While work is busy, I like to give my mind a little break from working on any particular project and I find myself channelling my creativity into painting and lettering. I keep my paints, paper and water out on the coffee table to encourage myself to mess around and see what appears. It’s a good palette cleanser and feels like a treat. Here are a few things I’ve made over the last couple of months.
I’ve been taking a break from working on And So We Begin projects and in particular my third picture book while I’ve been helping to look after my family. I’ve been quite open on Twitter that my nephew received a stem cell transplant last year after he was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia. Thankfully and brilliantly, he is recovering really well. Before this happened I had no knowledge of stem cell donation and now, I can’t talk about it enough and am encouraging everyone I meet to sign up as a donor with DKMS or Anthony Nolan.
I now find that I have a little time again to juggle creating with my day job as an event manager. So this week I revisited the illustrations that I had started drafting for my third picture book. I had been toying with two ideas and thought I was going in one direction. But when I came back to review the project I realised that actually I am more drawn to my second idea. And that idea features this little guy. He doesn’t have a name yet but he does have a story. So hopefully you’ll be seeing a lot more of him!
I’m really excited to say that I launched my new book How I Independently Publish Picture Books this week! The book is available as a downloadable PDF on Etsy and as an ebook on the Kindle Store and tells you all about my own path to indie publishing my stories.
I’m entirely self taught and it has taken me several years to learn about the different steps and processes that are required to publish. I hope that sharing what I’ve learnt will help you to have a go at publishing your own picture books too.
I see the book as an ongoing project so please do get in touch and let me know what you think and if there’s anything else you would like to see included.
Meanwhile, I plan to share some excerpts here and am also currently working on my third picture book so will share some more insight into that too. But first I’m going to treat myself to a cup of tea and a mince pie to celebrate : )
I have a little Christmas treat for you! While you’re enjoying reading Angel’s Great Escape in the lead up to Christmas, you can now enjoy making your own decorations too.
Simply click on the picture and download the PDF. Print the pages out and colour the decorations in with your favourite Christmassy colours. I like to add a bit of sparkle to mine by sprinkling some glitter around!
Thread each character on a pretty ribbon and pop them on your Christmas tree to enjoy throughout the festive season!
Illustrations by Kristyna Litten : )
I’m chuffed to say I managed to keep up with the Folk Tale Week and produced seven illustrations for the prompts - forest, magic, witch, ghost, insect, mirror and animal. After a busy time working on my day job, it’s really helped me to get back in touch with my creativity and love of drawing. Seeing all the pictures on the hashtag has been so inspiring. Time to get back to picture book three!
Two years ago today I released my first picture book into the wild! Angel’s Great Escape: A Christmas Story was an absolute labour of love for me & I did everything I could to get it published. It was an animation script & an app before the story became a picture book. I taught myself how to independently publish, worked with fabulous illustrator Kristyna Litten, learned from my brilliant book designer Sarah & muddled my way through the processes of CreateSpace & now KDP. It’s been a brilliant journey & I love knowing that each Christmas children will pick up my book & it will make them feel cosy & Christmassy just as The Story of Father Christmas by Ann & Dennis Mallet made me feel when I was little. Thank you for buying, sharing & reviewing, it really means the world to me.
I’ve been wrapped up in a freelance event contract for the past two months which has made it difficult to find time to draw. When I finish a contract it takes me a couple of days to get back to my projects even though I find myself wanting to rush at it. To slow myself down, I absorb myself in drawing. Last week I spotted an illustration challenge that is perfect to transition from data (the events role I have been doing) back to creator. I’m not sure who runs it but the hashtag on Instagram is #folktaleweek. The ethereal prompts are just what I need to get back to creating.
Here’s my first illustration for the prompt, forest.
While I put the finishing touches to the wording of my new ebook, I wanted to share a glimpse at the cover with you. I use a similar image to this for all of my social media for And So We Begin and it felt right to use it to illustrate an insight into my journey so far. I hope you like it! The book will initially be available as a downloadable PDF in my Etsy shop but I’m working towards popping it on Kindle too.
