Thursday, March 8, 2018

#KidLitWomen, the Caldecott, and Women in Illustration

Something you should know: 100% of the current contributors at KidLitArtists are illustrators who identify as women/NB. Women have historically made up 84% of the SCBWI mentorship program honorees, the basis of our group.

As many creative industries are examining their role in gender equality (or lack thereof), I’m writing to amplify the relevant and valuable posts being shared during Women’s History Month by #KidLitWomen and #WomeninIllustration.

KidLitWomen’s mission:
Starting March 1st, we’re celebrating Women’s History month with 31 days of posts focused on improving the climate for social and gender equality in the children’s and teens’ industry. Join the conversation on Twitter #kidlitwomen and access all the #KidlitWomen posts this month on our Facebook page

Pie chart by Christine Taylor-Butler, Bar graph by Jeanette Bradley

This School Library Journal article covers the evolution of the #KidLitWomen movement.

Meanwhile, #womeninIllustration is a Twitter hashtag amplifying published books by hard-working (and often under-recognized) women making picture books. Joyce Wan also created this helpful Pinterest board of picture books illustrated by women for librarians, educators, conference organizers, and parents looking for great books being made by women.

Last but not least, We Need Diverse Books continues to be an extraordinary organization seeking to “promote literature that reflects and honors the lives of all young people."

As an author, illustrator, reader, and WOC, I deeply value the solutions-oriented efforts of coalitions like #KidLitWomen, #WomeninIllustration, and #WeNeedDiverseBooks. I encourage everyone who cares about young readers and meaningful, representative library shelves to thoughtfully peruse what these groups are demonstrating and sharing.

Then, join them in their efforts.

Illustration by Grace Lin

Susie Ghahremani is an author and illustrator -- a woman in kid lit whose parents immigrated from Iran. Find her online at or follow at @boygirlparty on instagram, twitter, or Facebook.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Congrats to Robin Rosenthal and Juana Martinez-Neal! Plus SCBWI-NYC photos and some Mentee news

Just came back from the SCBWI Winter Conference in NYC. What a wonderful event! Thanks to the faculty and volunteers behind-the-scenes for all their hard work.

I was especially excited to see Robin Rosenthal (from the 2014 SCBWI-LA Mentee group) win the top prize in this year's SCBWI Winter Portfolio Showcase. CONGRATS, ROBIN!

From Robin:

"I am thrilled and honored to win this award. This is my ninth New York conference, and I am so thankful for the advice and feedback I've received along the way from my peers and from established illustrators, art directors, editors, and agents in the scbwi community. I've gotten some tough critiques at times, but it was often those critiques that propelled me furthest in my work."

Speaking of awards, CONGRATS to Juana Martinez-Neal (Mentee Class of 2011), who just won The Pura Belpré Award for Illustrators for LA PRINCESA AND THE PEA! Congrats to Juana and the other 2018 ALA Youth Media Award Winners.

Wonderful to see some of my Mentee friends in NYC. Like Jessica Lanan (Mentee Class of 2011) and Lisa Anchin (Mentee Class of 2012) at the Golden Kite Awards:

Jessica's first solo picture book, The Fisherman and the Whale, is coming out in spring 2019 from Simon & Schuster! See her blog post for more news.

And see this recent KidLitArtists post for an overview of our upcoming 2018 children's books! Meanwhile, a few more Mentee pics from the conference....

Here's Diandra Mae (Mentee Class of 2017) helping out at Registration:

Heidi Sheffield (Mentee Class of 2017) during the Portfolio Showcase and Illustrators' Social:

Great to catch up with Suzanne Kaufman (Mentee Class of 2014). Her upcoming book project, 100 BUGS! (written by Kate Narita, illustrated by Suzanne) comes out from Farrar, Straus and Giroux in June.

I had to miss the last day of the conference, but for a good reason. I had been invited to help celebrate Judy Blume's 80th birthday at Symphony Place that day! See this article (with photos) in Publishers Weekly last week.

Just before I went back to Toronto on the Monday, I ran into another Mentee, yay! You can find out more about Meridth McKean Gimbel (Mentee class of 2015) and her wonderful work at

If you missed the conference, you can browse other photos and some great takeaways at the SCBWI Conference Blog.


