Author: Sarah

Find my Books!

I’ve been of mixed feelings about Amazon for ages and that hasn’t changed – I buy most of my books from local stores – but ! I’ve worked on SEVEN self-published books in the last two years, and many of them are published through Amazon’s print on demand hub…. meaning it’s the easiest way to find them! 

So – I’ve signed up for an “author page” – even though for many of these I am the illustrator, not the author – so you can find my books in one place.  Here it is! 

I’d like to brag on a few reviews – by people who don’t even know me – especially those on Mrs. Owl’s Messy Library, which is inked and painted on paper with real watercolor, rather than most of the others which are digital, and one of my favorite ways to work <3  Thanks to Eliana Hidalgo for choosing me to do the work on your sweet book!! 

Summer Activity Signup!


Summer’s coming up quick. HOW, WHY, AHHHHH!

I’m creating a free Summer Science Investigators’ Society to celebrate a trilogy of science comics I’m illustrating (and crowdfunding).

Do you have a kid who likes nature? Sign up and get free printable science comic templates – that will encourage lifetime scientific inquiry (and are super easy to use without special trips or tools).

Sign up soon! I’ll send (at least) 6 weeks of scientific method-informed comic templates and examples… for free!

Wheee!! Summer’s coming!

Project Announcement

Where have I been???

No really, I’ve been here. 

I’ve been focusing hard on a couple of things. First, attempting to recover / recalibrate my life with debilitating Long Covid. This means lots of pacing, and less ‘extras’ like blogging. I know the Covid19 National Emergency ends today, but I would like to beg my people to keep protecting yourself – it’s still out there, and the CDC has added info about multisystem organ damage and kids getting sick. I have permanent damage to my spine and ongoing brain damage among other things! And there’s no treatment.  SO: please take care of yourselves, mask with KN95 when you’re in crowded places like planes, and let me know if you think you might have Long Covid symptoms, because I’ve been following the patient-led treatments for 3 years.  Anyhow, today I’m feeling a little better.  And I have something to share. 

I’ve been working incredibly hard at my craft – learning to draw like a comic artist with the Kids Comics Unite Intensive Class with the amazing Rivkah LaFille, rewriting a script for the graphic novel I’m hoping to pitch, working on a short comic that’s being published in an anthology ( with author Rowena Zahnrei… and an even bigger collab with her – a trilogy of picture-book length comics about Nicki and Ricky, two neurodivergent kids investigating the natural world. In this trilogy: BIRDS! 

We finished the first draft of Nicki and Ricky: The Mystery of the Shell Pile about six months ago, but hadn’t decided how to sell it.  Then we were invited to join a Kids Crowdfundr event this June (eep, next month) and decided: WHY NOT??  So we’ll be boosting our project and trying to get *funding* to do the next two books (The Hummingbird Conundrum and Puzzle of Toothy Ducks)!  Because I’ve upped my skills, I decided (ulp) to redraw the first book as well. LOTS TO DO!!

The campaign will be running for the month of June, and hopefully fund us to finish the next two books more quickly than I could if I were drawing them without presale support. 

Stay up to date with this project here:

And I hope you’ll sign up to help us fund this super fun trilogy – or share it with someone who will enjoy it!



What I’m Reading – The Great Library by Rachel Caine

I’ve been reading The Great Library series by Rachel Caine  , which is a YA to adult series that I just cannot put down.  This is my second time reading it and it’s just… *chef’s kiss* so good.  This is a steampunk alternate present … fantasy? I guess I could call it fantasy, or a little sci-fi, but I think “steampunk alternate-reality action-political intrigue” is the best I can do as far as genre.  This is a good thing, to me. Books that don’t fit in an easy bucket are the ones you can’t put down. 

SO: Do you like gifted people finding out the system is corrupt and fixing it from within, with a side of philosophy about how information should be controlled, and a core of well-written complex characters?  Do you like books? Do you like immersive reading experiences that have worlds that feel FULL and real? How about steam-punk? 


In honor of the themes of the books I recommend you get them from your local library.  If you read them digitally you may have some fun meta-moments 🙂 

Ink and BonePaper and FireAsh and QuillSmoke and IronSword and Pen

I am now represented….

(drumroll, please… ) by Allison Remcheck Pernetti at Stimola Literary Studio!  I’ll be working on author-illustrator books and I am just absolutely giddy with excitement about making this move. 

I’ve been talking to Allison for quite a while, since she critiqued one of my picture book ideas in a class I took at the Children’s Book Academy.  She loved it then, but felt it was a little quiet – I think she suggested it was written in a tone that was more commonly published in the late ’80s-early ’90s, which made me chuckle because that’s when I was reading so many picture books last!   But since then I’ve upped my modern picture book library and gotten a sense of exactly what she meant.  She asked me to do a revision and submit it to her, and I did, some months later.  I was delighted, of course – this was my first interaction with an agent and it was so positive! Her MSWL (manuscript wish list) matched my writing interests, she gave feedback in a way that made sense to me, and it all felt like, gosh, too good to be true! This was my *first* course in writing picture books (though I’ve been writing since I was a little kid and taking classes in other types of prose on and off my whole life) – could things really happen this fast? Spoiler – nothing in publishing happens fast, especially not in 2020. 

Allison liked the revision when I finally sent, and scheduled a phone call! I’d been told this was a really good sign! Giddy!  Well, it was a good sign, but she could see I wasn’t quite ready yet. Yes, the revisions to the manuscript were good, and yes, she liked my next picture book manuscript a lot – but she’d need me to show her that I could draw humans a bit better and that I had a dozen or so illustrations in my portfolio that I was really proud of, and also tidy up the book dummy for the story she wanted to send out first becasue it was very sketchy.  This might have discouraged some people, but for me it clarified that Allison was gearing me for success. All of those requests made sense to me.  People are not what I was trained to draw, and I hadn’t found my style yet or become confident with hands and feet or consistency.  My portfolio was mish-mashed with very old work and very sketchy work, and heavy on the three books I was working on.   

So I sat down to make some art. 
I set myself a deadline, and to be honest, I was in a hurry. I wanted this career move SO BADLY. I busted my butt to make a dozen images (without really thinking about *what* they were, just that they existed) and sent them to her when I had 12. 

I made a few moves that slowed everything down at this point. First, I sent things to Allison the last week of December, when most of us are *not* reading emails. Second, I just sent a link, not any of the images.  Third, I hadn’t curated these images… like I said, I just counted to 12. Some of them were good (I’d worked on some in an  Open Studio course with Larissa Marantz (major plug here- work with Larissa!! She’s amazing!), and those were in good shape. Some of the others… eh.   So Allison didn’t see the email because it got buried, and then when I checked back in with her in the spring, she didn’t click the link (or maybe she did but saw the “eh” images and very reasonably said “eh”).  

At this point I tried to temper my excitement, and I sent out some queries. A bunch of queries. I took some more classes, including character design and comic/graphic novel classes.  I drew some more. I started working on a collaboration with another writer as practice, which made me draw a lot of hands and people and pushed me to find a hybrid way to work, with watercolor and digital teaming up.  I made more random pieces.  I got a bunch of nopes, a ‘revise and resubmit’, and a ‘show me more work’ from some agents.  This was encouraging – about half of the nopes were personalized, and I was getting enough “hmmm, maybe!” answers that I was not delusional in my goals. I could actually do this and the people who knew were – in one of the busiest, weirdest times in publication – responding positively to my work. 

I took another class with Larissa and made a piece that was very silly, but helped me understand what to do with digital tools. 

Then, I responded to a twitter call for illustrators who were chronically ill or disabled, and was asked to send work that had detailed backgrounds or showed disabled characters.  Something about this process reminded me that I know exactly how to apply for gigs. I’ve been freelancing for YEARS. I am a queen of throwing together proposals with new/existing work to show that I could be the right fit for a job.  I just never applied it to kidlit.   And with the jump in skills I was making in Larissa’s class, I was suddenly able to edit some old work and make some new work to fit this bill. The three images I made that week were good – and after I sent my reply to that call and edited the heck out of my website portfolio, I thought, maybe I should send these to Allison. 

It took me a minute. I second guessed. I wrote very self-deprecating emails.  I erased them and made them less self-deprecating.  Finally I said something like, “I hope you’re still interested in my work, here’s what I’m working on right now, and here are some new images I made.”    And I put the illustrations IN THE EMAIL. Because let me be real… I don’t click on links to things unless I’m pretty excited about them.  I can’t assume anyone else will either. So I put the eye candy in the email. 

And the rest? History.  Allison liked the pictures. She was motivated enough to click through and see the rest of my portfolio (which was pruned significantly since the winter’s dozen images, and better ones added).  She checked out my instagram and liked the weird digital piece I was making in Larissa’s class.  And she scheduled a call… 

and offered me representation! 
I’m super excited to be on sub to publishers next month and to have someone help me decide what project is NEXT. 

