Free Christmas Tags Printable

Here's an early Christmas present for you all. Free Christmas tags for all those gifts. Just print out on cardstock and cut out. You can tape on the package or use a single hole punch near the top of the tag to weave a ribbon through.

Click HERE to download the PDF file.

Please only print and use for personal use. Do not alter or resell in any form. That way I can keep offering things like this for free. Thanks so much!
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Do you want to illustrate children's books?

So perhaps you are a wonderful artist. Your paintings could hang on walls in galleries. And then your friend asks you to illustrate a picture book she wrote. She says, "You are an amazing artist. I would love it if you'd do the pictures for my book. It'll be wonderful and we will make millions!"(FYI, you may make millions of pennies, but don't count on millions of DOLLARS.)

So then...

You decide NOT to  illustrate your friends' book (because that's probably the smartest option unless they are some celebrity), but the idea gets going in your head that you'd really love to illustrate BOOKS!

If that's the case, being a great artist isn't enough, you HAVE to learn the process, the design, the layout, the limitations, the reproduction problems, the character design...all parts of a picture book. I've done posts on here before about the steps I personally take in illustrating a book, but today I'm going to link you to an awesome opportunity to learn from two amazing book illustrators.

You will not want to miss these classes offered by veteran illustrators  Will Terry and Jake Parker. Besides being talented, knowledgable and experienced, these guys are great teachers too. Their encouragements and personal instruction will take you leaps and bounds above where you are right now. So don't miss out. The live sessions start soon and are almost full.
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School Visits and Book Signing: Indiana

AHH! Those southern Indiana tree tunneled roads.
Over my birthday this year I had the opportunity to visit a few schools in my home state of Indiana. I had a fabulous time and was amazed at how many memories came flooding back as I walked the halls of my elementary school, drove down my old neighborhood streets, and chatted with old friends. I was blessed to have a wonderful childhood and it was such a treat to relive some of it. Here is a recap of the trip...

On Friday, September 26th, I had a fun and full day in my childhood hometown, Evansville, Indiana. It started out at Highland Elementary School with three back to back presentations.

Here are a couple of shots during the presentation where I talk about how I became an author/illustrator and teach about the process of writing and illustrating books.
I get through the presentation in about 20-25 minutes and then spend another 20-25 having the kids help create a character with me. At the end I leave this character with the school along with a challenge to the kids.

Here is a short clip of one of my presentations.
 One of the best things about the morning was connecting up with my former 1st grade teacher, Teri Chamberlain. 
And old friends who now have children at the school. And many who didn't have children there who just heard I was coming and took time to come to the school and see me speak.
Right after I was finished with my presentations at Highland and signing books there, I hurried across town to Westside Catholic School where I did another presentation for grades K-5.
After a lovely dinner with a childhood friend and her family, I went over to the Evansville Barnes and Noble store for a book signing. I saw met many new people and saw many old friends there as well. It was a lovely evening.
One amazingly awesome thing that happened at Barnes and Noble that night was meeting this beautiful and talented lady, Kristi Valiant. She is a fellow author/illustrator who heard about my visit from a mutual friend. This friend told her to come meet me and she graciously did. That little chat at Barnes and Noble wasn't nearly enough so we had to meet up the following day to talk shop. Check out Kristi's work HERE.
Over the weekend I attended my 20th High School reunion and then headed to Indianapolis. On Monday morning I did three more presentations at Stonegate Elementary School. It was a beautiful school and fun to present to those kids.
In my presentations, I talk about the source of ideas and how the idea for a book is the most important step and sometimes comes when you aren't even trying. Then comes the rest of the hard work...a lovely adventure.

I left that evening to fly back to Utah. I had such a great time sharing my love of writing, illustrating and CREATING, with those kids. I love to see their excitement and creative energy ready to burst when I'm done. I only want to inspire people to do something they love and to love what they do.

I'd love to come visit your child's school. Contact me via email at jujubeeillustrations (at) gmail.  Or click on the School Visit link above.

