SCBWI Conferences: Socialize! (Especially you, introverts! I believe in you!)


It’s such an odd thing to think that an introvert will tell you how important it is to socialize at conferences, but I would argue that it’s one of the most important things about attending a conference. Taking a deep breath and allowing yourself to meet someone new opens the door to potentially wonderful friendships.  

While you’re sitting at home in front of your computer, it’s easy to say “YES. I am going to TALK to people!” but then suddenly you’re standing in the middle of a room while people are networking and talking. You are an awkward island and you don’t know how to move (what do I do with my arms?), make eye contact (am I staring? Don’t look at anyone! AH! I JUST LOOKED AT THAT PERSON AND THEY LOOKED AT ME!) , and the panic is rising up your body until you flee to your hotel room and eat a sleeve of cookies.  

It may not be cookies. That might just be me 😉 

First, take a deep breath. I know I said this before, but taking a deep breath will let your body know that you’re not being chased by tigers or zombies, OR ZOMBIE TIGERS. That will signal to your body that it can calm down a little bit. Keep breathing. Let yourself feel your feet on the floor and repeat this in your head: 

“Everyone gets nervous. I’m worth meeting. I can do this. I got this.” 

Some great places to introduce yourself: 

  • By the water jugs. Everyone gets thirsty. People actually talk about getting thirsty.  
  • In line for food. “What’s that? Mashed potatoes? Oooh I want to eat that!” 
  • Sitting next to someone at a session or before a keynote. (I know, you can do it! Be brave!) 
  • Looking at portfolios during the show case. “Whoa, this is beautiful work! Look at this image!”  


If you get really stuck, you can always fall back on these subjects:

  • Music (“What kind of music do you like to listen to?”)
  • What someone is reading, at this conference, it’s safe to assume everyone has a book they really enjoy
  •  What part of the conference they are most looking forward to, or if it’s later in the weekend, what part they really enjoyed.
  • Where they are from. I love hearing about people’s hometowns and what it’s like there. But if someone looks different from you, dont’ ask “Ohio? No, where are you REALLY from?” (I’m looking at you fellow white people. Don’t be that person)


If you don’t have plans for lunch, be bold, find a friendly group of people and ask “May I join you?” Most people will say yes. Don’t monopolize the conversation but also be proud of who you are and don’t cower within yourself when someone asks about you.  

And if someone invites you to have dinner or drinks with a group, go for it. Yes, it’s going to be exhausting if you are an introvert , but it will also be FUN! You’ll make friends, and pretty soon, you’ll find yourself a part of a group of people who are just amazing, and you’ll be making plans to come back to the next conference so you can hang out with them again.


And because, what is a post without pictures? here are some cat studies I did last week.

  Surfing the Webs


SCBWI Conferences: Stay an extra day!

Going to conferences can be a lot of fun, but also a bit nerve wracking to plan for. With SCBWI’s annual Winter Conference in New York coming up, and some amazing local conferences like the one in Pittsburgh (November 8&9, 2019) I wanted to write a few posts about conferences and what I wish someone had told me when I started out.

When planning your trip, I really encourage you to book at least one extra day in the city. You’ve traveled all this way to go somewhere new, plan out some sights you want to see and schedule a day to enjoy being a tourist. If you can, schedule more than one day! I love doing this when I go to New York for the winter conference, and each time I get to try something new. I saw the show Wicked, got a selfie at Rockefeller Center, and tried some restaurants that were new to me! I also probably ate way too many black and white cookies. Enjoy being a tourist!

If you are coming to Pittsburgh for our annual conference this November (link here), you’ll be glad you took an extra day or two to stay. There’s a LOT of really cool stuff here that I take for granted in this city, like our amazing museums, the science center, Phipps, concerts, plays and musicals, etc. There’s something for everyone from the music lover to the sports fan. And you can finally try that Primanti’s sandwich you’ve heard so many good things about.

