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Viewing Blog: Jenny Sue Kostecki-Shaw | Visual Art, Most Recent at Top
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..Making books has been a life-long dream of mine, a dream that is finally coming true! I hope you enjoy my stories and pictures...
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1. Luna and Me: Book preview and love of process

“Baby, you are my sunny afternoon,

you sprinkle magic in my heart.” – Tulsi, age 5

It’s 5:08 AM and has over a year since I last wrote in this space. Much can happen in a year, like a 4 year old (now 5) blowing my mind nearly every day with the ways she dances through her magical world, so free, her heart and mind wide open. I finished the children’s book that I went to the Redwoods to research last year, and it was dreamy, really, how Tulsi actively contributed in my process. She “played” out the story and quoted many lines from the manuscript. Sitting side by side, we elaborated and refined drawings from my initial dummy sketches while looking at photos from our trip. She freely offered countless ideas of details to add (or even hide) in the pictures. I treasured her unpredictable and untrained color sense while we both painted color studies of every illustration. And during long days of painting, she would climb up on her step stool next to me, gift encouraging “wow”s, thoughtful questions, keen observations only a child would notice, and even draw in wee details! It was such a treasure sharing this process with her.

The publishing world moves at a comparable rate to mine these days (ha), so even though I shipped off 20 illustrations mid-March, you’ll still have to wait until Fall 2015 to see it. I wanted to share a glimpse of LUNA & ME before I’m too engrossed in the next book(s). :) LUNA & ME, The True Story of a Girl Who Lived in a Tree to Save a Forest is a picture book inspired by environmental activist Julia Butterfly Hill’s two year tree sit in an ancient Redwood tree. Her story (and so many other environmentalists) inspire me to do what I can to care for our world using my own talents. One thing I love about this book is Julia’s example of acting from a place of love and compassion and then adding passion, dedication, faith, education, teamwork and endurance, to create change. And it is a magical, powerful story – one I am so happy my kids, and your’s, will know.

And recently, it has been awesome watching my incredible designer work her own sweet magic on the interior and cover design. So many people have supported this project, and I can’t wait to share it with you! – with Christy Ottaviano Books

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2. Check out our Chai Pilgrimage KICKSTARTER Book Campaign Aug 9 – Sept 18, 2013!

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3. NEW Chai Pilgrimage site launched!

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4. On Redwood Time.

Ancient One
who makes all things new
may we receive with gentleness
and touch with hopefulness
and protect with fierceness
and love with tenderness;
and may we celebrate with gratefulness
and welcome with humbleness
and tend with gracefulness
all that you give
into our care.

Jan Richardson


We just returned from 8 days camping in the ancient Redwood Forest. I had never been in these forests before. How does one try to describe? I was, and still am, in awe. It was beyond the beyond.

I have walked and backpacked in different forests, and they all have their own spirit and energy. The Redwoods were very different. Many of these trees were over a thousand years old. Silence washed over us as we entered the sacred Redwoods — a silence filled with awe, gratitude, wonder…and then Tulsi sighed, “Wowwwww” ever so softly with her head tilted back as far as it could go. This forest also emptied me and gifted me new perspective. Have you seen that photo of the deep sea diver pictured before the most gigantic whale? There is no fear, only amazement and respect. And it feels mutual, or so it seems to me when I’ve looked at that photo. Walking among, sitting before, and lying under these 200 to 380 feet tall ancient trees was, for me, like living out this whale photo. A magical stillness and love.

When I visit with kids in schools, they always ask about inspiration — what inspires my books and what fills me. I always say “nature, travel, and personal experiences & relationships”. One of the books I wrote about in my last post is now contracted with my publisher (yippee!) and I’ll be diving into the finished illustrations this summer. I spent the second half of last year researching, writing, editing and drawing a dummy for this book. If you haven’t guessed by now — it takes place IN the Redwoods.

A good part of what inspired this book is my love for nature and the environment, and while I was able to do “enough” research through the internet, books and film initially, I needed more to bring the book to life. I needed, and longed for, a personal experience that would connect my heart to the story in a powerful way.

So, when I asked Patrick and Tulsi to go camping with me for a week in the name of research, they wholeheartedly and enthusiastically supported me!

We packed 4 huge duffel bags with all our camping gear, flew to CA, rented a minivan, and headed north. We spent several days exclusively in the forest discovering fairy houses and fairy RINGS, elf steps and Redwood goosepens(!). We found creatures in the meandering grooves of the Redwood trunks. There were orange ladybugs, electric red spiders, and hairy caterpillars. AND, we petted EVERY single banana slug that we came across. Just looking at photos on Google, how would I know the way banana slugs shyly hide their entire heads inside “hoodies”?

I read a book and wrote a lot. Tulsi and I also sat on the soft forest floor and painted, “to remember”.

