Tag Archives: Blogging

Meet Kathy Temean, Illustrator, Author, and Children’s Literature Advocate

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Meet Kathy Temean, Illustrator, Author, and Children’s Literature Advocate

I first discovered Kathy Temean’s blog, Writing and Illustratingfive or six years ago, and I’ve been following it ever since. If you like to write or draw for children, you must check it out. Kathy has been a long-time member, speaker, and regional advisor of the New Jersey chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and is very knowledgeable and helpful.

I have since found out that she herself is an award-winning illustrator. She is also a consultant who helps companies (and especially authors and illustrators) develop marketing plans and websites.

I am so thrilled that Kathy agreed to be interviewed for ARHtistic License.

ARHtistic License: What books have you written or illustrated?

Kathy Temean: I wrote and illustrated Horseplay and illustrated Yogi’s Team, and various book covers, and have written and illustrated many articles for magazines like Highlights and Sprouts. Plus I have done artwork for Individuals like Jerry & Eileen Spinelli, major corporations like McDonald’s, Pfizer and Merck, and businesses like Mullica Hill Merchant Association have commissioned my artwork.

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AL: How did you first hear of SCBWI?

KT: To understand that, I need to tell you about my writing journey: I went to college to study art. My only connection to writing was my Dad who wrote short stories for magazines, articles for the newspaper, and love poems for me and my mother. I am sure he would have loved to write a novel, but he worked hard to make a living to provide for his family. I had to do the same, working full time to take care of my family and doing my art on the side. When my mother and father passed away in 2001, I had the task of cleaning out their house and found all the treasures of my childhood and Dad’s writing. Oh, how I wish I had found them earlier in life. I would have loved to discuss writing with my Dad. I started write so much that I really thought my father had taken over my body. All I could do was write. Maybe it was because I was an only child and I didn’t have a brother or sister I could talk to, or just grieve, but I poured my heart out writing for hours every day and night for many, many months. With my art background and so many cherished memories and the inspiration of my father’s poems, I started writing children’s picture books. One night I got up from my desk and couldn’t take a step and had to have my knee replaced. I started thinking I should use my artistic talents to illustrate the books I wrote. Then I realized I didn’t know anything about how to write or get a book published, so I read every book I could find and did everything suggested. One of those suggestions was to join the SCBWI. I did. Went to the SCBWI Winter Conference in New York, won an award for my illustration titled “Boys with Bear” and met other writers, illustrators, agents, and editors.

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Boys with Bear by Kathy Temean

I had worked for some major companies setting up corporate events, so I volunteered my talents to the New Jersey SCBWI chapter in order to create programs that would not only helping me navigate the road to publication, but others, too.

AL: Did you win other kudos for your illustrations?

1. BABES ON BEACH

Babes on Beach by Kathy Temean

KT: I did. “Babes on Beach” (Society of Illustrators in NYC), “Homework Helper” (SCBWI Summer Conference),  “Cinco de Mayo” (PASCBWI Conference), “Exploring the Garden” (NJSCBWI), “Boys with Bear” (SCBWI Winter Conference).

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Homework Helper by Kathy Temean

AL: You were the regional advisor for New Jersey SCBWI. How long did you serve in that capacity?

KT: 10 years. I stepped down at the end of 2013 and still attend the NJSCBWI events. I have conducted workshops and have done critiques at some of the NJSCBWI annual conferences.

12. CINCO DE MAYO

Cinco de Mayo by Kathy Temean

AL: Tell us about your passion for children’s literature and the authors and illustrators who create them.

KT: I love children and I love to write and illustrate. Seems like a perfect combination to me. The thing I loved about being the SCBWI Regional Advisor was how I got to see writers and illustrators grow and succeed. Having a little part in that success was special. That is why I have kept up my Writing and Illustrating blog.

4. EXPLORING THE GARDEN

Exploring the Garden by Kathy Temean

AL: Tell us about your illustration work. What software do you use?

KT: I have done a lot of traditional techniques, but when Photoshop came along, I jumped on board and taught myself how to use the software. It was instalove. I love that I can play around with the colors, correct anything I don’t like. I just wish I had more time to experiment more.

AL: You also assist writers with marketing and with author websites through your consulting business. Why is an author website important?

KT: For the last two decades I have gotten upset with writers and especially illustrators for not thinking enough of their work to show it off. Facebook is nice, but not good enough. Having a website gives a writer/illustrator a chance to tell their story. Think of it as having a picture book about you. You need to put up something interesting, provide some unique content that will bring visitors back. Even if you don’t have a book out there, you want to put your best foot forward, show off a little, and get that editor, agent, or future buyer interested in you. You never know where your next opportunity will come from. Just make sure what you design and create is professional and interesting.

