Monday, February 14, 2011


This piece of art is from my book A VALENTINE FOR YOU, part of a holiday series that I published with Clarion Press back in the late 80's and early 90's.  
My editor for this series was Dorothy Briley.  I'll never forget the time when, after our lunch together, Dorothy took me to the Farmer's Market at Union Square---right around the corner from Clarion's offices.  Dorothy kept enthusiastically suggesting that I take some produce back to Vermont with me, including yellow and purple potatoes (I did), and some special goat yogurt (I didn't, fearing it would not weather the travel).  Dorothy herself selected what resembled a 4-foot tall tree---a heavily studded, luxuriant stalk of Brussels sprouts.  It had the heft and size of a large medieval weapon, and as we walked back to her office, passersby made large detours around us. 

The series of books itself, two books a year for three years, a total of six holidays, was a delight for me to work on.  The little village in the books was based very closely in appearance on the wonderful small Vermont town I was living in at the time.  The texts incorporated many Mother Goose and traditional children's rhymes, one of my big enthusiasms.  And I've always enjoyed working with themes that deal with the cycles of life.  I'd love to come up with another series, revolving around some of these basic rhythms.

Sunday, February 13, 2011


This is my favorite chair, my studio chair, which I bought almost forty years ago at a yard sale.  I don't think I could illustrate a book unless I had this chair to sit in.  But there's a little competition at times.  Elijah seems to think it belongs to him.  Perhaps if he could help out with the artwork, I wouldn't mind sharing.  As it is, we often have a bit of a scuffle over who is actually going to use it...

Saturday, February 12, 2011


Storage and organization are always a problem!  For me, anyway.  For years, I lusted after flat files---those huge pieces of furniture with multiple shallow drawers, for storing large paper, artwork, or whatever.  Even my Dad, another professional artist, kept urging me to buy some.  I finally made the decision:  after I moved into my new house, I WOULD BUY FLAT FILES.  Once moved in, however, the idea of flat files became less and less attractive.  My house is quite small; flat files take up a huge amount of floor space; I was already having trouble arranging enough working space in my studio.  Where would I add behemoth flat files?  As I pondered, I noticed once again the closets in my studio space:  wasted space, badly organized space, inconvenient space...
So, what about good old-fashioned SHELVES?  A call to my genius of a handyman, a week of exile from my studio while he worked in it, and voila: Magnificent shelves, providing even more space than flat files!

Now all I have to do is...put everything away....

Friday, February 4, 2011


I've just learned from my editor at Scholastic that my book SPUDS, written by Karen Hesse, and illustrated by Yours Truly, is on the list of picture book nominees for the 2011-2012 Land of Enchantment Award.  (Please do go to my website, address to the left under "MORE ABOUT WENDY", to see images from this book, reviews, and more.)  This is an award offered by the state of New Mexico, and the award is chosen by children living in New Mexico who have read the nominated books.  Every state except Mississippi (according to an entry I found in my hasty internet search) offers book awards of this type.  There is more information about the Land of Enchantment Award at this site:
(By the way, this is neither a total fabrication, nor a half truth, but an actual event!)

Tuesday, February 1, 2011


When I'm working on the first draft of a story, at some point the narrator of the tale steps  forward, and begins dictating the text to me.  Not in any coherent order, though.  So it is imperative that I write down immediately every word at the time I hear it; because the dictation seems to float out of my head as quickly as it floats in.  And the dictation won't happen when I am sitting at my desk, with a pencil in hand.  Not at all.  My narrator is the most verbal when I am walking---physically moving.  Or when I am between sleeping and waking.
     Three things help me catch hold of these skittish dictations.  In my living room, directly in the path of traffic, is my antique schoolmaster's desk.  It's a matter of only a few seconds for me to pause at the desk, jot down the phrases I've just heard, then continue on my way.
If I want to really encourage my narrator to talk to me, I can take a walk or a hike.  For this I hang a notebook on a ribbon around my neck.  The pencil fits perfectly into the spiral binding.  And I am, once again, prepared to jot down instantly anything that my narrator might have to say, hardly breaking my stride as I do so.
And in the middle of the night, when my narrator is feeling especially loquacious, and I am barely conscious?  I found that if I sat up, turned on the light, looked for my glasses, and groped for a blank page in my notebook, my narrator would have already quit in disgust.  Instead I keep this three-ring notebook under my pillow, with the pencil clipped to a blank page.  When my narrator begins, I do not turn on the light, or even open my eyes.  Instead I stealthily pull the notebook from under my pillow---all the while listening intently to my narrator---open to the marked page, and transcribe in the dark.  I've learned to put just a few lines on each page, then turn to the next page and continue, so as to end up with something that will be relatively legible the next morning. 
I find this method really annoying at times---so inefficient!  And especially when my narrator keeps waking me up at night because there's "just one more thing" to tell me.  But it does get a story started.  And I've never discovered a better way for myself.