Eliza Wheeler’s Studio Tour

Eliza Wheeler Today on Tuesday Tours I’m delighted to welcome Eliza Wheeler, an amazing illustrator and author who’s penned the New York Times Bestseller Miss Maple’s Seeds and illustrated award-wining books like Doll Bones by Holly Black and Wherever You’ll Go by Pat Zietlow Miller. Eliza offers illustrators incredible advice on her blog about preparing a portfolio and she has one of the best blog posts I’ve read recently—The I Suck Dilemma, which addresses how to roll with the continual self-doubt that creators have. Eliza is as delightful as the beautiful worlds she paints, and I’m excited to see what she’ll do when she teams up with Pat Zietlow Miller again on a book called Brave.skyberg-tuesday-tours-logoPainting table
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Tell us a little bit about yourself and your creative medium.

I grew up in a small northern Wisconsin town, and went to school for graphic design at the University of Wisconsin-Stout. While in school, it was the drawing and painting classes that I loved, rather than the computer work that my major consisted of. I didn’t really think that drawing (in any form) could be a viable career option for me, so I finished school with the design degree. My husband and I moved to Los Angeles in 2007 so that he could pursue film work, and I found in-house and freelance design jobs, and drew whenever I could on the side. In 2009 I attended the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators conference for the first time and it felt like the stars aligning for me. I focused on building and refining an illustration portfolio over the next few years, and in 2013 my first book, Miss Maple’s Seeds was published by Nancy Paulsen/Penguin Books (which debuted on The New York Times Bestseller List!). Since then, I’ve been working full time to create illustrations for both picture books and middle grade novels. I work with dip pens in India Ink, paired with watercolor paints on Arches paper.
Studio pic
How long have you had your space and how does it affect your creative process?

I’ve been living in and working out of a small studio apartment in the Los Feliz neighborhood of Los Angeles since 2011. My bedroom, living room, and studio are all in one space – and all shared with my husband, Adam. Some people wonder how we don’t go crazy (admittedly, sometimes we do), but being both artists pursuing creative fields, we had to make a choice between having more space and less time (getting jobs to support the space), or living in a smaller way. We decided on the latter.

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work_doll bonesHaving a small space can be restricting to the creative process, and I try (and usually fail) to be as organized as I can. When I’m sketching or inking, things stay cleaner, but once I start painting, the whole process sort of explodes all over the place. The biggest sacrifice in a small space is having surface space on which to spread out. I often fantasize about the day I might have a large studio space apart from my living space – with tables and storage galore! That said, my current space has taught me the art of being able to make things work; to be flexible and roll with the punches in limiting circumstances. Adam built a little lap-table for computer work or sketching on the couch (isn’t it the cutest?), which is a nice break from the drawing table and we can use while watching TV. I also bring work to coffee-shops and the library when possible.

Painting tools

Describe a typical work day. Do you have any rituals you do before you start creating?
The past two years I’ve had heavy project loads, and I usually work from about 10am10pm. Ideally I would try to keep a more normal schedule. My mornings start quiet and unplugged – my two rituals are 1) lighting a candle when I start working, 2) setting a timer every 45 minutes to meditate, stretch or read. If I’m doing something that needs mental focus I listen to music, otherwise I listen to lectures, podcasts, radio, audiobooks and as the day goes along I end up watching (mostly terrible) TV. It has to be entertaining enough, but not too good so as to be distracting!

Drawing with Jen Rofe

Drawing with Jen Rofe


When was a time you had the most fun working in your studio?
When I first got my agent, Jen Rofe, she came for a visit and asked me to give her a drawing lesson. I didn’t know her well at this point, and I was nervous! I thought maybe she was expecting me to prepare a lesson, but right away she started asking about how to draw a box, so I showed her two-point perspective. That blew her away! It was a hoot. She was so enthusiastic and excited to learn—the dream student.

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If you had to pick a quote to hang above your desk for inspiration, what would it be?
“Sometimes, if you stand on the bottom rail of a bridge and lean over to watch the river slipping slowly away beneath you, you will suddenly know everything there is to be known.”― A.A. Milne

Inspiration Board

What’s the biggest distraction for you when you’re creating? How do you deal with it?
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Social interactions are by far the biggest distractions. I’m unfortunately the kind of introvert that gets drained by any amount of interaction; face-to-face, by phone, and online. I’ve had to be really diligent and intentional about staying unplugged most of the time in order to allow the kind of creative mental space that I need. I check work email twice a day, and personal email far less. I look at social media one day a week. I found an app (CritiCall) that only allows calls from my husband and my agent. Someday I’m sure I’ll whittle things back down to a land-line and P.O. Box!
Our Baby painting

If you could live inside the world of one of the picture books you’ve illustrated, which one would it be and why?
I love this question! When I illustrated Wherever You Go I decided I was going to draw the world that I wanted to live in – but I do also prefer the quiet country lifestyle of Miss Maple, so it’s a toss-up. So maybe, I would live in Miss Maple’s treehouse, INSIDE the world of Wherever You Go!