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Cover by Kathy Temean

AL: Besides a website, what are some of the most important things authors and illustrators can do to promote their work?

KT: Don’t run scared of having a blog. Just the word can make some of my clients faint. A blog is a great thing to include with your website. Why? Because it lets give you a place to put up pictures, notices, and stories about what you are doing to help build an audience. Your website designer will not be there 24/7 to put all the new things up on your site. With a blog, you will have complete control without having to depend on and pay someone else.

You don’t have to do something every day. Think about what you can reasonably do. Could you take an afternoon once a month to come up with four things to post? If so, you can schedule them to post on four different days during the month. Hint: If you see something interesting you would like to share, put it in a file so you can get your hands on it the afternoon you schedule to come up with your four posts.

Also get a Twitter account. You can set your blog up to automatically tweet what you post. That is so helpful. And people will click on the tweet and will be steered to your site.

If you have a new book coming out, make sure you put it up on your website. I know you are thinking Duh! But I have seen that happen too many times. Also, I know a debut author who did not have a website ready for their book launch. This is very bad. Don’t let that happen to you. You can’t expect to hire someone to do a site and get it up a couple of days. I have seen some sites take a year to finish and not go live until after the debut book has been out for months on the bookshelves. Make a marketing plan or hire someone to help you accomplish that. Don’t miss your window of opportunity.

AL: Your blog is one of the most helpful I know for writers. How often do you post?

KT: I started the blog in 2009 and have blogged every day since then. Even through major operations, pneumonia, and vacations, etc.

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AL: How do you keep up that blogging pace and still do everything else that you do?

KT: A lot of late nights and I try to plan what I want to feature a month ahead. Writers and illustrators should think about submitting something to me. Think about what they could send to get their name or books seen. I feature authors, books, illustrators, agents, and I am always looking for articles that would interest other writers and illustrators. I love to get submissions – an illustration I could use with a post or holiday post – poem — a how-to article – a new book with their journey – a good new announcement for a kudos post. It’s a win-win for them and me.

AL: My favorite feature is the weekly Illustrator Saturday. The posts are full of illustrations, some in various stages of completion, so that we can actually see the artists’ process. How do you find 52 illustrators every year?

KT: There are so many talented people out there. It really is amazing. I am in awe of all the talent. It is a lot of work doing Illustrator Saturday, but most illustrators see the benefit of being on a blog that gets thousands of visits every day from all over the world. Many of my visitors are agents, editors, art director, publishers, teachers, writers, and illustrators. All are lovers of children’s books.

I rarely get anyone send me a link to look over their illustrations or tell me about themselves. I think they should. Even if I don’t think they are quite ready, there could be an illustration that catches my eye and could use, which might be something that would catch someone else’s eye, which could lead to a job. It doesn’t hurt to ask.

AL: You also keep us apprised of upcoming new books in the children’s market and even run book giveaways. Do you seek these books out, or do the authors or publishers offer them to you?

KT: It’s a mix of both. In the beginning I asked writers if they would like to be featured, but now publishers are sending me books coming out, hoping I will feature the author and the book. It is funny how I have seen an author, illustrator, and even a publisher grow from posting this feature on the site. At first glance it might seem like it is just a chance to win a free book, but it is much more than that. I always ask the author to write up their journey with the book. Everyone loves to read what an author and/or an illustrator had to go through to get their book on a bookstore shelf and into the hands of a reader. There is a lot of knowledge being shared in those stories. Plus, we are all in this journey together, so we have support the new books coming out to keep the industry going. We want it to be strong when we submit a manuscript and have people see and buy your book when it comes out.

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Kathy Temean

AL: You profile agents who are building their children’s book lists and also feature an agent of the month, who critiques several submitted first pages of manuscripts. I am in awe of your contacts.

KT: I am glad you find the info about different agents helpful. If writers and illustrators read the features, it could save them a lot of time trying to figure out who is out there and may be a good fit for them. Just remember, the industry changes frequently, everyone should check to make sure the agent hasn’t left the company or that they are still accepting queries. Last month, I had an agent who decided to close submissions and I didn’t realize this, since I had just researched her. So things can change on a dime. One day they can be working for an agency and the next they can be working for someone else or traipsing around the world with a new boyfriend. I do my best to keep up.

AL: What else would you like readers to know about you?

KT: I would like to let writers know I am currently working on organizing a Virtual Writers Retreat. I have done a full manuscript critique retreat for the last seven years. It has helped so many writers get published or opened doors for them with an agent. This COVID-19 and everyone being locked down and afraid of flying, I decided going virtually would be a good idea. If you write a novel, where would you get a chance to have an agent or editor read your full story. Plus, everyone gets assigned to a four person critique group and everyone gets a 20 page critique with one of the other agents. The retreat is open to picture book writers, too. Their cost is less. They get a total of four PB critiques and a PB critique group. Here is the link for more details.

Children’s authors and illustrators, now it’s your turn. Check out Kathy Temean’s websites. You can learn so much there! And take advantage of Kathy’s offer–she’d love to have some submissions about your work and your journey.

In the Meme Time: You Got This

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Photo by Prateek Katyal on Unsplash.

Special Blogger Award

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Special Blogger Award

Thank you to Jillian of Feed My Family for nominating me for the Special Blogger Award. Jillian’s son and husband are sensitive to sulphites in food, so they’ve been on a journey of finding foods that nourish without harm. But she’s also interested in nourishing the mind, heart, and soul. Check out her blog!

Usually I turn down awards like this one, but I decided to make an exception in this case because I can direct my readers to other creative blogs they might be interested in following, so please read on to the end.

Award Rules:

1 Thank the blogger who nominated you (as above ).

2 Answer the questions you are asked (if you’re comfortable doing so!).

3 Create 10 questions for the bloggers you’ve nominated.

4 Nominate at least 3 bloggers for the Special Blogger Award.

5 Comment on your nominees’ most recent blog post to let them know you’ve nominated them.

6 Have fun!

Answers to the questions I was given:

  1. What’s your favourite main meal? Oh, dear. I’m an omnivore. I love all food. But a particular favorite is shrimp scampi.
  2. What’s your favourite dessert? There’s almost no dessert I’ll turn down. I love a good vanilla ice cream.
  3. What sort of exercise do you do? I love to dance, particularly international folk dancing. I’m a member of Phoenix International Folk Dancers, and I’ve been charged with preparing the dance list for our next Folk Dance Festival, coming up on March 21. I also love to walk in the neighborhood and hike in the many desert parks in the Phoenix area. April through September you can find me in my pool. And if the weather is wet, I may be at the gym.
  4. What’s a great book that you’ve read lately? Echo’s Sister by Paul Mosier. It’s a Middle Grades book, but that doesn’t mean older people can’t benefit from reading it. It’s about a family dealing with the cancer diagnosis of their youngest daughter and how it impacts every member of the family and also their community.
  5. What’s your favourite boardgame? The game I play most often is Full Deck Solitaire on the computer.
  6. What’s a must see movie that you’d recommend? I love the Hunger Games franchise, about resistance to a dystopian government. I watch all four every chance I get. They always seem to be on TV. The most recent movie I’ve seen was A Star is Born, which was so worth it to see Lady Gaga without outlandish makeup and costumes. She’s so beautiful and talented. And the chemistry between her and Bradley Cooper had everybody talking.
  7. What do you like to do in your spare time? Quilting, playing piano, drawing, painting, Zentangle, reading, writing, taking photographs, crocheting.
  8. How do you let others know that you care about them? I tell them I love them.
  9. What do you do to take care of your soul? I read scripture and pray everyday.
  10. What is something your grateful for, right now? I am thankful for my husband. We recently celebrated our 46th anniversary.

10 Questions for my nominees:Palette bing free commercial

Because my nominees are creatives, I want to ask them about their art.

  1. What is your favorite kind of art to make?
  2. When did you begin creating?
  3. Whose art (of any kind) do you most admire?
  4. How would you characterize your art?
  5. Which piece that you’ve made are you most proud of?
  6. What is a medium you’ve never tried, but would like to?
  7. What future project are you most looking forward to?
  8. How would you define beauty?
  9. What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
  10. If you could have dinner with any person, living or dead, who would you choose, and why?

My Nominees:

Judith of Artistcoveries

I discovered Judith’s blog about four years ago, as she was beginning her journey as a painter. It’s been interesting and encouraging to watch her grow–she’s been faithfully documenting her goofs as well as her triumphs.

Kathy Reeves of Sewing Etc.profile

I’ve followed Kathy’s blog for a long time. I stumbled onto it when I was looking for quilting posts, but she’s quite a polymath. I recently interviewed her for ARHtistic License. (I hope she’s not tired of answering my questions. . .)

Stephanie Finnell of Katy Trail Creations

Stephanie FinnellI also interviewed Stephanie last fall. She’s another quilter whose blog I found and fell in love with because of the quilts. She also sells lots of handmade items in her Etsy Shop.

