Friday, December 18, 2009

Folsom Zoo Event

Well, the rain, rain, rain came down, down, down last Saturday. I hung out at the Folsom Zoo and Sanctuary for a couple of hours. A few brave souls wrapped their kids up in gear and walked around waiting to see if the animals would rip into their holiday boxes. I planted myself near the front of the zoo and didn't see if the animals were successful.

I huddled under the gift shop porch, trying to promote my painting raffle to the small crowd passing through. I spoke with as many people as I could and had a great time with animal enthusiasts. The staff and volunteers at the Folsom Zoo are wonderful. Even with the dreary weather, the staff had an energy only animals could inspire.

A zookeeper, named Shawn, gave me the greatest Christmas gift after the visitors left the zoo, a behind the scenes peek at the animals. I got up close and personal with the tigers, bears and mountain lions. Of course, I didn't touch, I just gawked. They are truly magnificent and humbling creatures. I could spend hours just watching and talking to them. Shawn shared wonderful stories of each one and described how much the sanctuary has grown and improved the lives of the beloved creatures existing there over the years.

They lost one of their wolf hybrids, Rex, only a day before the event. I felt so sad to hear about it. The staff was mourning the loss. Shawn told me that each animal has their own history and issues at the Folsom Zoo and their staff recognizes their individuality, and differences in personality. Some are three legged; others have skin issues; some have broken wings; others have been tamed and can't return to the wild. Each animal is worth saving and their staff do their absolute best to create a comfortable and loving environment. The animals remind people of how important it is to have diversity in the world, whether it is furry, feathered, scaly or --- well, human.
I'll be returning to the zoo for the next few weekends to promote the painting raffle until January 12th. If anyone wants to buy a raffle ticket let me know and I'll set it up on Every cent from the raffle will go back to the Folsom Zoo and Sanctuary.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

SCBWI Exhibit - Off the Pages & Zoo Event

I must be brief, like that happens often for me! Ha! Crap it is 10 p.m., how did that happen?

Six of my paintings from my book are in the MAIYA Gallery in Sacramento, CA. The official opening will be celebrated this coming weekend, Dec. 12th at Second Saturday Artwalk. Last week on Dec. 3rd a holiday party for the SCBWI Northern CA group was held at the gallery. I had a blast and then lost my voice. So worth it!

My friend Mitty, from one of the critique groups I am in commented about the splendid affair on her blog. There are several other SCBWI Illustrators in the gallery for the exhibit.

Another spectacular event on Dec. 12th is the Animal Gift Opening at the Folsom Zoo Sanctuary. I am going to be doing a fundraiser for them:
- Dec. 12th
- 11 a.m. - 2 p.m.

I am going to raffle off the original Wolf painting from my children's book, "Through Endangered Eyes - a poetic journey into the wild." Raffle tickets will be sold for $5.00 each. The zoo will draw a name and contact the winner of the painting. I will be donating 100% of the raffle money back to the Folsom Zoo. I will also be available to sign my book:)

The event is a blast! The animals have their meals wrapped in boxes and they tear the boxes open for their food. They get so excited to use their natural instincts.

I went to the Folsom Zoo today to drop off some cards and prints to the gift shop and did my usual lap of the place. The tiger crouched down when I approached her enclosure and she wiggled her butt. I ducked down and hid behind a pole and then she jumped out at me with a peeeeswa! It was very cute. It's the second time she has tracked me as prey.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Update on projects

I am almost done with the factual text for "Through Desert Eyes." I am going to try to finish it up over next week's break.

I have a renewed fire for my young adult novel. I have re-written chapters one and two, with a lot of confidence. I am thinking of changing the title to "Peridot Cage," since the color of a Peridot stone matches my protagonists' eyes. I am thinking of submitting the first three chapters again to agents, maybe by the end of December. I really want to polish them first and the critique groups I am in give invaluable comments and suggestions.

I am considering writing a middle grade or young reader book on a series of horse stories, based off my own history.

I have picked up some graphic design accounts and will be working on those projects. It's great, but will slow my writing process down a bit.

My guess is that my funny book about missing socks won't get picked up, based on the rejections I've received, but that is okay. It was a great exercise, so I don't feel bad about it.

Special Photo in Africa

My book was among a group of books purchased by someone in Flagstaff, AZ. They were taken to the Arizona School at Kilanya Parish in Tanzania. The library has many books connected to Arizona.

The photo was sent by:
Doug Handlong
Trinity Heights UMC
Flagstaff, AZ
See my book at the bottom of the pile? How wonderful!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Events of the weekend

The event at the Roseville Borders was a lot of fun. The staff there was so nice and the people I met were interesting. I love doing these events and meeting people.

One woman stopped me, after buying my book, and told me how moved she was by my words. She told me she didn't know why she felt like crying, but was grateful for the feeling and the connection. She then asked for a hug, as her little boy watched. It was such a sweet moment.

On Sunday, I spent the afternoon at the Discovery Museum at Sacramento. This is my second event with them, and I hope to do many more. I brought paint and cards for kids to do dot paintings. Some kids got started and didn't want to leave after twenty minutes. Their parents shrugged, surprised at their enthusiasm. While the kids were painting, I talked about the endangered animals from the book. It was so fun! Next time I will bring some music though, it makes such a difference in the creative process.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Upcoming events are motivating

My ultimate dream, other than safety for endangered species, is to be able to afford to be home for my kids and write and paint. It appears to be a difficult thing to achieve.

