Creative Spaces Launch Week Wrap-Up

I hope you enjoyed this kick-off to the Creative Spaces series! A huge thank you once again to Julie Anne Peters, Danlyn Iantorno, Amy Kathleen Ryan, and Roberta Collier-Morales for participating and sharing their workspaces with us. There’s still time to enter the raffle to win a signed copy of By the Time You Read This I’ll Be Dead by Julie Anne Peters. Comment on any post from this week up until noon Sunday (mountain standard time) and your name will be entered in the drawing.

I have to tell you guys, I am so excited about the line-up of authors and illustrators for future Mondays. You can look forward to a lot more wonderful and talented people who will be letting us into their workspaces in these upcoming months. When I originally concocted this idea, I was hoping to find a wide range of children’s literature artists with a variety of working styles and it looks like that very well may be what we see. Here’s a teaser of what’s in store: Treehouses, ironing boards, and taxidermy. Trust me, you’ll want to stay tuned.

Rachel’s comment on Thursday gets at the heart of why the idea for this interview series appealed to me. She said: “Makes me feel part of a community, like I get a peak at the cubicles of those around me in this virtual kid lit office building!” That sentiment is part of why I appreciate the kidlitosphere community as much as I do. Writing and illustrating can be lonely, solitary work but it’s also quite fun and rewarding too. (Why else would we be putting in the time and sacrifices that we do if it wasn’t?) When I sit down to work, if I imagine Amy Kathleen Ryan pacing around her office between writing spurts or Julie Anne Peters scooping a cat off the manuscript she’s trying to read, it just makes me smile and feel like I’m in good company.

And speaking of the kidlitosphere community, feeling connected to others, and how it can help you stay motivated and focused. . . If this is a month you are wanting to make a lot of headway on your writing goals and would like the encouragement of others in the same boat, I’ve found two groups of writers who have declared March the month of meeting writing goals and have gathered other like-minded folk to support one another.

The first is with Laini Taylor who is hosting a March Mini-NaNo Club. (NaNoWriMo, if you don’t already know, stands for National Novel Writing Month which happens annually in November.) Laini is pushing herself to finish a draft of her work-in-progress by the end of the month and has invited others to join her. She’s one of my most favorite writers and bloggers, so even if I wasn’t already trying to power through my own revisions this month I think I would have created a writing goal for myself in order to join in and feel like I’m a writing partner of sorts with her. It’s not too late to join if you like, just head on over to her blog to sign up.

The second is the March Madness Writing Challenge which I found out about through Tess Hilmo’s blog. For the March Madness Challenge, four writers have organized a daily check-in system (with prizes!) for writers to share what they’ve done that day and how they’re progressing on their goals. Even with the temptation of prizes I don’t think I’ll be checking in daily because that can too easily lead me down the path of distraction and procrastination. But I will be checking in from time to time–whenever I reach those walls where I need a little motivation or connection with others who are struggling along with their writing goals, or if I just want to celebrate a good writing day with others who I know will “get” it.

Check back on Monday for the next Creative Spaces interview, this time with Rachel Rodriguez the author of Through Georgia’s Eyes and Building on Nature: The Life of Antoni Gaudi. (And there maybe, might be, possibly another giveaway. . .)

A Peek at the Creative Space of Roberta Collier-Morales

Roberta Collier-Morales (aka Bobbi) started her illustration career while living in New York City where she was privileged to study the art of illustrating children’s books with Robert Quackenbush, Simon Dinnerstein, and got sage advice from Leo and Diane Dillon. She took classes with various master teachers at The Graphic Artists Guild, Parsons New School, and the The School of Visual Arts in New York City. Living in New York City helped her hone her craft and learn about the business of publishing. In 1980, she signed with her first agent–she’s now with her fifth agent and couldn’t be happier.

She’s done work for the educational, mass market, religious, and trade book markets for over 30 years. Her participation in SCBWI, both in New York and Colorado, has been one of the best networking and professional aids in her career, and has been a tremendous influence on her craft.

