Cynthia Lord’s Studio Tour

Today on Tuesday Tours I’m eager to share author Cynthia Lord’s backyard writing shed because it’s so darn cute and looks like the perfect place to write. Cynthia is a former elementary and middle-school teacher who broke into the world of writing for children with her deput mid grade book Rules, which later went on to win a Newbery Honor award. Rules is a beautiful story about a family’s attempt to deal with difference and acceptance in the face of autism, and the community that surrounds them. Cynthia’s other novels, Touch Blue and Half a Chance are equally engaging, addressing issues of belonging and friendship. My daughter’s school chose Touch Blue as an all-school-read book a few years ago, and my family loved reading it together. Cynthia is also the author of the Hot Rod Hamster series, illustrated by Derek Anderson, including the new Hot Rod Hamster Monster Truck Mania, all published by Scholastic. In addition to sharing her studio with us, today’s also special because Cynthia’s releasing her newest book Shelter Pet Squad. She lives in Brunswick, Maine with her family, a dog, a guinea pig, and two bunnies.


Cynthia Lord4Tell us a little bit about yourself and your creative medium.
I’m a children’s book author of picture books, early-readers, chapter books and middle-grade novels.

How long have you had your space, how did it come to be, and how does it affect your creative process?
I write my books in my backyard writing shed. My first book, Rules, won a Newbery Honor in 2007, and this shed was the present that I bought myself. It was the best money I ever spent on my writing career because it makes such a wonderful difference to have my own space. My family joked that my little shed was like Thoreau’s Walden Pond cabin. So we’ve named my shed “Walden Backyard.”

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Are there any kinds of rituals you do before you start creating?Cynthia Lord
My dog, Milo, loves to come out to my shed with me. I pack up my laptop and say to Milo, “Let’s go work!” He runs right out to the shed.  I unlock the door and give him a treat and then sit down to work. Milo usually sleeps while I work, but his enthusiasm starts every work session on a happy note.

Is there anything you like to listen to while you’re working? What are you reading/listening to now?
I have a CD or musician that I listen to for each novel. The musician for my current novel is Spencer Lewis. I picked up a few of his CDs when I was doing a school visit in Vermont, and his music captures the rural northern New England essence of the book I’m working on.Cynthia Lord9

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Is there any special item/trinket in your space that inspires you?
My writing shed is full of things that inspire me—kids’ choice awards, items that go with my books, things that children have made for me. Because Rules has a rubber ducky on the cover, people give those to me. I have well over 200!

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Wow! That’s a lot of rubber duckies! They make a fantastic display. I bet you’re going to have to add some new shelves soon, especially after people see your collection ;)


If you could magically transplant your writing shed to another location for half of the year, where would it be?
I grew up on a lake in New Hampshire, and I love to kayak. So I would move it to a quiet lakeside in northern New England somewhere.

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What advice do you have for people who want to make a personal space where they can be creative?
I would say do it! It’s easy to put your own needs last, especially if you’re a parent. Starting my day early in my writing shed sets my whole day right. I’m a better mom and a better writer for honoring my need to have some space and time of my own.

Yes! As parents we often make spaces for our children and visiting company, yet we often we forget about making a place for ourselves. 

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What colors inspire your creativity? Are those colors incorporated in your space?
I like soothing colors and nature. So my writing shed has wood walls. Rocks, sticks, and shells line the windowsills. Outside the window, I see my gardens and bird feeders.


Cynthia Lord3You travel a lot while visiting schools for author visits. How does being in a new place affect your writing?
I can’t write well on the road, so I try to arrange my year into three months of writing, followed by three months of speaking, etc. I do very few events in the summer and winter—that’s my writing time. In the spring and fall I do lots of events.

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What a great way to organize your writing life with the speaking part of your career! I think working at them equally in concentrated amounts of time would help hold your focus on both ends.

What’s coming up for you and where can we find out more?
This month I have a chapter book series starting called Shelter Pet Squad. It stars a second grader who can’t have a pet of her own and so she volunteers in her local animal shelter. In each book, she will help find a home for an animal. The first book is called Jelly Bean, and he is a guinea pig. You can find me at

What a fun concept! My daughter’s been asking for a pet for quite awhile. I finally gave in and said she could get a guinea pig. Maybe I should’ve had her volunteer at the Humane Society instead!  Thanks so much for sharing your writing shed with us, Cynthia. I’ll be picking up a copy of the Shelter Pet Squad on our way to pick up our new pet :)

Join us next week when author and artist Russ Cox shares his cozy corner in Maine where he creates his clever characters and stories.


