maryfave8.26.2by Mary Uhles

I’m incredibly honored to be included in the run-up to PiBoIdMo 2015. You know how it feels to be in an airplane right before take off? The airplane swings out onto the runway. You look out the window and see the fat white lines of the end zone rotate under the plane. The wings bounce slightly in the turn. The flight attendants tuck the air pressure bags into their armpits and walk away down the aisle. And then, just a for a second, right before the pilot hits the throttle, the entire plane gets very, very still. . . poised to leap into the future. That’s Pre-PiBoIdMo Day 1. For the next 35 days you will be leaping into the future. And, while it may seem suddenly still back in the cabin of the airplane, in the cockpit the pilot is actually going down a very specific checklist for the flight ahead. Let’s look at your checklist for PiBoIdMo:

  1. Commitment? (You’ll need it on Day 1)
  2. Imagination? (You’ll need it on Day 15 when you think “geez am I only half way there?”)
  3. Self Forgiveness? (you’ll need it for day 27 when you think “I’ll never have another good idea ever!”)
  4. Finger on the pulse of your inner child? (You’ll need it every day, that’s what turns great ideas into books)

When I start making art or writing a story I have an external and internal checklist. The external list is the one that helps me procrastinate:

  1. Do I have all my other work done? (No? Oh well, I have to finish THAT first)
  2. Do I have good music or a radio program to listen to? (No? Oh well, I can’t possibly work without proper inspiration)
  3. Do I have time to work right now? (No? Oh well, I shouldn’t even start if I’m going to be interrupted!)

Kooky-Crumbs LKT-cover-for-evite

You get the idea. If I let that checklist run things most of my art would never get off the ground. I worked on THE LITTLE KIDS’ TABLE and KOOKY CRUMBS almost simultaneously for a year. Illustrating two books with a huge cast of characters while balancing my other illustrations, writing projects, and life in general was a turbulent journey (I wrote a post about my time management here.) But even with the best time management, I learned that my illustrations would be ho-hum and my effort wasted if I couldn’t get to the beginning of my own runway. Where everything was very, very still. Where it’s just me and the artwork. Me and my characters. Me and the brush and the paper and the color. In that place the funniest, saddest, angriest, happiest, most memorable ideas and images came out onto my drawing table. While working on both books I developed my internal checklist. It’s a little different. It has only one question:

  1. Can I reach beyond the distractions of now, beyond my brain saying “that’s a stupid idea”, beyond worrying if I’m good enough, beyond worrying if anyone else will like it, all the way to the place where I’m telling the story that only I can tell?

PiBoIdMo-ers, your mission on this flight is to complete that checklist. At your final destination you’ll be greeted by a gaggle of brand new characters.They are your BEST ideas and they are waiting for you. Ready for take-off? Then let’s push that throttle forward.

Mary Reaves Uhles has illustrated THE LITTLE KID’S TABLE by Mary Ann McCabe Riehle (Sleeping Bear 2015); KOOKY CRUMBS by J. Patrick Lewis (Kane Miller 2016); and the adventure series, BEYOND THE GRAVE, by Dottie Enderle (ABDO Magic Wagon Press 2013). Mary has twice been awarded the Grand Prize for Illustration from the SCBWI Midsouth Conference and her piece, EAT was a finalist in the 2014 SCBWI Bologna Book Fair Gallery. Prior to beginning her career as a freelance illustrator, Mary worked as an animator on projects for Warner Brothers and Fisher-Price Interactive. She serves as the Illustrator Coordinator for the Midsouth region of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and lives with her family in Nashville, Tennessee. Since creating characters and stories is her favorite thing in the world (even more than mocha fudge ice cream) she feels mighty lucky to do it every day in her hilltop studio. Find her online at and Twitter @maryuhles and

PrizeDetails (2)

Mary Uhles is giving away an illustrator portfolio critique AND a copy of her newest picture book, THE LITTLE KIDS’ TABLE. These are two prizes for two winners!

Leave a comment for a chance to win. One comment per person, please. (In your comment, please note “CRITIQUE” if you would like to be considered for the illustrator prize.)

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

  • You have registered for PiBoIdMo.
  • You have commented ONCE ONLY on today’s post.
  • You have completed the PiBoIdMo challenge.

Good luck, everyone!