Events

Artist/Writer in Residency at Sonoraville Elementary!

Filed under: Events,Growing Up Writing,Parenting,School Visits | October 1, 2018

All last week, and for the first time ever, I had the pleasure of working with the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders of Sonoraville Elementary School in a writing and illustrating workshop! It was so much fun and very successful I thought! (But my feet thought otherwise :) I was definitely reminded how hard teachers and media specialists work for our kiddos. Much RESPECT.

Mrs. Beth Mitchell, the Media Specialist there, was awesome to plan and scheme with. She almost never sits down and remains die-hard-patient with her students. I was impressed an encouraged to be more patient with my own kids after watching her. Our whole Artist in Residency concept began with her approaching me and just throwing the idea at me. And because I’m local to her school, it worked out really well and simply.

In order to maximize the potential of our program, Mrs. Mitchell spoke with the teachers of the grades we wanted to involve and asked those educators what they would like to see covered in the program to help reinforce skills their students are already working on. After that, Mrs. Mitchell and I developed the 3 day curriculum, and I worked hard to add in some good ‘ol cheesy fun too. We put it all to the test last week, and I think we have a winner!

If you are interested in me doing this 3-day workshop at your school, click here and scroll to the bottom.

-Shanda!

This sheet was inspired by Debbie Ohi’s character sheet on DebbieOhi.com!

Doll-E 1.0 selected for B&N National Storytime on 7/28/18!

Filed under: Coolness,Doll-E,Events,Shanda's Journey | July 22, 2018


My first book publication experience has been nothing short of awesome! I am very honored and grateful, because I realize this isn’t the norm. My book has some very hot themes in it … STEM, STEAM, girls in tech, and robotics, so my publisher, Little Brown, has gone above and beyond the call of duty to make sure DOLL-E 1.0 gets in the hands of kids! And one of those awesome efforts led to DOLL-E 1.0 being selected for Barnes and Noble’s National Storytime! This means that on July 28, 2018, EVERY Barnes and Noble IN THE COUNTRY will be reading my book during their 11am Saturday story time! Whaaaa?! There’s even Doll-E activities to follow and a discount on the book if you are a member or a kids club member.

I’ll be involved in this national event at my local B&N in Cumming, GA at The Collection! Please join me this Saturday at 11 am if you can! I’d LOVE to meet some new friends and visit with old friends, read my book to you, show you how to draw some of the characters, and sign some books too!

Here’s the Barnes & Noble blog post about it: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/blog/kids/visit-your-local-bn-saturday-july-28th-at-11am-for-a-storytime-event-featuring-doll-e-1-0/

Special thanks to Shawn Foster and the Little, Brown sales team and to Barnes and Noble!!! Thank you for selecting DOLL-E 1.0 for B&N National Storytime💙🤖💙 I also want to constantly thank my Heavenly Father, my husband- Ben, my girls, my parents, Ben’s parents, my big family, Ben’s big family, my friends and church friends, my agent- Erica, my editor- Andrea, and last but not ever least … my Trail Mix Critique Group and best buds: Colleen, Bonnie, Christi, Shannon, Jaclyn, Vaughan, Tosha, and Kim!

The Little, Brown Picture Book Event!

Filed under: Events,Illustration,Shanda's Journey | February 28, 2018

Before the details of this awesome trip to NYC slips my mind, I wanted to write about it here.

