• Events,  Smart Dummies

    Smart Dummies Week 3: Planning Out Pages/Drawing

    All sorts of things are happening this week!  A bit of planning, research, thumbnails and perspective are all on the schedule. If you have time you can start working on your drawings.

    Smart Dummies Schedule Week 3

    Sunday – Smart Dummies Week 3 Schedule

    Monday – Planning out pages

    Tuesday – Thumbnails and Research

    Thursday – Perspective & Loose Drawing

    Friday – Book Blog

    Sunday – Smart Dummies Week 4 schedule

    If you haven’t signed up for Smart Dummies do so here:

  • Art,  Events,  Smart Dummies

    Character Turnarounds

    A character turnaround is a way to get to know your character from all angles. This is the information you’ll need to draw your character the same way every time! Even though you make these your character may evolve while you are creating your book and that’s okay, too!

    Things you might need: 
    Paper, Pencil and likely a ruler. Tracing paper or a light box is optional. Possibly a right angle ruler.

    Or a digital photo/illustration program. Must be able to work in transparent layers and have guidelines (which is most digital programs).

    If you have not signed up for Smart Dummies this year you can do so here:

    Full Character Drawings

    In your booklet on pages 10 -11 you’ll see some lined paper. I find this as the easiest way for me to plot out my character. Especially the easiest way to execute the Turnaround. The top is a full character turnaround and the bottom is a face. 

    When I’m doing character drawings I generally make the face large and the I like making eyes be big enough to fit on a line. It makes it easiest for me to figure out where everything should be. It’s really nice to be able to know which line the eyes, mouth and nose should rest. It’s really easy to get the character’s side, 3/4th or front view off because visually it will look okay, but if you use a ruler things will be way off.

    There are some artists who prefer to use graph paper, and that’s not wrong! It’s just not the way I do it. I find the vertical lines throw me off, but they are great for making sure the width of everything is the same throughout the drawing.

    Some turnarounds for characters. Face is front side and 3/4th view.

    I started out with a lot of scribbles and a little bit of an idea of what I was going to create for my portfolio. It was going to be a comic style illustration.  I had basic ideas for character design before I worked on some thumbnails. Most of the story I worked on in the left hand side will likely never be in an illustration. Sometimes it helps to work on what happens before a scene, even if that work isn’t seen by other people. 

    These are the characters I started with. Just a kitty and a girl. I liked the kitty, but the girl I didn’t really like. She felt too old for the story I wanted to write. She also was quite plain. I added some ears later to make her a bear character. I had a friend who asked if she was a giant mouse. She wasn’t, but I thought it was more fun for her to be a giant mouse taking care of a kitten, So things were changed!

    Tracing Paper

    One thing I adore about using Clip Studio Paint (and all other digital programs) is the ability to to make a layer more transparent. This allows you to draw your character with a light table effect. You can make sure that your character is similar from all angles! Her eyes nose and mouth all line up and the width of the character stays the same throughout. 

    If you are working traditionally I highly suggest a light table or tracing paper to create your images. This will allow you to make sure your character looks alike in all their poses.

    Guidelines Digital and Traditional

    Digital: If your digital program has a ruler, then it probably has the ability to make guidelines. Just right click on the ruler, while you are holding the right button drag the line to where you want it, and then let go of the button. You can change where the line is with an arrow button This can vary from program to program.

    I started this drawing with putting lines around the feet head and hands. I can also check the hem of her pants and all the facial features with the guidelines. They can get to be too much while drawing, so there is always a place in your program to turn these off.

    Traditional: If you are drawing a character traditionally you almost have to draw in all the lines. I said before that I minimize this by using lined paper. This helps a lot, but there is likely something else that I can’t quite line up that way. If you have a right angle ruler you can put a ruler vertically along the right or left edge of the paper (preferably the red line on lined paper) and draw a horizontal line across the paper.

    Alternatively you can use a ruler to measure out where each new line goes. This takes a lot of dots and line drawing. It’s frustrating and I hate it, but use it often.

    The third option is to just eyeball the whole thing on lined or graph paper. This option is great for all us stubborn people out there. It’s maybe not the best option, but it’s still an option.

    The Best Laid Plans

    Sometimes even the best laid plans go awry! Neither character here is what I expected them to be, but it’s closer to my final drawing than any of the previous drafts. I’ve made my cat’s head much more rounded and the girl’s features are much more animal like. Even though I worked on these characters several times the characters kept changing in the drawings. I had just finished working on a cat story and the characters in the dummy were exactly like the characters I designed for the dummy.


    Ideally, you’ll come up with a character design that you’ll just use in your drawings. Ideally, your whole story wont change while you are working on it. I do hope things wont change for you, but if they do accept the changes and have fun with your art!

