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leezadancesby Leeza Hernandez

Do you mutter the words “Yes, but…” when someone suggests you take ten minutes for yourself? Many people I know cannot seem to muster a simple “yes” or “great idea, I think I’ll do that” then go do it. That big ol’ but (and life) keeps getting in the way. Dang that BUT!

Imagine, though, ten whole minutes just for yourself—to do whatever you feel like—not reading emails, doing chores or running errands—something special. What does that look like?

Close your eyes and take one long, satisfying breath. Imagine what you would do with ten minutes. What is it that you truly love to do? Where do you see yourself? Are you dancing? Singing? Lying on a beach? Getting a back rub? Making art? … Writing?

Typical responses to the ‘what-would-you-do’ question revolve around creativity. Yet, human conditioning suggests that taking time for creativity is when you have nothing else to do, or that you should be doing something more practical, or that it’s a forbidden guilty pleasure…oh, how selfish!

If the human conditioning changed, there’s a chance the habit of saying “Yes, but” could change, too. So, instead of feeling like you don’t deserve, you happily invest in your creativity time and subsequently open up a channel of beautiful inspiration and ideas—a new story, perhaps.

You wouldn’t be participating in PiBoIdMo if you weren’t creative. Writing (or illustrating) comes from another place. I call this place the Creative Self. Some refer to it as ‘The Well,’ or ‘Sea of Creativity,’ or ‘Happy Place.’ It’s where your ideas manifest from a deeper part of who you are, emanating from your heart and your soul. You have a calling or desire within you to bring your message to the world through story (visual or written). You cannot explain it, you just know it’s there—you feel it.

Some researchers consider that repeating a behavior for 21-30 consecutive days is a habit. So why not make ten minutes a day a habit? That’s the month of November right there. You may already do this, and that’s awesome. I have to remind myself to take the time because I easily get caught up in life filled with a job, family, friends, NJ SCBWI, book deadlines, school visits, etc. It’s exhausting. Yet, when I do take that time to paint, sketch, write and be creative, I feel reenergized, spontaneous, excited and suddenly new ideas begin to flow.

smileytimerTaking time out might seem difficult at first, but as mentioned before, think of it as an investment for your Self AND your writing/illustrating career. Here are some simple ways to find ten-minute pockets to get you started:

  • Wake up 10-30 minutes earlier than usual and paint/write while still in a dreamy state
  • Take a break from online activity (after you read the daily PiBoIdMo posts of course!)
  • Take the train instead of driving
  • Arrive ten minutes early for school pick up and stay in the quiet of the car.
  • Switch off the TV
  • Set a timer for household chores. (Instead of spending 30 minutes cleaning the bathroom, do it in 20. It’s great because you’re challenged to work faster to beat the clock!)
  • Go to bed 10-15 minutes early, relax, let go of the day and imagine yourself doing what you truly love to do.

Affirmations are powerful, self-appointed statements that can help condition the subconscious mind in a positive way to accomplish goals or boost self-perception. You can write them down, pin them in your creative space and say them aloud every day. Feel free to use any of the affirmations listed below or create your own:

  • I am creative ten minutes a day
  • My creativity brings me new and brilliant ideas
  • When I am creative I nurture my soul
  • Creativity fosters my imagination
  • My creativity comes from my heart with love
  • Creativity is a gift that I cherish ten minutes a day
  • When I write/illustrate, I bring my joy to the world

PiBoIdMo is all about ideas. Ideas come from your creative thinking. Creativity comes from the very depths of your soul. It’s who you are. Nurture your soul and ideas will flow abundantly. Plus, you are a beautiful giver—to your spouses/partners, families, co-workers, readers, community, environment—you makes others feel good. Please don’t forget give to your Self and how good that can make you feel, too. All it takes is ten minutes a day!

neverplaymusicLeeza Hernandez is a children’s book author and illustrator and volunteers as Regional Advisor for the New Jersey chapter of SCBWI. Her latest illustrated book NEVER PLAY MUSIC RIGHT NEXT TO THE ZOO, written by John Lithgow, released October 22.


Leave ONE COMMENT ONLY to be entered into TWO prize drawings!

The first prize is a copy of NEVER PLAY MUSIC RIGHT NEXT TO THE ZOO signed by both Leeza and John Lithgow!

The second prize is a 20-minute Skype session with Leeza to read and discuss her new book, plus a Q&A!

Both 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 on this 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!

The countdown is on, PiBo peeps!

In a few days, the challenge of producing one idea per day for the month of November will be upon us. Bring it!

If, like me, you’ve been stuck in a rut lately, this is the best time to blast the cobwebs from your brain and set to task. So…

  • Creative space clean and tidy: Check!
  • Pencil sharp, sketchbook open: Check!
  • Ready to draw: Ch … wait! Draw? Isn’t PiBoIdMo for writers?

No. That’s the beauty of PiBoIdMo. You can be an illustrator and still participate—heck, you don’t have to write at all—you can sketch your ideas.

A doodle can develop into a character sketch that turns into a scene, which might eventually become a concept for a book—it’s a great way to flesh out story ideas.

And doodles don’t always have to become an entire picture book either. Portfolio or promotional pieces can happen this way, too. So, it’s a three-fer—bonus!

