Posted by: Kathy Temean | October 19, 2020



Aida Z. Lilly (Pronouns: She/Her, Salutation: Ms.) was born in Alabama and now calls Denver home. She attended the University of Montevallo and studied English and writing. She holds an MA in Organizational Management and a graduate certificate in publishing. She is the Communications Fellow for The Word for Diversity, and an Associate Agent at kt literary. Her favorite genres are adult and YA sci-fi and fantasy, contemporary YA, humor, and adult general fiction (bonus points for books written by diverse authors with characters that leap off the page). Good writing and pacing are all she needs to get wrapped up in a story, and her ideal day is spent with books, coffee, and bathbombs.


Speculative fiction in upper middle grade, YA, and adult

In YA and upper MG contemporary, I am exclusively looking for stories from LGBTQIA+, BIPOC, and other marginalized groups

Graphic novels for upper middle grade, YA, and adult: author-illustrators with a unique story

Fresh, modern, and original contemporary adult fiction that fits in with my wishlist

Narrative non-fiction (but no true crime)

Across all genres, the writing, voice, and characters have to hook me and make me feel something.

I want stories about the good, bad, and ugly of sex, drugs, and rock and roll. I’m also interested in cults, the occult, mental health, and magic. I’m looking for the kind-of-weird and completely amazing! Good writing is the most important aspect for me. I love great ideas, but I really need the execution of those ideas to be brilliant. I want to be drawn in within the first few pages, and I’m okay with not having all the answers (at first anyway). I want to read the story only you can tell. I want to accidentally learn things only you can teach me.

I love all things speculative—well, except horror (touches of it in other spec fiction are fine though).

What really catches my eye is SFF with real issues tackled in thought-provoking ways, like Grossman’s MAGICIANS series (and show). This shouldn’t be super shocking since I grew up loving the ANIMORPHS series. I like a big, diverse cast with love in their hearts and problems in their lives. Even though these kids had to save the world, they still dealt with familial strife, romantic problems, the failings of adults, and the emotions that accompanied the war and the “normal” lives they had to lead. So give me ANIMORPHS for adults with even more diversity.

On that note, I want feminist projects (especially where feminism is unexpected) and books written by and about people from marginalized communities. As a first-gen Middle Eastern American, I enjoy hearing other people’s immigration tales. If you have written the next KIM’S CONVENIENCE, EMAIL ME RIGHT THIS SECOND BECAUSE I LOVE YOU.

I want ALLLLLLL the queer SFF please! There is so little of it, and it is so needed!

I like mythology (especially when it’s written as beautifully as Madeline Miller does it), music (Juliet, Naked and Daisy Jones & The Six are some of my faves), unreliable narrators, multiple viewpoints, stories that take place at college/grad school, flawed characters, a sense of humor, friendships (complicated ones, too), L.A. stories, tales of NYC, puzzles (think more Dan Brown, less National Treasure), and the atmosphere of Carnivàle, Darren Shan’s CIRQUE DU FREAKEuphoria, and New Orleans. Magic and superheroes are some of my favorite things, especially when those characters act in a very human way and have very human problems (The Boys, Hancock, Super Ex-Girlfriend). I love a good origin story (even if I’ve seen Peter Parker have three of them onscreen…)

My taste veers from AMERICAN PSYCHO to HOWL’S MOVING CASTLE (and lots in between). Engage me enough to make me laugh AND cry. Give me humor and heart (like Handler’s LIFE WILL BE THE DEATH OF ME); give me a character like Dr. Cox from Scrubs or someone Gordon Ramsay-esque, who secretly has a soft center. Conversely, I also want ALL THE DARKNESS. Because while I love the cuteness of Detective Pikachu, I also live for authors like Leïla Slimani, Bret Easton Ellis and Chuck Palahniuk, who capture the ugly sides of human nature in sharp, acerbic light. I won’t shy away from your THREE WOMENTWEAKEDUCATED, or MY DARK VANESSA.


Maybe not the best fit for:

Political thriller
Gross out
Horror (some touches are okay in SFF)
Picture books
Chapter books
Animal protagonists
Flowery language in fantasy
Very technical or math-heavy sci-fi
Historical fiction
WW2 or cops or Civil War/antebellum

Submission Guidelines

Submissions should be emailed to

Guidelines & Details

Fiction: Fantasy, General, Graphic Novel, LGBTQ, Literary, Middle Grade, Mystery, New Adult, Science Fiction, Thriller, Young Adult
Non-Fiction: Biography, LGBTQ, Memoir
Favorite sub-genres: Diversity, Epic Fantasy, Feminism, High Fantasy, Magical Realism, Multicultural, Multiple POV, Narrative Nonfiction, Urban Fantasy, upmarket genre fiction

I’d like the next…

My favorites include…

  • Shows and movies I love: ALL THINGS STUDIO GHIBLI, Kim’s Convenience, Pose, American Horror Story: Coven, The L Word (both), Big Love, Fresh off the Boat (the book and show), Guardians of the Galaxy (and the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe), Supernatural, Lost, Modern Family, anything Mindy Kaling touches (books and shows), Workin’ Moms, Abrams’s Star Trek reboot, The Affair, South Park, Dexter (the books and show), Broad City, The Last Man on Earth (I nearly cried when they canceled this), Diary of a Mad Black Woman, Crash, What Dreams May Come, Interview with the Vampire, Queen of the Damned, Death Note, Straight Outta Compton, Monsters University, The Sopranos, How to Get Away with Murder, Stepbrothers, Zoolander, The Boondocks, Little Nemo, Selena, Shin Chan, Rent, Sweeney Todd, Dope, The Halloween Tree (the book and the movie), The Office, American Housewife, For Colored Girls,  LotR, Mad Men, Mystery Men, Sons of Anarchy, Fringe, The King of Queens, Cloverfield, Super 8, Blade Runner 2049, Good Will Hunting, Adventure Time, Detective Pikachu, Good Boys
  • Books and authors I love: The Awkward Thoughts of W. Kamau Bell (and his standup), Mira Jacob, Daisy Jones and the Six, There There, Eat a Peach, Convenience Store Woman, Double Cup Love, Tweak: Growing up on Methamphetamines, Born a Crime (and Noah’s standup), Tranny, The Hate U Give,  Warcross duology, Leïla Slimani, Rainbow Rowell, The Heart’s Invisible Furies, The Time Traveler’s Wife, I Am Legend (the movie, too), The Amory Wars (and the music about them), Saga, Deadendia, The Devil Is a Part-Timer, Chuck Palahniuk, Kid Gloves, Zatanna and the House of Secrets, Sing, Unburied, Sing, The Wheel of Time series, Hyperbole and a Half, Bret Easton Ellis, Harry Potter (but not Rowling), Artemis Fowl, Riordan and friends, Life Will Be the Death of Me, The Interestings,  Station Eleven, Laura Dean Keeps Breaking up with Me, Hey Kiddo, The New Kid, Furious Thing, Number One Chinese Restaurant, The Girls at 17 Swann Street, Ready Player One (and the movie), Wildwood, Red at the Bone, Juliet, Naked, The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl, Fun Home, American Housewife, Madeline Miller, Gaiman, Christopher Moore, Haruki Murakami, Patrick Rothfuss, The Goldfinch, Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, Kevin Kwan, Dave Eggers, My Dark Vanessa, All of us with Wings, Graveyard Shift, Life of Pi, The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, America for Beginners, The Storyteller’s Secret, Never Let Me Go, Priestdaddy, Educated, Three Women, Augusten Burroughs, Furiously Happy, Okay, Fine, Whatever, Fights: One Boy’s Triumph over Violence, The Usual Suspects (Maurice Broaddus), V.E. Schwab, The Silent Patient, Uprooted, Pierce Brown, The Enderverse, Blake Crouch, The Hunger Games, John Dies at the End

Talk tomorrow,


Posted by: Kathy Temean | October 18, 2020

Book Giveaway: LOVE CAN COME IN MANY WAYS by Terry Pierce

Terry Pierce has written a new board book, LOVE CAN COME IN MANY WAYS, illustrated by Suzy Ultman and published by Chronicle Books. The book comes out on October 20th. Terry has agreed to share a copy with one lucky winner.

All you have to do to get in the running is leave a comment. Reblog, tweet, or talk about it on Facebook with a link and you will get additional chances to win. Just let me know other things you do to share the good news, so I can put the right amount of tickets in my basket for you. Sharing on Facebook, Twitter or reblogging really helps spread the word for a new book. So, thanks for helping Terry and Suzy.

If you have signed up to follow my blog and it is delivered to you everyday, please let me know when you leave a comment and I will give you an extra ticket. Thanks!


Love Can Come in Many Ways celebrates the many diverse ways animals, and humans, show their love.

Lift a swan’s felt wing to discover a baby cuddled underneath, then lift a felt speech bubble to discover the words “You are loved!”

Beneath each of the felt flaps is a wealth of snuggles, hugs, and loving engagement.

  • A heartwarming novelty book with adorable lift-the-flap interactive spreads
  • Features 10 felt flaps total in nine different, eye-catching colors
  • Ranges from the songs that mama frog sings to a warm hug from a papa elephant’s trunk

A smile, a kiss, a word of praise, love can come in many ways.

Delight in the ways creatures all over the world—and in all shapes and sizes—reaffirm their family bonds in this sweet, interactive book.

  • Perfect as a Valentine’s Day gift for your little one
  • Resonates year-round as a go-to new baby gift for baby showers, as well as for gender reveal parties, birthdays, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and more
  • Perfect for children ages 2 to 4 years old,
  • Add it to the shelf with books like If Animals Kissed Good Night by Ann Whitford Paul, I’ll Never Let You Go by Smriti Prasadam-Halls, and Valentine’s Chunky Lift-a-Flap Board Book by Holly Berry-Byrd.

“From one tiny gesture, there arose such a clatter, that the Toledo Christmas Weed garnered national chatter . . . “
–Toledo Mayor, Wade Kapszukiewicz 2018


The journey for Love Can Come in Many Ways began in an unlikely place. Politics. Well, not right in the mix of politics, but rather the effect of politics. After the 2016 election, I was taken back at how civil discourse had degraded in our country. The idea of “respectfully disagreeing” seemed to have gone to the wayside. And friends shared stories of people treating them so disrespectfully, sometimes only because of how they looked. I found these things truly saddening.

So, in early 2017, I decided to write a new picture book with a focus on love—maybe more for my own emotional health and mental well-being! I just wanted to dive into a project that would make me laugh, smile, and feel good about the world. Love is a broad topic, so I first pondered what “kid-friendly” path I could use to bring more love into the lives of young children. What do kids love that I could use to show love? Animals!