    If there is anything you need explained further let me know! I could possibly do a video if there are people who would like to see it!

  • Events,  Smart Dummies

    Smart Dummies Week 2: Advanced Character Design

    This week it’s all about finishing up your character. Monday we’ll be talking about character turnarounds and character emotions. These are the two activities you’ll be working on until Monday. These are on pages 10-13. 

    Also this week I’m going over some good critique group practices, Ksenia Anske will talk about her Finance and Business Coaching and there will be a book blog on Friday! The critique groups are closed. You are welcome to ask for a critique group on the Smart Dummies Facebook Group:

    If you haven’t signed up for Smart Dummies do so here:

    Smart Dummies Schedule Week 2

    Sunday – Smart Dummies Week 2 Schedule

    Monday – Character Turnarounds (page 10-11)

    Tuesday – Critique Group Practices (page 3)

    Wednesday – Ksenia Anske’s Finance & Business Coaching

    Thursday – Character Emotion and Poses (pages 12-13)

    Friday – Book Blog

    Sunday – Smart Dummies Week 3 schedule

    If you have already worked on any of the above and wish to move on feel free to work ahead. There is a Smart Dummies Regular schedule and a Smart Dummies adjusted schedule on page 4 of the booklet! You can get the booklet here:

  • Events,  Smart Dummies,  Writing

    Editing Your Story

    There was something wrong with the “Make Your Marks and Splashes” link I sent out this morning. It’s changed now on the post, but here is the new link if you want:

    I have a few tips that helps me with editing. I’m going to post these below. These are general rules and there may be exceptions. I also asked my friends to give me their favorite sites for Writing and Editing. I will be posting those links below!

    Editing Tips

    Picture Books are 500 Words or Less – Less is more and I’ve heard of trends of 250 words or less. Here are some more kidlit wordcounts:  I am uncertain about exact numbers Graphic Novels for kids, they can be Picture Book in page length to a couple hundred pages (for Adults)

    Humans Repeat Themselves –  Look for repetitive words in your manuscripts. This can help reduce your word count and help keep your story fresh page after page.

    Don’t use Illustration Notes: Only use them if you need that note as an important descriptor to the text. If it’s important that your main character is wearing a long sleeve shirt, because they are doing a magic trick later, then keep the note. Not every manuscript needs art notes! If you are an illustrator it is okay to use art notes for your own personal use!

    Describe Only What Needs Describing: Picture books should have little or no description. Outside of this there is still the habit of describing too much. The balance of this can be tricky. Your character is travelling from their house to the library. Maybe mention the leaving home and entering the library. The audience doesn’t need to hear how the MC got into the car, buckled their seat belt, spent 15 minutes picking a song, and how the drive was to the library. Anything mentioned about the vehicle should be a literary vehicle to move the story from one place to the next as quickly as possible.  

    Get a Critique Group: Or individuals who can help you with your story. You might have several people in your group or you might just do a swap with a friend. Critique groups are one of the best ways to get a second opinion on your work. Critique groups for Smart Dummies are opening soon!

    Extra Resources

    Mary Kole’s Blog
    See writing and illustrating resources page on 
    Also kidlit 411 has a lot of links to resources 

    The Magic Words: Writing Great Books for Children and Young Adults

  • Events,  Smart Dummies

    Pre-Smart Dummies Starts Now

    To sign up for Smart Dummies go here: be sure to sign up for emails!

    This year Smart Dummies is going to be a bit different. I’m going to work to make this more of a community event! I’m hoping we can help each other to make stronger dummies. Not only that but I want as many people as possible to actually finish their dummies this year! 

    What’s leaving Smart Dummies 2019?

    Besides being on this new web address Smart Dummies will not be having guest and likely not prizes this year. I will be removing the calendar from the Smart Dummies booklet.

    I’ve had to think hard about this, because I don’t have time to run it like I have in previous years. However I’m hoping what we lose will be regained in new parts of the event.

    What’s Staying the Same?

    We’ll still be having critique groups, badges, and the Smart Dummies digital workbook will be back soon! Weekly posts will let you know what we are doing all week long!

    What’s New?

    I’m hoping to get a few more people helping out with Process Posts (see below). These posts will be hosted on other blogs with links from my blog. I’m hoping to have (or find) answers to all of your Dummy Creation Questions! There will be more action on the Facebook Group (BTW everyone is welcome to post non-promotional material there). There is the possibility of a twitter/video chats. And maybe a few surprises. I will be adjusting the calendar in the Smart Dummies booklet to reflect the different subjects we are covering.

