Pat Schmatz’s Studio Tour

Today on Tuesday Tours we get a look inside the Minnesota writing studio of award-winning author Pat Schmatz. Pat divides her time between her Minneapolis apartment and her rural home in Wisconsin, when she’s not traveling across the country for school visits or abroad for inspiration. Wherever she finds herself, is the perfect place to write. Pat is the author of five novels for teens. Her newest book Lizard Radio (Candlewick) will be available in September of 2015. Pat’s novel Bluefish (Candlewick) won the PEN/Phyllis Naylor Working Writer Fellowship, Bank Street College of Education’s 2012 Josette Frank Award for fiction, and the SCBWI Crystal Kite Award for the midwest. It was also a Junior Library Guild Selection, an ALA Notable Children’s Book, and winner of the Wisconsin Library Association’s Elizabeth Burr/Worzalla Award. Pat’s other novels include Mousetraps (Carolrhoda), Circle the Truth (Carolrhoda ) and Mrs. Estronsky and the UFO (Little Blue Works). In addition to writing, Pat works for Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid, teaches on-line writing courses for The Loft in Minneapolis, and makes frequent visits to middle school classrooms to talk about writing, reading, and creativity.


Tell us a little bit about yourself and your creative medium.

The written page, specifically fiction for teens, is my go-to creative medium. That’s where I gravitate, that’s where I’ve put most of my attention, and it’s been a source of income and recognition. But I’m currently in an exploration phase. Picture books, dance, visual arts, music, poetry, translation – they are all on the table right now.


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How long have you had your space and how does it affect your creative process?
For the past 40 years, my workspace has been a spiral notebook. A teacher gave me one when I was 13 and said “if you want to be a writer, then write.” And so I did. I have stacks and stacks of them. My ideas usually appear there first, and when I’m stuck in a story, I go back to a spiral notebook to work out the emotion and experiment.
My other consistent workspace is the outdoors. I fully believe in and engage in “shinrinyoku” – a Japanese concept that means, basically, “forest bathing.” I walk out the door to work through logistical problems or shake loose the cobwebs or shift my frame. I go outside to remember what the point is.
As for the indoor space where I actually type, it’s entirely mutable. I do love my bookshelf, which currently lives in my apartment in Minneapolis. I travel a lot, and I have a laptop that usually goes with me, but not always. Wherever I go, I take a spiral notebook and the first thing I do when I arrive is explore the outdoors.

Describe a typical work day. Do you have any rituals you do before you start writing?
No matter what I’m working on, I start my day off around 5am with language study. Years ago, I heard that reading or writing in a different language resets your brain in a different way. I’ve read all 7 Harry Potter books in Spanish – that took me several years. I always have a novel going in Spanish, and I read a few pages in the morning. Lately I’ve been using the Duolingo app, too. I also study Japanese – at least one kanji per day. Sketching is another recent addition to my morning routine. I spend maybe a half an hour drawing. Once I’ve done all of that, I might start work, or I might go outside and exercise first. The morning is for focused creativity and exercise. Afternoons, I work on projects for pay or my day job. I’m basically worthless after 5pm.

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What’s the biggest distraction when you’re writing? How do you deal with it?
If I’m on focus, nothing distracts me. If I’m off-focus, everything does. I don’t have much trouble getting focused when I need to. If I’m not focused, I figure I’m working on something subterranean and that’s okay. Maybe it’s time to go out for a walk!

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Which other writers or creative people are you most inspired by at the moment? 
A youtube video of a 12yo named Greyson Chance doing a cover of Lady Gaga’s “Paparazzi” at his school talent show is high on my inspiration list. That kid had no idea what he had, no reason to hold back, and he just belted it out with no fear. That video moves me deeply. Anything in any medium that comes across my path and hits me emotionally, I’ll take that for inspiration. I recently saw “Into the Woods” and that’s been on my mind a lot lately.

Is there any special item/trinket in your space that inspires you?
I’m very fond of trinkets and toys – “endowed objects,” Jane Resh Thomas (extraordinary teacher, on the faculty for Hamline’s MFA program) calls them. I always have them on hand, and generally have a particular one for each story.

