Archive for the ‘12×12 Writing Group’ Category

A group of 12 x 12 writers and illustrators is helping to promote Epilepsy Awareness today by wearing purple.  One of our own has a son with epilepsy and many complications, doctor’s visits, tests, and surgery as a result.  His name is Renn and you may read more about him at this post.

I am wearing a purple sweater, purple jewelry and a scarf with purple flowers. epilepsy I have purple gloves for when I go out today and a purple toothbrush for my dog.  AND I just decided I’m going to go out and buy a package of PURPLE peeps to eat and tell the cashier why I am buying them (okay – I realize that’s more about my benefit).

Along with meeting Renn through our 12×12 group, I have an aunt that suffers from epilepsy.  She used to sometimes call when she was living alone to ask, “what day is it?”  She had just suffered a seizure and was disoriented.   I also have a young friend whose husband has epilepsy.  He has to be very careful and take meds at the exact same time every day or he will have an episode. (They even had to schedule the time they got married to accommodate his medicine.)

Please support our friends and just mention or visit these links.  We can make a difference.

I am forced to be brief today.  I am finishing editing on my husband’s doctoral dissertation which we want to complete by Friday.  (It is due Tuesday.) Check my Sanity Wednesday and then it’s tax time…..


Laura Miller (Grandmamiller)

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To my many dear friends in the world of children’s books,

As writers and illustrators for children, the impact of the tragedy at Sandyhook Elementary has been deeply felt.  Like so many of you I haven’t wanted to write or draw for days.

Yet that is what we must do.  We-make-a-difference,  especially to children.  If what we draw is with love, then it is greatly needed.  If what we write is with love, then it can change the world.  And that is also greatly needed.

Let us not be stifled by an act of evil, but let us reach within to draw out the love and creativity that can be a balm.  Let our energies and inspiration  flow to bind up the wounds and bring comfort to children and families.

Love can be painted, love can be written, and love can heal.

With great respect for the difference YOU can make –WRITEDRAW-CREATE  with love!!

I love you all,

Laura  (Grandmamiller)

Devotion on coping with Sandyhook Tragedy

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Susanna Hill is the creator of Perfect Picture Book Friday where participants may review and recommend Picture Books.

I am so excited to bring you this week’s Perfect Picture Book Friday review.  It is a debut book written and illustrated by Alison Hertz who is also a 12×12PiBoIdMo,  SkADaMo and PPBF participant. (whew!)

I ordered my copy from Alison (so she could autograph it for me) and I received it in the mail this week.    I ran it by  a grueling 3 panelist review board and it PASSED  with ‘flying’ colors. (See pictures below of Panelists 1 & 2. However,  panelist #3 wouldn’t stand still for a picture because he was too busy flapping) .   Without any more preliminary here is my review of  FLAP!

Panelist #1 holding Flap!

Title:  FLAP!

Author & Illustrator:   Alison K. Hertz

Publisher: Magic Dreams Publishing

Genre: Fiction

Audience Age: 2-9

Themes/Topics: Imagination/Problem Solving

Opening Sentences: “I have an idea, Katie!  Let’s teach Lilly how to fly!” Max said.

Panelist # 2 Flapping

Panelists #1 and #2 reviewing book. Panelist #3 was off flapping!

Synopsis (from publisher):   When a 7-year-old twin brother and sister decide to teach their 4-year-old sister to fly, they quickly learn that telling her to FLAP! just isn’t enough.

Why I like it:  The book begins with an exciting idea that builds to an unexpected climax.   Each page turn brings a new, creative, problem solving idea.  As the children try to accomplish an impossible task there is a family of squirrels in the background following their every move and attempt to fly.  Although poor Lilly repeatedly crashes and falls, gets covered with mud and tissue paper feathers, she undauntingly pursues the goal of flying.  You won’t want to miss the surprise ending.   The illustrations are bright, exciting and humorous.  It is a high energy level book and my panelists loved the repetition of yelling “Run, Jump, FLAP!” and got more excited as the story progressed.   They even began jumping up and flapping in the middle of the story.  I think the best part of their review was when Panelist #1 said, “Is this book ours, Grandma, can we take it home?”  Sadly, I had to tell them no.  (because I got them their own autographed copy for Christmas.  Shhh-it’s a secret.)  FLAP! is a fun read and one that will be revisited often.