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What other artists, writers or creative people are you most inspired by at the moment?
At the moment I’m working on a picture book biography of J.R.R. Tolkien, so I’m steeped in both his real world and story world. It’s been a bottomless well of inspiration! I’m also referencing Harry Clarke, Sidney Sime, Franklin Booth, and as always, Lisbeth Zwerger.

LA Library

LA Library


If you could relocate your studio for part of the year to another geographical location, where would it be?
Another fun question—I would choose a river house in the forest by the Brule River in Wisconsin, a river that my family canoed growing up. It’s a beautiful, magical place.

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What advice do you have for people who want to make a personal space where they can be creative?
Get creative with your space. Don’t need perfect circumstances in order to work—be flexible and mobile when possible. Be solution-oriented when it comes to having housemates around and needing time to focus. My headphones have become a great tool for letting my husband know that I’m in the zone and shouldn’t be interrupted.

work_CodyWhat’s coming up for you and where can we find out more?
My newest illustrations out are in Wherever You Goa picture book by Pat Zietlow Miller, as well as a middle grade, Cody and the Fountain of Happinessby Tricia Springstubb. Coming next spring and summer will be two picture books: Tell Me A Tattoo Story by Alison McGhee, and This is Our Baby Born Today, by Varsha Bajaj.
See more online at www.wheelerstudio.com.

Thank you so much, Eliza! The map of your apartment is an extra treat and I love seeing how you use your space to the max! Your advice to people for being flexible and solution-oriented when finding a place to work is fabulous. Looking forward to seeing your upcoming projects!

Join us on November 10th when the talented Matthew Cordell shares his Illinois studio with us.

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Kimberly Newton Fusco’s Studio Tour

caToday on Tuesday Tours I’m very excited to welcome Kimberly Newton Fusco, the author of three of my favorite books. My daughter and I’ve read The Wonder of Charlie Anne more than once, and we always tease each other with one of the reoccurring lines, “A proper lady…” If you haven’t read The Wonder of Charlie Anne, what are you waiting for? Head out to the bookstore or library and dive it. Kimberly’s other book Tending to Grace is a beautiful short and poetic read. It’s a book I could easily have finished in a day, but I wanted to savor it, so I forced myself to only read a chapter each night. Beholding Bee is one of my first encounters with magical realism and it definitely had me thinking long after the final page. Today Kim shares her writing spaces in her home in Rhode Island, where she tends to her family, her sheep, the cat, a new puppy, and her books, but not always in that order.

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unnamedTell us a little bit about yourself and your creative medium. 
I am a fiction writer for young people and I feel unbelievably lucky that I get to do what I have wanted to do since the sixth-grade.

How long have you had your space and how does it affect your creative process?
We built a new house ten years ago with an office in the front so that I could watch my children getting off the bus. But, I can write anywhere, and I do: outdoors in our sheep field, in a coffee shop, in one of several lawn chairs I have set up in the woods behind our house. When I’m outdoors, I use a journal. Indoors, I bring my laptop to a comfy couch in our living room—my favorite spot because I can make a big roaring fire in fall and winter. I know some people love writing retreats, but I can make my own retreats at home and I wonder, what could be better than this?
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Describe a typical work day. Do you have any rituals you do before you start writing?
My alarm rings at 5:30 and after a cup of coffee I make breakfast and lunch for my husband and daughter (my other three children are in college or grad school or graduated from college and working).  I drive my daughter to school, take some quiet/spiritual time, run a couple of miles on my treadmill, care for our animals (two sheep, a cat, and a new puppy), and then begin writing. I write throughout the morning and often return to it in the afternoon after some exercise.

Is there any special item/trinket in your space that inspires you?
Pictures of my children growing up cover my office. They remind me that love and family are truly the most important things and both are important themes in all my books.

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If you had the chance to live inside the world of one of your stories, which one would you pick and why?

I love them all, but I guess I would pick the novel I am working on now because I am so involved in the lives of my characters in Me and Gloaty Gus. In order to write a novel, I become my characters and walk around in their shoes.  It’s the only way I know how to write fiction.

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What’s the biggest distraction for you when you’re writing? How do you deal with it?

Right now it’s our new golden retriever puppy, Harper. She is three months, and a handful.  We have her crate-trained so when she is in the crate, I write. There’s always a distraction when you work from home, though, and I think it’s a matter of coming up with creative solutions that work for everyone in the family.

If you had to pick a quote to hang above your desk for inspiration, what would it be?

