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Learn All My Evernote Tricks!

Posted by on May 14, 2020 in Classes, Writing


I just posted a class on Skillshare about how I use Evernote to keep track of my research and to brainstorm ideas. Check the class out here, and use this link to get 2 months free on Evernote.

I get asked a lot about how I do my research. This is the first of a two-part answer. The first step is to come up with a tracking system, because without it, all that research gets lost. (I learned this the hard way!) I am devoted to Evernote and in this class, I walk you through exactly how I use it.

Evernote is also useful for anyone who teaches, or anyone who needs to organize projects that involve lots of bits and pieces. I talk about that, too, in this class.

Next week, I’ll post the next class, on how I actually DO research. Stay tuned for that!

Kopp Sisters Collages

Posted by on April 25, 2020 in Creativity, Kopp Sisters, Paintings


For a long time, I wasn’t at all interested in making any kind of art that had anything to do with the books I write. I just didn’t have any ideas along those lines. Sometimes my publicist would want me to make some art that could be used in some way for marketing purposes, and I absolutely hated that idea. The last thing I want is for art to become a thing that has deadlines and emails attached to it.I have always wanted art to be the one thing that I do purely for myself.

So that is still very much the case-I did make this because I wanted to-but I still have this weird trepidation about mixing work with pleasure, so to speak.

Anyway, what happened is that I took a collage class that involved painting a little portrait on top of a book page. It occurred to me that most artists who do this are using other peoples’ books, but I can actually use my own book, and bits and pieces from my own research, which I have always found so visually compelling. That makes it really personal. It’s truly a piece of art that no one else could make.

And it was interesting to paint Constance for the first time, especially since I don’t really do a lot of portraits. I have written seven books about her, but it was still a totally different experience to bring her to life in paint.

Laid-Back Lettering

Posted by on April 20, 2020 in Classes, Paintings

If you want to add more artistic, colorful, dramatic lettering to your sketchbooks, journals, and artwork, but you don’t want to put in the hours it takes to really perfect a hand-lettering style, I made this class just for you!

I love all the beautiful brush pen and modern calligraphy styles I see all over Instagram, but filling out practice sheets and trying to learn upstrokes and downstrokes felt too much like work for me.

So I developed an approach to lettering that I could do without a ton of practice, using more or less my own handwriting and the art supplies I already carry with me.

In this class, I’ll show you how to work with pencil, pen, marker, and watercolor to create visually interesting letters using the same approach to drawing and painting you already use in your art.

I’ll work from examples of the styles I like to use, that fit my personality and my artwork, but I’ll also show you how to find the styles that work for your tastes and interests.

Use this link to watch the class, and to get 2 months free to enjoy everything Skillshare has to offer.

Painting Doors and Windows with Ink and Watercolor

Posted by on April 12, 2020 in Classes, Paintings

My new class is live on Skillshare! Go here to preview the class, and this link also gives you 2 months free on Skillshare, which is plenty of time to check out everything they have to offer.

One of my favorite subjects to paint is old painted doors. They have so much character and they really tell the story of the place.

There are a few challenges that are particular to drawing and painting doors, including:

  • Getting the proportions right
  • Conveying a sense of depth
  • Figuring out a way to depict faded paint and crumbling stone without overworking everything
  • Including just enough of the elements that surround the door without taking away from your main focus

In this class I’ll show you how I approach my paintings of doors.

We’ll go step by step, starting in pencil, then moving on to ink and finally watercolor. I also add a few highlights with white acrylic paint pens.

I’ll give you a few of my own photographs of doors for you to work from, but I hope you’ll go through your photographs from your own travels and paint a door that you fell in love with during your own travels.

Create Your Own Book Video

Posted by on April 2, 2020 in Classes, Writing

It’s here! I’ve created a step-by-step guide for authors who want to make high-quality videos about their books. The class is live on Skillshare now, and this link will give you two months’ free access to all the classes Skillshare has to offer.  

As the author of over a dozen books, both fiction and nonfiction, I’ve found that book videos can be useful at every stage of the publishing process, including:

Pre-publication marketing meetings with the publisher
Press kits and media pitches
Marketing to bookstores and libraries
Lining up speaking engagements
Reaching readers and book clubs
Promoting backlist titles years after publication
Fortunately, the technology is so easy that anyone with an iPad or other tablet or smartphone can shoot a high-quality video, add photos or video footage, make simple edits, and publish to online platforms.

This class walks through every step of the process that I use to make videos to promote my books. I’ll show you all the equipment and free software I use, and walk you through every step of the process I use.

For those of you who have different equipment and software, I’ll suggest alternatives. The basic concepts are the same no matter what you use to make your video.

This class will also work for anyone who wants to make a talking head-style video interspersed with photos and video clips on any subject at all, but my examples are all going to be specific to book videos.

Ink Your Drink! A new class on painting cocktails

Posted by on March 26, 2020 in Classes, Cocktails, Paintings

NEW on Skillshare! I’m teaching the ink transfer technique I’ve been posting about lately on Instagram. To find out more about the class, and to get 2 months free on Skillshare, use this link. (And there are tons of great classes on Skillshare! I’m particularly fond of Jim Richard’s urban sketching class.)