Meet Kathy Reeves, Musician, Quilter, Blogger, and Stitcher of All Kinds

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Meet Kathy Reeves, Musician, Quilter, Blogger, and Stitcher of All Kinds

It’s really hard to put Kathy Reeves in a box. She is so talented and distinguished in so many arts! I first discovered her through her blog, Sewing, Etc. and was blown away by her beautiful quilts. But she also sews garments, knits, cross stitches, and teaches piano. I’m so glad she consented to be interviewed for ARHtistic License, because I’m delighted to learn more about her.

ARHtistic License: What is your musical background? What do you do professionally? 

Kathy Reeves: It’s a little complicated! Musically, I started piano lessons at age 5, and started teaching at 14, mentored by my teacher.  Since 2017, I have been building my piano studio, where I teach a combination of Suzuki and traditional methods to students ranging from 4-67 years old. I also accompany, so usually do the school solo contests, recitals for the Black Hills Suzuki School, and 4-5 high school kids participating in the Concerto Competition. I have a BS in General Agriculture and an MA in Organizational Communications. I spent nearly 30 years as a Youth Development Specialist for the 4-H program.

ARHtistic License: Below is a collage of garments Kathy has sewn. (She’s got the modeling thing down, too!) Click on the smaller images to enlarge.

AL: I’m a little confused about the acronyms you use on your blog. What is SAL? What is HQAL?

KR: SAL stands for Stitch A Long, and HQAL  is short for Hand Quilt A Long.

AL: I love your beautiful knitting. When did you learn to knit? I love your patterned sweaters and mittens. What do you most like to knit? It seems to me you look at patterns but freely adapt them to reflect your own creativity. Is that correct? Do you also crochet?

KR: I learned how to knit during my time as an IFYE (International 4-H Youth Exchange) in Norway. My favorite thing to knit is sweaters. I especially love the Norwegian traditional patterns, and putting a modern twist on them by changing up the colors. I am just getting to the point where I experiment with a little pattern adaptation, mostly out of necessity, but it is giving me the confidence to consider drafting my own “perfect cardigan” in the future. I can crochet marginally…I don’t enjoy it as much as knitting, but I try making a doily every 5 years or so!

AL: What are your favorite kinds of quilts to make?

KR: I prefer scrap quilts, probably because that’s all I knew growing up! Right now, sampler quilts seem to attract my attention, but there are a few patterns that I have on my someday list.

AL: What kind of sewing machine do you use for your quilts?

KR: All my sewing is done on my Necchi Omega, a Christmas gift for me about 15 years ago. It is one of the last machines to get a metal body, and it is purely functional. It has maybe 12 stitches on it, and cost about $300.

AL: Do you quilt on a sewing machine or by hand?

KR: I do both. I started Free Motion Quilting about three years ago, and have progressed to a pretty decent meander pattern. I have branched out a little, and now have a few patterns I feel pretty confident in executing. I started the HQAL to help me be accountable for working on hand quilting projects, and it has been wonderful to learn from others in the group.

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AL: Do you design your own quilts or work from a pattern?

KR: I do both. If I have a specific project in mind, I will draft my own blocks. I have a variety of reference books I collected early on, filled with blocks, and of course anything traditional has been put out on the internet. Lately, I’ve been utilizing quilting projects offered by bloggers and fabric companies, just to speed the process.

AL: What is your fabric shopping strategy? Do you have a particular quilt in mind when you shop? Certain colors? Or do you just buy whatever strikes your fancy? What is your stash like?

KR: Currently, I only shop for fabric when I am working on a specific gift, such as a wedding quilt, where I am trying to choose something that will be meaningful to the couple. My mother in law brought me her stash when she realized she would not be sewing anymore, and I inherited most of my mom’s stash when she passed away. I have always saved the fabrics I sewed clothes with, as well as the scraps from past quilting projects too. My daughters often wrap up a few fat quarters at Christmas time too. Because of this, my stash is quite the mishmash of colors and eras. I am on a fabric fast until I have used up what is in my drawers, except for neutrals, which I seem to run out of regularly.

AL: Who are some designers you admire?

KR: Kim Diehl – the way she combines piecework and applique. Lisa Bonjean – her embellishing on wool. Lori Holt – I am in love with her Farm Girl Vintage stuff, though I’ve held fast and not bought anything yet. I do want that cow pattern, though.

I love old Vogue sewing patterns.

AL: You do a lot of handwork—embroidery, cross stitch, hardanger. Do you do needlepoint or crewel? If you had to pick a favorite, which would it be? Do you work from a pattern or kit or design your own?

KR: My preference in handwork is to work on evenweave fabric, so its counted cross stitch and Hardanger with an occasional embroidery project. Crewel work has never been my forte, but I did the crewel work on my bunad (the national costume of Norway) when I came back from Norway. I stitch exclusively from patterns, mostly from a cross stitching magazine I subscribed to that had amazingly intricate designs. Until I finish all the projects I want out of those, I will likely not look for any other patterns!

