Winter Wonderland

Oh the weather outside is frightful (actually today it's okay...yesterday was the snow storm). And I wish I had a fire that was delightful (but my home has no fireplace). And since I have no place I want to go...Let it snow! Let it snow! Let it snow! And here's a little piggie building a snowman, since I don't want to go out and freeze doing it myself. (am I lazy or what...probably just getting old)
Sorry I haven't been posting for a while. I've actually had to take a little break the last month or so because of darn "Tennis Elbow" in my right (drawing) arm. Those tendons connect all the way down to the hand so some days were just painful to draw. It's getting better now thankfully and I'm doing all I can to speed up the recovery. Enjoy the winter weather where ever you are and try to get some relaxation in this season!
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My Ukiyoe Heroes Print Arrived

A while back I posted about my friend, Jed Henry. I should've waited a few weeks and done a post about him and his awesome Kickstarter Campaign as well. But alas, I didn't.

Anyway, Jed had this great idea to design/illustrate iconic video game characters in a traditional Japanese Ukioye style and have those designs translated into traditional woodblock prints. It took off like wildfire. Here's the site about the project...

Anyway, I backed the campaign and got my print in the mail yesterday and it was like an early Christmas gift. Way to kick off the season. Thanks, Jed. I love it!

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Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers Conference 2013

So mark your calendars! You don't want to miss this conference. Seriously!!! Ask any editor of children's lit, this conference is amazing and they all talk about it back in NYC. They ask themselves, why is it Utah produces so many amazing children's lit writers and illustrators? Then they come here to this conference and they see why....We have amazing talent and amazing instructors at an amazing conference and next year is going to be awesome! I am so excited.

MARK YOUR CALENDARS, JUNE 17th-21st 2013 (or just 18th-20th for illustrators)

We have a huge and amazing faculty including 2 literary agents, and an editor from Simon and Schuster. Here's the list...

2013 Writing and Illustrating Conference Faculty Include:

Cheri Pray EarlIntroduction to Writing for Children Class
Sharlee GlennPicture Book Class
Steve BjorkmanIllustration Class
J Scott SavageMiddle Grade Class
Kris ChandlerNovel Class
AE CannonNovel Class
Martine LeavittSpecialty Novel Class (more info to come)
Matt KirbyAdvanced Class
Mette Ivie HarrisonFull Novel Class (Limited to 6 participants)
Carol Lynch WilliamsWriter's Boot Camp
Utah State Poet Laureate Lance LarsenKeynote Speaker
Alyson HellerEditor for S&S
Ammi-Joan PaquetteErin Murphy Literary Agent
Steven FraserJennifer De Chiara Literary Agency

Being an illustrator myself, and having taught at this conference previously, I am soooooooooooo excited to announce that the talented Steve Bjorkman will be our illustration faculty this year. I think I may sneak in when I'm off-duty and learn a few illustration techniques from him myself. (I wish I could!) See what a fun illustrator he is....

And if you're wondering what this conference is all about and what goes on, see my previous posts about it.

WIFYR 2012

But essentially, you can sign up for full day or half day attendance. Full day attendees get an awesome, intensive 5 day, 4 hour morning class with the faculty you sign up with. In addition, you get a chance to be chosen to show your work to the attending agent or editor (which is a big deal), and you get all the afternoon workshops as well (which are taught by even more faculty than is listed here). Half-day attendees get the afternoon workshops and keynote addresses. Everyone who registers will get permission and information to submit directly to the editor and agents post-conference (which is also a big deal). But best of all, you get to learn so much about your craft, the business, and the culture of the children's book industry.

There are so many well-known authors who have gotten their start at this very conference. You'll be sorry if you miss it. (last year we had attendees from all over...even as far as the Mid East...we were amazed)

So if your loved-one asks what you want for Christmas, tell him/her "REGISTER ME FOR WIFYR" which stands for Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers of course. Registration should be up in a few short weeks. I'll keep you posted.

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White Space: Summer

Today even though the sun is shining, I'm a bit chilly. I find myself longing for summer already. I sit in my office uploading this post in sweats and with a scarf wrapped around my neck. I don't think my blood has thickened for the chill and cold yet. Ahhh, to be on a beach, in the warm sun sipping a cool lemonade. Summer.

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White Space: Spring

Here's day 3 of the white space posts. Obviously this one is called, Spring. Ideally, I personally would prefer about 2 months of winter, December and January and go right into a long spring. But maybe I wouldn't be as grateful as I am for spring if winter was short. Ahhh, life in the Rockies.

