Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Big Announcement!

I have an agent!!

 After many, many years of illustrating, writing, revising, and rejections, more revising, more illustrating, more writing, I am beyond excited to announce that I am now being represented by Rebecca Sherman of Writers House for all of my book related projects!

It was through my fantastic critique group, The Girllustrators, that I first made the connection with Rebecca. As a group, we send out one collective postcard mailer a year to various agents, art directors, and editors. This year, our postcards were Texas themed recipe cards, and it was through this mailer that Rebecca first contacted me. Since then, Rebecca has been working with me to polish several of my projects, and her advice has been tremendous. I'm grateful to have found an agent who invests so much time and thought into my projects.

Thank you so much Rebecca and Andrea for working with me and my little projects. I'm looking forward to being part of such a wonderful team and community of authors and illustrators! 

nessa dee

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Favorite Children's Books of 2016

I am super exited to be joining a wonderful group of authors and bloggers today to discuss our favorite children's books of 2016! Each of us has written about one book; simply follow the links included at the bottom of each of our posts to see the remaining recommended list. You can also find out more about who we are at the bottom of this post. 

And now, I present to you...

If there's one thing that can make or break a book's standing on my personal list of favorites, it's the book becoming a preferred read of my preschooler. If any book can survive night after night of multiple readings, and I don't end up hiding it under a rug, then it's gotta be top notch. Horrible Bear! by Ame Dyckman and illustrated by Zachariah O'Hora not only survived a potential life of rug exile, I found myself suggesting it when my four year old ventured to stray from tradition.

Horrible Bear! begins when Bear breaks Girl's kite. The incident sends Girl stomping away screaming HORRIBLE BEAR! But bear didn't mean to break Girl's kite, and this unfair proclamation sends bear into a tirade of his own, until he has a "Horrible Bear idea." He stomps after the girl to show her what a horrible bear truly looks like, but just as he reaches her house, something happens that takes all the horrible right out of the bear... Girl apologizes.

A mere 258 words, Dyckman packs a tremendous amount of emotion into this story of forgiveness and acceptance. Every word in this simple story is used to great effect, and the fun language repetition makes for a lively read aloud. Accentuated by O'Hora's expressive illustrations, the story's emotional outbursts are felt just as much in the bold black brushstrokes, the girl's mop of red, curly hair, and the bright orange of the bear.  O'Hora's jewel toned color palette give the illustrations a richness, and his creative use of vignettes echo the parallel storylines.

Together, Dyckman and O'Hora have delivered an adorable, offbeat story with a lovely sentiment. Horrible Bear! has not only captured my four year old's heart, it's charmed this reader enough to keep it at the top of our nightly reading list! Plus, I kind of like getting to read in a Horrible Bear voice.

nessa dee

Ready for the rest of our 2016 recommendations? Just follow the links! 

So...who the heck are these suggestion-making people? 

Cate Berry is an author, performer, songwriter, and teacher. She's the author of two original shows, one of which (Dish) was produced at the Long Center for Performing Arts in 2014. Cate's debut picture book, Penguin and Tiny Shrimp Don't Do Bedtime will be available in Spring 2018 (Balzar + Bray).

Charnaie Gordon, a computer programmer by trade and a Distinguished Toastmaster, is the blogger behind the popular Here Wee Read blog, where you'll find tips and suggestions for finding the best children's books, and be inspired to make the most of your read aloud time, however much that is.

Danna Smith is the author of many books for children, including her most recent fiction titles, Swallow the Leader and Arctic White, as well as numerous non-fiction titles, such as Balloon Trees and the forthcoming The Hawk of the Castle: A Story of Medieval Falconry (Candlewick, 2017).

Eileen Manes is a writer, an artist and the blogger behind Pickle Corn Jam, a blog about books and writing for children of all ages. She was recently nominated as a finalist for the SCBWI-Austin Cynthia Leitich Smith Writing Mentor Award, and her current projects include picture books, a middle grade novel and a novel for adults, all in various stages of completion.

Henry L. Herz is the author of numerous books for children, including Mabel and the Queen of DreamsLittle Red Cuttlefish and the forthcoming Dinosaur Pirates (Sterling, 2017). He's a regular panelist at conventions, including San Diego Comic-Con and WonderCon, and has been a guest blogger on several blogs, including Tara Lazar's amazing Picture Book Idea Month (PiBoIdMo) and Angie Karcher's Rhyming Picture Book Month (RhyPiBoMo).

