OK, I swear I didn’t suggest this! After I left Spring Lake Magnet (my sister Renee’s school in Omaha, Nebraska), a group of 2nd graders made a “Jenny Sue” piñata head (equipped with googly eyes) for Fiesta Night. Aren’t those rhinestone glasses great?!…and those eyelashes! WOW, I always wanted long, beautiful eyelashes!

The students at Spring Lake rocked! We had so much fun. Two FULL days of art makin’! Everyone made their own travelin’ eye–in the form of a fashionable, cool button. Then, we used our travelin’ eyes to dream up a 50 ft cloud mural!

Spring Lake also gave away a whoppin’ 75 books to kids who came to my library night! The kids were really excited!

After Omaha, I went to St. Louis (my home town) where I had the BEST night at the Kirkwood Public Library. Special guests included 2 main characters in my book–Mom and Dr. Dave!–and Dad, more family, grade school & high school friends AND teachers (insert smiley!), and a lot of new faces, too. It was such a special event! My parents and Dr. Dave even signed MY book! Dr. Dave (Dr. Robert D. Lewis) wrote, “to the only woman to ever make me famous!” Hee. I also had a really nice visit at Truman Elementary and a fun video conference with 5 classes throughout the St. Louis area.

My last stop was Kansas City–another ‘old’ home of mine. I saw TONS of friends from my Hallmark days. I also got to see more family and meet a lot of new people. Kelly won BEST dressed, doting a wild, Odd Fellows Lodge coat from the late 1800s with a few BIG EYES staring out! I’ll have to request a picture from her to share, since I missed the photo-op (darnit!). Also, if you haven’t visited Kelly’s blog, you MUST! She is an amazing artist, always creating straight from her big heart and with so much depth. I just love her! (And Kelly’s husband Rhett, too! His sculptures are of the wow-factor.)

I have to say my trip was both invigorating and exhausting. I learned that authors really have to get out and promote their books, especially as a newbie-no-name. At first I thought it was odd to ‘promote’ my book, like I was saying, “Look at me! I’m so cool!” That is so not me at all. BUT, connecting with the kids was the BEST part and worth every bit of insecurity I felt and little sleep I got, and mostly, I felt really comfortable with everyone. It didn’t feel like I was advertising myself–it felt more like sharing, and inspiring, which is something I love to do naturally. It made me laugh when I overheard some kids in an art class saying, “I really like Jenny Sue. She’s so fun and funny.” One girl came up to me after a library event to say, “My dad says you rock!” Hee. I can’t imagine better compliments!

In writing and illustrating a kid’s book, a lot of time passes from conception to birth–sometimes 3 years, as with My Travelin’ Eye. When you’re finally able to share it and hear kids’ reactions and talk about it, it grows into something you couldn’t have ever imagined. I especially liked the school visits since I could connect with hundreds of kids in one day. The kids were really interested in learning about my process, from a notebook-full of drafts (trying out different perspectives) and writing down ideas as they come (even on napkins at a cafe) to letting the story sit (incubation time). Some kids guessed it took me one week to write my book, and when I told them it took me over a year, their eyes opened abnormally tall. We looked at some originals, too, and they guessed the different mediums I used.

The kids also had a lot of questions and comments about Jenny Sue and how they related to her in some way or another. We talked about how differences are mostly scary or weird when we don’t understand them, and when we learn more about each other, what makes us different is what makes us all one-of-a-kind. They all wanted to look at my eye, and I showed them how my ‘lazy’, travelin’ eye sees. I drew a picture of a man walking in front of me. Then, I drew a dog walking further away and to my right (the same direction my eye travels, up and to the right).

I showed them what happens sometimes when my travelin’ eye decides to take charge. (Yes, it really does have a mind of its own!) It grabs what it sees to my upper right and throws it in front of me, creating a mixed-up image that my brain tries to make sense of:

The kids agreed it would make a pretty cool super-power…if only I could figure out how to make it happen on command! I told them I’m working on that for the sequel…

They were also curious about how I became an illustrator and author, and I shared about my schooling, apprenticeships and continual study. I met MANY students who want to be authors and artists! One 1st grader asked a great question: what should you do if you send your story to a publisher and they don’t like it? I only had a second to respond but blurted out, “That’s just ONE person’s opinion! Believe in yourself and never give up!”

I signed a ton of books last week, but I also got a lot of autographs myself! I’m excited about all the new friends I made on this trip and want to thank them for inspiring me! Also, a BIG, big thanks to all my hosts in Omaha, St. Louey and KC for such nice events! Thanks for your support! xojenny sue