Pat 4Is there a favorite drink or food that you have while you work?
Nope, I don’t really combine eating and drinking with work.

Pat 3 What book’s currently on your nightstand/desk?
Complete Anatomy and Figure Drawing by John Raynes, The Art of Drawing People, A Collector’s Series, Steampunk!, edited by Kelly Link and Gavin J. Grant, Devolver a Remitente by Julia Alvarez, My Father’s Dragon (Japanese edition) by Ruth Stiles Gannett, and Boxers by Gene Luen Yang.

Pat2How do you organize your books/bookshelf? Is there a formula you use?
It starts off very organized – segmented into kid fiction, adult fiction, picture books, books on craft, and everything else – and alphabetized within each section. Then it descends into messiness, because I often refer to books when I teach or speak, or when I’m working on my own writing, and I just sort of jam then back in anywhere..

What advice do you have for people who want to make a personal space where they can be creative?
Whatever your space is, go outdoors. The trees and water and wind shift energy, and bring movement and wonder and light and vitality to the process.

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What’s coming up for you next and where can we find out more?

My teen novel Lizard Radio is coming out in September from Candlewick. It started at a small lake house in western Michigan, grew through the central Wisconsin winter woods (on skis) and polished off at Seabright Beach in Santa Cruz, California. I’m not sure I could have written it without those spaces.

Thanks so much for sharing your writing space with us, Pat! I’m very excited to read Lizard Radio this fall. The story sounds intriguing and the cover is gorgeous!

33 Foot Mural at Milwaukee Environmental Sciences School

Shimmerling--Wall Hangings3I’m working with the students over at the Milwaukee Environmental Sciences School, creating a 33 foot mural that will showcase a grouping of six trees similar to the Shimmerling Wall Hangings. The K4-6th grade students are using the school’s six character traits—Integrity, Grit, Leadership, Craftsmanship, Stewardship and Respect to inspire the artwork. Each student is creating two leaves for the trees—a self portrait and a designed leaf with inspired by the character trait assigned to their classroom. They will also create a leaf to take home as a souvenir from the residency. This project is funded by Arts@Large and a grant from Toyota Family Learning.


A few dates still available for Spring 2015–book now!

I have a few dates available for Spring 2015. If you’re interested in having me visit your school, please email to schedule a program.

I love visiting schools to share my experiences as an author and an illustrator. I have a number of presentations, workshops, and art residencies available. Below is a preview of some of my programs, but a higher quality PDF of my full program listing can be viewed here — Andrea Skyberg Author Visit Program Sheet (Full Version) 2014

Author visit_Andrea Skyberg

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David Catrow’s Studio Tour

Stand Tall Molly Lou MelonToday on Tuesday Tours I’m happy to feature the Springfield, OH studio  of NYT bestselling author and illustrator David Catrow. David is the Illustrator of over 70 children’s books, including some of my all time favorites—I Ain’t Gonna Paint No More (written by Karen Beaumont) and Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon (written by Patty Lovell). I never grow tired of hearing these stories and absorbing the over-the-top, energy-infused illustrations. My daughters and I laugh out loud every time we get to the end of I Ain’t Gonna Paint No More, and the protagonist, who has painted most of his body, decides to drop his tighty-whities and extend his living canvas to his tush—until that is, he runs out of paint. And who wouldn’t love Molly Lou Melon and her buck-teeth that she stacks pennies on, and her adorable short stature?I aint gonna paint David creates fantasy worlds of the best kind in his illustrations–tempting us to see a better reality, one which buck-teeth are beautiful and creative energy can’t be stilled, even by a mom who’s had enough with the mess. I’ve been drawn to David’s work for years, never knowing he was a self-taught artist, but it doesn’t really surprise me–some of the best artists (and most of my favorites) are. In addition to his multitude of books, David is also credited with the visual development for 20th Century Fox’s Horton Hears a Who and Despicable Me. He has worked on the animated television series Stuart Little and Plantzilla (based on the popular children’s book by Jerdine Nolan). His syndicated editorial cartoons have run in over 1000 newspapers across Canada and the US. And his scholastic book series Max Spaniel has sold over a million copies.


