How to write and illustrate children’s books by Author and Illustrator Kayleen West

Celia and Nonna. Children's Book Illustration by Kayleen West

Books that build in hard places.

Empowering others through imagination

Anyone can choose to encourage or build others in helpful ways but sometimes imagination is needed to harvest additional opportunities. Accompanying a servant’s heart is a mind that will seek to discover ideas that will influence positively often enhancing the life of others. Creative people have countless opportunities to invent in this area.

Have you ever opened a book and had one or more of these thoughts?

Wow, that’s life changing!
I learned something that will help me grow!
Now I understand ______ better and I’ll do __________ differently from now on!

I certainly have.

Valuable life lessons, no matter how minor they first appear, have potential for significant, positive transformation. Scattered between the pages of a good book we often find pearls of wisdom in unexpected places; dormant hope waiting for a reader to identify with, and embrace wholeheartedly.

When creating story in word or image I ask if and how someone will benefit from it. I prefer communally beneficial and emotionally uplifting assignments that give me creative freedoms to explore how I can contribute. I believe we live to serve one another. To inspire moments of happiness or ease the pain of another is the best way to use talents and time. Though romantic, I hold onto this conviction. I like to dream big!

How I translate this conviction in children’s books?

Illustration is a wonderful vehicle for transporting a child reader through the emotions of a story powerfully but safely. Invention surfaces when we can look past the obvious elements of a story and find potential macro stories within the original. We ask the question, how by invention, can this illustration enhance the reader’s transformational experience and entertain them?

Illustrating emotion in a particular way is the answer. Some strategies I have used are:

  • A touch of humour to lighten a particularly uncomfortable moment.
  • Controlling drama or excess tension by moderating the visual risk.
  • Illustrating humility to ensure character flaws are judged with compassion.
  • Capturing heroism through specific actions or appearance (empowering the character and reader)
  • Repeating images to emphasise important emotion.


In one of my most recent picture books my challenge was to guide the child reader through uncertainty, tackling a tough subject of change and adult challenges. I had to make the visual experience enjoyable, reassuring the reader through the story and end it with a sense of intimate peace.

Emotive imagery in Celia and Nonna

Celia and Nonna was the perfect canvas for emotive imagery. I needed to illustrate tension and emphasise particular emotions and actions to capture the story.

Celia and Nonna. Children's Book Illustration by Kayleen WestModerating tension: placement of characters, adding humour and humility

In the above illustration Nonna forgets she is cooking (adult error-imperfection). The spilling pot is the closest visual to the reader and creates immediate DANGER! Celia is placed near but far enough from the stove to be safe from burns. We still see her alarm as she signals the distracted adult. Should she look up, Nonna can still see the pot from where she sits making it less threatening.

Poor Nonna. I can relate to this myself. I have been known to do the same. Here’s one example! It was fish and vegetables before I killed it.11089039_10152901460174013_4050968061784294035_o

But I digress. Back to Celia and Nonna…

Near the spillage I placed teddy cakes they successfully baked on the previous page; a safe, comforting scene. One cake is broken/imperfect because Celia made an imperfect cake or perhaps has a naughty or impatient moment eating and extra ear or eye when Nonna wasn’t looking (child error-imperfection). This juxtaposed visual adds humility hopefully moderating uncertainty in Nonna’s perceived failings as a responsible (safe) adult. Hopefully children can consciously or subconsciously identify and bond with the elderly character through the comparisons


Repeating images to emphasise important emotion


Celia and Nonna. Alzheimer’s and dementia in picture book. Hospice.
On the first spread I emphasised the safest place for most children – the loving embrace of an important adult. Apart from abusive situations, this is a significant place of safety for children.

I repeated the symbol of the embrace between Nonna and Celia on this spread deliberately. Like the stove example, the foreground would be noticed by the reader. I place two birds in similar intimacy on the handrail. Inanimate objects were also used to mirror this; the two penguins on a cover of a picture book and Celia’s shoes positioned in a crossed fashion. The penguins are later mentioned and a perfect prop.