We then camped a few nights ON the coast where the ocean meets wide beaches with crazy steep cliffs often hiding under sleepy fog blankets. Elk roamed freely and trails led us up to lush Redwood forests covered in moss, ferns, salmon berries and monkey flowers! I wanted to stay there. And the ocean — oh, the Ocean! After I let go of my fear of Tsunami’s, I slept like a baby. Imagine the 3 of us tucked into a cocoon made of two sleeping bags zipped together and the ocean lulling us to sleep. If this adventure sounds like a fairytale, it was. :)

I love dirt and sun on my face, dipping my feet in creeks, rivers, oceans and wet moss, and mostly getting out of our little world. I’ll share more photos on my Facebook page soon.

There was more, too, and I’ll share that story once my book is finished. I feel full to the moon with inspiration and magic that I pray will spill out as I paint. And again and again, I pray the prayer above.

And you? Have you been to the Redwoods? Do you have a favorite forest on this beautiful earth that fills your whole being?

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5. Taking chances.

above, Summer, 2012

It feels like it has taken me a long time to gain my momentum back with my art since Tulsi was born, but I’m thankful it’s back. I am only working part-time, but I realized about 9 months ago that the “lack” of time for my art could actually be a gift. And that has made a huge difference.

It gave me permission to let go of a lot of work that wasn’t important to me — freelance that was fun and paid well but didn’t fill my cup with energy and excitement — and also excess pro-bono projects. Can anyone relate? When I realized I could only do so much, I decided to choose one focus (for now). That was easy. Books! Books inspire me wildly and feel like a way I can really contribute to the world and to future generations. One of the most freeing things I heard last year was “a ‘no’ is a ‘yes!’ to something eles.” Yes! (In case you are wondering about the financial part of that decision, of course it makes it a challenge, but there is always a way. Just gotta get creative.)

Once I made that decision, I felt like the universe supported me. I was chosen for the Ezra Jack Keats New Illustrator Book Award for Same, Same but Different (I’m still wowed.) And then the South Asian Book Award and Frostburg State U CLC Book Award. What honors!

Suddenly, I also felt nervous and worried since I didn’t have more books in the works yet. Of course, that was one question everyone asked me, too.

Transitions are tough. Standing in between worlds. Looking at a blank slate. No, not a comfortable feeling exactly. But necessary sometimes to grow, you know?

Luckily for me, these honors, and especially the amazing PEOPLE who offered them to me, and the other award-winners, filled my cup with encouragement. I am grateful. :)

So then what?

I admit, I still have a hard time calling myself an author and yet, I love to write and dream up stories. (Author Kristin Bair O’Keeffe interviewed me in the fall about my writing process.) In May, I was feeling stuck. Jane Yolen, the most prolific author of children’s literature, thankfully shifted something for me when I heard her say in an interview that she NEVER gets writer’s block because she works on several different things at the same time. Light bulb! So I looked through my notebooks and made new lists of ideas and themes of what felt really important to me and inspired me. After talking these ideas through with my editor last summer, she asked me to focus on bringing two (specific ones) to life.

Enter Patrick. My hubby is a rockin’ partner. We both work for ourselves and “trade off” working and being with Tulsi. He sent me off during the day, for a few days a week, during July and August — always with chai — to write in a friend’s cabin (above — so peaceful and a perfect retreat!) and then to OCHO, a wonderful local artist co-op. Patrick kept cheering me on even when I’d come home after 7 hours with very little progress to share. He listened to draft after draft after draft. He trusted I knew what I was doing when I scrapped a manuscript I had worked on for a month in order to follow a different, approach that meant drawing the entire story out in search of the text. The funny thing is, I remembered this is how I work best! This took another month though, or was it two? I then shared rough dummies and manuscripts with a few close friends (and Tulsi) which was really helpful.

I definitely questioned myself as an author during those few months until I realized I don’t have to call myself that. I can simply be a picture book maker. I like that. After all, the words and pictures and story have a way of dreaming up something more than I know how to do with words alone. Yes, it’s scary and daunting at first…trying to bring a book alive…and I stall, drag my feet, procrastinate, but when I finally work through the scary beginning, it’s awesome. And I love love love it!

Well, fast forward 6 months and travel and holidays and one round of edits with my editor…I am in my new studio every night, still plugging away and nearly finished with both book manuscripts and dummies! Although I can’t share much yet on either of these books, I can say that it’s amazing how the universe supports dreams (and sends obvious signs) after I give more effort, trust more, believe more, and take chances. :) Plus, I’m having so much fun and feeling excited! It is certainly a journey!

Yes, every book has its own birth story! In case you missed it, in November, I shared the back story of Same, Same but Different at the Taos Pecha Kucha night. (For me, this presentation was another moment of finding courage. Luckily I didn’t faint.)

What about you? Where are you on your own journey(s)? I’d love to hear about your process, too.