Karen Santhanam is a writer, an artist, a blogger and host of the popular Storybook Spotlight podcast. Storybook Spotlight is about reading with kids, children’s books and family fun, including interviews with children’s books authors, illustrators, librarians, teachers, preschool folks and friends. She was also recently nominated as a finalist for the SCBWI-Austin Cynthia Leitich Smith Writing Mentor Award.

Kell Andrews writes novels and picture books for children and nonfiction for adults. A little bit of magic helps with both. Her first novel, Deadwood, was published in 2014 and her debut picture book, Mira Forecasts the Future, came out this year (2016, Sterling).

Keyosha Atwater is an avid reader, Instagramer and blogger. When she isn't reading to her own kiddos or reviewing books on Instagram @weebooklovers, you'll find her working on her brand new blog, Wee Book Lovers, where she'll be reviewing even more books and suggesting the best of the best kid-tested, mom-approved books to try with your own family.

Liz Garton Scanlon is the author of numerous beloved books for young people, including the highly-acclaimed, Caldecott-honored picture book, All the World, and her debut novel for middle grade readers, The Great Good Summer. She's also a poet, a teacher and a frequent, popular presenter at schools, libraries and conferences.

Vanessa Roeder (Nessa Dee) is an illustrator, painter and self-proclaimed crafty mess-maker. She's worked as a muralist and made art for magazines, children's books and homes around the world. She's taught art, writes stories, has been featured in Highlights Magazine and on Apartment Therapy and was the grand prize winner in the Austin SCBWI 2016 portfolio contest.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Mole on a Scooter

All he needs is a pair of glasses! I’ve been challenging myself to paint animals other than my usual list of jungle and woodland creatures. Mr. Mole popped up in one of my sketches, so he found his way onto a canvas via little red scooter.  And he doesn’t seem to mind that I dressed him in clashing patterns.

nessa dee

Wednesday, August 10, 2016


Better late than never.

My baby boy turned four at the end of July. FOUR! I missed doing his birthday post because we were traveling on the big day, one of four trips we took last month. It's been a busy July, and things haven't slowed down for August, but I'll tell you more about it in my next post. For now, a very late birthday post, just in case August ever looks back at these and wonders why Mom forgot to wish him a happy fourth birthday.

Little boy...what can I say about you. You have enriched our lives so much. Your independence and confidence amazes me. You "know" things even if you don't know things. You have a hunger to learn, and when you set your mind to achieving something, you will see it through until you're satisfied. You have already taught yourself how to write and are a confident speller. Your most recent letter reads DEOL AUGUST HABTPY (Dear August, Happy Birthday).

You seem to be following in your sister's footsteps when it comes to music. Thanks to her, you've learned how to play several songs including Silent Night, House of Gold, and Chopsticks, and you took it upon yourself to learn March from Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker. (Thank you Little Einstein's)
You are quite the ham, and are learning the art of making jokes, though, like your spelling, your jokes don't always make sense. Lock-lock jokes are among your favorites, and the punch line is always "Yes."
We laugh every time.
 Sweet boy, what a blessing you are. Though you are four, going on 24, you are and always will be my baby.
I love you so much.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Reluctant Swimmer

It started with a sketch...

She's one of many swimmers I've sketched lately, but I just loved her 'attitude,' so to speak.
So, out came the paper, Mod Podge, and paint, and I set to work bringing this little sketch to life.

 I spend a lot of time picking the right papers to use in my art. The paper combinations might look random and haphazard, which in some cases it is, but in most cases, there's a lot of thought as to which patterns and colors I'll use. For example, in a travel themed piece of art, I might layer my canvas with maps and old travel adds, or I might add recipe pages for a food themed painting. In all of my paintings and illustrations I try to use general, but bold patterns that have stark, contrasting colors to base my canvases because I know that once the paint is layered on, only hints of these patterns will sneak through, so the bolder the pattern, the more likely it won't be completely obscured.  Once the background is finished, I sketch out my subject and get to painting.