Celia is seen close contact with her grandmother in in the first few pages, concreting the sentiment from the beginning.

Body language speaks volumes

The embrace was deliberately introduced at the beginning and end for the child to safely enter and exit the story. Later illustrations show Celia busy drawing near her grandmother and Nonna’s new friends. Her comfort is also made evident by her body language. Celia is engaged and happily distracted.

Empowering a reader by capturing heroism, illustrating specific action or appearance

Celia embraces residential change by drawing pictures for Nonna; lovingly preserving Nonna’s favourite memories, nesting as they decorate the new walls and celebrating their relationship through particular images of the two together. Celia is empowered by contributing. During this she discovers their time together is what is most important. Don’t you love a good ending!?

Sensory experience

In the examples above I have demonstrated how illustrations can be an important sensory experience in children’s books. Illustrations can make or break a picture book. They stimulate emotion and are visually entertaining – arguably the most important part of a picture book story. And if an image is worth a thousand words, they need to be the right images. They can provide additional story, equally projecting the original imagined by the author.

I pray my illustrations speak to the heart, helps families and is a blessing to children and adults who contemplate them. It is my hope that stories like Celia and Nonna reach into homes and the hearts of children dealing with any form of change or helplessness. Victoria Lane’s story is not just a story about aged care or dementia; if you look further you will see our collaboration is so much more. I hope it softens any confronting challenge of growing old, apart, different, or any fear and sews a seed of empowerment and creative victory in every person who reads it – young or old.

World Dementia Month – September

A select group of Australian children’s authors and illustrators (myself included) have collaborated to showcase books about ageing and dementia for World Dementia Month. Each unique and beautifully illustrated story is based on personal experience and offers practical strategies to connect and share love with elderly grandparents even in difficult, changing, and confusing circumstances. You can read more HERE

World Dementia Month September - Books Encourage Children to Connect

Note to writers, Illustrators and All creative people…

Regardless of occupation I encourage you mine the hope and joy in your story or project. Look for the details that can translate that hope. It just might change the whole appearance of your next assignment!

Further reading: Explaining Dementia to Children

Carers Corner has an informative article on explaining dementia to children. This compliments what is written above adding more light on this subject.
You can read the article HERE

Surface design whale and creativity quote.
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Overview of a VERY Creative Year!

1000 apologies! I neglected posting in December but at least I backed off at a time your inbox would have been bombarded with Christmas promotions and copious amounts of reading anyway.

But I’m back and charged for 2015! This year is going to ROCK! I can feel it with every part of me and I am READY! Are you?

Authentically makes us buzz

I spent every minute outside paid work, experimenting with my craft in 2014, questioning what was developing and where to go from there. It was a busy and exciting year creatively.

Freelancing, I was blessed with a variety of assignments from toy product design to program covers to interesting logos and adorable picture books.


Illustrating children’s books for a few years has been wonderful but I discovered a desire for additional singular assignments. I really enjoyed doing small series or one off illustrations for jobs. Self-inflicted illustration challenges I committed to last year like Inktober, the 52 week illustration, challenge and the occasional Daily Doodle submission where helpful when I had freedom to be authentic to my own vision.

The many illustrations and sketches produced from the inspiration of the 52 week Illustration Challenge

The many illustrations and sketches produced from the inspiration of the 52 week Illustration Challenge CLICK TO ENLARGE

Producing a book is a marathon task and requires a particular boundary that limits exploration. You need to stay true to the character and style throughout all 25 plus illustrations. It not unlike creating a large body of work for an exhibition that requires the final art pieces to be all part of one series in a particular style. It is a skill and it’s fun, but it is restrictive. As I have consistently produced one picture book after another since late 2012, I need play dates with self- expression.

By the end of a book I am bursting to download what is now in my head and heart if I haven’t had enough in-between work or experimental time. We all need adequate time for risk-taking. As a result, in addition to books, I am looking for opportunities in surface design and editorial illustration this year.