And one last thing, these really inspired me during the past 6 months of taking chances: What if Money Didn’t Matter and the film HAPPY. Hope they do the same for you.

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6. With sprinkles on top.

Happy New Year! I feel like I am standing in front of swinging double dutch jump ropes, trying to get the timing right (and the nerve) to jump back into blogging. I’ve been away for most of the past year except for my Facebook page and Mothering With Soul. It has been quite a full year!

Of course there was plenty of fun on the homestead…And our flock of hens survived their first molt and (after looking like walking pieces of plucked meat, sorry), they now look gorgeous with fluffy, perfect plummage. Tulsi’s humor (and attitude) also blossomed this year.

And we took several adventures to Colorado, Mississippi, New Orleans, Chicago, Madison, St. Louis, Omaha, and Maryland. It was a few whirlwind trips but great to fly away from the homestead and have new experiences! We have more of the same planned for 2013. :) It’s a sweet balance. And ideal (for us).

A huge highlight was marching (and dancing) with good friends in the famous 2nd Line parade in New Orleans for 4 hours! In the past, the 2nd line of a funeral procession celebrated the loved one’s life with music, dance, color and Joy. It is still a celebration of life, only now it is a weekly parade open to everyone. Such positive vibes and groovin’. I will never forget it! The costumes were awesome! Live music is one of my very favorite things in the world! We drank it up in New Orleans.

Our excursions were sprinkled with magic, too. Twirling on the beach, jelly fish!, magic shows, puppets, backpacking in enchanted forests, and every bit was enhanced by the nonstop imagination of a 3 yr old.

These are just a glimpse, but you can imagine how our travels filled my cup! AND, upon returning, I’m always even more appreciative of the place we live — in these sacred mountains near the Taos Native Indians — sprinkled with magic, everywhere you turn.

I collaged this image of Saraswati on New Years Eve when my family was asleep. (ha) Saraswati is the goddess of music, arts, learning. Wishing you a new year full of magic and learning!

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7. How Same, Same but Different came to life.

This is my My Pecha Kucha Presentation in Taos, November, 2012. Hope you feel inspired! :)

Jenny Kostecki-Shaw – Pecha Kucha Night Taos Volume 8 from pechakuchataos on Vimeo.

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8. Magic monsoons and a mystical fairy.

Hello again! While I haven’t had energy to write in this space after long play+farm+work days, I did take some photos and wanted to share a glimpse of the magic that has filled our summer. For starters, this barefoot garden fairy in jammies during a golden rainbow sunset. And I have to point out the shade covering with the red roof — someday, this is going to be my studio and I’ll be creating art with this lush, green view out my window. Baby steps.

After a lonnng drought, this year we were blessed (and surprised) by monsoon after monsoon which nourished our spirits (and skin!) and transformed our garden and landscape. I never tire of the Tibetan-like mountains growing in our backyard.

It’s funny how every year we get equally — if not more — giddy over our first fruits! We learned less is more, for us, with tomatoes in the greenhouse. Two plants are perfect for us. I also discovered why my cucumber plant was gigantic and covered in flowers but had only 2 fruits. Pollinators were not finding their way into our greenhouse…so I opened another window screen AND I buzzed around, painting each female flower with a male’s ‘paintbrush’. (I didn’t know the females all come with a teeny tiny fruit, like an egg, waiting to be fertilized!) By the way, have you seen this???! Still, other mysteries were left unsolved.

In August, Tulsi and I took a homesteading workshop at the Lama Foundation. I loved gathering with so many others geeking out over worms and compost, live bacteria, poop, and strange smells. We made kimchi and our own sourdough starter with Sandor Katz. It was great energy going into the harvest and preserving season!

I was especially proud of my cabbages! Which I then turned into quarts and quarts of sauerkraut that fill a shelf in our fridge. And just last week, we harvested our first 4 GORGEOUS (and decadent) winter squashes! They are almost too beautiful to eat. (Almost.) About 2/3 of our onions are now braided and hanging to cure, under my red studio roof. And aren’t these the happiest, most colorful beets?! Many are now pickled and canned, others are waiting to bake, and about twice as many are still maturing.

I think this season (our 6th) has been our best yet! Why? We were more relaxed (and experienced) and didn’t stress over weeds. We didn’t grow massive amounts of cut flowers, but our house was always full of bouquets. And we seemed to grow the right amount of everything. I think we have a TON of food for the winter (loads of squash and roots that we can store and don’t have to preserve NOW) and we didn’t waste any food. That might sound funny, but it happens! It can be tricky knowing how much to grow of what. And although I am not a Queen Preserver like some friends of mine (they are AMAZING), I have preserved a LOT already and a sweet variety. I learn more each year! (Of course, I need to figure out how to finish on canning days by bedtime so Tulsi and Patrick don’t have to migrate to the tent. Ha.) I’ll try to post a final tally later this Fall of what I preserved, and please, please share what you have preserved! Sometimes I don’t know ‘what’ to preserve!

