Archives: Writing

2015 Highlights Foundation Picture Book Boot Camp

Highlights from Highlights

Picture book boot camp faculty Denise FlemingPat Cummings, Peter Brown and Greg Pizzoli


Arrival and Tour

The Barn
Touring the Highlights Magazine Offices

Carolyn Flores loves her dinos!

After an evening of touring, everyone had an opportunity to share their projects with all the attendees.  There was so much talent to be seen!

This is the story that I presented  about a koi fish. Junichi’s story is based off of a Chinese folktale about how a koi fish endures swimming upstream to the top of a waterfall and becomes a dragon. This story represents why the koi kites became one of the symbols of Japan’s children’s day.

Tale of the Dragon Fish
Junichi was always last and wished he could swim

as fast as his brothers and sisters.

“Wouldn’t it be nice to fly,” thought Junichi.


The faculty presented their work and we got busy on our manuscripts.

Greg Pizzoli
Peter Brown
Pat Cummings
Denise Fleming
Little Cabins in the woods

Pat Cummings and Martha Rago
Sheli Petersen and Carolyn Flores are ready for the photo!

Denise thought we all needed a new pair of teeth

for our group photo.

Denise looks just lovely with her new set of teeth!

Time to get to work!

We separated into 4 different groups, each one lead by a faculty member. My group was lead by Greg and we were called the “Baby Pigeons”. We worked all morning with our groups then in the afternoon presented our manuscripts to the other 3 faculty. We had only 15 minutes to share with each one and boy did those 15 minutes go by fast! It was a really intense day. I think I became more confused as the day went on and later found that I had to do a lot of purging of my work to make it a more finished peice.

That evening the Guest Faculty arrived. Nancy Paulson of Nancy Paulson Books, Rubin Pfeffer of Rubin Pfeffor Content agency, and Martha Rago the art director of Random House/Golden Books for Young Readers Group. We presented our work to them the next day.

The Lodge

The lodge is where I spent most of my Friday evening into the wee early morning of Saturday finalizing my manuscript and book dummies. Thanks to Carolyn for kept me company and let me use her drafting tools. I still think I was the last man standing that night.



My little cabin

Patricia Keeler and Robin Rosenthal

It was fun to hear what everyone thought of my story.

I feel inspired to return home and work

on it until it is ready for submission.

Sketching by Lori Ann Levy-Holm


Final Workshop Day

I thought it would be fun to share a few little adornments for the cupcakes at our last meal together. So, I took out my trusty cake decorating tools and got to work. I did have to improvise on a few things.

Rolling out the modeling chocolate.
Using the top of a salt shaker to shape the flowers.
Just a few little flowers
with pearl candy centers.
Yum! Yum! Yum!

So they weren’t as elaborate as I usually make things, but I think they were appreciated. The chef at Highlights kept telling me how slow I was…This is why I would probably fail at being on a cake show!

Greg and me!
Martha, Peter and I.
Me and Denise with our pearl whites, not the dingy ones.
Me and Pat
Robin, Shelli, Carolyn, Leni and Renee
Sheli, Tom, Renee, Peach!, Carolyn and Leni
Me, Allison, and Carolyn

I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to attend the Highlights Foundation‘s Picture Book Boot Camp. It was an incredible opportunity and I learned so much more about the industry. Thanks to the wonderful faculty; Denise FlemingPat Cummings, Peter Brown and Greg Pizzoli for an unforgettable weekend! Thank you to Highlights for the wonderful facilities and to all the attendees who made my weekend so special!

Sheli at her little cabin in the woods
Nice little swing on the property.
Boyd’s Mill Press
Down by the Creek

Nice trail we took alongside the creek.

Love all the vegitation.

Stone steps to the creek.


Good Night!

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.