Sue Ganz-Schmitt’s Studio Tour

Sue Photo #2Today on Tuesday Tours we have author Sue Ganz-Schmitt sharing her beautiful studio and ranch in the Santa Monica Mountains. I recently read Sue’s new book Planet Kindergarten and was immediately smitten. The use of language in this humorous take on a new kindergartener experiencing school the way an astronaut would when exploring new worlds, was fresh and authentic. I wasn’t surprised to find out that Sue has had experience working with NASA as a Social Media correspondent. She also has two other children’s books, produces children’s musical theater, and hosts community events and classes at her ranch.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your creative medium.
My name is Sue Ganz-Schmitt. ​ I am a mother, philanthropist and children’s book author. I also produce children’s musical theater/kids music videos. I am a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators , and co-founder of the Topanga Author’s Group. I serve on the Marketing Advisory Baord at San Diego State University, and have been a NASA Social Media correspondent. Two of my children’s books are medically planet kindergarteninspired to help kids and families face new diagnosis (Even Superheroes Get Diabetes, and The Princess and the Peanut: A Royally Allergic Fairytale) and my newest book is a space-themed book to ease kids fears about the transition to kindergarten (Planet Kindergarten). I get ideas for my writing from kids in my community, and many of my stories have come from watching my daughters’ and their friends grow from a baby group to teenagers.

Sue Astro NASA
How long have you had your space and how does it affect your creative process?
​I live in this magical place in the Santa Monica Mountains. It is 17 acres of park-like heaven ​We moved here in 2006. We use the property for community events and fundraisers. We also have classes for kids, including horseback riding, aerial arts, auto mechanics, metalworking, archery, and more. I feel like Snow White when I walk out the door as the garden is filled with butterflies, birds, and bunnies hopping around. There is the occasional encounter with rattlesnakes, scorpions, and black widows—yikes! But mostly it is stunning beauty that inspires with every step.
Front of House
Balcony Mountain View
Are there any kind of rituals you do before you start creating?
​Tea. I must drink 1-2 cups of Earl Grey my favorite! ​Beyond that, I can usually just dive in and write anytime anywhere!
Courtyard Desk
Writing Outside
Are there other spaces outside of your studio/office that influences your writing?
​I am a roving writer. I am on the go between my schedule and my kids. So my car is sometimes my writ​ing studio, or wherever my girls are taking a class. I write in coffee shops, airplanes, hotel rooms. I write on desktops, my laptop, I=Phone, notepads, napkins. Whatever is closest when an idea strikes!Toy ShelfIs there any special item/trinket in your space that inspires you?
I have a shelf of kids toys that keeps me in a playful and fun mindset—it is crowded with dragons, princesses, pirates and robots. I also have all my badges from NASA visits (rocket launches and such) hanging over my desk.
Hanging Tags
What’s the biggest distraction when you’re writing? How do you deal with it?
​I have two desks. One is in the kitchen—the biggest thoroughfare of our home.  And the other is in the hallway—another thoroughfare. Retreat Hideway
Basically our house is like one big open room except for the bedrooms/bathrooms. So there is often a lot going on around me as I write. Dishes clanging, kids watching TV or needing me to help them with something, husband having business meetings, people coming and going, dogs barking at the mail/delivery trucks, the vacuuming blaring, gardeners with leaf blowers. On a typical day it is pretty chaotic around here. I tend to try work through any distractions, but when it gets to be too much, I retreat to our tropical patio or to the peace of my bedroom that has a little quiet room attached.
Hallway to Desk
Kitchen Desk Close

If you had a couple hundred dollars to improve your space, what would you do?
​I would get beautiful wooden organizing bins, artsy colorful files and boxes, and lots of labeling tape. I love being organized. When my my space is disorganized my head feels the same. But I daresay that in the last seven years of creating books, producing children’s theater, and running our family’s busy lives, my files and cabinets look like an explosion hit. I’d love to open my file drawers and cabinets and smile versus cringe, and shove the drawer closed. ​I just discovered that Target has these great chalkboard wood bins. I can’t get enough of them!

Target Chalk Bin

Hallway Desk

What are the three best things about your writing space?
1. My artwork: My three big prints of my published books, a collage from my one-time appearance on RENT on Broadway, a cast photo of the last musical I produced (Peter Pan) with about 100 kids, and my Author Appreciation Award from my publisher Chronicle Books—these things keep me going. Each of these represent growth opportunities that I took on and that resulted in very happy accomplishments.

2. Lots of space for photos and artwork of my two girls Jensen and India. I am surrounded by my favorite books, and trinkets, and have this amazing big project room next to my desk where I can keep my NASA/astronaut​ memorabilia out to inspire my space themed writing.