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What other artists, writers or creative people are you most inspired by at the moment?
I am very inspired by the poet Jane Kenyon and the advice she gives me each day:
“Be a good steward of your gifts. Protect your time. Feed your inner life. Avoid too much noise. Read good books, have good sentences in your ears. Be by yourself as often as you can. Walk. Take the phone off the hook. Work regular hours.”

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If you could relocate your studio for part of the year to another geographical location, where would it be?
Well, we had a particularly rough winter last year in New England, so as much as I love writing by a crackling fire with the snow coming down outside my window, too many days of this gets a little daunting, so perhaps someplace warmer, but I would miss my family so much that I would be back the next day.5

What advice do you have for people who want to make a personal space where they can be creative?
It is nice to have a spot, but I think it is even more important to be flexible and write wherever and whenever you can. I wrote my first novel, Tending to Grace, in bits when my children were napping or playing in the treehouse. A little time can go a long way if you are disciplined. I try and live by the advice: “People first.” Our children grow up much too quickly to always be looking for solitude.

What’s coming up for you and where can we find out more?
My new novel,  Me and Gloaty Gus, is under contract with both Knopf and Faber & Faber, London. Publication is planned for  2017. My website is http://kimberlynewtonfusco.com.

Thank you, Kim for sharing the lovely places you write. My daughter and I can’t wait to read Me and Gloaty Gus!

elizaJoin us on October 27th when uber talented illustrator and author Eliza Wheeler shows us her studio space in Los Angeles, California.

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Recap of the Sheboygan Book Festival

I had such an amazing time meeting passionate readers, as well as other authors and illustrators at the Sheboygan Children’s Book Festival. A BIG thanks to JoAnn Dent and crew for organizing such an incredible free festival for children’s literature! Here’s some pictures from the events.

 

Shimmerling Releases Today!

Shimmerling Cover

Click here to read Shimmerling (please note it’s a large PDF file, so it might take a few moments to load).

Shimmerling by Andrea Skyberg
Dedicated to my brother Mitch (the wings)
and my daughter Celia (the roots)

Five years ago today, I had the worst call of my life, telling me that my brother Mitch had died. He was out on his motorcycle on a beautiful fall day when someone failed to look twice and hit him. It was devastating. I was pregnant with my second daughter at the time and exactly a week after Mitch died, I gave birth to Celia.

The grief at the loss of my brother and the excitement at the birth of my daughter left me straddling between a spiritual and earthly place. Every particle in the world came alive and died at the same time for me. In the chaos, beauty, and sorrow of the following months, I cried nearly every time I walked outside—watching the trees, which were beginning their cycle of ‘death”, drop their leaves for winter brought me immense joy as I witnessed their transformation. It also brought me tremendous pain at the loss of the beautiful and vibrant colors they once were. The birds that had filled my backyard with songs were gone, leaving for brighter skies. I don’t know what it is about birds and trees, but I was, and continue to be, utterly captivated by both. The day we said goodbye to Mitch, a bald eagle circle above us. The place I scattered his ashes was the dying birch tree we played on as children.

In these moments an idea was born of a magical creature called a Shimmerling. The Shimmerling had characteristics of a bird and a tree, but was different because it wasn’t just one thing—it was both. I think our human spirits and bodies are like the Shimmerling—our spirits eventually fly away and perch in another tree, while our bodies plant to the earth and slowly go to seed. We have the opportunity, like the Shimmerling, to grow where we are planted, and later to fly away and shine on.

I knew this idea had to exist as a book because books are also like the spirits of the trees and birds. A book, made from a tree, grounds us in our world and connects us to the stories of others. But the ideas in books are like the birds that allow us to fly away from what we know and into another time and place.

After writing Shimmerling and sharing the story, many people saw something different—they saw the idea of self-acceptance and of being who you really are. Those ideas are there too, just like my brother, who never shied away from being who he was. But when I read this story, I think of my daughter Celia—the roots. And I think of my brother Mitch—the wings.

To read Shimmerling click HERE.

To Purchase Shimmerling visit Wooden Nickel Press or Amazon

Shimmerling Book Trailer

A magical creature is born from a feather that’s been sowed into the soil. As it grows, it discovers that it has characteristics of both a bird and a tree. The mighty oaks, only tall enough to see the creature’s trunk, believe it’s a tree and that it should stay grounded. The birds above, only able to see the creature’s mass of sparkling feathers, believe it’s a bird and urge it to take flight. The creature struggles between the two worlds until it sees itself as it really is–a new kind of being, a Shimmerling.

Available October 8, 2015

To learn more, visit:
http://woodennickelpress.com/product/shimmerling/

 

Stacy Tornio’s Studio Space

TAN-screenshot-cover-245x300Today on Tuesday Tours we have another wonderful author, who also happens to live in my beautiful home state of Wisconsin and who will also be attending the Sheboygan Book Festival with me and thirteen other authors and illustrators in early October. Stacy Tornio is the author and co-author (along with Ken Keffer) of a variety of books ranging from picture books to activity guides to keepsake journals. But what all her books have in common is that they each aim to connect children with nature. Stacy was the editor for Birds & Blooms Magazine before taking position working for weareteachers.com. She also volunteers with Master Gardens, teaching kids gardening skills.

