Monday, September 5, 2016

Hello, it's been awhile...dustin' off the blog with a long post: Sun and sand (vacation), SF Illustrator's Day, an update...

Warning, this is a mighty long post, so if you feel like cuttin' to the chase, you can fast forward and leap to this great recap of the 10th Annual SF SCBWI Illustrator Day, by Sarah Baker.
Hello dear bloggy friends, it's been far too long and I apologize for such a delay between posts.

Truth be told, I've been offline ever since I posted my last "100 day" sketch because after that, I prepared for a fantastic family vacation right before school started for my kids and then it was right back to school and two huge deadlines for work and I'm finally able to come up for air. It had been five years since our previous vacation, so I focused on really enjoying the time away with my family. I can't tell you how absolutely beautiful and calming the entire trip was and I highly recommend taking breaks from work to recharge and rest. :)

The beautiful views in Kauai - McBryde & Allerton Botanical Gardens, Polihale St. Park, Poipu, and more...
Once back from vacation, I have been frantically working on projects in order to make deadlines, and although I've loved the work, the pace has been in 6th gear. I haven't had a chance until this weekend to be able to share a proper post as one of my deadlines has a bit of a reprieve, for which I am grateful (thanks to my agent and editor...thank you!).

Two weeks ago, between projects, I was able to prepare very quickly, a printed booklet of the "100 day project" so that I could bring it to the 10th Annual SCBWI SF Illustrator's Day in San Francisco. I had a few hours Thursday night to print, and then a few more on Friday, the night before the event to create the book. YouTube has it's merits, I must say..and this super video by Sea Lemon inspired me on Thursday night to go run out on Friday to buy some waxed thread, an awl, and some curved bookbinding needles. Friday evening came quickly as I paused, played, paused, played the video to finally stitch up my book, and here it was actually quite meditative once I got the swing of it!

Moving on to the portfolio, for every year, because we've had the fortune of being critiqued by panel members in the industry, and especially from Professor John Clapp, SJSU, who stated that year after year, we should have fresh new work to show, I scrambled to print the latest work since showing my work last year. Thankfully the NYSCBWI conference I attended in February pushed me to create new work and so some of the pieces stayed in this latest book. My goal in preparing this book was to bring pieces to discuss with my paid portfolio critquer, the amazingly inspiring Marla Frazee! When the guests were announced for this year's event, I immediately signed up and chose Marla as I have been such a big fan of hers for many, many years. Her technique, her stories, her breadth of work continues to inspire me, and after spending the day listening to her, her amazing editor, Allyn Johnston, VP & Publisher of Beach Lane Books, a San Diego-based imprint of Simon & Schuster's children's imprints, and Ann Bobco, Executive Art Director overseeing picture book design in three of S&S's children's imprints: Atheneum, Beach Lane, and McElderry Books, I am even more inspired.

I passed out late Friday night, and was back up early to head to San Francisco (about a 2 hour drive), and was so happy to see my friends, author/illustrators Tracy Bishop, Laura Zarrin, and Joy Steuerwald at the reg. table. They saved seats for me and author/illustrator Laura Lee, a friend from the NY conference up front which was fantastico! As I settled in, I said hello to a woman a few seats away, Debbi she said, and it was noneother than Deb Pehrson Haun! What a treat to get to know and meet Debbi as we've been online friends for some time now. During the day, I was thrilled to see my friend, Bethanie Murguia (my roomie from the NY conference) and catch up with her, and friends Susan Rankin-Pollard, Josh Nash, Brian Bowes, as well as meeting Elizabeth Stevens Omlor and many others. One of the highlights of these events is getting to see friends and meet new ones..I highly recommend getting out of our bat-caves! :)
Debbi and Laura
Debbi, me, Elizabeth, Josh

Laura, Phyllis, Tracy, Joy, Sue, and me
Lea Lyon and I
The stellar event, hosted by SCBWI SF/South Illustrator Coordinator author/illustrator Lea Lyon,
and her team: SCBWI SF/South RA, Naomi Kinsman Downing, SCBWI SF/South ARA – Tim McCanna and SCBWI SF/South ARA – Kristi Wright, was held at the Fire House, Fort Mason, San Francisco. What a fantastic venue each year!