Hey, let me know if any of you would like me to make theses available as inexpensive prints via an online shop. I'd be willing to set that up if the desire is there.

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White Space - Winter

Winter is just around the corner. We got a taste of it this week here in Utah. Brrrrr! Snow and lows in the mid 20's at night. NOT FALL WEATHER. But Fall is supposed to return. I love Fall. But I do appreciate the softness and coziness winter brings...when the snow muffles all the noise of the world around and you can watch the snow slowly fall.

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White Space

Graphic designers are masters at white space and I think recently it has caught on even more. Personally, I think it's a reflection of our need to clear our our lives. It gives us time to rest and time to focus.

I, too, have fallen in love with white space. Some picture books work well with a lot of white space. However, none that I have illustrated seemed to work that way. So I decided to do a few pieces that reflect my desire to leave more white space. I hope you like the result. (I have 4 right now and I'll post one each day - and I hate to have to say it but, please do not use this image elsewhere.)

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A Little Gift for you...Free Printable Calendar- October 2012

I'll have to make a big post later as to why I've been more M.I.A. this month but for now...

See how to use this free printable HERE

Here is October's free printable 4x6 calendar card for you. Enjoy!

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Submitted a Dummy: The Waiting Game

So I recently sent off a completed dummy book to my agent for him to submit to publishers. Have any of you done that? Maybe not through your agent, but directly to a publisher. I've done both...with and without my agent.

Here's the full color finish included in the book dummy. copyright 2012 Julie Olson

Either way it's a waiting game. Once it's out there you are soooooo anxious to hear back. Do they like it? Do they hate it? Do they want to publish it? Do they want to see more? You are like a kid waiting for Christmas. It seems forever away even if it's already December. Time passes slower than ever and you think you'll die waiting.

Whatever you do, don't pester the publisher with "Well, What did you think?" emails or calls every week. After the initial submission, wait 6-8 weeks minimum before contacting them for a response. If you can, wait for 3 months. By then it is VERY o.k. to contact and ask for a response.

These poor editors are so overworked it usually takes them quite a while to respond, even when you have a good agent or have published several books previously. Try to be understanding and patient. It helps to have some kind of relationship established with the people you submit to, whether that happens via mail, email, or connection at a conference or through an associate.

Here's what I do to make it through that long wait...

  • clean my studio, then my kitchen, then my house
  • reorganize things
  • actually socialize with friends I've been neglecting
  • read a good book I haven't had time for
  • type an email to the publisher and then delete it
  • instead, bug my agent about what he's heard about the book (this you can do as much as you'd like) ;-)
  • cook better dinners
  • exercise more
  • Play more with my kids
  • work on other illustration jobs
  • AND ESPECIALLY start ideas for more books
Hmmmm. Maybe I should wait for responses more often. I sound so much more productive.

Good luck with your submissions!
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So you wrote a story, Now what? : I want to publish a picture book

I often get approached by people (in person, via email, in passing) who have this story they've written or verbally told to their children a thousand times. More often than not, they believe it would make a great children's story. That may very well be. However, few people realize the sheer work involved in making a picture book. This post will direct you today to an AMAZING resource.

Rick Walton signing at "Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers" June 2009
My friend and author Rick Walton, has published over 90 books and is who we in the children's book community of Utah call "The Godfather." He has had a hand in helping nearly every published author or illustrator in this state and beyond. He is full of creativity and knowledge and generosity. He currently teaches courses at a local university including Children's Book Writing.

Okay, so when I mentioned he is generous, you don't know HOW generous. He has posted his entire course from how to write, how to get published, to how to market your book online for free. Check it out if you are interested.

And be sure to thank Rick in your first book.

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A little Gift for you- September Free Printable Calendar

See how to use this free printable HERE

Here is September's free printable 4x6 calendar card for you. Enjoy!

for personal use only

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Back to Work

Now that summer is over and my kids are back in school (except for my busy toddler), I need to spend more time in the studio. I always think I'll get so much done during the summer, but seem to get too involved in family time and life. It's not bad, just a bit non-productive for my career. But I really think we all need to remember how important leading a well-rounded life is. So remember, take time with family, take time to be healthy, take time to enjoy, and then take time to express.