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Kathy modeling her bunad. “Each county as its own pattern, and mine is from Nordland, where my grandmother came from.”

AL: With so many different types of crafts that you do, how do you decide what to work on?

KR: I generally have 4-5 projects going at a time: Piecing a quilt, stitching something, hand quilting, something to knit and periodically, a garment of some sort. Except for the crunch during Christmas, my goal is to keep up with whatever quilting project I am doing (usually an online block of the month or week), hand quilt one or two threads each morning, work on my stitching during a lunch break, and knit a few rows of whatever in the evenings. Being part of the SAL and HQAL groups helps keep me accountable, and has really increased my output!

AL: We creative types seem to hang around with other skilled artists. When we shop for supplies, we’re surrounded by people who love to make stuff. But the truth is, most people today don’t even know how to thread a needle. What advice would you give to parents who want to pass down a creative skill to their children?

KR: Kids are naturally curious, and when they see you doing stuff, they want to try as well. My girls “helped” me sew when they were toddlers. I put them on my lap to “sew”, and they stood on a chair watching me iron. Of course, it was more interesting if the project was for them! They both started sewing as 4-H Cloverbuds when they were 5 years old. The key was to select simple projects that were appropriate for them. The first sewing project we did was a nine patch pillow, followed by an elastic waist skirt. When they were about 8 we actually sewed a simple pattern. From there, they both experimented with cross stitch, and take on a project periodically. Having a mentor is the best thing, so whether that is you, a 4-H leader, or other trusted adult, that is the best way to pass along these skills.

AL: What is a project you’re looking forward to starting?

KR: I really want to knit the Orkney sweater designed by Marie Wallin, and I am working on how to incorporate Hardanger into my next MIWW (Make it With Wool) outfit. It may have to wait for a year or two, but I’m hoping to make it happen at some point.

AL: What else would you like readers to know about your creative work?

KR: If you want to do something, just try, and if you like it, find a mentor or a good reference book and keep at it. I had a fabulous sewing mentor for about a year, and a few wonderful hours learning how to knit, and the rest I have figured out myself. I’m no expert at any of these things, I just enjoy them.

Guest Post: 5 Mistakes Writer Make on Their Author Websites (And the Easy Fixes)

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This article has been reprinted with the permission of Web Design Relief.  Whether you’re just starting out or a best-selling author, Web Design Relief will improve your existing website or build you an affordable, custom author website to support your author platform, boost your online presence, and act as a hub for your social media outreach. Web Design Relief is a division of Writer’s Relief, a highly recommended author’s submission service. Sign up for their free e-publication for writers, Submit Write Now! Visit the site today to learn more.

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Did you know that every website needs regular care and housekeeping? So unless you have a fairy godmother or can sing well enough to inspire woodland creatures to assist you with your chores, you should keep a virtual broom and wrench handy. Even the most meticulous author website design may experience issues that arise over time: Links break, information becomes obsolete, plugins stop working, etc. Thankfully, the most common mistakes writers make on their author websites have easy fixes!

Check out these website blunders and Web Design Relief’s tips on how to fix them without IT support intervention.

5 Easy-To-Fix Common Website Mistakes

Broken images: Uh-oh, has your beautiful photo been replaced by a sad face or what looks like a torn piece of paper? This means that the file containing the image may have been corrupted. But this can be fixed simply by re-uploading your photo to your author website or installing a handy plugin to solve the problem for you!

Typos: Some of the most damaging mistakes on an author website are typos, grammar mishaps, and incorrect punctuation. After all, you’re a writer—you’re held to a higher standard of web content than your online neighbors. Typos and grammar gaffes on your website may cause visitors to question your writing skills in general.

And you can’t count on website building elements to alert you to typos; they don’t feature spellcheck like word processing programs do. Thorough, expert proofreading is the solution to this common mistake and can ensure that your author website is up to professional standards.

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Dead Links: Is there anything more frustrating than a link that leads nowhere? If the hyperlinks you have included on your website are no longer active, your site will look abandoned and poorly maintained. Worst-case scenario—improper use of links can even get your site banned.

Fortunately, reviving dead links is easy! If a website has a new web address, simply update your link with the new URL. If the site you are linking to no longer exists, remove the link altogether or find another source. And remember to check your hyperlinks often to make sure you aren’t letting dead links lurk on your website!

Slow Response Times: Does your website take a long time to load? Having too many elements running can cause lagging. Download time is an overlooked issue on many author websites. And if your website is taking too long to load, visitors will bounce off your site.