Publishing in the Age of DIY: The Pros & Cons of Self Publishing

This Thursday, August 28th at 6:30pm, I will be part of an SCBWI event at the Wauwatosa Library, as a panelist addressing the topic of self publishing. The two other fabulous authors who will be joining me are Angie Stanton, author of the bestselling contemporary romance YA books Rock and a Hard Place; Snapshot; Dream Chaser; Snowed Over; and Love ‘em or Leave ‘em and JoAnn Early Macken, author of Baby Says “Moo!”; Flip, Float, Fly: Seeds on the Move; Sing-ALong Song; and Waiting Out the Storm. If you live around the Milwaukee area, I hope you will join us! Self Publishing Panel Flyer

Kelly DiPucchio’s Studio Tour

I’m happy to feature children’s author Kelly DiPucchio’s writing studio on today’s Tuesday Tours. Kelly has written some of my favorite books and I love how she addresses the use of of mediation when creating art. I met Kelly at the SCBWI Fall Conference in Wisconsin and her keynote had me taking notes, nodding in agreement, and laughing out loud. Meeting her was a highlight of my weekend. Her books are all wonderful, but my favorite is Grace for Presidenta brilliant and layered book, and one that after you read it, you say YES! Its about time that’s been addressed, and in such a clever way! Her Crafty Chloe books are creative (of course), but also filled with heart and small gestures of kindness that are brilliantly woven within a playful and engaging story. One of her hilarious new books, which will be published in Fall of 2015, is called Everyone Loves Bacon (illustrated by Eric Wright and published by FSG). And just like bacon, I have to say, everyone love Kelly DiPucchio, although, unlike bacon, her work would be listed in the healthy category, because it’s good for the soul :)


Kelly Dipucchio5

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your creative medium.
I am a picture book writer living in Michigan with my husband of 23 years, our three children, and a 14-year-old Bichon Frise who is the reigning queen of the DiPucchio castle. My other interests include reading and studying esoteric books, meditation, holistic health, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, nature walks, travel, red wine, and watching really bad reality TV.

Kelly Dipucchio

How long have you had your space and how does it affect your creative process? We have lived in our home for nearly 17 years and during that time period my office space has undergone two complete makeovers. In the room’s previous incarnation, there were a lot of toys and trinkets and clutter. The walls were painted dark teal and I had these colorful heavy Moroccan drapes on the window. It was very bohemian chic. That atmosphere served me well for a while, but a few years ago I was ready for a change.  I really wanted to work in a space that was cleaner and lighter. I wanted a room that I could walk into and immediately feel like it was my own sanctuary.  So I packed up all of the clutter, donated a ton of books, and had the room painted.

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I love my new space. It’s so peaceful. My favorite piece is the old, repurposed china cabinet I’m using as my book case. I’m very careful about only filling my new space with things that make me happy, like my bulldog lamp and meditating frog statue. Since I was a child I’ve always loved collecting stones and crystals so I created my own little makeshift altar on my window seat.

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I have signed art pieces from LeUyen Pham and Heather Ross on my wall alongside The New York Times Children’s Best Sellers lists. I also have a framed email, dated Dec. 24th, 2000 on my wall from my agent, Steven Malk, in which he responded to a submission and offered to represent me. Receiving that email was a huge turning point in my career and so I like to keep it up there to remind me of those early years when all of this was just a pipe dream.

Are there any kind of rituals you do before you start creating?
I wish I could say my day begins with Qi Gong exercises and a kale and acai smoothie but my morning ritual usually goes something like this: Coffee, email, coffee, Facebook, coffee, Twitter, coffee, Instagram, coffee, Words With Friends, coffee, writing.

Kelly Dipucchio3

Do you listen to music while you work?
I never listen to music while I’m writing. I am easily distracted and even instrumental or background mood music can be bothersome to me when I’m working on a story. I like it quiet so I can hear all of the voices in my head.

