Shanda’s Journey

My Book Inspired A Makey-Makey Maker!

Photo by Colleen Graves

Photo by Colleen Graves

So many cool things have happened as a result of the writing/publishing of DOLL-E 1.0. I am so humbled to be a part of a circuit of creatives! So many hands touched this book from its conception to birth … critique groups, editors, art directors, publicists, my husband, my kids, my mom, sales departments, educators, librarians, bookstores, etc.!

 

And now another creative hand has tinkered with this book and made its existence even cooler … a real coder and “maker” … a girl named Colleen Graves! She creates activities and guides for Makey-Makey (that appears multiple times in the illustrations of Doll-E 1.0). So, Colleen was charged up to create an activity guide for creating your own doll or robot from spare parts and a Makey-Makey, then adding words to its database using Scratch! It. Is. RAD!

 

If you are a STEM or STEAM teacher, I truly hope you check this out and share your creations with us! It’s reading, creating, problem solving, programing, electronics, engineering, and fun all in one! Colleen suggests this project works best with grades 3-6. So without further adieu, here is the guide:

https://labz.makeymakey.com/cwists/preview/1657x

 

And here is Colleen’s blogpost about the inspiration behind creating the guide:

Making and Literacy Guide for Doll-E 1.0

 

 

 

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!

Little Local Hero!

Filed under: Coolness,Shanda's Journey | November 12, 2017

See this face? This is the face of a REAL LIVE HERO! His name is Austin, and he and his family went out of their way last Sunday night for some strangers (us) that lived nearby to help us find our sweet buddy, Charlie (a 15 year-old deaf terrier). Charlie had gotten spooked by some unfamiliar faces that were trying to take care of him while we were out of town for the weekend, and he ran far away into unfamiliar territory. The temporary caretakers (my husband’s parents) were so scared of what could’ve happened to Charlie, but thanks to Austin and his kind family (who searched in dark woods with flashlights) Charlie was safe and found!

I am so grateful to my in-laws, my neighbor- Burt, and Austin’s family who all played a part in Charlie’s rescue! I sure do love our little city of Ball Ground and the people who make it such a sweet place to live!

The COVER of Doll-E 1.0 is out! (and some SCARY failed attempts).

Ta-da!!! The final cover:

 

 

I’m really proud of this cover … my FIRST cover! We (me, Andrea Spooner, Jen Keenan, and Saho Fuji) experimented with several cover ideas before we came to this perfect conclusion! Since this was my first book, I was really intrigued by the process of working with a team that wanted the cover to look cool as much as I did. I am very lucky an honored to have worked with these women who knew much more than I did about great cover design.

Here’s a few of our ideas that didn’t pan out, looked too busy, or worse – looked a bit SCARY …

 

 

Doll-E 1.0 comes out May 1, 2018 and is available for preorder now!

I sincerely thank each of you who are cheering me on and reading this post! I hope you’ll join me in the countdown to book release day by signing up for my email newsletter (at the bottom of my website), so you’ll be sure to know where I’m doing story-times and book signings to celebrate next spring!

With love and excitement,

Shanda

P.S. What do you think of the cover? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Life is NUTS!

So Much has happened … good AND bad and the reason for my posting gap …

 

I got an agent! – Very good.

November of 2015, I participated in a twitter pitch event called #PBPitch. Participants write up a VERY short pitch of their picture book work-in-progress and if an agent wants you to submit it to them, they “favorite” your post. I got 10 favorites that day! But one agent in particular took the time to email me separately and state that she really looked forward to seeing my work closer. That effort made me feel like she really liked it. She was the only agent I sent it to that week. And that’s how I found Erica Rand Silverman! Turns out, she’s the perfect agent for me! (She’s cool even if you cry which is MUST-have to be my agent :)

 

I got LASIK – Very very bad.