I am also looking at teaching in the near future. (More on that soon!)

My new romance – surface design and patterns

I can’t tell you how it happened but I it happened late last year. In a matter of days I found myself obsessing over the beauty of pattern design and indulging in the fun creating them.

Surface pattern design: Umbredrops

Surface pattern design: Umbredrops

Vintage surface pattern design swatch. Floral

Vintage surface pattern design swatch.

Happy poster print Happy Butterfly. Illustration by Kayleen West

Happy poster print Happy Butterfly. Available as a print here

2014-12-18_ADVENT_snowman-brandedCombined with illustration pattern took on a life of its own. As a consequence my newest book, We Worship God, due for release this year by Xist Publishing, written by Nancy Streza, adopted a hint of pattern in my illustrations.

Children's illustration from ABC Christian picture book, We Worship God - Xist Publishing 2015 release

Children’s illustration from ABC Christian picture book, We Worship God – Xist Publishing 2015 release


Unleashing the authenticity

Sometime we need to stop long enough to align ourselves. January is perfect for this. My family go on a holiday for a couple of weeks and I take a break on my own. This may sound strange but I really need it. I am a step-mum of a very active young tribe and I am very tired by the end of each year. It is hard to get time to reflect seriously enough. Without parental responsibilities (a significant distraction) or too many commitments of any kind, I can catch up on my own thoughts and have time to play unrestricted.

Let’s play – MATS Bootcamp begins…


Surface design: MATS mini assignment: Edwardian Brooches.

Surface design: MATS mini assignment: Edwardian Brooches.

This week launched Lilly Roger’s MATS Bootcamp, the creative briefs being the main attraction – the springboard to begin the year.

The first mini assignment exploring Edwardian Brooches. In my self-indulgence as a faux–bachelor (I made that word up), I have produced dozens of sketches in ink and Illustrator already this week, staying up into the night (and morning) and sleeping past 10am – because I can! I suspect creative ADHD though as the more I create, the more I want to. The ideas keep coming!

Surface design: MATS mini assignment: Edwardian Brooches.

Surface design: MATS mini assignment: Edwardian Brooches.

Surface design: MATS mini assignment: Edwardian Brooches.

Surface design: MATS mini assignment: Edwardian Brooches.

Surface design: MATS mini assignment: Detail of WIP design

Surface design: MATS mini assignment: Edwardian Brooches.

Belated Happy New Year!

Sorry, I didn’t even wish you all a Merry Christmas. I pray you have an awesome 2015 everyone!

Peek into my year summed up:

  • Both Adoptive Father and Celia and Nonna were awarded the seal of approval by the Children’s Literacy Classics
  • My picture book Without Me won an International CLC Silver medal.
  • I finished illustrating a new picture book, We Worship God, an ABC books with the letters hidden in the images and I love it! I am so pleased with the cute illustrations.
  • The art advertising agency, The Art Mob approach me about representing me. They are a new agency and so I have agreed to see how it goes. Hopefully this will bring more editorial work. I am looking for an established agency for my surface designs.
  • I completed every week of the 52 week Illustration Challenge with loads of illustrations to show for it. Many are sketches and some are completed. Some will be valuable to build on for future projects. I fill many sketchbook pages in the process.
  • I completed the Inktober challenge which was a huge advantage as I picked up ink for the first time in years – and LOVE IT! This is an important part of my design work now.
  • I discovered the world of surface pattern design! I have a huge amount of pattern files already. They are waiting to develop or put into a final portfolio. This is high on my TO DO list for this year.

So there it is. I hope my endeavors encourage you in some way to explore creativity yourself more.

Children's book illustration: Picture book, Better Than A Superhero. Publisher: Even Before Publishing

The Visual Economy – how important are illustrations in picture books?