Thus, having events that allow me to talk to kids about animals really pumps me up! This weekend I'll be at a book signing at a Borders in Roseville; and then an art/science event at the Discovery Museum of Sacramento. I really enjoy this part of being an author.

But, the looming deadline of getting a "real" job does seem inevitable. I know I can still create and write, after all I did "Through Endangered Eyes," while working full time and having two babies. Yet it is hard to imagine going back to an office and being away from my kids that much again.

Rejections do this to me. I assess, question and doubt my abilities as an artist. It isn't easy to achieve what J.K. Rowling & Stephanie Meyer have in children's literature. I know they both got rejections too, but it doesn't make me feel better knowing that.

On a happy note, I plan to send out my first draft of "Through Desert Eyes," at the end of this month.

I am submitting a short story to a magazine and contest.

I am submitting the first three chapters of my re-written young adult novel to an editor by Nov. 24th.

And my notebook is being filled with ideas for other story lines!

Just call me roller coaster.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Passion is an Inspiring Emotion

I went to the Folsom Arts Association tonight. I haven't been able to attend for quite a while and I was glad to go tonight. There were two speakers this evening, both filled with passion about their topic. Passion is a rare emotion, or at least it's an emotion I infrequently see in people. When I do, I smile and feel such excitement that there are people out there in love with something.

The first speaker was a teacher. She established a Montessori School in Malawi, Africa. Every ounce of her being was filled with a passion to help the people of Malawi through education. Learning is a powerful gift to give. I felt lucky to hear her speak. I gave her three of my books hoping they would add to her school.

The other speaker was Valrie Jensen. She spoke about composition of art and how it relates to a fundamental concept - the golden rectangle. She demonstrated how natural lines are in nature and how comfortable humans are in relating to visual spaces that have relationships. It really made me think about the fact that I often don't think about where I place things on a canvas. I think I naturally put things in places. Just think about how powerful I could be visually if I really thought about composition.

I am spending some time right now editing my YA novel. I'll return this weekend to "Through Desert Eyes." I haven't heard back from anyone regarding "Where Missing Socks Go." Luckily, I am so busy with multiple projects, the waiting game isn't nearly as painful.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

SCBWI Conference Oakland, CA 2009

I attended my first writers conference yesterday in Oakland, CA. It was hosted by SCBWI (Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators.) It was an amazing day.

The President of SCBWI was the keynote speaker. His name is Stephen Mooser. He was quite an inspiring and funny man. The ideas he comes up with for children's books amaze me.

There were several books to look for mentioned at this conference and each idea hit me with a - wow, could I have ever thought of that? Man, I have to get my creative cap on to come up with something really unique to catch people's attention.

The people attending the conference, my fellow writers, were also wonderful. So many are full of their own stories to tell, it is no wonder there are such a variety of books available.

When I listen to music I am dumbfounded that there are so many thousands of sounds and just so many notes, how can people still come up with beautiful new music? I think the same goes with books. And yet, people create "new" everyday.

I sat in front of my book at each break, eager to share my story of getting published as well as my books message. I gave the conference bookstore three copies to sell, as suggested last week, and they ran out. So, I ran to my car to get another three and those sold too. I was so happy and grateful that people liked it.

I got home last night after reviewing all that I heard, including my YA novel critique and have decided to make some major changes to my YA. I am so excited to see what happens to the book as I rework it with all my new information.

I can't wait to go to another conference.

I also know that I am a writer and an illustrator, for real! I have ideas and art poring into my head. I just need to pull myself out of the clouds and focus on the projects at hand and table ideas. I am eager to get the draft of "Through Desert Eyes," to my publisher and see if he wants to move forward with it. The flow of that book, I think is even better than my first:)

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Article in Tennessee's "Herald Courier"

I get a google alert in my email daily, most of the time it is about a Rachel Dillon basketball player or girl graduating from high school. Today, it was finally about me:) Wow, that was a nice surprise. So, thank you "Herald Courier," for this article!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Kid in a candy store

It is funny how much of a rookie I am at some things. I haven't ever taken a creative writing course so any assistance I find through the Internet to help me is like a piece of candy to a kid. I found this article on Women on Writings site that helps you diagnose strengths and weaknesses in your novel, After spending several hours at this I have now eliminated my first and last chapters in my book and have definitely become more focused with my intentions for my protagonist. Tee hee, I'm using "big" words now, perhaps I'll become a good writer after all.

One of my critiques asked me directly, after reading the first five pages of "Emerald Cage," what is Kendall's goal in the book? What is her turning point? What the conflict in the book? What is the resolution? Pretty darn simple questions, that I hadn't ever really thought through. Of course, all of those questions have answers. But, I have a bit more direction in tightening the book.

I still can't summarize it in 25 words without it sounding a lot like Spiderman. I laugh at what I sent out to the four agents, that - of course - rejected me. I finished my novel and thought, "woo hoo! I just finished a novel! Everyone will want this one!" Duh, little did I know that I would have to rewrite it more than once. Yes, I did read that I would do that, but didn't really believe it. So, naive!

I read today that it is common for writers to have multiple projects going on at once. They bounce between them. So cool, I am doing that too! I tightened up, after about eight or nine drafts my "Where the Missing Socks Go," then felt confident enough with it that I sent it out to 9 publishers and 3 agents.

My next endangered species book is feeling great. I am going to send my draft to Windward and see if they are interested in it. I will be following the same illustration and poetry patterns as my first book.