Kelly Dipucchio8When you write, do you type your ideas out on the computer, start on paper, or storyboard/map out your text? Walk us through your process.
I always begin any new story with a notebook and pen. Or a paper napkin and pen. Or a gum wrapper and pen. Once I have a complete first draft scribbled in a notebook, I’ll begin the long process of revising it on my computer. I usually end up with multiple versions, countless bloopers, and several alternate endings. Every now and then I’ll get what I call a story download. Those are like gifts from the universe that require very little revision.

Yes, I love when that happens!

Is there any special item/trinket in your space that inspires you?
Shortly after I sold my first picture book to HarperCollins in 2001, I purchased a limited edition numbered serigraph from the Secret Art of Dr. Seuss collection. The piece is called A Man Who Has Made An Unwise Purchase. Making an expensive and frivolous purchase like that was completely out of character for me, (insert husband’s laughter here) but I really wanted to buy something special with part of my first advance check.Kelly Dipucchio7
When I heard the story behind the painting, I felt even more drawn to the quirky piece. The story goes that Theodore Geisel painted the picture for his editor at Vanguard Press. After being rejected from 27 companies, Dr. Seuss finally found someone who was willing to make an unwise purchase on his non-traditional work. Whenever I look at that enormous, yellow Sneetch I am reminded of the six years it took me to sell my first book and also how important it is for me to continue creating the stories I want to write without worrying about the market.

Kelly -mirror:skyWhat an amazing way to spend your first advance!

What is your favorite book? What are you reading now?
My favorite book?! Snort! That is a ridiculously impossible question to ask an author!

I know, it is. Sorry. But, if you had to pick?
If you put a hot glue gun to my head and made me pick one I’d say, Horton Hears A Who by Dr. Seuss because when I read that book as a child it changed the way I looked at the world. Currently, I’m reading Three Times Lucky by the lovely Sheila Turnage.

What colors inspire your creativity? Are those colors incorporated in your space? I have always been drawn to various shades of blue. I had a muralist paint a blue sky on my office ceiling and I love the calming effect is has in my work space.

What advice do you have for people who want to make a personal space where they can be creative?
My advice would be to surround yourself with colors and objects that make you happy or give you a sense of peace. I feel like we are most productive and successful when we allow the natural flow of creative energy from the cosmic pot of infinite potentials to come through us. Anything that makes us more joyful and/or tranquil can help facilitate that magical connection.

So true! It’s like the poet Khalil Gibran said about childrenThey come through you, but not from you. I would say creating anything is like that. The truly inspired creations come through us and are not from us.

What would you say is the greatest source of inspiration to you as a writer?
That’s difficult to answer because I’m inspired by so many different things!  One day I might be inspired by my brilliant, beautiful children and the next day a chocolate frosted donut might be my muse. If I had to single out a “greatest source” of inspiration I guess I would say it’s my insatiable curiosity for finding truth—truths that unite us through humor or adversity or love. I’m inspired to tell stories because I’m always trying to figure out the BIG story.

‘Dog Days of School’ by Kelly DiPucchio and Brian Biggs

Oh, I love that! 

What’s coming up for you and where can we find out more?
I had two new picture books come out this summer. Dog Days of School, illustrated by Brian Biggs, published by Disney-Hyperion and Gaston, illustrated by Christian Robinson, published by Atheneum/Simon & Schuster.  I’m really excited about both of these books and the response to them has been terrific.

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‘Zombie in Love 2 + 1′ by Kelly DiPucchio and Scott Campbell

This January, the long-awaited sequel to Zombie In Love will be out. I can’t wait! It’s called Zombie In Love: 2 + 1 (Scott Campbell, Atheneum).  My website is You can also find me on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Words With Friends, and at home with a cup of coffee.

Thank you, Kelly for such a lovely interview! I’m really looking forward to reading your newest books, especially Everyone Loves Bacon!

Please join us next week when author Cynthia Lord shares her adorable writing shed!