Georgia, a student at the CATC Design School was working on an article on ‘The Visual Economy’ exploring importance of illustrations in children’s books verses the written story. In her article she wrote, (quote) “They say ‘a picture is worth a 1000 words’ is becoming more and more relevant in today’s society as the world we live in becomes more and more visual. Research (*) has shown that 80% of people remember what they see and do, compared to only 20% of people who remember what they read. These days, 93% of communication is non-verbal but visual, and this is a current trend in children’s books.” (end quote) Georgia emailed me asking what I thought on this topic and the article in question. This was an email I thought needed a considered response as it is a hot topic in the industry and was recently raised at the SCBWI Conference in Sydney this year. I wrote back and added some of the points below:

I believe the illustrations engage the children for a longer period of time and add additional layers one story. As an Illustrator I know the responsibility this entails. We have to illustrate images that capture and hold the attention of a child so they will want to re-read a book over and over again. We illustrate a moment in time but also leaving something to the imagination. We also have to manipulate a page turn, illustrating curiosity for the next page and next part of the story. If executed well, a wordless picture book will stand alone as does a good story. Maybe the question remains … what appeals to children of this visual age more?

Sacrificial text

An author’s words are often culled to make way for an illustration or sometimes altered. An illustration not only tells the original story but also adds additional dimension. Are the illustrations in a picture book of most importance? I personally believe so and many illustrators would agree with me. I am both an author and illustrator and I believe picture books rely on the illustrations to not only entertain the child (and adult) reader but draw a buyer into a purchase. Not many books would fly off the selves without a good cover or inside illustrations in the children’s market.

Page turn

The spread above is a page from one of my latest picture books, Better Than A Superhero written by Belinda Francis. It is a good example of how I had to think outside the clique of biblical imagery to invent something that was fresh and that a child would relate to. I didn’t want to produce yet another Christian book filled with predictable biblical imagery. Sometime it is relevant but let’s be original where possible! I chose to illustrate the story through the eyes of a child. I used the little boy’s toys as he tells the story and here we see him in a gallery wondering about the big picture; who created the universe and how incredible they must be. The text and image leaves the child wondering what is on the next page.

Georgia’s article is an interesting topic. In this industry, too often authors are celebrated above the illustrators for the publication of a picture book, the illustrator sometimes barley acknowledged. We are always a second credit on a cover, sometimes a smaller credit and something even removed! It is a bone of contention in the industry and was raised at a recent conference by a well-known and popular illustrator. A picture book is a collaboration of the story idea and the image that bring it to full visual life. Illustrations are imperative when creating a picture book, but like you point out (Georgia expressed in her article), a picture book can stand alone with illustrations and no text and create a wonderful adventure. It is after all – a picture book.

Inspiration for the imagination

A text story is reliant on the child’s imagination and literacy skills or a parental reader but a wordless picture book is an independent reading experience, uninterrupted or interfered. They can give a child a feeling of empowerment and build their imagination. The child is invited to investigate what the illustrator sees and imagine for themselves.

I have a growing collection of wordless picture books. It is my intention to publish a wordless picture book in the near future. I have one written and fleshed out ready. These are what I consider purist picture books. They have their entitled position on my bookshelf where I consider them as artisan books.

It is a good question though. It shouldn’t be a matter of superiority or pride, but of creating a wonderful experience for a child solely with illustrations, story or in collaboration.

And of course there are other creative things children can do with books…

child imagination picture books.

(*) Research reference:



How to scan watercolours and use the clone stamp tool.

Video: How to scan paintings

After a designer asked me about how to scan a watercolour. I see this question asked a lot. I thought I would make a video. I hope this makes scanning a little easier for someone. I also touch on the clone stamp tool as well.

Easy steps to zentangle? Doodling for fun.
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This is how to draw something AWESOME – easy!

Have you noticed the flood of attractive patterned doodling popping up everywhere? It has been branded as tangles or zentangles. I guess in some places that is a better term than …well…doodle. Doodle here means…well…a boy’s know.

