Author Archives: kevanjatt

About kevanjatt

Kevan is an writer and illustrator of children's books.

Priscilla Burris, Mom School, and a Plain Cake Doughnut with Pink Icing


I serve on the SCBWI Western Washington Advisory Committee with Rebeca Van Slyke. At a meeting earlier this year I was thrilled when I was handed an FnG of her terrific new book MOM SCHOOL to find it was illustrated by Priscilla Burris. It was a perfect pairing of author and illustrator. Perfect, I tell ya.


I first met Priscilla Burris 17 years ago in Los Angeles at my first SCBWI conference. She was then as she is now, a wonderful, welcoming, enthusiastic force. I’ve been a fan of her and her work since then. She is an author/illustrator and the National Illustrator Coordinator & Advisor for the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators ( as well as a member of their Board of Advisors.


She is the illustrator for The Heidi Heckelbeck Series, Humphrey’s Tiny Tales Series, Maggi and Milo, Edgar’s Second Word, Isabelle & Isabella’s Little Book of Rules, among others.  She lives in Orange County, California. Quite a number of years ago I was honored that she had me do (I believe) the first illustrated cover of the SCBWI Bulletin back before they had full color covers.

When we were planning Rebecca’s Launch Week for MOM SCHOOL here at EMU’s Debuts I knocked people over to volunteer to interview Priscilla as part of it.  Recently I was able to pose some questions to her.

1. I know you studied fashion design and illustration; when did you decide you wanted to illustrate picture books and how do you think your fashion training has helped you?

After graduating from FIDM (Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising), I went on to be a Preschool Teacher (yes, unrelated to Fashion).  While teaching, I attended East Los Angeles College for my Early Childhood Education. The final project was to “Write and Illustrate A Children’s Book”, that made the light bulb click for me and helped me focus on working towards the field of Children’s Book Illustration.

There is much I still glean from my FIDM experience and training! Colors, Color Combinations, Patterns, and How fabric folds and falls, are just a few of what comes to mind when I illustrate.  I love to share whether characters are human or animals – they need to be in whatever fashion is appropriate for the story!

2. When you first read the manuscript for Mom School did you take some time to decide if you wanted to illustrate it or did you know right away?

Oh, I knew RIGHT AWAY that this was going to be a wonderful and delightful – and hilarious journey!  Rebecca is SO clever and wise, and I am SO thankful to have been matched up with such great writing!

3. Can you go through your process in creating the illustrations for this book?

  I first draw the images onto plain white paper, with #2 pencil and my trusty – and most beloved – Pink Pearl Eraser.  Then, I do something rather childlike and fun;  I smudge each drawing. This is to enhance the texture, as well as to give me an excuse to get messy and have to wash my hands like a real Artist. (half kidding)

Truth be told, I asked the editor and art director which of my art samples they preferred, and once I knew that answer, I knew this would be my process for MOM SCHOOL.


MOM-SCHOOL-Roller-Coaster-Sketch   MOM-SCHOOL-Roller-Coaster-Final-Art

MOM-SCHOOL-Bedtime-Sketch MOM-SCHOOL-Bedtime-Final-Art

4. On Facebook you post so many charming illustrations with evocative tidbits of text that I am certain there are whole stories you’re keeping from us. Are there? Hmmmmm?   

Thank You! and WHAT a great question! I’d say the characters I illustrate ‘tell’ me what their names are, and their stories.  By this, I mean I may have a holiday or inspired idea in mind as a start.  It’s when I go to roughing out a sketch of the character(s) that ‘they’ begin to come to life for me. Truly, the answer is Yes and No because while I have notes for full story possibilities on some images, others I don’t.  At least, not yet.  Guess it just depends on what the characters want, after all.  Some can be quite bossy, but in a good way.




5.      a. Sketchbook? Yes or no.

Yes.  Whether it is a real-life, hold in your hand, or grab-a-slip-of-paper-to-add-in-later Sketchbook, or digitally created, Yes!

        b. Sketching in public?

Sometimes, yes. Especially if I catch something happening that I’ll reference later for an image. Not ‘in’ public, however.  I don’t want anyone noticing me sketching.  Probably because it feels like I’m thinking out loud, and who wants to hear that?

6. What’s up next? Will we be seeing a Priscilla Burris penned picture book soon?

  What a kind question!  Yes, there is something in the works, and I am thrilled! However, at this date I cannot share more.

7. Favorite doughnut?

Plain Cake Doughnut with Pink or Orange Icing!

Thanks, Priscilla, you’re the best! And congratulations to both you and Rebecca on MOM SCHOOL. I am sure it is going to be a big hit!

If you’d like to see more of Priscilla’s work, check out her website here: Follow her on Twitter here: Or like her page on Facebook here:



Filed under Uncategorized

Pretend These Bunnies are Emus

Because I am much more adept at drawing bunnies than emus, I’m going to ask you to imagine the bunnies below AS emus. It will just make more sense as I bid farewell from the active and move into the Emeriti.


Thank you, thank you all my EMU pals! My active EMU status has expired but the past two years have been special and I will treasure them always. My launch week would have paled without you all and your celebratory levity. I look forward to your launches with joy and will laud each and every one of them. But for now I will be in the Emeriti Lounge.

You all are the very best.



Filed under Farewell, Uncategorized

At Least You Love What You Do

bunnysConsole01 bunnysConsole02 bunnysConsole03 bunnysConsole04 bunnysConsole05 bunnysConsole06 bunnysConsole07 bunnysConsole08 bunnysConsole09 bunnysConsole10


-kevan attteberry


Filed under Anxiety, Launch, Picture books, Thankfulness, Uncategorized

Getting the word out.


BUNNIES!!! is being printed (I imagine) overseas at this very moment. It’s release date is January 27. That means I have roughly five months to generate some pre-release buzz about it. I find myself staring blankly at the FnGs and wonder what to do next. A website? Facebook page? Postcards? (Done). Trailer? Press release? Standing on a corner saying, “Look at this!” to anyone who happens by? I am not a stranger to marketing and promotion—I’ve worked on many programs and projects over the years as the graphics guy—but I am daunted by what to do for my own book. I suppose the promotion and marketing has never seemed as important as it does when you are promoting and marketing  your own stuff. I don’t know what all I’ll do. I don’t know what kind of participation I can expect from the publisher. I don’t know if I need to hire a professional PR or marketing person. I don’t know a lot. Declan (above) screams the title of the book with unfettered joy and excitement. That’s what I want the promotion to feel like. So….


January 27, 2015 • From Katherine Tegan Books, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublisher

-kevan atteberry


Filed under Book Promotion, cover art, Illustrators, Picture books, Promotion, Thankfulness, Uncategorized

Awkward Hugs and High-fives


Traveling companions.

I spent 5 days last week with my agency and many of my agency siblings. (Those who weren’t there were sorely missed.) It was our annual retreat. Some 60-plus strong, we converged on Brandon, Vermont, a quaint little New England town that probably shines its brightest at the height of leaf season. We took over one centuries-old inn and overflowed into a couple of others nearby. It was as close to magic you can come and still be believable. Because, as writers, we tend to work in solitude, a gathering of soul mates like this is reason for jubilation. And boy did we jubilate. It was five days of adoration, adulation and celebration. We ate together, drank together, partied and wore silly costumes together. We were entertained by the inestimably talented house band, Erin Murphy’s Dog, as well as surprise talents popping up to take the stage.  We read samples of what we are working on aloud to a rapt audience and were mesmerized by the abundance—nay, profusion— of talent. We had one-on-one time with our agents and we had time for long discussions with two, three, four or more of us about craft, about life, about dreams.

We have community online through Facebook and our agency boards and this blog. And in that community there is an on-going joke about “awkward hugs and high-fives” when we actually see each other. Of course this never happened. Every hug, every squeeze, every handshake, fist bump or high-five was heart-felt and treasured, and I remember each and every one of them. The joyous hello hugs, the sorrowful goodbye hugs, and all the no reason hugs in-between.

I suppose there is no real point to this post other than an opportunity for me to express how much I Iove my agent, my agency siblings, and the community we all make up. I feel I am a better, more confident writer by hanging with these kindred creatives. I’d put that high on the list of answers for when asked about how to get started in this business.

And now,  here’s some sketches I knocked out during my trip. Just because.

retreatSketchBook030 retreatSketchBook031 retreatSketchBook029 retreatSketchBook028

-kevan atteberry


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The Real Importance of Conferences 

I’ve attended a lot of children’s literature conferences over the past couple of decades. I’ve been to the SCBWI International Conference in Los Angeles about a dozen times. I’ve been to regional SCBWI conferences too numerous to count. I always look forward to them with a frantic sense of excitement. Or at least I did initially. I recall, in the beginning, stressing over what to bring to share, wavering between “This is brilliant,” to  “this sucks! I have nothing good enough to show anyone!” I’d chafe over what clothes to pack for the climate as well as for the social element. I’d redesign business cards at the last minute and then decide to go with my old ones. I was an anxious, nervous—but very excited—wreck leading up to a conference.

notes from a conference

A couple pages of conference notes from a recent conference

What made it easier was seeing old friends there. And meeting new friends. And meeting friends that I’d only known online before. As writers and illustrators we typically work alone and conferences are wonderful breaks from that solitary world. Many friends I’ve met at conferences continue to play important roles in my life today. Even beyond kid lit. I remember sitting with friends in a freezing ballroom or a too warm meeting room, taking copious notes during both keynotes and breakout sessions, sharing insights with a glance and a smile, or a roll of the eyes. I have sketchbooks scrawled with words of wisdom delivered by both presenters and pals, and scribbles and sketches from downtimes. When looking at old conference notes and sketches, I can remember pretty clearly who I was sitting with, and what we might have been discussing when I created them. And just about every one of them is from a joyous time. Besides attending sessions, the time at lunch, or over cocktails, or out to dinner with these people became just as valuable and informative, perhaps even more so, than the sessions and keynotes themselves. Shared experiences with peers are helpful and motivational and come with a large serving of encouragement. In an industry that often hums with pessimism and foretells its own demise, motivation and encouragement are pretty precious commodities.

Over the years, as the conferences began adding up, the breakout sessions and keynotes started repeating themselves. Most of the presenters seem to be from a rather select pool of industry stars and most of the session topics I’ve heard before. Deciding whether to attend a conference, or if at a conference whether to attend a session, sometimes becomes less about the topic or the presenter and more about who else is going to be there. I’ve hardly learned all there is to know about this industry, and I know I benefit from taking similar sessions repeated times. But in the end I know the most valuable parts of conferences to me are the other attendees. They make up this terrific community of kid lit. And the conference brings that community to life.

kevan atteberry



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The Second Time Around the Second Time Around

Riffing off Tara Dairman’s piece, The Second Time Around, from a week ago in which she explored why the excitement factor of her second book paled in comparison to her first book, I’d like to explore the panic factor of the second book.

The first book I penned, BUNNIES!!!, was sold in a two-book deal to Katherine Tegan Books/HarperCollins a little over a year ago. It was, for all practical purposes, a finished manuscript needing very little editing. I had written it one day in December, 2012. It was inspired by a drawing I had done a couple months earlier and the story just came to me. Seriously. It was that easy. I hate when people talk about banging out a story in a day, an hour, twenty minutes. It is usually people new to the industry and with no clue of what it takes to write a picture book. It seems disingenuous and sounds both dismissive and braggartly at the same time.  I don’t know if it was a rare alignment of the stars, or if I had brushed up against some strange talisman in an antique store, or if it was just dumb luck, but if I spent more than two hours writing and rough-dummying the book I’d be surprised. My critique pals all agreed that with a couple minor tweaks, it was ready for submission. My amazing agent sold it in no time in the afore mentioned two-book deal. I spent most of the rest of last year doing the illustrations and probably prematurely resting on my big fat laurels.

The manuscript for book number two is due at the end of this month. And I’m in second book panic mode. It will feature the same characters from BUNNIES!!! I’ve been working on it pretty regularly since the first of the year with what I thought were some pretty good ideas. They have morphed from one storyline to another to another to another. And I still don’t have it nailed down. I’m close, I think, but not as close as my critique pals suggest after last night’s  meeting. Agh. They are right, of course, the story is almost there, but it is lacking the particular style and delivery of book one. So I am up at 4:15 this morning, unable to sleep and panicking once more about this book. The first one was so damn easy! Why is this one so damn hard? Why doesn’t it just come to me?  When I wrote my dear, sweet editor in a panic late one night last week, she told me to take a break from thinking about it, it needs to simmer. Go see a movie! Relax! She also suggested that maybe this second book does not have to be about the same characters, maybe it could be something else – take a break from them and come back to them later. She was making it so easy for me. And it worked. For a while. I started thinking about other manuscripts I had that I could tidy up and send to her, other new ideas that I haven’t fleshed out. After considering this for a while, I decided that I love the characters in my first book and need to give them one more shot before I temporarily shelve them. So, panicked or not, (panicked) I am back in the land of BUNNIES!!! I will put on my thinking ears and channel the panic into something brilliant. No, really, I have 25 days. Maybe when it is done and it is accepted, the rest of the process of book number two will be the calm that Tara alluded to.