    Process Posts

    The post below is something I’ve already posted on Facebook. I’m looking for help with process posts. Do you have any of these posts already on your blog? Great, just let me know, send me a link and photo from your post and I’ll share it during Smart Dummies! 

    Looking for people who have a technique or process they’d like to share. Your post about this does not have to be on my blog (but it can be). It can be something from an old post of yours. Here are some of the subjects I’m looking for, but it doesn’t have to be limited to these:
    • Turning Public Domain Stories into Picture Books
    • Marking up a Script for Illustration
    • Researching Images
    • Doodling
    • Character Design
    • Character Emotions
    • Thumbnails
    • Loose Page Drafts
    • Preparing Substrates (traditional artists)
    • Any Posts About Technique
    • Anything Else to do with Art or Dummies
  • Events,  Spring into Writing,  Writing

    Spring into Writing Winners!

    Is anyone else sad that Spring into Writing is over? I’m sad! Also happy because I can move on to other things!


    Have 3 minutes to fill out a survey about Spring into Writing?

    Want to help out with Spring into Writing? Donate: 

    Or on Kofi:



    Donated by Becky Aren’t “The Coloring Book for Writers” by
    Linda Faulkerson. 

    The winner is: DEBRA M DAUGHERTY!


    Melissa Stoller donated 3 books and the winners are:

    The Enchanted Snow Globe — BECKY AREN’T 

    The Magic Paintbrush — LAURI MEYERS

    Ready, Set, Gorilla! — LAURA HARTMAN


    Congratulations everyone!


    How you can help out Spring into Writing:

    If you’ve enjoyed this event please consider helping me out. The easiest ways is commenting on posts and filling out the survey I’m going to post next week.

    I am looking for people to help me figure out some things for Spring into Writing and Smart Dummies. If you want to help please let me know! 

    Please Donate:

    If you liked the Spring into Writing event please consider a donation. This website costs a good amount of money to keep going, and 

  • Events,  Spring into Writing,  Writing

    Spring into Writing Finish Line

    Spring into Writing is unfortunately done for this year. Well the actual event is over, but that doesn’t mean we have to stop having fun with our writing. There are some things I didn’t find time to talk about for the event and I fully plan on talking about them throughout the year. I will be announcing winners soon so you still have a little time to go back and comment on the posts you’ve missed. I hope you’ve enjoyed Spring into Writing! Let me know below what you’ve achieved this month. 

    I will be taking down the booklet at the end of this month, so download it now here:

    How you can help out Spring into Writing:

    If you’ve enjoyed this event please consider helping me out. The easiest ways is commenting on posts and filling out the survey I’m going to post next week.

    I am looking for people to help me figure out some things for Spring into Writing and Smart Dummies. If you want to help please let me know! 

    Please Donate:

    If you liked the Spring into Writing event please consider a donation. This website costs a good amount of money to keep going. It also takes a lot of time to make the booklets for these events. I want to keep the downloads free for everyone. If you are able please consider donating: (There are levels where you can get booklets sent to you every year).

    One time donations:


    Thank you all for being a part of

    Spring into Writing 2019!

  • Events,  Spring into Writing,  Writing

    Picture Book Inspiration Julie Hedlund — Plus a Prize!

    Julie Hedlund is just fantastic. She not only creates picture books but she has some wonderful programs to help writers to create their picture books. I have met most of my current critique group members (for both writing and illustration) though her 12×12 event. The 12×12 is a year long challenge that helps picture book creators to write 12 manuscripts in 12 months. On top of this she has helped create the Picture Book Submission System (which I have and it’s wonderful) and the Picture Book Summit!

    Julie Hedlund’s 12×12:

    Dani Duck: What’s one thing that all writers should do?


    Julie Hedlund: Write. And write and write and write and write and write. Yes, there are plenty of other things that will help you become a better writer (reading, taking classes, etc.), but the only way to truly improve and hone your voice is to write. A lot. 


    Dani: How does the 12×12 help picture book creators?

    Julie: Speaking of the advice above to write,12 x 12 is a place that provides accountability to get the writing done by setting the goal of completing one picture book draft per month. It’s also where accountability meets massive amounts of support. There’s a Facebook group to get questions answered immediately, a Forum to get feedback on manuscripts, and monthly webinars to both inspire and inform.

    Dani: What’s your favorite thing about the 12×12?

    Julie: The members! It’s amazing to be surrounded by such lovely, generous, talented people who are on the same journey. Their energy keeps me going through my own writing slumps.

    Dani: How is the Picture Book Submission system different than other courses out there?

