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Sketches and paintings and ocassional ramblings of children's book author/illustrator Kristi Valiant.
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1. Mother's Day Illustrations

They feed us, cuddle us, read to us, teach us, and rub sunscreen on our bald baby heads. In honor of Mother's Day, here are a bunch of illustrations of moms from some of my books.

PRETTY MINNIE IN PARIS

DO YOU LOVE ME MORE? 
DO YOU LOVE ME MORE?

DO YOU LOVE ME MORE?

THE GOODBYE CANCER GARDEN

THE GOODBYE CANCER GARDEN

THE GOODBYE CANCER GARDEN

CORA COOKS PANCIT

CORA COOKS PANCIT

LITTLE WINGS #1: WILLA BEAN'S CLOUD DREAMS

LITTLE WINGS #3: STAR-BUBBLE TROUBLE

LITTLE WINGS #5: WILLA BEAN TO THE RESCUE!

WHEN A CHILD WRITES

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2. Cover reveal for PRETTY MINNIE IN PARIS


The cover has been revealed for the picture book I illustrated, PRETTY MINNIE IN PARIS, written by Danielle Steel. It'll be published by Doubleday Books for Young Readers in Oct, 2014. 

Ooh la la!

This was such a fun book to illustrate, especially since my husband and I visited Danielle Steel and her little dog, Minnie, at their apartment in Paris and spent a week in Paris taking photos for research. Oh, how I love my job!

















Here's the synopsis of the book:

From #1 New York Times bestselling author Danielle Steel comes a charming picture book about Minnie, a tiny teacup Chihuahua with big style! Inspired by the adorable adventures of bestselling author Danielle Steel’s own teacup Chihuahua, Pretty Minnie in Paris is the stylish, ooh la la tale of a fashionable Parisian pup out on the town. Lost backstage during a noisy, crowded fashion show, tiny Minnie is separated from her owner, the girl she loves best. Quel désastre! But chaos turns to couture when Minnie unexpectedly finds herself the star of the runway. With a dreamy Paris backdrop and an atelier full of adorable outfits, Pretty Minnie in Paris is sure to be in vogue as the season’s must-have tale for little girls—and Danielle Steel fans of all ages—who love clothing, glamour, glitter, and all things à la mode.


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3. Growing your Picture Book Portfolio

When I first graduated from art school, I illustrated for the educational market for years. 

My goal was to illustrate trade picture books - ones with hard covers and dust jackets that you find at bookstores like Barnes & Noble. I was sending in art samples to trade picture book publishers, but the problem was that the samples I was sending worked better for the educational market, since that was what they were created for. They had an "educational look" to them. I needed to transform my portfolio to work for the trade picture book market, yet still create art that was my own style and felt right to me. 

The portfolio critiques at SCBWI conferences were my main way of figuring out how to do that. I would ask the art directors very specific questions about why certain illustrations I created didn't work for trade picture books and how other illustrations by other illustrators did work for trade books. It took years to focus my portfolio and get closer to my own "trade book look." Even now, my art is still growing.

I broke into the trade book world by sending illustration samples to Shen's Books that featured a young Asian girl, since I knew they published multicultural books - research who you're submitting to! That landed me a contract to illustrate CORA COOKS PANCIT. That book won an award and had fabulous reviews. After that, I illustrated THE GOODBYE CANCER GARDEN, published by Albert Whitman & Company. That book received a Starred Review from School Library Journal and also had very nice reviews. After a number of other books, I created my first book as both author and illustrator, PENGUIN CHA-CHA, that was published recently by Random House, and more great reviews for that. Now I've illustrated the upcoming PRETTY MINNIE IN PARIS, to be published by Doubleday, an imprint of Random House. That book was written by Danielle Steel, so I'm sure it'll receive a fair amount of press.

I love my career and have been truly blessed by great projects and working with great people.

If you're tweaking your portfolio to break into trade picture books, there are a lot of resources to help. 

First, I'd suggest joining the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). Go to your regional conferences and volunteer. Most states are their own region, some states are joined, and some states have multiple regions. There are SCBWI regions in many countries too. See if you can receive a portfolio critique at a conference. Those have been quite helpful for me. If your region doesn't have much happening for illustrators, ask if you can volunteer to run an event for illustrators. Your Regional Advisor can apply for a grant from SCBWI to go towards an illustrator event to help with the cost. 