Then comes the fun part... dressing the subject.
 I generally have an idea for a color, or a particular look I'm going for, and I pick out a bunch of papers that I think might work. If I'm painting a bird it would be the feathers, or a robot, his metal casing, but in this case, it was this girl's swimwear. I thought I wanted a navy blue swimsuit, so I picked several papers that fit the bill, along with a few other colors with classic patterns. I held each paper up to the painting and tried to imagine the finished piece. Once I narrowed the papers down to a shortlist, I cut out the suit in each color, laid them out, and photographed them. The cutting was through trial and error. I started big, and trimmed it down to fit. If I'm illustrating a piece that requires more intricate scissor work, I'll have a detailed sketch and trace the images on my paper before making the cut, but I thought I could eyeball this one.

I had to call in the jury to help me decide the winning suit...

Then it was glued down, sealed and given some extra details before the I called this reluctant swimmer finished.


nessa dee

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Austin SCBWI Header

As part of the prize package for winning the Austin Writer's and Illustrators Working Conference portfolio showcase, I was given the opportunity to redesign the Austin SCBWI website header! It was a wonderful opportunity, and I'm beyond excited to see the header up. This was the final design:

To see the design on the Austin SCBWI website, click here.

A big thank you to Austin SCBWI for giving me this opportunity, and to Sam Clark and Amy Farrier for all of your help! And thanks again to Candlewick Art Director Kristen Nobles, and illustrator Molly Idle for awarding me with the grand prize. I'm still giddy from the conference!

nessa dee

Saturday, June 18, 2016


I love quilts. There's something so comforting and inviting about these hand-stitched blankets. It's not just their utilitarian purpose, to provide warmth, it's all of the love and care that goes into their creation. I have fond memories of watching my grandmother and great-grandmother putting hours and hours of labor into their quilts. My favorites were always the ones that were pieced out of the leftovers from previous quilts, or old shirts that found new life within the patched blanket. Those quilts often times had crazy color schemes which fantastically clashed, but that's what I loved about them. They were energetic and funky, and bright.  
Gangy (my grandmother) always kept a box full of scraps in her quilting studio for her grandkids. She taught her grandchildren how to thread a needle, piece the scraps, and hand stitch them together to create a quilt that I'm sure any tiny creature would have marveled at. I think about the patience she showed when teaching us each and every little step. I often think about those moments when I'm frustrated in teaching my own children tedious tasks. It takes a lot of patience to make a quilt. It takes a lot of patience to teach your children. And I'm not always the most patient person. Sometimes, like having to rip a seam and start over, I have to take pause, and start again with my children. But hopefully, with each little stitch sewn, each little patched seam, each little lesson taught, some crazy, beautiful, fantastically bright thing will emerge.

nessa dee

Monday, June 6, 2016

Revisions, Revisions, and More Revisions

I finally finished revisions on one of my picture books over the weekend. It's a simple story, wordless, yet full of surprises. It relies solely on the interaction between the two characters pictured above, and one object that ties them together in a unique way. The idea for the story came out of a conference workshop assignment to tell a sequential story in six or more images and attach them together, acpprdiban style. Once I started, I couldn't stop. I think I ended up with 20 images, and at the end of that breakout session, I was told that I should do something with the story. So I set to work, redesigning the characters and simplifying the entire look of the book.

When I first started attending SCBWI Conferences five years ago and heard writers and illustrators talk about revising their stories and pictures ten, twenty, thirty times, I was a bit overwhelmed by the thought of such a daunting task, especially having written stories and created illustrations which I loved. It's hard to want to change something you're so fond of, even harder when it took so much effort to finish it in the first place. Add to that a head full of stories and the time limits of being a stay-at-home, homeschooling mom, and having a finished dummy book meant I could jump into the next project.

Fast forward five years... to this project. It's a project I started over a year ago, not too long ago in the realms of publishing, but in that year, I've drawn and redrawn, and revised, and revised again, and again. I've redesigned the bear multiple times, which meant redrawing him on every page of the book. I've thumbnailed out this entire book, at least ten, maybe twenty times. In one of those rethinks of the story, I came up with an entirely new story, a sequel if you will, which has been revised several times.  I realized that it's not enough to just get it done, and move on to the next big project, it's about taking a project you love and polishing it, refining it, making it stronger. Yes, it can be a daunting task. There are some days that I swear I'll never draw another bear again, but then I decide his expression could be tweaked or his posture could be changed, and it's back to the drawing board. Am I completely finished with revisions? No. If it gets picked up at a publishing company, it will likely go through many more revisions. But I'm no longer overwhelmed by such a task. When I look back at all the changes this story has gone through from the initial sketch that sparked the idea to where it is today, I'm quite proud of what it's become. I know any future changes will make me love it even more, and hopefully, someone else will love it, too.

nessa dee

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Cloud 9

This past weekend I attended the Society of Children's Book Writer's and Illustrators working conference in Austin, and what an amazing two days. I've been attending this conference, as well as the SCBWI Houston conference every year since 2013. Each experience has been unique and an integral part of my illustration journey. I have gleaned so much from the numerous authors, illustrators, editors, art directors, and agents that share their knowledge at these conferences. I've also found a wonderful community of authors and illustrators who are a great source of encouragement and inspiration.