We started the day listening to Allyn and Marla speak about how they create their books together and were treated to many great background stories of how these books came to be: A Couple of Boys Have Best Week Ever, The Farmer And The Clown, Is Mommy? and Boss Baby.

After a break where we could view portfolios and critques were held, we listened to Ann Bobco and her design process including Marla's. Ann's design aesthetic and choices of letterforms were fascinating to me as we viewed her beautiful work on All The World,  Is Mommy?,  The Man in the Moon and more!

After lunch, we listened to Sarah Baker, Director, Illustration and Artist Programs at SCBWI headquarters, and Priscilla Burris, US Illustrator Coordinator and member of SCBWI Board of Advisors speak about the benefits of the SCBWI and how there are so many ways to participate and share your illustration with so many viewers around the world. We listened to Marla, Ally and Ann talk about Boss Baby, and the sequel, Bossier Baby. We are all SO thrilled for Marla's upcoming film in March, 2017!

After another break, the panel commented on participating attendees' "first look" assignment, which was given earlier in the summer, a series of three sequential illustrations interpreting a passage of one of Lyle Lovett's songs but the only part of the song that should be interpreted is the excerpt provided below. The rest of the song is not to be considered. These lines can be a launching off point to whatever story the illustrator wants to tell.

If I had a boat
I'd go out on the ocean
And if I had a pony
I'd ride him on my boat
And we could all together
Go out on the ocean
Me upon my pony on my boat

It was a fascinating part of the day, hearing all of the feedback from the panel's perspectives. From considerations of color, design, book considerations, i.e. gutter, page turns, etc., we learned a lot and were able to get feedback from the experts. I always get so much from these "first look" assignments!

The day wrapped up with the announcement for Portfolio awards, and surprising to me, I won one of the two Honor awards! I must say, I was in complete shock, a happy shock, and was asked to stand as Lea announced that I had one "something" :). Grace Chen won the other honor award, and the Grand Prize winner was Miya Huang! I am so honored by this acknowledgement, especially because the portfolios were judged by such an esteemed group: Marla Frazee, Allyn Johnston, Ann Bobco, Kristine Brogno, Children's Design Director, Chronicle Books; Danielle Smith, Agent, Red Fox Literary; Simon Stahl, Art Director, Creston Books; Julie Downing, Author/Illustrator & Children's Lit Teacher; Dr. Mira Reisberg, Award-winning mentor, Director Children's Book Academy.

I had a very, very helpful and insightful review with Marla..I cannot thank her enough for her advice and feedback! Marla pointed out areas of my work that were and weren't working as well, and her thoughts about how to approach my work to "play to my strengths". I have definitely been struggling but was able to have a few pieces that she spoke to where I must "go to" when creating..the pieces that have emotion and energy, and the ones that I spent less time fussing with, and just completely enjoying, so that was HUGE for me. :) I can't wait to dig in!
Thank you doesn't say enough, Marla! What an honor!
All in all, what a fantastic day! Each year, I appreciate the opportunity to meet with friends, make new friends, and learn more and more about children's books and the publishing industry. It means so much to me to be able to share the love of children's books with such a generous community. Each year I set out new goals for myself and I've found that when I'm prepping my portfolio for this event, it's really a great time to reflect upon what I've learned throughout the year and all of the highs and lows of this journey I'm on. I pinch myself knowing that I am so lucky to be doing what I love! Grateful, grateful, grateful is what I am.

I hope everyone's been well and hope that I can come up for air again sometime soon. I'm currently working on two books, and sketching for a third. I'll be sharing more as soon as I can. In the meantime, I am writing and working on stories for my own books and hope that I can push those forward in the year ahead. Have a wonderful FALL coming up, everyone! My best to you ~ Shirley
This little one's got a story to tell...


