As a person who can barely draw a stick figure, I am in awe of illustrators with Heather’s talent, and I’ve learned so much about the art of illustrating picture books from her blog.  I especially enjoy her Work in Progress Wednesdays, where she shows us the progression of her art from sketches to final pieces.  I know much about the writer’s process but none about an illustrators, so it’s been quite illuminating.  Please welcome Heather!

My life today doesn’t look the way I imagined it years ago. Whose does? When David and I started our family, we agreed I would stay home to take care of our boys with the understanding that I would actively pursue my career when the kids went to school and were older, more independent people. Fifteen years later, we choose to homeschool and have children who will need our support for the rest of their lives. A good life, but not exactly what I had planned. Last fall I determined it was finally time to see if I could  find a balance between my kid’s needs and my own desire to write and illustrate. I had absolutely no idea where to start.

Enter the 12X12 Challenge. I heard about it from Loni Edwards, a fellow illustrator and writer, and thought it would be a good tool to get me motivated to create again. The challenge could offer a relaxed accountability, perhaps a bit of community throughout the year. It has turned out to be so much more than I ever expected!

The vast amount of information shared on participant blogs and the 12X12 facebook page has offered a quick education in all things involving the art and business of children’s book publishing. It’s a crash course in marketing, query letters, pitch writing, finding the right agent, social networking, the changing face of publishing, ebooks, editing and revising. Instead of floundering through the internet trying to figure out the best blogs and reference books with my limited time, my 12X12 peers offer excellent suggestions and recommendations on a daily basis.

I enjoy reading the blogs of our diverse group of participants. I may not comment often due to time restraints, but I am reading, laughing, commiserating and learning. This group offers a positive, friendly support network of published and unpublished writers. A community that shares a passion for children’s literature. People that are willing to help out with any question or project brought their way. I have found a wonderful critique group (#4!) through the 12X12 facebook page to thoughtfully help me hone my rusty writing skills. It mitigates the feeling of isolation that so often comes along with this profession.

Participating in this challenge with it’s gentle accountability has changed the way I approach my work, as well. Instead of treating it as some precious hothouse orchid needing a very narrow set of conditions to survive (a certain time of day, David being home, a quiet space that never materializes), I treat it like a dandelion that thrives anywhere it lands. The desk in the corner of our living room is my workspace and I write, draw and paint in between answering questions, fixing snacks, projects and listening to my boys talk about their interests. Art is now woven into my daily life. It needs to be or it will never have the opportunity to happen. My sons have picked up on my newly found joy and often draw and write alongside me. Of course, there are days when their needs fill all of my time and yes, it’s very discouraging when that happens for several days in a row, but this balancing act is my life for the indefinite future. I can choose to accept it and work with where I am or I can make myself unhappy fighting what cannot be changed. No one wants to live with a miserable person, so I choose acceptance.

The support and enthusiasm of the 12X12 participants makes that acceptance easier. Thank you all for sharing your passions and thank you, Julie, for starting something so wonderful.

Heather Newman has been drawing since she was big enough to hold a pencil and her prized possession as a young girl was a large box of blank essay books,  perfect for writing and illustrating stories or drawing her own images for favorite stories. Creating art continues to bring her great joy over 30 years later and her favorite projects involve work for children.  After spending a little over a year having many grand adventures traveling the country in an RV with her family, Heather found her dream home in the woods of Maine.  She lives with her husband, three sons, two friendly mutts and a slightly grumpy, geriatric cat.

She can be found at http://www.heathernewman.net/  and http://hnewmanart.blogspot.com/  Her recent work has included illustrating both Cody Greene and the Rainbow Mystery by Linda Fields and The Howling Vowels by Leslie Schultz, from Do Life Right Publishing in 2011.

 

Categories: 12 x 12 in 2012, Guest Blogging, Picture Books, Works in Progress, Writing · Tags: , , , , , , , ,

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46 Comments

  1. It was fun reading about you, Heather! I homeschool too and have to find that balance and time to fit everything in! That’s so neat your sons are participating in your new joy by trying to draw and write!