Every year, Little, Brown hosts a Picture Book Event where they invite media, book stores, and librarians, etc. to see original art from their upcoming Spring books. They also get to meet 2 author-illustrators tat are a part of that Spring list. Caldecott Medalist, Sophie Blackall, was the main attraction as she spoke about her beautiful upcoming book HELLO LIGHTHOUSE. And the other author-illustrator was ME! I spoke about myself as a new kid on the block and my debut book, DOLL-E 1.0. (My anxiety meds work well, because I wasn’t nervous!) Let’s just say, the attendees got to know the real Shanda – southern accent, tripping up on several words, a few tears and everything when I shared about my eye struggles. Why not? This is me :)

The space where the event was held was decorated with my characters and Sophie’s too! Each place setting had Doll-E and Lighthouse Valentines, sweet hearts candy, and a magnifying glass to find clues in the presentations. It was the cutest! And I finally got to meet the team I’ve been working remotely with in person: Andrea Spooner (my editor), Hallie Tibbetts (Andrea’s assistant), Jen Keenan (my art director), and Saho Fuji (art director) among others! I felt so welcomed and celebrated. It was a breakfast (and lunch) I’ll never forget, because I know this doesn’t happen to everybody, and it may never feel like this again … but that’s why this blog post is here … to document this wonderful moment in my journey!

Shanda “like panda” slide sketch in my presentation.

 

Me and Sophie

Office of fun!

Signed my very first book!

LEGO Self Portrait Success!


This summer, the Sequoyah Regional Library System’s theme is “Build A Better World”. So, yesterday I spent a couple hours at Pickens County Library leading 20 very cool kids through a LEGO self portrait! Each one created a totally unique piece. It always lifts me up to spend time with kids! We used a grid technique to draw a large LEGO guy base. It was tough to do, but they mastered it. Then they added adhesive foam hair and details to showcase their personalities. Last, they colored them with oil pastels. I hope the kids had as much fun as I did! I’m thankful for the extra hands I had there too – Barb McCloskey, Ethan Walker, Harvey Jane McCloskey, and Gracie Helton!

How Did I Come To Be … Here?

Filed under: Events,Growing Up Artsy,Lessons of an Artist | September 21, 2015


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Before I answer this question I want to say that I experienced one of the the most magical conferences of my career this past weekend with SCBWIMidSouth and my critique group! It was my first time attending this particular conference, but I was blown away by the surrounding talent, the speakers, and the kindness I encountered. And I’ve been to lots of conferences, believe me- this one was stellar!

I also had some encouraging feedback (the kind that will carry me through another week … another month … another year)! John Rocco even high-fived me! He’s awesome. Him being on the faculty list sold me on this conference in the first place. Not only did I get to hear him speak and have him sign my favorite book, “Super Hair-O and the Barber of Doom,” but he said I had “mad skills.” I’ll never forget THAT. 

So…. “how did you come to be here sitting in front of me?” Kristen Nobles from Candlewick asked as I sat down for my portfolio critique. She wanted to know a little about me and my background up to this point. I answered her back, but what I said wasn’t strung together very well spur of the moment. And of course I was a little nervous. But when I left the conference, that question circled and circled in my head. It’s a really good question, and I’d like to have a really good answer should anyone ask me again.

So here’s my answer… my long, thought out answer…

I was the art kid. I was good at it in elementary school, middle school, and high school. It was a strong sense of my identity and still is. It’s what made me (feel) special. 

I was not a particularly gifted reader, I was so very average. I loved the book fair! It made me want to want to read – are you following? In 3rd grade I was given a little money each book fair to get some books. I usually bought picture books (even though I was “too old” for them). But I could see that words and pictures played beautifully together. Then, I picked up “The Witches” by Roald Dahl… it was a thick book with a pretty witch on the cover. So I started it…and finished it- a thick book! (Revolutionary for me :) Again, it was words and pictures. I fell in love with reading then. I still wasn’t a bookworm or anything, but I experienced a secret, sweet, magical something when I found that perfect book. It usually had pictures and was funny. 

Fast forward. I go to art school. I figure out that I gravitate to art that reaches many people vs. art that hangs in galleries. It was the art that almost every person could relate to, feel something from, and get a hold of that I wanted to make. I finally figured out that what I really wanted to do with my life’s work was make pictures for the words in books. 