For the past five years, she has taken steps to license her work and participated in the Surtex Show, International Licensing, and the Craft and Hobby Association trade shows. She designs fabrics for Andover Fabrics in New York and continues refining her various collections for licensing. The field of illustration has changed considerably in the past seven years, but her lifelong dream is to write and illustrate her own picture books.

An extended version of this interview appeared in the Fall 2009 issue of Kite Tales which can be downloaded on the RMC-SCBWI website. I have attempted getting in touch with Bobbi for permission to post samples of her illustrations, outside of what you see in these office photos, but haven’t had luck connecting with her yet. If I hear back and get permission, I’ll update this post with some samples of her work. In the meantime, head on over to her website to check it out!

Describe a typical workday.

Work starts around nine in the morning with organizing the various projects I’m working on and starting with the project that is due first. When I don’t have paying freelance work, my time is used to create new collections for licensing, work on story ideas and illustrations, or work on art that is unfinished. My time without jobs is used to build new portfolio pieces or projects that I hope to get work with later. Sooner than later is better!

List three of your most favorite things in your workspace and why they are meaningful.

My computer, desk, and books–as I mentioned earlier. Having a spot where I work every day, set up and organized to help me create art in the most optimal way is really important.

Do you have any rituals? If so, describe them.

When I’m stuck, I clean. It’s kind of a joke, but it changes my stuck energy and helps me think. I also go on walks–getting outside and seeing the trees, sky, mountains, and beauty that’s around me, helps me get into a different mindset.

What do you listen to while you work?

Unlike all those people who say they never watch television, I love to listen to the History channel, HGTV, and interview shows as well as watching old movies. I tend to listen to books on tape, or classical or new age music when I want music rather than words.

What is your drink and/or snack of choice while you’re working?

Coffee or water. Popcorn or strawberries with yogurt! Yum–that’s when I’m being good, I won’t mention all the other favorites that I’d RATHER eat!

What keeps you focused while you’re working?

Deadlines–either real or my own. Projects that I’m in love with. I don’t have trouble staying focused, I have trouble getting back into the “real world” after a day of being so focused that I barely know what time it is.

If you were forced to share your workspace but could share it with anyone of your choosing, who would it be?

My daughter and son–we inspire one another.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve heard or received?

An art director once said to me “if you have to explain it, it doesn’t work.” As an illustrator, I have to make sure my work tells the story I intend the viewer to understand.

A Peek at the Creative Space of Amy Kathleen Ryan

Amy Kathleen Ryan is the author of the young adult novels
Vibes and Shadow Falls. Her latest novel Zen and Xander, Undone is coming to a bookstore near you on May 3. She lives with her husband and dog in Colorado. To find out more about her and her books, visit her website or follow her on Twitter. An extended version of this interview originally appeared in the Spring 2009 issue of Kite Tales for the Rocky Mountain Chapter of the SCBWI, available for download on their website.

Describe your workspace.

An elegantly appointed room with oak paneling and floor to ceiling bookshelves replete with leather bound volumes and the bouquet of Earl Grey tea . . . Actually, the grim reality is a disheveled, disorganized mess with one tiny bookcase completely unequal to its task, a closet containing Christmas wrap and dusty office supplies, a ratty blanket for my dog to lie on, and stacks of boxes containing copies of my books that I haven’t figured out what to do with.

Describe a typical workday.

I wake up at around 7:30 with a dog nose in my ear. After walking His Fluffiness for about forty minutes, I return to a pot of freshly brewed coffee, which I pour into my favorite mug. I wander into my office and sit down to piddle around with email, Internet shopping, and vanity-surfing. (Googling myself.) My final act is to obsessively check the Amazon sales rank for Vibes one final time before my internet shuts off automatically, thanks to my techno-geek husband, and I have no way to entertain myself other than writing. I do this for about three to four hours, which results in about five to seven pages of tolerable stuff, and then I spend the rest of the day on various projects, some of them for money, some of them for fun. Finally I curl up with a good book to read for a few hours before I have to do housework and make dinner.

List three of your most favorite things in your workspace and why they are meaningful.