I love this last picture. It is a seed pod dangling from a Cleome/Rocky Mtn Bee Plant. One of our favorite ‘to-do’s’ this time of year is collecting seeds. We have thousands, millions, billions of seeds stored in jars to plant and to share. It reminds me of the infinite possibilities in life, if we give our attention and love to our intentions.

We have a few weeks of exciting travel coming soon — Colorado, Chicago, Madison, St. Louis, and Maryland! I’ll share on the flipside. I’m also blogging (most) Fridays at motheringwithsoul.com if you haven’t wandered over yet. I hope you are enjoying garden goodies, too, and enjoying your Fall! It’s my favorite time of year.

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9. Seed by seed.

Is it really June? Spring whizzed by and with all the travel, we found ourselves lost in the dust of garden dirt-devils and sneaky rabbits. We are usually eating out of our garden this time of the year but instead are still trying to prepare beds for transplanting starts from the greenhouse. The saving grace: we’ve been eating fresh greens and broccoli from our greenhouse for months and are gradually learning how to grow all year long. I’m making fresh pesto now, too. It always amazes me though how every garden year is different — always a curve ball, a surprise — that humbles, amuses, and seasons us. Last month, I transplanted 70 BEAUTIFUL zinnias and they ALL died. Um, what?? I gradually acclimated them to the cold and sun, so what happened? Yes, a portion were lost in a spotty frost but the rest? Was it because onions grew in that bed last year? A mystery. C’est la vie.

Well, we did start more zinnias, and slowly, slowly, seed by seed, we are planting our garden. I love that Tulsi loves planting, too. She is always asking for seeds or saving her watermelon seeds and planting them here and there. :) A local farmer taught me how to sprout my winter squash seeds in damp, rolled up paper towels in a glass jar (so we know the seeds are viable). Then plant them. It worked great! And another friend lined us out on electrifying our chicken yard (that we just tripled) so bears won’t bust through and destruct. Fingers crossed. Sometimes on the homestead, it is a dance of two steps forward, two steps back. So today I’m giving thanks for feeling a little more ‘caught up’.

I’m also excited about taking a workshop in August on fermentation at the Lama Foundation with Sandor Katz, author of Wild Fermentation, and others, fermenting, making herbal medicines, gathering wild foods, root cellaring and food drying, composting, cheese making, etc.

AND, for my birthday, Patrick gave me a “worm farm“! I’m one lucky woman. Tulsi and I can’t wait for the 2000 squiggly, wriggly worms to arrive tomorrow! (I’m such a garden nerd.)

How is your garden growing this year? Any lessons learned?

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10. Hattiesburg on my mind.

This morning Tulsi whispered in my ear, “Pssssst, let’s go for a ride on a butterfly.”

“Let’s,” I replied. In case you didn’t already know, you know now who keeps me in check. And busy.

There is much I want to share from the past couple months! Where to begin?

I’ll start with Hattiesburg, Mississippi…I was very fortunate to attend the Fay B. Kaigler Children’s Book Festival (WOW, AMAZING!!!) where I received the Ezra Jack Keat’s New Illustrator’s Award and faced my biggest fear of speaking in public — one planned speech and one surprise-to-me-speech (gulp) in front of authors I admire ten-fold and hundreds of librarians. I think I did ok, but most importantly, I survived.


- drooled over Ezra Jack Keat’s original art. OMG!!!! I learned SO much in that hour of staring UP-close!

- am treasuring this book, a gift from my new friends in Hattiesburg. Deborah Pope also read a heartfelt letter from her father, Martin Pope, who was best friends with Ezra since they were kids. You can read Marin’s words here.

- toured the outrageous de Grummond Children’s Literature Collection (whoa–an impressive treasure!). the highlight was a 50ft + (?) long fabric collage mural by Esphyr Slobodkina!! I would love to create a huge mural someday and when I do, I’ll look to this for inspiration!

- was hosted by some lovely, lovely people (!!), and soaked up inspiration, wisdom and stories from extraordinary children’s book authors!

- scratched hashmarks of some 30-something times I was ‘hit’ by surprise from tidal waves of goosebumps during the talks. So much of Jane Yolen’s talk is still playing in my head. I’ve also got Jane’s  “The Alphabetics of Story” on my mind.

- geeked out with librarians :) and loved spending time with the other award winners!  Meg, Micha, and Nicola and I shared about art, writing, inspirations and motherhood.

- was beyond excited to meet Anita Silvey and hear her lecture on the history of the American Picture Book. I am hooked on her Children’s Book-a-Day Almanac!

Can you tell I had a wonderful time?! It was awesome having Patrick and Tulsi with me, too, and this photo reflects how grateful and energized, inspired and dreamy I felt (and still feel). Weeeeee!