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Will you illustrate my book?

I get asked multiple times a month, in one form or another, the following question...


The short and truthful answer is usually, "I'm sorry. I can't."

But you probably want the long answer. So here it is (condensed to basics). There are a couple of options if you have a picture book you want published. You can go the traditional route or the self publishing route (and I'll add a third option too...non-traditional).  Here is an explanation of what those options entail and why I end up saying, I can't.

1. TRADITIONAL ROUTE:  Publishers choose the illustrator. The author has no say. The publisher is the one footing the bill, who’s experienced in the industry, and who organizes the whole shebang. They know what sells and who is professional enough to illustrate a book. A book is a collaboration. Your part is the manuscript. And then you give up control over the rest. The illustrator makes it even better by adding subplot and nuances you’d never imagine through the pictures alone. Then the publisher’s graphic designer chooses the appropriate font, places the type and lays out the whole book for the printer. The marketing team develops a plan and begins selling your book to buyers before it’s even printed and getting it on the book buyers lists (retail shelves). They give the author and the illustrator an advance against the future royalties and then when the book starts selling (a year or two after acceptance by publisher), you start earning a 5% royalty on the retail price of the book. Once the $0.75 of each book sold adds up to equal what the publisher gave you initially, you start seeing a paycheck from the publisher. That’s called earning out your advance. If your book never sells enough to make you money above the advance, you don’t have to give any of that advance back to the publisher. That’s the risk they take…putting up all the money. They also only make a small profit on the book themselves (if any at all). Their take home after all the expenses of marketing, printing, overhead etc. is only about 10% of the retail price of a book.  "Who makes all the money?" you ask. The book resale companies. Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Walmart, etc. They mark up a picture book by about 50%. They get all that markup (minus their shipping, overhead etc.) But even after all this is said, the traditional route is usually by far the most lucrative way to publish a book.

2. SELF PUBLISHING ROUTE: You choose the illustrator and negotiate terms. Terms of payment, royalties, contracts etc. It's a big headache and you can get into a lot of legal trouble down the line if you or they don't know how to legally work all that out up front. You also have to oversee all print press readiness, (file format, pre-press layout, etc.), find a printer, and attempt to hire a distributor. Unfortunately, there are VERY FEW reputable distributors if any who take on self-published works. If you don’t have a distributor, you cannot get into bookstores and onto shelves. You may be able to do a signing at a Costco or get it in some boutiques, but not into actual bookstores or even large chain stores like Walmart and ToysRus (which actually sell a lot of children's books). But if you want to sell books out of your garage, hand peddle them to boutiques, set up an online store for them…by all means…self publish. It’s a grueling and difficult task to do it all but some people make it work. And there are even a few success stories. But personally, it’s far too risky and too much work with little return on the investment for me to go that route personally. And overall, the sales of a book really really depend on marketing. If you already have a huge following of people in a certain community (5K plus) who would definitely buy your book, then maybe you could make this route work. I'm personally not that popular so...My answer is still, "I can't" self-publish.

You could make your book into an ebook and sell it online via Amazon Kindle, the Nook store, as a downloadable PDF file on your own site or various others. Doing this gets rid of any printing costs and shipping costs and a lot of distribution problems. However there are issues with ebooks too. 
- You have to get your book formatted correctly for a WIDE range of devices which is really really difficult. So you have to pay a tech head to do it or try an learn yourself.
-You may have to pay a fee or a commission to have your book on sites like Amazon, Barnes&Noble, or iBooks. 
- You are not given preferential billing as a self-published person on the ebook sites. Usually publishers get their books to the top or their are special sections dividing the two "classes" of books, self-published vs publisher. 
- You still have to market the heck out of a book to get it to sell.
-I've tried this route. It didn't work for me. But the costs are low out of pocket. But high time and expertise.
KICKSTARTER: is another avenue of publishing that's close to the idea of print on demand. Check out books on their site and you'll see what I'm talking about. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. If you have a big following already in the social media world, it may work. Or if you are producing something for a niche market. It worked WONDERFULLY for my friend, but it was really hard work. So much packing and shipping and printing to figure out. 
APPS: These are definitely not the way to do a book. Too many apps out there and books are not games. If you want to make a game, go ahead. But I'm not an app illustrator. So I don't do these. So much technology goes into creating and the marketing of them is completely hit and miss.
SO OVERALL in the non-traditional route, I say "I can't." I've learned it takes too much time doing what I don't want to be doing to go this route.