My Writing Process–Blog Tour

There’s been a blog tour going around the writing world, and the focus is on writing process. Kashmira Sheth invited me to share my writing process and I’m happy to have the chance, because I’m all about process! In fact the making of the book is the most important part for me. I love it all—the flash of inspiration, the rough draft, the countless revisions until I have a polished piece. The finished book is just icing on all the fun of creating it.
kashmiraBefore I share my process, I’d like to introduce Kashmira, who is the author of eight books, including picture books, middle grade, and young adult. Her most recent book Tiger in My Soup is a delightful story about a young boy who begs for his sister to read to him, but she’s too absorbed in her own book to pay him much attention. While eating his lunch, his imagination goes wild and he sees a tiger in his soup, leading to all sorts of chaos. This creative story garnished starred reviews from Kirkus Reviews and Publisher Weekly. Please visit Kashmira at and see what she had to say about her writing process.

Here’s my Writing Process interview.

What are you working on?
I’m in the process of revising a number of picture book manuscripts and creating a dummy for one of them. But lately, most of my writing time is spent working on my YA novel Dreams of Trees, which is a contemporary fiction novel about Artie Miller, a sixteen year old girl who’s family is falling apart. Her dad’s death left her mom sinking deeper into alcoholism, and her grampa is only concerned with Artie’s weight. The most trusted adult in her life, her gramma, is suffering from demetia and has to be admitted into a nursing home. Before she leaves, gramma gives Artie her hand-painted tarot cards. But when Artie draws the same card over and over again, she wonders if the cards are trying to tell her something important, or if they’re just broken, like her family.


Deerly Listen spread from ‘Squircle’ by Andrea Skyberg

How does your work differ from others of its genre?
My picture books are created using non-traditional illustrative methods. Often times there’s a three dimensional quality to the artwork. The themes in my books tend to be meditations on kindness and community. I’m very interested in telling a beautiful and engaging story, but also helping readers see a clearer path towards kindness.

‘Squircle’ by Andrea Skyberg

Why do you write what you do?
Usually I write a book to help myself understand something better. Not unlike how authors approach writing non-fiction, I begin my books with a lot of research—both theory and practice. For instance, when I was working on Squircle, I was trying to convey some of the lessons I’ve learned from Buddism and Eastern philosophy, while at the same time, learning them better myself. In order to do this, I read a lot, as well as practiced methods that would help me be more in tune with the present moment—like yoga and dance.

How does your writing process work?
When writing picture books I will have a phrase or a title flash into my head, like a bolt of inspiration. I write that inspiring thought or title in my book spreadsheet. Over time, I start to internally work out a method to shape a story around the idea. When I feel it has had enough time percolating, I attempt to write a rough draft. I’m definitely pressure prompted, so if I have deadline, this process becomes much quicker. After writing and revising until I have a decent quality draft, I start envisioning what type of illustrations would work the best with the story. I try to make conscious decisions on why I choose certain media for the illustrations. For instance, Squircle was done in thread and fabric to add another layer of meaning into the term interconnectedness—a main concept in the book.


When I write my YA novel, I visualize my characters, set them in a place,  and then watch them interact. As they talk to each other, I take notes—sort of like watching a movie and writing down what transpires. Sometimes I feel like I’m channeling Artie, and that she is a real person. It’s very entertaining!


Here are the three wonderful writers who’ll be following me as part of the My Writing Process Blog Tour:

Mom's Big Catch. jpeg

Marla McKenna’s book Mom’s Big Catch, has seen a number of printings, including customized team versions for Miller Park, Wrigley Field, U.S. Cellular Field and official Blue Jays and Rays books.  In Mom’s Big Catch, a young girl named Ashley dreams of catching a ball at the baseball game. She doesn’t dare leave her seat during the game for fear that she might miss out. Good thing she doesn’t, otherwise she might have missed, Mom’s Big Catch!
Partial proceeds from Mom’s Big Catch go to the Linda Blair WorldHeart Foundation. Help save a dog’s life! Special thanks to Rick Springfield for his matching donations.