 I didn’t quite know how to make that happen. It’s not a straight path. So, I became an art teacher in a high school to pay the bills, but I knew this was only a stepping stone and not my calling. But I don’t regret it one bit. I learned how much I loved kids, even the big ones. I shared my love of books and illustration with them! I’m not sure if I affected any of them, but they affected me. I wanted to practice what I preached to them about following dreams, so I quit. And my husband and I moved to Brooklyn, NY!

It was only for a year, but I had my New York experience in a little apartment living in the same city as so many artists have, are, and will. I worked at Fishs Eddy near Union Square, and attended night classes at the School of Visual Arts. I will never forget THAT. 

I joined SCBWI in the middle of teaching, but I didn’t get very active until I came back to Georgia and longed to be near artists and writers again. SCBWI filled that void well and continues to feed my soul. I met my writers group through SCBWI, and this single thing has shaped my work more than anything. I am surrounded by talent that abounds me once a month. In their midst, I started writing and really began pushing my art. I’ve also met and/or become friends with several inspirational people: Lori Nichols, E.B. Lewis, Kelly Light, and now John Rocco are all mentors of mine whether they know it or not.

Then I had a child. There isn’t anything more bonding than experiencing stories together. I fell in love with books again, as a mommy. Now, the draw was/is bigger than ever. I WANT to be a part of that world. I want to be among the creators of children’s books!

So, that’s my answer. That, in a nutshell, is how I came to be … here!

-Shanda

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Superhero Self-Portrait Success!

Filed under: Events,Growing Up Artsy | June 12, 2015

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I had a blast hanging out with 10 boys (yep, all boys) last Saturday at Pickens County Library in Ellijay, GA! I was able to share my drawing powers with them successfully (as you can see from the rad portraits they created above)! Thanks for bringing your kids to my program – they were kind and AWESOME! Special thanks to Brooke and the Sequoyah Regional Library System, who invited me, and to Ethan (my nephew) who was a HUGE help to me and the little artists.

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Can’t wait to see what programs these libraries will do in the future! It was a pleasure being a part of the “Every Hero Has A Story” Summer Reading Program! Now, go make the world a better place … with ART!

-Shanda

While I was gone, I had a baby!

Filed under: Events,Growing Up Artsy,Shanda's Journey | September 5, 2014
Me and Beni

Me and Beni

If you saw me at the New York SCBWI conference or the Atlanta SCBWI conference, you might remember that I was expecting my second little one. I had lots of energy then, and I accomplished much on my “to do before the baby comes” list (including attending my first national SCBWI conference in NYC!) But soon after, I hit the wall… where it took ALL my energy just to do basic tasks like showering or tying shoes. Every woman who has ever been 8 months pregnant, knows this truth :) So for a while there, I couldn’t tie up the loose ends on my projects or submissions, because I was too distracted to do my best work. I had to close my “book” (so to speak) to give this season of life all my attention…

And here she is… Beni Lois McCloskey! Named after her precious daddy (Ben) and his zealous grandmother (Lois).

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Beni Lois

Beni Lois

Beni Lois

A lot has changed adding a second child. Having 2 kids is pretty crazy! I still have pregnant brain, and have to write down things like when I bathed each kid last and if I took my vitamin yet. It’s like my short-term memory is struggling to function, but I hear that’s pretty normal… hopefully.

Our home also went through many changes leading up to Beni. My husband and I used to share an office/studio together upstairs, but we had to move our bedroom up there to make our old bedroom, Beni’s. My husband now rents an office outside of our home, and we squeezed out a little space in our living room for a studio for me. It’s tight, but good. Here are some photos of my new office…

Shanda's Studio

Shanda’s Studio (behind the couch)

 

Shanda's Studio

Shanda’s Studio

Dana Tanamachi print (frame made by my dad) hangs above the cradle (made by my Pop), in the living room near my desk.

Dana Tanamachi print (frame made by my dad) hangs above the cradle (made by my Pop), in the living room near my desk.

