Today I invited The Girllustrators, Austin-based kidlit artists, to guest blog for PiBoIdMo, so you’re getting THREE inspirational essays—by Emma Virján, Caitlin B. Alexander and Marsha Riti—for the price of one. (And they’re all FREE, LOL.) I recommend following these talented ladies on Twitter @Girllustrators.


Up first: Emma Virján!

WHAT THIS STORY NEEDS IS A PIG IN A WIG started with this doodle of pig snouts.

WTSN_01 BWSnoutDoodle

Sketches of pigs started to fill my notebooks.

WTSN_02 PigSunHammock


After many drawings, I determined pig needed a name. I named her Pig.

It was also determined that she needed a wig.

WTSN_03 YellowWig 

I drew Pig wearing many different wigs.

WTSN_04 DiffWigs

I loved Pig in all of her wigs (still do) but this one became my favorite.

WTSN_05 FaveWigs

The story of Pig and her wig started to take shape. Work began on a manuscript.

WTSN_06 EarlyDraft

The words “on a boat” kept cropping up and I started drawing images of Pig near a boat.

Sometimes I only drew the boat. The boat always had a pig snout on the bow.

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The first of many thumbnails were created.

So began the real work of the images and words becoming a picture book.

WTSN_08 EarlyThumbnails


Revisions happened. Drawings were scrapped and new ones were drawn. More revisions happened and eventually What This Story Needs Is A Pig In A Wig was finalized.

WTSN_09 PigInaWig-Cover

WTSN_10 PigOnHerBoat

It’s amazing to think that a black and white doodle of pig snouts, drawn while on the phone with a client, became the inspiration for a character and a story.

And the endpapers.

WTSN_11 SnoutEndpaper


Emma J Virján was born under an Aries moon on a Wednesday, her dad’s bowling night. This explains her attraction to hardwood floors. She likes to draw, work in her garden and often lets her dog sleep on the couch. She makes her home in Austin, Texas where she spends her days as an illustrator and graphic designer. 

She is the author-illustrator of Nacho the Party Puppy, Random House, 2008, and the forthcoming What This Story Needs Is A Pig In a Wig, HarperCollins, May 12, 2015.

You can visit Emma Virján at and follow her illustrative moods on Twitter @EmmaVirjan.


Caitlin bio image

Next is Caitlin B. Alexander! 

Being an illustrator, my concept for a story grows in tandem with my visual ideas. I look at children’s books that I admire, both old and new, and take note of what draws me to them. Is it the overarching message? The color palette? The scenery? What medium did they use for the art, and what kind of characters did they use? The art or writing may not resemble my work, but something about it can still inspire me. I have a massive collection of books that I turn to frequently.

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I am somewhat of an overly-organized person, so I make all sorts of bubble charts and graphs, with ideas sprouting into other ideas. Some of these are just images I would love to incorporate into a story, like a sailboat, and others are larger concepts. Eventually, with a lot of scribbling, listing, doodling, highlighting, and sample-writing, I come up with a rough idea or two that can be explored further. It reminds me of a slab of clay that has barely taken shape, but has a lot of potential.

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I wish I could say that I know what perfect and repeating formula works for getting a book published, but there are probably few people who do. The rest of us just create things that we love, and keep learning, making mistakes and trying new things. If we’re lucky, we’ve hit the right combination, and someone else has fallen in love with the idea as much as we have.

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Caitlin B. Alexander is an illustrator based in Austin, Texas with a particular love for dry-brush gouache painting. Both her life and work are heavily influenced by the aesthetics of the 1940’s, ’50s and ’60s. She fancies herself a collector of memories as much as a collector of things, andenjoys bringing this sense of nostalgia to her audience.

Clients include: Spider Magazine, Ladybug Magazine (Cricket Media), Geneologie, Texas Board of Tourism, Dallas Child Magazine, Bearded Lady Screen Prints, Austin Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, PERC Coffee, The Kloud Agency, What’s Up Annapolis? Magazine

Visit Caitlin’s website at, follow her Tumblr at and Tweet with her @cbaillustration.



Marsha Riti

And now…Marsha Riti!

Because I consider myself an illustrator first and foremost, the way I approach storytelling is a bit different than a writer. My inspiration comes from sketching and playing around with materials.

I’m currently working on a dreamy story about a girl, a rabbit, and the moon. This story came about from playing around with loose watercolor techniques and other materials.

Image 1

Then I started playing with character sketches.

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I love to thumbnail out ideas. Tara Lazar has a great thumbnail guide on her website and so does Debbie Ohi.

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Here’s a small sample of a double-page layout.

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And here’s a finished spread.

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This process naturally lends itself to wordless storytelling, but I don’t want to limit myself. If the story needs words, then I’ll supply them. If it does not, then so be it.

One other place I find inspiration is this quote below from a Blake poem titled “Night.”

“The moon like a flower,
In heaven’s high bower,
With silent delight!
Sits and smiles on the night.” ~ William Blake

My husband and best friend Adam happened across it while reading “Songs of Innocence.” Adam is another source of inspiration. We have wonderful conversations about life and philosophy that are always giving me new ideas.


Marsha Riti is a children’s book illustrator from Austin, Texas. She has been a member of SCBWI for a number of years, and is also a co-founder and member of a female illustrator collective called the Girllustrators. She is currently illustrating a chapter book series for Simon & Schuster, The Critter Club, and is represented by Teresa Kietlinksi of Prospect Agency. And she’s got a wicked sense of humor.

Tara featured Marsha in a “Portrait of an Aspiring Illustrator” in March 2009.

View Marsha’s artwork and latest projects at and follow along on Twitter @marshariti.


Emma is giving away a NACHO THE PARTY PUPPY book and tee!


And Marsha is donating two books from THE CRITTER CLUB!

CritterClub_Amy CritterCLub_Marion

These prizes will be given away at the conclusion of PiBoIdMo. You are eligible for these prizes if:

  1. You have registered for PiBoIdMo.
  2. You have commented ONCE ONLY on today’s post.
  3. You have completed the PiBoIdMo challenge. (You will have to sign the PiBoIdMo Pledge at the end of the event.)

Good luck, everyone!