This year I left the conference on cloud nine. Not only did I come away with a head chock full of new ideas, but I also took home the grand prize in the portfolio showcase! I am beyond excited and want to say a huge thank you to the judges, Candlewick Art Director Kristen Nobles, and Caldecott winning author/illustrator Molly Idle, for awarding me with such an honor, especially in a region that is full of extremely talented illustrators. So thank you, thank you, thank you.

And now it's back to the drawing board to take everything I soaked up at the conference and let it imbue my art.

nessa dee

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Life According to Gus

:: Can you take off my seat belt? [Referring to his belted pants]

:: Gus: I spy something blue it's Daddy?
    Me: Is it Daddy?
   Gus: Yes! Yea!! Good job!!
:: Audrie: I spy something silly.
   Gus [starts dancing]: Is it me?

:: This is the one last time bite. [His version of "one more bite"]

:: After taking a sip of his first ever Cherry Limeade...
   Gus: Mommy, this burns my throat! Here you try...
           [I take a sip]
   Gus: See how it burns my throat?
           [I take another sip]
   Gus: NO! Only one drink!

::  While using the bathroom...
     Gus: Mommy, I'm a dump truck.
      Me: How are you a dump truck?
     Gus: See, I dump water out of my penis, and dirt out of my bottom. :/

:: I'm going to measure my foot. [Steps on scale] My foot is 40.

:: Momma, close your eyes. I've got a surprise for you. [Leads me into his bedroom.]
   Just one second...
   Just two one seconds...
   It's going to be really great for you....
   and open!
  [Shows me a train which he proceeds to wreck]

:: Look at that bird, Momma! It's a Lockingbird!

This boy...he certainly keeps us on our toes, and entertained.


nessa dee

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Fish Ice Cream

This illustration was somewhat inspired by a story my uncle told of trying fish flavored ice cream in Mexico. I'm can imagine that ice cream vendor was very popular with the towns cats.

nessa dee

Tuesday, April 12, 2016


Today, this handsome face, my firstborn son leaves the realm of single digits, and enters the uncharted territory of double digits. 

Finn, you have a sweet, tender heart. You love to make jokes and you have an amazing memory. Your conversations are sprinkled with large, complicated words, which are used correctly about 50% of the time. You can be extremely confident and extremely shy. You are the ham in our family sandwich. You are my hugger, and I love being on the receiving end. 

Happy birthday, my favorite middle child! 
I love you so very, very much.

Friday, March 4, 2016


A step-by-step picture progression of my process. The illustration is for my latest picture book dummy, and I'm trying to play around with the style for the book. There are a lot of tricky scenes to illustrate, so the style has to work within the context. Hopefully, I'll have it figured out soon, and can start the submission process!

nessa dee

Monday, January 11, 2016

New Work

Here's a sample book cover I did for a project. Although it didn't get used, I still really like it, so it's going in my portfolio.


nessa dee

Friday, January 8, 2016



My baby girl turned 15 yesterday. 
Be still my heart. 
I want to scoop her up and hold onto her for as long as I can. 
I know, at this point, things move at light speed until you take a breath, and wave goodbye as your child leaves the nest. 
Be still my heart.

Audrie, you are beautiful inside and out. You're kind and hilarious, sweet and witty, smart and ever so talented. I'm amazed by you each and everyday.

Happy Birthday, lovely lady!



Monday, January 4, 2016

Hello 2016!