To fix a lagging website, reevaluate what you really need on your web pages and what is simply clogging up response times. For example: There is no need to have images larger than 1500px, so you may want to resize large photos so that they do not take up so much space. However, don’t lose the resolution—make sure your photos have at least 300 dpi (dots per inch). Another tip: Instead of uploading videos directly to your website, upload them to an external website like YouTube and then embed them on your site to save space!

Design Is Not Mobile-Friendly: Your author website may look perfect on your desktop computer, but nowadays more and more people visit sites using their cell phones and tablets. So it’s important that your website looks great on mobile devices too! The key is sizing. Make certain that your buttons are big enough to be seen on smaller screens, but that your photos and graphics aren’t so big that they are cut off.

Our pro tip: Test, test, test! View your author website on as many devices as possible and adjust your design elements accordingly.

Check out these 7 tips for a more mobile-friendly author website!

BONUS TIP: While most mistakes on your author website can be easily fixed, there will be glitches that require more complicated intervention. But don’t panic! Regular website backups can still save you lots of grief. Backing up your website frequently gives you the option to revert back to an earlier version (before the error kicked in!).

 

QUESTION: What are some overlooked mistakes you’ve found on websites you’ve visited?

Meet Gwen Lanning, aka Textile Ranger

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Meet Gwen Lanning, aka Textile Ranger

Gwen Lanning is a blogger, photographer, nature lover, quilter, weaver, dyer, and investigator of all things textile. You might know her from her wildlife blog, Little Wild Streak, where she posts the photographs of species of birds, butterflies, reptiles, amphibians, and dragonflies that she’s observed in the wild. But I discovered her through the quilts she’s made and posted on her other blog, Deep in the Heart of TextilesShe recently consented to be interviewed for ARHtistic License.

ARHtistic License: What kind of quilts do you like to make?

Gwen Lanning: I love to make scrappy quilts with unpredictable color combinations. But someday I would love to make whole cloth quilts with beautiful thread work too.

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Most of my quilts are to be donated.  I make a lot of Log Cabins out of scraps.

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AL: What do you look for when you go fabric shopping?  

GL: Because I want all the fabric, I usually buy bags of scraps. I love getting a selection and deciding how to put them together.  I also like to look at the clearance section of a quilt shop, make a few choices, and take whatever is left on the bolt.  I feel that I am doing a service to the shop owner.  🙂

AL: Do you have favorite colors?

GL: I love turquoise and it works its way into every quilt. I also especially love Kaffe Fassett’s Roman Glass designs and that fabric works its way into every quilt too.  I am not alone in that and I love spotting it in other people’s quilts!

AL: What is your stash like?

GL: My stash is not particularly large – it fills one closet that is 30” deep and 48” wide. But I add to it faster than I quilt it up, and I would like to catch up!  It is roughly organized in plastic bins – whenever I start to fold it neatly, I just end up starting another quilt.

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“I like to use an improvisational style.  Sometimes the quilts are inspired by patterns in books, and sometimes not.”

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AL: What kind of sewing machine do you use?

GL: For about 10 years, I used my mom’s Viking, and then last year I got a Juki HZL-F600. I love both of them, but always wish for more room to move the quilt around of course.

AL: Do you quilt by hand or machine?

GL: I quilt by both hand and machine – I love hand quilting the most.  But most of the quilts I make are for charity so I need to finish them quickly and make sure the stitching is sturdy.

AL: You also buy vintage quilt tops and finish them off. How do you find them? What do you look for?

GL: I find vintage tops at antique shops and guild sales. (I have not let myself look for them online because I would go crazy and buy them all. Do we see a pattern here?)  I get almost all the ones I find, but I especially love the ones that I know I would never piece myself, with tiny triangles and diamonds.  Also the ones with wild pattern and color combinations.

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“This is my favorite out of all the vintage quilts I have bought – I love how the fabrics faded, resulting in random placement of the colors.”

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Detail of the above vintage quilt.

AL: Whose quilt designs do you admire?

GL: It was the designs of Kaffe Fasset that got me into quilting – I loved the big bold prints and simple piecing, and his designs struck me as very fresh.

I saw the Gee’s Bend quilts here in Houston and I have always loved that improvisational look. In the old quilts I collect, I really love it when some of the colors have faded, leaving an unpredictable composition of color.

In the quilts I make for myself I try to have asymmetrical compositions and those unpredictable color combinations. (I am more restrained when I make quilts for others.)

I also love Alexandra Ledgerwood’s clean modern designs and have made a few of them.  When it comes to art quilts, I love Judy Coates Perez, Kathy York, the free motion extravaganzas of Teri Lucas, and the thread sketches on transparencies of Rob Wynne.  And I have just learned about Jill Kerttula and I love the multiple techniques she used in her art quilts.