I have a couple of readers giving me feedback and I’m adding a little more text and some more images. I’m still planning to release the book later in October so if you’re intrigued and you’d like to be the first to hear updates, please sign up for my newsletter on the home page of my site.
I’m excited to say that I’ve finally (finally!) finished the first draft of my ebook about my experience of publishing my first two picture books. I love reading about how other creatives work so hope you will find my story interesting. While I’ve been working on my book projects for the past six years I’ve felt quite clueless at times (!!) and I’ve really had to work at understanding the process of independently publishing. I was always someone who had lots of ideas but was frustrated that ‘getting published’ was seemingly the only way to share my creations. Then technology started to open things up and the advent of being able to set up my own company and submit my own work to be available for print on demand has been incredibly liberating. This ebook talks you through my journey and I hope it will inspire you to maybe think about publishing your own stories.
My next step will be to edit and I’m then going to take some photographs to include. I’m planning to make the book available in my Etsy shop within the next month or so. If you’re interested in hearing more, please sign up to my newsletter by submitting your details on my home page and I’ll drop you a line when it’s available. I can’t wait to share it with you!
I've been devouring all of the episodes of this excellent podcast from Sara Tasker and Jen Carrington, Letters From A Hopeful Creative. This episode particularly struck me. Knowing our worth and not underselling ourselves as illustrators is important not only to us as individuals but to the industry as a whole. Creativity takes time and energy, just the same as any other job. It's taken me so long to realise that it's not frivolous or a luxury to create, it has its place like everything else and should be financially rewarded in the same way.
This week I've been moving on to the next stage on my journey of independently publishing picture books and have switched my printing process from Createspace to Kindle Direct Publishing or KDP. Joanna Penn has been talking on her podcast recently about how Createspace is due to close down and recommended moving over to KDP. As my ebooks are already published on Kindle this made sense to me and means that my books are in the same place (with the exception of iBooks).
I looked for advice online to show me how to complete the process and found this very helpful video which describes the steps clearly. It was super easy and took minutes.
Once I'd received the approvals from KDP, I ordered a copy of each book to have a look at the print quality. I chose the gloss cover and matte pages and I'm really pleased to find that the finish is exactly the same as Createspace. I also love the fact my books are still print on demand which ensures I am not being wasteful and saves me from having an apartment full of boxes!
Switching will also hopefully allow me to be seen more easily on Amazon by using their marketing services. I’m excited to see what effect this will have on my sales and will write more about this in a future post once I've experimented a bit!
As an independent children's publisher, I've had to navigate a lot of the journey myself. I've spent many hours trying to fathom out design and print processes and working out how to get my books listed and seen alongside traditional titles. I'm very passionate about my creative projects so have been interested to understand every step of the process and I feel a great sense of achievement (and relief!) when I work it out bit by bit. It can, however, be a bit of a lonely world. So it was fantastic to see that The Creative Penn recently released a podcast on the subject, an interview with Karen Inglis who has been publishing her own children's titles for the past seven years.
I was particularly interested to hear how Karen has been using Amazon Marketing Services to boost her sales and to help her titles to be seen alongside traditional publishers. When I started this path, I remember asking a speaker at a self-publishing conference how I could distribute my own books and at the time, it just wasn't possible. It's amazing to see how far things have come in less than 10 years.
It took me a long time to realise the power of creativity to heal and help others. I drew this empty chair as a contribution to the #3000chairs project which is designed to highlight the plight of refugee children when they are refused help. The project is being run by Nicola Davies and Emma O’Donovan (also known on social media as The Book Sniffer). Lots of lovely illustrators, both professional & amateur, are contributing pictures that will be sold off for charity at a fundraising evening in September - see the link below for more information. I am so proud to be a part of it 💕
I am between working on events at the moment so am taking a short pause from working on my picture book. However, I find I miss illustrating so squirreled a couple of hours today to draw one of my favourite things to draw, a girl with flowers on her head or a flower head as I like to call them. Drawing for me is an act of mindfulness & this piece represents a couple of hours of clearing and calming my mind. And a new piece for my portfolio : )
A little while ago I took myself out for a stroll to seek out my creative spark. A lot of long days at work had left me feeling lethargic so I strolled along the river and let my mind roam freely.
