by akikowhite

Writing Process Blog Tour

My New Aussie friend Christopher Cheng, invited me to join a writing process blog tour. He is an award winning author, speaker and advocate for the International Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. Chris is in Bologna, Italy at this moment, organizing and running the SCBWI Booth for the Bologna Children’s Book Fair.
You can see Christopher’s writing process post here.

And now for my writing process…

What am I working on now?

I am in the process of creating a story that will fit well with my cakelustrations. At this moment I am tightening up my portfolio, and then I will be putting together a manuscript that will go well with my portfolio. I’m not set on one story quite yet. I have several dancing around in my head and in my sketch book.

How does my work differ from the others in my genre?

I am focusing right now on picture books. This is where my art fits in well at the moment, and I am planning on creating stories that will accompany them. There is the fun aspect of my illustrations being made out of cake, but I don’t want my stories to only be about cake. I want my art to stand out in it’s own light outside of the fact that it is made of sugar. It would be fun to illustrate a manuscript that has a sweet element of cake in it, but that is not my goal.

That being said, my stories tend to be about situations that I can relate too and have experienced. I am influenced by the Japanese culture because of my heritage. This makes me look at everything from a different angle. There needs to be more culture in the picture books that we have today, and I hope that I can contribute to adding more to the picture book genre in some way.

Why do I write what I do?

I write because I love it! I write what I do because I want my readers to be engaged in my story. I want them to laugh and have a great time. I want them to find themselves in the books that I make. I have three children and I’ve seen how these stories have created a world outside of reality, a world where a child can disappear in for just a little while, away from the normal conflicts of everyday life. I hope to make a connection to my readers and make them lifelong book lovers.

How does my writing process work?

It starts with and idea or an experience that I have had. Usually when I have an idea, I just scribble it down in a notebook, napkin or anything that I can get my hands on. I want to get the idea down and on paper as soon as I think of it. Sometimes I write the story down and other times I loosly sketch a story board of my idea. It really just depends on how it comes to me in my head. Later, I will tighten up my story and put the words with the pictures or vise-versa. It’s fun to come up with new things. I will rewrite and revise over and over until I feel it is tight enough to show someone.  I may even shelf the work for a while and come back to it later with a fresh eye. I have many different people look and critique my work until I feel like it is ready to be put into a book dummy form. I submit my story once it is in a final book dummy form.

Next Monday look for my friend’s blog post on their writing process:

Mark Mitchell is an illustrator, writer and teacher from Austin, Texas. He works mainly in watercolor and has a wonderful online class Make your Splashes – Make your Marks.

Caroline Flores is an Author/illustrator from San Antonio, Texas. Carolyn has illustrated three books for children.

Joanna Marple is a writer of picture books and contemporary YA. Joanna’s has a passion for many cultures because of her travels and experiences.

Winning The Tomie dePaola Award Experience

I’m had a great time at the SCBWI Winter conference in NYC. It’s been so nice to meet up with old friends and make new friends too! But I must say the highlight of my whole weekend was to have lunch with the very talented and generous Illustrator Tomie dePaola.

Every year Tomie puts out a prompt for illustrators to create a piece of artwork for a competition through the SCBWI. This year’s prompt was to illustrate a lovely poem that was written by Lin Oliver. She is one of the founders of the SCBWI. I was honored to win this award. SCBWI paid for my travel and conference and also the lunch with Tomie (which is a new addition this year).

We had a lovely lunch. I will really cherish this day! It was so nice to just be in the presence of someone that has been in this industry for over 50 years. He has over 250 books and is well respected in the children’s book world.

Here Tomie was showing a little girl that was sitting next to us during lunch,
his Brava Strega Nona heartwarming pop-up book

Below I’ve added a few photos of us and a cake that I brought to the conference all the way from Texas. It is a Margarita cake, buttercream icing, fondant with polymer clay characters on top. I created the characters in clay because I knew the fondant would not travel well. This one happily made it to Tomie’s studio in New Hampshire.