  2. Elizabeth Stevens Omlor

    Heather…you are such a wonderful person. I am honored to have met you! You offer such great perspective here. Choosing acceptance. That really resonated with me as I am sure it does with so many others. Love your blog, art, and critiques.Thanks so much for sharing more about your amazing journey here.

    • I feel just the same way about you, Elizabeth. I’ve enjoyed getting to know you and your writing over the past few months and I look forward to many more. A wise friend shared the idea of choosing acceptance with me years ago, I’m happy to pass it along.

  3. Ah, the act of juggling everything in life is such a continuous event! It was lovely to read more about you, and I completely agree that the 12x12in12 group is the support we need to gain perspective of where we are at that moment….acceptance is a great thing! thank you for sharing !

  4. I so enjoyed reading this, Julie and Heather! I love your description of our art being like dandelions that can thrive anywhere. It’s so true that with the demands of life and family our schedules change from day to day – often hour to hour in my house! – and it’s just not realistic to think you’re going to get 3 uninterrupted hours at the same time every day to work. But like you said, it’s so wonderful to have the support of this amazing, vibrant, generous community!

    • Twenty uninterrupted minutes would be a luxury some days! I guess having to continuously adjust our schedules keeps us flexible and creative. That’s my story and I’m sticking with it. Thanks, Susanna!

  5. Wonderful post Heather and Julie. It was nice getting to read more about you Heather. I really enjoy checking out your illustrations they are very inspiring. Congrats on your two publications!

  6. Heather – I love the dandelion analogy. Not only do they bloom just about anywhere, but their long roots are “earth anchors”. My writing can be as portable as a dandelion parachute seed, take root anywhere, and be an anchor. That’s something I can carry in my heart for the rest of the week.
    Also – I love your illustrations (especially the red dragon). thanks for sharing your heart.

    • Earth anchor is a wonderfully powerful image, Sue. I can imagine the roots stretching down and grasping the soil with small, strong hands. Beautiful! Thank you, thank you.

  7. It’s Heather! Funny lady, talented artist, dragon creator, cool chick — how nice it was to see you pop up in my email this morning. I’m so glad you picked up your paintbrushes and decided to just do your thang whenever you could — not only do I love your Wednesday sketch days, but I could also learn a thing or two from you, as I have not yet found a way to fit writing into my life (and yes, I get grumpy about it). And how wonderful that your boys are following your example. Of course I imagine your homeschool involves LOTS of creative projects, but just seeing their parents engaged in their own interests is so important for kids too. What a neat family — you wanna move here and be my neighbors? 🙂

    • Dragon creator, but not a tamer! I would love to live next door to you, but unfortunately I am painfully tone deaf when it comes to languages (a source of family amusement) and you would be forced to be my translator until the end of time. I imagine it would put a terrible strain on our relationship. I’m very glad I decided to pick up my paintbrush again since it’s led me to so many cool people. Like a certain poetry spouting, twin toddler wrangling woman on the Mediterranean.

  8. I, too, so love your words “I treat [writing and illustrating] as a dandelion that thrives anywhere it lands.” I’m sure the dandelion seeds of your projects will fly far and bloom joyously. I’m glad that you found a way to blossom and thrive despite the challenges. Best of everything to you!

  9. Thanks Heather and Julie for this inspiring post! I, too, love the dandelion analogy. Such true words. The paragraph you wrote about how 12 x 12 provides us with a “quick education” was a perfect description. Your illustrations are filled with fun and expression…I just love your style.

  10. It’s an honor to meet you, Heather. The dandelion comparison is SWEET! Thank you for sharing. We homeschool too. It is a blessing (most days). Ha! *waving*

  11. What a beautiful, inspiring tale. I have two boys, not yet in school, and so I too find writing comes in fits an starts. It’s an hour here, an hour there and sometimes none at all. I try not to pressure myself, since all my deadlines are self-imposed.