Then there is my novel, "Emerald Cage." I would love to have it tight enough to send it out by the end of December.

There are also a few short stories swimming around in my head that I want to tell. I walk around and pay attention to potential ideas everywhere I go. I listen and take notes when my kids say something interesting, trying to see if it will inspire a book. Little things like: my daughter asking me what her shadow is made of; or my son saying that boy birds look pretty to trick the girl birds to follow them - thank goodness he doesn't think about what they might trick them into doing:)

The one thing I am having a hard time balancing is painting. I am so enthralled in my writing that I haven't painted for weeks. That is definitely a skill that needs to stay in shape. I might work on one this weekend. Once my text for the Desert book is tentatively approved by a publisher, then I'll start the illustrations for that. I want to make sure that my poetry is the inspiration for the paintings.

I am still dedicated to trying to make it as a writer and artist, but hope falters a bit as time goes on...

Friday, October 2, 2009

Mention on Publisher Weekly!

My publisher Al Krysan, from Finney Co. just emailed me some exciting news. Their marketing guru spent time at a booksellers show recently and pushed Through Endangered Eyes, and it worked.

It is mentioned in the e-newsletter put out by Publishers Weekly. It is huge news to be mentioned in a national publication.

Thank you Al for you and your team being such champions!

I am almost done with my first draft of "Through Desert Eyes."

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Julia & Julie Movie

We went and saw "Julia & Julie," tonight. I feel envious, because jealous is an ugly word. There are so many people that want to write for a living. Competition is everywhere. The moment I think, "my idea is the first of its kind, no one has thought of this," I should laugh at myself. There are thousands of people that submit their "one-of-a-kind" ideas to agents and publishers everyday.

There is a scene at the end of the movie where Julie has 65 messages on her answering machine. They are from agents, publishers, television people, and movie people guaranteeing her success. Wow, to create something so valuable to others that they practically fight over it.

Stephanie Meyer from "Twilight," was successful with in around nine months of submitting.

I guess what might make my idea just a bit different than someone else is if I incorporate things into my writing that no one else has experienced. My story is different than another's, therefore everyone has a unique point of view. Huh, a ray of hope.

I have three book projects going and I am not making a living as a writer or an artist. Now is the time when bringing money in by doing what I love would sure come in handy. My daughter is in need of some new tap shoes.

These are glances at situations that are phenomenal and rare and I need to remember that. I am grateful that I am even published. I guess I have the gotta-make-it-as-a-writer-so-I-can-stay-home hovering over my head.

The one nice thing about N. California is that there are plenty of writers to learn from. My critique groups are already helping me with my Young Adult Novel. Yes, I will have a ton of work ahead of me and I'm not quite sure how long it will take me, but at the end of it I LOVE my heroine and she is worth it.

I am almost done with the poetry for my next endangered species book. I will get the facts together and then see if my publisher wants it. The animals in it are amazing and I can't wait to do paintings of them.

My other children's book, which is fiction fantasy about missing socks is truly ready to go. I am going to send it out next week and see what happens.

I love writing. I may not be a great speller, and I may not be the best with grammar (incedently, without spellcheck I would have spelled it grammer), but I love to write.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Through Desert Eyes

I am almost 1/3 of the way done with my first draft of "Through Desert Eyes." I am so excited to be working on this project. I have narrowed down my choices for the species in the book and I am learning about each wonderful and unique species.

Of course as I learn about the species I am filled with sadness. But, it only motivates me more to continue educating kids about how each species has a purpose and write more books to help.

On our way home today, we drove through a neighborhood and saw a bobcat or lynx run across the street. I am not sure which is native to this area. It was beautiful and healthy, but I worry for it. This cat is surrounded by cars, houses and is near a school. It is only a matter of time that it disappears.

Habitat loss is such a key ingredient to the loss of a species. There are so many dependent on specific areas and once their home is gone, there is little hope for their survival.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Beauty of Critique

I joined a writers critique group a few months ago, not knowing what to expect from it. It has been wonderful. I have learned a lot in just a few meetings. One thing I have learned is how many people have a writer inside of them. I learn more about stories when I read others. I am going to another critique group that focuses on Young Adult novels. I hope to learn more about that genre by listening to others stories. I think the critique groups have motivated me to really try to become a writer - a teller of stories. More and more ideas for books keep popping into my head. It is great fun!

I will be printing out the next draft of my YA, "Emerald Cage," then do another edit. I think I might have jumped the gate in submitting it to agents already. I will get a critique back next month of my first 10 pages and to help prepare for my next set of submissions.

I have been reading the Bayern series written by Shannon Hale. It gives me inspiration and determination that my YA will get picked up sometime. I recommend the books, Hale is a great writer!

I tightened up my PB "Where Do Missing Socks Go!" I think it is ready for me to submit to publishers and agents in the next couple of weeks.

I started the outline for another fictional novel, but won't get started until I have completed the first draft of "Through Desert Eyes."

Monday, August 17, 2009

Through Endangered Eyes picked

It is so cool when someone picks my book for something. Jim Agnew is featuring my book on his site today. I haven't heard of the site before and I am thankful he linked to "Through Endangered Eyes." Visit his Web site.

I will be working with Kim Zook from her blog she is starting a new e-zine that will feature some of my artwork and an interview about my book, it will be on the site I will keep my blog posted when that day arrives. It is a wonderful new site that focuses on mothers that are writers, and are interested in nurturing children's connection to nature. I am quite honored to be an upcoming feature on Kim's new site.