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11. The Mother’s Wisdom Deck

Last year at this time, I was standing at a journey’s beginning, taking deep breath after deep breath, and contending with doubts, “Can I do this? Can I uphold the integrity of the oracle so beautifully brought to life by the authors? I can think of several other mama artists who could do this better. Is it even possible in just 4 months while being a mama?” I knew I wanted to. I had been asking the universe for a project that would inspire me in a deeper way. I’d also been calling out for guidance and support on my path of mothering. But fears can be kinda loud.

I was staring at 52 blank rectangles, an empty map of what would be The Mother’s Wisdom Deck. I paged through drafts of Niki and Elizabeth’s card passages and came to Turtle – Grounding. The passage concludes with Turtle advising: “a time-honored way of coming back to earth: lie facedown with arms extended above your head. Make sure your forehead, knees, and hands are touching the ground. This is a full bow, a prostration to the powers above. In this supplication, you lower yourself before infinite Mystery and, in turn, come closer to your basic nature.”

Almost exactly ten years ago, after driving all night, I stepped outside of my car into a frigid, New Mexico mountain landscape, just five minutes walk from our home now. The sun was still on its ascent on the other side of the Sangres. Patrick led me down a snow-covered road lined with vertical blue, white, red, green and golden prayer flags. At the end was a white, wedding cake shaped shrine. Yes, it was my first visit to a Buddhist Stupa — what my daughter lovingly now calls, “Buddha’s house”. Two golden dear sat still and awake on either side of a peaceful Buddha. Goosebumps rose up on my already freezing body — the kind of chill when you are so overtaken with beauty and a sense of “wow”. I watched Patrick kneel on the freshly shoveled flagstone and a ghost-like breath rise out of his mouth. He lay on his stomach, facedown with his hands in prayer, reaching over his head. Aside from photographs in distant lands, I had never seen anyone do this before. My response surprised me. Feeling so much gratitude for that place I was right then and there, and the friend I was with, I dipped into my first full body prostration. I really wanted to throw myself down to the ground, but I am timid. I remember at first wondering, is this ok? I’m not Buddhist. And I distinctly remember the calm and grace I felt lying on the frozen stone before “infinite Mystery”. I didn’t want to get up. I went empty and prayed, and the sun spilled over the mountains.

Remembering that winter morning, I knew the only way I could trust that I could paint these cards –and begin this journey– was to get out of my head, out of my ego, and into my heart. To focus on “why” this project is so important to us: honoring motherhood as a spiritual practice. I lay in my studio in full prostration on a child-like rug of yellow and pink flowers. I felt anchored and prayed for intuition, endurance, clarity, and wisdom. Or maybe I pleaded. :) Either way, I feel like guidance presented herself.

I realize until now, I haven’t shared much of this pilgrimage here. It was a test of endurance. I learned to hone my intuition, reach out to my community, and surrender. When I was painting, Tulsi often reminded me of what was most important asking, “Mama, first tea party, th

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12. Same, Same but Different & the Ezra Jack Keats New Illustrator Award!

OH Wow! It has been an ongoing joke in our house that Tulsi says, “Mama, your books have no Caldecott Medals, but someday you’ll get a sticker!” I smile and give her sweet head a kiss. Well, I am beyond excited to share some news — The Ezra Jack Keats Foundation awarded me the Ezra Jack Keats New Illustrator Award and the New Author Honor for Same, Same but Different! Whoa. I’m all smiley and a bit teary realizing what an honor this is.

I want to sing out a thank you song to so many people who have helped this book come alive, who believed in me and cheered me on, (and who supported me while I worked on it, creatively and physically!): my husband Patrick and Tulsi, my amazing editor and book guru Christy Ottaviano and my art director Patrick Collins, my rockin’ agents Jo-Lynne Worley and Joanie Shoemaker, my Mom (who came to play with Baby T while I painted my heart out) and Dad (always my biggest fans), my sister Renee (!), Neeru Dhakal and my Sunshine School Family in Nepal, my book gal friends, and countless little friends across the oceans and at home who inspired this story. This is yours, too!

This is a description from the full press release:

Fifty years ago, Ezra’s book The Snowy Day, which featured an African American child, broke the color barrier in mainstream children’s book publishing when it was embraced by families across racial, economic and ethnic lines,” said Deborah Pope, Executive Director of the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation. “Like Ezra, this year’s Book Award winners have, in their own way, celebrated the similarities—and differences—of people whose life experiences are dramatically varied.

The Book Award was created to acknowledge and encourage budding children’s book authors and illustrators who impart Ezra Jack Keats’ values—the universal qualities of childhood, a strong and supportive family and the multicultural nature of our world.”

I have been a fan of Ezra Jack Keats since I was young and dreaming of making children’s books! I really admire him as an illustrator and a person, and I am inspired by his books and mixed-media experimentations. Plus, we are both Polish! Hee. :) Thanks everyone for ALL your encouragement over the years and for letting me share this FUN news! I am playing “hard” to bring some new books to you.