I started by Googling “animals showing affection” and oh my gosh, talk about going down a rabbit hole—but this one was a delightful, giggling journey of smiles. One of the first photos I found inspired the opening lines of the book. “Nose to nose, gaze to gaze, Love can come in many ways.”

I didn’t start out necessarily wanting to write in rhyme, but I knew this had to be my opening line. Like many of my books, the words just came to me in verse. So, this one photo gave me a strong opening line and a rhythm/meter pattern. I found more photos and started making lists of animal-related words I could use (tails, mouths, backs, paws, etc.). Next, I worked on a list of affection-related words that kids would enjoy—cuddles, snuggles, hugs, kisses, etc.

It took me about two months to get to a polished draft, with the feedback of my amazing writing group. As with any rhyming text, I was constantly scanning the meter, and playing with the text, tinkering words here and there. It’s easy to mistakenly think the meter stays consistent after edits, so I was always scanning and rescanning.

I sent it to my agent at the time and crossed my fingers she would love it as much as I did. It sat with her for almost two months before she sent it out on submission. What was unexpected was that five days later, Chronicle expressed interest. Not a commitment, but asking for time to show the Chronicle team and one of their illustrators. This gave me great hope that it would sell! About a month later, my editor Ariel Richardson let us the know the illustrator loved the manuscript and an offer would be forthcoming. In July 2017, we got the official offer. And the big surprise was that they wanted to publish it as a novelty book with felt flaps. I’d always been interested in novelty books, so this was thrilling for me.

Over the next couple of years, we collaborated over the book, pouring over illustrator Suzy Ultman’s sketches, tinkering with the text, choosing the felt fabric for the flaps, going over every tiny delightful detail. The collaboration journey (28 months) was quite extensive but pure joy for me.

Love Can Come in Many Ways will be out on October 20. And my dream of helping spread a little more love into the lives of young children will be realized. And boy, can’t we all use a little more love right now?

Available on Amazon:


TERRY PIERCE is the author of twenty-five children’s books, including Soccer Time, Mama Loves You So, My Busy Green Garden, and Tae Kwon Do! (2007 Bank Street College Best Children’s Books).

Terry holds a B.A. degree in Early Childhood Development and an International A.M.I. Montessori teaching diploma.  She was a Montessori teacher for twenty-two years before deciding to follow her dream of writing for children. Terry holds an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts, including the Picture Book Concentration certification. She now writes full-time and teaches Picture Book Writing for the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program.

Though she lived in various parts of the U.S. as a child, she now lives in California, dividing her time between the high desert and the high Sierra. Nature inspires her writing, wherever she finds herself. She lives with her husband and is a servant to two lovable cats.

She’s looking forward to the release off her next board book, Eat Up, Bear! (Yosemite Conservancy 2021) in April 2021. Please visit her at


SUZY ULTMAN has been creating toys and books for family and friends since childhood. A born storyteller, Suzy is an illustrator, product designer, toy creator, and bookmaker of sophisticated and simple objects that inspire and delight young and old alike.

Suzy grew up in Pennsylvania but her life and work have taken her around the world both as a visitor and a resident. From living in Los Angeles to Portland, across the sea to Amsterdam and back to Boston, Suzy’s exploration and immersion into these places influences her work even today. Whether gracing your bookshelf or decorating a nursery, Suzy’s signature products tell a story of connection, community and finding your place within our global family.

When she isn’t in her studio folding paper, designing textiles, or creating toys, she can be found strolling through antique shops, finding treasures at flea markets, and communing with nature. She’s nested with her husband and three sons in their cozy home in Ohio.

Thank you Terry for sharing your book and journey with us. It looks like such a cute fun book. Suzy did a really good job creating the art with this book. Good luck!

Talk tomorrow,


Posted by: Kathy Temean | October 17, 2020

Illustrator Saturday – Lisa Goldberg

Lisa Goldberg is a freelance illustrator living and working on the Lower East Side of New York City.  Her background is architecture, but she rediscovered her love of picture books when her daughter was young, and found herself checking them out from the library long after her daughter had moved on to chapter books and beyond.  Several years ago she took a wonderful illustration course through the online Children’s Book Academy.  She was immediately hooked, and a few years – and a few online classes – later, her first traditionally published picture book, Sadie’s Shabbat Stories, is coming out in October 2020.

Lisa Sharing her Process:

When Mira Reisberg (Art Director at Clear Fork Publishing) first sent me the manuscript for Sadie’s Shabbat Stories by Melissa Stoller, what I loved most about it was the message that storytelling has the power to keep the past alive.  That idea is so powerful as a way of making sense of life, love and loss, I knew I wanted the illustrations to visually amplify it.

After reading the manuscript a few times, I started by sketching lots of ideas for how the two main characters, Sadie and Nana, might look.  (Early ideas included anthropomorphized cats.)  I also looked at how I might compose a couple of scenes that struck me right away as particularly significant.  In the book, Nana and Sadie tell each other stories, and Nana’s stories are all about her relatives in WWI era Europe.  This got me thinking early on of Marc Chagall’s paintings.  I have a big book of his work, and was inspired by his depictions of Jewish life in the Russian village of his childhood, and especially by the way he interwove everyday life with dreams and memories.

Sadie’s Shabbat Stories has been my first experience with being published traditionally, and the whole process was wonderfully collaborative.  Mira’s method was to provide a video critique each time I submitted artwork, and her feedback was so insightful and constructive.  She was very open to my ideas all along the way, and together we began to refine the look of the (human, rather than cat) characters.

Once the characters, and a couple of scenes, began to take rough shape, I created an InDesign document where I played with how the text might spread out across 32 pages.  When I was happy with the pacing, I printed up a stack of picture book templates and began playing with different thumbnail compositions for each spread.  There are lots of templates available online, but I especially like these, from

This particular spread is one of three in the book where Nana tells Sadie a story about one of the family heirlooms that sit on their table every Friday for Shabbat.  Here she’s telling Sadie about the candlesticks, which once belonged to Sadie’s great-great grandmother.

When I had a composition that was beginning to work at the tiny scale of the template, I scanned it into InDesign and worked on placing the text in relation to the image.  When I had a rough sketch with text for each spread in the book, I printed up a little dummy and sent a pdf off to Mira for a critique.

For this spread, my next step was to refine the background.  I made several sketches where I replaced the abstract “bird’s nest,” as Mira had jokingly called it, with a scene incorporating elements from Nana’s story.  I kept a couple of the small inset vignettes from the original sketch, to highlight the most important parts.  Here I was working quite small, with pages about 3-1/2” x 3-1/2,” in pencil on tracing paper.  I find tracing paper is perfect for trying out lots of quick ideas and reminding myself that sketches shouldn’t be precious.

In Nana’s story, Sadie’s grandpa travels as a child with his mother, to visit his grandparents in Europe just as WWI breaks out.  I played around with different imagery to depict that time and place, including marching soldiers, though Melissa’s text does not explicitly mention them.  I also incorporated a bird in the spread, which was something that had come out of Mira’s most recent critique.  The bird already appeared elsewhere in the book, and at this point became a visual subtext appearing in every spread, symbolizing peace of course, but storytelling too in a way.  This pencil sketch was about 5” x 5.”

The next step was to add color.  I paint both traditionally and digitally, and for this book Mira and I agreed I would use Procreate, because of the greater ease in making changes.  I scanned my final pencil sketch and brought it into Procreate on my ipad.  I used neutral, sepia tones for the background, and brighter colors for Sadie and Nana, and for the two highlighted vignettes.

Throughout the illustration process, each of my art submissions and Mira’s critiques were also shared with the author, Melissa Stoller, and publisher, Callie Metler-Smith.  Not often, but on occasion, they offered their input, and here Melissa felt strongly that there should be no direct reference to soldiers or war in the book.  Mira agreed and suggested I find a way to allude to the violence without showing it outright.  Additionally, Mira felt that Nana should be younger and hipper, and offered some specific suggestions for changing her appearance – particularly about being mindful of her nose, given the longstanding stereotype around Jewish noses.

Among the changes for the final illustration, the soldiers have been replaced with the aftermath of violence – broken windows and such – and Nana is looking more youthful and has coloring more like Sadie’s, to emphasize their affinity.  I also ended up moving the bird to the lower right vignette, where its wings echo Sadie’s great-grandfather’s arms welcoming his family home.

Finished Illustration

Interview with Lisa Goldberg

How long have you been illustrating?

I was hired for my first illustration job in 2015, to do a pair of picture books for use by speech therapists working with children.

What and when was the first piece of art you created for money?

I think it was a painting I did while I was in architecture school – I made it in response to a studio assignment and a classmate asked to buy it.

Did you know when you attended Haverford that you wanted to get your masters in architecture?

No, I thought I might apply to art school eventually, but not specifically for illustration.  I wasn’t at all sure though, and after college I spent a year in Japan, teaching English and travelling.  I became interested in architecture there, and thought it would be a nice way to combine my interests in art and math, and also that it would offer a more practical way to make a living than an art degree would.  Again, illustration hadn’t even occurred to me at that point – when I thought of art school, I was thinking of fine art painting.

Did you take any art classes while getting your BA or MA?

Yes, I took some printmaking classes during college – etching, lithography, and linocut – and I took oil painting and ceramics classes in graduate school.

What made you choose The University of Texas at Austin to get your masters?

Well it has a great architecture program, so that was a big factor.  I considered a few other programs too, and in the end decided on U.T. based in part on what a nice place to live Austin seemed to be.  And it was – I miss living there!

Did you get a job using your degree in architecture when you graduated?

I did.  After short stints in a few different offices in New York City, I ended up working at a small firm here for eight years.  It was a good experience, except I felt increasingly that architecture wasn’t the right career choice for me.  I was very lucky to be able to take time away from working when my daughter was young.  That allowed me to figure out how to move- slowly, slowly- into illustration as a second career.

What do you feel helped you develop your style?

Mostly producing a lot of work.  Looking critically at other illustrators’ work too, to try to identify what makes it successful and appealing – or not.  But most of all it seems to take producing a lot of work myself to find out what it is that comes out of my own particular hand and mind that’s worth pushing further.  Illustration is solitary work though, and it’s also been essential to find people to give me feedback along the way.  I’ve taken several amazing online classes, and having my work critiqued by the instructors and other students has been crucial because it’s how I started to understand what other people see in my work.  I’m also a member of the SCBWI and, through that, have found a local critique group which has been really nice.

What type of work did you do when you started your career?

I’d just taken my first illustration class – a wonderful one online called The Craft and Business of Illustrating Children’s Books – when, through a friend, came the opportunity to illustrate the speech therapy books I mentioned earlier.  So, my very first illustration job was in fact a pair of picture books.