Here’s a great website to read through to determine your course of action…

Also, if you are serious about writing children’s books beyond just this one, I highly suggest joining the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. I learned sooooo much from them and also was given lists of publishers to submit my work to.  Check them out.
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For those of you who are interested, my church holds a conference for the entire world two times a year and many people have asked for a copy of my illustrated notes. I call them #sketchnotes . Here's a link to the PDF file of all the notes from October's conference sessions. These are for personal use and not for resale of any kind. Enjoy!

Julie Olson Illustrated General Conference Notes
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Big Trip Planned (because I'm getting old)

A few months ago I realized that this year would be my 20th High School Reunion and all of a sudden I began to feel my age. I developed arthritis in a few knuckles, I tore a tendon in my right elbow, and my left knee developed tendonitis. In all honesty those things didn't all happen after my realization but they have all happened in the last year or so. Hence, in reflection, I began to feel quite old in my little 5'1" body. However, let me tell you, in my not so little mind, I AM NOT OLD!

Do you hear that? I AM NOT OLD!!!! (ok, that one should've been loud had 4 exclamation points).

So I've decided that as I head back to my hometown this week for my 20th high school reunion, I am NOT going to feel old. As I visit and give 3 school presentations at my former elementary school, I am NOT going to feel old. And as I meet the children of my childhood best friend as I crash on her couch, I am NOT going to feel old.

My friend and I are going to stay up late (like til 10pm...if we can make it that longl) talking girl talk, eating popcorn and braiding each other's hair. Because I am NOT old.

I'm going to stand next to the tallest 5th grader at my elementary school and relish the fact that he/she is taller than I am so therefore...I am NOT old.

And finally, I'm going to dance like I'm 16 again at the reunion, telling my aching knees, hands, feet and elbows to stuff it, because...I am NOT old.

Oh and by the way, I here's where I will be doing school presentations and book signings while I'm in the Midwest. If any of you are anywhere in the vicinity, stop by the signing on Friday, which is my birthday by the way, and be sure to tell me I DON'T look old. ;-)

Friday, September 26th:

Highland Elementary School, Evansville, Indiana
grades 4-5 / 8:25 to 9:05 am
grades 2-3 / 9:30 to 10:15 am

grades K-1 / 10:15 to 10:45 am

Westside Catholic School, Evansville, Indiana
all school assembly 12:45pm

Book Signing at Barnes & Noble, 624 S Green River Rd, Evansville IN
6:30 pm

Monday, September 29th:

Stonegate Elementary School,  Zionsville, IN
9:30 - 10:00 - K & 1st
10:10 - 10:40 - 3rd & 4th
10:50 - 11:20 - 2nd 
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Signed with a Literary Agent!!!!

That's right. I just signed with Literary Agent John Cusick with Greenhouse Literary Agency. I've been repped by an art rep for the last 7 or so years and it's been just fine. They brought me jobs illustrating everything from books to asthma medication. However, I reached a point in my life and my career where I felt I needed to evolve, to change things up. I felt I needed and wanted to focus on only books and work on writing and illustrating the whole project myself.

After a long talk with my art rep, we came to the understanding that since I wanted to focus more on writing (which they couldn't help much with), I needed to choose the path which suited my goals best. So, I nervously parted ways with them and signed on with John.

