Love to learn? Join me on Lifelong Learner...

Updated: Nov 16, 2021

During a CBA (Children’s Book Academy) course, the marvelous Dr. Mira Reisberg worked her magic on my Bio. She had used the term “lifelong learner” for me. Is that a nice way of saying nerd? Maybe!

I’ll admit, I was somewhat of a nerd back in grade school. I loved school (still do), I loved reading (still do), and I loved learning new and exciting things (still do)! After a career in advertising, I am now focused on writing and illustrating for children. (This business keeps you young at heart.)

I’ve taken many workshops through SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and illustrators). I’ve even taught one on magazine writing and was a Committee member, helping to plan and run conferences, for several years. Great way to meet smart, talented people who become forever friends.

I received a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree several decades ago. Yet, I still take – and love - new courses. I don’t need or want higher degrees at this point. Luckily, in this business, it’s all about a great manuscript and/or artwork versus where you studied. Of course, if you’ve had the opportunity to work with amazing people, that doesn’t hurt. I’ll tell you all about what I learned from Jerry Spinelli another time.

When I lived up north, I decided to try Alan Kingsberg’s TV Screenwriting in NYC. At first, I felt nervous and completely out of my comfort zone. Before long, I was wishing I had gone into that field years ago. Being in that Writer’s Room felt like it was where I was meant to be. I won’t be on staff anywhere at this point, but if someone is interested in producing my scripts - I’m all in. But, even if I don’t sell any TV scripts, I learned how to punch up the humor and to think visually. The characters are saying this and that – but you must show us what they are doing. And, you have a set amount of time — so write tightly! A good lesson for all writers. I remember the late, great Richard Peck talking to us at a New Jersey SCBWI conference about revisions. He said that after you revise your manuscript, you should go back and get rid of another 25 words on each page! (Naturally, he meant novels, not picture books.)

At the weeklong Highlights, writers workshop in Chautauqua, NY, about half of the speakers said they outline before they write. The other half let the characters and the story organically lead them along. Which is correct? The one that works for you. For Alan’s TV Writing classes, we had to outline first for our homework. (Homework that also included watching television -pretty sweet, huh?) For my book manuscripts, I like to kind of figure out the ending and then write toward that point without an outline. My characters will usually tell me what they want or need. So, I advise learning from them as well.

I’ve decided to marry artwork to my words now, in the form of hybrid graphic novels, similar to Wimpy Kid, Babymouse, or Timmy Failure series. I needed to learn more about graphic novels and I needed to brush up on my art and learn how to design characters. I had so much fun doing that through OC Art Studios courses with Larissa Marantz and Caleb Cleveland.

Because I loved writing TV scripts, I also took an online course called Writing Movies with LA screenwriter, Max Adams, through Gotham Writers Workshops. I wrote a feature-length film using my characters from Principal Kidd, during 2020’s lockdown. I loved that class, too. (If you have any connections in Hollywood, please message me!)

Sometimes life throws you a curveball and you’re forced to learn new things. I’ve had to learn plenty about Parkinson’s Disease over the last few years. More about that in future posts.

I’m also giving private art lessons to a 10-year-old in my neighborhood. We create art together and it gives us both joy and more of a sense of purpose. We have lots of fun – and I’m learning things from her as well! It never hurts to be around kids the same age as your target audience. That was one of the reasons I was a substitute teacher for several years. Yes, the nerd actually got to be back at a grade school! What new things have you learned recently? Are you about to take any courses? Do you have questions or comments for me? I’d love to hear from you.

“Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world.”– Nelson Mandela

Stay well, keep reading, and never stop learning!


For more info: (Gotham Writers) (Max Adams) (OC Art Studios)

Diary of a Wimpy Kid, by Jeff Kinney Babymouse, by Jennifer L. Holm & Mathew Holm

Timmy Failure by Stephan Pastis – thank you all for the inspiration and spark!


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