I bet most of you have at one time or another doodled on a scrap piece of paper – most likely whilst on the phone. Have you ever looked at part of it and thought, ‘gee, this little bit here looks…good” ? Doodling can be taken to a new level and not by any great skill either. Anyone can doodle…or tangle.

After posting a tangles inked doodle I did for #INKtober and #illo52weeks,  a fellow artist asked me what was the best way to start with something like this. Fortunately I did take a progress photo. This is my advice for anyone wanting to create something like this. Start small. It is meant to be fun, easy and experimental.

Easy steps to zentangle? Doodling for fun.

  1. Begin with a simple shape or squiggles line. In this I drew one long squiggle with fish in mind as I drew. I overlapped shapes but didn’t lift the pen of the paper until I had the page covered in a squiggle.
  2. Additionally, you can begin by making as many variations of marks on paper as you can. Look at patterns and shapes of items around you and use them for inspiration.
  3. Use your reference sheet and begin filling in the shapes within your squiggle with a different design in each.
  4. After all sections are filled (you can leave some blank if you want – no rules) then look for places where you may want to clean up the line or thicken some in parts.

They are really only simple shapes like lines, circles, squares, triangles etc in various thicknesses collected together – nothing elaborate. This is why ANYONE can do this!

And that is all there is to it. There are plenty of books on the topic that can give you ideas but look around you and try simple shapes from your surroundings. You’ll find plenty when you start. And of course you can do this on any surface like I did on this art doll. There are endless ideas for covering surfaces with this approach. Feel free to post you creations inspired by this post. We would love to see them.

Dyslexia Awareness Week
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Colour the town purple

Purple parade for Dyslexia awareness

Yesterday below Federation Square, a parade of happy supporters of Dyslexia Awareness Week walked the streets dressed in purple waving purple balloons. I decided dress in purple and support them. With family in tow, we missed the walk as our GSP took us somewhere bizarre! I am such a country girl! I did make it for all the other wonderful happenings. I listened with great interest to the thought- provoking interviews with adults and children who have struggled with sigmas of stupidity through misunderstanding and undiagnosed dyslexia.

I heard how important understanding and resources are to people who struggle with dyslexia and how using the Open Dyslexia font in Celia and Nonna was so needed. Jason Henham, CEO of SPELD Victoria (who provides help and guidance to people with dyslexia and other learning difficulties), thanked me for taking the initiative to include the dyslexic font in a “mainstream” book (Celia and Nonna). I asked him if he knew any mainstream publishers that had adopted the idea and was shocked to hear my book was the first! What a help this will be so so many kids and adults! Hopefully, this will set a president  other publishers will adopt. They are totally supportive of Celia and Nonna and I pray it makes a difference making this first initial step. I wish I could find the person who suggested it in the LinkedIn forum – I’d thank her!

More and more I’m discovering how much we can use our positions to pay it forward in unique ways.

It was wonderful to finally meet the lovely Heidi Gregory from the Melbourne support group. I handed her designs for a logo for them. They are a great support for parents in Melbourne and have an active and very informative Facebook group.They have a new home at Finbar Neighborhood House in Richmond.

Artplay Melbourne: patterns, textures and creative imagery

As a family we enjoyed the day in Melbourne. The event was held next to the community project, Artplay – GO – it is great! It is a collaborative project between artists and children; creative workshops, performances, exhibitions etc. Naturally I was drunk with pattern wine and had to take photos on my phone as we took a walk from the event through Artplay and around Southgate. I kinda wish I had taken my good camera now but I got a few good shots. Here is a taste:

Artplay Melbourne patterns textures and creative imagery

Artplay Melbourne patterns textures and creative imagery


Celia and Nonna. Picture books about grandparent and child.

Celia and Nonna. Picture book with Open Dyslexic font.


Painting Dolls. Mixed media art doll. Fabric surface design.
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Painting dolls made a bloody crime scene!

Painting Dolls on school holidays

The kids and I created what looked like a bloody crime scene painting dolls.
I have been so inspired lately playing in so many mediums and creating so many things I can’t stop! I have been designing patterns, participating in #Inktober and #illo52weeks while finishing a picture book off ( almost done).

My children are on school holidays and we had a craft day today. I spilled out an assortment of art and craft supplies and let them loose to do whatever inspired them. Mr 9 had a calico doll to decorate and Miss 13 and Mr 11 had cardboard book boxes.  I joined in with a calico doll and had a great time. At first I thought I had killed the thing – it looked like a crime scene! But then, to my surprise, it came together somehow.

Mr 11 made a decorated sling shot contraption out of the cardboard book box (go figure) which I eventually sent outside for testing – it worked too effectively! And Miss 13 is still working on perfection. My youngest is a little sensitive with art but enjoyed the play for a while, then hit the TV room.

Mixed media art doll. Fabric surface design. Kids activity

Painting Dolls. Mixed media art doll.  Kids holiday activity fun.

Mixed media art doll. Fabric surface design.

Mixed media art doll looking like a crime scene.

You can most likely see by the images above I’m on Instagram now so come and say hi!

Cloud nine. Engagement, wedding or Valentine day card illustration. #illo52weeks theme clouds. Dogs in love.
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Drawings memories and making cards

It is nice to create cards for your loved ones. For a bit of fun (don’t laugh) I thought I would show you the birthday card I made my daughter from an old sketchbook image. The drawing is of my then little girl holding her favourite bunny toy. I sketched this portrait in 1996. This is one good reason to date your drawings. Old sketchbooks are like diaries and can preserve precious memories like this.
Sketchbook drawing from 1996 of my daughter. Old sketchbooks are like diaries.
There is something gorgeous about sepia art work. Maybe it is nostalgic of old photographs and history. Creating new history this week my eldest daughter (yes the one with the bunny) will be officially engaged to be married. I am refusing to feel old–okay!

I couldn’t resist using my cloud 9 illustration from of the #illo52weeks illustration challenges, clouds, for a card to congratulate the happy couple. It was drawn in my toned sketchbook so I printed it on photo paper. I then added some bling with some heart embellishments.

I am not sure weather I will colour this illustration any further. I quite like it as is. What do you think?

Cloud nine. Engagement, wedding or Valentine day card illustration. #illo52weeks theme clouds. Dogs in love.

Cloud nine. Engagement, wedding or Valentine day card illustration. #illo52weeks theme clouds.

Celia and Nonna Teddy Cakes recipe instructions Step #9
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Make these easy teddy cakes from my book.

In my new picture book I illustrated some teddy cakes that the character Nonna makes with Celia. I decided to recreate them in real life. I took a batch to Ivanhoe library where they were quickly gobbled up. I was told they were delicious  – I should have made more!

I am sharing the instructions here so educators and parents can enjoy this easy activity with their children. I don’t profess to be a cake decorator, my sister, Joy is the expert in that field I can honestly say this is an easy recipe.


  • Pretzels
  • Chocolate cup cakes
  • small light brown biscuits (I used Almond Florentines)
  • Pink Smarties
  • Small chocolate drops (or brown smarties)
  • Soft white vanilla Icing
  • Black writing icing

You will need:

  • piping bag
  • butter knife
  • a sink of soapy water
  • will power not to eat all the left-overs!

Gather all the ingredients:

Celia and Nonna Teddy Cakes recipe instructions Step #2

Chocolate cup cakes. Make your own or buy them Chocolate chip is okay too.

Celia and Nonna Teddy Cakes recipe instructions Step #3

Shop bought Almond Florentines where used for a “Italian Nonna” theme but some children don’t like the strong marzipan taste of these. You can use any light coloured biscuit this shape. These were approximately 2cm wide.

Celia and Nonna Teddy Cakes recipe instructions Step #4

As I was making the cakes on a very tight time frame I used bought vanilla frosting in a small tub. The type that stays thick but soft.

