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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Charles Santoso’s Studio Tour

I’m excited to have Charles Santoso sharing his studio in Sydney, Australia today on Tuesday Tours. A couple of months ago I discovered my newest favorite book I Don’t Like Koala by Sean Ferrell and illustrated by Charles Santoso and I knew if I loved the book as much as I did, I’d love a look inside the creative space where the images were created. I Don’t Like Koala is one of those beautifully illustrated books that points at a classic while remaining fresh and original. It’s also a great example of a picture book that allows children the space within the images to connect the dots, as well as witness a secondary visual storyline in addition to the text. To me, this book is a clever and child-appropriate take on horror–it has just the perfect dose of creepiness without being scary. My four year old has requested it repeatedly over the last month and I’m happy to oblige as even after the 100th read, I’m still chuckling at the ending. In addition to illustrating I Don’t Like Koala, Charles has also illustrated picture books Spy Guy: The Not-So-Secret Agent written by Jessica Young and Peanut Butter & Brains written by Joe McGee. He also works as a concept artist and art director and is credited on feature films like The Lego Movie, Walking With Dinosaurs 3D, and The Legends of the Guardians.

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charless_profile_photoTell us a little bit about yourself and your creative medium.
Hello! I’m Charles and I’m an image maker that creates illustrations for picture books & novels. I also work as a visual development artist at an animation studio in Sydney, Australia. My working tools include pencils (my favorite), pens, watercolors, and acrylics for traditional medium. I use Photoshop for my digital work.

 


charless_work_04How long have you had your space and how does it affect your creative process?
I currently live in a two bedroom apartment and I use one of the room as my home studio. I’ve lived here for about four years now. It’s not big but I love it. I try to put things that inspired me in my working space. Things like books, artist’ artwork, and interesting objects work great. My aim is to have a mini library-gallery-studio type of space.

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Describe a typical work day. Do you have any rituals you do before you start creating?
Most of my weekdays I work in the animation studio for about nine hours and then continue my 2nd shift home to do my book and personal projects. When I have a full day to do my book projects home, I start around 9am and have an hour break around midday and continue until my brain or hand tell me to stop. Between breaks is when I usually try to doodle some ideas for personal projects (very important). As for rituals, not so much. I think about stories and art non-stop, so my mind and hand can jump into creating mode in a short period of time.

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When was a time you had the most fun working in your studio?
I have fun most of the days working in my home studio. The best time is when everything flows as what is intended—when ideas, stories, and pictures dance in harmony. Unfortunately this best scenario rarely just happens, and I usually wrestle with these elements a lot before decent things starting to arise. I enjoy the whole process though.

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Is there any special item/trinket in your space that inspires you?
It’s hard to choose one or two special ones. Letters and drawings from children are greatly inspiring. They make me really happy! I also collect and display original artwork from artists that I admire. Some of whom I can call friends, which is amazing and very humbling.

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What’s the biggest distraction for you when you’re creating? How do you deal with it?
Working from home can be a little bit tricky in the beginning as the boundary between home and work space is a bit blurry. There were many times when my procrastinating brain asked me to do home chores or to have a quick nap (which can turned into a long nap in the end) instead of work. To deal with this, I forced myself to work on daily schedule, similar to the daily session at my animation studio work. I have to-do list everyday which ‘guide’ me to get through the day.

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What’s the most useful tool in your studio?
My pencils and Wacom Cintiq (Graphic Tablet).

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Which other artists, writers or creative people are you most inspired by at the moment?
Oh, it’s impossible to mention just two or three names for this! I keep getting inspired by lots of different people every day and this keeps changing too. I was reading a book by Quentin Blake the other day and got really inspired. Watched documentaries on Studio Ghibli, Saul Leiter (one of my favorite photographer), Maurice Sendak and Road Dahl make me really happy. Wes Anderson films spark ideas in my mind. charless_space_06
Listening to Iain McCaig’s latest interview gave a huge boost to my motivation. Norman Rockwell, Bill Watterson, Frédéric Back and Yuri Norstein work give me never ending supply of stories and joy. The list is going on and on and on. And most importantly, I get inspired by unique stories from different people that I’ve met. A few months ago, my wife and I had a random conversation with an 83 years old writer/editor in a casual restaurant in Tokyo, and I’m still super inspired by this chat session even today.