And a big congrats to Meg Medina for winning the New Authors Medal! Patrick, Tulsi and I are looking forward to the ceremony on April 12 in Mississippi!



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13. snowday. springday. snowday. springday.

I’m loving the consistency of changing mountain weather and how it keeps us spontaneous. Friday called for a snowy walk near the silent Rio Grande goddess. L-O-V-E!

Saturday brought more Spring chicken dances,

tropical greenhouse creations,

and snuggles galore.

And on Sunday came a temple visit colored with music, community, purple bulbs peeking out of the dirt and carrots-peas-beets and yogurt mixed with fancy peacocks under the sweetest blue sky. I am so grateful to have a sacred space that I feel at home in, to sing and pray, cook and eat, give thanks, share ideas and lessons learned, and to give and receive encouragement.

Gotta soak up these radiant days because the winds are coming soon…but then we’ll be intrigued and inspired by seed catalogs and garden planning. How are your days colored lately?

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14. M.A.P.P. Gathering, WOW!

Last week I came upon The M.A.P.P. Gathering, an incredible, growing ocean of mamas, coming together to relate and share, encourage and ignite each others’ flames. The Gathering is a series of interviews with some amazing, wise, gentle, BRIGHT soul-mamas who are all wholly passionate about their mothering AND their “work”: Brene Brown, PhD, Jennifer Louden, Renee Trudeau, Jill Savage, Sara Gottfried, MD, Pamela Slim, Kelly Rae Roberts, Tsh Oxenreider and Andrea Scher (links on the M.A.P.P. site). The gathering was initiated by Lisa Grace Byrne who I keep thanking over and over in my head and heart — and I have only listened to 3 of the conversations so far!

Lisa describes it as, “a collection of intimate conversations with a handful of mothers who have followed their passion and are making a beautiful difference in the world.” For any mamas out there, you know how connecting intimately with mama-friends can be a saving grace…and how it gives you strength in countless ways? I think you might find that (and more) in listening to these conversations while nodding and saying “YES!” and reflecting on your own walk of motherhood.

I feel like sometimes on this path of mothering there isn’t a lot of time to reflect, with days passing so quickly and diving straight into my art in any “me-time”. Rare alone-walks (thank the goddess, are happening a bit more and more) seem to be the best time, although honestly, I enjoy going empty and silent, too. That is why The Mother’s Wisdom Deck project (coming May 1st) was such a gift for me even though it was fast and furious. I poured so much of my experiences and emotions, courage, endurance and intuition into the paintings, which helped me grow as well as reflect inwardly. And HOW I am ready for even more connecting and mama-energy and honesty and opening on this path. We (the authors of the Deck and I) are currently creating another mama-community-site, which is set to launch in a couple weeks. I hope you will join us then AND upon reading this post, run over to The M.A.P.P. Gathering to sign up and join the expanding, awesome conversation of mothering. I know you will be grateful you did!

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15. New Interactive Book Art! – Travel Behind-the-Scenes of my book

I just created a page “FOR KIDS” (and parents, teachers, big kids…) — it is now in my menu above. I think it’s super fun, and I hope it will inspire young authors and illustrators. At the top is an interactive page with 27 different “clicks” that shares some of my writing & art process and research for Same, Same but Different. Scroll down further and there are videos, postcards, journal entries, and more coming soon… Please share with your kids, their schools, your teacher friends, and let me know what you think. :)


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16. When you know how to listen.

EVERYBODY and every being. Sometimes I need this reminder. Thank you, Ram Das.

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17. Audio & Video from SSBD Interactive Art.

These are a few videos from my travels in India and Nepal:

Mata Prasad is spinning clay cups without any electricity!

Do you recognize this game? Two girls at Sunshine School are playing “Jacks” with rocks…

My Indian “sister” Didi is dressing me in a saree…

AND, I thought I’d read you a journal entry from India…riding on a rickshaw. onarickshaw

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18. Postcards from India

These postcard treasures began arriving recently for Tulsi (my daughter) from her dear friend Daya (who spends most of her time in India). We love these pictures and Daya’s messages so much, and I thought you would enjoy them, too! Have you received any postcards from another country? If you’d like to share, send a scan to me at coloredsock@mac.com and I’ll post them on this page…it can be a virtual “postcards-from-around-the-world” gallery!

Click here to see a video of our dear friend Amanda who is a professional Odissi dancer in India!


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19. 3 new Archival Prints added to my shop!

These are 3 of 52 paintings I created this Summer for The Mother’s Wisdom Deck, due out May 2012.

For those of you who have not finished your holiday shopping and creating, I just added 3 new archival prints to my shop: Tree of Life, Surrender, and Mother Ocean. Each one is printed on beautiful archival Somerset paper and is titled and signed.

