Monday, December 20, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas to you and your family!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Dummy is ready to submit (I think)

The phenomenon of the dancing penguins would only happen when Julia wasn't in sight. When she wasn't there, the penguins moved and grooved, whirled and twirled, hip-hopped and boogie-bopped. But every time Julia stepped into the penguin cove, the penguins stared blankly at her.

These are from my picture book dummy that I just finished sketching last night. I've been revising this story over and over for a couple years now in between my published books. I've gone through a number of complete rewrites where the plot changed entirely, but the dancing penguins remained dancing through it all. I love this version and feel ready to submit (I think).

The picture book market is tough, but hopefully these penguins will dance their way into some agent's and editor's hearts to find a home!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

I'm now Regional Advisor for Indiana SCBWI

I'm the new Regional Advisor for Indiana SCBWI!

I've learned so much from the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). Getting my portfolio critiqued at conferences by children's book art directors and following their advice has been so beneficial to my career. It helped me to learn the difference between the look of educational illustration, mass market illustration, and trade book illustration, and how to better portray emotion, narration, interaction, characters, and color. I've also learned a lot about what makes a great picture book manuscript (and no, not everyone can write a publishable picture book!). I want to give back to SCBWI and other children's book writers and illustrators as a volunteer Regional Advisor. It's a time-consuming job, but I'm looking forward to meeting more professionals in the ever-changing children's book industry.

Children's book people are so genuinely nice!

Photo: Trish Batey (our former Regional Advisor), Peggy Archer (Assistant Regional Advisor), and me

Friday, October 01, 2010

The Goodbye Cancer Garden

Janie spots a couple pumpkins hiding beneath elephant-ear leaves.

I'm excited to announce a picture book that I illustrated, The Goodbye Cancer Garden, is now available for pre-order from Amazon. It's written by Janna Matthies and published by Albert Whitman & Company.

In this story, Mom has cancer. When the doctor says that Mom will probably feel better by pumpkin time, the whole family decides to plant a garden. As the healthy veggies grow, Mom grows healthier too. Janna has written a beautiful story, and I pray that this book will bring hope to many families.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Midsouth SCBWI Conference 2010

Over 120 children's book writers and illustrators plus editors, agents, an art director, contests, an art display, hot fudge... what a fabulous Midsouth SCBWI conference this weekend!

My dancing penguins in their old-fashioned attire above won Honorable Mention in the illustration contest, and my manuscript won Honorable Mention in the picture book contest. Yay!

Some of my favorite notes from the conference:

As an example of using voice in manuscripts, Ruta Rimas (Balzer & Bray) rewrote Mo Willem's DON'T LET THE PIGEON DRIVE THE BUS without voice. Basically something like, "Once there was a pigeon with big googly eyes. A mean man wouldn't let him drive a bus but the pigeon really wanted to..." Then Ruta read the actual text of the book with the pigeon pleading and yelling at us. Wow. So much more effective and playful.

"Put every word on trial for its life," from the book READING LIKE A WRITER by Francine Prose.

Is your picture book manuscript strong enough to carry an $18 price tag? - Diane Muldrow (Random House).

From the first pages session by Agents Kelly Sonnack and Linda Pratt:
Text and illustrations are a comic duo - the text is the setup man for the illustrations.
Books don't need to teach imagination to kids. They already have it!
Too much description in an action scene slows down the pacing. Keep the action building with forward momentum.
Make your reader feel smart. They shouldn't have to reread to get it.

From an art session by Patti Ann Harris (Senior Art Director, Little, Brown) and Diane Muldrow (Editorial Director, Random House):
Your character needs to be strong, winning, and loveable but not necessarily likeable.
Patti Ann will go to illustrators' websites, pull some jpgs, and print them on a sheet with the illustrator's name for her files, so you need a portfolio website.
Be yourself on your website. Don't overdo it with Flash and things that take awhile to load and are distracting.
Emotional resonance is key in illustrations.
It's all about the character. Everyone can draw a car, but not everyone can draw a character with strong personality/humor/emotion.
Mailers need to have focus, kind of like a book cover. It should grab you from across the room, and shouldn't be too busy.
Study online PDFs of catalogs from different publishers to understand the "look" of each publisher.

