Monday, December 26, 2011

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

out of the box

A couple of nice new reviews for PETUNIA GOES WILD, due out late January.

From Kirkus:

Petunia decides she’s more animal than girl (RARH!).

Human behavior requires too much structure: cleanliness, clothing, combing, quiet. Petunia enacts all these banalities, all these “hafta[s],” in an effective spread of c-sounds and frowny-faces. Tiny expressions relay her utter exhaustion with people rules (as well as her joy in running bare-bottomed!). Children will empathize, as they know what it’s like to have a wild impulse crushed for millionth time. Careful! After gobbling breakfast off the floor, growling at neighbors and bathing in a mud puddle, Petunia asks to become the family pet, helpfully holding up a leash and collar. Her parents’ response suffocates an entire page, filling it with fuming type and angry large letters that gradually dwindle in size but not quantity. This visual tune-out of a parental rant works well optically and rings true to young ears, too. Schmid’s suggestive charcoal drawings and purple watercolor accents enjoy lots of white space and clever compositional placement. A mellow orange highlights the animal kingdom (Petunia’s pinned-on tiger tail, stuffed animals and the scrawled words MAIL TO AFRICA on a child-sized box). Her mother’s singing in the kitchen draws Petunia back to her human house, but readers sense Petunia will always remain a little feral.

Simple illustrations convey a simple truth: children love to run wild! (Picture book. 3-7)

And from the School Library Journal:

The spunky protagonist of A Pet for Petunia returns with an existential dilemma in this unexpectedly simple yet satisfying tale. Convinced that she should have been born an animal, the precocious preschooler eats her breakfast off the floor, roars at passing strangers, and bathes in mud puddles. Her parents find her request for a cave to live in horrendous and her suggestion that she be their pet drives them to distraction. For Petunia, though, life as a human is just “too… clean. Too careful. Too clothed. Too combed. Too quiet. Too… hafta.” She packages herself into a box labeled “mail to Africa.” The sound of her mother singing in the kitchen causes her misgivings, and she creeps silently back to the kitchen, where milk and cookies are waiting for her. Schmid has crafted a fun, well-paced read-aloud. Though never depicted, Petunia’s parents are aptly realized through their few pages of wordy counter-dialogue. Petunia, on the other hand–with her wild hair and tiger tail pinned to her striped purple dress–is adorably rendered in Schmid’s charismatic charcoal drawings. The art plays a key role in the subtle sense of humor being conveyed, as when the girl peeks around a corner with just her human face and tiger tail on display. With a passionate struggle and simultaneous weakness for the comforts of being a human child, Petunia will charm children and adults alike.–Jayne Damron, Farmington Community Library, MI

Monday, December 19, 2011

wild review

A nice new review from Publishers Weekly for my nice new book out in February, PETUNIA GOES WILD.

In her previous book, Petunia wanted a pet, but now she wants to be one. Donning a tiger tail, she eats her breakfast off the floor, bathes in mud, and insists that her parents find her a cave. Being human is just “Too careful. Too clothed. Too combed. Too quiet.” Her parents don’t understand, but Petunia learns that there are a few perks to being human, after all. Schmid uses naïf crayon lines to convey Petunia’s gentle disobedience and frustration over life’s boundaries. Readers who would rather eat under the table will find an ally in this shrewdly playful heroine.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

bellicose bunnies

These are my first exploratory sketches developing the styling on a new character. I worked at these on and off at my book signing last weekend. The bunnies have come a long way since then, but I don't have anything to show just yet.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

book signing

Get on down to Bellevue Art and Frame this Saturday. I will be reading and signing my books from noon to 4pm, so stop by and say hello. --Oh, and buy lots of books too.


I just rewrote the same sentence nearly 40 times.

I think I've got it now.

Monday, November 21, 2011


New character I'm working on.

Isn't there some sort of law against having TOO much fun?

Saturday, November 19, 2011

can't stop...

I’ve started a brand new story and dummy. What a brutal, exhausting, delightful ordeal it is to be so brain-tired, yet not be able to stop because you’re having way too much fun.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

launching Pearl

The wonderful folks at the Secret Garden bookstore are throwing a party for the debut of my new book Hugs from Pearl. 7 pm Tuesday November 22nd.

I'll be there to sign books, read a bit, and talk about a new Petunia story coming out next year. I hope to see you there!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

a few reviews to view

Quite a bit of news to share:

The formidable Kirkus has smiled upon Pearl:

“In this welcome departure from the seemingly ubiquitous theme that finds porcupines looking for love, gentle-hearted Pearl experiments with ways to make her hugs more comfortable for others.