    Julie: The Complete Picture Book Submission System is the only step-by-step, soup-to-nuts guide to crafting standout picture book submissions. Picture books are a unique format that require different things in submissions than do longer, un-illustrated works. Everything in the System is specific to picture books – how to format different types, how to use art notes, finding agents who represent PBs, finding picture book specific comp titles, etc.

    Dani: Why should people take part in the Picture Book Summit?

    Julie: It’s a blast! Seriously, though, it’s the only full-day conference of its caliber I know of that is entirely online (saving travel costs and time away from home), It includes submission opportunities AND gives you access to the replays from the entire conference for a full four months afterward. You don’t even have to attend live and you still get everything. Plus we have dance parties. How do we do that online? Join us and find out! 😉


    Follow Julie: 

    12×12 Challenge website & blog:




    The Complete Picture Book Submission System:

    Picture Book Summit:

    My Love For You is the Sun:


    Prize @%@%@%@%@%


    One lucky winner will win a copy of  “The Coloring Book for Writers” by
    Linda Faulkerson! This prize is generously donated by Becky Aren’t! 

    To win this prize: 

    Tell Julie how you liked her post in a comment.

    Also be sure to thank Becky for this prize in your comment!

  • Events,  Spring into Writing,  Writing

    Another Look at “Where it All Happens”

    I wanted to give you a quick look at what your rooms can look like. This comes from pages 12-19 in the Spring into Writing workbook. Don’t have the workbook you can download it here:

    Below is a new room I created! The room my son and I created for the video is still up on the Facebook group here: 

    While I was doing this I learned that it’s probably better to add in your notes with sticky notes/note cards. What I want in this picture can change at any time, so I don’t want any of it to be permanent. After I put in the pot lights I regretted it. I may not want them to be a part of my final room!


    If you find you don’t like a part of your room then just start over with a fresh background. If you have just taped or used pushpins in your image things should be easy to change. Since I had to remove the big image that David and I did from the cardboard backing I ended up taping everything to the background with masking tape. That way I can still move things around if we want.

    Upper Right Corner
    Lower Left Corner
    Upper Right Corner
    Lower Right Corner
  • Events,  Spring into Writing,  Writing

    Jennifer Ward: Avian Writer

    Jennifer Ward is the author of over 20 kids books including “Mama Built a Little Nest” and “Mama Dug a Little Den”. I was lucky enough to meet Jennifer at the Children’s Book Academy’s “The Craft and Business of Illustrating Picture Books”. Jennifer Ward was encouraged by her Illustrator Steve Jenkins to take the class and I’m so glad she did. She is an amazing illustrator and I can’t wait to see her illustrate some of her future books!

    You can see more of Jennifer’s work on her website at:


    _MG_2025 (1)
    nest cover

    Dani Duck: How did your time as a teacher influence how you write now?

    Jennifer Ward: I am a naturalist and have a degree in education with a minor in science. As a teacher, I used picture books to enhance all subject areas of curriculum, including science. Reading picture books daily helped me to “know” picture books. I found myself creating my own picture books to use with my students to share scientific concepts  – expository nonfiction books that were simply made for classroom use when I couldn’t find books on the market with science concepts I wanted to convey. It’s exciting to see how the market of expository nonfiction has grown since my teaching days!

    Dani: Which bird most represents who you are? Which bird would you like to be? 

    Jennifer Ward: Hmmm. Perhaps a Carolina Wren represents my personality – they are SO curious about everything around them, and so am I. If I had to be a bird, I think I’d choose to be an American Crow. They’re family oriented, with multiple generations living together year after year, intelligent, and have a more varied diet than most bug-eating songbirds!


    Dani: What is the most fun you’ve ever had writing?

    Jennifer Ward:The most fun I have writing is when I experience that “aha!” moment. You know, that epiphany moment when the right words surface to make something work – such as the perfect ending to a story. Writing isn’t always like that, so it’s always a “rush”, or fun, when it all comes together as I envisioned.

    Dani: Why is STEM so important?

    Jennifer Ward: It’s important that we provide students authentic opportunities to explore, wonder, question, create, problem solve and practice STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), that they may pursue careers related to STEM. As our world becomes more populated and natural resources decrease, I believe the health and vitality of our planet and its populations will depend on creative and innovative STEM focused minds.


    Dani:  What’s one thing you wish everyone knew about writing?


    Jennifer Ward: Writing involves A LOT of thinking, and sometimes thinking is hard – especially when you’re trying to make a picture book story. Sometimes a story works. Sometimes it doesn’t. Some picture books may happen quickly; some may take years. Writing is truly a process, and a creative one. 


    Follow Jennifer:



    Momma Built a Little Nest:

    Momma Dug a Little Den:

    More of Jennifer Ward’s Books: