The Sneeze

Many years ago I attended a conference in Findlay, Ohio at the Mazza Museum on the lovely Findlay University college campus. This museum has the largest collection of original children’s illustration in the world.

I have seen the elephant!

It is a phenomenal treat to walk into a space and see the original paintings or collages that are from your favorite children’s books. The friends you grew up with. I saw an original Beatrix Potter, Kate Greenaway, so so many treasures.

While there I listened with illustrators, librarians and educators from across the country for a week of stories and information from greats like Ed Emberley and the brilliant Pinkney family.

One night I joined a casual dinner at a local restaurant. There was one seat left. I knew not a soul at this event and to even attend alone was a stretch for me. As I sat down I looked around the table to find myself sitting next to Ed Emberly and across from one of the speakers. I was panicked. What was I doing here? I was a librarian from a small school in Florida who had painted for years. No credentials that made me a brilliant dinner companion.

All of my worries instantly dissolved. I had found “my tribe”! There was not an unkind word spoken. These creative gentlemen were just that.

Creative and kind.

A eureka moment!

It has taken years to wind through jobs and obligations to be full time at my drafting table and computer creating my own illustrations and books.

A month ago I sent an illustration to a Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators  (SCBWI) competition. It was to illustrate a poem called The Sneeze by Tomie Depaola. He would judge the entries. I did not win, but I put my pen to paper and created this.

The Sneeze copyright ECR 2014
The Sneeze
copyright ECR 2014

Another competition sponsored by SCBWI in our Southern Breeze region I did actually win. If you are a long time reader you have seen this one.

P.J. Tried and Tried to Make Friends with the Horses
P.J. Tried and Tried to Make Friends with the Horses

Last year I was part of a mentorship program overseen by the brilliant Mark Braught. The assignment was a self portrait using visuals from different times, places and adding some interesting animals.

Self Portrait copyright ECR 2013
Self Portrait
copyright ECR 2013

This year as the Spring Mingle conference approaches I am participating in a mentorship with the wonderfully generous Loraine Joyner from Peachtree Publishers. I am learning so much from this experience. It has been filled with experiments, research for facts and images, and putting self in  chair and pencil in hand and drawing scenes from a pre-Civil War era. It is a dark time in our history, as far from my dear Melvin Fine Mouse as is possible. A stretch and a challenge I am enjoying every day.

Thank you SCBWI and the wonderful world of children’s illustration for another transformative experience.



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