Debbie Ridpath Ohi wrote and illustrated WHERE ARE MY BOOKS? and SAM & EVA (Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers).  Her illustrations also appear in books by Michael Ian Black, Judy Blume, Lauren McLaughlin and Rob Sanders. Her next book: I'M SAD, written by Michael Ian Black and illustrated by Debbie, comes out from Simon & Schuster in June 2017. She blogs about reading, writing and illustrating books for young people at Twitter: @inkyelbows.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Inspirational Books and Podcast Round-Up

With the coming of the new year I find that it’s time for me to review my goals, set new ones, and get inspired.  I usually do this by listening to some of my favorite podcasts, and reading inspirational or educational books.
Since the new year started, I’ve taken to reading a few pages from an inspirational or creative book upon waking to start my day off on the right foot.  I’ve put together a round-up of some of my favorite books and podcasts below. Feel free to share in the comments any books or podcasts for creatives that you are loving right now!


Kid Lit

  • Literaticast with Jennifer Laughran - A podcast with Jennifer, senior agent at the Andrea Brown Literary Agency, on all things in the children’s publishing world.  She interviews art directors, agents, editors and more!
  • SCBWI podcast - A podcast filled with interviews from the whole array of the kidlit industry: illustrators, authors, agents, editors, publishers etc. You must be a member of SCBWI to listen to full episodes

Note: The founders of the All The Wonders website have decided to end their project; however, the site will stay up so that people can continue to use it as a resource.  The podcasts will continue on their own respective sites, which I have listed below.
To take a listen to the archives of the Picturebooking podcast and All the Wonders, visit

  • Picturebooking Podcast with Nick Patton  - “A Podcast about creating and sharing picture books.” Nick discusses picture book creation process in interviews with authors and illustrators. I have discovered so many wonderful authors and illustrators through this podcast!
  • The Children’s Book Podcast with Matthew Winner - “Weekly Interviews with Authors, Illustrators, Up-and-Comers, and Everyone In Between.” A must listen!


  • Creative Pep Talk with Andy J. Miller - If you are an illustrator, you must listen to this podcast. Andy will pep you up with his upbeat and hilarious episodes about making a living by making great art.  Get ready for a lot of dad jokes, but also to feel all the feelings.
  • 88 Cups of Tea with Yin Chang - a podcast generally for writers, but a quick shout out to the episodes with Rebecca Green: Staying Inspired as an Artist, and Greg Pizzoli: Developing Picture Book Ideas & Diversifying Your Work as an Artist.
  • Design Matters with Debbie Millman -  Debbie is renowned in the design world and an excellent interviewer. This podcast is jam packed with in-depth interviews of the best in the creative industry. AND on her website you can filter the podcast episodes by discipline, ie illustrator, art director, writer etc. Woo! Go listen!


  • Ask a Freelancer with Andy J. Miller - If you are a freelance artist like myself, you’ll find some great tidbits in this podcast.  There are only 16 episodes, but they are worth listening to.
  • Being Boss with Kathleen Shannon and Emily Thompson - Aside from finding Kathleen and Emily incredibly entertaining to listen to, they have some great content on living your life and running your business as a creative entrepreneur. They recently updated their website so their content is super easy to browse by topic. Just head to their resource page.


  • Draw Every Day, Draw Every Way By August Wren
    As simple as it sounds.  A drawing prompt for 365 days of the year.  The book is divided into themed sections with different paper and suggested media to use.  I rediscovered my love of colored pencils because of this book. A great way to get out of a creative rut and get yourself into the ritual of making art daily.
  • Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert
    A book about finding inspiration, facing down your fears, and creating just for the joy of it. I’m a big fan of Elizabeth Gilbert because her writing is always relatable, humorous, and poignant. You’ll definitely want this book on your nightstand.
  • Get It Done: From Procrastination to Creative Genius in 15 Minutes a Day by Sam Bennett
    I can’t say that I am a creative genius after reading this book, but it seriously helped me define what my true creative goals are and how to break them down into manageable tasks. I think all artists should have this book.  In fact, I think it’s time for a re-read.
  • Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey
    A fun light read comprised of short passages about the daily rituals of artists, scientists, writers and more.  From Jane Austen to Picasso, Woody Allen, and Benjamin Franklin. I’m constantly striving to find the “right” daily ritual for me to produce my best work, and this is a great book to find a little inspiration in how other artists have worked.
  • The Creative Habit: Learn it and Use It for Life by Twyla Tharp
    A book that is inspirational and useful to artists of all mediums. Another book about the importance of ritual, doing the work, and getting out of your creative rut. Each chapter ends with a straightforward exercise to help you on your creative journey.
  • Art Inc.: The Essential Guide for Building Your Career as an Artist by Lisa Congdon
    A no-nonsense guide on building your career as an artist.  This book talks about the nitty-gritty - from licensing, copyright, diversifying your income, to working with an agent.  There is so much great information in here.  I also highly recommend taking a listen to any podcast interviewing Lisa Congdon - in fact, one of my favorite podcasters, Andy J. Miller of Creative Pep Talk, has one!
    Listen here:
    Find her book

Hope you find some new things here to get you inspired!

