There’s a Mouse on My Head!

As I sit here illustrating, There is a Mouse on My Head!.. there actually is a mouse on my head. It’s an illustrated one because I’m designing a promotional bookmark we will be giving away for the release of the book. The bookmark will feature a large cartoon mouse suitable to place on your head. The book in hardcover and soft cover will be printed by August 3, 2015. We will later have an e-book available.

MOYH 3d_BookCover

The author Donna Warwick and I will be presenting our book at a Tea in October, sponsored by the Book Club for the Jewish Book Festival in St. Louis . We will also have the books available for sale at the “Missouri’s Own” section of the Jewish Book Festival bookstore in November. I have my good friend Ray Wenneker to thank for this wonderful opportunity.

The book is a fun, bedtime picture book for 2-8 year olds, featuring a grandmother as caregiver who builds a bond with her grandchildren. This charming book explores how a resourceful and creative boy uses his incredible imagination to convince Grandma that his toy mouse wants to eat his peas. Little sister, not wanting to be left out of his dinnertime game, gleefully jumps in. As their fun fantasy runs wild, their understanding grandmother is delighted to play along with the children as they brush the mouse’s teeth and put him to bed.

This joint project between author and illustrator has been an adventure. We are striking out into new territory. Ingram Spark will be publishing and distributing the books. We will be doing all of our own marketing and publicity. We have planned school and library visits as well as senior center visits where we hope to appeal to the grandmothers in the crowd. Being a part of the Jewish Book Festival is an important event for us. We have a wonderful program planned with music and a video along with our talk. Both of us can hardly wait to start visiting schools. Donna Warwick, the author works with children all the time and is very entertaining. I’ll let everyone know when the books are available. We can start taking preorders by late July.

My Entry for #PBPitch on Twitter

Today is my chance to pitch one of my picture books to a large group of picture book agents at once. All pitching authors use the #PBPitch hashtag on their 140 word pitch on Twitter. As an author/illustrator, I may post one image from my book with my pitch. What I didn’t realize was adding this image would cut down on the number of characters I had to work with by 10. Coming up short by ten characters is huge, when you only have 140 characters to start with.


I enjoy reading picture books written and illustrated by the same talented person, so I want to join their ranks.  I want to become a children’s book author and illustrator. I continue to work diligently on my writing skills when I can find the time between illustration assignments for other authors.  I take SCBWI workshops and writing classes, read books and listen to all the podcasts I can find on the subject. I also belong to a great children’s book critique group. The picture book I am pitching has been through dozens of rewrites. My critique group has seen so many revisions, they probably know the story word for word by now. Thanks to my critique group for being nurturing and honest to help me grow.


My entry for the SCBWI illustrator challenge for June “Bounce”

Bounce_Dayne_SislenThe theme is Bounce–
This my entry in the SCBWI’s illustrator challenge for June . The prompt is the word BOUNCE. I am so lucky that I was already working on this illustration for the new picture book I am illustrating for Donna Warwick, called “There’s a Mouse on My Head!” I guess I could say, “There’s a Mouse on my Bread!” ‪#‎scbwidrawthis‬






Illustrating a Rhyming Picture Book

There's a Mouse on my Head! illus. by Dayne Sislen


There's a Mouse on My Head! illustration by Dayne Sislen

I’m having a great time illustrating this funny rhyming picture book. The story is so cute, it’s about a little boy who doesn’t want to eat his peas and cheese. But does want to eat his cherry pie. It’s called, “There’s a Mouse on my Head!” written by Donna Warwick. This book soon to be as a picture book and an e-book. To see more of Dayne Sislen’s illustrations visit this website, or this portfolio site.

6 ways a professional children’s book illustrator can help self-publishing authors

Whiff_dragon_420Having a professional children’s book illustrator create custom illustrations for your self-published children’s book can help your book compete with traditionally published books. I love to help authors bring their words alive on the page with illustrations.

How can a professional illustrator make so much difference?

1. Books are judged by their covers. It’s a fact. In a bookstore or on an Internet site like Amazon, the only thing a buyer sees is your cover. There are thousands of books that your book is competing against for buyers. It’s important to present your book professionally. Having an inexperienced illustrator illustrate your book makes your book look amateurish. That’s not the image you want to project.

Book covers are very important!
Never ever let the image that sells you book look amateurish or lackluster. In many cases the cover is all a customer sees before deciding to purchase your book. Your cover image and typography are what customers use to judge the value of your book.

Below is a list  of the main points for a cover:

  • Be eye-catching
  • Look professional
  • Be easy to read
  • Communicate the message of the book correctly
  • Work well at a small size for Internet sales, catalogs and e-books
  • Fit-in, or stand out in a positive way in the marketplace for the specific genre

The perfect book cover design should hit the mark on all these points. Do people really judge a book by its cover? You bet they do.