The only sad part of the weekend was my continued cupcake tragedy. The conference is held across the street from Gigi's Cupcakes. Last year I was pregnant and I waited until after dinner to try to satisfy my huge cupcake craving. It was too late - the cupcake shop was closed! This year I vowed to get my hands on those cupcakes before dinner, but the shop closed even earlier this year and so I didn't get them again! Next year, you cupcakes will be MINE!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Illustration Friday - Acrobat

I just had these 8.5" x 5.5" postcards made that I'll be sending as art samples to art directors and editors at publishing houses that I want to work with on picture books.

These illustrations are from my WIP picture book dummy. I've been working on this dummy on and off for a couple years. It's been off since last fall; I've illustrated 4 picture books and had a baby in the meantime! Now I finally have some time to start working on it again. I've completely rewritten the story but kept most of the same characters. The new story has a much stronger plot structure, but it still needs some revising. I've given the manuscript to my critique group and also have some other writers critiquing it at the Midsouth conference next weekend. Can't wait!

My new books!

I received my first copies of Dancing Dreams and Oliver's First Christmas from Accord Publishing. I turned in the final illustrations for Dancing Dreams days before I had my baby in January, and the finals for Oliver's First Christmas were due in April. Both of these will be released within the next month.

They both use AniMotion(tm) technology, which is a fancy way of saying that there are action windows which look like animations as you turn the page. You can see the woman in the red dress is in two different poses above. Super fun!

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Shiny sticker on my book!

The award banquet for APALA was great. I loved getting to meet the author of Cora Cooks Pancit. Most of the time as an illustrator I don't have any contact with my authors; the publishers like to keep us separate so we can work more creatively in telling our own half of the picture book story. Dorina is a wonderful woman and it was an honor to share this award with her. Congrats to Renee at Shen's Books as well.

Now our book has a shiny award sticker!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Illustration Friday - Star gazing

An illustration from my picture book, DANCING DREAMS, to be released next month by Accord/Andrews McMeel.

Thursday, August 12, 2010


There's a free online writer's conference focused on picture books, middle grade, and YA going on right now at

You can see videos, read about editor and agent preferences, etc. Here are just some of the topics:

Questions to Ask Yourself Before a Revision by editor Kendra Levin
Illustrating Children's Books by author/illustrator J.H. Everett and Studio 5
Plot and Pacing Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3, by author/literary agent Weronika Janczuk
Myths and Misconceptions by literary agent Holly Root, and editors Molly O'Neill and Martha Mihalick
Do's and Don't's of Querying by literary agent Kate Testerman


Friday, June 18, 2010

Illustration Friday - Paisley

Cora in her paisley dress from my award-winning picture book, Cora Cooks Pancit. In a week I'll receive the APALA picture book award for this book at the ALA conference in Washington DC!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Illustration Friday - Slither

Another illustration from my picture book, DANCING DREAMS, to be published by Accord Publishing in Sept 2010.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Illustration Friday - Early

This is an early peek at a picture book I have coming out in Sept 2010. The title is DANCING DREAMS, to be published by Accord Publishing. In this story, Gracie dreams of dancing everything from ballet to hula to flamenco to country.

Friday, May 07, 2010

Illustration Friday - Fearless

Oliver the puppy isn't afraid to join in and sing out loud. He obviously agrees with Buddy the Elf who taught us, "The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear."

I illustrated these for the picture book Oliver's First Christmas, to be released in October, 2010, by Accord Publishing.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Illustration Friday - Ahead

I just finished this cover illustration for a picture book I have coming out this fall called Oliver's First Christmas, to be published by Accord Publishing. The snowflakes in the snow globe will actually be animated with an animotion window.