headshotscrapbookTell us a little bit about yourself and your creative medium.
I was born an artist—there isn’t any better way to say it than that. From the moment I was able to hold a crayon in my hand and not eat it, I have been communicating visually. I am comfortable being a self-taught artist, but at times it’s a double-edged sword. The up side is when I am forced to rely on one of my jury-rigged, build my wings on the way down strategies; it’s hell on the gastro-intestinal tract but in the end it yields some truly novel solutions. Life as a self taught artist is also fraught with tiger pits. I often think about the vast amounts of time wasted early in my career searching for answers in an unfamiliar technique or medium; I was like a Neanderthal carpenter searching for a rock to pound a nail—completely unaware that someone had invented a thing called a hammer. Those are the times that made me wish I’d gone to art school.

How long have you had your space and how does it affect your creative process?
While I would love to report that my studio overlooks the ocean from a wind swept hill, that is not the case. My window view is a typical city street with trucks and cars and buses—dogs barking at the UPS guy, kids playing hoop, and airplanes streaking overhead. The fantastic visions that come into my work, in fact originate from within the quiet solitude of my skull—so I think an ocean view would be a distraction.image4andrea10
I moved into my studio in 1991 and as any new space, it needed to be made mine. That process I am sure is different for every artist. Mine, for lack of a better description would be similar to any burrowing rodent or underground dwelling life form. I occupy the space and then proceed over time to cover the interior surface with an organic energy, producing tissue I can draw—this tissue is comprised of anything that suggests undiscovered potential or hints at new possibility. When I stumble upon something it’s like the Richard Dreyfus character in Close Encounters of the Third Kind— sees Devil’s Tower in his mashed potatoes and it means something. In other words, any meaningful thing I can get my hands on, I drag into my burrow.

Describe a typical work day. Do you have any rituals you do before you start creating?
I usually begin my day with caffeine. That might suggest a problem but I limit myself to two cups a day. Plus, I don’t think it’s any different from shaman who chew entheogens to put them into a trance to converse with Mother Earth—I just brew mine in a French press and add a dapple of ½ and ½.

If you could share a studio with anyone in the world, who would you pick?image4andrea9

If I could possibly share my space with someone it might be Jackson Pollack, because everything I have read makes me think we might have shared sensibilities. Responding to a critic who asked why his drip-paintings never included nature, Pollack rightly answered, “I am nature!”


Describe how you work. Is there any rituals you do before you start creating?

Initially, the ideas for books are simply favorite characters or environments, and it is from this that the story emerges. Most importantly, I approach the visual story as if words have never existed—all I have available to me is my ability to communicate like the cave artist: visually. In my mind the only difference between editorial cartoons and picture books, is the subject. I believe my work as an editorial cartoonist was most powerful when I could tell a story without any words at all. But I do enjoy word play too, so captions are an important and easy ingredient to help crystalize the joke or the opinion. Outside of picking out my socks, I’ve never actually planned a thing in all my existence on this planet—but my path has always seemed apparent to me as I moved through life. So when an opportunity presents itself, hey you have to leap!


Is there any special item/trinket in your space that inspires you?
When I was on a mountain bike trip in central Mexico in 2006, our group stopped at a tequila ranch for a breather and a little hydration (no tequila, just water). We were all a little tired so everyone was looking for a place to plant themselves. I found an old stump that had a lot of prickly growth to lean against. When something suddenly poked me in the side, I turned around to see this gnarly horn sticking out of the brush. Carefully parting the thorny branches, I found myself face to face with the most comically evil painted wooden mask I had ever seen in my life. I am not usually this forward but I found the farmer who owned the land and asked him if I could buy this amazing thing—which he agreed to sell to me for 40 pesos (about $20, maybe?). I carried him, piggy back, out of the bush on my bike. To this day, I have absolutely no idea where this object came from or what his story is but he lives in an honored place on the wall of my studio and is, on occasion a muse that nurtures my darker side.