From the first page, the text speaks directly to young readers in simple sentences that instantly establish a friendly rapport: “Pearl is sweet… She’s a very good friend to have. She plays fair, shares her lunch treats, and best of all… / Pearl LOVES to hug.” But she does have those pesky quills. Even though everyone in her class likes Pearl, they find her hugs “a little ouchy.” So Pearl dedicates herself to finding a solution. Set against backgrounds of pale green or blue, the charcoal strokes delineating Pearl’s soft, white body portray her as anything but prickly. A touch of pastel pink highlights her face and the myriad feelings she experiences while struggling with her prickliness. Using pincushions, taking a long bath and requesting a quillcut all prove futile. When she is at her most discouraged, some bees and rosebushes give her an idea. With a little ingenuity, some resourcefulness and a whole lot of heart, Pearl solves her own dilemma. Children and adults alike will cheer as she rushes to school to share her rosy success.

Schmid’s follow-up to A Pet for Petunia proves he is a talent to watch. Keep quills crossed for a future porcupine tale.”

And from Publishers Weekly:

Pearl the porcupine stars in this sweet-natured story about the hazards of hugging (at least when one is a porcupine), and she’s also the source of its delightfulness. Schmid (A Pet for Petunia) draws Pearl and her many quills with a few hasty strokes, but her expressive features, her ecstatic gyrations when she contemplates hugging her classmates (“Pearl loves to hug”), and her dismayed expression when she realizes that her hugs hurt them (“Pearl’s teacher kept lots of Band-Aids handy”) will soften even the hard-hearted. A visit to some similarly prickly rosebushes in the neighborhood leads Pearl to a solution that both pleases her and spares her classmates. Schmid is disciplined about keeping his story focused; Pearl and her classmates stand against backdrops of soft green and blue with no extra scenery, and every sentence moves the action along. Pearl’s is a small-scale problem, but she surmounts it by herself, and readers have the reassuring sense that nothing awful will happen while she figures it out—at least nothing that a Band-Aid can’t fix. 

The School Library Journal has also given our girl a sweet review:

Pearl loves to give hugs, which leaves her friends at school in a prickly predicament. Tired of hearing, “Ouch! Thanks, Pearl. Ouch!” from her classmates, the youngster wonders, “What’s a friendly little porcupine to do?” After unsuccessfully investigating several options to soften her quills, including pincushions, a long bath, and a quill cut, Pearl is quite dejected. Then she notices bees happily buzzing around some thorny roses, and she has a flash of inspiration. With a little alteration to her mother’s special rose-print pillowcase, Pearl soon has the perfect solution. With his simple pastel and charcoal illustrations set against pale green and blue pages, Schmid brings just the right touch of sweetness to this charming tale. Though rendered with an uncomplicated ease, rosy-faced Pearl is endearingly expressive in her body language, and readers won’t help but respond to her anxiously crooked mouth as she ponders her dilemma, her industriously stuck-out tongue as she tries to address it, and her jubilantly closed eyes as she savors her success. This porcupine is perfectly lovable, and her proactive endeavors to solve a problem thrust on her by nature set a good example for children encountering their own struggles. This warmhearted story will fit right into storytimes and one-on-one reading sessions at home.–Jayne Damron, Farmington Community Library, MI

Saturday, October 8, 2011

a reading, and a play!

Here is Ava!

Her mom tells me Ava's kindergarden class did a play of A Pet for Petunia for some preschoolers. Now that is perfectly awesome!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Hugs from the UPS driver

This just arrived on my doorstep.

It's a real book!

Available November 22! We'll be having a launch party at Secret Garden Books. More info to come.

Friday, August 12, 2011

soak the muse

I think it’s time for another installment of previously nonexistent words helpful in describing the creative experience.

I have been working diligently for quite a long time now, putting in endless hours at the drawing board or computer. Production mode. Nose firmly on grindstone.

Naturally one begins to feel played out. The sponge can only be squeezed so much, then it fails to give generously. (Curious how our brains look a bit like sponges...)

If a creator does not stop to gather fresh experiences occasionally, he’s likely to run into a dry spell or start repeating himself.

It makes sense then that a creator should venture forth into the sunlit world and soak up a bit of life now and then. Fill the sponge.