I’ve also reduced nearly all items and have FREE shipping on ALL items in my shop for December! Use the code “FREESHIP”.

ART is always a unique, fun gift to share with someone! OR, give to yourself!

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20. SSBD Reprint!

So while I was on the road, my editor delivered the COOOOLEST news! First, SSBD was printed in both Japanese and Korean. AND Second, SSBD went into its second printing after just 4 weeks in the U.S.! I received this photo of spreads as they came off the press in NJ — which is doubly exciting that my book is NOW being printed in the US. I have to say, the color is SO vibrant!

To celebrate, I’m signing and sending two books out from here WAY back in May (sorry, I’m late with this). The names I drew are: Kati and Jenn, who I’ll be emailing. Yay! I hope you and your sweet wee ones enjoy the book. More Same, Same but Different giveaways are happening online from now until the end of the year so keep your eyes open. :) Illustration Friday is hosting the first one here but hurry — it ends this evening (Monday).

Thanks for all of your shared excitement and support everyone!

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21. Those 52 hours apart.

A couple days ago, Tulsi pulled a piece of paper and a few new markers out of her “Christmas Calendar” we made together (more on this soon), and the note read, “You are an artist. Your art makes people smile. Make a picture for Nama and Tapas and mail it to them.” She was SUPER excited and wanted to get right to work just moments after climbing out of our cozy bed. She stared at the paper and said, “Me don’t know what to draw,” and I suggested, “You could draw a picture from the time you were with them when I went to New York City.”

Tulsi stayed with my parents for a whoppin’ 52 hours while I went to NYC for the children’s book art show, etc., and I can’t tell you how much my heart and head ran around with this decision before I made it (supported by Patrick and my parents). Some of you might not think a couple of days is a big deal, but it was huge for me. And for Tulsi. We had not spent more than 5 hours apart since the first day of her life, when we’d been separated seconds after her traumatic birth. So it was not an easy decision. Would she feel secure that I would come back? How would she sleep? Would she be distant from me after? And of course, I worried about something happening to either one of us. I know it might sound silly to some mothers who have already grown through the early years, but as a mother, I know your whole heart and being are in every present moment, and you feel each phase fully. It is “everything” in that moment. I knew ultimately she’d be ok, but of course I still questioned if it was necessary. And when some friends quickly responded, “It’s fine — growing pains are good for her,” I cringed and hesitated even more. I mean, she’s only 2 1/2. I didn’t want to force growing pains — or push her to grow up faster than she needs to. But the more I felt into it, I knew I needed to go to NYC for me, and well, it’s a big step for a mama to ‘take time’ for herself. It’s always easy to put that aside for later.

And so I went. And she stayed. And she wailed when I left (but for a mere 30 seconds my mom said), and I cried in line at the airport, too. In an instant, I was on my own, and it was odd. I didn’t know what to do with my hands. Or how to walk. There was an open space. And even though Tulsi was on my mind a lot, I breathed deep and appreciated my mind and back relaxing. I had lunch at a sidewalk cafe with an old friend and a sweet dinner with two mama-friends, relating in that mama-to-mama way, with a glass of wine. It felt slightly like a forced vacation (albeit work), but I was happy I went. Tulsi learned to walk like a penguin, that monkeys like hammocks, too, and she learned all about baseball.

When it came to night, I didn’t sleep much at all. My mom said Tulsi didn’t sleep well either and that she rocked her a lot of the night. I loved that my mom said she didn’t mind at all, because she knew it helped Tulsi feel secure, and I immediately wondered if my mom misses those rocking-her-babies days, like I know I will miss someday.

As I watched Tulsi draw Nama and her, and describe all the details, I knew how important those 52 hours were, for her, too: ”This is Nama holding me like a baby, rocking me. Her arms stretched out. She has boobies. I have nipples. She has a belly button. I have a belly button.” She drew both their eyes wide open and said they ”were looking at each other”. And then she colored purple over her own face and said, “Me close my eyes and sleep with Nama. She hold me like a baby.”

What a beautiful moment, a gift, that she will always carry with her, that came from those 52 hours

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22. sunrise.

Patrick woke me up this morning whispering, “Jenny, go outside into the tub and watch the sunrise. It’s amazing.” This is a glimpse of that beauty — as much as my camera could take in.

Upon stepping outside, fifteen hens came speed-waddling down the mud-frozen garden trail to give a cheerful “good morning” and Little Red Rooster jumped up onto the gate and crowed his own humble salutations. I love my chickens. I can attribute countless smiles to their company. It was warm (for January) with the kind of breeze that reminds me of just before a Midwest thunderstorm. (It’s interesting how a lot of nostalgia I feel for places and periods of my life are directly related to weather/seasons/nature). While I soaked, the clouds shapeshifted from a whale to two ducks to an elephant to a dragon. If I looked away for 5 seconds, the sky was already telling a different story. During the first few months after Tulsi was born, this was my morning ritual after she nursed at 5 am, to step outside and submerge in water and watch the sky. I have been staying up late in my studio for so long and sleeping in and missing this, I thought, my absolute favorite moment of the day. This year, I want to breathe this in more.