Below is a drawing I did in colored pencils. I really am mostly a digital artist, but there’s something about the sounds and smells of traditional media, and the response of the tools in your hands. Several times, I did try to zoom into the drawing to see what I was doing more clearly, but I’m really proud that I only hit the imaginary ctrl z once 😀 

Drawing In Pencil

Color Palettes

I’ve been trying to post on wordpress for a while, but at one point, wordpress kept eating all my posts, and THEN my internet was down (sobbing noises). Then I thought “Maybe the universe is trying to keep me from writing something to you! And since I’ve long forgotten what I was going to write last week, I figure that must be the case. In the meantime, here is a leafy drawing I did in the Procreate app.

I have really liked using limited color palettes lately. It really takes a lot of the anxiety out of illustrating for me. I find it influences my sketches as well as how I paint it all in. Too many choices was stressful, but saying this is the image I want, this is the mood, here is my small box of crayons to work with. I love it.

Inktober: It’s up to you!

Inktober is here! Are you going to join in this year? I like working with ink, and there’s something fun in the challenge of not having an “undo” button or erasing mistakes. I’ve seen some beautiful inked pieces from other artists who made a mistake and then took some time to problem solve, and finish the work. It’s very inspiring to witness that process. But sometimes it can be really frustrating when you are so close to finishing something and then BLOP! A big ink blot over the face of your awesome character. Where’s my eraser? AAAHHH!

My favorite tools for inking are a stick pen, speedball super black ink, and J nibs (Thanks to Matt Cordell for recommending these!). The J nib is super nice, it has a nice flow and a nice tip size for making your mark. Also, how neat is the BOX it comes in? I found these on eBay! When I need to be really precise, I’ll use Micron Pens, or Prismacolor Premier pens. Can you have too many pens? Nah. You’ll also see in my tools photo a cool spoon rest I picked up at an art festival. It is the best thing ever for resting my pens and brushes on. I wish I had thought to use something like this years ago.

These are a few of my favorite things

It’s okay not to participate in Inktober, and it’s okay to participate a couple days a week or just a couple times that month. You get to determine what is best for yourself. You don’t get paid to participate in Inktober, it’s just a fun challenge, and you can choose the level of your involvement! Self-care and boundary setting are important! I’m not planning to participate this year; I may draw something for it here and there, but mostly I plan to enjoy the artwork everyone else creates this month. Share your links below if you are participating this year!

This is me NOT participating in Inktober. Um…done in ink


Starry Night, in Procreate. Working with a limited color palette

Is everyone excited about the first day of fall tomorrow? Does it still feel like summer to anyone else? It’s 85 degrees Fahrenheit today, which feels more July than September for Pennsylvania.

Side note: I never remember how to spell Fahrenheit. I always just sound it out and let spell check handle it for me. Also a sticky spelling word: Souvenir. I keep wanting to add extra “e”s to the end of it. Does anyone else have words their brains just can’t seem to wrap around?

I’ve just returned from a vacation in Maine, and I had such a wonderful time! We went to Bar Harbor and explored Acadia National Park. Hiking is a lot of fun. And even though it turns out I am allergic to lobster, there’s a lot of other great things about Bar Harbor besides lobster. Like ice cream! and a bookstore! And beautiful views! and lots of hiking with big rocks! If you like hiking and ice cream (and lobster) I hope you’ll get a chance to go there someday.

Sunrise in Bar Harbor

Walk to Mt. Doom

In an effort to take better care of myself, I started to eat less and exercise more. So far I’ve lost 15 pounds! YAY! You can really tell if you look at my ears. My ears are so svelte right now.

Anyway, my folks and I will be walking to Mt. Doom. Thanks to The Eowyn Challenge, the mileage is already mapped out! I made us little Hobbits. My mother is going to be Frodo, I’m Samwise, and my dad is Bilbo, and he’s thinking of following Bilbo to the Lonely Mountain, because he doesn’t think Mordor would be a nice place to walk to. Too many orcs and evil overlords. Something like that. How we’ll keep track is a mile walked is a mile walked and if we ride a bike then 2 miles riding =1 mile.

Bilbo, Samwise, and Frodo completed on the Procreate App

If you’d like to join us, feel free to I’m in! in the comments and post your updates along with us as we move forward!

If you’d like to follow a real life adventurer, follow my buddy Bruce‘s blog, who has been walking the Appalachian Trail since April! Bruce is AMAZING!