Catchy isn’t it? Fill The Sponge. The Latin for that zinger is Spongiam Replet. I desire a word not a phrase, so lets squeeze that puppy. Spongiplet. Sounds a bit like something unfortunate they found in my arteries. Let’s take the first 3 and last 3 letters: Spolet. That’s better. 

Used in a sentence: “I spent the afternoon spoletting at the park watching the kids play.”

Spoletting may even stimulate the creative microbit of the brain. Seduce the Muse as it were. 

This must certainly be a creator’s top prioritiy. I’m sure all of us have tried to work while uninspired, with Ms. Muse out to lunch with the girls. Deadly, isn’t it? Poop generally results.

Could we find a word for pitching the woo at said fickle, fickle Muse? Something to use as a battle cry.

Seduce the Muse: Musa Seducat.

Musaseducat. That’s something that comes in a blue bottle, isn’t it? Musducat? No, that’s a type of beaver. Muduce. Pronounced Muh-dooce.

“I’m sooo not into it today, so I’m off to muduce at the museum for an hour or so.”

Yes. If only I didn’t have this deadline.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

New York again

I discovered yesterday that both A Pet for Petunia and Hugs From Pearl have been honored by the Society of Illustrators in New York by being included in their exhibit of the year's best children's books.

This is quite the honor, and I am indescribably grateful to my wonderful editor and friend Maria Modugno who made a stab in the dark by suggesting I give writing a try.

Thanks also must be made to Dana Fritts, my fabuloso designer at Harper. Remember that name; she will be famous.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

busy, busy

Several exciting bits of news this week.

I finished up the art for my fourth self-authored book, Percy's Big Idea. It should be in the book stores by fall of 2012.

The big brown truck delivered the proofs for my January 2012 release, Petunia Goes Wild, and it looks really great, many thanks to the fantastic designer Dana Fritts.

Barnes & Noble has made plans to release enhanced e-book editions of both A Pet for Petunia and Petunia Goes Wild on their color Nook.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

another monday quote

From the great saxophonist Paul Desmond. I like this, as these qualities are what I aim for in my work as well.

“The qualities in music I considered most important -- and still do -- were beauty, simplicity, originality, discrimination, and sincerity,”

Friday, May 20, 2011

talent vs. skill

Skill is a thing you've worked very hard to acquire. Talent is what someone else was born with.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Monday, May 9, 2011

monday quote

It seems good to start the week with a bit of insight or inspiration:

"If you clean it up, get analytical, all the subtle joy and emotion you felt in the first place goes flying out the window."
-- Andrew Wyeth

Monday, May 2, 2011

wordy rappinghood

A while back I wrote about the dearth of simple, useful words for the art experience and I feel it is high time I updated things.

For those too lazy to click on the old post, what I was attempting to do was invent much needed words to express some basic, shared whaddyacallits that all creative artists experience.

I translated some ideas into Latin and rammed the words together, birthing new words suitable for everyday usage.

Examples include Velax, which means losing track of time while painting, drawing or creating. Flum: focused daydreaming to solve a creative problem.

You have the idea.

I am still feeling a lack in regards to satisfying expressions for enduring the life of a creator, and to that end I have spent hours parsing a Latin dictionary and/or engaging the indolent and impudent assistance of my teen daughter who’s private school Latin I’ve worked my fingers to the bone to pay for, to bring you three new words to benefit the greater creative community.

I generally work more than 6 months illustrating a book, plenty of time one would think to scour said art for glaring errors, yet inevitably when the box of printed books is opened, there-it-is-dammit, glowing like a rotten, festering wound in the Twilight. 

So. What does one call that all too common experience? Let’s use the Latin words for Art, See and Not. Ars. Specto. Non. Squish lightly: Arspectonon. A mouthful. Squish harder: Arspenon. One more squish: Arsen. Used in a sentence: “I don’t know how, but I totally arsened the cover illustration, I hope no one notices.”

Raise hands if you’ve continued on a sketch or painting or hammered on a sentence long after the little voice in your head has repeatedly told you it is Pucked And No Mistake. “No, no” you say, “I can fix it!” Hours later it is in the circular file and good riddance. If one had a word, and if one used the word, one could save oneself countless hours of one beating one's dead horse.

Beat: Battuo. Dead: Mortuus. Horse: Equus.

Batmorteq. Bamortek. Bameked. “I’m bamikking this one for sure, time to bail.”