I got hooked on a funny picture book idea, so I finished up a first draft of it. It will be titled "Where Do Missing Socks Go?" I had a blast writing something light hearted and joyous.
Here is the opening line to the book...

"If you ask your parents
where the missing socks go?
My guess is they'll answer,
That they'd like to know.

I'll begin my publisher search for this one in September.

Now I have three projects in the wings:
1) Through Desert Eyes - drafting stage NF picture book for 4-9 year old
2) Emerald Cage - completed, looking for an agent or publisher, YA Fiction Novel Fantasy Romance 12 and up.
3) Where Do Missing Socks Go? - completed, Fiction for 3-7 year old

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Rejection #2

Okay, rejection number two came in last night. Knife in heart, twist, ugh!

I still have four queries floating out there, and I am sure a lot more research to go. I am going to step away from submitting for a little bit and finish up my commissioned painting.

When I finished my YA I thought I might have a chance at a creative, stay-home career. I know I am supposed to believe that every 'no' takes me closer to a 'yes', but truthfully, there are only so many options out there.

A part of rejection is a momentary lapse of despair. I am in that moment now. The thought of working in an office again gags me. I really want to believe that there is a way to love what I do and earn a living at it.

I have seen people that love what they do and live by it, but more often, I see people just going to work, waiting until they can retire so they can do what they really love to do.

I am not sure at what point I look at my art and writing as a hobby and then find a job that pays the bills - again. Kids certainly have more expensive needs as they get older.

I will send requests of success out to the universe and see what happens. I have to believe that the path in front of me is the one I need to walk.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

The fun of submitting to agents

It takes a lot of time and energy to submit to agents, as well as publishers. I am going to exhaust my agent list before I start submitting to publishers. Last night I submitted to Larsen-Pomada Literary Agency. I have 2-4 more that seem to fit my genre that I will submit to in the next couple of days.

Each agent requests information differently. Some only want a query. Others may want ten pages, plus a synopsis. Their response times also differ. I submit to multiple since I know the chance of rejection is high and everything takes a lot of time. I guess I am trying to increase my chances for my book to get picked up.

Once I have submitted to the agents and I am waiting for responses, I will start working on my next endangered species book again. I have also started to brainstorm a humorous book for 3-5 year olds. Of course, the YA and the humorous board book will have to have different publishers. It all keeps me on my toes.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Just keep trying...

My next query has been sent to Firebrand Literary. I must have spent three full hours revising the letter. We shall see...

If I don't have a coffee, I would never be on the part of finding an agent. I tried to get something done today, and with two kids and three animals, it is impossible. Interruptions just come with the mom job. Anyway, the coffee allows me to stay up until 1 a.m., so I can accomplish something.

I tried to read the draft of my query today, because I got stuck on two lines and was ticked I couldn't figure out what to write. I must have read the same sentence fifteen times before giving up and waiting until 9 p.m.

Despite the funny hours, I love what I am doing right now! Now, if only I can make it my job!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

First Rejection...

I have decided to document my submission process for my young adult novel. Part of me finds this cleansing and part of me just wants to keep track of where I am submitting, since I can't stand maintaining spreadsheets.

Within 24 hours, I received my first rejection. I submitted a query letter to the Nelson Literary Agency, and received a nice canned, "nope."

I have been trained to take criticism, it's part of being an artist and graphic designer. I received over a dozen rejection letters when I submitted, "Through Endangered Eyes." (TEE)

Rejections still hurt, whether I am used to it or not. I remember when I was submitting TEE the first time and thought the one publisher I chose was PERFECT! When I received that rejection letter, ugh, it felt like someone has spooned out part of my heart.

Well, here I go again. I got a similar feeling about this agency. I thought, after reading their Web site and blog, "why would they not take my Young Adult (YA) novel, it is PERFECT!" Ha! That kind of cockiness will get me no where.

I really love my YA and my heroine. I believe that it is a good book. I want to prove to those that don't think I can make it as an author and artist, that I can. I want to prove it to myself too, but the doubting mustafa's are really putting the fire in my belly.

So, I am off to put myself in another vulnerable place over the next couple of weeks. I will be submitting to at least six agencies and just as many publishers. ---Sigh, may the force be with me.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Emerald Cage

Before my battery runs out on my computer, I thought I would start to track my process with my latest writing project.

I completed the first draft of my Young Adult novel, Emerald Cage (working title,) last week. It is around 60,000 words and I had such a blast writing it.

I started writing my outline on Mother's Day of this year. The story has just flowed for me. I have been so surprised at how quickly it moved from my mind to pages.

I am almost done with my edits of the first draft and have polished the first three chapters. It is all in preparation of submitting to agents and editors. This genre is a whole new world for me.

I submitted to an Agency in Denver and will now start the waiting game.

I have to believe that I can do what I love for a living. I want to be a writer and an artist. My goal is to be successful enough that I don't ever have to be an employer or an employee again. I can work from home, at my own hours and pace. Doesn't that sound fabulous?

Friday, June 26, 2009

Small Successes

Last Friday, I had the opportunity to read to over 80 kids in Folsom's Vacation Zone camp. They were really great listeners. I introduced, with volunteers and a tape measure:

1) The length a snow leopard can jump - 40 feet
2) How many muscles are in an African Elephant trunk - 100,000
3) The length of a humpback whale tail - 15 feet
4) The length of a Mekong Giant Catfish - 10 feet
5) The wingspan of a Comoro Black Flying Fox - 4 feet

It was fun to bring in new measurements, especially since there were a few kids that had heard my presentation before.