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Does music influence your work? What are you listening to now?
Yes! The right music for the right kind of work will give added values to the process of creating my work. I do like quiet moment without music in my initial idea generation process. At this preliminary stage where I need to fully concentrate and try to find a unique solution to a particular project, I find music can be an extra distraction as they have embedded creative values in them. As I move along to the next step (finishing stage), I usually choose music that suits the project—happy music for happy themed projects, sad music for a more emotional themed project, etc. The music that I like ranges from jazz and ambience to film soundtracks. Occasionally pop, classical, and rock can be fun too.

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What advice do you have for people who want to make a personal space where they can be creative?
I personally find that having things that I like around my working space can greatly boost my productivity and happiness level. Books, interesting objects, and pin-boards with images are critical to keep me inspired. I cycle and mixed them up every now and then. I also sometimes try to put something that’s out of my usual taste too. Doing this has helped me cultivate my personal taste and more importantly, helped me to get to know myself more.

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What’s coming up for you and where can we find out more?
A few of picture books that I illustrated were out recently (2015). These include I don’t Like Koala (Simon & Schuster), Spy Guy: The Not-So-Secret Agent (HMH), and Peanut Butter & Brains (Abrams). They are all different from one another and I had a really fun time working on them. I just finished a picture book called Ida, Always (written by the lovely Caron Levis) due to be released in Feb 2016 by Simon & Schuster, and I’m also currently finishing The Snurtch by the same writer as I don’t Like Koala book, Sean Ferrell! You can find updates and my personal work on my website and on tumblr.

Thank you, Charles. Ida, Always looks amazing and I can’t wait to see the next collaboration between you and Sean Ferrell!

Please join us next week when we visit the California cottage studio of one of my all-time favorite illustrators Marla Frazee.

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Jay Nolte’s Studio Tour

I’ve had people tell me how lucky I am to be able to travel around the world and take pictures of people’s studios and interview them. Oh how I wish that were true—I’d be jet-setting to Australia, England, Scotland, Mexico, New York, California, Oregon, and a couple territories in Canada, just to name a few. Usually I’m only able to visit these beautiful studios in the virtual world, just like all of my readers, but today I’m excited to say that I’ve had the chance to stand inside the studio of Jay Nolte, who works out of his home in Wisconsin. After I saw his space—ceiling tall shelves filled with figurines and books, a 3D printer, and a keg for homemade brew in the corner (Milwaukee is Brew City so it definitely seems reasonable), I knew it’d make a great feature on Tuesday Tours. Jay has had over twenty years experience in the design and gaming industries, working with clients such as Disney, Harley Davidson, Random House, and Nickelodeon. Currently, he is an illustrator who creates the webcomic The Zombie Office. He travels around the states showing and selling his work, and when he’s not doing that, he’s working on his new book project Gargoyles or experimenting with a new artistic medium, like gauche, water color, or even 3D printing.

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Tell us a little bit about yourself and your creative medium.
About sixteen years ago my wife and I were taking a leisurely stroll through an innocent looking suburb named Wauwatosa, when quite suddenly we were pounced on by a roguish band of dogs and cats and stolen away to their lair. Once there, we were forced to cater to their every whim and fancy; kibble, squeaky toys, dog treats, catnip. Their sadistic desires knew no bounds. We tried every form of escape imaginable, with each attempt ending in catastrophe.studio-tour-jay-7

Ten years ago we went so far as to have an offspring to see if possibly someone younger and faster could elude our captors and make a successful break, but this was yet another exercise in futility. The fiendish brutes licked and pawed at him with savage precision. We see now that he never stood a chance. Then fate showed me a glimmer of hope. As I was attempting to email a distress message, the cat (we think she is their leader) strolled across the keyboard of my laptop. Initially, she was evaluating my actions, but then the warmth of the computer and the soft glow of the screen put her into a kind of trance. She collapsed on the keys and began to make low, guttural noises. Seizing this chance, I began moving the cursor across the screen. This pleased her. Since that day, I have been creating computer graphics in the vain hope that one day my family may know the sweet taste of freedom.