OK, best for last. There isn’t an artist or author alive who hasn’t envied in an unhealthy way some one or a dozen other creators for their seemingly effortless skill at writing or drawing or whatever. That dang Peter McCarty for one. And don’t forget Shakespeare. Schmuck. Too. Much. Talent.

Awe of others, not self. Rever non ego. Revenonego. Ugg. You know, I think in this case I will ride on the coattails of  one who tackled this idea previously, the writer and all around brain-box John Fowles. In his book “The Aristos” he declared that sense of futility and relativity the supreme source of anguish. His word was Nemo: The state of being (or feeling like a) nobody. Such as: “Whenever I read Where the Wild Things Are, I feel Nemoed for a week.” (And how could we not capitalize something so primal and devastating?)

There now, ain’t those useful?

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Petunia's a star

Got the word that A Pet for Petunia will receive a starred review in the May issue of the School Library Journal.

An excerpt:

The illustrations leave much white space for Petunia’s personality to soar. The natural, expressive charcoal-rendered lines coupled with accents of purple watercolor (and a bit of complementary orange here and there) suit the story well and add to its sophistication; the typeface is equally expressive. ... the gentle artistry of the skunk, the woods, and the porcupine warm the heart.

Friday, April 22, 2011

earth day

This is an animated video my 13 year old daughter made for Earth Day. I just can't describe how proud I am of her.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

sitting, soaking

I've been feeling guilty for not blogging a thing for such a long while. I'm in absorption mode and have been for some time. Absorption in my work, absorbing new ideas and thoughts. I'm sure I'll be able to squeeze out the ol' sponge at some point.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

a prickly situation

Isn't it always the way it goes, one child getting all the attention?

In the midst of Petunia launching and getting reviews, I mustn't neglect Pearl, my next book. I received the unbound proof in the mail yesterday. My first real look at her on the nice paper stock we picked.

She looks great! Many thanks for which are due Dana Fritts, my designer at HarperCollins. Thanks Dana!

petunia impossible

One of my favorite blogs, Seven Impossible Things, just posted a feature about Petunia, myself, and a bit about the Sendak Fellowship.
Thanks Jules!

Monday, February 7, 2011

aw, shucks

A couple of nice reviews for A Pet for Petunia:

Amazon's Petunia page.

David Elzey.

So, what are you waiting for? Buy several copies. Send them to your friends. Let no child be left Skunk-less.

Friday, January 28, 2011

a polymath at 13

My 13 year old daughter has been tirelessly working on a project writing, illustrating, animating, directing and film editing a fantasy story about mystical wolves. The main character is an unusually powerful but misfit girl wolf who must discover her true self.

Here is the trailer for the future animated movie:

Her abilities amaze me, but it is her determination and passion that makes me the proud father I am.

To see more of her work, here is her YouTube channel:

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

on sale now

A Pet for Petunia is finally published and available for purchase!

Do your neighborhood a favor and buy local.

If that isn't possible, buy here.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011


Those wonderful people down at The Secret Garden Bookshop in Ballard are hosting a gathering to celebrate the publication of A Pet for Petunia, my first work as an author/illustrator.

Everyone is welcome, there will be foodstuffs and libations, I will sign books and be shy and nervous all evening.

Here's the nitty-gritty:

Thursday, January 27 at 7 pm

2214 Northwest Market Street
Seattle, WA 98107-4024
(206) 789-5006

Stop in and say hello!

Friday, January 7, 2011

secret's out

Having pretty much finished the art for my second Petunia book, 'Petunia Goes Wild', I spent a bit of today cleaning up my studio.
I amassed quite a stack of 3x5 cards with notes to myself on book making, and for some laughs or insights I decided to share some of them with you here.

Creativity is subversive.

Stand out. Or get lost.

Indecisiveness means you are not listening carefully to your emotions.

Color is a tool, not a crutch.

Manipulate the viewer.

The character is king.

Do more drawing than thinking. Then think.

The page needing something does NOT mean adding crap to it.

Stay simple.

Put no strength where it does not belong. Does it support the story?

Is it remarkable?

OK is not acceptable. OK sucks.

--I'm not going to claim my work reflects these fine principles, but only that I strive to attain them. Anyone else willing to share their insights into making books?

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

a review!

A Pet for Petunia, available at the end of this month, garnered some favorable words from Publishers Weekly.

The review finished up with this:

"Petunia makes delightful company; kids will recognize themselves and clamor for rereads. "

Aint that nice?