3.Picturesque nature outside every window.​


How do you organize your books/bookshelf? Is there a formula you use?
​I have my children’s books on one side of the library, and grown-up books on the other. Though really I don’t visit the grown up side very often. The picture books are on the bottom, and then the books get progressively older (demographically speaking) on each higher shelf. On the top I have pop-up books, and a collection of signed by the author books. If there were a fire, I’d grab my wedding dress, photos, and these signed books.

Project Room Next To Desk

What advice do you have for people who want to make a personal space where they can be creative?
Surround yourself with visually inspiring beauty—whatever that means to you. Family photos, pet photos, images from magazines, beautiful quotes, art, books, a pretty mug for tea, etc…

Space MemorabiliaWhat’s coming up for you and where can we find out more?
My new book Planet Kindergarten: 100 Days in Orbit releases in Summer 2016. It is a fun romp that celebrates a kindergartener’s 100th day in school with zany fun illustrations by two time Annie Award winner Shane Prigmore (Coraline, The Croods). I am also releasing a space themed musical video this month by an extremely talented group of 11/12 year old girls called The Songwriter Girls. You can see their recent video at Songwriter Girls. You can find information for all my books at:, and if you want to learn about the latest in space you can find me on Twitter: @planetkbooks.

Thank you, Sue!  Love your new book and your creative spaces are incredible! Looking forward to reading the sequel to Planet Kindergarten :) 

Join us next week when we have author and illustrator (who also happens to be my nine-year-old daughter) Evey Winter sharing her basement studio.

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New Illustration: Matías Makes a Friend

Here’s a look at what I’m working on—a page from the dummy for my new book Matías Makes a Friend.



And a new postcard (in progress) for the SCBWI LA Summer Conference.



Honorable Mentions in RYS Contest

I’m very excited to have my YA novel THE DREAMS OF TREES and my short story THE SHED selected as honorables mentions in the RYS contest. Thank you, judges!

The Dreams of Trees
YA Novel

The heaviness of Artie’s life—her dad died three years ago; her mom’s an alcoholic; her gramma’s suffering from dementia; and her grampa, the only stable adult in her life, is overly critical of Artie’s weight—has her stuffing donuts, licorice, and even microwaved marshmallows down her throat. Her binge eating habits are punctuated by her daily drawing of a card from the hand-painted tarot deck her gramma made. Before leaving for the nursing home, her gramma told her the tarot would help Artie hear her inner voice, but everyday she draws the exact same card—the Tree. When Sara, a girl from school, asks for a reading, it starts an intimate relationship that makes Artie feel anything but heavy. Even so, Artie continues to draw the Tree card again and again, which makes her wonder if the cards are trying to tell her something important or if they’re just broken like her family. The Dreams of Trees follows Artie’s spiritual and romantic explorations as she tries to find footing in a world that’s never truly grounded.


boho-feathers_smallThe Shed
Short Story

Lucia is a magical girl who was born from a feather that burrowed into the earth. She spends the spring days toiling in the garden—planting seeds for the next harvest. Her mother Hazel, a sturdy and rooted woman, leaves Lucia alone every night in their log cabin and escapes out to the shed—a mysterious place that Lucia is not allowed. It’s here that Hazel meets-up with Avi—Lucia’s father, a small-statured spirit with periwinkle feathers covering his body. Each night Avi and Hazel connect with each other through sight and sound, but never touch (except for the one night of Lucia’s birth), and Hazel struggles to create a working portal that will bring Avi back into her physical dimension. In this multi-perspective story, Hazel and Avi grow passionately towards a common ground. But in their attempts to be together, something goes very wrong, and their mistake leaves space for Lucia to discover the secrets of the shed.

Amy Ward’s Studio Tour

Amy picToday on Tuesday Tours I’m thrilled to showcase my friend Amy Ward! Amy’s Illinois basement studio is completely covered in her personal touches—from the faux brick painted walls, to the beautiful rug she created from painted rubber matts, each part of her space has been altered by her creative touch. What I love about Amy is she’s alway creating art out of things that are accessible—like using Crayola crayons and watercolors (tools of her trade as an art teacher) to make her beautiful illustrations. In addition to offering ideas on her blog, she’s published a number of how-to crafts in Family Fun magazine and soon Highlights magazine. Amy demonstrates that there’s no need to run out and spend hundreds of dollars on supplies to create a space, instead you just need a dash of creativity and a little elbow grease. It’s possible to make beautiful and sophisticated artwork out of classroom materials, or create functioning and attractive objects out of things around the house, and Amy is the perfect example of how to do it well.