by kevan atteberry


Filed under Anxiety, Colleagues, Creativity, Editing and Revising, Editor, Panic, Writing

They say…

They say...

by kevan atteberry


by | January 13, 2014 · 1:00 am

For the Month of October…

Whether it is NaNoWriMo, PiBoIdMo, SkaDaMo, etc., November seems to be the month for commitments to creative exercise. I failed at NaNoWriMo in the past and committed to PiBoIdMo and SkaDaMo this year. But I am easily distracted. And without somebody holding my feet to the fire, by day 4 I am already behind in both. I’ve come to the conclusion that I am no good at these things. They feel like a race. And I’m too old and fat to be racing anybody – in any venue. What I really need is my own exercise in self discipline (should that be hyphenated?)

On a whim, October 1, 2011, I decided that for that month I was going to create a monster every day.


And I was going to post it on Facebook. I was not going to post something I had drawn before. I was not even going to use something I’d drawn before as a starting point. At least not consciously. I was going to start with a blank slate and a blank mind. Every day the monster was going to be considerably different from the day before. I posted my intentions with the very first monster. I knew by announcing what I intended to do, my friends would hold me accountable. I posted a new monster everyday and would get dozens of likes and comments. By day 4 or 5, people would get impatient if I had not posted a monster by early afternoon. If I missed a day, which I did once or twice, folks were rewarded with double monster days. In the end I had 31 monsters—some of them pretty good—and healthy sense of accomplishment. So I did it again in October 2012. I had more accountability, more adulation, and another 31 new monsters. Stories hovered near by some of them. In fact the monster from October 20 that year was the inspiration for BUNNIES!!!, my first sold picture book manuscript. I just completed all the illustrations and sent them off this weekend.


By the time I started October Monster-A-Day this year, I had a ready audience. I was ready for the challenge. I was ready for the adulation Each new monster was received far greater than in previous years. I got many more likes and comments, and many new friend requests or people following me. I think part of the success was I had added another element to my exercise. With each monster I wanted to provoke/evoke some feeling or emotion. Whether joy, sadness, fear, loneliness, I wanted the viewer to be moved. I think I was two-thirds successful.


By November 1 I was short ten monsters. What was different this year? Why couldn’t I create 31 monsters like the previous two years?I’m fairly certain the only thing that kept me from finishing all 31 monsters is that this year I had paying work. And deadlines. Unlike the previous two years.

I am always impressed and so proud of my friends that enter into these challenges, whether they finish or not, whether their work is brilliant or compost. But I know now, for me, that committing to these challenges when my plate is already full is asking for disappointment.

I do plan to finish monsters 22 through 31. Hopefully before Thanksgiving.

Hey, what about a turkey monster…?

You can see this year’s October Monster-A-Day here:

-Kevan Atteberry


Filed under Uncategorized

Bragging rights.

A true, though somewhat exaggerated but not too far off the mark, social interaction. And not verbatim.

I understand that career bragging tends to be industry specific. And the appreciation of the brag may be determined by your understanding of that industry. The difference with children’s publishing is that when we brag, it is just as likely that we’ll be bragging about someone other than ourselves. We support each other and celebrate each other’s successes as if they were our own. Every success seems a shared success. So it is difficult when at a non-industry social function discussion of work comes up. I’m usually met with polite acknowledgement of my update on what I’m working on. Then the subject quickly shifts. It’s difficult, but I’m okay with it. We all like to think what we do is interesting to everybody. But it’s not. If nothing else, I’ve learned to be a better listener to other people’s brags and try to be engaged. And in the end, I know where to find my kid lit peeps to rally with!

—kevan atteberry


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