And here is Beni’s woodland room… (I was dead set on using lots of white for some reason :)

Beni's Room

Beni’s Room (Garland made by my cousin Audrey, the moss B made by my mother-in-law Barb, the table under the lamp was made by Ben’s grandmother Lois, the bookshelf was made by my grandfather Pop, and the painted furniture was painted by my mom!)

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I painted the flowers on the wood plank that my dad prepared above the mirror.

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My husband, Ben, trimmed our crepe myrtle and hung a branch!

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photo 3There you have it! Now I have 2 beautiful girls to inspire me! Hopefully, I’ll be posting new work again soon. I am working on it :)

Sisters!

Sisters!

Lesson #9: If You Don’t Feel Like Going To the Conference, Go Anyway. (Good Stuff From Spring Mingle 2014)

Looming by Shanda McCloskey

Looming by Shanda McCloskey, final from mentorship with Loraine Joyner, art director of Peachtree Press

So there I was on the Thursday before the looming conference that started on Friday… I’m super-tired, super-pregnant, out-of-breath, feeling huge, and not myself. Everything was set and paid for. My critique group had a hotel room to share for a fun filled weekend. But I almost backed out of going for being tired and overwhelmed. I had some freelance work going on, and honestly I was a little “conferenced out” as well since I had just attended the NYC SCBWI National conference just a month ago. I was also a participant in the illustrator mentorship with Loraine Joyner of Peachtree Press. I was not thrilled with my finished piece (above), so my motivation for going and showing it off was very low. But for some reason, my gut told me to push through and go. I had done so much preparation to go, so I just had to. My friends were counting on me to be there. (Critique groups are good for accountability too :)

Characters by Shanda McCloskey, from mentorship with Loraine Joyner, art director of Peachtree Press.

Characters by Shanda McCloskey, from mentorship with Loraine Joyner, art director of Peachtree Press.

I’m so thankful I went. This was my best and favorite conference yet! Great learning along with some exciting happenings gave me some serious fuel to get me through my next several months of hard life… (third trimester, birth, having a newborn again, and putting my life and body back together again.) I left this conference feeling like God was letting me know I’m on the right track, and to keep trusting Him on the good days and the tough days.

 

Kim, Colleen, Shanda, and Christi representing Trail Mix, the greatest critique group north of the ATL!

Kim, Colleen, Shanda, and Christi representing Trail Mix, the greatest critique group north of the ATL!

I sure did have some extra good days at this conference though, because I got my very first AND second requests for my manuscript and book dummy! (Which means somebody asked me to send them my work so they could look at it more closely and possibly consider representing it or publishing it.)  Two requests! It was a pretty surreal experience, and it felt so good. Only my critique group (and my husband and mom) knows how much I’ve labored over my story. It has gone through many stages, and finally me and my critique group felt it was ready for the next step… to show it to some professionals for feedback. I was pleasantly surprised with the reactions and feedback, so we’ll see where it goes from here. Even if nothing comes of these requests, it’s really nice to hear a little “you’re not crazy and you may have something here” validation.

Here’s a quick line up of the amazing people/staff who came from all over to share their knowledge with us:

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Cheryl from Just Us Books – She reminded us of the importance of making authentic characters of all races. There are so many white kid books. Kids of other colors deserve to “see” themselves in stories too.

Ruth Sanderson – an incredible illustrator who let us see intimately into her life and journey as an artist.

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Lucy Ruth Cummins – art director, designer extraordinaire for Simon & Shuster. Lucy Ruth was hilarious, cool, knowledgable, a good teacher, and emotional about how much she loves books and her job of creating books. She’s one of those people I’ll never be as cool as, let’s face it. And if she ever wanted to work with me as an illustrator, I’d feel pretty awesome :)

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Cheryl Klein – executive editor with Arthur Levine Books which is an imprint of Scholastic. Cheryl was full of knowledge! There was so much information, I had to let it sink in to fully realize just how much I learned! She’s a great teacher, and you can tell she’s a seasoned professional (although she’s young) and  knows what she’s talking about.