My life changed on February 19, 2016. Because I had LASIK. Yep. That “easy” surgery that’s a “miracle” called LASIK. Well, for most it is a miracle, but it was a tragedy for me. I haven’t even been able to write about it until now – over a year later – and I’m still not out of the woods. My eyes reacted unpredictably to the surgery, probably because of unknown underlying auto immunity in my body. My eyes were so dry for months, I could barely open them and when I did, the vision was a blurry mess. I can’t think of much worse for an artist aside of losing your drawing hand. Then as I was just starting to see some improvement in my sight, I suddenly was afflicted with HUNDREDS of floaters in my eyes that swirled around (and still do) at every eye movement.  I had developed uveitis which in my case is a chronic auto-immune inflammation of the uvea in the eyes. Without steroids, I would eventually go blind. But steroids have their own issues. As months passed, my clarity improved but it’ll never be as sharp as it once was before the surgery. I’ve seen so many eye doctors. And now I have developed cataracts from the steroids. And that’s where I stand now. My vision is starting to cloud up. Hopefully I can remove the cataracts safely with another surgery soon. And I’m hopeful that after that, I can be well enough to undergo a last surgery to remove the many many floaters. From this, I sprouted some scary anxiety that on one occasion landed me at the hospital. Anti-anxiety medicine was a life line, literally. And I’m still very reliant on it as I continue this health journey. The bad news is that I gained 30 pounds since starting this medication, but it’s life (and be bigger for now) or death. Sounds extreme, but it’s true unfortunately.

Also Erica held on, encouraged me, and waited for me to get better.

 

I got a book deal! – Very very good.

But in the middle of all this tragedy (early this year), something AMAZING happened. Erica submitted my book to a handful of publishers and 4 BIG publishers wanted it! It went to auction and sold to Little, Brown Books for Young Readers in a 2 book deal! A. Dream. Come. True. I can’t even.

 

I did the job! – very very very good.

I was very nervous about illustrating my book through vision issues, but God stayed near me. There’s no other explanation. This very week I’m working through a final tweaks list and then it’ll be a done deal! I have been so honored to work with Andrea Spooner, Hallie Tibbetts, Jen Keenan, and Saho Fujii at Little, Brown!  I couldn’t have imagined a more wonderful first experience! (I think my medicine helped me deal with this good stress better too.)

 

I’m still standing! – very good!

I’ve never thought of myself as very strong, but I still can’t believe what I’ve gotten through this past year. Good and bad. I’ll continue to trust the Lord. I’m sure I’ll still mourn my loss of perfect vision for a long time, but I know God will deliver me to the other side of sorrow soon. He has already thrown me many lines of hope that I hold onto with all my strength.

 

I have the sweetest husband ever! – so good.

Through this, I’ve seen the love my husband has for me. I knew he loved me before, but I REALLY know now. He carried us when I couldn’t rise from the bed or take care of our girls from depression. He never got angry at me or asked me to “get it together” or “man up” or anything like that. He got it together and manned up in my place. He just loved me. He never lets go of our hope for normalcy again one day. He has tirelessly talked with me over and over reminding me of the hope I have in healing, good doctors, and a career ahead of me. He’s such a good man and daddy. He saved me.

 

Moving onward!

So now I’ve finally written this down. Whew. I hope to be posting happy updates soon. Until then, I’ll keep on truckin’.

 

They say the best story is when a character is faced with the most awful thing that could happen to them, and then we see them grow and overcome it. That’s my hope.

Life is NUTS!

-Shanda

 

P.S. My debut picture book Doll-E 1.0 publishes Spring 2018 by Little, Brown!

P.S.S. I don’t recommend LASIK :)

 

My Favorite Childhood Robot!

Filed under: On My Mind,Shanda's Journey | April 3, 2015

wonder

This is Vicki, my all-time favorite robot character from the 80’s tv show “Small Wonder”! They say the best material anyone has to pull from (for writing children’s books) is from one’s own childhood. As a kid, I thought this was SO COOL to watch. Maybe it’s why I wrote a robot picture book as an adult!

It’s interesting and deep to think about what makes you care about something…even though you know its not human or even an animal.

I get a little teary-eyed when I think about moving my family out of our home that we’ve lived in from the beginning of our marriage. This house sheltered us from so many storms, we raised our babies here, we dreamed our dreams here. I know the house isn’t human, but I can’t help but imagine it feeling like we were abandoning it if we left. It would be sad. I’d probably drive by and check on it periodically to see if the new owners were taking care of it, not that I could do anything about it, but it would feel good if I knew the house was being loved like it deserves. Isn’t it strange that I think those thoughts? Do you care about anything like that?