Please share with us a memory of one of the best times you had working in your studio.

I have many moments working in my studio when there is no better place in the universe to be. Moments when I am discovering what no other person has laid eyes on. Like stepping onto a high ridge to see a vast new alien world for the first time; and then getting to name the planet after me.



What advice do you have for people who want to make a personal space where they can be creative?
My advice to anyone, whether they want to do art, write, be an acrobat, or just create a space where they can explore their interior universe, is to keep searching and moving forward in pursuit of what you love or seek. If you can make some sense of who you are, then maybe the guy standing next to you on the bus won’t seem as dark and threatening as you first imagined. Accepting who we truly are allows us to embrace and appreciate the differences in all the other beings that walk on this planet with us. And what kind of world would that be?

What’s coming up for you and where can we find out more?
My new book Fun in the Sun Fun in the Sunis a story about my all time favorite thing to do—pack up all my stuff and head out to the beach. Needless to say, my goal was never to make the trip vicariously as a french bulldog in a speedo. I just think anything wearing a speedo is just too funny, and I also thought a french bulldog was a fitting candidate this time around. After all I am a dog person and all of my books start out as a desire to experience something new. I hope you enjoy my new “pet” Fun in the Sun. You can see more of my work on my website or follow me on Facebook or Twitter.
David at computer

Thank you, David! I love how you described moving through life without a plan and leaping when you see an opportunity—it’s an inspiring way to work and live.
I’m looking forward to getting a copy of Fun in the Sun and seeing your speedo-wearing dog!

Join us next week when we get a chance to visit the writing studio of teen author and Pat Schmatz.

Carol Schwartz’s Studio Tour

Today on Tuesday Tours, we’ll take a look at where illustrator Carol Schwartz creates her art. Carol has worked with a wide variety of clients and her illustrations have been published in magazines, newspapers, advertising, and books for children. Her artwork has appeared in over 50 picture books. Today she shares her beautiful wooded studio in Bayside, Wisconsin, and fills us in on why having a cat sleep on your lap while working, might be problematic :)skyberg-tuesday-tours-logo

Carol Scwartz_smallTell us a little bit about yourself and your creative medium.
I’ve been working as a children’s book illustrator for 24 years. Before that, my focus was for a wider variety of clients, including newspapers, advertising agencies and institutional venues. I’ve been illustrating for the educational market since college when one of my professors at Rhode Island School of Design put me in touch with Houghton Mifflin. Growing up in Kansas City, Missouri, I always knew I wanted to be an artist. It was at the Kansas City Art Institute that I realized artists were creating illustrations for magazines and books and that’s what I wanted to do. I moved to Maryland after college where I was busy raising a family and building my illustration business. There were many illustration opportunities in the Washington, DC area. My clients included The Washington Post, Time Life Books and the National Geographic Society, to name a few. I began illustrating children’s books while there and joined The Children’s Book Guild of Washington, DC, which fueled my knowledge and passion for books. I began to enjoy success. One of my first books, Sea Squares, by Joy Hulme was selected as an Outstanding Science Trade Book by the National Science Teachers Association and the Children’s Book Council. It was also a Children’s Choice for 1992 and selected for the Original Art Exhibition. More than fifty other books followed. One of my highest honors is to say I was included in an exhibition at the Society of Illustrators in New York, Female Illustrators Past and Present. In the summer of 2014 I earned my MFA in Illustration from the University of Hartford. My thesis project was a children’s book about the Everglades which I wrote and illustrated. I am now trying to get it published. I have had many studios since living in Maryland. I moved with my family to Florida, North Carolina, Ohio and now Wisconsin. I’ve been in Milwaukee for 7 years. My studio in Bayside, fourteen miles north of downtown Milwaukee, is a sunroom with big windows on two sides, facing East. I look out on several acres of wooded ravine. It feels like a state park in my backyard. Wildlife is everywhere and it’s easy to get caught up in watching a flock of turkeys or several deer grazing on things I wish they weren’t eating. CarolSchwartz9One year we even had a family of coyotes make a den under the deck and have five pups. That’s a whole other story. In the morning when the sun is shining in, getting to work is delightful and I am grateful for such a beautiful view. My illustrations are done in gouache, which are opaque watercolors. I began working with this media in college and quickly learned to love it. I like how versatile these paints are. CarolSchwartz13I can get small details easily which is important for my science and nature work. It can be used in a transparent way as with traditional watercolors or in a more opaque way as with acrylics. I can also put it in my airbrush which gives me a smooth look. It’s great if I need to paint a sky, going from light to darker tones, or a smooth creature such as a shark or whale.
view of studio 2