Steve Mooser, President, SCBWI and Lin Oliver, Executive Director, SCBWI
Announcing the winner of the 2014 Tomie dePaola Award

Lin, Tomie and I

Below Tomie is showing my daughter his pop-up book and signing many other books

I would encourage other illustrators to enter the SCBWI Tomie dePaola’s competition.
Thank you 🙂 and Good Luck Illustrators!


2014 SCBWI Winter Conference in NYC

This is my experience of the 2014 Winter Conference in New York City

It all started with this one image, this cakelustration was the winner of the 2014 Tomie dePaola competition. As my award, the SCBWI gave me an all expense paid trip to the 2014 SCBWI Winter conference in NYC! And the best part, lunch date with Tomie himself!  I am still in awe of my experience!!! I want to share with you my full experience with the talented and generous Tomie dePaola, but that will have to be in another post. So for now I will talk to you about the amazing weekend experience with my new and old friends.

When I arrived, I immediately had to attend the Regional Team meeting where we spoke about what would transpire over the weekend. It was interesting to find out that there were over 1,080 members in attendance this year. I met other Illustrator Coordinators and Regional Advisers, from all over the nation, even from the UK and Australia.

They went to dinner and a show, but I spent time with my cousin and children in the city. We had some delicious New York Pizza!

–––––––––––––––––––Friday Illustrator Intensive–––––––––––––––––

The intensive started off with a bang with Mr. Tomie dePaola himself! Cecilia Yung, Art Director and Vice President, G.P. Putnum’s Sons and Nancy Paulson Books prepared a Q & A about Tomie’s journey as an children’s book illustrator and how he uses the picture book as theater.

Tomie dePaola is an award winning author and illustrator who has won several awards for his works.

“Every book is like a child, you never know what will happen along the way. Once the baby is out, you don’t feel the pain, only JOY!” -Tomie dePaola

Brett Helquist illustrator/author spoke on casting and character development. He said, “you should always Practice, Practice, Practice….”

Paul O. Zelinsky spoke of illustrators on set design -staging.  “Don’t line up things, be aware of the elements, characters, and backgrounds and how they relate to each other.”

Did I mention I had a stow away? A little rabbit named Magic, found his way into my suitcase and traveled with me to NYC.

Remember the Rabbit cupcake topper that I made for Richard Jesse Watson? It met an untimely death with a wild studio cat, so I made a non-edible replacement out of Sculpey. Magic will make a new home in Richard’s studio soon.

He went with me to drop off my portfolio for the Portfolio Showcase. This is a showcase of over 200 illustrator portfolios of conference attendees. They are viewed by several industry professionals during the showcase that happened the evening after the intensives.

At the Illustrator Intensive,

Magic was making friends every where we went.

Sarah Baker and Pricilla Burris

Cecila Yung and Pat Cummings

David Diaz and Lin Oliver

Paul Zelinsky was showing us his process, then of course Magic had to get in on the action.

There were these really delicious candies strategically placed all over the hotel during the conference! As you can see Magic enjoyed them too!

–––––––––––––––––Saturday Conference Day–––––––––––––––

Lin Oliver started the conference with a few statistics and  a short powerful speech from Kristen Fulton. She was a veterinarian who became a writer soon after a life changing event happened to her.

Our first keynote was author Jack Gantos. He stated, “characters can carry a weak plot, but a weak plot cannot carry a character.”

I went to Laurent Linn’s break out session and he talked about how illustrators need to be socially connected through, Twitter, Facebook, blogging, and websites. Also illustrators should be using Postcards as a marketing tool. Maybe send out 3 or 4 a year to a selective mailing list.

“Then it was off to lunch with Tomie dePaola!”

I’ll write about this in my next post 🙂

The rest of my day was spent with Tomie and then some time in my room absorbing all that had transgressed throughout the day. Soon it was time to get ready for the evening party! I was the only Texan Regional team advisor for our Texas/Oklahoma table. Pretty surprising, but I guess we do have to travel pretty far to get to NYC.

David Diaz’s daughter, Tina WissnerDavid Diaz, Kary LeeChristine Brallier, and Me

Afterwards we had an after party with Illustrators. Tomie dePaola brought the cake I gave him to share with everyone. It looks a bit deflated. Oh well, it still tasted good.

