Tui Sutherland’s Studio Tour

A - 1Today on Tuesday Tours we have Tui Sutherland otherwise known as Erin Hunter, Rob KiddHeather Williams, or Tamara Summers. Yes, Tui is the writer behind a number of bestselling series and books, some of which feature her real name, and some that feature a collective name or pen name. What fun having so many alter egos! But the name Tui is the most well known name in our household because it’s the one featured on one of my daughter’s favorite books Spirit Animals: Against the Tide. We’re anxiously awaiting this weekend because we’ll be meeting Tui in person at the Sheboygan Book Festival. trading cardsWe have our book packed, all ready to be signed. We also hope to get a Tui trading card. A great bonus at this book festival, where authors and illustrators are honored with their very own cards that attendees can collect—how great is that!

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A - 22Tell us a little bit about yourself and your creative medium.
Hi, I’m Tui, and I like to write about dragons and griffins and secrets and explosions and falling in love and betrayal and telepathy and setting things on fire—sometimes all in the same book, but usually spread out over a series! Things to know about me:

* My name comes from a kind of bird (the tui!) which only lives in New Zealand.

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* I am a mom with two hilarious little boys (my bears) who are basically miniature whirlwinds of chaos and joy and havoc and Nutella.

* I was a two-day champion on Jeopardy! a few years ago, so at one point I totally knew all the presidents in order, but don’t test me on that! ☺

* My current ongoing series is the dragon fantasy Wings of Fire; I also wrote the Menagerie trilogy with my sister Kari, plus the fifth book in the Spirit Animals series, and about thirty other books so far.

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How long have you had your space and how does it affect your creative process?
We moved into this house about three and a half years ago, right before my younger son was born. My current study used to be a teeny tiny bedroom, but we took out the closet and now it’s a slightly less teeny tiny office. This is definitely where I write best—I love being in my own little space. Although I must admit I still haven’t properly organized it, even though we’ve been here three years! When I’m in here, I always feel like I should be writing instead of tidying or filing, so it’s usually a big mess, but I’ve been tackling a corner or shelf at a time for the last month and it’s starting to look more presentable now.☺

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If you had to pick a quote to hang above your desk for inspiration, what would it be?
I really should put up quotes—there are so many I love! There’s one from Jo Walton’s amazing book Among Others where the young narrator says: “When I grow up I would like to write something that someone could read sitting on a bench on a day that isn’t all that warm and they could sit reading it and totally forget where they were or what time it was so that they were more inside the book than inside their own head.” YES, exactly that, that’s what I want to write!

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Or I also love Madeleine L’Engle’s quote: “You have to write whichever book it is that wants to be written. And then, if it’s going to be too difficult for grown-ups, you write it for children.” Ha ha!  So great!

And then I recently came across a lovely one from Carl Sagan in Cosmos – I don’t know if it’s too long to include all of this, but it’s so beautiful and makes me so happy: “What an astonishing thing a book is. It’s a flat object made from a tree with flexible parts on which are imprinted lots of funny dark squiggles. But one glance at it and you’re inside the mind of another person, maybe somebody dead for thousands of years. Across the millennia, an author is speaking clearly and silently inside your head, directly to you. Writing is perhaps the greatest of human inventions, binding together people who never knew each other, citizens of distant epochs. Books break the shackles of time. A book is proof that humans are capable of working magic.” Happy sigh.

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But the only quote that’s actually visible from my desk is on a random magnet on my filing cabinet, and it’s a picture of Marcie from Peanuts, and it says: “Some of us think we look kind of cute with our glasses.” Which I guess says something about me, too! ☺

menageIf you could live inside the world of one of the books you’ve written, which one would you chose and why?
Hmmm…could I be a dragon?  Because if I was still little human me, I don’t think Pyrrhia would be a very safe place to live!☺ But if I were a dragon, maybe a RainWing or a SeaWing, it would be pretty cool to live there. As myself, though, I think I’d love to visit the world of the Menagerie (which is a secret zoo of mythical creatures) so I could meet the griffin cubs and Zoe’s pet woolly mammoth. Or if I knew I’d get a spirit animal (perhaps a red panda? or a slow loris?), it would be amazing to live in Erdas (the world of Spirit Animals)…maybe not while it’s in the middle of a big war, though!