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How long have you had your space and how does it affect your creative process?It all seemed harmless enough in the beginning. You know, a collectible vinyl figure here, a Pixar storyboard book there. No big deal, right? It’s just that the number of items has grown quite a bit since we moved in. Really, I don’t have a problem. I don’t NEED these items if that’s what you’re thinking. I simply draw inspiration from having them around. They’re nice to look at, but I can get rid of them anytime. Honest. Can we talk about something else please?

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Describe a typical work day. Do you have any rituals you do before you start creating?
The first thing I do is get out of bed. Now, being an able bodied person you would think this would be a fairly easy task to accomplish. You would be mistaken. Sleep is essential for all creatures. It’s just that my body seems to require more of it than others, especially in the morning hours. Scientists are currently baffled and can offer not explanation as to why. But I can definitely say that I do get more done when I’m not asleep.

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When was a time you had the most fun working in your studio?
Whenever my son joins me, we have a blast together. His talent far exceeds mine, and I love to watch him come up with amazing ideas. He reminds me to let go of control, have fun, and live in the moment.

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Is there any special item/trinket in your space that inspires you?
I don’t think that I can reduce it down to any one piece or item. My studio is more like a warm cocoon of baubles, curios and novelties. I draw inspiration from the sum total of my hodgepodge. I obsessively collect books of other artist’s work. When I get stuck I browse through them randomly for inspiration.studio-tour-jay-10

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What’s the biggest distraction for you when you’re creating? How do you deal with it?
Oh look, the new Star Wars collectibles have been released! I’m sorry, what was the question?

What do you like to nibble/drink when you’re working?
Tea, iced tea to be more precise. I make my own and have a couple of favorite flavors. I never developed a taste for coffee, but I cannot work without caffeine. I do have a kegerator in my office. One of my passions is brewing my own beer. But I can absolutely guarantee you that no alcoholic beverages are consumed during the making of art. OK, maybe a little.

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Which other artists, writers or creative people are you most inspired by at the moment?
Right now I’m obsessed with Mark Ryden. I’m blown away by his imagery and his technical talent.

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Does music influence your work? What are you listening to now?
Yes, I generally listen to music when I work. Usually it is the Grateful Dead. They’re the perfect background tunes to keep the left side of my brain occupied without overwhelming the right side.

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What advice do you have for people who want to make a personal space where they can be creative?
Find what inspires you and surround yourself with it.

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What’s coming up for you and where can we find out more?
You can read my webcomic The Zombie Office or get it delivered to you fresh at Facebook.com/TheZombieOffice. I’m also working on a new project called Gargoyles. It will be both a print and 3D printed project. You can view it soon at jaynolte.com or at Facebook.com/ArtofJayScottNolte.

Thank you for sharing your studio, Jay! Your space is like a cabinet of curiosities—I love it! I’ll have to come over for a home-brewed beer sometime and see how your newest project is coming along 🙂

i-dont-like-koala-9781481400688_lgJoin us on September 1st when we take a look inside illustrator Charles Santoso’s studio in Sydney, Australia.