Marla’s sequel to Mom’s Big Catch, is Sadie’s Big Steal and it will be coming out soon! Visit Marla at


Greer-Eyes-of-India-Cover-Med-217x300Michael Greer’s mid grade novel The Eyes of India follows the adventures of Evelyn and her sister, Priscilla, as they try to make their way to the holy city of Varnasi. After getting separated from their tour group, the sisters travel through the jungle and into hidden villages of India. While the girls try to meet up with their parents, they make many unexpected friends during their adventure, each one encouraging them to follow their intuition and navigate with their third eye. The Eyes of India  recently won a Mom ‘s Choice Award. Michael is currently working on another book in The Adventures of Evelyn & Priscilla series, as well as a YA novel. Visit Michael at


Anatomy of a TrialJerrianne Hayslett‘s book Anatomy of a Trial emerged well after the gush of books that poured out of the O. J. Simpson murder case and hits on a major aspect of the trial the media have ignored–their own responsibility to the public. Thanks to Jerrianne’s unprecedented access as the Los Angeles courts media liaison to the trial, the judges, including Simpson judge Lance Ito, and the media, and to her obsessive note taking, the book is loaded with behind-the-scenes detail not found elsewhere and offers a balanced treatment of the still-hotly debated cameras-in-the-courtroom issue.
Currently, Jerrianne is working on a YA historical fiction, a middle-grade series and several picture book projects. After living in various places in the U.S. and abroad where she worked as journalist, trial court information officer, media-relations consultant, and freelance writer, she settled in the Milwaukee area and published her adult nonfiction book, Anatomy of a Trial. She now concentrates on what she loves–writing stories for young people. Please visit her at





Deborah Underwood’s Studio Tour

I’m happy to feature children’s author Deborah Underwood’s writing studio on today’s Tuesday Tours. Deborah, a New York Times Bestselling author, has created some beautifully written books, including one of my favorites The Quiet Book. Deborah had a busy Spring with the releases of two of her books–Bad Bye, Good Bye and Here Comes the Easter Cat both coming out within a couple months of each other. But, in the midst of writing and promoting her books, she took the time to write and perform a few songs with the band Erin Murphy’s Dog, which includes some of her mates at the Erin Murphy Literary Agency. Their single Editorial Delay had me laughing out loud. As did the picture below of Deborah and her cat Bella.

Bella (the cat) and Deborah - David Peattie version!
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your creative medium.
I write books for kids. I also sing, and I dabble in various artistic mediums. In the past, I’ve made jewelry, done paper marbling, thrown some lopsided pots, and taken classes in watercolor and drawing. Right now I’m taking a life drawing class, which is by turns fun and frustrating.


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How long have you had your space and how does it affect your writing process?
I work in my apartment in San Francisco. When I got this place years ago, I had no idea that eventually it would become a home office, so my living room is a mishmash of normal living room stuff and all my writing things and art supplies. The writing stuff–papers, files, notes–tends to take over. I could use a visit from the Organization Fairy! I pull out a card table when I need extra workspace.
Deborah Underwood5I’m lucky in that I have big windows that get a lot of light, and I love looking out the window as I think. My scrub jay pal Fred comes by regularly for peanuts, and hummingbirds stop by, too.
Deborah Underwood3Even though I’m not as accomplished as my artist friends, I like having my own work around so I’m surrounded by manifestations of my own creativity; they serve as useful reminders during those creative dry spells! So I have my own watercolors and sketches on the walls, and some of the pottery I made sits on my table.


Are there any kind of rituals you do before you start writing?
Sometimes I am disciplined about meditating 20 minutes in the morning; sometimes I’m not. I do find that when I meditate daily, I see benefits. Likewise, I am forever giving up coffee and then falling off the wagon, but I always have either coffee or English breakfast tea before I start working.


Deborah Underwood4
Walk us through your writing process.
I usually start writing shorter works like picture books in longhand. I like the feel of the pen against the paper, and I am freakishly picky about the specific pen I need for a particular manuscript at a particular stage. Sometimes ideas materialize almost fully-formed, but sometimes I have to really fight for them. After I have the basic plot or concept, I’ll type in a draft, and from then on, it’s just print, edit, print again, edit again, ad nauseum. (Sorry, trees!)

The exception has been for the Cat book series, which started with me drawing rough illustrations in pencil and writing text to go with them. The stories are very dependent on visuals since Cat communicates by holding up signs, so sketching was the easiest way to get them onto paper.
Deborah Underwood

We’ve seen recently that in addition to your writing, you’re also musical. Do you listen to music while you work? What kinds?
I sometimes listen to music (classical, Celtic, new-age, indie) or my public radio station when I do busy work. But music–especially music with words–distracts me when I’m writing. Sometimes I can edit to instrumental pieces.