Ammi-Joan Paquette – is an author and an agent. She shared with us a peek into her daily life and how many “hats” she has to wear from a mom, wife, author, to business agent. It was nice to hear how she manages it all. I ALWAYS need to hear motivational talks on things like this, because it is my biggest struggle. I want to be a mom, a wife, a friend, a daughter (who helps with her business), AND a wildly successful author/illustrator! How to fit it all in is different for everybody.

So, there it is! A few weeks later, but a conference definitely worth blogging about!

 

Lesson#7: Go To New York

Filed under: Events,Lessons of an Artist,Shanda's Journey | February 26, 2014

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The New York SCBWI conference was wonderful! My weekend was magical! Not only did I learn more about my craft and industry, but I got to meet new people, got to know some Southern Breezers (that I already knew) on a deeper level, saw and met writer and illustrator celebrities, witnessed my friend, Lori Nichols, WINNING the portfolio showcase, participated in the showcase myself (who knows if someone important might have made a mental note to watch me grow), spent some real quality time with my sister, and my husband, saw some old friends in Brooklyn, saw the “Why Children’s Books Matter” exhibit at the New York Public library, and experienced a fancy hotel stay in Manhattan! I’m exhausted… in a good way! There’s just something special about New York, and I’d like to continue to attend that conference as much as I possibly can. I feel like it will be important for “going faster”, if you will, on my journey.

Tomie DePaola

Tomie DePaola speaking at the 2014 SCBWI NYC Conference

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My room at the Grand Hyatt at Grand Central

Here’s a list of some of the most important things I took with me from this conference…

For illustrating-

1. Go see as many live plays and ballets as possible. Here are valuable lessons in staging, storytelling, body language, and costuming. Funny thing, Ben actually got to see the New York City Ballet with our friend, author/illustrator, Monica Wellington! I’m so jealous!!!

New York City Ballet

The New York City Ballet

Art at the New York City Ballet

Art at the New York City Ballet

2. DRAW EVERYDAY. I can’t tell you how many speakers said these words. I think I finally heard it :) But if we draw enough, our personal style WILL emerge… it’s in our DNA!

3. The creative process is a mystery and unique to each creator. You can’t rush it. You can only feed it by making art over and over and over again. (The process of becoming an author and illustrator sounds similar.)

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Panel: Arthur Levine, Shadra Strickland, Oliver Jeffers, Marla Frazee, Raul Colon, and Peter Brown!

4. Everything you need to know you learned in your first art class. But it takes time for your brain and hands to trust it. Every time you start to draw a face, you start with an oval and divide it up, every single time. Over and over again.

5. When creating a character, draw it so much that the “generic” gets pushed out of it.

Me with Oliver Jeffers

Me with Oliver Jeffers (illustrator of The Day the Crayons Quit)

6. You may need to imitate art you like in practice to help you find your way. It’s okay.

7. You will know your art is working if you feel something when you look at it. Your goal is to create an emotional response.

8. Will they fall in love with your character? If so, they will probably love the rest of your book too.

9. Viewers of your illustrations should be able to “get it” right away.

10. Most important things to see in illustrations: relationships and emotions.

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11. Magnify what you do well. Don’t force what you don’t.

12. Put enough discovery in an illustration for interest a second time around.

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Portfolio Viewing

13. Go as fast as you can. Get in the express lane if you are able. (For me, I think that means going to the NYC conference often.)

14. Self publishing does not have the negative stigma it used to.

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For writing-

1. Jack Santos said: the perfect ending is when action and emotion meet. A physical and emotional ending wins the prize! For ex. Not everyone will be able to relate to the physical experience of a teacher smashing your watch because you can’t not play with it, but EVERYONE will be able to relate to the emotional experience of not feeling mature enough for something.