I started this book idea in the spring and I'm ready to finish it up. I'm giving myself 2 weeks. There...I've put it out there. Hold me to it. 2 weeks from now I should be able to say to you guys, I finished it. It's a book about a little boy who collects things (with his grandma) until one day... (well I can't tell you that).

Here are a few samples...

After the title and dedication page, the book begins with the words,
"Calvin collected." Then...

I do have much more finished. But I'll show you more in two weeks and maybe even along the way.

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More Non-Illustration Art: Cakes

Another form of art I love to do for my kids (and for other people if I had time) is cake baking/decorating. I've posted about the xbox cake I made a while back and last summer I made a movie themed cake. Earlier this year my daughter wanted a Jungle Themed cake and party and my son had "popcorn" cupcakes. This summer I made my toddler a "Digger Cake" complete with "dirt and rocks" (cookies and fondant and mint chocolate chips ground for grass. He LOVED it. It was adorable to watch him actually use the diggers to get at the cake after blowing out candles.

Construction "Digger" Cake...all edible except for the trucks.

Jungle cake...All edible except for the animals.

Made cupcake paper wraps, frosted the cupcakes, coated plain popcorn in white chocolate and placed on top.
So art does come in all forms. I'm glad I get to dabble in all of it.

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Summer Projects

So being an artist isn't always about illustrating books for me. As a mom and a homeowner, I LOVE decorating and designing rooms. I have many grand plans for rooms in my house and I have to keep telling myself, "One at a time."

Well, this summer I didn't listen to myself so well. I did FOUR at a time. It all stemmed from the fact that my teenage son wanted his own room. He was still sharing with a younger brother. So, my husband graciously gave up his office in the basement for our son (what a great dad!). But then, because of the age of the other kids left upstairs and positioning of the rooms, I decided to rearrange and move all of them. So one room turned into 4 (one for each of my kids). I mostly used items and decor and paint I already had. In the end I only purchased 1 gallon of paint, 2 sets of bedding, 4 magnet boards, 2 sets of vinyl decals, 4 storage boxes, shelving, 1 lantern, 1 leaf canopy and 1 curtain panel. Not bad for 4 bedroom makeovers.

Sorry I don't have the before pics. I'll give a brief description of each room's prior state.

Room #1 for teenage son- Small space made cool and functional. (by the way, we love orange and green around here as you'll notice later on)
This room just had blank white walls and the metal shelves on one end. We moved one shelf to make one side into a desk/shelf for my son. Now I just need to get a metal or acrylic sheet to lay on that shelf for a smooth writing surface. I installed ikea shelves/organizers in the closet, painted stripes on one wall and used magnet boards mounted to the wall as a headboard. The clock, the magnet boards, the bedding and the metal shelving is all from Ikea.

Room #2- for preteen son - a lego enthusiast
This room used to be a deep steel blue and had a travel theme (map on the wall, planes & boat pics, suitcase side table). It's actually very similar in style to the room he moved from which he was sharing with his brother (the big room).  It took an extra coat of white paint to cover all that blue though. I used idea expedit shelving (2 of them) as a bedframe with storage boxes underneath and painted and laid a piece of plywood on top as a bunk board instead of a box spring. I actually had 2 like this in their old room but since his brother moved out, we used the shelves that were under his bed, turned them on end and made them tall shelving. Now he has space for all his legos. I have to say, I love Ikea!

Room #3 - for the only girl in the family
This room used to look a lot like room #2 does now but with 2 beds in it (similar paint job etc.) But our little girl LOVES turquoise and black and had a grand time picking out the bedding from Ikea. I bought the paint, the bird decals from, 4 black storage boxes and the black lantern for this room. I painted the blue wall and the blue branches and used decals for the birds and birdcage. We hung a black lantern with a bluebird and blue butterfly in it up in the corner. This was a fun room for me...I could live in it. 

Room #4 - for the baby boy (now a toddler)
This room used to be our daughter's. The walls were sage green and had white flowers painted on one of them. The bedding was pottery barn pink and green and we had hung a large sheer white panel draped above her bed as a canopy. When cleaning out the room, I couldn't believe how dirty a little girl could make the walls of her room. That was the worst part of all of this...having to clean out everything. But it was much needed. The money we made in a yard sale with all the stuff we cleaned out of the rooms paid for the renovations. Anyway, our toddler loves robots and monkeys so I painted all these designs on the walls (trees, robots and robot monkeys). The carpet circles used to be in my husbands office, the bedding on my oldest son's bed, and all the paint was from other previous projects. I bought the leaf canopy from Ikea. It's called a LOVA CANOPY and is only $15. And I bought the curtain panel from walmart for $12 (to help darken the room for naptime). 
He's excited to sleep in the "big boy" bed someday.

but for now I'm keeping him in his crib (He LOVES the robot monkey next to his crib)

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ALA June 2012 in Los Angeles, CA: Brian Selznick, Lane Smith and more!

