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One of my very first memories is of my Italian grandmother scolding me, in Italian, as she scrubbed my crayon drawings off of the wall in my bedroom. I didn’t understand why she was upset. Those drawings were my best work and they were right next to my bed so I could see them when I lay down. I was very sorry that she got rid of them.

It started a passion in me to want to do more murals. Big is better. And I did do some murals and wildlife signs for parks, but my lifelong love affair is with books.

My father read to us at night and I was carried away to fairytale lands or pirate ships or Mount Olympus. My favorite book was “The King of Ireland’s Son,” by Padraic Colum. I was enchanted by characters like Gilly of the Goatskin, the King of the Land of Mist, and the Enchanter of the Black Back Lands. Who wouldn’t want to escape into stories with characters like that?

I wrote and illustrated my first story when I was seven years old. It had a beginning, a middle, and an end. I appreciated the necessity of plot even then. A story had to make sense, it had to have adventure, and it had to have pictures. I felt cheated when they used an interior illustration for the cover. A cover illustration has a different job than an interior illustration. I could always tell when an interior illustration was distorted to use for the cover. Here’s a hint: that doesn’t work. And readers like me want the visual stimulation of another image. I lived for the illustrations back then. (I used to draw on top of my school reports—images that went with what a wrote about. I thought I was doing ground-breaking work by combining the two but my teachers didn’t appreciate my efforts.

My first story
After college I took a detour into corporate life but a few years I knew I had to follow my passion and focus on writing and illustrating children’s books. I got an AAS in graphic design and then got a job as a book designer with an educational publisher. I am so grateful that I learned book design that way. It made me appreciate how kids read and what fonts work the best in books.
interactive digital novel

A big publisher gobbled us up and since then I’ve been freelancing as a writer, illustrator, and graphic designer. I’ve written 22 grade school readers that have been published by a number of educational publishers. I’ve illustrated 12 picture books and about 40 grade school readers. I’ve also designed about 200 books, mainly children’s books. And I co-wrote, with Hilari Bell (http://hilaribell.com), an interactive novel for Choice of Games called “Sorcery is for Saps.”

digital cut-paper

I’ve been interested in hand-made paper for years. Whenever I was in an art store, I’d always look at the different papers available. The colors, the textures, the materials used for the papers—it all fascinated me. I longed to dive into the papers and make something with them but I always had an excuse—I was too busy, the papers are too expensive, I don’t know where to start. Finally, in November of 2019, I told myself it was past time I tried something new. I gave into my longing and bought a bunch of paper.

I decided to scan the paper into my computer so I could play around with shapes and experiment with it before committing myself to actually cutting up the paper (it is very expensive paper). In doing that, though, I discovered my passion. I could play endlessly and experiment and create effects that would be impossible to do physically with paper. My first piece was for the original Christmas card I do every year. Then came the opportunity the following summer to do my first book in my new technique that I call digital cut-paper. “‘E’ is for Eucharist” came out June 2021. Every illustration I created for this book was an adventure. I’d finish one and I’d say to myself, “I can’t believe I just did that.” There is no greater feeling than seeing creative work come together. I love this book and I love the feeling I had creating each illustration for it. I want to do more.

Interior spread from Monty and Rose
Tucker and laptop

I live in Denver, Colorado with my dog Tucker. He keeps me laughing every day. He’s such a goof, as you can see from these photos.  And yes, his bed is on the dining room table. I ceded the table to him and in return, he agreed to stay off the counters (kitchen and bathroom),  the stove, and the windowsills. If you don’t believe me, send me an email and I’ll send you photographic proof of him on a windowsill. He has mad skills when it comes to balancing.

That same summer I got the opportunity to do another picture book. “Monty and Rose Nest at Montrose,” is a true story about a pair of piping plovers who had nested on the shores of Lake Michigan outside of Chicago—the first in over 70 years. The author preferred a more traditional look for the illustrations so I used an acrylic look created in Photoshop. I fell in love for the second time that summer/fall with illustrating these birds. (I always love the books I illustrate but these last two were special. I grew as an artist doing them.) I’m a total Monty and Rose fangirl now and continue to follow their exploits on Twitter and on the website that tells their story  https://plovermother.com. These birds are so amazing. They take on birds twice their size and win the fights. They even won a fight against a music festival producer who wanted to stage a rock concert on their beach. But the people of Chicago got behind the birds. That, plus some bad weather, helped the birds win the day and now that area of the beach is a protected habitat.

 

Tucker on table
Tucker asleep

He’s also a champion (or he would be if they had competitions) balloon bopping aerial acrobat. His record is 19 consecutive hits on the balloon with no human help. I think his videos should have gone viral but since I don’t know how to make that happen, he’s not a celebrity…yet.


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