Celia and Nonna Teddy Cakes recipe instructions Step #5

Pink Smarties for the teddy’s noses and small chocolate cooking drops for eyes. Alternatively you can use the brown Smarties for eyes. Do what you will with the left-overs – yum!

Celia and Nonna Teddy Cakes recipe instructions Step #1

Pretzels: we will loose a few to breakage but aim to break off the 2 sides like so. These will be our teddy’s ears. We will need enough for all our cakes.

When you have prepared your pretzel ears start assembling the nose. Spoon a good amount of icing into the piping bag and use to glue the pink Smarties to the florentines.

Celia and Nonna Teddy Cakes recipe instructions Step #6

Using the black writing icing pipe the mouth on the florentines.

Then stick the whole florentine to the cup cakes, slightly offset, allowing room for the eyes on one side.

Celia and Nonna Teddy Cakes recipe instructions Step #7

Making the eyes

Next, pipe a good amount of white icing onto the cupcake where the eyes will be. When we add the chocolate drop eyes the overflow will create part of the eye. Push each drop into the icing until almost touching the cake – but not quite!

Add a small amount of white icing to each end of the snapped off pretzel and push gently inot the cake until it grips. Ta-da!

Celia and Nonna Teddy Cakes recipe instructions Step #8

Smile teddy!

Lat tip: If transporting your lovely teddy cakes, use a muffin tray so they don’t slip around. We don’t want teddy looking beat up, do we?!

Celia and Nonna Teddy Cakes recipe instructions Step #9

If you have some teddy cake pictures you would like to share here, I would love to see them.


Book Week author illustrator visit at Rye primary School. Puppets, drawing, how a picture book is created and more.
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Puppets and storytelling during Book Week

My goodness, life as a children’s author and illustrator is a busy one – but incredibly fun!

Book Week author illustrator visit at Rye Primary School. Puppets, drawing, how a picture book is created and more.

We are in the throws of book week (which goes for more than a week) where I have been visiting children in different parts of the state. Storytelling and creative education has to be the best job in the world.

My reward mazimus is witnessing the excitement in the eyes of my young readers. I love it when the children rush up to me excited about what they now CAN do with all they have learned. It is so much fun to ask the question, “was that fun?” and get the response, “It was AWESOME!” I am especially enjoying the introduction of my cheeky puppet tortoise, AT (pictured above hiding in his shell) and friends. You know you’ve hit the sweet spot when all the children unanimously sigh, “ooooh!” when I have to put AT away. I have fallen in love with him also. He has come fully alive over the sessions. I didn’t realise how much fun puppetry was until now!

So far, I have the pleasure of presenting to over 1300 students and I have more to visit still. Tomorrow, I join other authors and illustrators for the Ford Street Literary Festival at Scotch College in Hawthorn. Victoria Lane (author of Celia and Nonna) and myself will lead workshops for grades 4,5 and 6 tomorrow amongst lots of fun happenings during the day.

Book Week author illustrator visit at The Grange Prep-12 College. Puppets, drawing, how a picture book is created and more.

I would LOVE to bring AT to visit your school too. You can contact me for more information via my event booking page or via my agent Creative Net

Thank you to Rye Primary teachers for their feedback this week:

Kayleen gave the teachers lots of writing ideas. I got my grade to draw pictures from squiggles and write about them coming to life.  Amanda Enright – CRT Grade 2. Rye Primary School

Interesting and students were engaged for the whole session – illustration and activity excellent, Thank you. Michelle Venturin – Class teacher. Rye Primary School


Paul Collins and Kayleen West at Ford Street Publishing.
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Snapshot: Publisher, Paul Collins

If you have been wondering about what my publishers are looking for this may be a bit of insight for you. Today on Fable Croft Paul Collins (Ford Street Publishing), publisher of my newest title Celia and Nonna shares what he does and what he is looking for.

He gives an insight into picture books and how it is the concept that interests him more than the words. And how often the illustrations replace much of the text in the end.