Alexandra Thompson

Friday, February 2, 2018


Who's to say
the real effort to be real 
isn't the beginning of wings?

The above is an excerpt from Mark Nepo's THE BOOK OF AWAKENING. It met my Brooklyn studio in the stifling summer of 2013; a gift from a dear friend who knew I needed a change. It set me on the path of making and breathing and living happily in the moment.

My impression of meditation had always been enough to keep me from trying it. I couldn't imagine what crossing my legs, and muttering long vowels would possibly accomplish.

It turns out, meditation is a twisty-turny thing, and there are as many ways to practice it as there are to make a picture book. Among other things, it is scientifically proven to help its practitioners alleviate stress, depression, and anxiety, improve self-confidence, increase focus, develop positive social connections and prevent arthritis. Writers and illustrators are my favorite kind of people, but I'm yet to find one that couldn't benefit from that industry-specific list of preventatives. If you're uncomfortable with OMs, consider guided meditation, that's where I started.

Daily mindfulness practice has taught me that one thing done with patience and peace is much better than ten things done in a panic. My life and my art are more effortless, comfortable, and fun when I quiet my mind for 5-20 minutes every day.

Meditation is my key to living creatively. It might be what you're looking for too. Not ready to dive into the deep end? Consider dipping your toe in the lotus pool.

Try an app:
・Aura on iPhone and Android
・Aware on iPhone & Android
・Calm on iPhone & Android

Or a podcast:
Deep Energy 2.0
Meditation Minis
The Meditation Podcast -
 a $2 a month Patreon subscription pays you back ten-fold in happiness. Choose an episode for what ails you. The CREATIVE FREEDOM episode is a new ritual. They make their most recent episode available free on their website 

Try a meditation for the painter in their studio:
・Place a dry sponge and a glass of water before you.
・Center yourself by letting the energy of all that feels urgent rush through you. 
・Exhale and try to let it go.
・Now drip a small stream of water on the sponge.
・As you breathe slowly watch how the sponge opens.
・Keep dripping water on the sponge as you breathe slowly and feel your heart open

Instagram @shesureissketchy
Twitter @shesureis

Tuesday, January 16, 2018


Once upon a time, long ago-ish, I was an Art Director working on automotive advertising in Detroit. And surprisingly, many things that I learned as an AD apply to my present career as a children’s book illustrator. Here are some of the parallels I gleaned from the experience. Perhaps you can benefit from them, too.

1. The best ads tell stories. The same is true of your illustration portfolio. At my mentorship review with Art Director Laurent Linn last summer, he said it best: “Do your illustrations show a particular moment, either right before something happens, or right after? Or are they stuck, with the character stagnant in the middle of the page and portrait-like?” There also should be an emotive quality to your work, a tug at your heart, in one direction or another. You should feel the moment. 

2. You gotta work quickly. You have seconds (if that) to capture someone’s attention and keep it, whether it’s a television ad, or a book mockup. It’s gotta be riveting from the get-go. And when it comes to creating, especially in the rough draft stage, your best work sometimes occurs when you’re going fast. It helps tune out that inner critic in the back of our heads. I took a workshop with illustrator Matt Faulkner, who suggested using an egg timer, to keep us moving, loose and nimble. It can do wonders to combat the blank page, or if you’re spending too much time in the polishing stage, noodling an illustration to death. 

3. “Deadlines are your friend,” is perhaps my favorite saying from Creative Director Ernie Perich. I came to appreciate the short deadlines in advertising, as crazy-making as they sometimes were. If there’s no deadline, there’s no urgency, no fire under your butt. 

During my pre-published years as an illustrator, I struggled with the lack of deadlines. It felt so hard to prioritize my illustration work if I wasn’t getting paid for it. So I used upcoming SCBWI conferences, paid critiques and applying for mentorships as carrots, which had built-in due dates for submitting work. I also joined a critique group that kept me accountable for future goals and projects. And I tracked my time creating each day, just like I would if it were a freelance project. Seeing the hours add up on a project made it feel more “real” somehow.

4. Fewer is better. An AD will always remember your weakest piece. So if there’s anything you’re lukewarm about, take it out. Never include more just to fluff out your portfolio. Choose 10-15 pieces max. A lot is riding on an Art Director’s decision to go with you, especially if you’re a new illustrator they haven’t worked with. Don’t give them a reason to say no. Lead off with your best piece, keep the pieces in between lean and stellar, then end on an equally strong piece.