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Dutch Bouquet, which Lanning made for The Endeavourers improv challenge.

AL: Do you also spin yarn? On a wheel or a drop spindle? 

GL: I know the basics of spinning, but I would not call myself a real spinner. I have spun wool and cotton, on drop spindle, great wheel, and flyer wheel.  I would love to spin more, and I love reading Ply magazine and seeing all the possibilities.

AL: What kind of loom do you use?

GL: My favorite loom is an 8-harness, 54” Gilmore, but I also have a 4-harness, 36” Harrisburg.

AL: What kind of materials do you weave? 

GL: I have woven with cotton, linen, rayon, wool, and silk blend yarns.

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“I also designed my own panel and coordinating fabrics, to make a one-of-a-kind quilt for a grandson.”

AL: What do you weave?

GL: I love to weave rugs, but lately I mostly weave dish towels. Just like with the fabric scraps I use in quilting, I have lots of little bits of yarn, and I like combining them in striped and checked towels.

AL: What is the hardest part of weaving?

GL: For years I didn’t like warping the loom, but now I love every part of the process. It is so soothing.  Now the hardest part is deciding on what pattern I will weave this time – there are so many drafts I want to weave, but I also love weaving a favorite draft again.

AL: What is the best part of weaving?

GL: For me the best part is that once you throw that shuttle, that part of the cloth is done. If you had to cut it off the loom right then (and could stabilize the edge), it would be ready to go just like that.  With quilting, there is the cutting, then the piecing, then the prep of the quilt sandwich, then the quilting, then the binding, and you can’t really call it done until all of those steps are finished.  You can’t be sure it is even going to look complete.  With weaving, you get that feeling of completion with every shot.

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“I take photos and print them on fabric with my regular printer — there are lots of different fabrics available to print on, cotton, silk, silk organza.  You can also iron freezer paper on the back of regular fabric and run that through too, so I have done that with old fashioned calicos, and it gives a nice background texture to the print.”

AL: You also make your own dye using plants. Tell me more about that.

GL: We moved to our farm 10 years ago, and right about that same time, I found out that you could do natural dyeing with the same process you would use to make sun tea – put in the plants in a glass jar outside, pour boiling water over them, and see what color develops. I tried every plant I could find, and I was excited to find out that some of the best colors came from some of the most nondescript “weeds.”  It was a great help in learning to distinguish those plants.

It works best on wool, which we don’t use a lot of here in Texas, and the colors do fade over time, but it is a lot of fun.

AL: Do you still knit? What do you like most to knit?

GL: I knit and crochet a little. Someone gave me a huge sack of leftover crochet thread, (and then I bought an equally large sack of leftovers, in case I somehow ran out of something from the first sack), and I am slowly crocheting those into place mats and baskets.  I like to always have a project of that sort going, to take along with me when we go visiting or traveling.

AL: Do you still cross stitch or do any other kinds of embroidery or needlepoint?

GL: I hand stitch a little to embellish art quilts, and I keep telling myself I am going to do a stitch journal, but I have not done as much as I would like in that area.

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Green Mist, practice with textile paints and thread sketching. “I love to do little exercises to try out different techniques and nontraditional materials.”

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March Materials Madness,  an exercise in using household items.

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“Artist’s Alchemy, from The Endeavourers’ Change/Transformation challenge.  I think this is my very favorite art quilt.”

AL: Do you have any funny quilting stories or weaving stories or other craft-related stories?

I used to work at a historical park, where we had a big loom set up. Kids could sit down next to me and I would help them weave, but usually the parents were not patient enough to wait for the five minutes this would take.  One woman and her 8-year-old daughter poked their heads in the door, and the woman said, “Oh, she’s making candles,” and pulled the child back out before I could say anything.

AL: Is there anything else you would like readers to know about your textile endeavors?
GL: I really enjoy being a textile dilettante, and experimenting with different techniques and materials, and that attitude also extends to my blog.  I love dipping into different eras and cultures, and sharing what I have learned about topics as wide-ranging as medieval French weaving laws, German operas, Minoan archaeology digs, African wax cloth, and Turkmenistan camel yarns.  Following those textile paths where they lead has brought me new adventures and friends, and I look forward to many more!
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Gwen Lanning with her husband, Bill.

Guest Post: How to Start a Book Review Blog–And Score Some Free Books!