When did you decide you wanted to illustrate children’s books?

When my daughter was young, I started taking painting classes at a neighborhood arts center.  At one point a classmate commented that a painting I’d done looked like a children’s book illustration.  A lightbulb went off in my head.  My daughter was little, so we were constantly reading picture books, which I adored.  But somehow it wasn’t until that moment that the thought occurred to me to try my own hand at illustration.

Did you take any children’s illustrating courses?

I did.  I took several online courses.  My daughter was young and I was doing a bit of freelance architecture work so given that, the flexibility of an online class was ideal.  The first course I took was amazing.  It was The Craft and Business of Illustrating Picture Books through the Children’s Book Academy.  It was taught by the incredibly talented teacher and Art Director, Mira Reisberg, along with another insightful Art Director, Kristine Brogno.  That course was illuminating in so many ways.  It covered a really wide variety of topics in a lot of depth, relating to both illustrating and publishing children’s books.  It was interactive and so inspiring.  We produced lots of work and had it thoughtfully critiqued.  It introduced me to a wonderful community of illustrators and writers. Students were assigned to small critique groups, and I stayed in touch with some of my critique partners after the class ended.  Actually, I got so much out of that class that I signed up to take it again about two years later, and got just as much out of it the second time around since I was at a different point in my own journey.  In between the two, I took another wonderful online course: Mark Mitchell’s Make Your Marks and Splashes.

Did you take any online workshops or classes to help you navigate the children’s book industry?

Well, as I mentioned, the Children’s Book Academy course offered a lot of insight into the workings of the children’s book industry.  Both of the teachers were Art Directors at publishing houses.  And all of the students who took the class were offered the opportunity to submit to various Art Directors and agents who were members of the guest faculty.  And Mark Mitchell’s class too included lessons taught by professionals in the publishing industry.

How did Clear Fork find you to illustrate Sadie’s Shabbat Stories by Melissa Stoller?

Actually that came directly out of my having taken the Children’s Book Academy class.  Mira Reisberg of CBA is also Art Director at Clear Fork Publishing.  She’s very invested in helping her students get published and invites them to submit online portfolios to her.  It was a couple of years after I’d submitted my portfolio that I got a call from Mira asking if I’d like to illustrate Sadie’s Shabbat Stories!

How much time did they give you to do the illustrations?

The final illustrations were approved about a year after we signed the contract.

I see you have a second book coming out later this year titled, Teddy. How did you get that contract?

Teddy is the picture book companion to a song by the wonderful “kindie” (kid indie) musician Willie DeVargas.  Willie writes, performs and teaches music to young children here in New York City, and he was a teacher at the preschool my daughter went to.  He knew from Instagram that I was doing children’s illustration, and a few years ago asked me to design a logo for his music label, Super Giant Creatures.  After that I found out that he’d been dreaming about turning a new song he’d written into a picture book, and we decided to collaborate on it.  We’ll be self-publishing Teddy later this year, and have a couple of other books in the works based on his songs.

Was it hard juggling illustrating two books at the same time?

The illustrations for Teddy were largely finished when I started working on Sadie’s Shabbat StoriesWhat we hadn’t yet figured out was how we were going to get it published.  We’d at first hoped to publish traditionally, but have now decided to self-publish, which will happen soon through Ingram Spark.

Do you have an agent? If so, who and how did you connect and how long have you been represented by them? If not would you like to work with an agent?

I don’t have an agent.  I’d certainly be interested in learning more about the agent-illustrator relationship if someone were interested in representing me.

Is Ted and Todd: A Toad Tale a picture book? You say it is from a Leaders Project. Can you tell us the story about this project?

Ted and Todd, Parts 1 and 2, are two books within in a larger series created for speech therapists to use with children recovering from cleft palate surgery.  They’re fun because each one is a little tongue twister of a story to keep the kids engaged in practicing their speech sounds.  Ted and Todd provide practice with “T” and “D” sounds. The Leaders Project at Columbia University is a non-profit program with the mission to make speech therapy resources available to families in need around the world.  They’ve published picture books in several languages which are available free of charge on their website.  A mutual friend referred the Director of the project to me.

Have you done any illustrations for other books?

So far, just the four we’ve discussed.

Have you done any illustrating for children’s Magazines or any other magazines? If so, who?

I haven’t.

Do you have a studio in your house?

I do- I’m lucky enough to have a studio in my NYC apartment, though it also houses stacks of our family’s paperwork and an array of other random items unrelated to illustrating.  Re-organizing in there is high on my To-Do list right now!

Have you ever tried illustrating a wordless picture book?

Willie and I considered making Teddy wordless.  Of course, it still would have followed the song lyrics, so even without words printed on the pages, there would have been words associated with the pictures.  In the end we decided to include the text, but I love wordless picture books.  I think they sometimes allow a reader to feel even more immersed in a story.  I’m thinking of Arrival by Shaun Tan, Journey by Aaron Becker, Sunshine by Jan Ormerod and all of Brian Selznick’s work.

Do you work full time as an illustrator?

I do.

Is working with a self-published author to illustrate their book something you would consider?

Well, Willie and I are self-publishing.  It would really depend on the specific project and my relationship with the author.  With Willie, it’s very much a collaboration and partnership.  The jury is still out for us though on the actual experience of getting the book printed and distributed.  I’ll have to see how that part goes.

What do you think is your biggest success so far?

I would have to say illustrating Sadie’s Shabbat Stories.  It was such a thrill to have Mira ask me to do it.  And working with her throughout the process was incredible.  She’s so good at what she does, it just brought the work to a higher level.

What is your favorite medium to use?

I’d say my favorite medium is gouache.  I also really enjoy sketching with a plain old #2 mechanical pencil, or a Micron or Muji pen.

Has that changed over time?

It has.  There was definitely a time when oil paints were my favorite. Since my focus shifted toward illustration though, I’ve been working smaller and prefer a medium that dries faster.  Also, I’m working at home rather than in a painting studio, so using oils and solvents without special ventilation isn’t so appealing.

Do you own or have you used a Graphic Drawing Tablet when illustrating?

Yes, I use Procreate on my ipad.  It’s pretty great, and as I mentioned it’s how I colored the illustrations for Sadie’s Shabbat Stories.  I love traditional painting, but Procreate is very intuitive, and of course it makes set up and clean up a whole lot easier.  It’s also vastly easier to make changes to a digital piece than a traditional one.

What materials and/or tools do you use to create your work?

I always begin sketching with pencil on paper, and I always use pencil on tracing paper to develop my sketches.  After that, for color illustrations I sometimes transfer my final sketch to cold press watercolor paper and paint with gouache.  In that case I’ll use Saral transfer paper which works like carbon paper to transfer a drawing from one surface to another.  That’s what I used for Teddy and the Ted and Todd books.  In those cases I ended up making some final corrections digitally, using Procreate and Photoshop.  For Sadie’s Shabbat Stories, I brought my pencil sketches into Procreate and added all of the color digitally.

Do you try to spend a specific amount of time working on your craft?

I do.  I try to spend time every day drawing or painting on a personal project, or with no project at all in mind.  The amount of time I spend varies a lot depending on what else I need to get done- it could be just 15 or 30 minutes or it could be much more.  And truthfully sometimes it doesn’t happen at all.  But I’m a much better illustrator – and a better person really – when I prioritize that time.

Do you take pictures or research a project before you start?

Yes, not necessarily before starting on some very rough initial sketches, but soon after, and throughout the process.  The internet is of course incredible for finding visual source material – pictures of facial expressions, body postures, animals, places, period clothing, furniture, almost anything!  For Sadie’s Shabbat Stories I looked at lots of pictures of Eastern Europe in the 1910’s.  If I can’t find just the right facial expression or body posture, I might ask someone to pose for a picture.  I also find it helps a lot just to arrange my own body or face for the action or emotion I’m trying to capture.

Do you think the Internet has opened doors for you?

Absolutely! I never would have connected with Mira, and probably wouldn’t have re-connected with Willie, without the internet.  And the community of picture book creators that’s active online has provided me with so much inspiration and moral support.  Despite often longing for the good old pre-internet days, it’s really been invaluable for me in moving into this second career.

Do you have any career dreams that you want to fulfill?

I’d like to write and illustrate a picture book with an animal rights theme.  Animal welfare issues are a passion of mine and I have a couple of early-stage story ideas percolating for ways to present the topic to young kids.

What are you working on now?

Well, following up on my previous answer, I have an ongoing project to create a series of illustrations which, I hope, may help raise some awareness around animal rights issues.  I’ve been posting these along the way, mostly on Instagram, and sometimes in blog posts.  I’ve exhibited some of them as well.  I’m thinking about ways I might bring them together in a book format.

Another ongoing project that has no particular goal, but feels fruitful, is a series of pencil and ink drawings, that I think of as automatic or stream of consciousness drawings.  I start drawing lines with no subject matter in mind, and as I go I tend to see faces and figures- human, animal or somewhere in between- and develop those.  I do the same kind of thing with paint sometimes.  It’s a bit like searching for shapes in clouds.

Also, I’m working on getting Teddy self-published, and on preliminary sketches for another collaboration with Willie DeVargas.

Do you have any material type tips you can share with us? Example: Paint or paper that you love – the best place to buy – a new product that you’ve tried – A how to tip, etc.

I actually get a little overwhelmed at the idea of switching between lots of different mediums.  I tend to keep it very simple and sketch with mechanical pencils and Micron or Muji pens.  I paint with gouache on cold press watercolor paper.  I’ve long used very inexpensive Reeves gouache paints.  They work for me, but I’ve been meaning to try out some higher quality paints.  One tip for painting with gouache is to use a Masterson Sta-Wet palette.  Gouache dries quickly, and this is a way to keep it wet and workable for much longer.  It’s basically a box with a snap-on lid, and a reusable sponge that sits under your palette.  The sponge keeps the paint wet so you can mix colors, take a break, and come back to paint that’s still wet.  It’s quite useful.

Any words of wisdom for new illustrators?

Well, some things I try to keep in mind myself are: (1) Draw every day; (2) “Perfection is the enemy of the good,” so stay loose – work that’s a little messy is more fun to create, and often more fun to look at too; and (3) Again: Draw Every Day!!

Thank you, Lisa for answering the interview questions and sharing your expertise with us. Please let me know your future successes so I can share it with everyone.