John and I met back in 2012 at a WIFYR conference and had kept in touch. It was a natural progression to sign on with him and jump more fully into the writing AND illustrating of picture books. Read John's wonderfully written account of it all HERE along with my answers to some introduction interview questions.
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Signing at Swiss Days

Hello Friends! Just thought I'd let you know that I'll be signing my Discover America book at the Midway, Utah Swiss Days this Friday, August 29 from 2pm-5pm in booth #46, facing Main Street in Midway. It's THE BOOK SHOPPE's booth. Come by and say hello, get some coloring pages for the kiddos and their hand stamped. And you can even get a book if you feel so inclined. And then have a blast browsing the rest of the fair.

Here's a general map of the booths at the fair and the one in Red is the booth I'll be signing at.

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World Art Drop Day #artdropday

Hey everyone! This is a GREAT, AWESOME, FANTASTIC, FUN, EXCITING idea my friend Jake Parker had. And he's a GREAT, AWESOME, FANTASTIC, FUN, EXCITING artist so you should definitely check it out! #artdropday
An open call to action to ALL artists everywhere! 
All artists, (that means students and professionals, painters and cartoonists, sculptors and illustrators, animators and fine artists, EVERYONE who creates) this September 2nd is World Art Drop Day. Wherever you find yourself that day, drop a piece of your art and tell someone where to find it. The world needs this right now. We need to feel a little more connection to each other and there's nothing like the bond two random strangers can make through the act of creating and giving.
I recently just finished a cross-country art drop this summer and it was exhilarating. The emails and responses I received from the finders ran the gamut of funny to touching. I want that for everyone!
Here's how it works:
  • Draw a picture and hide it somewhere.
  • Take a photo of either the art or the hiding spot or a combination of both.
  • Post the image, the city you dropped it in, and a hint on any social media of your choice. Be sure to included the hashtag: #artdropday
  • Then move on, hoping someone finds it. OR hang around and meet your new friend.
That's it!
I need your help spreading the word on this. Reblog it, retweet it, facebook it, or even tell someone in person!
September 2nd, lets connect the whole planet with art!
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Writing Retreat for Picture Book Authors

Literary Agent, Jodell Sadler will be doing picture book critiques Aug 30, 2014 at Sundance Lodge Writing Retreats, up in the mountains of Utah at Sundance Lodge.  In addition, 4 professional authors/illustrators will be presenting tips and advice on writing picture books. 

The cost for the whole day (including 3 gourmet meals) is only $150. If you need lodging for Friday and Saturday night, cost is another $100. Contact Mette Ivie Harrison ( to get signed up and get more information. Other guests include Julie Olson (Discovering America), Kristyn Crow (Zombelina), Sharlee Glenn, and Shawna Tenney. 

Great views, great company, the best food, a chance to meet casually with other writers, new and more experienced, along with the chance to talk one-on-one with an agent--it's a chance that's hard to beat. In addition to the critique, you'll have a chance to talk casually with all of the presenters and with Jodell, and to ask all the questions your inquiring heart desires.

See pictures of the retreat lodge Check it out for pictures of the retreat location as well as of the yummy food.

Don't miss out!
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Summer Storytime

This week I will be doing the evening story time at the Orem City Library (located in Orem, UT). So if you would love a free night out with the family, come on by. It is Tuesday, July 22nd at 7pm in the storytelling wing of the children's section.

Come find out which page of the book this little boy appears on...

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Presentation & Book Signing 7/15/14

This Tuesday night at 7pm I will be doing a presentation/story time and book signing for DISCOVER AMERICA: FROM SEA TO SHINING SEA at The Kings English Bookshop in Salt Lake City. I would love to see you there. Here are the details...