  1. How lovely to find your blog post waiting for me to enjoy, and "What a Post" it is!
    Thank you for taking us along with you, so many links to explore and artwork to check out. You seem to have had an amazing time meeting people and learning new things, and receiving award recognition which was well deserved:)
    I shall look forward to seeing the effect of all this come out in your new artwork.
    Well done Shirley, for embracing this journey so fully.

    1. Ahhhh June! Thank you so much for taking the time to write and visit. It was quite verbose, my apologies! I'm glad you can check out the links and visit them..and visit Marla's wonderful work. It is always inspiring to get out and see the presenters and hear they're approach to book and story making. I always get a good feeling from their passion and so I wanted to share that with friends of this blog..thank you June! And thanks so much for all of your help with the PBAA listserve and are a marvel, and I appreciate all of the help. Thanks again for popping on by!

  2. Congratulations, Shirley! Sounds like an amazing conference -- so glad I could read about it here. Those smaller ones are the best, I think. You can really get a chance to talk to and meet people in a more intimate environment. Isn't Marla the best??!!!! I LOVE her. She was my one and only Children's Book Illustration instructor at Art Center, and I got so much out of that class. I couldn't have started my career without that class. I'm so indebted to her. And she's such a warm, classy lady in person too. I'm glad you were able to do your review with her and talk -- she has such great insight and advice. So happy for you, Shirley!!! :)

    1. Hi Melissa! It was such a great's only one day, but they pack a lot into it and it always proves to be so inspiring and helpful for me. To be amongst peers like the NY conference is such a recharger. Marla IS the best. She really is such a great teacher and gave me pointers on how to work on my story...yay!! And wowee, you are SO lucky to have been her student at Art Center..and wow, Art Center! What a fantastic background's no wonder you are so successful at what you do..your work is top notch and I am sure you got a ton out of being in Marla's class. Thanks a bunch..and I'm so sorry I've been so MIA at our illustration place..I really need to catch up! Hope you've been well and I'm loving your military artwork!

  3. Wonderful photos, Shirley! I am glad you got to enjoy your vacation and conference.. And I love the book of 100 days of your art! :) Like Melissa, and many other artists, I love Marla!!

    1. Thank you SO much dear Dow. It was such a great vacation and event for sure. I've missed you and the gang!! I'll need to catch up soon and hope you've been well!

  4. Yay! Welcome back! (I loved Kauai, by the way - visited Oahu, Kauai, & Maui last fall for my honeymoon!)

    LOVE the 100 days book! Wish you could print it - I'd buy a copy!
    And thank you for the recap of the conference! And of course, CONGRATULATIONS!!!

    1. HA! Thank you so much Michele - just poppin' in for a tiny bit but back to work I go..and woweee!! How wonderful that you spent time at all the islands for your honeymoon...amazing!! I have yet to visit Maui. On the bucket list! You are so kind about hte 100 days book. Someday it may be worthy of printing! HA! ANd yes, the day was full of great inspiration and I'm happy to share with you..thanks so much for the was such a shocker!!

  5. Great post! Thanks for sharing as it's all so inspiring :-) All the best for your upcoming projects.

  6. My oh my!!! What a beautiful post. Fabulous vacation photos. I especially love the trees. Of course :) Wow, you have been so busy and creating wonderful work. You are so cute! I love your long hair. I hope the girls are enjoying the school year. Kids grow up so fast. Take care Shirley. Glad to hear from you again. Keep creating beautiful work.

  7. Glad to see you back! Hope your trip was as refreshing and inspiring as it looked. Smuggle me with you next time? I recently took a mini-sabbatical myself, and decided to get back to my roots. I'll still be updating IMAGES periodically, but my focus for a while is going to be on RIVETING and getting my design career back on track. Euterpe

  8. I hope this finds you and yours doing well. May we display your header on our new site directory? As it is now, the site title (linked back to its home page) is listed, and we think displaying the header will attract more attention. In any event, we hope you will come by and see what is going on at


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