Hello everyone. I've landed. My kids went back to school today and my whirlwind summer of work,  trips, vacations, family time, and craziness has come to an end. Let me catch you up a bit.

I attended my first ALA (American Library Association) conference in June of this year. It came right at the end of the WIFYR conference I was involved with. So after a very busy month of work, I kind of took July off. I'll post a few things I did that month but obviously I wasn't posting on my blog. I apologize for leaving you all hanging (as I'm sure you were, ha ha).

Back to ALA. I got off the plane, greeted by my college friend and illustrator, Apryl Stott. There couldn't have been a better way to start the trip. She is the BEST! We started out our experience by heading over to Beverly Hills and eating brunch at The Ivy (restaurant to the stars). It was DELICIOUS and we felt very posh. 
Then we drove over to spend the afternoon at The Getty. It was actually my first time there. I was blown away by its architectural beauty and by all the amazing artwork inside. So perfect!
Then we drove through insane traffic to change and attend the opening reception on the convention floor at ALA. We checked in and unfortunately, I promptly dropped my iphone flat on its glass (face, that is). the screen cracked into a web of sadness. The phone and all the functions still worked for the rest of the weekend, but an $80 repair upon returning home is never a happy thing. 

The opening reception was cram packed with book-loving people toting bags upon bags. My friend and I soon found out why...the amount of free books and ARC's (advanced reader copies) given out was mind boggling. We found our fair share and laughed as we saw people waiting in the LONGEST lines for the hors d'oeuvres or free T-shirts. We were there for the books and the cool people!

On Saturday, I was scheduled to sign my "Dear Cinderella" books for Scholastic from 11-noon. I arrived at my designated spot at the 5 minutes prior as requested and was excited to see Brian Selznick signing exactly where I would be signing. I was only hoping some of his amazing talent would be left behind for me in that chair. 
Brian Selznick is the guy at the table closest to us, then the Publisher Arthur Levine is next to him.
Then I sat down and was quite honestly afraid it'd be an hour of smiling as people walked by. However, I was pleasantly surprised. I and my table partner, illustrator Bethanie Murguia, signed for the entire hour straight. Her book "Zoe Gets Ready," is absolutely adorable. It was great to meet her. I was so lucky to be in the company of such amazing talent at the table and with Scholastic overall.
Then for the rest of the conference, I was free to roam and have a great time. I met a lot of publishers and authors and illustrators. Here are a few of the other people signing at the conference.
Molly Ringwald...pretty in blue instead of pink that day.
I met and got a copy of Gary Ross's ARC. (He directed The Hunger Games movie)
And I was so pleased to meet the very kind and friendly, Lane Smith...someone I've looked up to in illustration since college.

I also met and chatted with the ever-cool and funny Dan Santat (illustrator, animator, artist), found my pal Nathan Hale signing and manning a booth dedicated to his work, and met the very busy but kind Simon Boughton (Roaring Brook Press founder and publisher) who even asked for me to send him my dummy book. That made the whole trip worth every second!

Finally, what is a trip to LA without Disneyland? I couldn't pass up the opportunity to go have fun and spend a day playing without any kids in tow. I actually spend all day Monday (before catching a flight home that night) at California Adventure Park. And I have to tell you, the Cars Ride is worth the wait. So fun!

I'll spare you the details of the long delays getting home, but let's just say I could've driven from California home in the time it took. But hey, I got a free plane ticket out of it. Hmmmm, now where should I go?
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August Calendar Too Late

Sorry I forgot to publish the August printable calendar. If you're collecting them, here it is. If not, here it is anyway. Hey, there's still a week and a half left. ;-)

I apologize. Know that September's is already scheduled to go out on August 30th so come back and print it. No more forgetting!

And this is how you can print it out and use it...HERE

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Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers 2012

I promised to post about the 2012 Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers Conference held in Sandy, Utah at the Waterford School Campus. I have helped at this conference multiple times over the years and this year was asked to be the illustrator faculty member teaching morning workshops and a few afternoon sessions. Every year I am amazed at the vast amount of knowledge, expertise, and market information that is shared at this conference. This year was no different.