How does your space affect your creative process?
Having good light is very important so the many windows in my studio give me an open feel and the freedom to create. The studio has a slate floor which is good because if I spill paint, it’s easy to clean up. Because it’s a sunroom in its former life, the studio has a wet bar, complete with a mini frig. I store art supplies in the mini frig and use the sink for cleaning brushes and washing my palette. My drawing board is a World War II era metal monster that can move up and down and tilt to any angle. I have two large lamps that light up my board like an operating room. All the better to get the detail in my work. My iMac computer, Cintiq and large format scanner are in the next room, a den that started out looking like a dark paneled cave until I painted it. All of my traditional work is scanned and then taken into Photoshop where I spend additional time on each piece.
computer room

Describe a typical work day. Do you have any rituals you do before you start creating?
I try to start working at 9 am unless I have a deadline and then I could be in the studio at 6 am. I don’t have any rituals. I turn my lamps on and get to work! I teach at Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design two days a week so each day is a bit different depending on my schedule. If I have a whole day at my desk, I work till about 6 or 7 with a short break for lunch and dinner. Then I’ll often work till 11 or midnight. I don’t get up and move around as much as I should. I have a cat, Milkshake, that keeps me company. CarolSchwartz14She likes to be on my desk demanding my attention. Often she curls up on my left arm and takes a nap. These naps don’t last long if I need to get to my paint water or my hand goes to sleep. My desk is tilted at about a 30 degree angle and sometimes she digs her claws in to keep her footing. I am not happy when I find claw marks on my artwork. Photoshop has saved me many times with this.
studio desk

Please tell us about a time you had the most fun working in your studio.
I had two very talented illustrator friends, Paige Billin-Frye and Jennifer O’Connell, visit me from Washington, DC. We spent a day in my studio together experimenting with a new technique. It was fun having company and trying something new. Being an illustrator is often isolating and lonely. Getting together with others is very important.

Does music influence how you work? What’s on your playlist now?
I’m not sure how much music influences how I work. I will say that if I am listening to a good beat, I get more done. I get in a zone. My favorites include Beck, Tedeschi Trucks Band, Bela Fleck and any Blues or R&B. If I’m not listening to music, I’m watching, or I should say listening, to, an old movie on TCM.

Is there any special item/trinket in your space that inspires you?
Everything comes to a stop if I don’t have all my tools. Sometimes I misplace my kneaded eraser or my ruler. There are things I really can’t live without.


Is there a favorite drink or food that you have while you work?
I always start with coffee in the morning and water during the day. You’ll often find me having a glass of white wine if it’s 5 o’clock.

studio paints

What are the three best things about your studio?
1. Being able to enjoy the view of woods and wildlife out my window is the best thing about my studio.
2.The way the light streams into my space.
3.Having a room large enough to have all my reference books and children’s book collection right there with me. I have a thousand children’s books which I have collected through the years, many of them vintage. I treasure them all.


If you could share a studio with anyone in the world, who would you pick?
It would be another illustrator. Of illustrators of all time, I’d choose Howard Pyle became he was an incredible illustrator and teacher. What I could learn from him!