To see more of Lisa’s work, you can visit her at:





Talk tomorrow,


Posted by: Kathy Temean | October 16, 2020

Agent of the Month – Interview Part Two

Jennifer Herrington of Harvey Klinger Agency

Jennifer Herrington started her career on the editorial side of publishing with Kensington Books Publishing’s Lyrical Press imprint and an internship with Entangled Publishing. She’s also worked as a freelance editor for independent authors. After an internship at a New York agency, she joined the Harvey Klinger Agency in 2020. Jennifer graduated with a diploma in Radio & Television Broadcasting and recently completed her Publishing Certificate with a designation in children’s literature at Ryerson University.

Jennifer is currently building her list and is interested in representing middle grade, YA, and adult fiction. She’s especially open to BIPOC and LGBTQ voices in the mentioned categories. Jennifer lives in Ontario, Canada, with her husband, three sons, and two dogs.

Currently Seeking

I am looking for character and voice-driven books that I connect with on an emotional level. I want a book that makes me laugh or cry and extra points for both!



  • Commercial
  • Literary
  • Romance (all genres including SFF)
  • Women’s Fiction
  • Mystery
  • Suspense
  • Thriller
  • Middle Grade
  • Young Adult
  • Graphic Novels

In middle grade fiction I’d like to see:

  • Contemporary stories that deal with tough and realistic issues kids are facing today.
  • Stories that feature humor and adventure.
  • Paranormal, fantasy (except high fantasy), mystery, horror, and graphic novels are also of special interest.

In YA fiction I’d like to see:

  • Feel-good contemporary and contemporary romance.
  • Paranormals with strong world building and an interesting twist in vamps, wolves, or witches.
  • Romantic comedy.
  • Mystery series featuring a YA detective.
  • Sci-fi, fantasy (except high fantasy), horror, and graphic novels are also of special interest.

In adult fiction I’d like to see:

  • Romance with a fresh twist on trope-driven plots includes best friend’s little sister/brother, enemies to lovers, friends to lover, etc. I like sweet to spicy.
  • A strong sports romance (would love a heroine athlete!) or a sexy cowboy.
  • Dark paranormal romances with gritty vamps, wolves, or witches. Think outside the box for world building.
  • Romantic comedy with snarky protagonists and hilarious plot lines.
  • Romantic suspense with equal parts steamy as action.
  • Mysteries, thrillers, and suspense that keep me up all night.
  • Sci-fi and fantasy with romance threads are also welcome.

How to Submit

Please submit your query letter, synopsis, and first five pages of your manuscript to my QueryManager account.



What do you like to see in a submission?

  • I like a strong query letter that gives me a glimpse of the author’s voice and personality. I think of it as a sneak peek into the author.
  • I love strong comparative titles. It shows me the author knows their genre and their book.
  • I find short, snappy, and engaging pitches will grab my attention, and it will leave me thinking about the book after I finish ready the writing sample.
  • An authentic and intriguing writing voice will pull me into the book and make me read more. I don’t have to love your character, but I need to understand your character.
  • I like to read a well-structured synopsis after reading the writing sample to give me a glimpse of the plot. I analyze the structure to see if it’s a good fit, especially the midpoint until the end.

How important is the query letter?

For me, the query letter is essential. It’s usually the first contact I have with an author. It’s the author’s first opportunity to grab my attention and make me want to read their query. I want to remember the author, and a well-written query letter is a great start.

Any tips on how an author can get you to ask to see more?

A strong writing sample is one of the best ways to get me to ask for more. I want to connect with the lead character from the first page—heck, from the opening line! I like a deep point of view that reels me in and makes me care about the character’s story immediately. An emotional connection with the character is huge for me. When I finish a writing sample, I want to need to keep reading.

Do you let people know when you are not interested in their submission?

Yes, I answer all queries. It sometimes takes me a few weeks, but I make sure I reach out to every author that submitted it to me via Query Manager. If an author emails me, I reach out and ask them to send their query to

How long does it usually take to respond to requested material?

It can take 6-8 weeks for me to respond to the requested material. I would love to answer with a month, but at this point, I’m working toward under two months.

Any pet peeves?

My biggest pet peeve is when an author writes in the synopsis box to look at the query. The query and synopsis are two different things. The query gives me key details and a short blurb about the author. The synopsis shows me the structure of your book from beginning to end. I like to see both.

Also, please include the ending in the synopsis, even if it’s supposed to be a surprise. I need to know how the book ends, or I don’t usually request more.

Have you noticed any common mistakes that writers make?

The common mistakes are starting the book in the wrong spot or opening with a cliché. I see many writers open their books with their characters waking up from a dream or staring in the mirror and describing themselves. I’m not saying that can’t work, but it’s tricky to get the opening to be fresh and engaging.

I also see writers not spend the necessary time on their pitch proposals—the pitch, the query letter, the synopsis, and the comparative titles. For many agents, these are just as important as the writing sample. There are times when I love the query package, and although the opening doesn’t quite grab me immediately, I’ll request because I want to see more outside of the opening pages.

What are your feelings about prologues?

I’m not usually a big fan of prologues, but some stories really do need them. I’m not too fond of it when prologues are used to dump information at the beginning of the story. I think, for the most part, the information in prologues can be woven through the book.

Do you have a place where you keep writers up-to-date on what you would like to see? Blog?

Yes, interested authors can check out my website or my MSWL

Do you give editorial feedback to your clients?

I do give editorial feedback to my clients. I like to work with my clients to make their manuscript the best it can be before we start submitting to editors and publishers. I’m a hands-on kind of agent, and I love to edit.



In the subject line, please write “SEPTEMBER 2020 FIRST PAGE CRITIQUE” Example: Paste the text in the email, plus attached it as a Word document to the email. Please make sure you include your name, the title of the piece, and whether it’s a picture book, middle grade, or young adult, etc. at the top on both the email and the Word document (Make sure you include your name with the title of your book, when you save the first page).

PLEASE name the Word document file by putting 2020 September  – Your Name – Title of first page. Thank you.

REMEMBER: ATTACH THE WORD DOCUMENT AND NOT GET ELIMINATED! Your First Page Word document should be formatted using one inch margins and 12 point New Times Roman font – double space – no more than 23 lines – only one page.

Send to: kathy(dot)temean(at)gmail(dot)com.

PLEASE FOLLOW THE GUIDELINES: Your submission will be passed over if you do not follow the directions for both the pasted email and the attached Word doc. This is where most people mess up.

DEADLINE: October23rd. – noon EST

RESULTS: October 30th.


Talk tomorrow,


Posted by: Kathy Temean | October 15, 2020

Book Giveaway: HOP TO IT by Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong

Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong have compiled a new anthology, HOP TO IT: POEMS TO GET YOU MOVING, illustrated by Franzi Paetzold and published by Pomelo Books.

They have agreed to share a copy of the book to one lucky winner. All you have to do to get in the running is leave a comment. Reblog, tweet, or talk about it on Facebook with a link and you will get additional chances to win. Just let me know the other things you do to share the good news, so I can put in the right amount of tickets in my basket for you.

Sharing on Facebook, Twitter, reblogging really helps spread the word for a new book. Thanks for helping Sylvia and Janet!

If you have signed up to follow my blog and it is delivered to you everyday, please let me know when you leave a comment and I will give you an extra ticket. Thanks!


HOP TO IT: POEMS TO GET YOU MOVING is an anthology of 100 new poems by 90 poets—with STEM and social studies connections, thematic mini-lessons, read aloud tips, and extensive back matter featuring useful activities to help maximize student learning and social-emotional development. You can share a new poem or two each week of the school year and get kids thinking and moving as they read aloud their favorite poems using pantomime, sign language, and whole body movements—including deskercise! You’ll also find poems on current topics, such as life during a pandemic, wearing masks, virtual learning, staying connected with friends, and standing up for what you believe in. Take a 30-second indoor recess whenever you need it!

All of us—especially children who are doing remote learning—can use “brain breaks” from our computers right now, and the 100 poems in this book (by 90 poets) will help us get moving. We can climb like cats, learn to sign in American Sign Language (ASL), and dance like rabbits. This book is packed with fun factoids such as; why pigeons make good messengers, who invented jumping jacks, and how sleeping can help you learn a new language. including many with science or social studies connections. In addition to poems about movement, there are pandemic poems about wearing masks and social justice poems that inspire kids to stand up and speak out.

Need a break? Hop to it! The poems in this book will get you moving from nose to toes! You’ll find pandemic poetry about wearing masks and virtual learning—plus poems that inspire you to stand up and stretch your body.

The 90 contributing poets include many award-winning poets and some rising stars, too: Alma Flor Ada, Kathryn Apel, Rebecca Balcárcel, Ibtisam Barakat, Michelle Heidenrich Barnes, Doraine Bennett, Carmen T. Bernier-Grand, Robyn Hood Black, Susan Blackaby, David Bowles, Jay Brazeau, Joseph Bruchac, Stephanie Calmenson, F. Isabel Campoy, Rose Cappelli, Yangsook Choi, Lesa Cline-Ransome, Natalee Creech, Ed DeCaria, Kristy Dempsey, Linda Dryfhout, Alice Faye Duncan, Zetta Elliott, Margarita Engle, Janet Clare Fagal, Carrie Finison, Nancy Bo Flood, Catherine Flynn, Marilyn Garcia, Charles Ghigna, Xelena González, Joan Bransfield Graham, Paul W. Hankins, Janice N. Harrington, David L. Harrison, Jane Heitman Healy, Rebekah Hoeft, Carol-Ann Hoyte, Ann Ingalls, Karen G. Jordan, Jacqueline Jules, Alan Katz, Sheila Kerwin, Julie Larios, Renée M. LaTulippe, Rebecca Gardyn Levington, Suzy Levinson, Jone Rush MacCulloch, JoAnn Early Macken, Marjorie Maddox, Kevin Noble Maillard, Juli Mayer, Diane Mayr, David McMullin, Sarah Meade, Christy Mihaly, Heidi Mordhorst, Laura Mucha, Diana Murray, Lesléa Newman, Eric Ode, Linda Sue Park, Baptiste Paul, Miranda Paul, Moe Phillips, Jack Prelutsky, Deborah Reidy, Leslie Ross-Degnan, Shanah Salter, Darren Sardelli, Michelle Schaub, Robert Schechter, Claire Schlinkert, Laura Shovan, Buffy Silverman, Margaret Simon, Cynthia Leitich Smith, Eileen Spinelli, Elizabeth Steinglass, Mariahadessa Ekere Tallie, Holly Thompson, Linda Kulp Trout, Amy Ludwig VanDerwater, Sylvia Vardell, Padma Venkatraman, April Halprin Wayland, Carole Boston Weatherford, Tamera Will Wissinger, Janet Wong, and Helen Kemp Zax.