2. Your characters HAVE TO change, otherwise its not worth reading or writing.

Me with Lori Nichols after she won the showcase!

Me with Lori Nichols after she won the portfolio showcase!

3. Find a work habit that works for you.

4. Good stories always have an emotional core and deep emotional human experience.

New York Public Library

New York Public Library

Children's room at the New York Public Library

Children’s room at the New York Public Library

5. Kate Messner said: If you aren’t nervous about this journey, it wouldn’t be worth doing.

Why Children's Books Matter Exhibit

Why Children’s Books Matter Exhibit

Why Children's Books Matter

Why Children’s Books Matter Exhibit

The Great Green Room

Why Children’s Books Matter Exhibit

6. Remember to celebrate the small accomplishments along the way!

Sisters

Me and my sister, India!

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Bryant Park

Well there you go :) Every conference I attend confirms my desire to be a part of these people that make books for kids!

When Ben and I finally landed in Atlanta again on Monday night, we cranked up our rap music for our last kid-free drive home. What can I say? It gets me ready to fight… for my dream :)

-Shanda

What I’ve been up to…

Filed under: Events,Illustration,On My Mind,Shanda's Journey | October 30, 2013

Man, the past few weeks have spun me around! Here’s the list in order of the craziness…

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1. First of all, I vowed to myself that I wouldn’t attend another writing/illustrating conference without a book dummy! So, for 2 months I tweaked my best story, Dollie 1.0, and prepared a sample dummy for the WIK Southern Breeze SCBWI conference in Birmingham, AL. I learned SO VERY much during the dummying process! So much, that once I finished the dummy for the conference, I knew it was just a place holder for much work still needed on it. A little disheartening, but I’m growing tougher. I am still a work-in-progress and so is my book. But it was great to lay even a work-in-progress dummy beside my portfolio display. Definitely a step up in the right direction.

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2. The Birmingham conference was nice and familiar territory. But this time I went with a few of my writing group homies! 2-night stay in a hotel and all :)

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3. After the conference, I got some wonderful feedback on my story/dummy from this writing group as well as from Author/Illustrator, Sarah Francis Hardy. Now, I’m about to rework the entire story to focus my message more. I love pulling together the framework of a story. It’s the stringing together of words that intimidates me.

4. We had a Friends Family Pumpkin Carving Shin Dig!

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5. Ball Ground Public Library asked me to fill their display cases with my artwork to share it with the community! I sure do love my local library and the people there. It is a cool opportunity, so I took it!

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6. I helped my mom (NuMe Natural Soap) prepare for the Country Living Fair in Atlanta, GA. She makes natural soap. I helped build displays, wrap soaps in fabric, paint signs, and think strategically, etc. It was a great weekend, and a beautiful distraction!

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7. Then I had a scissor accident! I cut a tiny tip of my finger off while cutting string for soap wrapping. You know, I try to do do something nice…

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8. I sent out a new set of postcards to art directors. Who the heck knows if they ever catch anyone’s eye?! But my options are limited until I have a killer book dummy/dummies to send out.

9. I’m trying to sketch more each day. I joined DOODLE DAY on Facebook for some inspiration and prompts.

Spooky
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10. I’m registered to participate in Picture Book Idea Month (PiBoIdMo)! Where I vowed to come up with 30 picture book ideas in 30 days… should be interesting.

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11. And now I’m getting back to my blog! I hope to have a new “A Picture Book & A Project” post soon!

12. Last but not least… I signed up to attend my first National SCBWI conference in New York City in February 2014! This is a huge step for me. I know I will leave with a sense of where to go from here. Benny is going with me! He works with a company located across the street from the conference venue. Cool, right?!

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So, that’s what I’ve been up to, but I’m eager to get back to a steady work routine to pump out work… great work I hope.

HAPPY HALLOWEEN with HJ’s pumpkin! I think it’s pretty cute.
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-Shanda

 

 

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Shanda McCloskey, Children's Illustrator & Author