What would you say is the most useful tool in your studio?
That is simple, a pencil. It all starts with sketching an idea. Second would be tracing paper. It allows me the freedom to experiment. I begin with a rough pencil sketch. Then I cover it with another piece of tracing paper and refine my image. Sometimes I find I need to reduce or enlarge something. I have an old Canon copier which makes the process quick and easy. I may cut up my sketch and move things around. Whatever it takes to get it right.

wet bar

What advice do you have for people who want to make a personal space where they can be creative?
Find a room where you can be comfortable. Put in it things that inspire you. Make sure you arrange it with everything you need to make the creative process flow and not be interrupted.


What’s coming up for you and where can we find out more?
Right now I’m working on illustrations for a book for Sterling Publishing called How Hot is Lava? I’m also working on an educational book about the rain forest and lots of other smaller jobs. For more information about my work, please check out my website at

Thank you, Carol! It was so much fun seeing where you work. Best of luck on your upcoming projects. 

Don’t miss the next Tuesday Tours when famed illustrator David Catrow shares his studio where he created the artwork for one of my all-time favorite books— Aint’ Gonna Paint No More!

Amy Arnold’s and Kelsey Sauber Old’s Studio Tour

Today on Tuesday Tours we get to visit the Viroqua home and studio of artists Amy Arnold and Kelsey Sauber Olds. Together they create wood sculptures, raise their three boys, and share a studio in Southwestern Wisconsin. I happened upon Amy and Kelsey’s work quite accidentally, as I clicked link by link during an online search, and wound up on their website. I was immediately impressed by their gorgeous sculptures, and because I’m all about collaboration, I was delighted to read about their creative partnership. Over the last three years they have combined their creative talents–Amy’s fiber art and Kelsey’s woodworking/furniture design to create beautiful figurative sculptures that they sell across the country at art festivals. Photos by Ray + KellyRichard Bock, and Drew Shonka.

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Tell us a little bit about yourself and your creative medium.
We are a married team of artists who make our home and studio at the end of a road on a ridge top that overlooks Seas Branch of the Kickapoo River in Southwestern Wisconsin. We live with our three sons currently aged 13, 8 and 7. We five are here together, working, playing and homeschooling ourselves. Over the years as time has passed and our needs have changed, our work and work space has changed as well. Amy & Kelsey5
When our oldest son was small we lived in Madison, Wisconsin. Kelsey had a studio and storefront away from home in which he was making custom furniture and I had a studio in our house where I worked about two days a week making soft sculpture and wool hats under the business name Peepwool. When we moved to rural Viroqua, Wisconsin we had two more children and an increased desire to make our lives more home and family centered. We found a house with an attached three car garage/studio and a finished third floor which could also be used as studio space. With this arrangement we were able to more successfully share working time in our studios and time caring for our young boys.
Amy & Kelsey

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How long have you had your space and how does it affect your creative process?
About three years ago I found myself feeling a bit restless. Our work lives changed such that I was the one who was working more and I felt like I was missing out on my kids lives. I was tired of being alone with my work. The repetitive movement involved in the hand sewing I was doing was becoming hard on my body. Kelsey was missing being in the studio and I was missing seeing him in the studio. All of these things led to us beginning the process of learning how to collaborate in our art work.
Amy & Kelsey19Now, drawing upon both of our experiences we are working together making human/animal figurative sculptures in wood. We each have our own processes and working styles and fitting these together can prove both challenging and exciting. In this new work we are interested in exploring a balance between human and animal; wild and tame; crude and refined; movement and stability; humor and seriousness; adult and child; and toy and art object. Now we’re sharing a work space and are actually are in the middle of setting up a new shop for ourselves that is not in the attached space but across the driveway. It is an very exciting time. Kelsey is over there installing the dust collection system as I am writing this.
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Describe a typical work day.
I love the studio. The time and space is precious. To have a day to oneself is a treat. I can open the doors during the warm months to a sunny day. And I build a fire to keep me warm in the winter. I can see my children sledding down the hill, or playing outside. I can see the birds sitting in the lilac bush outside my window, and the turkeys and deer in the field. I watch the sun move through the sky. I feel connected to my husband who made this space for us to work in together. And whose hands are also going to be on this piece that we are working on. These are things that are really important to me. I don’t like to feel isolated from my family or from the natural world. And because I am content and feel connected in our studio my ideas flow from a place of contented connectedness.