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What’s the biggest distraction for you when you’re writing? How do you deal with it?
My biggest distraction is the guilt I feel about being at my desk instead of with my children.  It’s kind of ever-present—no matter what I’m doing, I always feel like I’m either neglecting my writing or my kids. I don’t think I deal with it very well yet (they’re still little! it’s only been five years!).☺ I guess what I usually do is spend the month before a deadline holed up in my office doing nothing but writing, and spend the other seven or eight months of the year more focused on the kids. This is not an ideal solution, believe me. I hope one day I find some kind of better balance where I can stop worrying about it!

Evidence Tui's 3 year old was in her office :)

Evidence Tui’s 3 year old was in her office 🙂

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The other terrible distraction is, of course, the Internet, where there are so many brilliant authors saying smart things all the time. I could spend all day reading what Anne Ursu and Justina Ireland and Shannon Hale and Daniel Jose Older have to say about the world and books (and unfortunately some days I do!). The only way I’ve found to deal with this is to give myself time limits—OK, Tui, you can have ten minutes of the Internet and then it’s back to work!

A box decorated by children at a school visit

A box decorated by children at a school visit

What are the three best things about your writing space?
For me, I love that my writing space is at home—even though it’s sometimes distracting to be here, I really love being able to wear my pajamas while I write (that’s seriously the #1 thing—if I had to get dressed and wear shoes in order to write, my books would never get written!). Being at home also means I can easily go get tea if I need it and say hi to my kids when they get home from school or if they want to show me something they’ve made.

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The second thing I love is the framed Wings of Fire full cover art over my desk, which was a present from my sister and her husband—it helps so much to be able to look up at those dragons (and at the map of their world) for inspiration when I’m writing the new books.

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And the third thing is probably the little bed where my dog Sunshine sleeps while I’m writing . . . we’d both rather have her in my lap, but then it’s hard to type!  So she has her own cozy spot, and it’s really sweet and comforting to have her close by, especially when it’s the middle of the night and everyone else is sleeping. (That’s my writing time—I’m an extreme night owl, writing mostly between 11pm and 4am, which is another reason I can’t work anywhere but at home!)

A - 11What other artists, writers or creative people are you most inspired by at the moment?
Jo Walton, for sure; I love her writing so incredibly much—her dragon book Tooth and Claw is genius and her book Among Others might be my favorite of all time. She did an event at a nearby bookstore not long ago, and everything she said was so wise and thoughtful and brilliant that I was literally in tears by the end.

A - 6Rainbow Rowell is another author I adore; I would love for my books to be that funny and heartfelt at the same time. I saw Kwame Alexander speak a few months ago and he also made me cry, he’s so smart and generous and joyful and intentional.

In terms of artists, I recently bought prints by Aaron Becker, Grace Lin, and Peter Reynolds, all of whom are amazing, and I would like to get something by Joy Ang (the artist for the Wings of Fire covers), Kazu Kibuishi, and Ben Hatke as well. Oh, and I find Hayao Miyazaki’s movies very inspiring, too—I’d like my stories to have that feeling of beautiful sparky weirdness!

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What advice do you have for people who want to make a personal space where they can be creative?
I loved Liz Garton Scanlon’s answer to this question—that often what people need even more than space is time. That’s so true! Although I have my own space, I still find it hard to write unless I’m bossy with myself about making time for it. I also think your space should have things you love in it, that make you happy. The photos on my desk of my kids and my dog when she was a puppy make me smile all the time, and my shelves of favorite books make me feel like I have my best friends close by. (My shelf of to-read books is also exciting but probably less helpful, since I keep looking at it and wishing I were reading instead of writing!)

All the stuff Tui shoved into the hallway in order to take these beautiful tidy-looking photos :)

All the stuff Tui shoved into the hallway in order to take these beautiful tidy-looking photos 🙂

winterWhat’s coming up for you now and where can we find out more?
I’m currently working on book nine of the Wings of Fire series—Book Seven: Winter Turning was released in June, and Book Eight: Escaping Peril comes out in January 2016 (and has an awesome cover!)! The third book in the Menagerie trilogy will be coming out in paperback in the next year.  And everything I’ve ever written is listed on my website: www.tuibooks.com.

