Hello again!

Much has changed since my last post here. 2014 was a whirlwind, so I took some time off from blogging to get my bearings. I am happy to be back with updates on on my adventures, both bunny painting and otherwise!

Shortly after my last post, this little guy arrived:


He has brought much joy and much busyness! We are totally, utterly in love with our tiny fellow. And also we are very busy. Did I mention that?

Shortly before his arrival, my husband and I closed on a house and began converting it from a two family to a single. With no experience and a lot of excitement we put our home renovation dreams into action. Much of the year was spent wandering around mess that looked like this:


Surely enough the space was transformed, and we moved into our house at the end of the year:



We've been painting, organizing, and unpacking ever since. I'm excited to post some before and after pictures when the transformation is complete.

When not house painting, I've been hard at work with a different kind of paint brush. The illustrations for Sprout Street Neighbors (book 1) are now complete and I am so excited that it's book birthday is almost here! In one month's time it can be found in bookstores at last.


Til then I'll be posting more of the artwork, peeks inside the making of the book, and details about ways to celebrate with me (mark your calendars for a launch party on June 6th at the Odyssey). Stay tuned!

Gratitude

Getting ready to travel to Virginia to see my family for the holidays, I had a lovely (if not busy) time making ornaments, buying gifts, and decorating a tree. It's been especially sweet introducing Tilly to these traditions. She really seems to be getting the idea of gift giving... just a few days ago she handed me an empty brown shopping bag and declared "I got you a present!"


These sweet moments stand in stark contrast to the recent tragedy, which I can barely name without melting into despair. It's shadows keep rising to the surface when I least expect them. We are beyond lucky to walk this planet, live this life, love our children, family, and friends. The improbability of it all is almost too much to bear. May the coming year by fill us all with love and gratitude.

A thousand readings

I've been collecting, reading, admiring, and creating children's books for a good long while now. Until recently, I thought it a relatively easy task to pick a picture book up and determine if it will capture the attention of a child and offer them something of value. I'd flip through the pages, take in the illustrations, and read through it quickly to look for flow.

But becoming a mom has turned all that on it's head. I now read Tilly's favorites over and over, day after day, morning, noon, and night. Soon into those kind of repeat readings, the true quality of the writing becomes plain as day, and the book takes on a different feel. Some books that I first found sweet, I've come to dread slogging through. I trip on their clunky turns of phrase, mouthful of syllables, and jarring jumps in plot. I find myself editing them as I read.

Then others just glide off the tongue and virtually read themselves. It's made me realize how important it is for children's book creators to spend a lot of time reading to children, at some point in their career.

Here we are reading Peter Rabbit (best done in a lion suit).


And here are some of our other favorites; Tilly never tires of them and neither do I.


  

Halloween on the way

I've long had dreams of coming up with super creative costumes for my kid when the time came, but it would seem that we are still at the age where Tilly would likely tolerate a costume for not more than ten minutes before pulling it off and taking it apart to examine it. So this year I'm afraid I will have to settle for admiring other's crafty projects. Oh Happy Day! has been posting a number of adorable costumes in recent weeks. In particular I thought this one was sweet, based on The Red Balloon. I had the book as a kid and was totally fascinated. Do you have any big plans for your trick-or-treater?


It showed up


I've been back at writing regularly post-baby for a few weeks and feeling frustrated that it's taking so long to get in the flow. I feel like I've been writing and writing, but not getting anything done. Now this is not the first work I've done since I had Tilly a little over a year ago, but it's the first time we've had a babysitter. So I've had concentrated amounts of time to focus, which is totally different. I've been so anxious to get to this point, it feels like there is a big bubbling pot of ideas that will explode if I don't give it a way out.

But then there is the terror of that big blank screen. And as I said above, miles and miles of writing that seem to go nowhere. So I was chatting with Libby and she said, "don't worry, if you keep showing up, the work will show up." I've repeated that to myself several times in the past week and decided to just show up. It's all I can do to get back on track and it's what I have to do. So I have. And then, last Thursday, it showed up. I got so lost in writing that I barely noticed the baby coos and shrieks of excitement coming from downstairs. The hours flew by. And now I remember how it feels, and why I needed to get back here.

Even if my career goes in a very different direction now that I'm a mom, I'm committed to showing up and seeing what happens.

(Graphic from Ben Silbermann, the founder of Pinterest, photo by A Practical Wedding)

A house in the woods

It's been a busy month with sadly not much writing or drawing going on. We are packing up for a move once again, this time to a little house in the country:


It's been a long time since I've lived in the woods, twenty years I guess? Since leaving home as a teenager I've lived in Richmond, Virginia, Providence, Boston, San Francisco, and most recently Northampton, Massachusetts. Lately though I've been feeling the strong urge to live in a remote, beautiful, quiet place. Maybe the work of taking care of a baby has become enough stimulation and I need more of a calm, relaxing environment. Or maybe I've just come full circle and want to raise Tilda in a place similar to where I grew up. Either way, I'm excited to see where the change of environment takes me personally and creatively.

More soon once we settle in!

Getting settled

Right now life is a bit chaotic, so I just thought I'd give a quick update on all the settling in going on now that I am back on the East Coast. First off, this is what my office looks like:


Nice, huh? There is much to be done. But as I said a couple weeks ago, it feels good to go through all my things once again and purge. I feel like I'm wiping the slate clean and preparing for a new phase of life.