2. A professional Children’s book illustrator will actually read your book ( yes, we do) and help decide which pages need illustrations.  Authors, are sometimes too close to their stories to make  the best choice about what parts of the story need illustrations. Professional illustrators have the experience to help the author decide where page breaks and illustrations work best to best move the story forward and create suspense.

3. A professional illustrator with work one-on-one with you to develop character studies for all the unique characters in your book. Generic stock characters you can buy online are unworthy of all the hard work you did to write your original story.

4. A professional Illustrator knows about file types, resolution, bleed and sizes necessary to make sure your illustrations look great in your book.

5. A professional children’s book illustrator will make sure you have the correct size images  for cover image marketing views on Amazon and any additional promotional materials you may need. An illustrator who also has design experience like I do, can also design posters, bookmarks, business cards and other publicity and marketing materials to match your book’s brand.

6. Most importantly, a professional illustrator will work with your printer to make sure your book looks the best possible when printed. Each printer has their own specifications to ensure quality reproduction.

Read the other pages on this blog to learn how we can work together to create the best-illustrated book possible for your story. I also have an illustrator’s website with a lot more information and a portfolio site on Behance

I would be happy to assist you with your book. I love to develop unique characters and fun backgrounds to fit each story. I work very closely with authors to make sure their voice is heard. To contact me, use the form below.

Rejected Postcard Design

This was my entry into the SCBWI PAL postcard illustration contest. It was not chosen. There were a lot of wonderful illustrations in the running. The judges were agents Lori Kilkelly & Paul Rodeen & author/illustrator Lauren Castillo (Caldecott Honor winner for NANA IN THE CITY)

I like this character, she might find a place in a chapter book I am writing.SCBWI_Postcard_good_rgb

The Caldecott Award This Year Goes to Dan Santat!

ZFor his book BEEKLE!!

This magical story begins on an island far away where an imaginary friend is born. He patiently waits his turn to be chosen by a real child, but when he is overlooked time and again, he sets off on an incredible journey to the bustling city, where he finally meets his perfect match and-at long last-is given his special name: Beekle.

New York Times bestselling and award-winning author and illustrator Dan Santat combines classic storytelling with breathtaking art, creating an unforgettable tale about friendship, imagination, and the courage to find one’s place in the world.

Congratulations Dan, I love this book!

Getting very close to finish line.

Screen Shot 2015-01-18 at 2.15.07 PMI can’t believe it, I am finally getting very, very close to finishing a picture book I have been illustrating for a self-publishing author off and on for over two 1/2 years. It’s a darling book about a cute little “round” girl who wants to be the ballerina butterfly in her school play. You might call Olivia chubby, but she is beautiful inside and just needs to learn to bring out her joy and dance with all her heart.

It usually takes me between 3 to 6 months to finish all the illustrations for a picture book. It’s a long detailed process to make sure I illustrate just what the story needs. I have written on this blog about this particular book in the past, I thought it would be finished last year, but it just wasn’t ready. This self-publishing author wanted everything just right and took her time deciding on each step. I think this book will be worth the long wait.

I worked on and finished several other picture books during this long process, so I wasn’t sitting around twiddling my thumbs. I will be starting to illustrate a new e-book right after this book is completed that I am very excited about. The e-book should hopefully take me only 3 months.

If you have any question about the process of having your self-published picture book illustrated, contact me below.

Does Social Media bring in business?

Screen Shot 2015-01-08 at 4.43.32 PMfacebook-64twitter-64behanceScreen Shot 2015-01-08 at 4.41.38 PMgoogle-64wordpress-64

I’m an illustrator, but I spend a huge amount of time on social media. In fact sometimes, I think I spend more time online, than I do illustrating. It’s important for me to keep in touch with what’s going on in the children’s publishing business. I like to keep up with my illustrator friends and heroes. I also like to keep my name out there so self-publishing authors and traditional publishers know what I am doing and that I am available to take on projects.

LinkedIn has been the best social media choice for me. I have gotten two jobs illustrating children’s books from my contacts on that site in the last year. I also receive about 10 inquiries a month from authors asking me to read their manuscripts and asking about my pricing. I like LinkedIn because it is more professional than other social media sites. I like to answer questions and help first time children’s book authors to navigate the experience of bringing their book to market.

I also have a personal FaceBook account and a fan page for my Illustration. Facebook just doesn’t seem as professional to me, maybe I don’t use it correctly. I don’t many followers on my Illustrator page and my personal page are mostly friends. Twitter is another avenue I like. I use it to keep up with what’s happening in the publishing business. I can get very up to date information very quickly. Also, people in the children’s book publishing business seem to use it a lot. I do find it very impersonal, since everyone can read everything you post. I often get replies from people I don’t know. I also don’t understand –retweeting, when something mundane can be retweeted and these tweets retweeted for ever and ever amen.

Another favorite is, this is where I have a portfolio of my work. I like Behance a lot, it’s perfect for illustrators. Everytime I post a new images I get a lot of feedback from all over the world. I have never gotten a job directly from Behance, but authors who have contacted me have looked at my Behance page. Pinterest is another site that is perfect for an illustrator. What could be better than trading pictures of your work, when pictures are what you do? I post new work there when I remember. Then there is Google+ which I use sometimes and can’t really figure out yet.

Of course What kind of illustrator would I be without a website to show my work. Every illustrator has to have a website. I am lucky, that I am web savvy and can build and upkeep my own webpage.  And last of all my WordPress blog which you are reading right now. Can you see where all my times goes?

And … then there are the emails to keep up with.

New Year’s Resolution for 2015

Why do we all do this to ourselves every year? Do we set ourselves up for failure? I have been fairly successful in past years, keeping up all year to my high expectations in the beginning of a fresh year. On FaceBook, a friend of mine has set her new year’s resolution as: “remembering to write 2015 instead of 2014.” I admire her for setting her goals at the realistic level.

My resolution for 2015 is to:  Sketch more, create more, have more fun, make more friends AND not to let social media take over my creative working time. I love what I do as a professional children’s book illustrator and hopefully some day also a children’s book writer, so I want to do more of everything I love.

Below is a rough sketch for a picture book I am writing about an unlikely pair. An obsessive compulsive cat and a clueless puppy. I draw the pictures first, then I write the words.PEN_31B

Pen_18-19 copy


I just sent in my Kid Lit Creature for 2015

Meet Whiff, the curious: my new Kid Lit creature.


Just sent in my Creature for Kid Lit Creature Week 2015. I really like this little guy, I think I might be thinking up a book story to go with him. Go to Kid Lit Creature Week 2015 to read more about this event.

10670023_352891511544231_1053382273318523695_nIt’s fun to create new characters. When I am working on a book for a client I am not able to share most of the illustrations until the book is published. So when I make up a character for myself, I like to let everyone see it.

Create a creature, and share it online during KidLit Creature Week. You’ll see many familiar names submitting theirs! Complete instructions can be found there.


I was just nominated for the Very Inspiring Blogger Award

aimie_playing_420Thank you Andy Mulberry for nominating my blog for a Very Inspiring Blogger Award!

Andy Mulberry is an author of Middle grade Fiction. Her book: Skycastle, The Demon and Me is fantastic. The second in the series, The Demonic Incident in Chinatown is now available (haven’t read this one yet).


The Award rules are:

• Display the award on your blog
• Link back to the person who nominated you
• State 7 things about yourself
• Nominate 15 bloggers, link to them, and notify them about their nominations

And… here’s 7 facts about me:

1.  I love Picture Books.
2. I read picture books out loud in all the character voices (even when I am alone).
3.  I love deep dark rich chocolate…mmm…
4.  I have a Scottish Terrier named Ghillis. (no, I don’t use his name for my password)
5.  As a toddler, I used to draw on walls and furniture.
6.  I met my dear sweet husband on a blind date.
7.  I have a slight case of claustrophobia. Elevators are OK, nailed caskets are not.

Now I am supposed to nominate 15 blogs that I think are very inspiring:

Here are my 15 nominations!
Please visit all their sites, they are all have a lot to offer.

Mark Mitchell – How to be a Children’s Book Illustrator

Lynne Chapman – An Illustrator’s Life for Me

Zack Rock – Children’s Book Illustrator

Don Tate- Children’s Book Illustrator 

Lynn Alpert – Children’s book illustrator and storyteller

Wendy Martin – Blogging the artist’s life

Susanna Hill – Something for everyone in the world of children’s books

MaryAnn Scheuer – Great kid books

Nerdy Book Club

Natalia Ortega-brown – Picture Book A Day

Val Webb – The Illustrated Garden

Kerry Aradhya

Picture Book Junkies – A collective group of Professional illustrators absolutely addicted to children’s publishing

Kristen Schwartz

Jo Hart


Working on new Picture Book ideas I came up with during PiBoIdMo


November was Picture Book Month. It was also PiBoIdMo (Picture Book Idea Month) for me. I came up with more than 30 new ideas for picture books. It’s great to have such a file of ideas to work from. Now I need to go through them and decide which ones are worth working on right now, which ones need a little more time and which ones just need to disappear.

Since I am first an illustrator and a writer second, I always start with visual ideas. So my idea of expanding these ideas is a little more complicated than just jotting down a few lines. My best work comes from developing the characters visually, their personalities and all their quirks before I start with the story. I also sketch out each scene of the book before I start writing. So this process takes a bit more time than I would like it to.