds macho…. I try to make most days count. I think if I did have a fear, it’s probably being on my deathbed one day, and thinking that I didn’t live a full, complete, exciting life.

ME: I remember teaching. Every day is an exciting adventure, lol.

ME: If you could be a book character who would you be and why?

JOEL: Hmmm. I would love to be Fone Bone. Living an adventure filled with danger, intrigue, romance, and humor… and the occasional Cow Race.

ME: Who doesn’t love a good ol’ cow race?

ME: Describe your illustrating style.

JOEL: I would say that the artists that have influenced me. I would like to think the characters that I draw have an energy that is just waiting to explode. I don’t think my characters have a quietness to them, if that makes sense. It is something I am working on.

ME: One can fully understand what you mean when they look at your illustrations. The illustrations speak volumes. There is an intensity to them, if you know what I mean, lol.

It was a pleasure Joel doing my mini interview with you. Those Houston Kiddos are lucky to have such a talented art teacher. I bet they’re mesmerized each day with your illustrations. I wish you much success and hope that we can meet up again at another SCBWI conference.