5. Always take time to say thank you. If you have a personal meeting with an Art Director (truly a rarity these days), thank them. Chances are, they gave up time from something else to see you. The best illustrators and photographers I worked with sent actual snail mail thank you notes. Anything hand written in this day and age is special. And you will be remembered.

I am guilty of not sending enough. But I just signed up for “4 Out the Door,” a postcard challenge hosted by SCBWI Michigan for illustrators from any region. Email and you’ll receive info on mailing lists, postcard design, and recommended online printers. You’ll also learn when the most optimal times of the year for sending are.

Yes, it’s hard when you send out postcards, not knowing if they’ll be trashed or kept. But you never know when your card will strike a chord. Case in point—I had sent postcards to an Editor and months later, I had the unexpected opportunity to visit him. I saw what he called “The Great Wall:” a bulletin board filled with his favorite postcards. I was amazed to see two of mine were up there! 

Every time someone receives your card, it cements your presence in their head. Art Directors and Editors have so much to keep track of. Don’t make them have to remember you. They won’t. Unless you’re stellar. And you keep in touch.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Intentions- by Diandra Mae

I know the New Year is all about stepping off on the right foot towards something BIGGER, BETTER, NEWER, etc. but this year, instead of starting over I want to keep doing what I've been doing. 

You see, every year I pick one word as my focus. It's my Intention Word. It's the reminder for the next twelve months of what it is I want to accomplish that year. Where I'm going to put my energy. 2017 was the year of 

North meant closing my eyes and tuning myself to the pull on my heart, towards the stories I've been waiting to tell, the characters I've been wanting to create. North meant ignoring all the noise about style and design and trends and figuring out what is I'm meant to do. North meant listening. 

And so I did. I participated in a six month online art challenge that I help moderate, pushing myself to draw the things that scared the pants off me (vehicles -*shudder*) in order to encourage growth. 

I took an illustrator's workshop at Highlights and had a fantastic time with wonderful people, exploring media and technique and really having a hard look at myself and how I've been playing it safe. (Anxiety and Fear are some sneaky jerks, y'all.)

And even though I knew it was just the very beginning of something real and wonderful, I entered my portfolio in the SCBWI LA Portfolio Showcase to show folks that I was still working and creating. Well, we know how that turned out: 😉

Last year was, for the first time in a long time, when I finally felt like I was putting my foot on the right path when it came to my work. Every step I took seemed to click somewhere inside of me and although I couldn't really see where I was going, I was excited to see where I ended up. 

It was to the point that I became a little evangelical to friends about how they approached their art. "Tell the stories you want to tell!" "There's only one YOU!" "Follow this spark!" Pushing and encouraging friends is one of my favorite things to do, and with the personal success I had experienced so far, I turned it up to eleven. I've calmed down (mostly) but still remind them from time to time that their journey is theirs and there's no one like them.

It's a good reminder for me to keep listening heading into 2018. And, inspired by Robert Frost, I'll also keep in mind

"The path can be lonely, dark, and steep,
But I have stories to tell,
And miles to go before the journey's complete,
And miles to go before the journey's complete. 

My Intention Word for 2018 is Persistence. 

Happy New Year, y'all. Do you have an Intention for 2018? Let me know what it is! I hope your 2018 Intentions bring you focus, growth, and joy.


This hangs in my studio. I purchased it on Etsy a few years back:


Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Our Books: KidLitArtists 2018 Preview!

2018 Books: 

This year has another bumper-crop of books for the KidLit Artists! Look out for these great titles coming to bookstores in 2018!

The perfect bedtime book for young soccer fans. From the opening kickoff to the final goal, a young girl sys goodnight to her most beloved sport: soccer.
available for pre-order here

(February 6)
by Andrea Zuill
Even snails can feel jealous over a new baby! Marigold realizes that her new sister Daisy must be an evil genius, capable of mesmerizing everyone. They even think her pooping is cute! Just when Marigold reaches her breaking point, she discovers that Daisy's amazing skills may come in handy after all.
Available for pre-order here

(March 13)

They blame you when they get in trouble. They seem like your parents' favorite. They are the only enemy you can't live without. Almost everyone has a juicy story about their siblings–even famous people. Meet those who got along, those who didn't, and everyone in between! Middle grade novel.