We first started talking about doing a movement-themed book back in 2015, shortly after doing an exhilarating presentation on that very topic—poems that get you moving—for the NCTE annual convention in Minneapolis. We usually have several book ideas competing for our interest at any given time, though; other topics pushed this one down the list, as we devoted our energies to shaping the three books in the Poetry Friday Power Book series (exploring the reading-writing connection) and compiling a book of “morning announcement poems” for principals. In November 2019, we decided that it was finally time to hop on this idea and make it happen. At this (pre-pandemic) time, we were focused on a single theme: movement. We started brainstorming a list of ideal topics for a wide variety of movements—from sports to dance to stretching—and in early February 2020, we posted an open call for submissions on Sylvia’s blog ( We received hundreds of submissions—plenty for our anthology. But then we found ourselves mired in the pandemic, wondering whether we should expand the theme of the book.

At the same time that we chose to include poems about topics such as COVID-19, mask-wearing, staycations, keeping connected with friends, and Zoom, social justice protests filled the news and so we expanded our theme once more to include poems about exercising your voice, standing up for what you believe in, marching, and even voting, such as “You Can Do It Right Now.” The result, we think, is a book that sums up 2020 and helps us move forward.

You can see some additional sample poems from the book at our website ( and a list of all 90 poets who are featured in it, too ( We’re incredibly fortunate that the poetry community is supportive and generous, and we loved working with favorite poets from our previous books in The Poetry Friday Anthology for Celebrations and The Poetry of Science (such as Joseph Bruchac, Margarita Engle, David Harrison, Jack Prelutsky, Eileen Spinelli, Carole Boston Weatherford, and so many more) as well as many new voices—both brand-new poets and established authors who are simply new to the “Pomelo Books family.” Probably the most difficult part of being an anthologist is saying no to stellar poems, especially when they’re written by favorite poets who are part of our “family.” We had to do this in several instances where we had multiple poems with very similar approaches to a topic—and room for just one of them.

Here’s a poem that really captures the spirit of our book, “Pep Talk for a Couch Potato” by Eileen Spinelli. You’ll see that the “bubbles” that accompany each poem provide suggestions on how to share the poem, a fun factoid, a spot illustration, mention of poetry skills, and a picture book pairing.

And here’s another favorite poem, “On a Beach” by Suzy Levinson, that transports us to the beach for a calm and restorative 30-second vacation. Read it slowly, aloud, and let your worries wash away!

Here is the link:


Sylvia Vardell is Professor in the School of Library and Information Studies at Texas Woman’s University and teaches graduate courses in children’s and young adult literature. Her current work focuses on poetry for children, including a regular blog, Vardell has served as a member or chair of several national award committees, including the NCTE Award for Poetry, the ALA Legacy Award, and the Odyssey, Sibert, and Caldecott award committees, among others. What gets Sylvia up and moving? Walking all over her neighborhood, taking trips and walking in brand new places, and walking for miles at Star Wars conventions. Learn more about her at

Janet Wong is a graduate of Yale Law School and a former lawyer who switched careers to become a children’s author. Her dramatic career change has been featured on The Oprah Winfrey Show, CNN’s Paula Zahn Show, and Radical Sabbatical. She is the author of more than 30 books for children and teens on a wide variety of subjects, including writing and revision (You Have to Write), diversity and community (Apple Pie 4th of July), peer pressure (Me and Rolly Maloo), chess (Alex and the Wednesday Chess Club), and yoga (Twist: Yoga Poems). The activities that get Janet up and moving are walking with her dog, gardening, and doing yoga. Learn more about her at

Franzi Paetzold is a freelance illustrator from Germany. As a globetrotter and former social worker, she has spent much of her life traveling the world, studying and working abroad. In between work and plane rides, she started publishing her drawings online and taking on small

assignments. She now illustrates full time, and lives with a friend and two friendly cats in Berlin. What gets Franzi up and moving? Going for walks along the nearby river, capoeira, swimming, and (of course) traveling. Her illustrations can be found at

Sylvia and Janet, thank you for sharing your new anthology and it’s journey with us. What a great idea to focus on getting kids up and moving. It is especially needed during this time of schools closed and staying inside. I love how you give poets a place to show off their talents. Good luck with the book!

Talk tomorrow,


Posted by: Kathy Temean | October 14, 2020

Book Winners – Cover Reveal – Kudos – Illustrator Contest


Angie Quantrell won WAY PAST WORRIED by Hallee Adelman

Brenda Davis Harsham won BOBBY BABINSKI’S BATHTUB by Judy Young 

Charlotte Offsay won STEADFAST: Frances Perkins, Champion of Workers’ Rights by Jennifer Merz

Winners please email me with your address. It is a lot of work to track people down, so it would be a huge help.


ROBIN NEWMAN CONGRATULATIONS! for her new book DON’T CALL ME FUZZYBUTT! coming out on March 15th with Sleeping Bear Press. Great cover. I bet there is a book giveaway in our future. It is available for pre-order on Amazon.

KUDOS TO SUSAN BATORI! Love your illustrated cover.

Bear is tired. The weather is getting cool and he’s ready for a nice long nap–he’s got earmuffs and a brand-new door to keep out the noise, plus a pair of fluffy slippers. Meanwhile, real estate mogul Woodpecker finds his recent homes…missing. And he follows the trail of debris right to Bear’s new front door. When he “tap tap taps” to talk to Bear about it, the two engage in a feisty exchange of name-calling and gossip with the rest of their forest neighbors. Can they patch it up–literally–before Bear loses too much sleep?


Jenny Jackson has been promoted to vice president, executive editor at Knopf.

Tiffany Shelton has joined Amazon Publishing as acquisitions editor for Little A and Skyscape. She was previously at St. Martin’s.

Allie Merola has been promoted to assistant editor at Viking Penguin.

Kimberly Carlton has been promoted to acquisitions editor at Harper Christian.

Mary Krienke has been promoted to agent at Sterling Lord Literistic.

Elizabeth Vogt has been promoted to associate editor at Viking Penguin.

At Harper Children’s Nancy Inteli will lead the picture book and programs teams and vp, publishing director Erica Sussman will lead the middle grade, teen, and IP teams.


The Dream Foundry Art Contest for beginning professionals.

This year, the prizes for contestants will be:

1st: $1000

2nd: $500

3rd: $200

There is no submission fee. All rights remain with the creators.  There are no age restrictions on entry.

Art Contest Guidelines

This year we are happy to introduce the Monu Bose Memorial prize for art.  This is a $1000 prize awarded to the first place winner of the art contest.  (This is the source of the first place prize, not in addition to it.)

The Prize is established in fond memory of Monu Bose by her children, Rupa Bose and Gautam Bose. Monu Bose was a lover of art of all kinds, and a graduate of Lucknow University and the College of Arts and Crafts. This Prize is to honor the legacy she opened up for us.​

Dante Luiz is the contest coordinator for the 2020 contest. Finalists will be judged by Grace P. Fong.

Submissions for the art contest will open on September 1, 2020, and close on November 1, 2020. All entries must be submitted via our submission manager.


This contest is for artists who are relatively new to paid illustration work for speculative publications in English. To be eligible for this contest, all the following rules must be true of you:

  • You have a maximum of one (1) commissioned/original artwork for the cover of a speculative publication.
  • You have only two (2) or less non-original artworks (reprint/licensed art) used for covers of speculative fiction magazines or publications.
  • You have never been nominated for any Hugo award for art, including fan categories.

Please note that you are on the honour system for judging your own eligibility. However, we may disqualify any entrants in order to uphold the spirit of this contest’s goals; such determinations of eligibility are decided by the Dream Foundry and are not open to debate or argument.


Submit one .pdf with at least three finished artworks, but no more than five. Those illustrations don’t need to be exclusive for the contest, and they can have been previously posted on the internet. Please include a title for each of the works, and specify which media you used (e.g. watercolors, mixed media, digital art, etc).

All entries are final. No revisions are accepted.
No multiple submissions (do not send more than one .pdf portfolio.)
Entries can be from any country.
All entries must be original artwork (no fanarts). Illustration work only (no collages, photomanipulations, etc).

Please Don’t Send

We are looking for speculative fiction (science fiction, fantasy, weird fiction, etc.) themed artwork. Please don’t send us artwork without a speculative element (mainstream, contemporary, romance, westerns, historical fiction etc.).
No erotica or explicit work.
No fanarts, no collages, no photomanips.


Send all questions to

Submit Art Here

Talk tomorrow,


Joana Pastro has written a new picture book, LILLYBELLE: A DAMSEL NOT IN DISTRESS, illustrated by Jhon Ortiz. Boyds Mills & Kane is the publisher and the book will hit bookstores on October 20th.  Joana has agreed to share a copy with one lucky winner.

All you have to do to get in the running is leave a comment. Reblog, tweet, or talk about it on Facebook with a link and you will get additional chances to win. Just let me know other things you do to share the good news, so I can put the right amount of tickets in my basket for you. Sharing on Facebook, Twitter or reblogging really helps spread the word for a new book. So, thanks for helping Joana and Jhon.

If you have signed up to follow my blog and it is delivered to you everyday, please let me know when you leave a comment and I will give you an extra ticket. Thanks!


When faced with the danger of giants, ogres, and witches, other damsels might quake with fear…

but not LillyBelle!

At the School for Damsels, LillyBelle enjoys many damsel-in-training classes, like cake baking and vocal training, but the rule that a damsel must be in distress . . . not so much. When she’s captured by one villain after another, LillyBelle will need to use her charm and her wit to save herself and prove once and for all that damsels don’t have to be in distress–all in time for tea!


In September/2015, I was disheartened by the realization that the novel I had been laboring on for three years needed a total and complete overhaul. Around the same time, I saw a call for submissions from Cricket magazine for a short story. The theme was knights and castles. I figured writing a short story would give me a much-needed break from the novel. I brainstormed for a few days and landed on the term: “damsel in distress”. Soon an idea came to me: a School for Damsels where little girls learned damsel-y traits and how to behave while in distress (simply wait for rescue). What if my main character loved being a damsel but loathed the idea of waiting for rescue? I took pen to paper, and LILLYBELLE, A DAMSEL NOT IN DISTRESS was born.

The first versions had LillyBelle defying the headmaster and enrolling at next door’s Knights Academy to prove her point—a damsel doesn’t need to wait for rescue, she can very well save herself. After failing miserably at the knights’ classwork mostly due to wardrobe malfunction, she figures out she can use her damsel-y skills to her advantage. She uses her sewing kit—something a damsel must always carry–to make a more practical outfit, and her needlework skills, and the footwork from ballet to shine at fencing. At the end, when the school for damsels is under attack, she resorts to teamwork by joining forces with knights and damsels, and catapults the villain away.