Activities/Resources:  Some ideas for making wings, and paper birds are here:  http://preschooler.thebump.com/flying-activities-kids-6291.html

and TLC has several paper airplane patterns and projects here:


Availability: Immediately from the author’s site, Amazon, or  Barnes  & Noble

Congratulations to Alison on a wonderful story!!  If you want to read more about Alison she allowed me to interview her  last week which you can read here.

Blessings to you all and Happy Flapping – I mean Reading!

Laura (Grandmamiller)

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SkADaMo #27 “Cat Man” by Laura Anne Miller @2012

Above is yesterday’s SkADaMo project.  Whoooeee – what a whirlwind month.  Like many of you I’ve been doing PiBoIdMo, which has made 12×12 somewhat of an easy task, but just for fun I threw in Sketch-A-Day-Month too.  Also with this being November there were 2 large Thanksgiving dinners, and a funeral, a wedding and rehearsing with a dozen+ 2yr old-6th graders for our Church Christmas program.  (Bells, drums and ribbons [think rhythmic gymnastics–ha-ha, yeah right])

Needs More Sugar

So true confession –I’ve kept up with everything!!!   Er, uh… except the office stuff.  As in, posting all my sketches. I’ve only managed to post four.  I finally had a Saturday freed up to catalog the sketches with my camera. On Friday I gathered all the sketches from their various sources, sketch books, scraps of notepaper, post it notes, etc (I get inspiration and sketch at truly odd times).     Saturday was absolutely  dark and dismal gray outside, not a glimmer of sun.  So the one wall where I can post the art and snap a pic is in gloomy shadow.  If I use my camera’s flash it fades the pic.  If I don’t use the flash everything is gray….what to do….tried holding a flashlight in my mouth….yeah – okay I hear you snickering…..tried a sewing light…tried my desk light….finally found that clipping a reading light to the bird’s cage (much to his protest) gave enough light with out too many halos or glare.  So anyway  here’s some of the sketches for your perusal.  I reworked some older sketches, created some new and the last few

Toddler Recital

thumbnails below were from the first days of PiBoIdMo.  I had just made thumbnail sketches in my  Notebook- before I officially joined SkADaMo.    Normally I wouldn’t be brave enough to show such  ‘rough’ sketches.    But since the very talented creative force of  SkADaMo,  Linda Silvestri assured us there weren’t any rules  – I’ve told myself that rough sketches are okay–they are also part of the creative process.

This has definitely been a fun experience, one which has forced me to be more creative and produce more product.  It’s also loosened me up some.












Having had to sketch and write everyday is a good discipline to remind me of my goals.


And I promise there will be more sketches tomorrow.  I’m working on that post after I publish this one.

Blessings on your creativity,

Laura (Grandmamiller)

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One of my cyber-writer/illustrator friends, Alison Kipnis Hertz,  is having a book launch TODAY!  Her new book is called Flap! (When Max and Katie try to teach their little sister to fly they quickly learn that telling her to Flap! just isn’t enough.)

I originally became acquainted with Alison Hertz through Julie Hedlund’s 12×12 writing challenge.  Then more recently through PictureBookIdeaMonth and SketchADayMonth (which she encouraged me to join).   Alison’s posts are energetic, encouraging, creative, thoughtful and fun (and sometimes all five in one.)

I’ve been wanting to do some ‘interviews’ with fellow writers/illustrators and have been shy about asking since I’m really just beginning to build my blog.  But when I saw Alison’s book was coming out I decided I had to ask if she would be my first interview and she said YES!