My friend and award-winning author Carol Lynch Williams works SOOOOOO hard each year (for 13 years and going now) to bring together professional authors, illustrators, agents, editors, with beginning & advanced writers and illustrators. There is no other conference I've ever been to that provides what this conference does. I'm so glad to be a part of it and so thankful Carol is willing to devote so much to it year after year.

This year's faculty for the week-long, morning workshops included Carol Lynch Williams,  Cynthia Leitich Smith, Greg Leitich SmithA.E. CannonAnn Dee Ellis, Mette Ivie HarrisionMatt KirbyTrudy HarrisTim Wynne-Jones, and myself (although my class only lasted from Monday through Wednesday).  We also took turns presenting afternoon sessions on different aspects of our craft.

I enjoyed teaching the aspiring artists in my illustration workshop sessions each morning. There was so much to cover and so little time. I only hope I could help guide them enough and that they could catch those bits of knowledge that I wish someone had told me when I was starting out. My assistant was very helpful and kind as was the entire class. It was a great teaching environment. And I had the most amazing class (Thanks for the lilies and red car-pet). Here are some pics from the class (Thanks to Laura Randle for snapping some great shots).

watercolor illustration demo

The class after our lunch together. Poor Bruce (my assistant) was the only guy. I don't think I've ever seen that happen in an illustration class before. He held his own though. :-)
Half-way through the week, I especially enjoyed listening to Trent Reedy's keynote address. I don't think there was a dry eye in the room.  He spoke about his experiences that led to him writing "Word's in the Dust." Amazing! I can't wait to read his next book "Stealing Air" (the ARC of which I snagged at ALA). I just need to find some time.

The King's English Book Shop came in to sell books (a hard job when there are so many authors involved in one signing).  They are a fabulous independent bookseller in Salt Lake. If you are ever here, you should stop by their shop.

Editors Ruth Katcher, from Egmont USA, and Alexandra Penfold, from Paula Wiseman Books, and agent John Cusick, from Scott Trimmel Agency also delivered great speeches, answered questions in classes, and provided selected critiques. Ruth and Alexandra have actually attended different conferences in Utah before that I was assisting with and it was so great to see them again and catch up. It was great to meet John and all the other authors I've never had the pleasure to interact with previously. I feel privileged to have been part of such a talented and kind group of people.
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Free Printable Calendar Card- July 2012

With my rush to prepare for ALA and the WIFYR conference (and all my kids end of school stuff) I forgot to post June's Calendar Card Printout. I'm so sorry. For those of you who don't know, it was my goal to publish a free 4x6 printable calendar for you each month. Here is the calendar for July.
click to open the larger image then right click to save to your desktop
And here are some images of March's Calendar so you can get an idea of how to print or use your little calendar. Enjoy!
print the calendar on larger paper at the bottom half, print, embellish, and fold

print on a 4x6 photo card and put on a magnet board with a cute magnet

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How to Create a Digital PDF Dummy Book

I also promised my WIFYR class that I would post a tutorial on how to create a digital dummy book. Some editors prefer to receive submissions only through email, so this version of the dummy is important.

You need Adobe Acrobat Standard or Pro (not just the reader) to complete this tutorial and create your digital pdf.

  • Open Adobe Acrobat and Click FILE, CREATE PDF, FROM MULTIPLE FILES

  •  Click the ADD FILES icon...

  •  Select all the files you'd like to add and click ADD FILES. You can do double page spreads OR each as a single page. Doing single pages is just fine if you already have those files created. When viewing the pdf, you should simply instruct the viewer to choose 2pages up continuous view in the viewing options. Just make sure they are saved in alphabetical/page order

  •  When they are imported, make sure they are in proper order. If not, select the file which is out of order and click on the MOVE UP or MOVE down arrow til it's in the right spot. 

  •  When they are in the proper order, Click MERGE FILES INTO A SINGLE PDF and wait.

  •  It's that simple. Choose two-up continuous view.  SAVE FILE.

  •  If your file is too large, you can reduce it by choosing DOCUMENT, OPTIMIZE SCANNED PDF, set the settings to low resolutions.


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I'm a freelance illustrator working in the children's book industry. I love kids and raising my own 4 children. They are the inspiration and the passion behind all I do in art and in life. See my website at

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