An Inktober Graphic Novella

Hi, it's me again. Long time no see. I just can't do all these digital things. There is too much going on in real life. However... Last October I drew or painted an octopus each day not realizing there was something called #Inktober. I started to see it popping up in my Newsfeed on Facebook, yet I started making fun of it this October 1st with this cartoon:
The next day I kept the potato theme going.
By the third day I discovered that there were actual PROMPTS for Inktober.
Then I did the next prompt.
And the next prompt...
After the fifth day, I sat there staring at the list of prompts and I realized it was a story. I've been aiming towards doing graphic novels for a while now. I used to do comics when I was a kid and teenager, but moved away to illustration and children's picture books, but I've always done cartoons in my journal and I love good, old-fashioned pen and ink... 

So I began a journey- a visual journey, using the Inktober prompts. These were all done quickly with a simple pencil sketch and no reference- they are all "out of my imagination." I didn't square things up- I wanted this to be more of a storyboard where the story is the most important part. I hope you like it. 

My Inktober message is to rescue and adopt animals... and to play visually.

Feel free to share this.

With Love,


Are We WHERE Yet?

I have been THERE, but I have not been HERE writing this blog for about six months. Life just got in the way, like it usually does when you juggle as many things as I do. At the end of September I moved my father into an Adult Family Home the same weekend that we had the funeral for my dear Mother-in-law. Then I spent months up to my eyeballs in filth and hoarded art, books, stuff- clearing out my father's mess, getting his condo fixed up (Thank you, Manning Sedgwick Realty) and sold.

Life is a crazy journey and my journey has been a very strange road trip. I dreamt of a wonderful creative life where I'd just be writing and illustrating and making books that people would love, and parts of that came true, but the way it happened wasn't very dreamy. It has not been easy juggling my career with my family, and I give birth to book ideas all the time, and then they have to sit and wait for me to be able to get to them.

"Are We There Yet?" my new book, which just came out on March 1st from my longtime publisher, Chronicle Books, was no exception. I originally conceptualized this book in June 2006 while I was driving to our home on Lummi Island.

For seven years I took numerous detours and had to deal with family crises that I wish upon no one. I only had two books come out in those seven years, my baby book, "Who Loves You, Baby?" and my cloth book, "Button Nose." I kept writing during that time. I even wrote a novel.

Finally in 2013 I was out of the worst of the nightmarish period and I was finally THERE. I created these detailed thumbnails for "Are We There Yet?" and submitted the book.

Then the journey took another detour that surprised me. I had submitted this book thinking that I was going to illustrate it, but I was not offered that opportunity. I was working on my "Peek-a Book" series at the time, so I let it go. I've been asked why I didn't illustrate it, and honestly, I don't have a good answer. What I will say is that Adam McCauley used my sketches as a launching point and added his cool details and did a masterful job. 

I've had a lot of fun "performing" "Are We There Yet?" in schools over the past two plus weeks- I have the kids play "the kid" and I play "the mom," and they love asking "are we there yet?" over and over as we go deeper into the journey of imagination, and when reality returns, and it seems "boring," then they get to say, "let's do it again!" 

I've also written the "Are We There Yet?" song- on my ukulele. When I get over being afraid of filming myself playing it, I'll share it here or there...

The next strange part of this journey is that there is another book of the exact same name coming out from Caldecott medalist, Dan Santat. I have not seen his book. I do not have his marketing, or his momentum. But I do have my own road and my own journey to stay on and enjoy the scenery- because the one thing I've learned after over twenty-two years of making children's books is that wherever you are, you are always THERE, and THERE is where you are meant to be.

I hope you will share some of my journey with me. 
I love having you all along for the ride...
And YES, we are there.



Octoberpus: A Month of Octopuses

It's been ages since I've posted. No need to go into details, but there have been family crises and obstacles and to put not-too-fine-a-point on it, things have sucked. So I decided to pull myself out of the cave and the pity party and do something completely weird and creative. I invented "Octoberpus." I've always loved cephalopods and I challenged myself to draw or paint one each day and post it on Facebook. The experiment worked. The creative juices flowed thanks to these little suckers. They were done on the fly, in hotels, in doctor's waiting rooms, at night before bed, in between finishing the art for my next "peek-a book." Some are scanned and others are just taken with my iPhone. I hope you enjoy them- they are all the product of my strange imagination and various techniques that I play with as sketches- whether in ink or paint- these are not "finished illustrations."

On October 26 and 27 my plate was too full, so I posted two octopuses from the recent past.
I drew this Rugged Beauty for a line of jewelry I'm making.
This one was a quick cartoon with an octopus riding a bicycle- my statement on how being on a device keeps you from seeing the world around you.
There you have it! Thirty-one days of octopuses. I hope you found some you liked... and I imagine this will be spawning future projects for me. I already have a picture book concept going. 

I highly recommend doing something like this- whether you are sketching something or writing something every day for a month just to sharpen your imagination. 
Happy creating!


In The Winter That Felt Like Spring

Yesterday I took a very long walk on the beach. On my way down the road I noticed that the skunk cabbage had come up. This has always been a harbinger of Spring. I took a photo to document that on February 11, 2015, Spring had arrived on Lummi Island. This disturbed me on so many levels. I have always felt a deep connection to nature, it grounds me and inspires me. This year the snows in the Northeast and the complete lack of snow here in the Northwest seem to be like yin and yang pulling apart. A de-polarization if you will. 

As I walked on the beach a poem, or a song, came to me... so I stopped and pulled out my iPhone and opened the "Notes" app and tapped in the lines in my head. Then I kept walking and as other lines came to me I stopped and disconnected from my search for depth, meaning and treasure to tap in the other lines with my index finger. (I just can't type with my thumbs.) When I returned to my studio, the poem/song came to life in my journal, and then I edited it on my computer. I do want to put it to music, but there is also a part of me that wishes this could be a picture book. I think this is a subject that we all need to discuss. 

Here is what I wrote. I hope it moves you.


In the winter that felt like spring
The snows didn’t come
The birds never left
The salmon didn’t run
The rains never stopped
The rivers flooded the land
We wondered what was next
In this godforsaken plan.

In the winter that felt like spring
The trees bloomed too soon
The bees didn’t come
No fruit hung in June
The moss grew like a carpet
The weeds didn’t die
Land slid around us
Pollen filled the sky.

In the winter that felt like spring
Followed by a summer full of drought
There was record-setting heat
And algae-blooms, no doubt.
Many crops were ruined
Rivers ran too low
Electricity prices climbed
Solar power needs to grow.

In the winter that felt like spring
Would anyone heed the warning
These signs are all pointing
To certain global warming.

The tides are rising higher
The forest is on fire
Science is no liar
The situation is dire
Better set things straight
Before it is too late
Or there will be no songs to sing
In the winter that felt like spring.

©Nina Laden 2015