That November, I took it to my critique group — by then I had already missed the magazine’s deadline — and to my surprise, everyone was enthusiastic about it. Some of them suggested I make it into a chapter book. Others thought the picture book form would suit the story well. They also suggested I joined the next ReFoReMo*, which turned out to be the starting point of my transition to picture book writing. I spent the following months trying to write LillyBelle as both a picture book and a chapter book, and eventually chose to invest my time on the picture book version.

In June 2017, I participated in #PBPitch and caught the eye of BookEnds’ agent Natascha Morris with a manuscript about a little Viking. When she asked to see more of my work, I sent three manuscripts. One of them was LillyBelle. She enjoyed my stories, praised the voice and commercial qualities of the manuscripts and offered representation. Two months later we went out on submission with the little Viking story. Meanwhile, I revised the other stories. Natascha noted that LillyBelle should prove her point by using her damsel-y skills in a damsel-y way, instead of changing and adopting a more “masculine” behavior. At first, I was puzzled, how would she fight villains and save herself by embroidering, dancing or cooking? The answer was simple: she didn’t need to fight! She needed to solve her problems by being diplomatic and friendly. I realized this was also a much better message for kids!

Fast forward to Summer of 2018–Natascha started submitting to editors, and soon LillyBelle found a home with Jes Negrón at Kane Press (now BM&K). I was absolutely thrilled to hear Jhon Ortiz agreed to illustrate.

Today, almost two years after selling the book, I get to share her with the world! I hope you love her as much as I do!

*ReFoReMo is Read for Research Month, a picture book challenge held every March by Carrie Charley Brown and Kirsti Call.


For as long as Joana Pastro can remember, she wanted to be an artist of some kind. She became an architect, but once her first child was born, all the visits to the library, and the countless story times made Joana dream of becoming a children’s book author. She chased that dream and now her debut picture book, LILLYBELLE, A DAMSEL NEVER IN DISTRESS, illustrated by Jhon Ortiz, will be published by Kane Press in September/2020. Her second picture book, BISA’S CARNAVAL, illustrated by Carolina Coroa, will be published by Scholastic in Spring/2021.
Originally from Brazil, Joana now lives in Florida with her amazing husband, her three extremely creative children and a rambunctious Morkie.

Visit her at, on Instagram @joanapastro, and on twitter @jopastro.


Jhon Ortiz, I am a 3D character animator and illustrator represented by Lemonade Illustration Agency. My main goal in animation is to create credible, funny and memorable characters, and to achieve that I work every day to improve my skills.

I like rigging and modeling too, but there´s something in animation that makes me very happy. I am a curious person so I’m always in search of knowledge.

If you want to ask me something, talk about a project, a job opportunity or if you just want to say hello, feel free, I would love to be in touch, thanks for stopping by.

Thank you Joana for sharing your book and journey with us. I love how you turned a damsel in distress into a damsel NOT in distress. Lillybelle sound like such a fun character. That fun really shows up in Jhon’s illustrations. He did a great job. Good luck with the book!

Talk tomorrow,


Posted by: Kathy Temean | October 12, 2020

Charlesbridge Children’s Book Submissions

Charlesbridge publishes high-quality books for young people with a goal of creating lifelong readers and learners. They publish fiction and nonfiction board books, picture books, early readers, middle-grade fiction and nonfiction (ages 8–12), and young adult novels (ages 12+).

They believe that books for children should offer accurate information, promote a positive worldview, and embrace a child’s innate sense of wonder and fun. To this end, we seek new voices, new visions, and new directions in children’s literature.

Their nonfiction tends to focus on nature, science, math, social studies, biography, history, and the arts.

In both fiction and nonfiction, they are committed to reflecting and celebrating our diverse world.

To find out if your book is a good match, get to know them by downloading their catalog or visiting


They now accept only digital submissions for all manuscripts, including author/illustrator book dummies. Please do not mail a submission.


Charlesbridge currently accepts unsolicited manuscripts. They are not seeking:

  • alphabet books
  • coloring books
  • activity books
  • novelty books

Due to a high volume of submissions, we respond only to manuscripts of interest. If you have not heard back from us after three months, you may assume we do not have a place for your project.

What to Send

  • Submit your manuscript as an attachment (Word or PDF). Don’t paste your story into the body of an email.
  • Submit only one manuscript at a time.
  • Manuscripts should be double spaced.
  • Illustrations are not necessary.
  • Include your name, address, and contact information on your manuscript and in your email.

Picture books and other books under thirty manuscript pages:

  • Please send the complete manuscript.

Fiction books longer than thirty manuscript pages:

  • Please send a detailed plot synopsis, a chapter outline, and three chapters of text.

Nonfiction books longer than thirty manuscript pages:

  • Please send a detailed proposal, a chapter outline, and one to three chapters of text.

YA novels:

  • Please send a plot summary and the first three chapters of text.

Where to Send



    Charlesbridge currently accepts unsolicited book dummies.
    They are not seeking:

    • alphabet books
    • coloring books
    • activity books
    • novelty books

    Due to a high volume of submissions, we respond only to manuscripts of interest. If you have not heard back from us after three months, you may assume we do not have a place for your project.

    What to Send

    • Please send a book dummy (PDF) or your manuscript and sample illustrations (Word doc or PDF).
    • Submit only one project at a time.
    • Manuscripts should be double spaced.
    • Please include your name, address, and contact information on your manuscript/dummy and in your email.

Where to Send



Charlesbridge currently accepts art samples. We prefer digital samples over printed ones to reduce paper waste. Please send samples that demonstrate strong originality, excellent conceptual abilities, and technical accomplishment in your chosen media.

Due to the large volume of samples we receive, we are unable to respond to queries about them. We will contact you if we have a project that suits your particular talents.

What to Send

  • For digital samples, send PDF or JPG portfolios. Be sure your name is in the filename.
  • If you have a website or online portfolio, please include the URL in your email.
  • For mailed samples, send artwork postcards. Be sure your contact info is printed on the card.
  • Do not send original art; we cannot return any submission.

Where to Send

  • Email with “portfolio” in your subject line.
  • Mail to Art Director—Submissions | Charlesbridge | 9 Galen Street, Suite 220 | Watertown, MA 02472


IMAGINE! PUBLISHING – Submission Guidelines

Imagine is the adult nonfiction imprint of Charlesbridge. We publish 8–10 titles a year, primarily focused on history, politics, women’s studies, and nature.

Due to the high volume of submissions, we respond only to manuscripts of interest to us.

“These guidelines are for informational purposes only and do not constitute a solicitation of any manuscript, artwork, or other material. Submission of any materials shall be done at the author/illustrator’s own risk.” Charlesbridge

Talk tomorrow,


Alayne Kay Christian has a new picture book, THE WEED THAT WOKE CHRISTMAS, illustrated by Polina Gortman and published by Blue Wale Press. They have agreed to share a copy of the book to one lucky winner. All you have to do to get in the running is leave a comment. Reblog, tweet, or talk about it on Facebook with a link and you will get additional chances to win. Just let me know the other things you do to share the good news, so I can put in the right amount of tickets in my basket for you.

Sharing on Facebook, Twitter, reblogging really helps spread the word for a new book. Thanks for helping Alayne and Polina!

If you have signed up to follow my blog and it is delivered to you everyday, please let me know when you leave a comment and I will give you an extra ticket. Thanks!


The The Weed that Woke Christmas: The Mostly True Tale of the Toledo Christmas Tree is the story of a small gesture that turned into a phenomenon that was seen around the world. Partly truth and partly fiction, it is based on the inspiring true story of how a weed on a Toledo street corner helped spread the giving spirit far beyond its traffic island home. All Weed wants is to be seen, but people are in too much of a hurry to notice each other, let alone Weed. Weed watches, wishes, and waits until finally someone does see it. But Weed discovers that there is something far bigger and more important than a little weed being noticed.


There are several, but similar, versions of what happened in Toledo, Ohio in 2018. The following is my paraphrased version based on my memory of the day I first learned about the wondrous Christmas Weed.

It was just another Christmastime day in Texas until a little brown, shriveled up weed that was overloaded with Christmas decorations popped up on my television screen. I watched the corner of Secor and W. Alexis all abuzz with people celebrating the Toledo Christmas Weed. And I listened to its inspiring story on the news.

It all started with one small gesture. A family on their way home from church rode past the weed and a girl in the car commented that it reminded her of the Charlie Brown Christmas Tree. The family stopped at a nearby store and bought the garland that would soon adorn the weed. Later, a woman left a small gift under the weed. From there, magic happened with the spirit of giving growing more than anyone could have ever imagined.

Stories of the Toledo Christmas Weed spread, and people reported the activity in social media. It was even reported on television and in newspapers all across the United States. People came from around the world to join in the jubilation. Safety became a problem with so many people crowding around, and all the donations were falling into the street. So the city set up donation points near the sidewalk where it was safer. Toys, clothing, water, food, blankets, pet food, and more overflowed the donation boxes and more lined the sidewalk. The donations were given to various charities, but the gifts just kept coming.

Sadly, on December 28, someone stole the Christmas Weed. The news called that “someone” a Grinch. He was caught on news cameras pulling the Christmas Weed from the ground, grabbing armfuls of gifts, and throwing it all in his trunk before taking off in his car. The next day, local Girl Scouts and Cub Scouts cleaned up the area under the supervision of the police, and donations were given to local charities. Toledo’s Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz signed a proclamation celebrating the Toledo Christmas Weed and the togetherness and jollity it brought to the area. He read it on the radio for all to hear. The mayor invited Toledo residents to join him in celebrating the Christmas Weed and the camaraderie and community that it inspired.

First Attempts at Writing the Story

I knew immediately that this story had to be shared, and what better way to share than in a picture book. I researched and followed the Toledo Christmas Weed until the stories stopped coming. And I was amazed how the magic grew from the time I first heard the news report. I had gathered enough information that my inspiration to write the story ripened, and I was ready to write. But, when I tried to go the full nonfiction route, it felt too adult, and I wasn’t feeling the heart of the story that I wanted to tell. Thinking, since this is a children’s book, it should have a child protagonist, I decided to write it from the girl’s perspective. This led me to stray from the true story. In this version, the little girl decorates the weed and then visits it frequently to see how the Christmas spirit is growing all around it. But then, during an ice storm, a car slides into the weed. The brokenhearted girl decides that maybe she can save the weed, so she takes it home. Meanwhile, people bring potted plants, decorate them, and line the whole traffic island with their Christmas plants. The girl hangs a sign that reads “Birthplace of the Christmas Weed and The Giving Place.” The girl nurses the weed back to health and plants it on the traffic island. The weed thrives, and in the spring, it’s revealed that the weed is actually a unique looking Christmas tree. In the summer, the little girl plants flowers around the tree, and people hang gifts on the tree and bring donations to the new “Giving Place.” The final text reads, “The Christmas tree that once was a little seed tumbling in the wind became a symbol of giving the year round. And people noticed.” But the story was wordy and not as focused as I would have liked, making it a bit complicated as well. I still wasn’t “feeling” it. So, I took a risk.