If you do receive a portfolio critique, here are some tips on putting together your portfolio:
  • 11” x 14” or smaller size is preferred. 8.5” x 11” works best to easily print samples.
  • Do not bring original artwork in your portfolio - make nice color copies.
  • Have your name on your portfolio and at the top or bottom of each page.
  • Include 10-15 pieces of your best narrative artwork for children’s books showing a variety of emotion, characters, interaction, perspective, and body language.
  • Don't include artwork that doesn't work for the type of books that you want to illustrate. So no nude figure drawings, still lifes, etc. The illustrations need to have a narrative quality; they need to show a story happening. Multiple sequential pieces with the same characters showing part of a story, like Little Red Riding Hood, is helpful.
  • Bring questions that you want answered about your portfolio, such as what is your weakest piece. Bring paper to write down comments made during your portfolio critique.
  • Don't take comments personally. The art director critiquing your work is trying to help. Listen well and look for ways to improve your art.
  • Bring samples to leave with the art director who critiques your portfolio in case he/she asks for some. Don't expect them to ask though. And if they do ask, they may want a different piece than what you thought was your best, so be ready. Or send them a thank you in the mail with their favorite piece afterwards.

SCBWI's publication called THE BOOK has a section for illustrators. If you're an SCBWI member, you can download THE BOOK for free: http://www.scbwi.org/online-resources/the-book/the-book-member-download/

SCBWI has recently merged with Verla Kay's Blue Boards, so there are online discussion boards that you can take advantage of that are new. One new one is called Online Art Critiques: http://www.scbwi.org/boards/

If you search online for children's book portfolio tips, you'll come across a bunch like these:
Happy drawing!


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4. Picture Book Advent Calendar


For an Advent calendar this year, I used a cute idea from My Little Bookcase. I wrapped up 25 children's picture books about Christmas and Jesus' birthday. Each night, my little girls will open one and we'll all read it together. I love that!

A couple weeks ago, we hosted Betsy Bird from School Library Journal's A Fuse #8 Production at our Indiana SCBWI Member Luncheon. I'm the Regional Advisor for Indiana SCBWI, so I had the honor of getting to spend some extra time with Betsy before and after the event. She's a librarian, children's book reviewer, author, and a just an all-around nice person. On a walk along Zionsville's lovely streets, we came across a Little Free Library in front of someone's house. So adorable!


I'll be a guest blogger for post-PiBoIdMo on Dec 2 on Tara Lazar's blog where you can win a picture book critique from me. Be sure to watch for it!


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5. "Gobble Up Books this Thanksgiving" Coloring Page

Time for another turkey coloring sheet. May God bless your Thanksgiving!

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6. Reading at Home is Important

Dancing with a reader at Family Literacy Day
Last night I was the keynote speaker for the Dubois County Family Literacy Day. It gave me a chance to talk to parents about the importance of books in the home and how they can interact with their kids using books. I'll share a bit of it here. This is a talk I love to give!

This is how I often find my girls
Reading is mighty important!
• It builds listening, memory, and vocab skills.
• Reading fosters imagination.
• It helps kids learn about the world around them and lets them travel anywhere and be anybody.
• They figure out how to see things from another's perspective through books.
• Reading helps kids to sort out their feelings and to understand others. They relate to characters in books and are right there with the character as he or she figures out problems.
• Reading shows kids that there can be answers to problems in life.
• Reading creates a stronger foundation for school success.

So what can you do to help your child?
And I find them like this
• Let your kids see you reading! If you haven't read a book for fun in years, try it! Go to the library and challenge your librarian to find a book you'll love.
• Have comfy spaces in your house for reading, writing, and drawing. And fill your house with books that kids can easily access at their level.
• Read with your child. Even if they're old enough to read by themselves, find a story like THE LION, THE WITCH, AND THE WARDROBE, and read it out loud together as a family. Have your older kids take turns reading too. Read a short chapter each night after dinner before any TV gets turned on.
• Download free activity kits and discussion guides for books, like the Storytime Kit for PENGUIN CHA-CHA.
• Interact with your child as you read books. Discuss the issues in the book and ask your child what they would do in that situation. Get into the habit of using books to discuss good decisions with your child now, and when your child is a teen and facing decisions with bigger consequences, you'll be glad that you have that habit.
• Read funny books together and laugh!



I've been interviewed a bunch lately after the release of PENGUIN CHA-CHA:

Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast:

Newspaper story in Evansville Courier & Press:

The Library Police Podcast:

Elizabeth Dulemba’s Blog:

Writing for Kids (While Raising Them)
The blog of author Tara Lazar:

Celebri-DOTS:

Kathy Temean’s Blog:

Wendy Martin’s Blog

Sometimes books aren't the only things in our book tubs

November is PiBoIdMo (Picture Book Idea Month) and I've come up with a few fairly good picture book ideas. One of my favorite ideas involved a fabulous name for a new character. It's one of those names that defines a character and then the story flows so well from just that name alone. Well, a quick online search revealed that the name was already a trademarked name for a product, so nope, I can't use it. Bummer.