I’ll keep taking Larissa’s Open Studio, I suspect. It’s a great way to keep working. 

And now as soon as my kid is in school, I can very reasonably block out time to write and draw.  It’s my job now. I have to. 


Holy moly, friends!  I’ve been offered representation by a literary agent as an author-illustrator!  I am over the moon excited, and will send more details when I’m done running in circles around the back yard like a middle-aged fool.  This is the next step to my 2nd (3rd?) career and I couldn’t be happier. EEEEEEEEP! 

Why I Rest

Those of you who know me well, or maybe not so well but in-person or through working with me, (may know that I’ve been slowing way down lately.  I’ve been a full-speed-ahead, ADHD hyperfocus kind of person for all of my life – and while I still have the hyperfocus and enthusiasm, I also now have a chronic illness.  My twitter posts are either #kidlit or #longcovid related these days, because those are the things front and center in my mind.  Yup, Long Covid, probably ME (Myalgic Encephalomyelitis).  I got the original SARS-COV-19 back in March of 2020, when there were no vaccines, no tests, and people telling us it wasn’t even here.   I’ve been sick since, and with a lot of rest and pacing, about a zillion pills, and a doctor who’s willing to experiment, I’m starting to get better.  But it… is…. HARD. 

I’ve been self-employed since 2009, and hustling every minute. I barely took maternity leave.  Being self-employed means I’ve taught myself to say yes to every opportunity that comes along – and the two times in my life (2008, and 2020) that I planned to take a large chunk of time off of work and work on my writing and illustration, THINGS HAPPENED that prevented my sabbaticals.  This time, I’m not going back to the old ways, though.  My illness means that mental, emotional, AND physical exertion tire me, usually with a lag of 12 hours beefore the crushing fatigue kicks in.  So I can’t do it all. I can’t parent, work 30 hours a week on architecture, and create books and illustrations in the margins – not if I want to stay mobile.   I have to RADICALLY REST.  REALLY REST.  “Be prone and not make appointments” rest.   So for the rest (heh) of the summer, all two weeks of it, I’m not taking on any more architecture jobs. I’m limiting myself to two new paid gigs per month, start dates spaced two weeks apart and scheduling accordingly.  Because what I want is to draw and write. 

Drawing and painting – at least the inking and coloring pages – are restful to me. I feel recharged when I do them, not drained.  Writing takes a ton of mental energy, though, so if I’m not protecting the heck out of my time, I can’t do it. And if I don’t write new stories, I won’t be able to make this my real job.  Oh, I know picture book publishing isn’t super lucrative – I’ll probably always have someone’s bathroom renovation to design to keep me in watercolors and cutting edge digital brushes – but gosh dang it I want to make art my focus! 

My parents helped me take a family vacation where I really unplugged, and I’m hoping to hold on to this feeling – the expansive, follow-your-body-and-get-better feeling.   Wish me luck! 

What We’re Reading – Mighty Jack and Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke

Mighty Jack and Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke is a middle grade graphic novel (my kid enjoyed it at 5-6 years old, but I think the titular Jack is at least 12 yo in the book and I fully enjoyed the story as an adult).   

Actually, we’re reading the collected works of Ben Hatke, because he easter-eggs characters from all of his books in his other books, and once we read one (I think we started with Julia’s House for Lost Creatures), the kiddo wants to read them all and figure out why the dragon in Julia looks familiar (it’s a hero in Mighty Jack, and makes a cameo as a baby in Nobody Likes a Goblin). Ben Hatke is one of my inspirations, too, as an artist and a storyteller. His picture books are really lovely pen, ink, and watercolor (what I love to make) and his graphic novels are bold, energetic, and fun. 


 Mighty Jack and Zita the Spacegirl is a mashup sequel to both the… you guessed it, Mighty Jack AND Zita the Spacegirl books. The Jack stories are a little bit older target audience than Zita (I’d say solidly middle-grade, with a maybe 13 year old protagonist, vs Zita who we meet at a younger age and worked for my kid at 5 years old).   It’s a retelling of Jack and the Beanstalk… loosely… in that there’s a really awesome garden that opens up a portal to other worlds and there are kids climbing on beanstalks and eventually the adventure saves the family home.  Do you like magical gardens? YEAH!  Start with MIGHTY JACK and go from there.  Prefer space adventures and maybe have a younger kid? Start with ZITA THE SPACEGIRL, a space-portal adventure about saving your friends and making new ones on the way, with lots of cute and/or creepy many-worlds characters.   Either way, get all three of the books in the series you’re starting, because you will surely want to keep reading.  