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Rowboat Watkins’s Studio Tour

A couple of weeks ago I came across the most unusual and charming picture book called Rude Cakes, and fell in love with the storytelling and the illustrations. It wasn’t until I’d re-read it that I glanced at the authors name—Rowboat Watkins. Rowboat? Hmmm… I turned to the bio page and was informed that his wife gave him the name. Intrigued, I went to his website and was thoroughly entertained by his longer bio. I thought it’d be a kick to see where he’s creating all this great stuff, and I’m thrilled he agreed give us a peak at his studio this week on Tuesday Tours! His creative style extends to his Brooklyn workspace, where he wrestles with the option of tackling household chores or creative pursuits each day, and where he keeps company with marshmallows and clay gorillas (you’ll see what I mean).

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pic_of_me_1200wTell us a little bit about yourself and your creative medium.
Although you would never suspect if from looking at me, I’m an incurable neat freak living amongst crumb Visigoths. I live in the middle of a black hole in which all of Life’s unread mail and unpaid bills seem to gather, and in which most of Humanity’s dishes, and spoons, and whisks seem to daily convene in our sink. Which is notable only because there are but three of us living here. And nothing we eat during most days would seem to require a whisk. Or a cleaver. I have no idea why there are fourteen butter knives covered in peanut butter (or jelly) when it is only 10:00am…and maybe one sandwich (that I know of) has been invented since we all woke up this morning. But it is a sandwich which has apparently lived on 6 or 7 plates during its construction. Or at least before its eventual departure or demise. Which is all to say that my preferred creative medium is order. At this point I’m willing to settle for a spotty impersonation of tidiness. And some pencils and pens without syrup on them. Or whatever that sticky stuff might be. And a pad or two. And a window of desk space not occupied by marshmallows. Or little gorillas. The latter, I concede, are no one’s fault but my own.desk1_1200w

How long have you had your space and how does it affect your creative process?
We have lived here for 10 years. My wife and I, that is. My daughter’s only been here for 9 and a half. The dog for 4 and a half. And the marshmallows and gorillas for maybe a year. Depending on who you ask. In defense of my odd familiarity with the migratory patterns of cleavers and whisks, I would like to note that I work next to the kitchen. Out of the corner of my left eye, at this very moment, I can see a synod of greasy spatulas on the counter. A loaf of unwrapped bread. And a gaggle of foggy glasses.

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In front of me is a computer screen. Most of the marshmallows are gone. Thankfully. There are a couple stragglers, but what can you do? At least all of the gorillas are back in their boxes. Or over on the mantel. It was starting to look like The Battle of Hastings on my desk. As you might suspect, it kind of becomes impossible to do anything when you are living in the middle of the Norman conquest.

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Out of the corner of my right eye I can see the couch. Where my dog is currently asleep. And behind her, the playground across the street, peeking out from behind the trees. The window is open and I can hear the sprinklers sprinkling, and birds chirping, and someone dribbling a ball, and little kids talking on the jungle gym. And the skittering of plastic wheels rolling. And the faint beep of a truck backing up somewhere in the distance. And a plane flying overhead. But it’s all heard softly, and is mostly just one sound of a nice summer day.

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Describe a typical work day. Do you have any rituals you do before you start creating?
I wish I were organized enough to have a ritual, but most days are a clumsy dance of getting my daughter off to school or camp, drinking a cup of coffee (or two), walking the dog, and trying to remember worrying about spatulas is not a valid reason not to be making more headway on whatever’s directly in front of me. Things are thrown into even greater disarray when my latest fatwa against Facebook has been repealed for no good reason. The current ban is mercifully still in place, so at least there’s some hope of getting something done before picking up my daughter from camp, and taking her to the orthodontist to see if they can save the retainer she stepped on yesterday during lunch.

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When was a time you had the most fun working in your studio?
Whenever I forget what I can see out of the corner of my eyes, and am drawing in my sketchbooks and not worrying about what everything means, it’s usually pure delight. The same was true when I first realized that, if marshmallows look so fun to draw on, no one but ME was stopping me from drawing on them. Or that maybe all those gorillas I made out of sculpey for no good reason would be happier if they had a rocket ship made out of construction paper? Or a bed? Or a boat? Why? Why not? Fun pretty much never happens in my studio when I’m tarrying over technicalities like WHY.