This morning I was remembering how refreshing the sunrise feels. It is such a magical moment, so pure, such awe. It makes me feel at peace. Soft yet strong, grounded, content. And intoxicated…like when I read Rumi or Hafiz’s poems inspired purely by their love for the Divine. Do you know what I mean? Perhaps something else makes you feel this same way. Another poet or musician or place…

With the new year (a magnified sunrise), I’ve been giving a lot of thought to where I’d like to place my attention, personally and with my art, what I’d like to practice deeper, what I’d like to invite more into my life. And after two friends shared this book with me recently, this is what resonates… to practice mindfulness. Daily. I can appreciate where I am very mindful and also where I’m not. I want to “work” at it. In the smallest tasks and in bigger goals, in playing, in mothering, in partnering, in conversations, in words I choose and how I release them, in relating to friends and clients, in moving my body, in creating art and in writing stories, in loving, and in prayer.

It sounds so simple here, and yet I know it is the most profound practice. It is also the perfect thing for my art with my wild-doer mind that can get distracted by too many ideas or feel overwhelmed or watching others doing super-human things (hee). Really, it always comes back to not being in the present moment.

And what else for 2012? …so I can look back and reflect next January… to spend as much time as possible OUTside playing with my family, to grow and preserve more food, to bring a major project to completion, and to write and practice yoga daily for even just 5 minutes. There. I wrote it. YES, yes, YES!

Cheers to all of you for a soulful 2012 and to whatever it is you are practicing, loving, creating.


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23. stampin’ valentines.

Tulsi and I had Valentines on our minds yesterday and after making one very involved one and deciding it was “so much work”, we embarked on a little print-making play like our friends Veda and Penny. Tulsi’s Valentine is of her holding a flower (for her friends). The two circles on her body are her nipples, of course , since she is a girl. :) We transferred it to a rubber pad, and I did my best to carve her drawing. She figured out that kneeling on the stamp really helped to make great prints.

It was all fun, especially the ink pad and glittering and gluing hearts! And what an efficient way to make a lot of Valentines. I think the most fun will come when Tulsi gives them to all her friends and family, or surprises neighbors with them, accompanied with giant hugs. I haven’t “played” Valentines Day since I was little! We are excited about going to a Valentine’s Dance with Last to Know to benefit the Birth Center in Taos. Maybe we’ll bake some treats, too, or explore some of these fun ideas. How do you celebrate with your kids?

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24. love is in the air, and little red rooster is a poppy.

And…another beautiful, awesome, sweet, lovely day on the homestead full of incredible and ordinary things that remind me of just how blessed I am.

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25. Calling all young explorers and artists! What colors YOUR world?

A few months ago, I shared my new picture book, Same, Same but Different, with my long-time client Karen Capp of Oopsy Daisy Fine art for Kids. She had an idea to host a craft to connect young artists with my book and my travel-inspired Oopsy Daisy art, while encouraging children to create art about our world — just as Elliot and Kailash share with each other in my book. In addition, Karen generously decided to make it a contest for kids and schools giving away several of my Oopsy Daisy canvases and signed copies of my books as prizes!

Children 12 and under are invited to submit their art for the random drawing. Parents and teachers, this art project can be a great conversation starter for learning more about geography and world cultures, or even starting a pen pal exchange. And Teachers, please note there is a special prize for the school with the most participants!

So, how to play? Look around you. What colors YOUR world? What do you love? What sounds do you hear? What makes your world unique from Elliot and Kailash’s and other kids around the world? Create your own art inspired by an imaginary or real pen pal, your travels or ideas about the people and cultures of our world. Draw, paint or collage a picture of your world, and share it with us. Please include a sentence explaining the child’s drawing. I posted the craft on Oopsy Daisy’s blog. The official contest guidelines and instructions are on their “Budding Artists Contest” page. It runs from today thru March 14th!

Your child’s art can be SIMPLE! A line drawing, simple shapes collaged to form a picture, watercolor or even finger painting for the toddlers. It could even be drawn words. It’s endless. :) Just have fun! I am excited to see your art and hear your thoughts! And please share with other parents, teachers, librarians, your children’s schools…

To start, Tulsi and I created a picture of “our” world. We are working on another picture of a little girl we are reading about who lives in a very different world than ours (how we imagine her to be). These are just two examples of endless approaches to this prompt.

by Tulsi Shaw and Jenny Sue Kostecki-Shaw Tulsi
In our world, 3 baby chicks are riding on their mama’s back or hiding under her wings. Little Red Rooster is singing, we are dancing outside in our garden, and the Milky Way shines right over our house.


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