To see all the classes I’m teaching on Skillshare, here’s a link that shows you all the classes and also gives you 2 free months.

I Went on a Sketching Trip to Mexico and I Took You With Me

Posted by on March 6, 2020 in Classes, Paintings


We just went to Mexico together! Well, almost. I took my iPad to Guanajuato, Mexico last week and filmed an online class on travel sketching–so you can watch it and it’s almost like being there!

I decided to focus on the two subjects that are easiest for beginners–building facades (meaning, looking straight on, no perspective skills required) and landscapes.

This class walks you through the process I use when I’m out and about sketching, and even shows you how I handle my materials when I’m out on the streets and want to make sure I don’t lose anything!

I’m teaching it on Skillshare, where I also teach writing courses. I love the format and ease of use of Skillshare, and I’ve learned a lot from taking art and tech classes there.

Here’s a link to see the class on Skillshare. If you’re not already a member, this link gives you 2 months free to check out everything they have to offer. I have a lot of art and writing classes available, so check those out!


Story Structure is a Thing We All Wrestle With

Posted by on January 31, 2020 in Classes, Fiction, Writing


My next Skillshare class is live and it’s on the beast we all struggle with, both fiction and nonfiction writers: story structure. There are lots of people out there peddling complex, intricate techniques for writing a hit novel or screenplay. Honestly, I get a little overwhelmed by all that stuff. So I made a class about the methods I actually use when I write my own books, and I encourage you to try these out, see if they work, and try some other approaches if they don’t! I include a resource list for further study at the end.

I’ve loved teaching these classes and I especially appreciate your comments, projects, questions, and reviews.

Use this link to get 2 months free on Skillshare, which is plenty of time to take lots of classes!


I’m Teaching Writing Classes on Skillshare

Posted by on January 13, 2020 in Classes, Writing

Big news for the new year!

I’m teaching a series of writing classes on Skillshare, which is an online teaching platform that works on a subscription model, like Netflix. The first two courses are live now, and you can get two months free through this link.

The people at Skillshare approached me about teaching a couple years ago, but I couldn’t get my head around the idea at the time. Then I took a class on the platform–Jim Richard’s class on sketching people–and do you know what I really liked about it?

I liked how SMALL the class was. Bite-sized lessons, each only five or ten minutes long, and many of the courses are only half an hour in total. Skillshare is about teaching one particular discreet skill, and then another, and then another.

That really appeals to me. I tend to think small: one page at a time, one drawing at a time, one event at a time–the way I keep from getting overwhelmed is to break everything down into really small, manageable bits.

That’s how I get books written. And now I’ve realized–that’s how I can teach, too.

Usually, when I teach a writing workshop, it lasts for two or three days (or two or three months!) and covers SO MUCH. But these classes are going to be different. They’re going to tackle one small building block at a time….just like I do every day.

So. The first two classes are very New Years Resolution-ish, and both of them try to answer the two most common problems I hear about from aspiring writers:

“I want to write a book, but I don’t know where to start.” This class, Start Your Book Today, is my answer to that.

What I also hear a lot is, “I wish I could write, but I’m just not disciplined enough.” Build Great Writing Habits will, I hope, put the “I’m not disciplined enough” myth to bed once and for all.

Next up will be some more concrete, nuts-and-bolts topics, from storytelling techniques to research methods to the revision process. It’s everything I do, one bit at a time.

And…people ask me a lot if I would teach a travel sketching class, so I’m going to give that a try when I’m in Mexico next month. Stay tuned!

Your reviews would mean a lot to me. If you’re already a Skillshare member, you can follow me here to be notified of new classes and updates. And if you’d like to sign up, two free months is more than enough time to check out my classes and anything else you might be interested in. I’d really appreciate it if you’d post a review, share your project, or put a comment in the discussion.

And stay tuned for more!

Messing About with Paint

Posted by on December 9, 2019 in Creativity, Paintings








Here’s something new I just sort of fell into:

I was messing around with a painting and made a big mess and decided the big mess looked interesting. Next think I knew, I was making these abstract watercolor paintings.
I’ve been noodling away at them every day while I write my next book—or while I’m supposed to be writing, I guess. Is it procrastination? A distraction? A good way to take a break without looking at Twitter? Regardless, this is such a malleable process that I can literally redo it from scratch every day if I want to…I don’t know how exactly you call a thing like this “done,” but at some point I stop and move on to another panel, another color…
It’s kind of like writing, in that way–you put something down, you wipe it off, you try again…
If you want the technical details:  I’m taking an ultra slick gesso board (in this case a Blick premier studio panel, but I’ve used Ampersand clayboard too) and just dropping one or two watercolors on them to see what they do in water on a non-absorbent surface. It’s kind of hypnotic and endlessly erasable—all of this would wipe right off with water and I’d have a fresh white panel (maybe slightly stained, depending on the pigment) to start over.
Once I decide it’s done, I give it a couple sprays of Krylon UV Archival varnish in satin, then a coat or two of Gamblin cold wax medium to soften the shine.  After that, it’s as durable and lightfast as an oil painting.