Julie Olson | Discover America: From Sea to Shining Sea

Jul 15 2014 7:00 pm
Jul 15 2014 9:00 pm
1511 South 1500 East
Salt Lake City
United States
Join local author, Julie Olson, for a reading and signing of her new picture book, Discover America: From Sea to Shining Sea.
Follow the patriotic journey of a little red balloon as it makes its way from the West Coast to the East Coast of the United States. Accompanied by the words of one of America's most beloved anthems America the Beautiful, From Sea to Shining Sea shows the diversity and beauty of our great country through the eyes of our nation's children. To add an interactive experience, kids all across the United States will be able to go online to send their own balloons on their own journey.
Places in the signing line are reserved for those who purchase a copy of Discover America: From Sea to Shining Sea from The King's English.

GET YOUR COPY NOW! Preorder your signed copy ofDiscover America: From Sea to Shining Sea today, by either calling the store at 801-484-9100 or ordering online. Please specify if you will be attending the event and if you want your book personalized.
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ALA 2014 - Las Vegas

This year I was invited by my publisher, Shadow Mountain, to come to the American Library Association Conference held in Las Vegas to sign books in their booth. They put me up in a nice hotel, fed me a wonderful dinner, and treated me like an all out star. They are AWESOME publishers!

The goal for publishers at ALA is to get their books into the hands of librarians, teachers and readers across the country so they will spread the word about how awesome a book is. The perk for those attending ALA, is that they get a TON of free books (with the understanding that they will post reviews and share which books people should buy). The publishers bring in authors to sign their newly released or soon-to-be-released books and it is just a FAN FEST. Many long lines & many short friendships later, you walk away excited to read a book and share it with the world.

My illustrator friend, Apryl Stott, met me at the conference and worked with me to promote my book and helped out at the signing. It was so fun to see her there and to spend some time catching up.

I signed on Saturday and Sunday mornings for an hour each time. On Saturday, the line of people wanting me to sign a book for them was amazingly long (some of the people in line told me my line was as long as the Caldecott winner David Wiesner's line). I hope they all like my book as much as his. :-) I was humbled by this turnout and so grateful for the positive comments people gave me on my book, Discover America: From Sea to Shining Sea.

All in all I had a wonderful time, a wonderful experience and a wonderful trip. Thank you to all the amazing teachers, librarians and book lovers out there. KEEP READING!!!

Here are some pics from the trip:

View from my hotel room

The first of 2 signings at the Shadow Mountain booth 11am Saturday Morning

I was told by people in line that my line was as long as Caldecott Winner, David Wiesner's line. I don't know about that but I did sign for an hour straight. I met so many nice people, teachers, librarians and even kids.

This little girl was the highlight of the signing. She even signed a book she made with her dad for ME! I was honored.

And here I am signing one back for her. (and small world, the guy in the background with white hair is actually my neighbor back home. It just happened that his company had a booth at the convention and he happened by during my signing)

still signing

I had Tshirts made for my friend Apryl and I to wear the first day...a bit of advertising for the book. It worked.

Kevin Henkes signed a book for me and asked for one of my postcards.
And yes, I stood in line for all of my favorite authors and illustrators. I am so not above standing in line. :-)

The amazing Jon Klassen and Mac Barnett

A shot of me with my awesome friend Apryl Stott and one of our signed books

I got to meet Markus Zusak, author of The Book Thief. He was so kind and personable.

Meeting Rosemary Wells, author illustrator of the Max and Ruby series and now franchise

Molly Idle signing and discussing technique. I can't believe she only uses colored pencil. 

Me and Melissa Sweet. Her collages are beautiful!

Apryl and I ready for a night on the town in Las Vegas. (Of course things don't get too wild when you've got two alcohol abstaining, book loving moms going out)

Me and Karen Zelnick, Marketing Guru for Shadow Mountain Publishing, at the Publisher's Dinner at FIX in the Bellagio. Yummy food. Great company.

Meeting Tom Lichtenheld, author illustrator (of Goodnight Goodnight Construction Site as well)

Second signing on Sunday Morning in the Shadow Mountain Booth. I signed out of all 250 copies the publisher brought to the conference. They were very surprised and pleased to place so many books. I was surprised and pleased so many people came to the signings.

One of my illustrating/story telling heros, Aaron Becker. He signed one of his books for me and I signed one of mine for him. Nice exchange. Very kind person.

I also got to meet up with some of my Utah author friends. Here's me snagging one of Ally Condie's ARC's. Loved the book by the way. We sat together years ago at a signing in a Christian bookstore, before she made it big. Now look at her. What a sweet, kind person she is. She is a wonderful mom to her kids, author for the YA market, and friend to all. YAy Ally!

Getting a quick hug and an ARC from my wonderful friend Carol Lynch Williams. Read her stuff! It's good!

Meeting Oliver Jeffers, hip, cool, creative author/illustrator.

My haul of books from ALA.  I've snagged time to read a few of the Novels and all of the picture books. Love 'em! Good stuff. I'm a lucky gal.

My kids love the books too!

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Book Reviews for Ally Condie's "Atlantia" and Ilima Todd's "Remake"

AtlantiaAtlantia by Ally Condie
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I was so excited to get an Advance Readers Copy of Ally Condie's "Atlantia."

I'll try not to give out any spoilers here (even if you want me to), but I will say that this is a wonderful story of independence, loyalty, family relationships, love, and sacrificing for the greater good.

I like the fact that this book kind of deals with 2 (well also mentions a 3rd) civilizations. While it focuses mainly on one, you get glimpses into the other. The one it focuses on, Atlantia, is fascinating and created wonderful visuals for me. (I'm ready for a whole Disneyland or Sea World theme park just focused on this place). It was nice to "live" in an undersea world for a while and not in the usual grime of dystopian futuristic novels.

I appreciated Condie's ability to focus on the inner struggles of Rio, the main character, while giving us the sense of the personalities and struggles of the other characters as well. I'm not a fan of when authors jump out of the main character's head and into another's just to be able to tell the whole story. But Condie didn't do this and was still able to tell the WHOLE story.  I love that Rio is a strong female character who makes her own choices without ever sounding like she's whining, even when she gets frustrated or down.

I'll leave you with my favorite quote from the book, (I'll leave out a line though, which I also like, because I don't want to give too much away). This almost sounds like a line out of the author's personal diary (or one out of any teenager's):

"When I was growing up, I often felt trapped by the constraints of my voice, the concerns of my family, the confines of my city. ...I know I am no longer trapped."

RemakeRemake by Ilima Todd
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I was so excited to get an ARC of this book. Lucky me! When it's available to all, I highly suggest picking it up. Fun, yet thoughtful read.

On the surface, it's a story about gender, choice, and freedom. However, it made me think much deeper about how the relationships we form actually free us to be who we really are, how the choices we make others may see as confining and limiting to our personal freedom. However, those relationships and choices actually make us grow and become more than we ever could have without them.

This book fit right in the dystopian genre, however I really liked the imagery and real-world elements of the island life in the middle. It made me feel even more connected to the world she created (maybe that's because I dream of living the island life). Some people may say, "oh this part is like this other book where people get to be made pretty," or "she named the main character NINE...she must've just added the number 5 to FOUR from that other book." But even though parallels can be drawn (LIKE WITH EVERY OTHER BOOK THAT IS IN THE SAME GENRE), Ilima does a great job in making every character and plot choice relevant to the book. So don't hate on the parts that cause you to possibly reflect on other books or stories. All stories spring from the same elements, and when a book is a specific genre, there are specific elements that MUST be there to put it in that genre. But honestly, I enjoyed this book much more than those other two I slightly referenced above.

I also thought the author created a believable, not-so-distant future, type of world ironically named Freedom. Yes, they have the freedom to choose who they will be on the outside, however, they are distracted by that superficial choice into giving up other freedoms. I think we are often distracted by the superficial in todays world, forgetting what's really important.

The author crafts the story in a way to help the reader and the character within the story naturally form opinions on what is really important in life. Can't wait to read more from Ilima Todd!

View all my reviews

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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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