Progression to Final Version

I decided to listen to my inner voice and write the story from the weed’s perspective. It was worth it to me to let go of my desire to write the nonfiction story, or have a child the protagonist, in order to write the story my heart told me to write. After critique buddies’ thoughts and writing many more versions, I simplified the text and honored my need to be a little more lyrical. I liked this final version because it is multifaceted in message with several different layers. It is about the desire to be “seen” or noticed when it seems no one sees you, which really equates to the desire to know that someone cares about you. It’s confirmation that you exist when perhaps your experiences have left you feeling invisible. Perhaps Weed isn’t insecure at all. Perhaps Weed is self-absorbed just like the townspeople around it. But whatever Weed’s true desire to be seen, once the little girl notices it, and it becomes the center of everyone’s attention, Weed realizes that there is something much more important than the desires of one little weed. So, there are messages of self-esteem, selflessness, and the more important messages of kindness, giving, unity, community, hope and more. I hope you will read it and find for yourself what the book means to you and let your children find their own message from the many layers this story offers.

Earlier I mentioned that I liked this version. Once artist Polina Gortman deepened the story and the messages with her own visual storytelling, I now love this version. I am super proud of it, and that is not something I often say related to me or mine. The visual story really brings home the messages of kindness, unity, and community. I love how Polina parallels Weed’s story with that of a homeless man who is seeking kindness. The text and illustrations together, in my humble opinion, are magic. That mix of two creative hearts coming together via text and art is what picture books are all about.

A Little About the Title

The title was a bit tricky. My first title was simply The Christmas Weed. After about the ninth comment (jokes in some cases) that someone connected the title with marijuana, I decided it wasn’t the best way to go. I bounced around titles like No One Noticed, The Spirit of Giving, The Giving Place, and more. But nothing I came up with seemed right. So, I thought about what happens in the story, and I realized that unaware people (who are basically sleepwalking through life) are awakened by the phenomenon of the Christmas Weed. And the title The Weed That Woke Christmas was born. I also felt it was important to honor the true story of the weed and the place that it occurred, Toledo. So, we decided on the subtitle The Mostly True Tale of the Toledo Christmas Weed. And now comes the part about launching a book in 2020.

Launching Books in 2020

2020 has been a trying year for most people. I feel like I should talk about that a little bit from the publishing side of the world and my personal book journey. The pandemic has had a major impact on children’s publishing for many reasons. Distraction, job loss leading to decreased budgets, school and library closings, business closings, and on and on we go. The majority of authors I know who were expecting 2020 releases had their books moved out to 2021 by their publishers. I was given the choice with my most recent books, and I decided to fight the virus and not let the world stop turning. I opted for 2020 releases. However, at that time, I didn’t know that I would barely be home from the hospital from knee replacement surgery when An Old Man and His Penguin would be launched. Or that my oldest brother would give up his earthly struggle three days before the launch of The Weed That Woke Christmas. As I write this post, with a broken heart, I prepare to travel to Missouri to say my final goodbye to my big brother. With these challenging life events, focusing on my books and their launches has been nearly impossible for me.

I mention the above because I think the challenges we have all faced in 2020, along with my own personal challenges, have dampened the joy that typically comes with a book journey. However, it is my nature to fight, and I will fight for my babies (books), not only for myself but also for the illustrators who brought them to life Polina Gortman, Milanka Reardon, and soon Blake Marsee (Sienna, the Cowgirl Fairy: Cowboy Trouble). I will do my best to recover from my physical and emotional setbacks and help these beautiful books find their way into the world. This post is a step in that direction. Please don’t get me wrong, the path that these books put me on has delivered many moments of joy and comfort. I am so grateful for the experience of seeing them come alive illustration by illustration until they became the beautifully completed books that they are today. Some of the fabulous reviews brought tears of joy to my eyes. So, I can say that without these book journeys 2020 would have felt much bleaker. So I guess, I want to end this part about my book journey/personal struggles by encouraging everyone who is fighting, accepting, or dealing with whatever 2020 has brought your way, keep the faith. And if you are an author or illustrator, my wish for you is that your craft will be one of the places you can go to find hope and peace.

So Much More than a Christmas Story

Before I close, I’d like to revisit the title of the book. I struggled with the title because I wanted to be true to the Christmas Weed and honor what I consider its miracle. But I worried that the book will be considered a Christmas book. I worry about that because it is so much more than a Christmas story. It is a story that needs to be read year round. And given the state of our country in 2020, I pray that this beautiful story of unity will be read by many!

It is my hope that, just like in the story, the unity created by Weed will sprout around the world spreading and growing goodness and love . . . not only at Christmastime but all through the year.

Thank you, Kathy Temean for the honor of being a guest on your blog and for your never-ending support to the writing community.


Alayne Kay Christian is the acquisitions editor for Blue Whale Press and an award-winning children’s book author. She is the creator and teacher of a picture book writing course Art of Arc. Her published works include Sienna, the Cowgirl Fairy chapter book series and the picture book Butterfly Kisses for Grandma and Grandpa. The second Sienna, the Cowgirl Fairy book, Cowboy Trouble, will be released summer of 2020. Her third picture book The Weed That Woke Christmas: The Mostly True Story of the Toledo Christmas Weed will be available late summer 2020. Born in the Rockies, raised in Chicago, and now a true-blue Texan, Alayne’s writing shares her creative spirit and the kinship to nature and humanity that reside within her heart. Learn more about Alayne, her work, and her services at You can learn more about Blue Whale Press and their books at


Polina Gortman is a children’s book illustrator living and working just a little bit to the East from Seattle, Washington.

She was raised on the banks of the river Yenisey in Siberia by her grandmother, and spent her childhood exploring taiga, feeding burdock leaves to cows, eating blueberries by the handful and making up stories about precarious adventures of toys lost in a vegetable garden. As a young girl Polina spent hours poring over illustrations in kids magazines and story books. In 2007 she graduated from Siberian Federal University with a degree in Intercultural Communication and Japanese to Russian translation, but her love of creating and storytelling led her back to a drawing board in 2014.

When creating illustrations and developing characters, she draws inspiration from sketching people, wildlife and everyday playground shenanigans. She also enjoys picking apart stalagmites of picture books that grow in random locations at her house, board games and stargazing.

She is a member of Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Western Washington and a local author-illustrator critique group “The Broad Strokes“.

To see what Polina’s up to right now, you can follow her on Instagram and Twitter.

Alayne, thank you for sharing your book and journey with us. I haven’t read the book, but I loved reading about your journey and it sound like a very inspiring story – something we all could use right now. I can envision this book becoming generational holiday family favorite. Good luck with the book!

Talk tomorrow,


Posted by: Kathy Temean | October 10, 2020

Illustrator Saturday – Michael Robertson

Born and raised in northern Ohio, Michael graduated from Bowling Green State University with a degree in painting. He spent ten years as a toy designer and character developer, before trying his hand at illustration. His work has appeared on many children’s products, greeting cards, books, toys and magazines, and has received multiple recognitions from the Society of Illustrators.

An avid collector of mid-century art and design since the 80’s, Michael’s vast array of influences include many modern masters such as Calder and Miro, as well as illustrators like Jim Flora, Alice and Martin Provensen, and Mary Blair.

Michael lives in a spacious industrial warehouse loft in downtown Cleveland, where he enjoys painting, cooking and listening to the extensive collection of vintage soul, jazz, and Brazilian music he has acquired over the years.

Michael is represented by Lindgren and Smith

partial client list includes:

  • St. Martin’s Press – Sterling Publishing – Penguin Publishing – Scholastic – Campbell/Macmillan Press
  • Target – Barnes and Noble – American Greetings – Galison Puzzles

  • Sesame Street – PBS Kids – National Geographic Kids – Highlights for Children – Clubhouse Jr. – Klutz

  • New York Times – Cleveland Orchestra – Intel / Katy Perry – USDA – Cengage

  • Mudpuppy – Peaceable Kingdom – Crocodile Creek

  • Today’s Parent – Family Circle – Live Happy magazine

Here is Michael discussing his process:

After signing the contract with Sterling Publishing to illustrate Monster Trouble, they sent me the manuscript to interpret. I was given about 2 months to complete the book layout, including the development of the heroine, Winnifred.

I started out by sketching random monsters. I love drawing monsters and my sketchbook is filled with many that I have sketched in the past. I used some of those designs as well as many new ones. By the end, I had so many monsters sketched out that it was hard to choose which ones would make it into the book!

I then went on to do sketches and development of Winnifred. After settling on a design I thought worked the best, I then sketched out her many expressions and a few poses to kind of flesh out her personality. I wanted her to be feisty and smart, a little bit of a tomboy, but still cute and feminine. She’s not scared of the monsters, just annoyed by their constant nighttime visits.

Once I settled on what the girl would look like, I did a quick color rendering that I sent to the art director who loved her attitude.

I also sent some sketches of Winnifred and the monsters in various situations. I do all of these in my sketchbook, scan them and eventually use them in the layouts.

In one part of the story, Winnifred builds a “prickly bum chair”, one of the traps she sets to hopefully catch the monsters that are interrupting her sleep. I did many different sketches to try to convey a chair that could capture those pesky monsters. Here are some developmental sketches.

Once I decided on an appropriate design, I incorporated it into the layout sketch.

Here is the sketch and the final art of the scene.

The final art for the book was done in Photoshop.

I did a couple of  cover sketches that I thought might be cool to use,

The art director chose the one where Winnifred is standing on her bed because it showed that a lot of the action takes place in her bedroom.

I was able to salvage a few of the monsters on the unused cover sketch and they show up in the book.

The publishers decided they wanted a wrap around cover so I continued the scene to the back of the book. I’m a little bit crazy with my Photoshop layers and the final cover had about 1,020 layers at the end! I often have to save a copy, and flatten things as I go, to make my files more manageable.

Here is another interior sketch and the final piece. I really love working with unusual color combinations and I wanted this book to be colorful but quirky. I was unsure whether the brown wallpaper would work but it did. In the end, I was really pleased with the overall color look.

The art director was pleased too!

Interview with Michael Robertson

How long have you been illustrating? 