Andrea, thanks so much for having me here!  I can’t wait to meet you and lots of wonderful Wisconsin readers at the Sheboygan Children’s Book Festival next week!  Yay!

Thank you, Tui! I love that you shared the stuff that got moved into the hall in order to get tidy-looking pictures. I can sure relate to that! Thanks for sharing your space and influences—I now have some new quotes to add to my cork board ☺. My family and I are excited to meet you this weekend at the Sheboygan Book Festival!

Charlie AnnJoin us on October 13th when we take a look inside one of my favorite novelists Kimberly Newton Fusco’s Rhode Island writing retreat.

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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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Liz Garton Scanlon’s Studio Tour

AllThe WorldI’m thrilled to have Liz Garton Scanlon share her Austin, TX bungalow with us on Tuesday Tours today! Liz is the author of one of my favorite picture books All the World (illustrated by Marla Frazee), as well as many other great stories that have entertained my family over the years. Each of her stories is full of authenticity—so true and touching that it pulls at the heartstrings and gets straight to the emotion of the story, such as my favorite phrase from All the World—“Babies passed from neck to knee”. With her new book A Great Good Summer, Liz joins forces with illustrator Marla Frazee once again, but in a very different way. This time instead of a picture book, Liz has released her debut middle-grade novel, and it’s been receiving great praise and reviews. She hasn’t forgotten about picture books though, as she’s also recently released In the Canyon (Illustrated by Ashley Wolff) about a young girl experiencing the Grand Canyon for the first time. To get a signed copy of any of Liz’s amazing books, visit her at the Sheboygan Book Festival, where she’ll be presenting along with me and thirteen other authors/illustrators October 9-11th.

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Tell us a little bit about yourself and your creative medium.
I write poetry, picture books and novels on my laptop in my own little nook in Austin, Texas.

How long have you had your space and how does it affect your writing process?
My husband and I bought this tiny 40’s bungalow about 12 years ago and after a few years we were popping its seams. (When we moved in, we had little girls and they eventually got big.) So we added on a little space, including a kind of closet-ish room for me. Big enough for the old library table I use as my desk.

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Describe a typical work day. Do you have any rituals you do before you start writing?
Do you mean besides coffee? 😉 I send my kids off to school and then I either walk or run with my dog before I get to work. That gets my blood flowing, and I often get ideas while I’m moving. Sometimes I remember them long enough to write them down.

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If you had to pick a quote to hang above your desk for inspiration, what would it be?
I DO have quotes above my desk — lots of them. One thing I read every day, because it’s right there, is William Stafford’s When I Met My Muse, in which the muse says, “When you allow me to live with you, every glance at the world around you will be a sort of salvation.” Here’s a link to the whole thing.
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Is there any special item/trinket in your space that inspires you?8unnamed
My space is full of talismans. I have baby pictures of my daughters that keep me grounded. There’s a drawing I did as a little girl at that stage where you don’t draw bodies — you just draw arms and legs coming straight out of a person’s head.
I like to think it keeps me child centered. And I’ve got a candle that looks like a rock. My editor Allyn Johnston sent it to me after we did All the World together with a note that said, “It all began with a rock” (because that’s the first word of that book). It’s my most tangible reminder that we can make something out of nothing, all of us, at any time, and that in so many ways it is simple…

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What’s the biggest distraction for you when you’re writing? How do you deal with it?
Because I work at home, there is NEVER not laundry to be done or a floor that could use a good sweep. Sometimes I’m good at ignoring those things (ask my family) but other days I’m wild with distraction. That’s when I just have to pick up and go elsewhere. There’s a coffee place just 2 blocks away with a very good decaf latte. That’s the beauty of a laptop.

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If you could relocate your studio for part of the year to another geographical location, where would it be?
I actually already do spend about a month every summer at our family cottage on a lake in Wisconsin. I’m not always very good about working there, but I definitely re-charge there. And find inspiration there. And I think that as my kids get older, and as I do too, that I may use it as a work space more and more. Like, when water skiing becomes less important.