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What’s the biggest distraction for you when you’re creating? How do you deal with it?
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As much as I love my work, everything is a distraction! There are so many things that could be happening instead of working in the studio. Sometimes I have to trick myself into settling in by listening to This American Life or The Moth.
A luxury of collaborating is that if either of us is feeling really stuck or called to do something else the other can go into the studio instead.
And the work keeps going. And often the work of the other will generate enough energy that the stuck feeling disappears and the work becomes interesting again. It is a really lovely arrangement.
Amy & Kelsey10

Is there anything you like to listen to while you’re working? What are you reading/listening to now?
I like to listen to stories about real people. This can become addicting. And after a day of listening to The Moth podcasts all day my head and stomach hurt and I feel like I did when I was a kid glommed out in front of a TV all day. Kelsey listens to music and sings really loud. I like to sing and learn new songs while I work too. The best days are the ones that I can sit in silence and listen to my own thoughts.
Amy & Kelsey1

Amy & Kelsey2
What are the three best things about your studio space?
1. Big windows and expansive view.
2. Woodstove.
3. Next to home so there are deliveries of tea, lunch and afternoon coffee and snacks.

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Share with us a memory of one of the best times you had working in your studio.
Last year during the summer we were working for a big deadline and our kids are old enough that they can be on their own, so we were both in the shop for days on end and staying up after our kids went to bed until the wee hours. We noticed that it felt like when we were in college—when being in the studio and making artwork with our friends could fill our whole lives. I remember looking over at him thinking, not only am I really attracted to that fellow who is working here beside me, he is my husband, and this is our beautiful life!

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Which other artists, writers or creative people are you most inspired by at the moment?
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I am inspired by regular people living inspired lives. I get really excited looking at folk art. And things carved out of wood are always exciting because they give us new ideas about what is possible. I am inspired by my farmer friends who stand on the soil everyday and have such an intimate, creative, connection to the earth. I am inspired by people who are asking themselves what they can do to make big changes necessary for the health of the earth. The idea of co-creation—I love this idea that what we can make together is most beautiful. My artist friends who make their lives with their hands. I am inspired by my children and Kelsey whom I co-create with.

Amy & Kelsey6
What advice do you have for people who want to make a personal space where they can be creative?
My advice would be to be realistic about where you are in your life and what fits. I made the mistake multiple times to try to set up a creative worklife that didn’t work with my life. I tried to set up a clay studio in the basement when I had a baby and not enough support to get myself there. One time I set up an outside-the-home work space when I had a newborn. Both of these efforts were frustrating and demoralizing. A corner of your room that you can commit to being in one day a week can be the perfect set up.
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Amy & Kelsey14
What’s coming up for you and where can we find out more?
We are going to be doing a number of shows throughout the country this year. Our website will be updated soon with all the venues listed.

Thank you, Amy and Kelsey! Your work and home life is really inspiring, and your work is amazing!



Pat Zietlow Miller’s Studio Tour

I’m excited to welcome award-winning author Pat Zietlow Miller to Tuesday Tours. Pat wrote one of my favorite books–Sophie’s Squash (illustrated by Anne Wilsdorf)which is one of those beautifully told stories that, as a parent, you don’t mind reading again and again when your child just can’t get enough :) Today Pat shares her Madison home office where she’s worked for the last seven years during her road to publication. Her story is truly inspiring–she heard 126 no’s before she got her first yes, but she didn’t let the rejection stop her. In her mind, it just meant the work wasn’t ready yet, and she loved writing, so she kept plugging away. Now, after the great success of Sophie’s Squash, Pat has seven new books coming out, starting this April with Wherever You Go (illustrated by Eliza Wheeler), a beautiful looking book about the possibilities that lie beyond the next bend in the road, which is the same road that also leads you home. skyberg-tuesday-tours-logo

PatTell us a little bit about yourself and your creative medium. I write picture books. It’s what I’ve wanted to do for as long as I can remember. I got serious about it seven years ago, and it took me four years of writing, revising, submitting and being rejected to sell my first book, Sophie’s Squash, to Schwartz & Wade. Sophie’s Squash did well, winning the Golden Kite award and being an honor book for the Charlotte Zolotow Award and the Ezra Jack Keats New Writer Award. That was thrilling, and now I have seven other picture books that will be coming out in the next few years. It’s really been a dream come true. I hope to be doing this for many, many years to come.