As an illustrator who likes to write, but struggles with words, I go to what comes easiest first. Sketching. No thinking. No pressure. Just me, my pencil and a blank page. That’s why I am looking forward to PiBoIdMo.

However, even the best of intentions can go stale if the motivation well has dried up. Obviously that’s what PiBoIdMo’s for, too, but what if that’s not enough or you simply have blank-page syndrome, and you’re still stuck?

Get out! Go on, you heard me, grab your sketchbook and leave the house. Here’s some additional ways to kick start that motivation and prepare for PiBoIdMo:

SHOPOHOLIC: Pouring over the classics in your favorite library or bookstore is an obvious choice, but ever thought to mosey through a shop you might not otherwise frequent—certainly not for inspiration, anyway? Pet stores are choc full of fascination, especially those exotic ones. Tarantula watching might trigger a Halloween tale, reptile research could spark an alphabet book or snake sketching might lead you to that perfect promo card. Other stores to consider include: antiques, costume, hobbyist, candy or maybe try a farmer’s or fish market.

SHOW UP: The Original Art Show at the Society of Illustrators in New York City is an amazing exhibit that showcases some of the best picture book art of the year under one roof. Not only can you get up close and personal with the real art but most of the selected picture books are on display too. You can see how the art was used, and check out the story at the same time. The OAS times perfectly with PiBoIdMo. If you can’t make it to Manhattan, visit the website and check out the featured artists here. This year’s show runs from October 24 to December 22, 2012.

TAKE A HIKE: Whether you live near a beach, park, forest, farm, or town square, going for a walk is healthy for PiBo mind and body. If time is precious in your daily schedule, allow yourself 30 minutes once a week to walk off some PiBo stalemate, but remember to open your eyes. Look at your surroundings. Really look. Notice colors, human interaction or simply cloud watch. Don’t force it, just watch and let the mind capture moments. It might take a few tries to get all that chatter out of your head, but don’t forget your sketchbook and pencil for when it clears!

SEASON’S GREETINGS: Halloween hangovers, corn maze castaways, apple bobbing, pumpkin picking, and Thanksgiving get-togethers are all perfect fodder for inspiring new ideas. Put your observational powers to the test and see if you can put a new spin on time-old themes. Let the fall season motivate new ideas!

Music is my main motivator indoors. I jump up and dance, and don’t care how ridiculous I might look. I do it to release energy, loosen limbs, and rev up the creative force within.

Heading outdoors motivates me in more internally charged ways. When I let go internally, the ideas flow effortlessly. All I have to do is catch them with sketches, doodles and scribbled notes. I’m stoked for this year’s PiBoIdMo, motivated and raring to go! What’s motivating you?

Leeza Hernandez lives in central New Jersey. Her debut-authored picture book DOG GONE! released in June with a companion book CAT NAPPED due for release in Spring 2014. She is currently illustrating John Lithgow’s latest picture book NEVER PLAY MUSIC RIGHT NEXT TO THE ZOO, due for release in Fall 2013. Leeza is also the newly-appointed Regional Advisor for New Jersey SCBWI. Follow her on Twitter @leezaworks.

Listen up!

Leeza has some SWAG for you!

There’s a DOG GONE! goody bag including a bookmark, postcard, signed book, signed poster, and an original signed lineart drawing from the book!

Plus there’s two paperback copies of EAT YOUR MATH HOMEWORK! One for you, one to give as a gift!


Just leave a comment to enter. A winner will be randomly selected one week from today.

Illustration by Leeza Hernandez

Whistle while you write? You might not want to put your lips together and blow, but maybe a little music could lighten your mood…and your mind.

Last Sunday at the NJ-SCBWI picture book intensive, illustrator Leeza Hernandez led writers in a creativity exercise by playing random musical selections. The idea was to help us generate ideas. (Sound familiar?)

Leeza played two-minute tunes, and during each piece, she asked us to think of a single story element and write whatever came to mind.

So let’s try Leeza’s exercise today!

Go to

Enter an artist or song. A new music station will be created for you, with songs similar in style to what you submitted. (Aim for instrumental, although music with lyrics will likely pop up. I entered “Vivaldi.”)

Alternatively, you can choose a genre station: classical, blues, dance and a dozen others.

Set your timer for two minutes. As the first song plays, focus on element #1 and write. Don’t stop until the timer goes off.

Next, click the [ |>> ] button on the Pandora player to switch to the next song. Now focus on #2 for two minutes.

New song, #3…and so on…

1. Character
2. Scene
3. Supporting Cast
4. Conflict
5. Emotion
6. Resolution

Leeza’s sixth instrumental did not conjure up a resolution for me. Instead, I envisioned a boy on a farm at sunset, herding all the rowdy animals into the barn for the night, only to have them escape again.

However, the boy in the musical mayhem was the character I created during the first piece—and I didn’t even realize it until I was done writing. I subconsciously felt a connection between the two songs.

Do I have a story? Maybe. Maybe not. But I do have some ideas that floated out of thin air. (Truth be told, I had just received an advance prototype of Michael Sussman’s IdeaCatcher.)

Being an illustrator, Leeza sketched her ideas as the music played. For #6, she drew herself jumping up and down, holding her published book.

Keep working on your ideas, PiBoIdMo’ers, and that image may be you, too!

So, how’s it going today? Care to share your musical thoughts?

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