Tell us a little bit about yourself and your creative medium.
I teach art to 3rd through 8th graders and I love the way they create and the mediums they use successfully. So crayon and watercolor were a natural choice for me. I love wax resist and the textures that can be created with it. And I love the fact that crayons and watercolor are accessible to everybody. Here is a project from my website that used crayon and watercolor for a project we do in my classroom.


How long have you had your space and how does it affect your creative process?  I have had it for about three years now. It has streamlined my process because I no longer need to spend time cleaning up (see the picture of my messy art room below)! If I am trying a new technique with crayon and watercolor, I can play and experiment until I am tired and then I can just turn off the light. It’s kind of nice.

Are there any kind of rituals you do before you start creating?
Rituals? Not sure this is a ritual but I usually have to clean up some space so I will have room to create! Traditional art takes up a ton more room than digital!


What age did you become interested in art and who encouraged you to pursue your dream?
I think I was born with scissors, crayons, and paper.  I remember making doll clothes on the sewing machine when I was 3 or 4. I remember doing art in kindergarten. We would do a project, and then I would re-create the project at home. I still have an arts and crafts book from second grade! I keep it in my book shelf in my art studio.


Is there any special item/trinket in your space that inspires you?
I LOVE the musical WICKED so I started collecting the happy meal toys with the Wizard of Oz characters. When I couldn’t get anymore, I went to Ebay to get the rest.  Am I a good witch or a wicked witch? Depends on the day.  But that musical inspires me.

Evey Lu using sewing machine


What would you say is the most useful tool in your studio?
My paper cutter! I use it for my classroom, for decorating my house, (see and making book dummies!


If you had a couple hundred dollars to improve your space, what would you do? 
Heat it better! In the winter, it is sooooo cold because the brick is actually the poured concrete wall for the basement. I actually painted it to look  like old bricks.  But I don’t want to insulate the room because I would have to say goodbye to the brick. So more heat would definitely be my improvement. Oh, that and paint the ceiling but leave it exposed.


What colors inspire your creativity. Are those colors incorporated in your space?
Take a look at my inspiration board above my sink. Those are my favorite colors. Pinks, greens, fushias, oranges, creams… my hues.


Which other artists, designers or creative people are you most inspired by at the moment?
Dan Santat, Will Terry, Jake Parker, Eric Carle, and Booke Boynton Hughes.


What advice do you have for people who want to make a personal space where they can be creative? 
Put yourself into it. It doesn’t take a ton of money and do what you want, not what will fit with your house. My studio is in our basement. I put it together on the cheap. I painted the walls to look like brick, like a big city loft studio. I used up some of my old acrylics and painted an old kids’ play-mat with a giant rug on it! My husband, (bless him!) made my coffee table double as a storage for paper. See the big drawers? He also installed the wood walls…some warmth! The cabinets are stock cabinets from Menards that went on super sale one weekend. I bought cheap rag rugs ($2, I think) and sewed them together to make a rug for the entrance. I painted all the cabinets and put different pulls on each one.   It really is my space.


Crunch not sweet

What’s coming up for you and where can we find out more?
I am working on a tree frog book called Crunchy, Not Sweet and a new chameleon story that doesn’t have a name yet. Also, I started a comic called Frankie and Chip about a brother and sister and their competitive natures with each other. I have only done eight panels so far but those are on my website. Take a peak and leave a comment!

Thanks, Amy! I love your studio space and I’m looking forward to sharing a space with you when we bunk-up at the SCBWI LA conference this summer! 

Join us in two weeks when author Sue Schmidt will be sharing her studio on her ranch in the Santa Monica Mountains.

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Manitoba Exhibit Opening!

Last night we had the opening for our Rainforest, Arctic, and Antarctica exhibit at Manitoba school. The K5 & 1st grade students did such a great job as museum docents! You can see the making of this exhibit here.

Harriet Muncaster’s Studio Tour

1Today on Tuesday Tours we’re joined by author and illustrator Harriet Muncaster who creates magical worlds by photographing her illustrated characters within doll-size sets that she forms out of mount board and paper. From her studio set on a hill in Bedfordshire, England, Harriet has created the books I Am a Witch’s CatHappy Halloween Witch’s Cat!, and illustrated the Glitterbelle series—which might explain why she has shelves of fabulously-filled jars of glitter.  skyberg-tuesday-tours-logo


Tell us a little bit about yourself and your creative medium.
I am an author and illustrator of children’s books. Up until now I have worked mainly in 3D – building dollshouse-size sets out of card and fabric and then photographing them.