Pat ZM

How long have you had your space and how does it affect your creative process?I’ve had this space for four years or so. Before then, I wrote throughout the house. I still do that, but it’s nice having a spot that is specifically mine and that can be a permanent home for all my book-related stuff.
book cover 4Describe a typical work day. Do you have any rituals you do before you start creating?
I know it would sound much more impressive if I said I ate green eggs and ham, chanted the text of Goodnight Moon and then bowed in the direction of Kevin Henkes’ house before I started writing, but I don’t. I just open my laptop and start. Usually, I write in the evenings because I work during the day.

What’s the biggest distraction when you’re writing? How do you deal with it?
My biggest distraction is the rest of my life and finding time to write. I have two very active kids, an upcoming high school graduation to plan, a full-time job, endless piles of laundry and a house that seems to cause groceries to evaporate within seconds of their arrival. Sometimes, I just have to ignore all the stuff I think I should be doing and write anyway.

Does music influence how you work? What’s on your playlist now?
I don’t listen to music while I write because it’s too distracting. But when I’m not writing, I love music. Show tunes, Top 40, a cappella, oldies. My current favorite song is “Uptown Funk.”  Listening to it makes me smile. Plus, it has great lines like “Smoother than a fresh jar of Skippy.” (Feel free to hum along …)


Pat ZM4Is there any special item/trinket in your space that inspires you?
I have several items that belonged to my aunt, Faye Clow, who was the director of the Bettendorf Public Library. Two of my favorites are the nameplate from her desk and a piece of artwork that shows a chair by some bookshelves. I like to imagine I’m in that chair reading quietly. Faye loved books. She always gave me books when I was growing up and was very supportive of my writing. unnamed3I also have a sign from my day job at an insurance company that says “Preparation = Confidence = Success.” It’s a good reminder.
And, I keep some of my very favorite books on my desk in hopes their good writing karma will rub off on me.

Is there a favorite drink or food that you have while you work?
I normally don’t eat or drink while I’m writing. That happens when I get stuck and I get up and wander around by the pantry.

What are the three best things about your writing space?
1. It’s warm and comfortable. 2. I can lose myself in whatever I’m working on. 3. My cats sometimes sit next to me while I write.

How do you organize your books/bookshelf? Is there a formula you use?
I organize books by height, with the tallest on the left down to the shortest on the right.

Pat ZM6What advice do you have for people who want to make a personal space where they can be creative?
While it’s nice to have a specific space that’s all your own, you can be creative anywhere. Don’t be so worried about creating the perfect space that you forget to do the creative work. I’ve written books largely at my kitchen table surrounded by dirty dishes. It’s nice to have somewhere nicer, but it’s not necessary.
Pat ZM3

book coverWhat’s coming up for you and where can we find out more?
My second picture book, Wherever You Go, comes out April 21 from Little, Brown. It’s a book about all the paths you can take in life. I wrote it in anticipation of my daughter Gwen’s high school graduation – which is in May. It’s for young children, but it also contains a lot of things I want Gwen to remember and know as she moves on to college. It’s illustrated by Eliza Wheeler, and her artwork is truly, truly lovely.

book cover 2

I have other books coming out after this one, and you can learn about them at my website, I also blog about picture book writing at with some other talented book creators. Check us out!

Thank you, Pat for sharing your writing space with us. I’m really looking forward to reading Wherever You Go and Sharing the Bread. You have busy year of releases ahead of you :)

Join us next Tuesday when we get a chance to see the beautiful home studio of creative couple Amy Arnold and Kelsey Sauber Old’s!