Now I'm off to work on more picture book ideas!

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7. PENGUIN CHA-CHA coloring page

I've created coloring sheets and activities to go with my new picture book, PENGUIN CHA-CHA.


You can download a free Penguin Cha-Cha Storytime Kit to use with your child at home or with a whole group of kids in a bookstore, library, or classroom. The Storytime Kit contains the following:
• Event Invitation
• The Penguin Popsicle Game
• If You’re a Dancer and You Know It
• Penguin Props
• Penguin Family Portrait
• Make a Dancing Penguin Craft
• Coloring Sheet

Enjoy!

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8. Illustration Friday: Together

From the picture book, THE GOODBYE CANCER GARDEN,
written by Janna Matthies, illustrated by Kristi Valiant


Breast Cancer Awareness Month is coming up. Experts estimate that 1 out of every 8 women born today will be diagnosed with breast cancer at some point during her life. Hug your little ones and favorite people, and spend your days wisely.

Even though I walk
through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me.
-Psalm 23:4a



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9. Penguin Cha-Cha Book Launch

Today was the Book Launch Party for PENGUIN CHA-CHA at my local Barnes & Noble. What a toe-tapping, knee-knocking, rocking good time!


My dashing penguin companion made sure all was ready.
A wonderful local bakery, Fresh Baked by Tracy, made the cakes with my illustrations on them.

The cakes turned out adorable.
The books were set up and ready for readers.

I signed my first Penguin Cha-Cha book. Yay!

The line formed.
The stand-up cut-outs were a hit. 
Turn yourself into a dancing penguin!

I read the book to the kids.
We learned the basic cha-cha-cha step.
Then we learned how to hold our hands to make them into pretty Latin dancing hands.

Put the steps and arm motions together to cha-cha! 
A sweet group of friends.

A darling dancer.
Thank you to all who came and helped my penguins to dance into the hands of readers!

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10. New Books!

Oh, how I love opening a box of new books that I've illustrated and getting to see and touch the real book in person!


WILLA BEAN TO THE RESCUE arrived and she's as cute and funny as ever. 


Over the weekend, we hosted an SCBWI Picture Book Day here in Indiana at beautiful Turkey Run State Park. Our speakers were fabulous and even those of us who are already published learned a lot!  Left to right: Tammi Sauer (Author Keynote Speaker), Katie Mitschelen (Indiana ARA), Jenifer Heidorn (Coordinator), Jeffrey Salane (Scholastic editor), Melissa Manlove (Chronicle editor), and myself (Indiana RA).


My PENGUIN CHA-CHA Book Launch party is coming up this Saturday! You're invited, of course. And this adorable penguin will be there. My mom made this dashing fellow. Here are the details on the Book Launch:

Evansville Barnes & Noble
2:00 Book signing and cake
3:00 Reading, Cha-cha dance lesson for kids, a craft, coloring sheets, and more book signing to follow.

I'll also have a couple stand-up cut-outs of my dancing penguins that you can stick your head through to be a dancing penguin. You won't want to miss that.

If you can't come to the real life Book Launch (and even if you can), I've given some blog interviews lately and a couple even have giveaways that you can still enter by leaving a comment over on that interview:

Elizabeth Dulemba’s Blog:


Kathy Temean’s Blog:


Writing for Kids (While Raising Them)
The blog of author Tara Lazar:


Celebri-DOTS:

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11. Illustration Friday: Hidden



I illustrated this for the book, STAR BUBBLE TROUBLE, by Cecelia Galante, published by Random House. It's an early chapter book that has about 20 black & white illustrations inside the book plus a full color cover.

Chapter books are a lot of fun to illustrate, especially series like this one, because you get to draw the same characters over and over again and really get to know them. In this series, Willa Bean has such authentic, strong feelings and the way she reacts usually gets her into unintended trouble. She's funny and real and has a big heart. If you'd like to break into illustrating kid's books, you may want to try creating some chapter book illustrations for your portfolio.

Since my picture book, PENGUIN CHA-CHA, launched last week, I've been featured on a few blogs. There's a giveaway and interview on Elizabeth Dulemba's blog. Check out my guest post on the difference between illustrating someone else's text and illustrating my own text on Tara Lazar's blog. Then dance on over to the Celebri-DOTS blog to see my round penguin as a Celebri-DOT (inspired by Peter H Reynolds' picture book, THE DOT).