 

What other artists, writers or creative people are you most inspired by at the moment?
Oh, this morning I was in tears over a radio interview with architect Frank Gehry. Seriously. I’m inspired by brave, wild, imaginative people every day.
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What advice do you have for people who want to make a personal space where they can be creative?
You can create a lot of amazing art — written or visual — at the kitchen table, at a coffeehouse, in your bedroom if you have to. To me, almost more important that claiming space is claiming time. Time that you demarcate and value. Put it on your calendar. Make it important and unmissable. And then sit down somewhere and do what you do.

InTheCanyonWhat’s coming up for you and where can we find out more?
My newest books are the brand new picture book IN THE CANYON, which takes place in the Grand Canyon and is exquisitely illustrated by Ashley Wolff, and my first-ever middle grade novel, THE GREAT GOOD SUMMER, which takes place in a made-up Texas town, features a crooked preacher called Hallelujah Dave, and sends a couple of 12-year-olds on a Greyhound adventure! I’m working on my next middle grade now. Visit me at http://lizgartonscanlon.com and check out some really great activity guides (teacher-created) for each of my books at http://lizgartonscanlon.com/teachers-guides/.

Thank you, Liz! I can’t wait to sink into a Great Good Summer and I’m looking forward to seeing you at the Sheboygan Book Festival in a couple of weeks!

coverJoin us on September 22nd when we take a look inside author and naturalist Stacy Tornio‘s writing space.

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Sheboygan Book Festival Video

YoutubeClip SheboyganBookFestivalThanks Nick Patton for creating this great video (below) featuring the authors and illustrators appearing at the Sheboygan Book Festival in October.
AUTHORS/ILLUSTRATORS:
Ann AngelLaura Lee GulledgeLita JudgeJoAnn Early MackenKenn NesbittMiranda PaulJustin RobertsChristian RobinsonLiz Garton Scanlon, Andrea SkybergMichael Spradlin, Tricia SpringstubbTui SutherlandStacy Tornio and Ken KefferAshley Wolff.

Visit Me at the Sheboygan Book Festival in October!

I’m really excited to be leading an art workshop on October 11th at 10:30am at the John Michael Kohler Art Center in Sheboygan, WI as part of the Sheboygan Book Festival.

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It’s a fantastic line-up of authors and illustrators this year, including Ann AngelLaura Lee GulledgeLita JudgeJoAnn Early MackenKenn NesbittMiranda PaulJustin RobertsChristian RobinsonLiz Garton ScanlonMichael Spradlin, Tricia SpringstubbTui SutherlandStacy Tornio and Ken KefferAshley Wolff.

Gallery tour photos - Shimmerling 1Art-making workshop with author/illustrator Andrea Skyberg
Create an original metal engraved Shimmerling feather with Andrea Skyberg, based on the artwork in her book SHIMMERLING. 10:30 a.m. at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center.

Book Signing to follow workshop.

 

Jesse Klausmeier’s Studio Tour

Today on Tuesday Tours, we are joined by Jesse Klausmeier the author of Open This Little Book2013 Boston Globe-Horn Picture Book winner. Jesse, believe it or not, wrote the first draft of her award-winning picture book when she was only five years old! This weekend at the Sheboygan Book Festival, Jesse is a featured speaker, kicking off the event on Friday night with a presentation of her book followed by a book signing. She’ll also be presenting throughout the weekend and closing the three-day event with a writing workshop for adults and teens on Sunday afternoon. If you’re near Sheboygan, I’d highly recommend checking it out.

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Tell us a little bit about yourself and your creative medium.
Hi, Andrea! I’m thrilled to be featured on your blog and share my creative space with you and your readers. I’m the author of the picture book, Open This Little Book illustrated by Suzy Lee. I used to work at the Nickelodeon Animation Studio and after that I was an assistant editor at Penguin Books for Young Readers. I have always loved to read and write, sing and dance, and host and attend costume parties.

How long have you had your space and how does it affect your creative process?
I’ve had this space for past two years, ever since I moved from NYC back to Madison, WI where I grew up. My writing area is generally organized and pretty sparse. If my workspace is cluttered, my head is cluttered. I do a lot of thinking about my stories while I clean, organize, and file.