A ceramic mask hanging around my lampshade that was bought for me by my childhood best friend, who remains my best friend to this day. Binoculars that my husband bought for me so that I can watch squirrels mating in the trees outside my window. A carved wooden box that I bought for myself as an exchange student in Spain, which contains every photo ID I’ve ever had, including gym passes and work badges, along with business cards of various contacts that really deserve to be in a rolodex which I will probably never buy. Miles my dog is usually here too, but as to why he’s here, you’d have to ask him.

Do you have any rituals? If so, describe them.

Ritual is a rather glamorous word for this: As I’m writing, I get up and walk around approximately every fifteen minutes, doing various useless things such as making myself a gratuitous cup of tea or checking to see what my dog is barking at. I am also ostensibly thinking about what to write next. When I return to my chair, I’ve got more ideas and can type for another fifteen minutes, usually. If I sit there for a few minutes and nothing comes out of me, I go make the bed, or clean the bathroom mirror until some adequate words enter my cerebral cortex.

What do you listen to while you work?

The sound of my own heartbeat. That’s it. I need absolute silence.

What is your drink and/or snack of choice while you’re working?

I really do enjoy Earl Grey tea with milk and sugar. I also love frosted shredded wheat. I make myself eat apples, though in truth I’d rather have popcorn with too much butter on it. Cottage cheese is good. So are those little Laughing Cow cheeses that are wrapped in red wax, you know the ones? I enjoy squishing the wax, and making crescent shapes in it with my thumbnail.

What keeps you focused while you’re working?

What was the question? Is this where I urge people to go buy Vibes? Again, that’s Vibes, a hilarious young adult novel now available in paperback in a bookstore near you.

If you were forced to share your workspace but could share it with anyone of your choosing, who would it be?

Whoever would be easiest to get rid of. That would probably be my dog Miles, since I outweigh him, though he’d be sure to check back every five minutes to see if he can come back in. My husband is a close second runner up, but I would inevitably be distracted by his amusing verbal wit and warm brown eyes.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve heard or received?

Jeffery Renard Allen, great writer, said something to me that I often repeat to people shortly before they roll their eyes because I’ve already said it to them a million times. He said: “Almost all writers have the talent they need. What most of them lack is the will.” This really made me think. I believe what he meant was that you must never, ever give up if you want to be a published writer. Even if you don’t want to be a published writer, it’s pretty good advice.

***FREE BOOK GIVEAWAY REMINDER*** Comment on any post this week to be entered to win an autographed copy of By the Time You Read This I’ll Be Dead by Julie Anne Peters.

A Peek at the Creative Space of Danlyn Iantorno

Welcome back to my Creative Spaces kick-off week! Remember to comment on any post from this week to enter to win an autographed copy of Julie Anne Peters’ latest novel By The Time You Read This I’ll Be Dead.

Today we’re talking with illustrator and writer Danlyn Iantorno.

Danlyn Iantorno is the owner of Painted Olive Studios and has been a full-time artist for over 25 years. She has an extensive background in publishing, licensed products, graphics, and illustration.

Danlyn is a past Illustrator Coordinator for the SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators), active Designer Member of CHA (Craft and Hobby Assoc.), NAPP (National Assoc. of Photoshop Professionals) and a featured illustrator for SGAI (Specialty Graphic Imaging Assoc.). Her work is shown in galleries and has been published internationally.

She teaches seminars and workshops at schools and national conventions throughout the country, where she is recognized as a digital expert. Licensed representation is provided through Painted Planet Licensing.

An altered version of this interview originally appeared in the Fall 2008 issue of Kite Tales for the Rocky Mountain Chapter of the SCBWI, available for download on their website.

To view Danlyn’s work, please visit or

Describe your workspace.

I am psychotically organized so my studio is very neat. I support green initiatives by insisting on a paperless office so you will see three computers, a big drawing table, categorized bookshelves and my canine office assistant Eddie.

Describe a typical workday.

I get the kiddos to school and open for business at 9AM. I open email and take care of any emergency graphics jobs until about noon. I work out at lunchtime and treat myself to a bit of reading time on my Nordic Track. Work starts again and continues through the evening or until the kids need to go someplace. Most days I work again from about 10PM until 2AM. Yes, this is my schedule 6–7 days per week!

