For all of you stuck inside, here’s a little freebie. It’s a coloring page based on the cover of my upcoming Emmie & Friends interactive journal. Feel free to download it and print it out. In the meantime, stay safe!

Hey, everyone! If you’re like my own kids, you’re going to be home for a while, waiting out the worst of the COVID-19 virus. At first, being “stuck at home” may not sound so bad. It’s an escape from tests, work, and maybe even those kids and teachers you try and avoid most days at school. But after a while, it can get pretty boring. So here are a few ideas for some screen-free fun time:

1. Well, of course, I’m going to say this…READ! This is such a great opportunity to take a break from your phone, video games, and other electronics and escape into someone else’s imagination.

2. Get outside. Okay, so you may have to avoid crowds of people, but it’s probably okay to ride your bike or walk to a park or wherever else you like to go (just ask a parent first if this is okay).

3. Have a game day (or night). If you’re gonna be stuck with your family, take out your frustrations on a friendly competition. It’s probably healthier than a family screaming match.

4. Whip out those neglected art supplies. Remember when you were in kindergarten and used to draw, paint, and craft with abandon? I’ll bet there are still some art supplies lying around. It’s a perfect time to get creative. Make your own comics! Try a collage from old paper scraps! Paint your little brother all the colors of the rainbow! Okay, kidding about that last one…maybe.

5. Along those lines, it’s also a great time to catch up on writing in a journal. Or start a novel. Believe it or not, boredom can weirdly spark your imagination.

6. Write letters to faraway friends and family. Once upon a time, people corresponded with pen, paper, and the written word. You can still do that! You can also draw funny pictures they can keep. But if that seems too old-fashioned, you can still FaceTime them your funny faces.

7. Finally, if you go to “Fun Stuff” in the menu above, there are some cool little games and videos. Also, here is an excerpt from my upcoming book, BECOMING BRIANNA:

That portion and the rest of BECOMMING BRIANNA comes out May 5, 2020. In the meantime, hunker down, stay healthy, and keep reading and creating!

Many of you have been wondering why I ended my comic strip (The Pajama Diaries, now in repeats). Well, it was mainly because of this baby:

I’ve been spending most of my time lately creating this book. And lemme tell you, it has been fuuuuuun.

It’s a guided journal and activity book, and yes, it’s part of the Emmie & Friends series. It will be published October, 2020, in between Becoming Brianna and Book 5 (yet to be written).

There are three sections of activity pages, each section “guided” by one of the main characters: Emmie, Brianna, and Jaime. The rest of the book will contain journal pages and make-your-own comics pages. This will be a PERFECT gift for birthdays and holidays!

For fun, here is a preview of some activity pages:

Creating games, puzzles, and secret codes? Yeah, this is pretty much the most fun project I’ve ever done. And I really, really hope you’ll enjoy the book! To pre-order YOU-Niquely YOU, click here.

Thought I’d share a fun peek into creating the art for Becoming Brianna, upcoming in the Emmie & Friends series. The process pretty much follows the same path as the first three books, except I kinda actually know what I’m doing now.

Each book is told in two different styles: graphic novel (like a comic book) and illustrated novel (lots of text with spot art). For the spot art, I create many rough illustrations in pencil on paper, and then I scan them in. Here’s an illustration I scanned for chapter 1:

Next, I redraw and color the image in Photoshop on my digital drawing tablet. A technique I often use is “tracing” over the rough image in order to create the new image. This is what the final illustration looks like:

I use the same technique for the graphic novel portion of the book. The only difference is I start with a page template so that I get the size right. Here’s what the template looks like:

Not much to look at, huh? But it really helps me. The pink part is my working area (note: this is reduced; it’s really about 5 inches by 8 inches). On the digital tablet, I can “layer” it under my drawing and remove it when I’m done. I’m then left with the artwork with the correct proportions..

Here’s what a rough scan of the graphic novel artwork looks like (from chapter 2), layered on top of the pink template. You can see I adjusted the opacity of the pink part so that it’s lighter and easier to see under the rough drawing.

Here’s the final black line art. I traced it over the rough art, not yet removing the pink template:

And here’s what it looks like, all colored and finished (pink layer removed):

And that’s it! Now multiply that by a billion times (okay, math isn’t my strong point), and I’ve got an entire book. In reality, it takes me about a month to do all the rough art and four months to do the final art.

Becoming Brianna comes out in May, 2020. You can pre-order here. Hope you enjoy it!

So excited to reveal this cover of my next book in the best-selling “Emmie & Friends” series: BECOMING BRIANNA. I’m also excited to bring back one of my beloved main characters (and her colorful family) from POSITIVELY IZZY. This book has been an absolute joy to work on, and it’s definitely influenced by personal experience. I hope you love it!

BB comes out in May, 2020. You can pre-order it here.