While I walked, I thought about how looking for a little bit of pretty in the everyday has helped me to overcome many difficult moments in my life. It gives me something to focus on, encourages me to walk mindfully, paying attention to my surroundings. And it reminds me of the beauty in the everyday. And so I filmed a little and ended up making the first in a small series of #littlebitofpretty films. I hope you enjoy it!
I’d love to encourage you to look for your own #littlebitofpretty in your day and to use the hashtag on Instagram if you’d like to share it. You’ll see some of my previous finds if you search for the hashtag too : )
I had planned such a lot for this week but as I mentioned in my previous post I’ve been feeling lethargic after my latest day job. So I was pleased that I managed to drag myself to my laptop to make a good start on another page of picture book number three. As it’s Father’s Day this week, I felt inspired to draw this chair from my childhood. My Dad used to spin us around in it so fast that we felt like we were on a rollercoaster. I remember laughing so much as the chair span and insisting on him twirling us again and again. It’s lovely to think it’s found a home in my latest book : )
Switching from day job to creating again is sometimes hard and this time I seem to have found it more tricky than usual. It’s mainly lethargy that holds me back. I’m tired from working but frustrated that I don’t have non-stop energy to create when I finally have a little time out. At the same time I’m so aware that I need balance and need to give myself a break. So today, rather than work on any one project, I gave myself permission to potter, to let my mind do what it wanted for a change. I wanted to get some air and to be by the water without having to go too far out of the city. So I jumped on a train and headed to the river. I took my camera and found myself filming with my phone too. It felt good to lose track of time and to create something spontaneously. Video coming soon : )
If you feel a bit lost creatively, even momentarily, be kind to yourself. Give yourself permission to switch off and allow your mind to roam. Take the pressure off. Walk away for a little while. Do something else that feeds your soul, whether that’s spending time with family, going out with your camera or just having a stroll in nature. The muse will return when the time is right.
I'm really pleased and excited to announce that An Amazing Alphabet of Cake is now available to order from Waterstones. It's been such a learning curve working out how to get the book into shops so this feels like a real milestone. Only a few years ago, there wasn't really a route for independents like me to be seen. And now, thanks to Ingram Spark, I've been able to upload the book to their system and it's now started to become more visible across book stores online. My next step is to approach Waterstones with a copy to see if they will hold stock in their bricks and mortar shops. It's so lovely to see something that was once just a spark in my mind existing out in the wild!
Progress for my third picture book is slow and steady as I juggle my day job. I find I like to work on it when I know I'll have an hour or two of uninterrupted time and when it's not too late in the day so my mind isn't too tired to concentrate on the screen. So there are often quite bit gaps between drawing sessions. I've learnt to embrace this rather than get frustrated by it as it gives me time to form my ideas. This weekend I found a perfect little window of time and settled down in front of Photoshop.
Firstly I revisited my last drawing, that I posted on here on a couple of weeks ago. I'd been thinking a lot that the character of the little boy didn't look young or cute enough. When I first drew him I knew something was wrong but couldn't quite see what it was. A couple of weeks away let me see the drawing with fresh eyes and I set about making amendments. You can see the two different versions below. On the left my first attempt, on the right my updated one. Giving him bigger eyes is more like my style from An Amazing Alphabet of Cake and is my comfort zone but I feel it works a lot better on him. I also made his hair a bit less styled and changed the shape of his body. I'll revisit him again in a couple of weeks to start drawing him in different poses.
I also drew another image of the little girl in the book, also ready for bed and holding her teddy bear. Her hair needs work as it once again feels a little too styled but I'm quite fond of the colours and her bunny slippers!