Did I just type 2016? It feels like we just rang in 2015, I blinked, and the year's over. I'm still writing my list of resolutions for last year, and we're four days into January '16. What the what?! A lot happened in 2015, some of which I documented on this here blog, and many of which I didn't (cue the guilt trip), but one of my goals this new year is to blog least once a week to be exact. I know, I know, you'll believe it when you see it, but I've got a new trick (laptop) up my sleeve (on my lap) that's going to help with the execution of that goal! No more late night internal struggles deciding whether or not I should drag myself upstairs and bask in the glow of the screen, holed up in the computer nook whilst the rest of my family is gathered in the living room, or sleep deprivation threatens my brain function. Nope, now I can take those internal struggles with me wherever I go, and find new excuses to interfere with blogging!

Here are some highlights from 2015 before I blinked, and the year was over...

In January, Audrie celebrated her 14th birthday just two weeks after Christmas.  We also took the older two kids skiing for the first time, and ourselves skiing for the first time in 15 years. Now if there's two things I really don't like, it's heights and being cold, so you can imagine the stress I felt in the weeks leading up to this trip. I literally had a stomachache for two weeks. We skied Winter Park, Colorado, and the kids had a blast. In fact, they had so much fun, we're going again this year. Hello stress, my old friend.


February I attended the Austin SCBWI Conference, and gained some much needed confidence in my work, and had an amazing critique with picture book author/illustrator Tom Lichtenheld.


March meant a week of SXSW, an amazing, yet extremely exhausting experience. The highlight? Seeing Spoon perform, up close, and hanging out with the Mowgli's  before they took to the stage.


Finn turned 9 in April, we celebrated Easter on the farm, and I  attended another SCBWI conference in Houston and heard the delightful Kelly Light speak about her journey into children's book publishing.



You might have heard about our vacation to the Cayman Islands back in May, and Jonathan's passport fiasco. I'm not sure if enough time has passed yet for this experience to be funny.


In June, we celebrated Jonathan's 35th birthday, and we welcomed a new cousin-in-law to our crazy family. Thankfully, our nutty antics didn't scare Lindsay away. In fact, she just jumped right into the insanity and made herself at home. 


Towards the close of June, our family suffered enormous heartache with the loss of my cousin, McLean. We grew up together, half of my childhood we lived right next door to each other. After high school, Mac went into the Marines, and traveled the world, and although we weren't as close in our adult life, those childhood roots ran deep. It's so hard to accept that he's gone. I've been so amazed, though, by the strength of his parents, sister, and fiance'  through this grief. Even though we miss him terribly, we find solace in the fact that we'll see him again. Mac, you were, are, and will forever be in our hearts.


In July, we watched fireworks, went to a long overdue family reunion, and my baby boy celebrated his third birthday. Oh, August, you've added so much joy to our lives.


In August, Jonathan and I went on a spontaneous trip to Miami to celebrate 15 years of marriage, and also surprised my brother to bid him farewell before he moved to Mexico for a couple of years. "Cause, you know...two birds.


September meant the start of school, and venturing into the uncharted waters of homeschooling through high school. Sure, thousands of others have already made that journey, but it feels so scary when it's your own child. Audrie started taking some classes through a school called One Day Academy, and I'm happy to report that she's flourishing. Finn continued in Classical Conversations, and all three kids and I are still involved in our homeschool co-op. 

By the end of September, I finished illustrating another picture book, Varla's Gift, by Jeff R. Smith. It's now published and available for purchase.


In October, Audrie attended her first homecoming dance, we went to the Space Center in Houston, and I started taking a picture book writing class with the lovely and amazing Liz Garton Scanlon. If you are an aspiring picture book writer, I highly recommend this class at the Writing Barn.  Plus, we dressed up for Halloween.


November meant the start of phase two of a giant mural project for my church and the completion of illustrations for another picture book, which I will post more about once it's published. We made a trip to my hometown, I wrapped up my writing classes, celebrated my 29th birthday for the seventh year in a row, and dove head first into the holidays.


In December, Finn competed with a team of friends in the First Lego League Lego robotics competition. I am happy to report that they advanced to regionals!
Audrie and Finn wrapped up a year of piano lessons with beautiful performances at their Christmas recital. 
We celebrated no less than six Christmases, some loud and crazy, some calm and quiet, but all worth it to spend precious time with family. 
*blink, blink*
And finally, we rang in the new year with friends...dinner and dancing.
*blink, blink, blink*
...and here we are, four days into January, and I'm still trying to finish my New Years resolutions for 2015. 
I don't want to blink and have another year zoom by. My main goal for 2016 is to be present and enjoy my time spent with these precious three...

Happy New Year! I hope the months ahead are filled with an abundance of joy!

nessa dee