Deborah Underwood8Is there any special item/trinket in your space that inspires you? 
Lots of things! A picture of my family. Gifts from friends–I especially love having art by my friends around. I have a small stone that I found on the island of Iona in Scotland when I was there for a personal retreat; it sits on my desk (except when my cat Bella knocks it off) and grounds me somehow. And I always try to have fresh flowers around. Bella inspires me, too. I got the idea for the Cat books because she was sprawled in front of me as I worked.


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Is there a book or writer that has been a source of admiration or inspiration for you? What are you reading now?
I have so many writer and illustrator friends now, and I find them all inspiring! One of the best parts of this job is being surrounded by so many talented colleagues. In terms of writing inspiration, I really liked Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird and Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art. Right now I’m reading and enjoying Cammie McGovern’s Say What You Will. I recently finished and loved Conrad Wesselhoeft’s Dirt Bikes, Drones, and Other Ways To Fly.
Deborah Underwood6What colors inspire your creativity? Are those colors incorporated in your space?
My favorite colors are blues and greens, and unfortunately they are not well-represented in my apartment. My walls were gray when I moved in, and although I keep threatening to paint them, I haven’t yet. Someday!


What advice do you have for people who want to make a personal space where they can be creative?
Be mindful of what works for you and what makes you happy. Let your gut, not your head, guide you. It doesn’t matter if the most logical place for your writing studio is that free space in the basement; if you thrive on natural light, you probably won’t do your best work down there.


Deborah Underwood Books
What’s coming up for you?
Here Comes Santa Cat (illustrated by Claudia Rueda) will be out in October 2014, and Here Comes the Tooth Fairy Cat the following year. And Interstellar Cinderella (illustrated by Meg Hunt) comes out in 2015, too. Please visit me at!
Thank you for sharing your writing space, Deborah. I’m looking forward to reading more of your lovely books, and hopefully hearing some new music from Erin Murphy’s Dog! 


New Author Visit & Art Workshop Programs!

I’m currently booking for the 2014/2015 school year. If you’re interested in having me visit your school, please contact me to schedule a program.

I love visiting schools to share my experiences as a author and 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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Barbara Reid’s Studio Tour

This week’s Tuesday Tours features the studio space of Author and Illustrator Barbara Reid, who created one of my favorite picture books Picture A Tree, which has had numerous starred reviews, been included on some best-of lists, and has been honored on the 2014 Green Earth Book Award Short List. I love trees, as does my family, and when the publisher Albert Whitman announced a drawing contest for kids to create a tree and possibly win a copy of the book, my daughter Evey was all over it. After winning and receiving a copy of Picture A Tree, Evey was so inspired by Barbara’s artwork that she spent the next six months creating a book all of her own out of clay. Evey’s studio, however, is not nearly as put together and organized as Barbara’s!  Barbara lives in Toronto with her photographer husband Ian Crysler, who took all of the beautiful photographs for this studio tour.skyberg-tuesday-tours-logo

Barbara ReidTell us a little bit about yourself and your creative medium.
I am a picture book illustrator of more than 25 books, and the author for about 12 of those. My relief style plasticine illustrations have won numerous awards, including a Governor General’s Award for Illustration and the Ezra Jack Keats Award. As a kid I was an avid reader of both words and pictures. I drew constantly. I drew on paper, walls, school desks, school work, myself, my friends, you name it. I copied pictures from books that I liked, and “improved” illustrations I didn’t like; textbooks were especially tempting. I was a fast reader, so had plenty of free time to daydream doodle in school. computerDesk BulletinBoard BookCase