The weekend signing at the Discovery Museum went pretty well. It was a beautiful weekend and Father's day, so the turn out was a tad disappointing. Those that did come were so nice and the volunteers and staff at the museum were wonderful!

The museum pulled out some confiscated skins from illegal trading from their collection and put them on display. My heart caught in my throat when I walked into the room. It was very powerful.

It really helped bring home the message of my book. The skins helped me start conversations with people and share facts of those species that were in my book.
I handed out bookmarks and brought in some of the original artwork for the visitors to see. I was also able to do a few readings to kids.
I asked the coordinator if I could come back once a quarter to help them sell my books, it was such a great experience.

The growth of the painting

This week has been all about advancing my last painting in my five painting commission of diseases. You can barely see the outlines of the worm-like, circular and pill shaped viruses. The painting is 4 feet by 2 feet and very intimidating. I want to try to complete it in 2 weeks.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Upcoming June events!

This Friday is a reading event for the Folsom Vacation Zone camps. There will be around 80 kids. I am planning to do more with groups, showing how large some of the creatures in my books. I'll ask the counselors to take pictures and then upload them.

I am going to show the size of:
1) Mekong Giant Catfish
2) The heart of the Humpback Whale
3) California Condor wingspan
4) Comoro Black Flying Fox
I'll have to think of a few other interesting ones, to shock the kids with. I love the oooo's and ahhhh's I get as a result of these demonstrations.

If I can figure out how to do an activity showing what happens when the top of the food chain disappears, that would be really cool. I'll have to really think about it. Maybe I could assign kids to be the deer healthy, sick, old, young. Then show some kids as the food. Choose other kids to be other animals that use the plants. And add a timeline. I can add signs to stick on the deer to show they are sick. I can become the story teller. I'd have to have a pretty big group to pull it off. It sounds like it would be fun though!

On Saturday and Sunday are the Discovery Museum events.

Monday, June 8, 2009

The Growing Condor

The condor is filling in nicely as school kids participate in adding their feathers. I read to three kindergarten classes in Elk Grove, California last week. Children are such amazing sponges. They are so thirsty to learn.

I have a couple of events coming up in June. My big one is at the Discovery Museum of Sacramento, June 20-21st from Noon until 4 p.m. I'll be doing a book signing each day; possibly a reading and some activities. We shall see.

My publisher just had a great time at the NYCity Book Expo. It will be great if a ton of people order the book for fall curriculums. Submissions for awards will come up this fall through December, so we'll see about that as well. What ever we can do to get my book in front of as many people as possible, will be great.

I still feel strange just talking about my book to parents out of the blue. But, once I get their kids interested and asking questions, it is easy to wonder - "how can you not get this book for your children?"

I dropped my book of at the Santa Barbara Zoo this weekend. They have a lot of empty exhibits, and then they have this spectacular new California Condor exhibit. I got some incredible pictures of the condors. They are still young with their grey heads. I also walked around the zoo spotting all the species they had there that were in my book - Chinese Alligator, Channel Island Fox, Snow Leopard, Golden Lion Tamarin, Snow Leopard. Some of those are very unique species to zoos, it was nice to see them in well thought out habitats. The jury is still out on how I feel about zoos in general...I feel sad for the ones stuck in them, but again I think for education and survival, zoos are our only chance.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Endangered Species Day...last week

Wow, so I missed that boat of celebration, didn't I. Oh well, it is a "get in line" list of things I forget on a daily basis.

It is funny that I have more time to be creative, yet I forget more things and fill my time with non-creative things. A bit frustrated right now I guess.

We went to the Sacramento Zoo last night, they have a new Conservation Carousel. It was over 100 degrees here yesterday, and last night it cooled down beautifully while we walked around. I love being around animals, I wish I could do more than just look at them.

Part of me always feels sad about the animals in the zoo, like they are truly missing out on life. I try to justify that they are the educators of their kind. They allow people to connect to a species, to learn about them, and therefore care.

I am also frustrated that there is a lack of support for my book at zoo's. I can't understand it. It is a unique and educational book on endangered species and yet, I have only one zoo that I know of, that has picked it up for their gift shop. If there are other zoos that have picked it up that I don't know of, I apologize in advance.

I have tried to set up book signings at several zoo's, but no one is interested.

Who ever wrote "good things come to those who wait," ugh! How long do I have to wait? I sound like my daughter right now and it makes me laugh.

Several people have told me that I can't make it as an artist and author; make a living I should say. I really want to prove them wrong. I see people around me that make it happen, why can't I?

Okay, enough of a pity party! There are thousands of people and creatures that have things worthy of complaints. That ought to keep my feelings in perspective.

I do have a wonderful link exchange with a Rainforest Conservation site, check them out

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Amazing Review

My publisher sent me a link to one of the most beautiful reviews of my book. I was in tears when I read it. I hope who ever visits my blog, goes to visit,

:) Rachel

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Featured on Education site

One of the blogs I visited this month was kind enough to promote my book to teachers. The link is:

This is one of those sites where the more people click on the article, the more revenue for the writer :) so tell anyone you think might be interested! It also benefits my book:)

The Web is a powerful tool.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Photos from Schools

I have a few photos of some of the school visits I have made this past month. The condor feathers are filling in nicely with hundreds of feathers placed down by children in California and Arizona. I love the photo of the teacher doing some dots with her computer on the screen.

Here is some information about how I make my school book reading visits interactive and engaging for kids.

I really enjoy the interaction I have with kids during a reading event. I didn’t realize that it would be such a wonderful part of being published. I have now had the experience of reading my book to Pre-K through sixth graders. Each age group brings their unique perspectives and interests.

Usually I start out a reading by talking about key concepts of my book: what does it mean to be endangered; what was my process in creating my artwork; and what is magical about poetry; for older kids I talk about the process of getting published.

Then I read the poetry of the book. It amazes me how quiet and focused the children become when I read. It is like the rhythm of the poetry is soothing and comforting to listen to.

After I read the poems, I break down some of them down with the factual information in the back of the book. I point out unique characteristics and bring up any other specific information like: whether the species is specialized; what does it mean to be a mammal; how generations pass down information to their young.

Kids are amazed by size, so I get out the tape measure to show kids just how big the Mekong Giant Catfish can grow; how wide the wingspan of a Comoro Black Flying Fox is; and how small a Channel Island Fox can be. For the Mekong Giant Catfish, I ask for ten kids to come up and stand side by side to show how big the fish is.

Lastly, if we have time, I roll out a full-size drawing of a California Condor. I pass out a paper feather to each child and have them glue the feather on the bird. I explain that one feather might not seem like a lot, but combined they make a difference.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Earth by Disney Nature

Tonight me and my family went to the premier of "Earth." I left the theater with tears streaming down my face, and then cried for half an hour. Part of me was in awe of the incredible footage and timelapse photography. The other part of me felt dispair, hopelessness and sorrow. The earth is changing so rapidly many species can't keep up.

Just like my book, the truth was not sugar-coated. It was placed before the audience, plain as day, the earth is in serious trouble.

My hopelessness is hard to swallow, because I want so badly to believe that we can make a difference in the world; we can change what is happening to our planet. The dispair I feel is simple, if I care so much and make only a small difference, then how can millions of people, that don't care, change?

How can I get a louder voice? How can we get people to change? How can I do more? How can my book get to the front of a bigger audience than even Disney reaches?

I put these questions out there, not to neccessarily get the answers, but rather to process it and find my own solutions. I have at least started the process of change by getting my book published. Now it just needs to be picked up my moms, kids and teachers all over the world.

I worry that the only way many people will change is when the Polar Bear comes knocking on their door, begging for food.

I will be analyzing my habits and figuring out what I can change, to minimize my footprint. We started a garden this weekend to celebrate Earth Day, I have to continue to believe that it is the little things that make a difference in the world, otherwise my dispair will slow my process down.

I recommend to anyone that views this blog to go and see "Earth," it is in the theaters as of April 22nd.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Reading my book in Flagstaff, Arizona

Here is a link to a video of some of my book being read to a pre-k, kindergarten class in Flagstaff, AZ.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Arizona Tour Success

I don't think I would have ever imagined that I would sell out all of the books I had brought with me to Arizona. But I did! It was around 67 books. I am so happy and so tired, whew, travelling can be draining.

My kids were amazing on the trip. They have heard my book so many times and in so many classes, yet they are still excited to help and are memorizing the book. They have their questions that I direct to them, to get them involved in the process.

Today and tomorrow are the public libraries in Folsom, CA. I was able to read at the public library in Flagstaff, AZ and had a lot of fun with it.

Photos and video to come. I know I keep saying it, but my lids are falling down and a nap for 30 minutes would sure feel good about now.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Hooray for Flagstaff

So many wonderful events in such a short time. My head is still spinning from the excitement. All of the events in Flagstaff sold over 60 books. I have also had the opportunity to experience different ages in classes, upto sixth grade. It has been interesting figuring out how to change my presentation of the book based on age of the audience.

One presentation at a pre-k to kindergarten classroom offered their tape measure to use. I like to show the kids how big the Mekong Giant Catfish can grow to. The tape measure only went to two feet. A Mekong giant catfish can grow up to 10 feet long. So, I had to think fast at how to demonstrate the size. I saw that two small kids standing shoulder to shoulder measured about two feet. I asked if eight more volunteers could join me and stand next to each other. When we were done compiling our long line, I said "now this is the size of the fish." It was such a great way to show it to the kids, and they loved it!

I'll share more of my experiences over the next couple of days. My events slow down, and that will offer a little more sharing time in my blog!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Book Signing in Flagstaff, AZ

I had an amazing book signing and reading yesterday at a bookstore in Flagstaff, AZ. I sold 26 copies and signed several more that had already been purchased. So many of our friends and even some family stopped by and shared their warm wishes and support. I was touched by all those that made the time to see me at this event.

I am overwhelmed by the positive responses to the book. The blog tour is going well, although I was a bit late getting content to a couple of blogs, due to our lost luggage problem, I am all caught up. Juggling and still fitting in sleep has been challenging.

I haven't really been in a situation where it is has been about me. My husband drove 12 hours to make sure I got to my signing on time. My friend Tracie has been all support, letting us stay in their home and having me ship things to her for the signing. I am grateful to those I love!

I do have photos to upload at the latest readings and school event. I hope to get those up tonight!

Friday, April 3, 2009

Planes, Trains and Automobiles

Well, I am on my way to Flagstaff, AZ. Had the airplane tickets, but was just bumped. Now, we are driving to Flagstaff, hooray...yawn...

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Blog Tour starts today!

I am wonderfully overwhelmed with the excitement of my blog tour. My mind is racing with, where do I begin? I have received so many wonderful ideas and suggestions for marketing. So, today I am on The Muffin, . I would like to thank Jodi from WOW for all she has done in getting my tour organized.

I also think it is amazing that my kids tell other kids that I am on a blog tour. Like it is natural. It was funny, this morning my daughter asked me if a guy crossing the street would know who I was. He was a random guy, and I told her I didn't think he would know me. Her response was, "why, you were in the newspaper last week." How cute is that?

Marketing has always been a fascinating tool. I have had several jobs in marketing, and it is coming in handy now. But, to keep up with Facebook, Twitter (which I haven't done yet), my blog, my web site, whew - technology is moving fast. The cool thing is that I love every minute of it:)

I am going to figure out how to video reading my book to a classroom and post that on my blog and Web site, I have noticed a lot of authors doing that. I will also post in the next month, doing a painting, so people can see how I do my technique. Maybe I'll provide this sooner than later.

Don't forget that EARTH DAY is coming on April 22nd. There is no better time to find resources that promote conservation for our kids - then now.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Just a Brief Note

I have been making a lot of little changes, like: my blog tour calendar; starting a list of children's books I like; and posting classroom photos.

I will figure out how to add audio of me reading my book soon. I am on a deadline, plus trying to work on blog interview questions, whew. I love it, but I am tired.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Blog Tour to start soon!

When asked if I wanted to do a blog tour, I thought, hmmm, what exactly is that? Gosh, I feel old.

My blog tour with is March 30-April 30th. I just got notice that I have two dates already established with blogs. That news excites me!

April 10th -

April 20th - Read These Books and Use Them:

I will spend some time on the blogs that have signed up; have mini interviews or book reviews. Each blog might want me to participate differently. It sounds really interesting to me. I'll write about any success I might achieve.

It is funny, I have three people signed up to look at my blog. I am not sure how many people actually view my blog. I wonder how many will see my blog during the tour. I only get about 100 unique visitors to my personal web site per month, I need it to be much higher to make it count for the book.

I should update my home page to show that I am selling artwork that goes with the book. High concept marketing, right? I just got a t-shirt with the image of the tiger on it. The tiger is on the cover of my book. I then added iron-on gems over some of the dots. I am going to wear it during readings and signings. It is cute, but boy was it expensive to create. I couldn't sell those at bulk. It cost about $20 just to make one shirt.

I am starting to fill my calendar, thankfully, with book events. The more I promote the book, the better. It has slowed my next book production down a bit. Author, Hope Marston gave me some advice. She said, "while you wait to get your book published, start the next one!" I'll definitely follow this advice in the future.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

First Signing

We sold 7 out of 10 books today at my first signing at a small local gift shop. I wasn't too sad, since every group that came in the store bought a book. So, if more people had wandered into the shop, then I would have probably sold more books.

I had a lovely time talking to people about my book. I am getting used to bringing it up in conversations. If this is going to be my living, I have to believe in myself and value what my book offers to others. I just don't like asking for money and don't want to boast. It is such a fine line in my mind.

I love to look over my shoulder after I have dropped my book off to shops for review, the people are drawn into the book. I have seen repeatedly people paging through the book instantly, mostly interested in the artwork. If I can get people to open the book with the art, inevitably they will read the words.

I do realize what a long road I have to travel in order to make a living as an author and artist. It is daunting. I am up to the challenge.

Recently, I got rejected for an MFA program at Vermont College of Fine Art. The rejection made me question if I am a "real artist." I guess I am a real artist, just not a "fine" artist. I need to keep working. I am going to try to video my next painting and post that on here.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

In the Classrooms

I wanted to start including some images as people read the book in other locations or places I visit. If you read my book at a school group, please email me your photo:)

The first photo is a Librarian in Ulladula, Australia NSW. My Aunt Nancy is a teacher in the elementary school and sent it to me. The group of Australian kids look so interested:)

The second photo I took today as the kids finished placing paper feathers on a drawing I did of a full-sized California Condor.The oooo's and ahhhh's are so great when I roll out the bird. The kids can't believe just how large the condor is. I hope to fill the bird with feathers placed on there by the different classes I present the book to.

Again, if you read my book in a school, send me a photo:)

Monday, March 9, 2009

That Darn Time Management!

I don't know if I ever manage my time very well, "says the girl getting less than 7 hours of sleep." We have all heard the jokes: if only they could clone me; sleep is highly over-rated; growing another set of arms would be nice; add a few more balls in the air wouldya?

Then I take a step back and start asking myself the right questions. Am I happy? Am I following the path I want to be on?

I think I am. There might be holes, hills and things that trip me up, but as long as I focus on what is around me and whether the journey is filled with learning and joy, then I think it will be great!

I have been reading to some elementary school classrooms: three first grade classes, one first through third mix class and a pre-k. Wow, those experiences make my book worth it! The kids are just as inspiring as ever. They were filled with questions and passion and enthusiasm. It was beautiful.

Kids just want to make the world a better place. They still have this innocent ideology that they can fix what is broken, and in some respects, they can.

I tell the kids that each animal has a job to do. Each one is special and on the planet for a reason. I also tell them that we are all connected and that the Earth constantly tries to create balance. These are big messages, but with enthusiastic longing, children give me hope.

I will have my first book signing this weekend in Folsom at a little gift shop. That will definately be interesting.

Other signing/reading opportunities are finding their way to me...or my bothering them enough has brought them to the conclusion that I will leave them alone if they just schedule something with me.

So, in the weeks ahead I have some goals for my blog. I want to continue sharing my learning curve, but it might be nice to have a focus. Part of me just wants to document my experience and my process. The other part of me wants to share interesting experiences with anyone out there that might connect in some ways with me.

Blog ideas: reading my book to children; book signings and marketing them; setting up signings and readings; getting into schools to read; managing my time as it fills up with commitments; writing the next book; high concept marketing - will my artwork become more valuable, now that it is published?; how do I win an award - since it seems to matter in this industry.

Well, those topics should keep me busy:)

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Learning Curve

Okay, so I am a child of the "I want it now!" generation. This attitude has only shown me how patience truly is a virtue. It is quite beneficial to be patient. Expectations can be set low, so that success is a wonderful surprise! Yet, setting a goal you reach for, is a bit tricky when you set your expectations low. Where is the happy balance?

These past four weeks have been a learning curve for me. Now I have my book - what do I do? You mean I haven't sold all 3,000 books already? What is that all about? Ha ha. Again, Yoda says - patience.

The learning curve to getting published was huge for me! Getting my book sold, is my next curve. The cool thing about this part of process is that I have two mentors. Two amazing woman that have been in my shoes before, and graciously want to share their experiences with me. Linda Boyden and Hope Marsten are both wonderful, inspiring writers. I have been so grateful for their help and advice.

Getting book signings is a lot harder then I thought it would be. I have one on the calendar and one possibly in the works. The Folsom Zoo picked up the book, which I am so happy about. I would LOVE to do a book signing event there, but no one will call me back. Wait, maybe I am calling the wrong person? hmmmm. I'll look into that one.

The most amazing part of having my book out is reading to kids. I went to four classrooms this week. I read to kids from 6-10 years old. They give me such hope. I read about all the horrible things happening to these animals and the planet, and I look into the faces of these glorious children and feel hope. Children have this unique way of believing they can fix things. Some children stood up straighter when I told them that they could make a difference in this world.

I am also getting ideas, by reading to kids, what they are inspired by; what makes them say wow; what makes them ask questions; and what makes them stop and think. This insight will simply make my next book that much better.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Great idea to blog animal updates

I had a nice chat with my dad today about writing some updates as I learn about species in my book. What a great idea dad, thanks!

So, an update....the Channel Island Fox - I learned that there is a lot to being done to try to help remaining population of fox. A brilliant plan has come into play. To summarize, it seems that they [rangers and such] are capturing Golden Eagles from the Channel Islands and relocating them off the island. Then, they have started to bring back the Bald Eagles as the leading bird of pray.

If you don't have my book, the Channel Islands used to have a population of Bald Eagles that prefer fish over anything. When the Bald Eagles disappeared from the islands, which is another story, the Golden Eagles moved in, and prefered the fox as food.

Okay, you might need to go to my book to understand the rest, or go to one of the Channel Island Fox web sites to learn more about them...

Most of the species for my next book have been chosen. I hope to have text for it done in the next six months. We will see where we go from there.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Marketing, marketing, marketing

Between Finney and myself, we are going to make 3,000 books sell in six months, despite the economy! I just had someone write their first review on It was so touching and I felt like shouting "yes!" they understand my book, my hope, my motivation to write and paint.

Next week I am going to read my book to my son's pre-school class. I need to practice, so that when I go in front of a group I don't know, I am prepared for questions and answers. Then, in two weeks I will go around my daughter's school and do the same process.

I am trying to establish some signing events around town, but haven't been successful yet. I will keep trying though. I had patience (at least tried) during the past six years creating this book; now I need to have patience as it will take time to get events and signings.

This past week has been pretty exciting!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

I got to read my book to my kids!

Well, the book arrived last night. I was filled with excitement, pride, and joy as I opened my book to read it to my kids. My daughter was filled with questions about the animals. It was like a light bulb went off as she realized that the book was really here.

This morning my daughter clutched the book in her arms as she delivered it to her first grade teacher as a gift. To see how proud my daughter was of me, was humbling.

This experience, over the past six years, has been emotional for me. To almost have it published, then not; then rejections as I looked for another publisher; then elation as Finney Company picked it up. My friends in Flagstaff, and my family, went through it all with me. Now, I am here in California, and the people I mention the book to don't quite understand what a journey this has been for me.

Now that it is here, my tenacity and overly outgoing personality will pay off. I am obsessed with getting the word out about my book. Although, I worry that I am boasting, my passion to help these animals hopefully will overshadow that worry. My goal is to have 3,000 books sold in 6 months. Goals are a challenge to reach for.

I am grateful to all those that pre-ordered the book, or plan to purchase it when it is out. Their support and enthusiam is beautiful.

So, along with publisizing this book, I have started another. It will be called "Through Desert Eyes." I have started gathering a list of 22 species whose habitat is the desert. From the cheetah to the Desert Pupfish. It has created a whole new excitement for me to start this next project. It will also be another blog of information for me to publish.

I also joined the Society for Children's Book Writers and Illustrators:)

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Art accepted into organization

Wow, I love 2009! I have just been accepted as a Signature Member of Artists for Conservation. Only 500 Nature artists worldwide are allowed into the organization. Amazing! I am updating my profile on their site I applied two years ago and didn't get in.

Really big deal to me!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

TA DA! I am in

How cool is it that when I type my name, Rachel Dillon in, my book comes up. So darn cool!

I am tired since I have been emailing everyone I know and updating my Web site and facebook, to start marketing and getting pre-orders for the book. Look at my little icon. Cute huh?