I believe Alison is currently on her way to Chicago to be with her 97 yr old grandpa who is in the hospital.  So if she isn’t able to respond to your comments right away, please understand, but comment anyway to encourage her!!  And now……here’s my interview with multi-talented Alison Kipnis Hertz:

Alison Kipnis Hertz

Laura:  Tell us a little about yourself and your family and something we don’t know about you.

Alison: I am a mom, a writer, an illustrator, a teacher, a toy designer, a juggler, and a former camp director. I live in Georgia with my wonderful husband, two creative children, and two fluffy dogs.  I am sure that if you read on, you will learn much about me that you didn’t know…

Laura: Describe yourself in 5 words.

Alison:  Creative, Analytical – these two often contradict each other, Caring, Resourceful, and Hopeful.

Laura: On your website you say you always liked to draw.  When did you first start drawing and writing with intention?

Alison: I studied Architecture and City Planning in college so I filled journals with thoughts about shape and design and sketches of buildings. Throughout my college summers, I worked as a camp counselor and told stories to my campers every night but it wasn’t until I studied Toy Design at FIT in NY nearly twenty years ago that I learned how to pair my stories and drawings for children. I wrote and illustrated a picture book while studying there and created my first real character. You can see Dagan on the homepage of my website.

Laura: What or who was a big influence to your ambitions and/or writing/illustrating?

Alison: When I was young, my mother (who had been a high school English teacher) taught me to think critically about my own writing. She also showed me sketches she had done in college. They were loose line drawings but they showed position, proportion, and emotion. I wanted to draw like that. My mother was a big influence on who I am today. My grandfather, Papa Gus, is a chemist and an inventor and he taught me that I could do anything and that it’s not just “ok” but a wonderful thing to be able to think outside the box.

Laura:  What a wonderful legacy from your family.  Who is a favorite children’s writer and why?

Alison:  I really can’t choose just one. I enjoy the writing of different children’s authors for different reasons. Madeline L’Engle hooked me on reading when I was nine years old with A Wrinkle in Time. Donald Sobol taught me how fun it is to read the same stories over and over again with his Encyclopedia Brown series. Now, I appreciate authors who create stories that pull me in like Ingrid Law with Savvy and Jody Feldman with Gollywhopper Games.

Laura: Who is a favorite children’s illustrator and why?

Alison: I love the illustrations created by Erin Mauterer because she has a wonderful ability to show movement and playfulness in her work. If you haven’t seen The New Red Bed, check it out. I also love Will Terry’s work. He creates warmth in his illustrations that makes them come to life. He also teaches online classes through the FolioAcademy where he shares his techniques.

Laura: How did you get the idea for ‘Flap!’? 

Alison:  Ha ha. Growing up as the little sister of male and female twins, I was often the test pilot of many of their brilliant ideas.

Laura:  (laughing out loud) I think I’m glad I was an only child!  What medium did you use for the illustrations?

Alison: I draw in my sketchbook with three shades of blue. It doesn’t smear like a traditional pencil and it shows well when I scan them in to my computer. I use those sketches as the bottom layer in Sketchbook Pro when I want to tighten up the art. I also sketch everyday on my ipad in Sketchbook Pro. I am able to replicate the feeling of using a pencil and make changes quickly and easily.

Laura:  About how long did it take you from start to finish  (idea, writing, sketching, final art)?

Alison: It only took a couple of hours to write the story the first time but then I re-wrote and revised it at least twenty times before and after signing the contract with my publisher. I completed all of the sketches and final illustrations in less than three months to stay within a tight publication schedule.

Laura: How did you research/choose where to submit the story?

Alison: I sent several submissions to agents and to publishers before I knew that I really needed to research where I was sending my manuscript to make sure it is the right fit for what that publisher is producing. I attended every conference, seminar, and presentation on writing, publishing, and submitting that I could find and was lucky enough to meet the editor for Weaving Dreams Publishing at a library presentation on publishing. She told me that she was starting an imprint for stories for children, Magic Dreams Publishing, and that I should send something to her.