Drawing Hobbits, by the way, was so much fun. IF ANYONE ENDS UP MAKING A CUTE LOTR GRAPHIC NOVEL, I’M AVAILABLE! 😀

Highlights Foundation: Your Guide to Graphic Novels Workshop 2019

This past weekend, I had the pleasure of attending “Your Guide to Graphic Novels” workshop at Highlights Foundation. This was my second Highlights workshop, and both times were restorative experiences.

We had some amazing faculty/guest speakers. Merrill Rainey, Nidhi Chanani, Lila Weaver, and Colleen Af Venable. They were so informative, honest, and friendly. Everything you would hope for in an educational setting. We learned about how the process of graphic novels works, how to write a script, and how panels work. Each participant had an opportunity to bring a favorite graphic novel and after we introduced our favorite books, they went on a table for a weekend library. It was a wonderful ice breaker, and a great way to connect with other participants (“I read the book you brought! that was great!”)

If you’ve never been to Highlights Foundation, it’s a pretty remarkable experience. They have a very kind and industrious kitchen staff that will cater to your specific dietary needs. As much food as possible is sourced locally, and prepared with pride. The grounds are easy to walk around with gravel paths leading everywhere. You can stay in the farmhouse, the lodge or small individual cabins. I’ve stayed in a cabin both times, and they are quite comfortable, private and ideally suited for introverts. You’ll hear scary stories about ticks, but there is bug repellant available in the rooms and even in the Barn so if you stick to the mowed spaces and paths, you can avoid any icky bugs. It’s a lovely landscape, but the staff are really the ones to make the place feel welcoming and friendly.

I’m glad for the time I spent at Highlights. It really gave me a sense of purpose and direction. I came home feeling rested and ready to go for the first time in a few months, and I recommend going there for any artist who would like to meet new people, recharge their batteries, and learn something new.

Switching from Photoshop to Clip Studio Pro

Clip Studio Pro recently came out with a full-program app available in the Apple Store, and yes, it IS a subscription. There are two tiers and you can choose monthly or annual subscription. I chose the $24 dollar annual subscription. Yeah. $24 dollars. I love that price.

What initially drew me to Clip Studio was when Adobe started their subscription services for Creative Cloud. I wanted a one-time purchase product, and at the time, they were having an amazing sale so I got Clip Studio Pro EX for $109 dollars. I think you can buy it today for about $220, which is still an amazing price. The app syncs beautifully with the computer program, and I find the interface intuitive and for the bits that aren’t, there’s a wonderful link for tutorials, how-tos and a forum to ask questions.

But what about my photoshop files? Well, those will import nicely into Clip Studio, with all the layers intact. And if you love the Procreate App on the iPad, you can export those files into the Clip Studio App and save it to the cloud so you can access it on your desktop and tablet. Which is SO NICE, especially when one’s wireless printer is not apple compatible. Its’ also nice just to check out my art on a Windows machine and an Apple Machine so I have a better idea how it may show up on different screens.

Basically it’s an easier program for me to use, and it checks off all the boxes I have for illustration. There’s no need for me to keep photoshop anymore, especially now they are playing around with their subscription prices.

Coughing and Writing

I’ve been sick with a cold for two weeks, and I’m pretty tired of feeling yucky. I’ve been sleeping a lot, and seeing how fast I can beat my last record of going through a box of tissues.

The good news is, I’m also writing a lot more. I have a couple story ideas that I’m really excited about, and so I’m writing my first drafts which are AWFUL, and that’s wonderful. If writing is like cleaning out a closet, the first draft is emptying the closet and throwing everything on the bed. All your ideas are out there, messy and disorganized, but once you work through it, you know you’ll have a good story/ tidy closet.

So far my writing process goes like this:

  1. Write two sentences
  2. Stare into space.
  3. Write another sentence
  4. Stare into space visualizing the scene and curse once I realized I stopped typing.
  5. Try to “rewind” visualization and type it out poorly.
  6. Make a cup of hot cocoa and wish it was the kind with marshmallows.

I’m having a BLAST. 🙂

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