David Diaz, Priscilla Burris, E.B. Lewis, & Cecilia Yung

David Diaz, Tomie dePaola, Pat Cummings, Paul O. Zellinsky, & Sarah Baker

Tomie and I cutting the cake

Tasting the cake. 🙂

Paul and I cowboying it up!

––––––––––––––––Sunday Conference Day––––––––––––––

Lin, Tomie and I getting ready for the morning announcements.

And drum roll please….

And the winner is Akiko White with her illustration made with cake.

So nice to have my cheerleaders in the crowd.

My daughter and I  – me and my writer friend Tina Wissner

We had a few more speakers before the day was over.

Kate Messner was our next keynote speaker. She was amazing! She spoke on the power of failure. Kate had an opportunity to speak at TED Talks in 2012. She left most of us laughing and crying at the same time. “Failure teaches us to celebrate the dance” –Laura Hamor

Keynote panel on the art of the picture book with Peter BrownRaul ColonMarla FrazeeOliver JeffersShadra Strickland moderated by Arthur Levine.

Autograph Party

Paul O. Zelinsky                                  Oliver Jeffers

Jane Yolen and daughter Heidi E.Y. Stemple

Tomie dePaola

Peter Brown

Tomie dePaola, me, and Lin Oliver

And here are some of the books that I acquired while I was at the conference.

2014 Austin SCBWI Conference

As the Illustrator Coordinator for the SCBWI SWTX I was fortunate to get to join the faculty and other members of the Austin team for an evening hosted by The Writing Barn. It was a lovely evening and I got to share one of my cakelustrations with everyone.

Lulu was a rainbow swirl vanilla cake, buttercream frosting, gum-paste and fondant. I’m pretty sure everyone enjoyed this colorful cake.

As I rushed out the door to the Austin SCBWI Conference, I forgot the most important piece to my auction donation, the character. I was so glad that my husband delivered the mouse for my typewriter cake because it was a big hit.

The first keynote was Matt de la Pena. He is the author of five acclaimed Young Adult novels.

Matt said, “you should put your head down and get into it, do what you do and you’ll be successful!”

He poised the question, “why is it that success is considered so much more important than the beautiful possibilities that exist before it?”

I took the illustrators track and listened to Laurent Linn and Kelly Murphy spoke about the collaboration between art directors and illustrators. It was nice to see the full process of the book take place from both points a view.

Kelly Murphy did the next keynote. Her illustrations are beautiful and give a real sense of the mood that she is trying to convey.

Laurent Linn did the afternoon break out on materials that illustrators use and how to market in what seems to be a sea of illustrators.

I had a portfolio review with Kelly Murphy and she gave me some really great tips for my own illustrations. She even said it would be interesting to see more of the element of cake in my illustrations.  She is also looking forward to a story that would go along with my cakelustrations.

The next morning was the illustrator’s intensive. Kelly Murphy did the first session. We worked on character and the difference in how a character would be illustrated for different audiences. The more simpler the character the younger the audience.

Laurent Linn worked with us in the afternoon session. Some of the illustrators brought artwork for him to critique. Laurent had given a story for us to illustrate a spread from.

I wasn’t able to create anything because I was perfecting my portfolio. But here are a couple photos from the critique.

Laurent is talking about Amy Farrier’s piece.

And here is the book that the story came from.

A few more pictures from the conference:

Houston RA Vicki Sansum, and McCourt Thomas

Shelley Ann Jackson (ARA), Kelly Murphy, me, and Samantha Clark (RA)

Matt De La PenaLaurent Linn, me, Larry Goode, and Jeff Crosby

Amy Farrier (IC), me, Lalena Fisher

Marsha Rita, Luz Marie, me and Patrice Barton

Amy Farrier, Melinda BeaversDiandra Mae, Laurent Linn, Shelly Ann Jackson, me, Marsha Rita

I enjoyed seeing old friends and meeting new ones. 

SCBWI-Southwest Texas Website Banner

This is the Cakelustration banner that I did for the SCBWI – Southwest Texas. This was a challenge since it is such a long horizontal image. Did I mention that it is a margarita cake with a margarita lime flavored buttercream icing. “Are you drooling yet?” I made a few cupcakes with the left over batter. I brushed a touch of tequila over them, added tequila in the icing and my husband said they were the best cupcakes he had ever had!