Laura:  How can we obtain a copy of Flap! ?  

Alison: Flap! can be ordered on IndieBound, Barnes and Noble, and Amazon. You can also order it directly from my website (if you want an autographed copy) or from Magic Dreams Publishing’s website.

Laura:  Any advice for we aspiring authors/illustrators?

Alison: Read, write, and draw everyday. If you are not an illustrator, draw anyway – it can be stick figures or blogs to represent the location of characters. You need to make sure that there are enough different scenes to support a 32 page picture book. With work, kids, networking, etc… our lives are busy but carve out the time to journal, doodle, create an outline, write a story, anything to keep the creative juices flowing everyday.

Laura:  That’s great advice, Alison, whether we are new to the picture book world or seasoned professionals.  Now, I’m curious, what is the story behind ‘Toy Designer’?  What kind of toys did you design?

Alison: This is a long story so I will sum it up by letting you know that I created hundreds of toys that were sold in Toys R Us, WalMarts, and Disney stores. I’ll save the details for another day.

Laura:  Wow! I’m impressed. What about being a circus performer as a teenager?   What did you do?

Alison:  Juggling, unicycling, stiltwalking, rolling globe, and high wire. I know it sounds crazy but I was a very coordinated dare devil so the circus was a perfect fit.

Laura:  Goodness, having those twin siblings must have prepared you for an exciting lifestyle! What was a hardship you overcame that has made you stronger or better in your career life?

Alison:  There have been many. You head down a path and a giant obstacle gets in the way – in my case, a car crash into a gravel truck. Your path changes, your destination changes. I was pretty smashed up after the car accident so I left the career of Toy Design, because I couldn’t draw all day anymore, and earned a Master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction. Becoming a teacher led me to teaching writing and teaching art. I now use these skills together everyday.

Laura:  I have to say although you had to change careers , as a teacher you were surely an influence and a blessing to your students .  Now some ‘just for fun’ questions.  If you could go anywhere on a vacation where would it be?

Alison: I would love to go to Australia or London and I have yet to see the Grand Canyon.

Laura: What artist or writer (alive or deceased) would you like to meet and what would you say to them or ask them?

Alison:  I would ask Piers Anthony (he’s alive) which character in his Xanth series is most like him.   I would love to meet Kandinsky (not alive) to learn more about his influences in his art.

Laura:  Alison, thanks so much for sharing with us.  Congratulations on your new book, Flap! And our thoughts are with you and your grandpa.  You can follow up with Alison on any of these:

website address:         www.AlisonHertz.com

blog                                 http://www.alisonhertz.blogspot.com/

Twitter                          @AlisonHertz

Facebook                      http://www.facebook.com/AlisonHertzAuthor

Oh and for anyone keeping track, I’ll be posting my SkADaMo updates.  I’ve been working on a project due date,  also had  dinner for 40 people this week and the loss of a dear friend and funeral.  I’ve kept up my sketches in the evening (some of them do look a little sleepy…just haven’t had time to scan.)

Blessings on your creativity!                                                                                                            Laura

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Be Kind

Do you have a problem being kind to yourself?  I do.  It’s easier for me to encourage others than it is to lift myself up.

If you’ve read some of my past blogs, you know that at the age of 58 I made a prayerful decision (along with my husband) to actively pursue a life-long desire. . . illustrating and writing children’s picture books. I’ve been at it almost a year now, taking some classes, researching, building a portfolio, honing my skills, being part of a group of writers/illustrators.  You would think I would have moved up the ladder.  However….

Two weeks ago I was in a large book store in the children’s section looking for a birthday gift for one of my granddaughters.  When I stood surveying the wall of children’s books and seeing some wonderful treasures of beautiful illustrations, stories and indescribable talent I was suddenly overwhelmed.  Tears stung my eyes and I thought, “why does the children’s book world need the likes of my drawings or stories?  The self-doubts flooded my thoughts and I slid down the ladder.