Cha-Cha-Cha!

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12. Penguin Cha-Cha Release Day

Today is my Book Release Day! Penguin Cha-Cha has hit the store shelves. Send me a photo if you find my book in your store or library. I'll be heading to Barnes & Noble tonight to see it there in the wild!

Dance on over to Tara Lazar's blog to read a guest post I did on illustrating my own manuscript versus illustrating other authors' manuscripts. Comment on that post for a chance to win a Penguin Cha-Cha prize pack! And then check back here in the coming weeks for other places to win.

If you buy Penguin Cha-Cha, you can still send me a self-addressed stamped envelope and I'll send you a signed bookplate with your name on it, a magnet, a sticker, and a bookmark. (Kristi Valiant, PO Box 8211, Evansville, IN 47716)

Happy Birthday to my dancing penguins! Let's all eat some chocolate! (You know you were looking for an excuse to anyway.)

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13. Illustration Friday: Rescue


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14. Swag giveaway

My picture book, Penguin Cha-Cha, comes out in 2 weeks, and I have some fun swag for you! 

If you pre-order the book from online or your local bookstore, send me a self-addressed, stamped envelope and I'll stuff your envelope with a signed bookplate to stick in your book (it's a way to autograph your book without me needing the actual book). Tell me who you want the book signed to. I'll also throw in a bookmark, magnet, and sticker. Yay!

Send to:
Kristi Valiant
PO Box 8211
Evansville, IN 47716




Please let others know too. Thanks and happy reading!

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15. International SCBWI Conference in LA


Thank you, Lin and Steve, for creating SCBWI! I drew Lin Oliver, Steve Mooser, and their grandbabies in my Penguin Cha-Cha book to thank them for the marketing grant for that book and all SCBWI has done to help me with my career. 

Last weekend was the international SCBWI conference in LA. It's a crazy huge conference with over 1200 attendees, lots of keynotes, breakout sessions, parties, and the works. You can read some notes from each of the sessions on the extensive conference blog: http://scbwiconference.blogspot.com

My favorite session was Mac Barnett's keynote. He told us that kids who read his picture book about a boy with a pet whale can send in for their own pet whale. In reply they receive a letter from a Norwegian law firm saying the whale was held up in customs, but they can leave messages for their whale by calling a 1-800 #. The phone number has whale sounds and then a beep. Kids would call and leave messages for their whales, and Mac played a number of messages left by a sweet boy. Kids are so willing to suspend disbelief!

Loved the photo booth at the SCBWI Black & White Ball!
With fellow Regional Advisors: Anushka Ravishankar from India, Leslie Helakoski from Michigan, and Susanne Gervay from Australia.
The winners of the Black & White Ball costume contest.
We headed to the Santa Monica pier at sunset after the conference was over. Ahhh... 

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16. Picture Book Trailer for PENGUIN CHA-CHA


Below is my book trailer for my picture book, PENGUIN CHA-CHA! A book trailer is like a movie trailer giving a glimpse of what the story is about and hopefully it'll make you interested in reading the book. The book is available for pre-order from bookstores



I made the book trailer myself in Photoshop CS6 and then Random House uploaded it to their YouTube channel. Yes, Photoshop does video! I illustrate digitally in Photoshop, so the jump to making a video in Photoshop wasn't too hard for me. I read up online and watched some YouTube videos on it. I found a great music site called Incompetech in which you can use royalty-free music in any project and either give credit or pay a small fee. I chose not to have credits in my book trailer, so I paid the small fee for the music. I'm not sure if having a book trailer will help sales of my book, but it sure is fun and the trailer is already spreading on Facebook. Have you ever seen a book trailer before? 

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17. Illustration Friday: Children

From a picture book I illustrated called DO YOU LOVE ME MORE?

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18. Illustration Friday: Sweet


My daughter had her very first dance recital a few weeks ago. It was super sweet! This is part of a painting I did of her and the other 4 little gals in her class in their bunny ballet costumes.

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19. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

May your year be filled with faith, hope, and love.

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20. Illustration Friday "Edge"

The cover of a book I'm currently illustrating for Random House called WILLA BEAN TO THE RESCUE!

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21. School Visit



I just got home from a lovely research trip to Paris for an upcoming picture book that I'm illustrating. More details on that book coming as soon as the publisher makes the announcement. Paris was absolutely stunning as you can see:

Toward the end of January, I spoke at a wonderful school, the Thelma B. Johnson Learning Center, in Henderson, Kentucky. They went all out for my visit! Quite impressive. They set up really cool activities that went along with my picture books CORA COOKS PANCIT and DANCING DREAMS.