It’s that way for me as well—an organized space equals an organized mind 🙂

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Are there any kind of rituals you do before you start creating?
I stock my space with water and snacks (usually nuts, fruits, and veggies – ok and jerky. I love jerky) so that I can hunker down for a while and focus. Right before I start writing, I do some light stretching (arms, neck, back) and set my intention for that session.

CoverDo you listen to music while you work? 
I can’t listen to music when I write because I’ll either start singing along, or I’ll want to dance. I do, however, love the sound of rain while I write. It sets a cozy, snuggly scene that helps me focus. I use http://www.rainymood.com, which is awesome and free. Yay free!

That’s a great sound to work to. Thanks for the link!

When 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.

It depends on the project and where I am when I get an idea. I keep a small notebook with me pretty much all the time now, which is much more sanitary and less smelly than my prior method of writing on napkins. I’ll write down initial thoughts in the notebook and then let the story simmer in my head for a while before writing a first draft on the computer. For manuscripts that use unique formatting, like Open This Little Book, I use color-coded text to track what’s happening on each page of each spread.

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Is there any special item/trinket in your space that inspires you?
I have my original version of Open This Little Book that my grandmother made for me when I was five-years-old. I had this grand idea for a book about books and I just started writing and drawing in the book she mocked-up. I didn’t worry about making mistakes, if it was good enough, or if anyone else would ever see it. As an adult, I’m constantly trying to shed the need for external validation and find that magical child-like sense of creating just for the sake of making something in that moment. Lynda Barry’s book, Picture This is one I come back to again and again when I need this reminder.

What is your favorite book?
GAH! This is an impossible question, Andrea! One book from my childhood that shaped me into the person I am today is Eve Bunting’s Terrible Things: An Allegory of the Holocaust. It should be required reading for every human being.OfficeMedium

What are you reading now?
Right now I’m reading Beth Kephart’s Handling the Truth: On the Writing of Memoir. This book is an immense gift in my life right now and I can’t recommend it enough.

NeverAlonePrintWhat colors inspire your creativity? Are those colors incorporated in your space? I’m not an artist, so I’m probably butchering the term (is it even a term?), but dusky colors have always inspired me. They’re soothing and hold a bit of magic. It isn’t until the sun goes down that we can see the stars, even though they’ve been out all day long. These colors hold the promise of secrets about to be revealed, and that’s how I feel when I’m creating. There is a print in my office that perfectly captures this magical quality called, Never Alone by Christy Andres.

I love that description and comparison of dusk and writing! What advice do you have for people who want to make a personal space where they can be creative?
First and foremost, invest in a comfortable chair. Next, pay attention to what’s in your line of sight. Get the bills, paperwork, and that pile of stuff you need to go through far, far away (preferably in another room). If you don’t, it’ll stare you down, demand attention, and suck out all of your creative juices. Third, surround yourself with items that inspire you on an emotional level. I have loved the works of Beatrix Potter ever since I was a young child. Having some of my Potter figurines on my desk takes me back to that enchanting world where anything could happen.BeatrixPotterandJaneyCoverArt

What would you say is the greatest source of inspiration to you as a writer?
My greatest source of inspiration (and I know this could sound saccharine) is children. Their joy and optimism, their (sometimes brutal) honesty, their resilience and capacity to evolve is completely inspiring. I feel most inspired when crafting a story that centers around a topic or character that resonates with me on a deeply emotional level. In these moments, my goal is to create a book that certain kids will feel was made specifically for them. Oliver Jeffers’ The Heart and the Bottle is a picture book that accomplishes this beautifully. FanMail

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What’s coming up for you and where can we find out more?
I’m working on a couple new picture book projects that I’m super excited about and a memoir about my struggle with endometriosis. Hopefully I’ll be able to share news about them soon! You can find out more about me at my website or on Twitter @JesseKlausmeier.

Thank you, Jesse! I’m excited to hear your presentation this weekend at the Sheboygan Book Festival!

Join us next Tuesday when we get a look inside the studio of Yuyi Morales, who just released her beautiful new book Viva Frida!