List three of your most favorite things in your workspace and why they are meaningful.

My sushi bowl is ever-present. I don’t get sushi as often as I would like, but I eat trail mix with chopsticks—purely for fun.

My Bic pen resides in an antique ink well—it makes me feel like a writer.

Hanging above my work table is a mobile with hand-carved, wooden swallows. It reminds me to find a Zen moment during my day.

Do you have any rituals? If so, describe them.

Well, no small animal sacrifices or incantations BUT . . . I actually go into “warrior mode” if I am entering into a big deadline. I cut my fingernails down, get a haircut, stock up on food, and balance my checkbook. It sounds silly, but it clears my head to not worry about small details like a manicure.

What do you listen to while you work?

Music is a constant. Everything from steel drums to cello to hard rock.

What is your drink and/or snack of choice while you’re working?

My trail mix, decaf tea, and plain, hot-air popcorn.

What keeps you focused while you’re working?

Years of working alone have made me into a work-monster. The problem is not focusing but trying to stop!

If you were forced to share your workspace but could share it with anyone of your choosing, who would it be?

A tie between Santa Claus and Walt Disney.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve heard or received?

I have this written on my drawing board “Enjoy the process, not the result.” This is a HARD business, you likely will not be rich and it will take a long time to get there so you had better relish the journey.

Edited to add: A commenter asked some great additional questions so I followed up with Danlyn. Here’s what she had to say:

What mediums do you use and which is your favorite?

My first love is graphite. I work in realism with drop-lead pencils and add Prismacolor colored pencils. The bulk of my work in the last decade is digital. I digitally enhance my pencil drawings and produce oil paintings, watercolor, pastels and graphic images on the computer. I’m a complete control freak and working with pencil — and a computer — allows endless edits and a clean work environment.
What software do you use?

Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop and Acrobat (full version). I also enjoy painting in Art Rage. My Wacom tablet and pen are vital.
What kind of job do you find the most challenging about illustrating and why?

I’m fortunate that I can draw whatever I can see — as long as I HAVE something to see. The challenge for me is creating from my imagination. I became stereotyped as a realism artist and without accurate reference, I struggle with adding background elements to my main subjects.

All images c. Danlyn Iantorno

A Peek at the Creative Space of Julie Anne Peters

Julie Anne Peters is the award-winning and critically acclaimed author of 16 published books including National Book Award Finalist Luna, Define “Normal”, Between Mom and Jo, Far From Xanadu, Keeping You a Secret, GRL2GRL: Short Fictions, and Rage: A Love Story. Her most recent title, By the Time You Read This I’ll Be Dead, was published earlier this year. An altered version of this interview originally appeared in the February 2008 issue of Kite Tales for the Rocky Mountain Chapter of the SCBWI, available for download on their website. (It’s worthwhile to read both, especially the typical workday section to see a comparison of what she was working on two years ago versus today.)

Describe your work space.

Physically, I work in the dining room. Or living room. Or back porch. Kitten room, bedroom, car. The real work takes place in my head, and you don’t want to open that door.

Describe a typical workday.

No day is the same, really. My favorite part about being self-employed is that I get to decide how every minute of my time is spent. I do have short- and long-term goals for my writing, and self-imposed deadlines to keep me disciplined. Here’s what today looks like.

I have three novels in progress. One is under contract and I hope the second will be soon. The third is a middle grade novel, and I haven’t written for 9- to 12-year-olds in a while, so it’s challenging to return to my roots. The YA novel under contract is at the second revision stage with my editor, which means I’m waiting for line edits. If I’m working on a new book, the first draft, then all my focus is on that manuscript, that story and the characters. But I’ve always been able to switch between manuscripts easily, the way I can read more than one book in a sitting.

Most of my writing time is spent in revision, either my own revisions, those suggested by my critique group, or the ones from my editor. A major revision (as opposed to line edits) requires at least two months, since I need to read through the entire story several times to pick up on everything. With my editor, I never feel I have enough time to revise as thoroughly as I’d like, and I always feel anxiety about the nuancing aspects of my main character’s journey. I try to channel my editor’s vision for the book, and it doesn’t always come with clarity.