What's ahead for this little puppy? Lots of mischief!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

3 months old

My squeaker is 3 months old today, and she's been a dream baby - sleeping 11 hours at night, playing so nicely next to me as I work, giving me lots of her adorable smiles, and just being a joyful blessing!

Monday, April 05, 2010

Happy Easter

"He died not for men, but for each man. If each man had been the only man made, He would have done no less." — C.S. Lewis

We had a beautiful Easter day celebrating Jesus' gift to us. Hope your Easter was just as lovely.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Illustration Friday - Rescue

From the picture book, CORA COOKS PANCIT.

Friday, March 05, 2010

Picture Book Winner of the Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature

More great news: CORA COOKS PANCIT was the Picture Book Winner of the Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature! Last year, the winner was WABI SABI, which is an incredible picture book, so I'm thrilled to be in such amazing company!

The award ceremony is during the ALA Annual Conference in Washington, D.C. in June.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010


CORA COOKS PANCIT is in the annual best-of-the-year list of the Cooperative Children's Book Center (CCBC), called CCBC Choices 2010. Yay! The complete CCBC Choices 2010 publication featuring books published in 2009 will include annotations and recommended ages for all of the books included, as well as an author/title/subject index, and a commentary on the publishing year. It'll be available in March.

More great news: CORA COOKS PANCIT was reviewed in the November, 2009 issue of School Library Journal!

LAZO GILMORE, Dorina K. Cora Cooks Pancit. illus. by Kristi Valiant. unpaged. glossary. CIP. Shen's. 2009. Tr $17.95. ISBN 978-1-885008-35-0. LC 2008045836.

PreS-Gr 3--When Cora's Filipino family cooks together, she's always stuck doing the "kid jobs." Then one day when her older siblings are out and about, Cora gets her chance to bond with Mama in the kitchen. She even gets to choose her favorite dish, so the two of them make a large bowl of noodles, chicken, and vegetables called pancit. Clear expository prose explains how to perform kitchen tasks. For example, Mama tells Cora, "Open the package of rice noodles and put them in this bowl of water." Then she engages her daughter by asking her, "Do you know why we soak them?" These scenes effectively model how adults can introduce children to cooking. The simple, direct style also makes the book equally well suited as a read-aloud and for newly independent readers. The artwork nicely complements the text, as Valiant's warm hues of gold, red, and orange highlight the family's loving relationship. They also capture Cora's feelings through facial expressions. Wide eyes and smiles show the child's joy at cooking with her mother, while a downcast mouth and arched eyebrows illustrate her anxiety that her family won't like her pancit. Although this dish is unique to Cora's culture, children of all backgrounds will share her feelings at being allowed to help cook a meal for the first time. A solid choice for schools and public libraries, especially where family-based programming is popular.--Mary Landrum, Lexington Public Library, KY

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Baby Ciana

Ok, I have to show off my biggest little blessing, born a couple weeks ago with a full head of hair!

I'm taking some time off work to play and cuddle this sweetheart all day long, and then I have a couple picture books lined up to illustrate. Ciana is so animated and can go through 50 expressions just waking up; I'm sure my hours of staring adoringly at her will help me to illustrate kids more expressively too.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Newest Picture Book

I recently finished illustrating a picture book called DANCING DREAMS for Accord Publishing that will have Animotion panels making it look like a confined part of the illustration is animated (the older ballerina on stage in this spread). Accord did the same thing with the picture book, BEE & ME, which became a New York Times Best-Seller!

DANCING DREAMS incorporated a lot of styles of dance and was soooo much fun to illustrate. I love dancing. I used to be part of a performance and competition swing dance group. We also did latin and ballroom dancing. I miss all that fun exercise.

Accord offered me another contract for a second picture book with Animotion panels. I've been working on cover sketches, and this one is going to be stinkin' cute! Check back for updates on that.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Guess who's coming soon?

We don't know her name yet. Suggestions?