On the ride home my husband said, ‘you’re awfully quiet…watcha’ thinking?’  I told him what happened and the question I asked, “why does the children’s book world need the likes of me?  He said, “and what was your answer to the question?”  Big help.   I expected a little more encouragement, a little more bolstering of my ego.  But his question also irritated me because I had no response.  *sigh*

For two weeks the question has plagued me.  Well, truth be told – it’s the answer to the question that is haunting me.   If I can’t answer with something like, “because I have a supremely unique gift of talent, imagination and delightful insight” then maybe I don’t have what it takes.  Just because I like to draw and tell stories may not be enough if I don’t believe people will like what I do.

I’ve never been a self promoter.  I’ll show my art or stories to my family, but beyond that I’m pretty timid. When my daughter said, ‘Mom, you need to start a blog to promote yourself,’ I asked why?  and if you look at the number of posts here, you know I’m still not convinced people would really want to hear my thoughts.  I have friends and family who are all wonderfully encouraging, yet I think, ‘well, they just say nice things so they won’t hurt my feelings.’

Then today when I was emailing a completed drawing to my art class for an online critique something clicked.  The title of the drawing, “Be Kind” is from Ephesians 4:32, “And be ye kind one to another…”  If another aspiring artist would have voiced the same self-doubts to me I would have been all over them with  encouragement and affirmations [kindness].  Yet I wasn’t doing that for myself.   I’m usually a glass half-full type of person, yet here I was draining my own glass with discouragement and doubt.

There are two groups to which I belong, Julie Hedlund’s 12x12x12 and Mark Mitchell’s How to be a Children’s Book Illustrator.  These groups are wonderful at promoting one another and giving encouragement and kind critique.  The level of camaraderie is only outshined by the sharing of talent and ideas.   Their cheers are genuine when someone gets a contract, wins an award, does a great illustration or gets a great idea.

So – I’ve decided, I will be kind to myself. I will emulate the colleagues I so admire and give myself affirmation and encouragement. …and if once in a while you want to send me a little kind note, or a thumbs up, I’ll accept it as real.  I am going to firmly plant my feet on the ladder rungs and keep moving up.

Now,  I have to quickly post this because I’m beginning to think it’s not very interesting, or too long,  or not something you would want to read……grrr……

So tell me how you are kind to yourself…. and If you would like to know my answer to the question, click here and go to the bottom of the post.

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12x12 blog party

12×12 1/2 Way There Party

Is the cup half empty or half full?   Definitely 1/2 FULL!!!!  YAY!!!!  Thanks to Julie Hedlund and the awesome 12x12x12 writer’s group I have 10 picture book drafts in six months!!  Gang you are awesome!! The amount of creativity, spunk, encouragement, news, incentives and cheers just keeps rolling in.

Back in January as I was in my third month of having committed to become a children’s picture book writer/illustrator at age 58, I discovered the little blog that could.  A challenge to commit to doing 12 manuscripts in 12 months in 2012.   H-m-m-m-m…intriguing……with prizes and incentives…..super guest posts….but me???  I’m only a fledgling writer…I don’t know if I could be considered a ‘real’ writer.  Wait a minute….what’s this about pre-published writers…(does that mean the originator of 12x12x12 is not published yet?)  *Gasp* But, then,  I’m a ‘pre-published’ author  too!   What a great, positive way of looking at things!

Click here to visit other 12×12 blog parties

I’ll try this on for size!  So I signed up.  And now we’re 1/2 way there!!   Enter marching band, light the sky rockets, cue the cheerleaders!

I now actually have 10 manuscripts, including one book dummy, 2 storyboards and a list of about a dozen ideas.  In my previous three months I only had a pocket full of self doubt and not a single ‘real’ story.

12x12er’s you have touched the depths of my heart and left inkprints on my soul.  The energy of this group is a beacon to keep us on course and a light to give us hope.  Shine on and congratulations and blessings to you all for the next six months!

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