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404055_4058561455758_1546710029_nTell us a little bit about yourself and your creative medium.

I’ve been a children’s writer for about 10 years now. I’ve always done it as a hobby while working full-time. But just recently, I left my full-time job of 10 years to work part-time. This is giving me more time for writing kids’ books, so I’m very excited. I focus a lot on children’s non-fiction and especially love creating material on gardening, nature, and the great outdoors.

 

FullSizeRender(2)DNsidebarcathysHow long have you had your space and how does it affect your creative process?
I’ve had my writing space for several years, but only recently did I really personalize it to make it fun. In the past, I’ve always done most of my writing on my laptop while sitting on the couch, in bed, etc. But now that I have this fun space, I actually find myself sitting at my desk and working.


Describe a typical work day. Do you have any rituals you do before you start creating?
DNsidebarwlnMy day is pretty varied as to when I sit down and write. I’m working part-time as a senior editor for this wonderful website, weareteachers.com, so this keeps me busy. I’m also freelance writing for a few websites. But I always, always have writing to do for a book, and I try to do something every single day. This often means brainstorming or researching—there’s a lot of this in non-fiction writing. This is great because when I do sit down to write, I like to have everything gathered. This way, I can get in several hundred or even thousands of words at a time. I tend to do a lot of thinking about stories and subjects in the car, in the shower, etc. So I really am ready to go when I get in writing mode.

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Is there any special item/trinket in your space that inspires you?

My space is filled with inspiration from nature since this makes up so much of my writing in general. You’ll especially find lots of little bird trinkets in my space.

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If you had a couple hundred dollars to improve your space, what would you do?
I would buy some sort of cool fancy chair or beanbag where I could just sink in when I’m in the middle of cranking out those thousands of words!IMG_1288
What’s the biggest distraction for you when you’re creating? How do you deal with it?

My two dogs, Payton and Daisy Mae. It’s kind of a good distraction, though, because I find that it’s good for me to take several breaks throughout the day.

If you had to pick a quote to hang above your desk for inspiration, what would it be?

I have these awesome marquee letters that hang above my desk. They spell out NATURE and light up! Also, here’s one of my favorite quotes by John Burroughs related to nature—
I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order.
IMG_1142What other artists, writers or creative people are you most inspired by at the moment?
Kid President inspires me. He’s joyful, delightful, and always makes me smile. I love what he and his uncle have done with their videos and their message, and I adore the book he put out earlier this year.

DNsidebarKOABIf you could relocate your studio for part of the year to another geographical location, where would it be?
A place where I could see mountains and beach from the same window, so maybe the Pacific Northwest.

What advice do you have for people who want to make a personal space where they can be creative?
Do it! Start with a single chair or an inspiring sign. You don’t have to do it all at once, but reward yourself for being a creative person and put it together little by little. A creative space doesn’t have to look like it came out of a magazine. It’s whatever you want it to be.

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What’s coming up for you and where can we find out more?
We have a brand new kids nature book coming out on October 1 called The Secret Lives of Animals. We are so, so, so excited for it, and we’re really hoping kids love it. Check out more about me at destinationnature.net.

Thank you, Stacy! I’m digging the sign you have up that says ‘Like a Boss’—I have one just like it hanging over my desk too 🙂 I’m excited to meet you in a few weeks and check out your new book!

Join us on October 6th when we visit author (of more than 30 books, including my daughter’s favorite Spirit Animals 5: Against the Tide) Tui Sutherland’s dragon-filled Boston studio.

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Join me at the SCBWI Wisconsin Fall Conference!

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Join me at the SCBWI Fall Conference October 16-18th in Oconomowoc, WI. I’ll be presenting on school visits. There’s still time to register. Check out the details below.

THE SCHOOL VISIT TOOLBOX
School visits can help authors and illustrators connect directly with their market audience—children and teachers. They can also help produce additional income. To discover what schools are looking for when booking a visit, and to find out what to do after you’ve gotten the gig, join Andrea Skyberg as she addresses some of the following questions:

  • What’s the best way to connect with schools to book visits?
  • When is the best time to send out promotional materials? And what is the best medium to use?
  • What do you charge?
  • Should you have a contract?
  • Where can schools find funding?
  • How many children should you work with at a time?
  • How do you handle a Skype visit?
  • How do you incorporate appropriate material for each age-range?
  • How does your program relate to the schools curriculum and standards?
  • What classroom management techniques can you employ?
  • Should you talk about your writing, yourself, or how your books were made?
  • How much time should you make each presentation?
  • What performance strategies can you use to help engage the audience?