The new movie, Interstellar, explores this idea of machinery and humanity too!

It’s definitely something for character creators to think about no matter if you are drawing them or writing about them. Your characters are (usually)  not really real, and furthermore, they might be inanimate objects. So, what does a character need to do, say or look like to be loved by the readers?

I dazzled my four-year-old with this show today! The episodes are on Youtube. She can’t wait to watch another episode tomorrow. Go ahead and relive the magic too…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=48WCJ84z7vw

What I’ve drawn lately…

Filed under: Illustration,Shanda's Journey,Sketchbook | November 11, 2014

The first pencil drawing of a character is by far, my favorite part of an illustration. It’s fast. Full of possibilities, energy and texture. It’s alive! I believe my work is best when I let the sketch do heavy lifting in an image.

Image from "Dollie 1.0," a picture book dummy by Shanda McCloskey.

Here (above) is my latest color piece where I tried to let the pencil do the most work. And although this image lacks action and sense of setting in my opinion, I still like it and think its one of my best pieces yet. This image will be a color sample in my latest picture book dummy about a gadget-loving girl and a doll. My goal is to get this newly updated dummy submitted to the 2 people who requested it earlier this year before this year ends! (I have a 5 month old baby girl, so I’m moving a little slower these days :)shanda_mccloskey2 The pig (above) and pig & boy sketches (very bottom) in this post are sketches I had sent to a small publisher earlier this month when they thought I might be a good match for a story they were publishing. Unfortunately, they weren’t convinced. I guess it just wasn’t in the stars. But it was exciting for a little while! Bummed, but not defeated.shanda_mccloskey3 shanda_mccloskey4 shanda_mccloskey5

sketch by Shanda McCloskey

sketch by Shanda McCloskey

sketch by Shanda McCloskey

 

Thanks for stopping by to see what I’ve been drawing!

-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).

photo 2

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!)

photo 1

photo 5

photo 3

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

photo 2

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

photo 2

photo 1

photo 3

photo 4

photo 4

photo 2

photo 1

photo 5

photo 4

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!

HONK! It’s Finished!

Filed under: Illustration,Shanda's Journey | May 7, 2014
Open book backdrop by Shanda McCloskey

Open book backdrop by Shanda McCloskey

I have been meaning to post this for a few weeks now. Things have been pretty crazy around here as we buckle down and get ready for baby girl #2 to arrive! She’s not due till July, but because we live in a pretty small house, we’ve had to really think and work out our space. My husband can’t work here at home anymore since we need his office for a baby room, and my office no longer exists either. I’m going to have to “think like a New Yorker” and separate a space in my living room or bedroom for a small studio area. Ben has rented an office elsewhere, but I’m going to need to be home most of the time caring for my small kiddos.

Anyway, I got off subject :) Here is the work I did for “Honk!”, a musical! You might remember my first post about this project here, when I completed the promo poster. This post is the rest of the work I did for the project.

Above, is a closeup of the open book backdrop that will stay on the stage the entire time. Then they had me add the bookshelf (below). Each book on this shelf is a Hans Christian Anderson story held together on the shelf by duckling book ends. The actors and actresses will enter and exit from behind the open book, and perform in front of this the entire performance as if the characters from the book have literally jumped off the page to tell the story. I’m not sure the example below is perfect to scale, but the stage will look something like this…

Honk backdrop by Shanda McCloskey

Honk backdrop by Shanda McCloskey

To vary some of the scenes, they had me do these next three back drops…

Cat lair backdrop by Shanda McCloskey

Cat lair backdrop by Shanda McCloskey

These images will be mounted onto 4 triangular columns that can separate and rotate to change to change scenes.

Farm and pond backdrop by Shanda McCloskey

Farm and pond backdrop by Shanda McCloskey

Marsh backdrop by Shanda McCloskey

Marsh backdrop by Shanda McCloskey

I learned a lot about scanning and printing resolution for a project of this size. The open book itself will be printed at 8×12 ft I think, and the the rest of these images at 8×8 ft.

I am so proud of this project, and I truly hope my work serves this production well! Can’t wait to see it all come to life :)

Honk the musical, background art by Shanda McCloskey

honk2

And here it is in action!

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Shanda McCloskey, Children's Illustrator & Author