How Do The Pictures Get In The Book?

Illustration, KidLit

I had the pleasure of teaching a kids workshop on illustration a few weeks ago at my favorite Billings bookstore, This House of Books!

In a wonderful summer series the bookstore hosted for children featuring workshops from different STEAM careers, I was honored to fill the slot for the “A” with some Art. I am a firm believer in the importance of the arts in our lives, and even more so in the lives of our children and students.

I brought my sketches, my storyboard, and my final watercolor paintings for The Spill, so I could show the kids my process from start to finish.

I even brought my light box along, which was a huge hit! All the kids got the chance to trace Faye, just like I did so many times throughout the six months it took me to finish all the artwork for the book.

The kids learned about basic story elements like setting, characters, and plot; they learned how to show emotion and action through body language in illustrations, and they even sketched their own storyboards!

I was thrilled to see such amazing little budding artists, who will be the storytellers of tomorrow! This event made me even more grateful for a life involving books, art, and children. What a beautiful combination!

Thanks so much to This House of Books for inviting me to come present this fun workshop! We will ALWAYS need stories and stories are so much better with pictures. I felt so lucky to get to share the wonderful world of illustration with such creative little minds–our authors and illustrators of tomorrow!

**Draw something everyday!**

~Erika

(Huge thanks also go to Rosanna Buehl–one of our amazing bookstore volunteers–for all of these awesome pictures!!)

Coming out of Hibernation

Life Lessons from a One-Year-Old, Motherhood

“Let light shine out of darkness”  2 Corinthians 4:6

I cannot find words to express how grateful I am that today is the first day of spring.

It was a looooooong winter!

Between huge snowstorms and subzero temps and keeping the home fire burning (literally) and staying on top of work and motherhood and kid activities and an awful lot of work-widow “single-parent” nights while the hubs traveled here and there. . . .it was a long winter.

This past week the temperature hit the 70s, the snow melted, and–FINALLY! I had the urge to blog for the first time in months. What was stopping me before? Exhaustion? Chaos? Yes. Both.

A good friend gave me an even more perfect explanation for my seasonal writer’s block though: my inspiration was hibernating. 

She was right! It was!

I didn’t have a single extra brain cell available with which to create or express or ponder or record or even just report the goings on of my crazy life the last few months. Because it was just that–crazy. 

I am still trying–my New Year’s intention–to be content in every day. Contentment in chaos is difficult, it turns out! So is calm, so is peace, and so is presence. I seemed to subconsciously realize around mid-January that if I had 10 spare minutes of energy, it needed to be focused on my family. So my writing and my new-found glass obsession both simply did what they had to do to survive–they went into hibernation. 

The other change that has helped me survive the long winter? My social media presence. I am online about 1/100th of the time that I was in 2016, and you know what? I could not feel better about that choice! The old me couldn’t walk down the stairs without scrolling my newsfeed. And now I can go days without a single peek at the book of faces. The connections are great, but what drained me was the time, and more recently, the negativity. I realized the very limited time that I have right now is too precious to waste reading bullshit political articles, or watching as 25 different people/pages all share the exact same news clip with different reactions. 

I simply don’t have time right now to worry about page views or likes or shares. 

I need that time to worry about hugs and mealtimes and snack times and nap times and tuck-ins and washing those favorite digger jammies so he can wear them again.

I also need that time for listening and supporting and laughing with and loving and enjoying my best friend (the hubs!) when he is home. Because all the days when he’s gone, my whole world just feels like winter.

I need to spend my moments watching these four brothers play ball and laugh and teach and practice and tackle and race and wrestle. Because every time they go away and come back again, Hank’s bigger. They’re all bigger.

God usually has a funny way of getting messages to me, but I always get them, loud and clear. This week I got the message that I am doing the right thing; by focusing more on what matters most, and letting everything else fall by the wayside. Loud and clear.

Coming out of his daily (mini) hibernation

I had just grabbed Hank after a perfect two hour nap, and I was feeling guilty that I had fallen asleep as well, rather than being “productive.” With 30 pounds of groggy toddler in one arm; I stacked his sippy cup of milk, his snack, a water bottle, and my phone all up on my Chromebook with the other; then headed down the stairs in a balancing act of multi-tasking greatness. 