In between the unpacking and sorting I recently made a quick trip down to Mystic to see Linda's incredible play and visit with Libby, Alissa and her family. It was a lovely day involving a picnic and stroll by the water in Stonington, CT. Tilda enjoyed the fresh sea air and playing with Libby's hair.


When the mess in my office or stress of making a home *again* gets to be too much, I sit with Tilda and remember how lucky I am to have her (or more accurately, belong to her). I can't even imagine life without her at this point.


Thats all for now! Will be back to books as soon as those boxes disappear...

Operating Instructions

For the past couple months when I have a few minutes I've been reading Operating Instructions by Anne Lamott. The book is a journal of her first year with her son, Sam, and how it changed her life. It is dark and funny and brutally honest. When I've had two hours sleep and am covered in spit-up and pacing the apartment trying to get baby to sleep its helps to hear about motherhood from a writer's perspective- she spares no detail good or bad. This is part of an entry when her son was 7 months old:

"I wish I felt more like writing. I don't particularly feel like I have anything to say these days. I feel like the propulsion is missing. All that emptiness and desire and craving and feeling and need to achieve used to keep me at the typewriter. Now there's me and Sam, and it feels like there's not any steam in my pressure cooker. Whenever I teach, I tell my students about that line of Doctorow's, that when you're writing a novel, its like driving in a tulle fog: you can only see about as far as the headlights, but that's enough; it's as far as you have to see. And I tell them that this probably applies to real life, too. But right now I feel like I'm just sitting in the car with Sam, not really going anywhere, just getting to know each other, both of us looking out through the window at what passes by, and then at each other again."

This is how I feel today. Writing and painting feel very far away.

Dream job

Our neighborhood here in San Francisco is teeming with families and the accompanying stores full of kid stuff, especially clothes and toys. I spend a lot of time taking baby on long walks and window shopping. Last week I wandered into a lovely store called Speesees a few blocks from our apartment. Everything is organic and fair trade and I just love the design. I can't wait til Tilda is old enough to wear this:


Or these:




They had some stuffed toys too:



I got to chatting with the owner and designer who is also a painter. When she found our I illustrated children's books she exclaimed that was her dream job. Its funny how the grass is always greener. I love my job but designing kids clothes sounds like a dream job to me!

Time well spent

I loved Alvina's post last week about people in publishing pursuing creative goals outside of their day to day work life. As a creative professional you have to find ways to re-engage with your creative instincts or you will surely burn out fast. Being home with a new baby has made me think about this all the more. Because my time to work is extremely limited at the moment its important that the time I do have is spent well. To me that means not wasting time with procrastination and self-doubt, but getting to the heart of what I want to say. I hope that spirit carries through to the time when I have more hours at the computer.

In the meantime, I will keep keep chipping away at manuscripts in the making. And when I can't get to the keyboard, I'll look for other ways to express myself. Right now that means this:


It may be 60 degrees and sunny in California (don't hate me east coasters), but knitting is something I can do a little at a time. And every stitch makes me more excited about the next book.

Sweet things

Hope you all had a lovely Valentine's Day yesterday! We made a visit, at last, to the incredible Tartine Bakery down the street from where we're staying in San Francisco. I've been hearing about this place for some time, but every time we've tried to go there was a line down the block to get in. So yesterday we headed out early and thankfully made it through the door. It every bit deserves its reputation for having the best sweets in the city. We had chocolate croissants still warm from the oven, apple brioche bread pudding, and these delicious chocolate hazelnut tarts.



After arriving home I got some sweet news. Disappearing Desmond has been included in the Cooperative Children's Book Center's best-of-the-year list. Hurray! I am truly honored to have Desmond on the list. Grace is on there too with Thanking the Moon: Celebrating the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival.



















The complete list will be here on March 5th. Congrats to everyone!

Lastly baby made some sweet progress this weekend. For the very first time she lifted her head up during "tummy time"! These days you have to give babies time on their belly, since its not considered safe to let them sleep that way, so they can learn to lift their head to prepare for crawling. Normally Wren cries the whole time, but this weekend she not only smiled through it but got some lift! I am a very proud mama.

What she likes

As I mentioned in this post, while I've got plenty of picture books on the shelf (though I have yet to determine which will be allowed into little hands and which will stay in perfect condition), I've never collected many board books. Now that I have a little one our board book library is increasing.

While baby clearly has little idea why we keep holding these boxy little pages in front of her she does seem to have some preferences. What they say about babies being attracted to high contrast images must be true, because she loves looking at this book:




By the same token Hungry Caterpillar always keeps her transfixed (I guess its a classic for a reason!). I think the bold shapes are easy for her to see, and the colors very appealing.







Here is another favorite, which I quite adore. Like I posted here, the story is so sweet and the artwork so delicate and beautiful. I love the combination of graphic shapes with collaged textures.




Lastly as a side note, when she's not looking at books baby just loves to look at her birds. She just stares and stares. Remember when we found them on a BRG weekend at Libby's? That was very lucky because they are baby's very favorite thing to look at. We first hung them in the living room and began to notice her gazing at them. When we brought her up close they would never fail to produce a grin, so we moved one string above her changing table. Now every time we change her, she looks up at them and smiles ear to ear.