They made pancit using the recipe from in CORA COOKS PANCIT and gave out aprons to the kids.

They brought ballet, ballroom, and broadway dancers to demonstrate some of the dances in DANCING DREAMS.

And a librarian taught parents how to read with their child in a dialogic fashion. 

So what did I do? Well, I gave a presentation on how picture books are created and then worked with the students in the audience to come up with our own new character. After I sketched our character, the students helped me decide what our character likes and doesn't like and then we created our our own story based on our character. The kids learned how a story is structured and how to come up with story ideas. We had lots of fun, and, as always, I was in awe of the imaginative answers the students gave.

The local paper covered the event. What a great day in Henderson for encouraging the love of books! 

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22. Illustration Friday - Whisper

From the book BE BRAVE, WILLA BEAN! It's in a series of chapter books I'm illustrating for Random House about a messy-haired cupid named Willa Bean. Right now we're working on books 5 and 6. Super-dee-duper cute!

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23. New Book Deal

I had mentioned in my last post that I took a trip to Paris for research for my upcoming picture book. Well, the book has been announced in Publisher's Weekly, so I can officially sing out my excitement for it!

I'm illustrating a picture book that was written by Danielle Steel about a stylish teacup chihuahua called PRETTY MINNIE IN PARIS. It'll be published by Doubleday Books for Young Readers/Random House in fall 2014. Cute pooch, fashion, Paris, super fun picture book! My husband and I took that trip to Paris in January so I could get a real feel for the city of lights. I took thousands of reference photos to make sure I draw Paris right in the illustrations - small things like electrical outlets look different there and I want to make sure I draw those details correct in the book. We also visited Danielle and her own sweet chihuahua named Minnie at their home in Paris. Danielle was so warm and friendly, and we had such a lovely trip.

Thanks for sharing in my excitement with me!

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24. The Next Big Thing

The Next Big Thing is a blog hop that was started in Australia and has gone global. The object is to bring awareness to authors and illustrators and their current work. Thank you, Leeza Hernandez, for tagging me! I'll answer the 10 questions about my next children's book and then tag another author/illustrator to answer these questions about her newest book. Here goes...


1) What is the working title of your next book?
PENGUIN CHA-CHA. It's available for pre-order from Random House (or Barnes & Noble, Amazon, or your favorite indie bookstore).

2) Where did the idea come from for the book?
I had drawn an illustration years ago of dancing penguins for my portfolio. I used to be in a performance and competition dance group and I like penguins, so I had combined the two for that sample piece. Numerous editors and art directors asked if I had a story to go along with that sample illustration. I said yes. Then I wrote story after story about dancing penguins. Some of my stories were good, but not great enough to be published by a major publisher. It took years and lots of critiques before I got the writing part right. In the case of this book, the illustrations came first before the writing.

3) What genre does your book fall under?
It's a funny picture book.

4) What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
The little girl, Julia, could be played by my dancing daughter in another couple years, and I think Dreamworks would need to handle the penguins unless you know of some quite talented penguins.

5) What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Follow a determined girl named Julia as she tries to join in the fun of a mischevious group of dancing penguins.

6) Who is publishing your book?
Random House Children's Books

7) How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
I first drew dancing penguins in 2007. Writing the first draft of a dancing penguin story was quick, but then came complete rewrites with entirely different plots. This version was acquired in 2011 by Random House after an editor saw an illustration of my dancing penguins on my website and asked if I would submit my dummy to him. It will be published in August, 2013.

8) What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
Dancing animal theme: Hilda Must Be Dancing and Prancing Dancing Lily
Penguin theme: One Cool Friend and Lost and Found

9) Who or what inspired you to write this book?
For years I performed and competed in a swing and Latin dance group called The Fourth Street Alley Cats. I loved it! Since being in that group inspired me to draw and write about dancing, I included my dance group in the first spread of the book.

10) What else about the book might pique the reader's interest?
Illustrators often put small personal touches in the illustrations that most people aren't aware of. I always stick a mouse, monkey, or hippo in each of my books. You'll find all three in this book if you search. For the random background people at the zoo in my illustrations for this book, I used a lot of my friends and family. Maybe you should become a close friend to a children's book illustrator and see if you end up in a book!


Now that I've answered, I'm tagging:
Angela Dominguez, the talented author/illustrator of LET'S GO, HUGO!


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25. Illustration Friday - Swim


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