I’ve always been drawn to the outside world. As a child I spent as much time in the woods and fields surrounding home as I could. This landscape inspires the work I create today because it’s part of my heart for this lifetime.
Around age five I recall drawing a mallard duck, complete with black curly tail, and was very proud of it. At age eight I drew a whitetail deer for a birthday gift to my brother. When I was ten I wanted an Audubon Field Guide to North American Wildflowers book, and still have it today. As I grew into my teens, I carried around a sketchbook, drew plants, and looked them up later to identify them.
In high school, I took as many art classes as I could, attended Heartwood College of Art during vacations and showed my work at local art festivals. My Dad built a display for me and made a sign. At 14 I won an honorable mention for an oil painting of a lighthouse and sold it for $100. I was on top of the world.
It was never a question to me about what I would do after high school—I would go to art college. There was no plan B. In 2000 I began my college career at Savannah College of Art and Design. In 2001 I transferred closer to home to Rhode Island School of Design.
In 2003 I was married and all my plans to become a working artist were derailed as domestic abuse took hold. Though I still graduated with a BFA in Illustration from RISD in 2004, I fought hard for that diploma. Starting right after classes ended, for an entire decade I was confined to the walls we lived in, only venturing outside when the person abusing me would bring me out. My life has been forever altered by this experience and the innocent child that roamed the wildflower fields is gone. My heart though, has found a way to be resilient, and though it bears scars, it is strong. My desire to observe and create something beautiful never left. I would secretly paint or write in journals while he was gone for work. (I have 18 journals from those years). When he came home, I would quickly pick up, for fear of the consequences seen doing something that didn’t serve him. I had learned how to survive, and raise two young daughters, while teaching them how to survive in that environment as well, until one day, I knew we wouldn’t be able to survive much longer. On March 6, 2013, we left, with the help of family and local law enforcement, and recovery began.
Recovery is still ongoing. Making art and writing stories is part of that process for me, for us. I love spending time outside, painting, and writing. Sharing what I love about nature with others brings me joy and I hope it brings you joy as well. In my work, I long to encourage empathy for the natural world, and in doing so, empathy for each other.
We can learn a lot from nature. It goes through seasons of change, rest, growth, and renewal. Birds and butterflies make journeys over thousands and miles, plants tarnish with brown leaves and grow vibrant again each spring, frogs freeze underground, coming back to life when the sun warms the earth. We too, can survive like they do, and then thrive like they do as well.
In 2014 we moved to Caring Unlimited and they helped get back on our feet by providing an apartment to live in, support, encouragement, and resources. In 2014 I also created a painting for the Maine Duck Stamp and won. Later that summer returned to school to pursue my master’s degree at Hollins University study children’s literature and illustration, bringing my four and six-year-old daughters with me to Virginia. I couldn’t afford it, especially since I had left our previous life with no funds at all, but I knew it was what I needed to do. My family and friends fought to help us succeed. I applied for grants, scholarships and loans, and somehow found a way. After five summers of driving back and forth between Maine and Virginia, I graduated with an MFA in Children’s Literature and Illustration, with a 4.0 GPA and several awards for my work. While at Hollins I worked on my craft, writing picture books and middle grade work, created illustrations, and wrote academic papers.
In 2018 I signed with my literary agent, Wendi Gu, while she was at Janklow and Nesbit Associates. In spring 2019, we sold my illustrated middle grade novel in verse, THE ROAD TO AFTER, to Nancy Paulsen at Penguin Random House to be released in spring 2022. I followed Wendi to Sanford J. Greenburger Associates and I’m currently working on picture books, more middle grade novels, and I recently learned the art of surface pattern design with Bonnie Christine. I continue to develop my skills as an author, illustrator, designer, and citizen naturalist. When I’m not creating, I’m a homeschooling mom of two girls, part-time children’s librarian, birder, gardener, feral cat rescuer, and butterfly conservationist.
My hope is to share my love of the natural world and show you how resilient, strong, and beautiful it is, and that you have all of those things inside of you, too.