I also spent hours playing with Plasticine, the original non-hardening modelling clay. While studying illustration at the Ontario College of Art and Design, I raided my childhood plasticine stash to create a relief illustration for a project. It went over well, and plasticine art became part of my portfolio, eventually becoming my primary medium. Plasticine is a fantastic medium for expression, and I am still finding new ways to use it.  It is wonderful for creating detail, and the textures encourage the reader to spend time and look closely at each page–an illustrator’s dream. Best of all, it’s a kid’s material. I get a huge response from young artists and see incredible student art in schools and my inbox. I first plan an illustration with drawings, then create the picture by spreading, modelling and adding texture to layers of clay on illustration board. The finished piece is  photographed and the digital files sent to the publisher. My husband Ian Crysler, is a professional photographer who does a terrific job of lighting and shooting all my work. A very handy partnership! Our two daughters have grown up through various roles: models, test readers, consultants, and editors. Very tough editors. It still surprises me that I’ve made a career of doing something that is so much fun. Another happy surprise is the opportunity to travel that comes with being a children’s author. I have met amazing young readers, artists and writers, as well as inspiring teachers and librarians in communities across Canada and the USA . The experiences contribute to my work.supplyCupboard

How long have you had your space and how does it affect your creative process?
I’ve always worked from home, my studio is on the renovated third floor of our skinny brick house in the city. We have lived in the house for 25 years. It’s in a lively neighbourhood and I can walk or subway to most everything I need. There is also a park and ravine system nearby with tons of trees, birds, and wildlife. It’s easy to break the isolation of working alone by going for a walk or running errands. And really, really easy to procrastinate.
Oh, yes. Procrastination is probably the easiest thing to check off the to do list!

 Are there any kind of rituals you do before you start creating? 
Almost every morning for 15 years I took our bossy little wire-haired Fox Terrier Ruby for a walk in the Don Valley ravine system. Walking in nature is one of the best ways to clear your head and think random thoughts. Ruby was an excellent companion: she made sure I walked whatever the weather, she was always happy to be out, and she didn’t talk. My book Picture a Tree is dedicated to Ruby, as most of the writing took place on our walks. She also makes appearances in Sing a Song of Mother Goose and Perfect Snow. Now Ruby is terrorizing squirrels in the afterworld, but I still try to get out there every morning. It always makes for a better day. That and coffee.

Picture a Tree 22-23

Picture a Tree, by Barbara Reid, Scholastic Canada (the fall scene)

Is there anything you like to listen to while you’re working? What are you listening to now?
Classical music on CBC (Canadian national public radio) if I’m writing or drawing roughs. In the production stage of plasticine artwork I enjoy CBC talk radio and lecture podcasts.
ArtDeskIs there any special item/trinket in your space that inspires you?
My favourite distraction is a bird bath on the deck outside the studio window. Most days the birds have a little happy hour sort of thing and they all line up and take turns. Distraction and inspiration often go hand in hand. Inside the studio are all sorts of books, souvenirs, stuff from kids, photos, and quotes pinned up that inspire me. It’s kind of a shrine to the Idea Fairies.
I love the Idea Fairies–there’s a new book idea waiting to be created ;)

ToolsWhat would you say is the most useful tool in your studio? 
This will date me! I have an ancient burnishing tool for sticking down Lettraset instant lettering. I use it as a magical 11th finger for making small details in the clay. It is the one tool to rule them all. I have chewed the handle to a stub. It’s irreplaceable and so it never leaves the studio.

If you had a couple hundred dollars to improve your space, what would you do?Pay someone to clean the fish tank.

What advice do you have for people who want to make a personal space where they can be creative?
Be selfish! By that, I mean respect your work by creating the space and time you need to do it in.

The Night Before Christmas, by Clement C. Moore, illustrated by Barbara Reid, Scholastic Canada and Albert Whitman & Company

What are you working on now, and where can we find out more?
I’m very excited that my illustrated version of the classic Clement C. Moore The Night Before Christmas will be released in the USA for Fall 2014, published by Albert Whitman & Company. First published by Scholastic Canada, it won the 2014 Libris Children’s Picture Book of the Year, from the Canadian Book Publisher’s Association. In response to the line: “Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse”, I chose to make all the characters mice– even Santa. The story takes place in the hollow log home of a lively (to say the least!) mouse family. I’m working on some new ideas, but it’s too soon to talk about them. You can find out more about my books, upcoming events, and how-to videos for creating plasticine artwork by visiting my website:

Thank you, Barbara for sharing your beautiful studio, and also for inspiring my daughter (and me) with your amazing and memorable books! 

Stop back next week to see the literary spaces of author Deborah Underwood!