Paul is an author of many titles too. You can read more here: FableCroft » Snapshot 2014: Paul Collins Ford Street Publishing.

I’ll try to spotlight my other publishers in time.

Judith Rossell will be launching Celia and Nonna later this month at Ivanhoe Library, 255 Upper Heidelberg Road, Ivanhoe. I would love to meet you! Click on image to enlarge.

Author and Illustrator Judith Rossell will be launching my newest book Celia and Nonna. You are all invited to join us.

Author and Illustrator Judith Rossell will be launching my newest book Celia and Nonna. You are all invited to join us.

Every day be inspired to create something beautiful. Deign illustration quote
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Balancing Manuscripts on the Hop

I have been asked to join a writer’s blog hop by the lovely and very talented, energetic, diligent, story-savy, entertaining, encouraging , creatively marvelous, and astoundingly popular children’s author Penny Reeve – too many adjectives? Isn’t that is what blogging is for?

Penny is a children’s author who held that passion since the age of three! Yes three, she even created a picture book. You can see it on her about page. Penny has authored several popular children’s books. My kids have enjoyed everyone I have bought home for them.

Penny’s blog hop and see what she is working on go here
Every day be inspired to create something beautiful. Deign illustration quote

1. What am I working on? (writing)

This little story about a market,
this little story began at home,
this little story is about roasted leaf
and this little story needs a nun
and THIS little story…
WILL GO wee, wee, wee … ALL THE WAY HOME!

In my writing, I have picked one picture book and one chapter book to mainly focus. However, I have permitted myself to play with up to of each maximum. I have too many started manuscripts and need to get some wee, wee, wee, ALL THE WAY HOME!

After I did a workshop last month I realised I could dramatically improve everything I have written so even my submission ready work has gone back into my writing inbox. It is imperative for me to narrow down my project hit list to be truly productive. There will always be more beginnings than final projects, but I am avoiding the pitfall of imbalance and stress. I am already spread out with my addiction to illustration and design making this discipline even more important.

Latest picture book manuscript

I have been working in both prose and rhyme (okay, okay, so I got distracted with rhyme. I am undecided which one will win out. I am testing both options and pretty determined to beat the rhyming barrier (challenge) in my writing. Why? Because I LOVE rhyming picture books!

Chapter book manuscript/ graphic novel?

The chapter book is fantastical and needs a mountain of work but I am having fun with some interesting and very different kind of characters. I may want to illustrate some pages for this as I think it lends to a graphic novel.

So…. I am a long way off having anything ready because I’ve taken a step up in my writing and want to hammer my manuscripts into winning submissions.

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Now at this stage answering THAT would be giving too much information away [Secret writers business – DO NOT ENTER]

3. Why do I write what I do?

If I stopped, I’d need to take medication for it! Okay a serious and honest answer then…

There is always an underlining theme in my work, an undercurrent of acceptance and survival in a seemingly complex and scary world. If my stories can be fun, amusing and emotionally helpful then that is the recipe for me. I like to write enduring characters who find a way to move through the tough stuff to overcome weather is through reflection, experience, or personality. I like to transition the fearful, cute and not-so-cute into over-comers and celebrate the final page with them with a shout- YAY!

4. How does my writing process work?

I begin with a pretty clear idea or I jot down quirky book titles I think up and develop them. Usually it is a pretty fleshed out idea that gets my attention though. I can wake in the morning with a whole story downloaded into my head. I’ll lie there for a little while exploring it and then throw the covers off in a rush to get it down quickly before I forget it, often improving the vision as I write. I might play a little then I leave it for the day. I return the my stories after time gaps to make sure I am seeing it with a fresh idea, much like developing a painting. I utilise my writers group for constructive input and enhancing my work. If an editor gives me feedback then even better!

Now I’d like to pass the batten to  3 delectable, intelligent, magnificent and creative literary masterminds (who have most likely cured their adjective obsession)…Any takers???