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Is there any special item/trinket in your space that inspires you?
Nope. I have all kinds of things piled around my desk, or taped onto the blackboard, or propped on the chalk shelf over my computer screen. Lucky wheatshaft pennies found in pocket change. Rusty washers. Drawings by my wife and daughter. Drawings by friends. Pink Pearl erasers. Japanese masking tape. I like it all. And it all becomes like a messy bouillabaisse of inspiration.

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What’s the biggest distraction for you when you’re creating? How do you deal with it?
Worrying about dishes. Or that I don’t know how to do what I am doing. Someone else, who actually knows what they are doing, should be doing this. There must be a better way to draw this bed. Or that forest. If I were a different me, I would draw this whatever more persuasively. And Facebook. And email. What are the rules again? Weren’t those yesterday’s rules? Ugh…yesterday’s rules totally sucked. If I had better rules in place I would surely be further along. THERE ARE TOO MANY GORILLAS ON MY DESK! I can’t think with all this crap around my keyboard. With all those soiled whisks in the corner of my eye! If only I were my dog, I’d be living the Life of Riley. Look at my dog over there. Maybe I should take her for a walk? Maybe if I drove a Zamboni over my desk I would be able to see my thoughts again? Maybe I’m not liking what I’m working on because it all feels like TORTURE, and I should start all over, and pretend I am having fun? Wasn’t that the problem with yesterday too? Oh yeah. Torture=bad. Fun=good. I should write that down. I’ll do it tomorrow.

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What do you like to nibble/drink when you’re working?
Coffee. Root beer. Pink lady apples. Popsicles. Peaches when in season.

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Which other artists, writers or creative people are you most inspired by at the moment?
At this very moment, the first two names that come to mind are Joshua Oppenheimer and Petit Pierre. The former is the director of The Act of Killing and The Look of Silence. Both of which are too bracing and lovely for words. And the latter is the French guy who spent his whole life making this joyous wonder of a thing.

I only discovered Petit Pierre the other month when my friend Sergio sent me a link. You should watch the link. There are too many picture book writers and illustrators to name, so I won’t even try.

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Does music influence your work? What are you listening to now?
I can’t listen to music while I work. Lately I have been listening to The History of the World in 100 Objects. Which I listened to when it first came out. It is great, but I am terrible at doing two things at once so I either have no idea what I’m listening to, or I am not paying attention to what I am drawing. And I have no idea why I keep putting it back on. But you asked. I’m best served when listening to nothing at all.

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What advice do you have for people who want to make a personal space where they can be creative?
Hmm…I don’t think I would take advice from a guy who perpetually worries about whisks and cleavers, and listens to podcasts he can’t remember, and lets himself be overrun with marshmallows.

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What’s coming up for you and where can we find out more?
My new picture book Rude Cakes was just published by Chronicle Books in June. I’m working on two more books for them, which are supposed to come out in 2016 and 2017. But I’m still doing line work for the first of them, so I can’t swear the time-space continuum will necessarily comply. All I know for sure is there are no greasy spatulas or horrific piles of mail in either. You can visit me at http://rowboatwatkins.com.

Thank you for sharing your studio, Rowboat! In addition to laughing out loud at some of your marshmallow escapades, I love the youtube video you shared of Petit Pierre work. Can’t wait to see your upcoming books—maybe some clay gorillas will grace the pages? 

i-dont-like-koala-9781481400688_lgI’m heading to LA for the SCBWI Summer Conference, so Tuesday Tours will return in a few weeks with a look inside illustrator Charles Santoso’s studio in Sydney, Australia.

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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.
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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.

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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.
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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!
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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.
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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.
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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!

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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.​

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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: www.sueganzschimitt.com, 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 🙂 

Due to a busy workload and summer activities, Tuesday Tours will be off for a few weeks. Join us back here on July 21st when the talented author/illustrator Vanessa Brantley Newton shares her studio.

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