Except that it wasn’t.

Somehow as we got off balance, I knew I had overestimated my capabilities. I managed to slide most of the items onto the banister as I squeezed Hank to my hip, but I watched in slow motion as the sippy cup full of milk went rogue and bounced end over end down the entire length of the staircase. Spraying milk in grand arcs all along the (carpeted!) stairs and the beautiful dark stain of the wood banister. 

LOTS of milk. 

I turned to Hank, who was equally enthralled by the display, (it looked just like those park fountains that spray the water up in the air in pretty patterns) and all we could do was laugh. He then offered up an adorable “Uh-oh!”and shrugged his little shoulders.

I held him closer to me and stood there for a few seconds, taking it all in. I had just summed up my life (as of late, anyways) in one milky disaster. 

I have been trying to do too much at once. And it just got messy.

I got the message.

I have to hold what is most important to me, closest to me, and let all the rest fall away. (Even if some of it does get messy at times!)

This springtime is the only springtime I will ever have with an almost two-year-old, who discovers something new every single day. 

A boy, a ball, and a bucket


I don’t want to waste these days, these hours, or these minutes. 

Any precious moment I am not working, this beautiful time of year; I will be spending with Hank. I will also savor the times when I get the privilege of enjoying his amazing daddy and his incredible brothers, too.

I have to find my peace in the chaos by leaving my phone in the house, while we play ball out on the lawn. 

I can catch up on the news some other day. . . .or not at all.

I can blog once a month, instead of weekly, and that will have to be good enough for me.

I know I will still write my books, make my mosaic masterpieces–another day, when I have more time. More energy. Less laundry.

(Maybe when he goes off to preschool?)

Until then, and until next time, happy spring!

*Make time for you and yours, and make sure to enjoy those little moments!*

THIS Is The Day The Lord Has Made

Faith, Motherhood, We Are In This Together

Content. 

My mantra for 2017 is just one word: content

Not present, not grateful–I try to practice those two already, every day.

No–this year the intention I realized I need to focus on most is contentment. Why? Because life is short, God’s blessings abound, and it is up to us to receive them gracefully in order to truly appreciate those gifts. 

The season of motherhood I am in right now is tough. It is winter. We are struggling with new sleep issues. I am about to lose my very helpful husband to a whole lot more travel, after a glorious holiday month with him home, and I am already anxious. I have taxes and year-end and empty spaces to get leased all looming ahead these next few months as well, and I find myself stressing over my to-do list.

But my family, my amazing supportive family, loves me right through all of that. My husband helps however he can, whenever he can, and the days when he IS in town seem all the more precious. My sweet baby boy is darling and healthy, whether he sleeps through the night and naps perfectly or not. And his big brothers light up all of our worlds when they are with us!

I am making the choice to shine with God’s grace even on days when I tend more toward anxiety than peace. 

THIS is the day the Lord has made. It is our choice to rejoice, and be glad in it. 

THIS DAY. Today. I learned from some great losses this year–painfully–that I may not have a tomorrow. I cannot squander away my today in worry or in stress or in anxiety or in regret or in if-only’s. None of us can.

I am choosing instead to celebrate small victories, like a toddler feeding himself an entire bowl of noodle-o’s with his spoon, All-By-Himself for the very first time; even though his night was rough and his nap nonexistent. 

I choose a clean-enough house.

I choose to still sport last year’s maternity wardrobe, because it is so ridiculously comfortable, (and paid for!). 

I choose to not beat myself up for going to bed at 9, or for missing my precious hour of writing or reading or whatever crazy inspiration I’m feeling that particular week because I am Just. Too. Tired.

I choose to be ok with seeing my friends less than I’d like to, because it is all I can fit into our crazy life right now.

I choose to enjoy my husband more while he’s home, and hold no grudge when he must be away.

I choose to be content. In everything. And oh, what a lovely privilege it is, to have that choice to make.

Cheers to 2017, my dear family, friends, and readers! And may you find contentment in your own beautiful lives this year as well!