(March 13)
 edited by Colby Sharp, contributed to by Debbie Ohi (and others)
Colby Sharp invited more than forty children's authors and illustrators to provide story starters for each other; photos, drawings, poems, prose or anything they could dream up. They responded to the prompts by transforming these seeds into any form of creative work they wanted to share! A section of story starters provides inspiration for readers to create works of their own.
Available for pre-order here

Twilight Chant
(March 20)
written by Holly Thompson, illustrated by Jen Betton
As day slips softly into night, sharp eyes catch glimpses of the special creatures who are active at dusk. Melodic text captures the richness of the animal life that emerges in the low light. A picture book that will inspire budding naturalists and anyone who has ever chased a firefly in the twilight.
Available for pre-order here

Cycle City
(March 20)
by Alison Farrell
When little Etta the Elephant goes to her Aunt Ellen's house, she takes a journey through bicycle-filled Cycle City, a town filled with bikes of all kinds! At the end of the day, a special surprise awaits Etta – the most amazing bicycle parade imaginable.
Available for pre-order here

Meddy Teddy: A Mindful Yoga Journey
(March 20)
 written by Apple Jordan, illustrated by Nicholas Hong
Say namaste to Meddy Teddy, a rising star in the yogi world. Meddy practices yoga poses as he emerges from hibernation, greets the springtime, and mindfully gets through a variety of situations.

Welcome to Bark Park! There are dogs running and dogs relaxing, dogs riding and dogs sliding – all before returning home to bubble baths, cozy dog beds, and sweet dreams of – what else? – being back at the park!
Available for pre-order here

(April 10)
by Juana Martinez-Neal
If you ask her, Alma Sofia Esperanza José Pura Candela has way too many names: six! How did such a small person wind up with such a large name? Alma turns to Daddy for an answer and learns of all her namesakes, and as she hears the story starts to think her name might be the perfect fit after all. The Spanish version launches simultaneously.

Available for pre-order here

I'm Sad
(June 5)
 written by Michael Ian Black, illustrated by Debbie Ohi
A girl, a potato, and a very sad flamingo star in this sequel to I'm Bored. Everyone feels sad sometimes – even flamingos. Sigh. When Flamingo announces he's feeling down, his friends try to cheer him up, but nothing seems to work. Not even dirt! (Which usually works for Potato)...

Available for pre-order here

100 Bugs! A Counting Book
(June 12)
written by Kate Narita, illustrated by Suzanne Kaufmann

How many bugs can you count? From walking sticks to spittlebugs, dragonflies to katydids, discovering 10 bugs at a time, you just might see 100 bugs!
Available for pre-order here

Hedgehog Needs a Hug 
(June 19)
by Jen Betton
When Hedgehog feels down in the snout and droopy in the prickles, he knows a hug will make him feel better. But none of his friends want to wrap their arms around Hedgehog's prickles, and he's too smart to fall for Fox's sly offer. Then to his surprise, Hedgehog discovers another animal who is feeling exactly the same way.
Available for pre-order here

Good Night, Little Monsters
(June 26)
 written by Kara Lareau, illustrated by Brian Won
Watch little monsters go about their bedtime routines, as Frankenbaby lays down his green head, loosens his bolts and is tucked into bed. Lochnessie is assured of swimming when awake, and snuggles close in the deep cool lake.
Available for pre-order here

All Are Welcome
(July 10)
 written by Alexandra Penfold, illustrated by Suzanne Kaufmann
Follow a group of children through a day in their school, where everyone is welcomed with open arms no matter their race, religion, or background. A school where it is normal to wear a hajib, learn a Vietnamese dance and witness a Dragon dance for Lunar New Year.

available for pre-order here

Adrian Simcox Does NOT Have a Horse
(August 14)
written by Marcy Campbell, illustrated by Corinna Luyken
Adrian Simcox tells anyone who will listen that he has a horse – the best and most beautiful horse anywhere. But Chloe does NOT believe him. The more Adrian talks about his horse, the angrier Chloe gets. But when she calls him out at school, Chloe doesn't get the vindication she craves. She gets something far more important.
(Cover to come)

What Can You Do With A Toolbox?
(Fall 2018)
written by John Colaneri & Anthony Carrino, illustrated by Maple Lam
Discover all the exciting things you can build with a toolbox.
(Cover to come)

(Fall 2018)
written by Jacob Kramer, illustrated by K-Fai Steele
An elephant's love of noodles puts her on the wrong side of the law!
(Cover to come)

Business Pig
(Fall 2018)
by Andrea Zuill
(Cover to come)

Mad Mad Bear
 by Kimberly Gee
A little bear learns to cope with his frustrations.
(Cover to come)

Balance the Birds
 by Susie Ghahremani
A sequel to the popular Stack The Cats counting book.
(Cover to come)

Together With Grandpa (Chinese)
by Maple Lam
A young bear and his grandfather explore the city together.
(Cover to come)

We hope you enjoy our titles in the new year!