I do all my book writing in the morning while my mind is sharp. So much of writing is just thinking and if I’m consumed by a book, I may be “writing” most of the night, which means scrawling notes in the dark on the tablet I keep at my bedside. While conscious, I can only maintain the deep concentration required for transporting into a story for about three hours. In that time I can write or revise up to fifty pages. If I’m struggling to stay in the story, though, maybe ten pages get churned out. Hate those days.

Around lunch I have to get up and exercise. I always exercise in the morning, too, before I sit down to write. Also, if I have foster kittens, which is most of the time, they need to be fed and cuddled for a while. (My foster kittens are on a very strict nap, eat, play schedule while I’m writing.)

In the afternoon I turn on my computer. Sigh. I’ll spend two to three hours answering fan mail. (I do the fun stuff first.) Since my books are being translated, I get mail from all over the world—Germany, Sweden, the Czech Republic, Taiwan, England, Japan, South America, Indonesia, France, Canada, Australia. Recently, readers from foreign countries have been writing to ask for autographed photos. Apparently collecting autographs is big in Europe. Young readers from 12- to 20-somethings write, but so do older readers and parents (eek), teachers, and librarians, booksellers and other professionals in the field. I answer everyone who writes, even if it’s to say, “I’ll get back to you soon on that.” I hope to always find time to engage with my readers.

I usually have business to attend to via e-mail. My agent or editors may write. Either individually or through my publicist, people send requests for interviews or book donations or personal appearances. My goal every day is to empty my e-mail inbox.

I’ve lost count of how many interviews I need to complete. It’s hard to say no to interviews when they’re free promotion for my work. I have one ongoing interview with Don Gallo, an anthologist and educator, that’s been going on for six months now. The questions cover my entire career and we’re finally up to my most current book. Don is kind, or savvy enough, to send only a few questions at a time so I don’t go completely bonkers.

Social networking is next. MySpace, Facebook and Twitter are time sinks, but again, connecting with readers is empowering. It’s pathetic, but I need all the confidence and ego massaging I can get.

I try to make time for reading every day. There’s usually a mountain of library books on the coffee table, and now editors and agents send me manuscripts or ARCs (Advance Reading Copies) to blurb. A book has to blow me away before I’ll recommend it.

By evening my eyes are dead and my brain is mush, so TV is a balm. Since I write contemporary realistic fiction, I attempt to stay in touch with pop culture. The sappy CW shows, not so much, but I’m a reality TV addict.

Then I’m off to bed, scratching notes on the story I’m living and breathing, or dreaming of my next work or the one after.

List three of your most favorite things in your workspace and why they are meaningful.

I’m not particularly attached to objects. I have five cats who sit on my manuscripts or claw my leg to be fed or paw the paper as it comes out of the printer. I’m quite fond of them. Do they count?

Do you have any writing rituals? If so, describe them.

Not really. I just sit down and do what needs to be done.

What do you listen to while you write?

Nothing. I can’t listen to music because I want to sing along. Music changes my moods, and my moods need to be manipulated by my story. While I’m writing, the world could explode around me and I wouldn’t choke on the dust.

What is your drink and/or snack of choice while you’re working?

I try to remember to fill a glass of water before I start to keep my brain lubricated. I can go all day without eating or drinking, and I hate having to come out of a story just to pee.

What keeps you focused while you’re working?

The necessity of production. If I don’t produce, I don’t publish. If I don’t publish, I don’t get paid. If I don’t get paid, I don’t eat, plus I feel crappy about myself and the lack of purpose in my life. It’s vicious, the cycle.

If you were forced to share your workspace but could share it with anyone of your choosing, who would it be and why?

Writing is a singular obsession and solitary endeavor. I don’t play well with others.

What is the best piece of writing advice you’ve heard or received?

Vary the sentence length in every paragraph. It seems simplistic, but it speaks to the heart of pacing, rhythm, cadence, word choice and readability.

***FREE BOOK GIVEAWAY REMINDER*** Comment on any post this week to be entered to win an autographed copy of By the Time You Read This I’ll Be Dead by Julie Anne Peters.