Illustrator Daniel Minter Process Video – Illustrating Step Right Up’s Kindness Message

When I first learned that Daniel Minter had signed on to illustrate Step Right Up, I was over the moon excited. I was already a fan of his work. As is typical, we did not have contact during the years-long process of evolving the manuscript into a book. Except that I did introduce myself to Daniel by email and then sent him a box of research materials that I thought would be helpful to him as he approached the art. Now, we share this beautiful book that we are both very proud of.

My heart is in this book. Daniel’s heart is in this book. And now, thanks to this video, produced by Kirsten Cappy and Curious City and Lee and Low Books, the world can hear Daniel’s perspective on Doc’s kindness message while demonstrating his gorgeous linocut/wood cut and acrylic art.  William “Doc” Key would be proud. This video is a must see!

STEP RIGHT UP has been named a Junior Library Guild Selection!

SRU went to print recently. Very recently! Behind the scenes at Lee and Low Books, pdfs and pre-f&gs were sent to select reviewers, then WHAM! An email arrived, letting us know that Step Right Up has been named a fall 2016 Junior Library Guild selection. I had to read the email multiple times. What an amazing honor, especially 5-6 months before the book will hit shelves. I’m so very proud! Folks, wait til you see how illustrator Daniel Minter has brought Doc and Jim to live through his art!


STEP RIGHT UP has a cover and a release date

Welcome to my newly revamped website. Big thanks to web design guru Erik Niels at Squarebear Studio.FINAL FINAL COVER STEP RIGHT UP FC hi res small

STEP RIGHT UP: HOW DOC AND JIM KEY TAUGHT THE WORLD ABOUT KINDNESS will release in October, 2016. It’s available now for pre-order from book sellers. I. Can’t. Wait! I have seen a pdf of the entire book and it is beautiful. I wish I could share it with all of you, but, alas, that’s a no-no. Instead, I’m happy to share the gorgeous cover. And following is a post that originally appeared on the EMU’s Debuts blog where I gushed about illustrator Daniel Minter and his beautiful art.

I’ve never met Daniel, though I hope to in the near future. Authors and illustrators rarely communicate about their books. Editors are the matchmakers, finding the perfect artist to bring a text to life, as if setting up creative blind dates. And, boy, did my Lee and Low editors choose well! When I heard that Daniel had signed on to illustrate my book, I was elated. Seriously, elated! Daniel is so multi-talented and his art is profound, evidenced by their presence in museums and galleries. He designed the 2004 and 2011 Kwanzaa stamps for the USPS, and he’s the founding director of the Maine Freedom Trails. Then there are his books! He has illustrated nine children’s books, earning a 2013 Coretta Scott King Honor in the process.

Once the match was made, I introduced myself to Daniel via Facebook. I then sent him photos, a model of the horse, and other historical information that I thought might be helpful as he brought the true story of Dr. William Key and Beautiful Jim Key to life through art. I assured him that I would not be a helicopter author, hovering over his progress. (Not that I wasn’t tempted.)

From Daniel 3:10:2016 2Daniel kindly gave me permission to share a photo of his work in progress. The multi-step process of lino-cut art is pure artistry, don’t you think? Illustration, carving, and painting combined. Look at those details being carved into focus. I am in awe! And I know Doc Key would be as proud as I am.

In the months leading up to and following the official release, I’ll share additional information and original photos of Beautiful Jim Key and Dr. William Key.  Stay tuned.

Letting Go: A Cautionary Tale for Control Freaks

originally posted on the Emu’s Debuts blog.

reflecting on the surprising angst that followed my book contract. The
angst of letting go.
See, I love the inventive stage of writing. Don’t
get me wrong, writing is damn hard. But, I love that evolving sense of
possibility when worlds and characters spin out of thin air and land as
words on the page. Imagination is magic. Even in nonfiction. From the
moment I began writing my debut, STEP RIGHT UP: THE STORY OF BEAUTIFUL
JIM KEY, I occupied the story. All writers do this. Before we can add
depth and motion to our words, writers visualize until our stories
unfold movie-like on the big screen of our mind. We are all eager to
control the script and staging. We like telling our characters what to
do, what to wear, how to stand. If we can’t visualize it, we can’t write
it. In the case of nonfiction, it’s about telling the truth and filling
in gaps. Sometimes, that means converting 125-year-old images from
two-dimensional, dingy black and white to Technicolor. In panorama. And
in 3D.
While writing, the world on the page is mine, mine, mine!
I am in control. Mwahahaha!
Until I am not.
My editor had suggestions on STEP RIGHT UP. Lots of
them. Some of her suggestions were that I undo some of her suggestions.
Add, cut, expand, simplify, redirect, rinse, repeat… In a way, my story
became a collaboration. But, as the word weaver, I still felt a sense
of control. Sort of.
Until I wasn’t.
Enter, the illustrator.
I am in awe of artists who can press “copy” on
their mental printers and, voila! They sketch, sculp, paint, and
pixelate their visual imaginings for all the world to see. More magic!
So, I was surprised to be so full of angst as I awaited the illustrator
reveal. Seriously, y’all. Angst! And worry. And maybe a tiny speck of
An illustrator will have his/her own visual interpretation. Their
own image of the world Doc and Jim lived in. Their own tinted lens
through which the mental movie plays for them. Aaaaack! I found myself
playing the “What-if” game. What if the illustrator can’t capture Doc
and Jim as I see them? What if his/her art is too silly, too serious,
too dark, too light, too cartoony, too portraity, too realistic, too
And, besides, horses are hard to draw. Just ask the
people I forced, I mean asked, to draw for me. (Some of these people
may be related to me. Except for the tile guy.)
photo copy 5photo
 Arin's horse 8
photo copy 6
Donna horse 1

photo 2

Thankfully, I can be confident that an illustrator
will do better. But letting go is hard. As I peruse the books on my
shelf, I’m reminded that it takes many creative perspectives to create
visually stunning and memorable stories. Magic multiplied. Now, I find
that my illustrator angst has given way to excitement. The kind of
excitement I felt, not knowing what kind of wonderfulness was wrapped
under the Christmas tree. There is a childlike wonder in this
I’m ecstatic to announce that Coretta Scott King Honor recipient, Daniel Minter will
bring Doc and Jim to life through his spectacular art. Better still,
Daniel and I have been communicating. He would like my input. I think
I’m in heaven. Check out his work, y’all. My little book baby is in very
good hands.