    • Fits and starts is an excellent way to describe it, Kirsten! I’ve taken to jotting notes to myself on notepads so that I don’t lose my ideas as I flit from one project to the next. Thank you.

  12. I’m right there with Julie – struggling to draw a recognizable stick figure! Very impressed with your work Heather, and how you manage to make time for your work, your family, and yourself. Glad to have you as a fellow 12X12’er!

  13. Hi Heather!

    I am so glad you joined 12×12! 🙂 I have had a busy, crazy 2012 and it is your posts on your blog that have kept my creativity flowing. Your friendship has been so inspiring for me. Thank you!

    I love your analogy of the orchid and dandelion (I LOVE dandelions :D) and I love how you said, “so I choose acceptance.” YES! I also have learned to do this. As moms of homeschoolers, we both know how hard it can be at times, but so rewarding and worth it in the end!

    Wonderful post! Shine on!

    • Shine on indeed, Loni! I think we have had the same mentors in learning how to choose acceptance. 🙂 Thank you for introducing me to this amazing challenge and thank you for sharing so much of your own creative journey.

  14. Nice to meet you Heather. I love the pink dragon on your blog (it’s adorable).

  15. Heather, the truth of your dandelion analogy and the strength of your words, “I choose acceptance,” brought tears to my eyes. I’ve learned to work on my writing goals bit by bit because those huge chunks of time to write happen more often in our fantasies than in our real worlds. Your post also reminded me of how much I’m missing by not checking in on the 12×12 group more often, and I’ll work on that. Thanks!

    • You’re welcome, Carol. For me, choosing acceptance opens up possibilities and solutions that I wouldn’t see if I were wasting my energy fighting reality. Thank you for sharing a bit of your own journey.

  16. Great post Heather! I also love the dandelion analogy. It is so cool that your kids are joining in the creative process!

  17. Hello from a fellow home educator! I know how hard it is to balance responsibilities and writing…it’s a journey. I, too, have found the 12×12 group supportive and continue to inspire me to move ahead. Thanks for sharing your story with us…I would love to live in the woods of Maine. You are blessed, Heather!

  18. Hi Heather! I enjoyed your post. I especially loved your analogy of the creative hothouse orchid and dandelion. I think discovering that is key to overcoming the struggle to balance all the different aspects of life. And you are so right about the 12×12! It’s great and I’m glad to get to know you through it. Good luck with everything!

  19. Totally agree with everyone about all the great analogies. Really good post! Now what I want to know is when will you be writing a story about that cat – I now have such a great grumpy face in my head!

  20. Julie, thank you so much for giving us the opportunity to learn more about Heather!
    Hi Heather…thank you for sharing your journey with us…if I had it to over again, I would probably have homeschooled my three children. I really admire how you have been able to bring your art alive and make it part of your life and your work…the best of all worlds. 🙂

    • Vivian, it was easier for me to make the decision to start homeschooling 8 years ago than it would have been 15 or 20 years ago. There are so many resources available now (online, in print and in the community) that simply weren’t there not so long ago. Thank you so much for your kind words.

  21. I’m late, but wanted to stop by to say thanks for sharing this. Love the dandelion line. Very true.

  22. Thanks for sharing, Heather. I agree wholeheartedly with “this balancing act is my life for the indefinite future. I can choose to accept it…”
    That’s a critical realization for us who have other things competing for our creative time. Contentment with this ‘indefinite’ present and future keeps us from giving up, and we doesn’t mean it will be this way forever. Thanks for the encouragement!
    Damon Dean

    • Thank you for commenting, Damon! Having other things to compete with our creative time is a great way to explain the situation. It does feel like a competition some days.

  23. Heather, your post made me tear up. I’m so glad I found your blog and you through 12×12. If I ever grow up, I hope to be as courageous and awesome as you.

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