How long have you had your space and how does it affect your creative process?   I haven’t had my studio for very long. My husband and I just moved into our first house in January. Before that we were actually living with my parents and my studio was just in my bedroom! It’s so nice to be able to have my sleeping space and working space in different rooms now. It’s also a lot less messy. I find that the configuration of my studio can affect my creative process. When we first moved in I arranged everything in a different way to how it is now. It just didn’t work as well – especially my desk being pushed up into the corner of the room. It felt constricting and I didn’t feel compelled to want to go and sit in there and work. I rearranged it all a couple of months ago and it feels so much better now! 

15Describe a typical work day. Do you have any rituals you do before you start creating?
There isn’t really a typical workday for me. It’s always different, depending on what I need to get done and the workload. There are periods of time that can become more typical though. For example if I’m sketching out roughs for a 120 page book, that might take me about 3 weeks. So each day will become very similar for around 3 weeks. But then I’ll move on to something different and things will change.


When was a time you had the most fun working in your studio? 
The time when I had the most fun working in my studio has been these last few weeks actually. I am working on a project – which I can’t really say much more about right now, that I am so so so excited about. I am really passionate about it and I wake up every day at the moment just so excited to work on it like there’s a fire under my feet! I can’t wait until it’s published (autumn 2016 I hope) and I can talk about it more!



You’ve done a fabulous job of mixing three dimensional sculptures with two dimensional illustrations. Do you think illustrating in a nontraditional way is more challenging? What are some of the bigger challenges?  
Thank you! In a way I don’t think illustrating in a non-traditional way is more challenging. Making models to photograph means you don’t have to worry about depth in the image because it’s already there. Or getting things looking like they are the right perspective. Because it’s just there automatically! That’s not the reason why I do it though. It’s not just laziness. It’s because I have such a passion for tiny things. I have always been fascinated by miniatures and spent my childhood making tiny things. It felt very natural to me to create my work that way. I think I find it easier than drawing flat pictures in fact! There are challenges though, like if you want to create a scene that isn’t a room, a scene with a big landscape, you need a lot of space. Also it can get quite expensive with all the materials and lighting that are necessary to buy. The photography can be a challenge sometimes too. I am not always sure exactly how the scene will turn out once it’s photographed. 


What do you do with all of your characters and props when you’re finished photographing them?   
To be honest they end up dismantled most of the time. I just don’t have the space to keep them all. Also, because they are only made of mountboard and card and paper, they start to warp and fall apart and look shabby after not too long anyway. 


If you could share a studio with anyone in the world, who would you pick?    
I’m not sure I could share a studio with anyone. I would get too distracted. I work much better on my own. I watch stuff and listen to audiobooks while I work. I remember at university working in the big studio with everyone else and I definitely didn’t get as much work done there. I just ended up chatting too much! Saying that, I guess I can share a studio with my little mascot Celestine. She’s very quiet and no trouble. Sometimes she sits and works with me in my studio at her own tiny desk. She’s a jewellery designer.


Harriet’s mascot Celestine.

Which other artists, writers or creative people are you most inspired by at the moment?
I am always inspired by the Dorrie books by Patricia Coombs. They are my favourite books of all time! I got a big Dorrie poster printed for my studio so I can see her all the time in there. I also get very inspired by Pinterest. I love love love looking at images on there and I love making mood boards for characters and books.


If you could add a new tool or piece of furniture to your studio, what would it be?   
I’m not sure there’s anything I would add but I wouldn’t mind it being a bit bigger. At the moment my mac sits in front of my window so I have to close the blind whenever I’m on the computer in the daytime which is not ideal. 


What advice do you have for people who want to make a personal space where they can be creative?
Well everyone’s different but I would say surround yourself with pictures you love or that inspire you. I hate blank walls so I have just covered my walls in other artist’s work and also my own work. I like to see other peoples work because it is inspiring but I also like to see my own published work because it boosts me up if I am feeling under confident. I also find it useful to stick up pictures of characters and things that I am currently working on. 

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

My next book—Happy Halloween Witch’s Cat! is out around July/August. I also illustrated a version of The Night Before Christmas in 3D, which should be out sometime this year too. You can find out more on my blog.

Thank you, Harriet! I’m eager to hear about your new project and also to check out Happy Halloween Witch’s Cat! 

Join us next week when author/illustrator and my good friend and conference buddy Amy Ward will be sharing her studio in Peoria, IL.

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Manitoba School Art Residency

I’ve been working at Manitoba school the last couple of months to help the K5 and 1st grade classes create a school museum, which will showcase their curriculum on the rain forest, antarctica and the arctic. My wonderful husband Michael Greer helped to create the armatures for the jaguar and polar bear. We will be revealing the final exhibit on June 4th, 2015.