Thursday, March 23, 2023

Ten Random Thoughts From an Author/Illustrator

    As I was racking my brain for what to write for this post, I had two problems. I had no ideas, yet also too many ideas. Random phrases and miscellaneous publishing thoughts kept inserting themselves onto the page. However, as soon as I typed them out, my mind went blank.

    So instead of making a choice, I’ve decided to share them all with you. Here are my top ten random thoughts about writing, illustrating, and being a creative person, in no particular order. (Complete with random art!) 

1. Trust Your Reader

     When we are writing or illustrating, we should intentionally leave room for the reader or the viewer. Sometimes we get feedback asking us to explain things more thoroughly or assuming that our audience won’t pick up on the intended message of the book. When you get this type of feedback, consider: If I take this feedback will I be over-explaining? Is there, in fact, something missing that is making the message unclear? Or if I add more details, am I not trusting my reader?

2. Blank Pages Are The Worst

illustration of a child and a zebra sitting and painting pictures, making a mess. Text on image reads: be an artist, make a mess
Be An Artist - Illustration by Anne Appert
    Get something, ANYTHING on the page. You never know where it will take you. A chance phrase may just be the idea that carries your story or illustration across the finish line. When brainstorming this post, I wrote “light up sneakers” on the page because it popped into my head as I was pondering ideas, and didn’t want to be staring at a blank page anymore. This phrase helped me arrive at the idea to share my ten random thoughts. You never know where seemingly unrelated ideas will lead you!

3. Everything Takes Time. And Always More Than You Think It Should

    The amount of time you think something should take? Double it. Triple it. It is incredibly satisfying to reach your audience with your book(s), but publishing is a slow industry. One of my favorite pieces of advice that I have ever received was from one of my college professors: If you don’t give up, you will succeed. In publishing, just know this could take two or five or ten or twenty (or more) years. However, if you are passionate about getting your stories into books for children to read, it will be worth it. 

4. Any Idea Can Be A Good One, With A Little Work

    Okay, I know people will disagree with me on this one. Hear me out. If you thought it was worth writing down, if it made you laugh or someone else laugh, if someone started building off your “silly” idea when they heard it, then maybe, just maybe, there is a seed of something there. Just like a random phrase can lead to a post worth sharing, a bad idea can lead to a good idea worth writing or drawing. You may just have to polish it a bit (ok a lot) before it shines.

Illustration of a child riding a zebra, both are wearing sunglasses and a party hat as a unicorn horn. Text on image reads Be your own unicorn
Be Your Own Unicorn - Illustration by Anne Appert 
5. Put Yourself On The Page

    My first post for this blog was about how BLOB helped me discover myself. You may think you don’t have anything new or unique to say, but your writing and art will surprise you. By being you, by allowing yourself to be vulnerable, by allowing yourself to be silly or frustrated, happy or sad, by letting yourself feel whatever thing you are feeling, you will connect with your audience.

6. It’s Always Okay To Buy Another Notebook Or Sketchbook

    Don’t even question it. Of course you need it. It may just be the thing that unlocks your next idea! You never know, and you wouldn’t want to risk anything by NOT buying the notebook/sketchbook. Right? 

7. Always Tell A Story

    As writing advice this may seem obvious; however, sometimes we get so caught up in adding elements such as alliteration, repetition, and lyrical language that the story gets lost. The story is what is important. Always. As for drawing advice, you can create a gorgeous painting, but if it doesn’t tell the viewer a story, you won’t be hired to create a book. Always think: what story am I trying to tell? What details can I add? How can I hint at the before and after? How can I get the reader or the viewer to ask, what happens next?

8. When In Doubt, Add Sparkles

    Those light up sneakers? Of course your character needs them! While we don’t want our story to get lost in too many unnecessary elements, a little extra bling in the form of outrageous outfits, creative color choices, or alliterative adjectives can bring your manuscript or illustration to the next level.

9. It’s Okay To Be Not Ok

Image of a child crying, sitting next to a zebra. text on image reads it's ok if some days your eyes shine more than they sparkle.
It's Ok to Be Sad - Illustration by Anne Appert
    Hey! We are still in a pandemic. Life is hard. Writing is hard. Illustrating is hard. Maybe you got a rejection from your dream agent. Maybe your advance was lower than you wanted. Maybe you didn't get the call to illustrate the book you really wanted to illustrate. Maybe you are burnt out and can’t think of a single idea for anything, not even a blog post. Sometimes we try to squash our feelings because we convince ourselves we should just be happy with how far we’ve come, that because we have had some success our feelings aren’t valid. Publishing can still be disappointing, and It’s ok to feel how you feel.

10. Celebrate Everything

    Sold a book? Celebrate! Signed with an agent? Celebrate! Finished your book dummy? Celebrate! Figured out that ending you could never get right? Celebrate! Finished a sketch that was keeping you up? Celebrate! Made it to your computer to write? Celebrate! Decided to take a self care day? Celebrate! Cleaned off your desk? Celebrate! Went on an artist date? You know what to do.

Bonus Thought! Ignore Everything I’ve Said

    Everyone's journey is different. Everyone has opinions about the right way to do things and the correct path to success. As with a critique of your work, perhaps some of this stuff feels superficial or unimportant to you. That’s ok! You find you and your own path. Then, celebrate that.

    Maybe add some sparkle too. Just for good measure.

    And of course, buy that notebook.

Photo of author with purple hair in yellow shirt. they are smiling in front of a green foliage background
Anne Appert (they/them ) is a nonbinary author/illustrator who spent their childhood with their nose stuck in a book, while their wild imagination transformed their New Jersey backyard into faraway places. Anne still enjoys spending time in their backyard dreaming, and now their imagination turns their dreams into words and pictures for children. Anne wrote and illustrated their debut book Blob, which was published by HarperCollins in Fall of 2021. Their second book What If You Wish? will publish with HarperCollins in 2024. They are a member of SCBWI, from which they received an honor in the 2021 Conference Portfolio Showcase. When not writing and illustrating, Anne enjoys teaching college students, dying their hair every color of the rainbow, and attempting to roller skate. You can see their work at

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