Dad was the one who read to us, mostly adventure stories from the latest Reader’s Digest. He acted out the “I survived a bear attack” narratives (which appeared in the magazine with alarming frequency), complete with growling effects and side commentaries.
The voice in my head when I read to myself as a child was often that of my father.
Mom loved books too. She finished the piles my sister, and I brought home in night-long, marathon sessions. However, I don't have many memories of my mother reading out loud to us, nor of her teaching me the alphabet. What I remember is sitting on her lap.
To explain: My folks were not religious initially, but having a family changed that. The denomination they chose suited their tastes with its emphasis on the extensive study of the Bible and Bible-based literature.
As a toddler, I sat on my mother’s lap for hours during meetings, watching her finger move on the page while hearing the lines read out by various speakers. My mom only intended to keep a restless three-year-old occupied through hours of church.
She ended up teaching me to read
The Bible says that the world began with “the Word.” Mine certainly did.
It was in biblical verse I first encountered the universal struggle of good versus evil, tales of flawed heroes battling to do right, and the human quest for a better future, in spite of our best efforts at self-destruction.
While I no longer share my parents’ religion, I am grateful my literacy started there because of the rich understanding it brings to my reading.
So, I spent a month creating the text and illustrations for Spike the Dog-Dog Goes Home and sent it to my niece and her kids. (“Dog-dog” was what my niece called dogs as a toddler.) My niece recorded a video of her reading the book to her children. Oh, my! They were so excited to see their dog and their names in that story.
Of course, kids are going to love a book about themselves. But still—seeing their excitement as they read something I wrote and looked at pictures that I'd created—wow. I was hooked.
The buzz of seeing kids excited about my work started me down this path, but the high of playing with images and language all day keeps me going. I love storytelling—both visual and verbal.
I continue to work hard on learning the craft of writing as well as illustration, taking classes regularly. My writing and art style have evolved a great deal since that first book about Spike, thanks to my teachers and critique partners. The kidlit community is a wonderfully supportive place and I'm lucky to be a part of it. One day I hope to see one of my stories on shelves in a bookstore. Until then, I'm having a lot of fun.
Every artist has a process that is unique to their aesthetic and their chosen media. I'm a "traditional" artist, working with real world materials. In my case, that is mostly cut paper, watercolor pencils, and ink. I thought it might be fun to take you guys on a behind-the-scenes tour of the creation of one a recent portfolio piece.
I chose the German fairytale of the cobbler and the elves. You'll remember that it's about a poor shoemaker, desperate and hungry, down to his last pieces of leather. He had just enough to make one more pair of shoes, the sale of which were all that stood between his family and starvation.
Miraculously, elves come in a series of nights, making shoes so magnificent that the cobbler is pulled up out of poverty. In gratitude, the shoemaker and his wife make clothes for the elves, after which the elves leave and are never seen again.