  Mighty Jack (3 book series) My Favorite Thing About Zita the SpaceGirl - GeekDad

What I’m Reading – Wayward Children by Seanan McGuire

What I’m Reading – Wayward Children series by Seanan McGuire
ages 13ish-adult

Surely I’m not the only adult out there who misses the absorption of going to a different world (I know I’m not, because The Magicians series is literally about a dude depressed about Narnia not being real).  Anyway if The Magicians felt too bummy-outy for you, Wayward Children is your ticket to wonder.  This is modern portal fantasy that works. It’s full of all kinds of magical worlds, a kind of a framework to hang it on, and characters you will want to befriend (or follow into their magic doors, in some cases).  It’s an older YA/adult feel (I’d have loved them at 13, I bet, but they’re a little dark in places, but not explicit!) 

The internet says there are 8 books but I think one isn’t published yet. That’s ok – they’re all standalone like Narnia, so you aren’t left hanging too badly and I read them out of order (read Every Heart a Doorway first if you can though, then the rest in any order is probably ok.) You might, however, be longing for YOUR door when you’re done! 

Oh, and if you haven’t read Seanan McGuire before, you’re in luck, because she has a LOT of books and every one I’ve read is fantastic. 

Image from Jill Barklem's Spring Story

Influences – Jill Barklem’s Brambly Hedge

New type of post: influences! 

I’m taking a really fantastic class from OC Art Studios with fab fantastic teacher Larissa Marantz, and one of our homework assignments is to dissect style from some of our influences.  I’ve done this before, briefly, anyway, with Lisa Congdon’s book about finding personal style (the one with a tiger on the front? it’s really good but I’m blocking the title and don’t want to ADHD over to another tab to find it in case I lose my train of thought… hi welcome to my brain, bet I could have found it in this time). 



One of the influences I didn’t get to in my homework assignment is Jill Barklem’s Brambly Hedge. 

If you have not been lucky enough to encounter Brambly Hedge, well, I am sad for you but I want you to see it now.  Not for the stories, really. An agent once told me that one of my stories read (she said this very gently)… “a little… ’80s”. What she meant by that was that the style was kind of gentle and quiet and didn’t feel like it had high stakes. Brambly Hedge is like that.  So are a lot of picture books I read as a child of the 80s and babysitter of the 90s (same books, natch, since I just purloined our existing library).  The stories kinda don’t really go anywhere, and other than the Secret Staircase, didn’t really do much for me as fiction.  BUT THE PICTURES. 



GODDESS the pictures. 
These little British-style mice in their epic, cottage-core, country-victorian tree houses, eating GBBO-worthy trifles and cakes.  The almost-steampunk-but-they-work inner workings of the mill tree and the dairy stump.  The super fine sepia pen work over watercolor that’s so crisp it almost scares me to think about how it was painted.  THE PLANTS!!! 

I used to get lost in these pictures for days.  
As a tween, I got really into drawing cross-sections (cutaway views) of houses… boring suburban ones, not cool hobbity ones like in Brambly Hedge, but undoubtedly influenced by then. 

Then I ended up going to ARCHITECTURE SCHOOL. Because I liked drawing the insides of houses so much. Brambly Hedge: The Secret Staircase by Jill Barklem – Tyger Tale

img: from Jill Barklem’s THE SECRET STAIRCASE

I mean. Missed the mark there, kiddo.  I don’t think anyone mentioned to me that “illustration” is a major and possibly one I could have double majored in with creative writing. Did I know somewhere deep in my psyche that Jill Barklem went to illustration college? Maybe, but I think I relegated it to “historical” and “foreign”, and didn’t connect such things to career counselling in 2001.  REGRETS!!! 

Anyway so be it. I’m not sure I’ll ever have the patience to do a whole picture book in as much detail as Jill Barklem did, but I do like drawing endless little details on shelves and painting them later. I like busy artwork that you could get lost in, techincal details that seem like they work, steampunk (or solar-punk, or cottage-core) fantasies.  I really enjoy pen-and-watercolor style, and I like working in it too.   

Brambly Hedge - Jill Barklem - Art gallery quality printing sold by Rita  Memory on Storenvy

from Jill Barklem’s AUTUMN STORY