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This article has been reprinted with the permission of Web Design Relief.  Whether you’re just starting out or a best-selling author, Web Design Relief will improve your existing website or build you an affordable, custom author website to support your author platform, boost your online presence, and act as a hub for your social media outreach. Web Design Relief is a division of Writer’s Relief, a highly recommended author’s submission service. Sign up for their free e-publication for writers, Submit Write Now! Visit the site today to learn more.

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If you are a ravenous book reader, you may be able to turn your passion for the written word (and your love of sharing your opinion) into a rewarding book review blog. Not only do book review bloggers get the satisfaction of reading and critiquing, they also often score free books from writers and publishers who want to generate some book review blogger buzz. Here’s what Web Design Relief wants you to know about how to start a book review blog!

How To Start Your Own Book Review Blog

Pinpoint a genre/readership. Although your reading tastes may run the gamut from quiet literary fiction to noisy international espionage thrillers, you may want to focus your book review blog on one specific genre. When you focus clearly on a particular target audience, you’ll have a better chance of connecting effectively with that specific readership.

Sharpen your hook. There are a lot of book review blogs out there. What makes yours stand out? Now is the time to think about how you might distinguish your blog from others.

  • Do you want to write a “shock jock” style book review blog that invites controversy by both delighting and enraging readers? Are you willing to risk being alienated by certain writers or book review-seeking publishers by having an in-your-face style that cuts to the heart of reader concerns?
  • Or do you prefer a milder, more moderate approach that focuses on the positive, supporting the authors who inspire you while choosing not to devote attention to those books that don’t spark your interest?

Find your voice as a blogger. The tone and style of your book reviews will help define your future readership. If you are reviewing books that have an academic or literary focus, you may be able to get away with writing long, formal, winding sentences in your book reviews. But keep in mind that the most popular bloggers often embrace a witty, chatty, casual style, because the way people read using a computer or mobile device is different from how they read print. Learn more: Author Website Copy: Five Essential Tips For Writing Web Text.

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Establish a format for your book reviews. The traditional publishing industry format for book reviews includes dedicating the majority of the review to the facts of the book in question (story/content/synopsis/background). Only in the last few sentences, would you share your personal opinion and include both strengths and weaknesses of the book.

But you don’t have to stick to the traditional style of writing book reviews. As a blogger, you can take creative liberties with your book reviews. You may decide that the bulk of your review should focus on opinion, with only a few sentences dedicated to summary of the book itself.

Develop a book ranking scale. Another thing to consider is how you will rate or rank the books on your book review blog. You can use a traditional five-star system, or you can develop your own rating guide—using anything from emojis to color schemes. You may want to link each of your book reviews to an explanation of your personal book ranking system so that readers who are new to your blog can understand it.

Focus on value. Whatever the format/style/voice you choose for your book reviews, keep in mind that the most successful book reviews are those that are practical and helpful to readers who are trying to decide whether to read or buy a given book. Readers who are looking for the next great addition to their TBR list may not want to waste their time reading a lengthy diatribe about a book you consider a “don’t buy.” They might prefer to spend their time learning about a book they will actually want to read.

Select which books you will review. Your choice of book titles to review will say a lot about who you are as a blogger and what you value as a reader. Will you choose to join the conversation by reviewing nationally released, buzzworthy books that are already being discussed all over the Internet? Or will you focus on hidden gems from independent presses? 

Keep reviews short, memorable, and quotable. Book readers want you to cut to the chase and let them know what makes a particular book a great read. Witty insights, pithy phrases, and unique perspectives can make your book reviews memorable. Plus, authors who are happy with your turn of phrase might just feature your book review quote and URL on the cover of their next book release—which will help spread the word about your book blogging efforts!

Reach out. Book bloggers rarely succeed by writing in a vacuum. To generate an audience and increase the likelihood that writers and publishers will send free books your way, you’ll need to do some marketing. Here are a few ideas:

  • Connect with other book bloggers
  • Reach out to writing groups to invite book submissions
  • Cross-promote with other bloggers
  • Host book giveaway contests
  • Feature writer interviews/Q&As/guest bloggers
  • Integrate your book reviews with social media feeds 

Final Thoughts: Are You A Book Reviewer? Or A Writer?

If you are active in the creative writing community as an author, you may want to be aware of how your book reviews will be received within the community of your peers. What you write today about a given author’s book could affect you tomorrow if you sit down at a luncheon and an author you once lambasted is seated right beside you. Also, if you come down hard on a particular publisher’s title in a way that makes a big splash, that publisher might not be particularly receptive when it’s time for you to pitch your own book for publication.

Your words have power—as both a book lover and an author, you’ll have to make decisions about your priorities and values if you decide to start a book review blog. Learn more about what it means to be an author who also writes book reviews.

 

Question: What most influences your decision to buy a book?