I have been illustrating as long as I can remember. When I was a kid, I would read books and afterwards, I would draw what I thought the characters would look like and tell my own story with pictures. It wasn’t till after college that I started illustrating on a professional level.

What and when was the first piece of art you created for money?

I guess the first piece of art I created for money was a caricature of a fellow classmate in high school. I  jokingly made a  few cartoon drawings of some of my friends and soon I was being approached by many students that wanted my humorous depiction of them. Before long, I turned it into a little business and actually made a few bucks drawing pictures of  a lot of the kids and teachers too!


What made you decide to attend Bowling Green State University to study painting?

Well, when I was trying to decide what career to pursue, I knew it had to be something creative.

I was interested in creative writing and languages, as well as art, so I decided that I wanted to get a more general education, rather than just focus on art. BGSU was a good school for me since I was able to take a variety of courses. Ultimately, I did end up focusing on art and got my bachelor’s degree in painting, with a specialization in watercolor.

Did you take any children’s illustrating courses?

No, children’s illustration is just kind of something I fell into. I never really took any illustration courses at all-just fine art and graphic design classes in college.

Did the school help you find work when you graduated?

No. After school, I moved to Cleveland tried to start a freelance career while interviewing at ad agencies and graphic studios. I eventually ended up landing a job as a character developer and toy designer at a place called Those Characters from Cleveland. We were responsible for  Care Bears, My Pet Monster, Madballs, Popples and lots of other toys that have since become classics.

So the puzzles and games that I noticed on your website, were some of them games you designed?

Yes. Since restarting my freelance career, I have done a lot of work with clients like Crocodile Creek, Galison Mudpuppy, Peaceable Kingdom, among others. When it comes to designing the games, I usually receive carefully thought out plans from the art director and I help build on the idea with my artwork. With some of the other toys, like the ones I designed for Crocodile Creek, I am given free rein to concept and contribute my own ideas, in some cases even designing the packaging.

Can you tell us a little bit about the basketballs with faces?

The colorful balls with faces were created for Crocodile Creek for a toy concept called “Creetures”. They are fun rubber balls that coordinate with a series of fun puzzles I created for the company. The puzzles come in a box that is shaped like a monster, an alien and a robot, which are all articulated, and become a toy themselves. Inside each “creeture” is a puzzle and an additional play piece. The balls were designed to go along with this concept. These fun images are also printed on lunchboxes, backpacks, water bottles and other products.

I designed the puzzles, box, play piece and the balls too. They are currently available on Amazon, Walmart and various other specialty toy stores.

I noticed a few things that looked like wrapping paper on your site. Were these things you did for American Greetings or Target?

I designed them for American Greetings and they were sold in Target stores. I have done countless greeting cards, stickers, wrapping paper, games and books that were sold at Target.

Did you do this type of illustrating after leaving the toy industry?

Yes, after leaving the toy industry, my career took a turn towards more illustration. Although I loved designing toys and especially developing characters, I was a bit frustrated that when working in the toy industry, all of my artwork was done in a more conceptual way, using only pencil and markers. I wanted to improve my illustration skills. This was before computers became such an important design tool and everything was done traditionally. Going into illustration gave me the opportunity to get back to paint and brushes and all the traditional tools I learned to use in school.

Do you feel the ten years you spent as a toy designer and character developer helped you develop your style?

Definitely, yes. Up until then, I really hadn’t focused on art or products for children but obviously designing toys and licensed characters steered me in that direction. It also helped to make me more versatile and helped with conceptualizing and coming up with ideas.

Were you able to use some of the contacts you made in the toy industry to get work?

Yes, mainly because some of my coworkers from that industry have moved on to other toy companies and we’ve kept in contact over the years.

What type of things did you do to promote yourself as an illustrator?

I try to be as visible as possible, mainly on the internet by posting frequently on Instagram, Facebook, Linkedin, Pinterest, etc. I also have a website that I try to keep updated.

Do you have an illustrator rep.? If so, who and how did you connect with them? If not, would you like to find representation?

Yes, I am represented by Lindgren and Smith. I have been with them for about 12 years. They are wonderful and have gotten me some really awesome work over the years, including many kids books. I do a lot of promotion through them as well, such as mailers, email blasts and publications like Workbook. I’ve gotten a few pieces in the Society of Illustrators and that certainly help to promote my work.

When did you decide you wanted to illustrate children’s books?

It had always been in the back of my mind and finally, I was approached through my reps by Penguin Publishing to illustrate Play with Blue. After illustrating that, I was hooked and wanted to illustrate more. Luckily, I have been able to work on many more since then.

You list St. Martin’s Press as someone you did illustration work. Did you do book covers for them?

Yes I did a series of 4 sudoku puzzle books and a crossword puzzle book cover for them.

How did you get to do the crossword puzzle illustration for the New York Times?

This job came through my reps. The art director wanted a retro style Big Bad Wolf character on the cover. That was a lot of fun to do!

Was Play with Blue by Bonnie Bader and published by Penguin for Young Readers in 2013 your first picture book?

Yes, it was.

In 2014 you illustrated Go to Bed, Blue by Bonnie Bader and published by Penguin Young Readers. Was this a two book deal when you signed the contact for Play with Blue?

No, I don’t think so. When I originally signed to do just the first book. I believe the first book was successful enough for them to want to do a sequel.

In 2015, you illustrated Monster Trouble by Lane Fredrickson, published by Sterling Children’s Books. How did you connect with them to get that contract?

I also got this job through my reps. I had a blast illustrating this book-I love drawing monsters and this was a perfect opportunity for me to have fun.

In 2017 you illustrated another book for Sterling Children’s Book, titled Wakey, Wakey, Elephant! Was that a two book deal from the 2015 contract?

No, I originally signed for just the one book but again, I think that due to the success of Monster Trouble, I was asked to illustrate another book for them.

Congratulations! I see you have another book coming out in December, My Very Favorite Book in the Whole Wide World by Malcolm Mitchell and published by Orchard Books. How did that come your way? How long did it take you to illustrate the book?

Again, this one came through Lindgren and Smith. I was thrilled to be able to illustrate a book by a high profile author such as Malcolm Mitchell, who is not only a literacy advocate but also was an NFL player for the New England Patriots. It probably took about 8 months or so from beginning to end to illustrate this book.

On a side note, Mr Mitchell will be making an appearance on Good Morning America on December  29th to promote this book. It is also being released that day. I am very excited !

Do you have any desire to write and illustrate a book?

Definitely. In fact, I recently finished writing my first book. I just started working on the illustrations but naturally, this has to get put on the back burner when a job comes in. I’m super excited about this one-it’s great to have full creative control from start to finish. Hopefully, I will be able to work with a publisher when I get it all wrapped up.

Have you done any illustrations for children’s magazines?

Yes, I have done many illustrations for kids magazines, including Highlights for Children, Clubhouse Jr., National Geographic Kids and Cengage.  I’ve also illustrated for other magazines like Family Circle, Todays Parent, Live Happy, New Jersey Magazine and Atlanta Magazine.

Is working with a self-published author to illustrate their book something you would consider?

I have been able to work with many publishing companies and I think that working with a self publisher may be too risky. I have been approached by a few people with self publishing hopes but they are often wanting me to work for little or no compensation,

What do you think is your biggest success so far?

Tough question-I have had a lot of successes so far and hoping for many more in the future.

One that comes to mind is a job I did for Intel. They wanted me to design several avatars of different aliens, monsters and other characters. They also wanted me to design an avatar for pop star, Katy Perry. There were several artists contributing to this project and out of all the avatar designs submitted, mine was chosen to be used. The art director actually said “Katy liked yours the best.” I don’t really keep up on pop music, but I do know who Katy Perry is, and I was flattered that she liked my work!

What is your favorite medium to use?

I love painting and collage and try to incorporate it into my  illustration work, although most of my work is done digitally.

Has that changed over time?

Yes. When I first started illustrating, all of my work was done traditionally. I love watercolor, colored pencil, cut paper, gouache but with tight deadlines and ease of revising things, I find myself working a lot more digitally these days.

Do you own or have you used a Graphic Drawing Tablet when illustrating?

Yes, I have a Wacom Cintiq pen display tablet that I work on. I love it.

What materials and/or tools do you use to create your work?

Ultimately, everything is done on my Cintiq but I do try to work traditionally and work it into my illustrations. I have an old school printing press in my studio that I love to use to make textures and patterns that I incorporate into my illustrations whenever possible.

Do you try to spend a specific amount of time working on your craft?

Yes, I love working in my studio; painting, collaging and experimenting on my printing press whenever possible. I always have a sketchbook on hand, and frequently find myself sketching and doodling, even when I’m watching TV or sitting in a coffee shop or park.

Do you take pictures or research a project before you start?

Yes, definitely. I frequently google certain things if I need a specific pose or subject matter, especially with the human figure. I have always loved animals and can pretty much draw any animal out of my head but drawing people is definitely something I need to reference.

I would love to hear about your spacious industrial warehouse loft in downtown Cleveland and studio?

I live in a very large warehouse located in a very industrial area of Cleveland. I have probably around 3,000 square feet, divided into two halves. One half for living, the other half is my studio.

I have been a huge collector of mid century furniture, art and design since the 80s, so Im surrounded by lots and lots of cool stuff that always keeps me visually stimulated!

Do you have any career dreams that you want to fulfill?

I would like to keep going on the path I’m currently on, illustrating and writing more books and finding other fun and challenging projects. I would also like to learn some simple animation programs so that I van bring my artwork to life.

What are you working on now?

I just recently finished a really fun book called Dino Pajama Party for Running Press Kids and now I’m working on a set of 10 short books for Scholastic.

Do you have any material type tips you can share with us? Example: Paint or paper that you love – the best place to buy – a new product that you’ve tried – A how to tip, etc.

I am currently obsessed with Tombo brush tip markers. They come in a huge variety of colors and I love the way they look in my Molskine sketchbooks. They create beautiful, rich tones and are really fun to work with.

Any words of wisdom for new illustrators?

I would say that one of the most important things is to develop a style that is uniquely your own. Take in inspiration from everything you see. Art, design, nature, film, music-everything you take in influences the way you see things and will help to develop your style. Study other artists, both past and present. Concentrate on  drawing what you like.

Always carry a sketchbook with you and draw whenever you can.

Be yourself, but also be open to advice from others. As an illustrator, you will have to work with art directors who have their own ideas and you will have to be flexible and easy to work with.

Thank you, Michael for answering the interview questions and sharing your expertise with us. Please let me know your future successes so I can share it with everyone.

To see more of Michael’s work, you can visit him at:







Talk tomorrow,


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