I will be doing a Google Chat with illustrator and teacher Mark Mitchell from Make you Mark, Make your Splashes next week on the process of this illustration. Please join us Thursday, February 13 at 12:00 p.m. central time. Mark Mitchell has an on-line course on How to Be a Children’s Book Illustrator, I would highly recommend his course to anyone who is interested in getting into the children’s book industry. Not only do you learn watercolor techniques,  you will also have opportunities to critique, be critiqued and meet up online with professionals in the children’s book industry.

I have also invited a few of my kid-lit friends to join me in the chat. Richard Jesse WatsonCarolyn Dee FloresJoy Fisher HeinTina Wissner, and Shannon Morgan, maybe joining us in the chat. I also invited a long time friend and talented cake artist Scott Bradshaw.

Below are a few logos and images that came from the same cake:

I do have to say that the water was a lot of fun to create.

I Won the Tomie dePaola Award!

I am so ecstatic that my Cakelustration won the 2014 SCBWI Tomie dePaola Children’s book Illustration competition! Tomie dePaola is an award winning Illustrator.

From the SCBWI Website:

Tomie has been a long time member of the Board of Advisors (he is now emeritus), was instrumental in changing the name of the original organization to include illustrators, founded the Illustrator’s Committee of the SCBWI board which produces events especially for illustrators, taught the first master class at an SCBWI conference, and is featured on the DVD Master Class produced and distributed by the SCBWI. He has made a singularly important contribution to the growth and mission of the SCBWI.

Tomie generously financed the Tomie dePaola award until 2011 when the SCBWI chose to fund it as a permanent award in recognition of Tomie’s outstanding contribution to the SCBWI, and especially to our illustrator members.

I can’t believe it! This is an amazing accomplishment for me and I want to thank everyone that gave me inspiration. Especially SCBWI-SWTX Regional Advisor Shannon Morgan and Pal’s Coordinator Carolyn Flores, who by the way, gave me the suggestion to illustrate with cake. I also want to thank all my SCBWI friends who have been my cheerleaders along the way. Last but not least I want to thank Tomie for thinking my illustration was worthy of such an honor. I took a chance at trying an illustration in cake medium and it has really paid off. It is a fun medium to work with, and I get to lick my fingers as I work, “wouldn’t you?”

I have been busy making cakes for friends and family, but never thought of illustrating with the medium. There are many talented cake artist who put characters on cakes, but there are very few who make the character or character’s out of cake. Who doesn’t like cake? And especially children! I’m not sure why there has not been a children’s book illustrated by cake and sugar art, but I am hoping that I can change that. It maybe challenging, but I am always up for a challenge!

I’m looking forward to having lunch with Tomie dePaola in New York City!

I’ll post my cakelustration process soon!

Tomie dePaola Competition Entry

Here is my entry to this years SCBWI  Tomie dePaola competition. We were assigned a poem to illustrate for a potential book to be pitched to parents of toddlers and young preschoolers.

The ball of the illustration is a yellow cake. The elephant, mouse, and background are made with fondant and gum-paste. My favorite part of this cake is the mouse’s whiskers, they are made of isomalt.(sugar)

I have been so busy making cakes that I really haven’t had time to draw. But it doesn’t mean I haven’t been creating. I wanted to blog about how creating designer cakes is an art. I have been making cakes since I was in high school, but had not really used fondant or other sugar cake products until recently. It has been so much fun to see what I can come up with.

I love to bake!!! My children are a bit spoiled because there is always something homemade to munch on at our house. It’s amazing we don’t all weigh 300 pounds.

I started making cakes for friends and families as gifts when I went to their parties. My kid’s friends started requesting cakes from me. I’ve had so many request I had to start charging. My illustrator friend Carolyn Flores suggested I make my illustrations out of cake. What a great idea! I really enjoy the process and the final outcome. Many people can’t believe that cakes can me made into so many shapes.

Recently Texas passed a law that bakers could sell from their homes. I took the online class and now have the certificates, so I guess I’m now an official home baker. Send me your orders! 🙂

Here are some of the most recent cakes that I have made: