Tag Archives: acrobatics

In Which I Doubt Occasionally

20 May
obviously paying close attention in class

obviously paying close attention in class

University life is quickly coming to an end for the summer, which means I will be more active on my blog in the next few months. Hurray! University has been great to me and just earlier, walking through the quiet campus, I felt very happy to be a part of this place. I think it was definitely the right decision to come here.

But I am not without my doubts. Truth be told – especially when I hear about how amazingly well my friend Ben is doing. He moved to Berlin a year ago to do an internship with a StartUp and has been doing amazingly for himself since then. He sends me all his updates and I am overwhelmed and proudly happy for him – with a human tinge of envy. If you want to know what Ben’s been up, check out this great interview he gave for Die Zeit, which really explains it best: http://www.zeit.de/studium/uni-leben/2014-04/selbststudium-education-hacking

I know it’s normal to ask myself if, maybe, just maybe, I couldn’t be using this time better: What if I were focussing on my writing instead of being at university? What if I were giving readings night after night instead?

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Where would I be instead? Could I achieve more?

These are very normal doubts and I am filled with them occasionally – but they are never strong enough for me to consider packing my bags. I love everything my university life has to offer, from the studying to the carefree enjoyment of life (which, if we’re calling a duck a duck, is terribly relaxing after constantly worrying how to pay the rent… suffer the antagonism of being the black sheep in the family who just won’t get a normal job… wonder how to get more gigs… and how I’m going to buy food).

My greatest joy in Aberdeen is the Aerials & Acrobatics group I founded.

silks hanging

A few weeks ago, I invited my friend Philipp (who I met at the EJC in France last summer) to give an acrobatics workshop to my acrobats. As chance would have it, the hall we had (thought we had) booked wasn’t open to us on the weekend, which forced us to look around Aberdeen for a quick alternative.

We got lucky. Philipp had spotted something on his way in to Aberdeen – something I had seen, and forgotten.

studio 202

A studio promising trapeze and aerial hoops… I gave the owner, Sandi, a call, and asked if we could super spontaneously host our workshop at her studio. She asked when. I said: “In an hour?”

Sandi said yes.

There’s photographic evidence of this moment:



Thanks to this happy blessing-in-disguise, we had a home for our acrobatics workshop and, as it would turn out, we would have a new place to train every week. This is perfect because the hall where we sometimes train aerials isn’t always available to us – whereas Sandi has made Studio 202 always available to us.

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Sandi on the far right, recognisable thanks to her blue hair

Thanks to Philipp from Codarts Circus School in Rotterdam for coming and giving us such excellent teaching!

photo 2


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Seeing as acrobatics and aerials has become such a big part of the society, we recently had a meeting concerning the name of the society we are operating under: Juggling & Slacklining Society. We voted to change it. I was voted into the committee as Aerials & Acrobatics president. Yesterday, we met on King’s Lawn at the university and had an official photo shoot for our new society.


photograph by Jamie Hughes

photograph by Jamie Hughes

This photograph will go into the Freshers’ Manual for next year so we can advertise our society to all new students. I think we look like a very fun society!

The people in this society have become my family. I now also have a regular job teaching acrobatics to adults in Studio 202. Things are really coming together.

With all the colours in my life in Aberdeen, I still look wistfully across the water at the Other Life I could be living – but I’ve lived it, haven’t I? Now it’s time for this.

a studious writer

(but like everyone else, I need occasional reminding)

So summer is coming and I’m back on Skype a lot with Mark. I post the occasional picture of our digital conversations, which must be completely fascinating (ah, the sarcasm) but I have no other way of letting you know that we’re hard at work!

this is the one I mean

this is the one I mean

Mark is magical. I don’t know if I have said that enough: we have had our share of ups and downs concerning the ILLUSTRATIONS. Then, last week, he sent me a DROPBOX LINK. “Here it is. Have fun.”



I might have gone crazy that day. All the illustrations were in there. ALL! (Except the cover.)

I can’t publish any spoilers but I do want to share one or two illustrations with you, because you have been so wonderfully patient and supportive all these years. This share is just for my beautiful ayllu – and you know who you are. Here are a few, not-photoshopped.

I once knew a group of flying men and women, and although they were born with their gifts, they worked very hard to perfect it and be graceful in the air. I met them at a time when my head was in a muddle and I walked around looking like a baba, all my thoughts in confused knots on top of my head. After making love to one of the flying women, I agreed to travel with their caravans for a while and see if I could do something about my knots…


by Mark Klawikowski for “Qayqa” by Ritti Soncco

by Mark Klawikowski for "Qayqa" by Ritti Soncco

by Mark Klawikowski for “Qayqa” by Ritti Soncco

by Mark Klawikowski for "Qayqa" by Ritti Soncco

by Mark Klawikowski for “Qayqa” by Ritti Soncco

I called him to congratulate him – and we ended up discussing the cover for an hour. This is what it’s not going to be, but a rough idea of what it will look like. If you’ll remember, this was the sketch I gave Mark:

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And this is what Mark transformed it into:

rough sketch by Mark Klawikowski

rough sketch by Mark Klawikowski


It won’t be this one because he’s messing around with what kind of water colours / ink to use. Why did we spend one hour talking about it? We discussed if Damian should stand still (as he does in my sketch) or if he should be walking (as in Mark’s). We agreed immediately that he should be walking. We discussed the edges of the words, which I want to be natural, organic and full of rough edges. I wouldn’t want them to be clean & clear. Mark said you couldn’t see it, but he had already started giving them rough edges. We discussed if you could see the desert behind Damian, and if not, how to hint at it. We discussed what Damian is carrying in his hand.

You know, details.

Well, my dearest ayllu, I must be off. This week, I’ll be studying for my exams next week and, during my breaks, I’ll do the last digital editing on the illustrations and begin to lay them into the book.

The final stages are upon us… Soon, I’ll blog about the BOOK TOUR.

So please stay tuned.

And thank you for your continuous support, dearest ayllu. This dialogue has been my continuous support to continue fighting for my work to be published – and to fight off my snide little doubts. Some of my occasional Skype chats with Ben have been about our doubts, and yet we continue fighting. As long as we support each other, there’s no need to give up, is there?

Congratulations, once again, dear Ben, for everything you are doing. For not giving up, for believing in your voice, and – above all – for staying so humble. You’re doing a damn fucking amazing thing, and you can really give yourself more pats on the back! There’s a part of me that really believes that everything you touch becomes gold.


Love, Ritti


When Progress Happens Quietly, It Must Be Wearing Socks

13 Feb

Exams are over and life at Aberdeen University is returning to normal. If you’ve been following the news, you’ll know that the island of Great Britain is being battered on all sides by strong winds and floods. Up here in Scotland, it’s not necessarily cold. It’s just very wet.

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Wet students are a miserable sight. But to be honest, I am very happy exams are over. Those two revision weeks bored me to tears. Finally we can all get back to living our lives again! I was going mad in my room.

At the moment, I am fighting on two battlefields: one is the Battle of the Illustrations; the second is the Battle of the Silks.

The Battle of the Silks

This battle began in November 2013, between the Juggling Society and the University of Aberdeen. I teach acrobatics within the Juggling Society (because it’s the closest to a circus society, and because these people are fine people and are my friends), and we have been hunting for a way to hang up my silks. The president of the society has been an amazing help. We tackled the administrative offices of the uni, all of whom say NAY! to our quest to hang up my silks; and then we rang the doorbells of about 6 different schools (and a kindergarten) around the city of Aberdeen, asking what the politics are to rent their gym halls.

Last Friday, I got Sick Of It All. It was a surprisingly sunny day, slightly warm, so with the help of my amazing friends, I hung up my silks at Seaton Park and had my first silk session in 5 months. 

2014-02-07 15.14.20

2014-02-07 15.10.29

by Lucho

finally I wasn’t hiding my face

Now it seems as though I may finally have found a hall to hang them up in! The trouble is that most gym halls in Aberdeen aren’t built “the usual” way, with beams hanging openly in the ceiling for aerialists to hang up their silks. Most halls are built for gymnastics, basketball or badminton. Silks are a rather unique thing with such strict requirements, so I’m not surprised it’s been hard to find a suitable place. But that it’s been so hard…

Now, with a hall in sight, I have to do all the necessary paperwork and navigate around British bureaucracy. These are new waters for me, so please keep your fingers crossed for us. If this works out, we will found Aberdeen’s first aerial group, and I will be able to transform my acrobatics group into an aerial and acrobatics society!


The Battle of the Illustrations

The past three weeks have found me whispering into my computer’s microphone while my flatmates sleep, discussing illustrations with Mark over Skype.

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Over the last few months, Mark has had a bit of an artist’s block when it came to certain illustrations that correspond to Damian’s time in the desert. He’s been working madly on all the other ones, and has sent me many 90% completed illustrations, which are looking STUNNING.

He also held up a couple of new illustrations over Skype, and we were able to discuss in realtime what kind of frame it needs, how to continue certain parts, what the novel says about this particular section. Here’s a picture of Mark showing me a new illustration of Damian:

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Damian is looking quite different here. I’m quite glad that it’s a bit blurry, because this is one of the last illustrations of the book, and it shows his physical and emotional transformation towards the “end” of his journey.

I was in despair about how slowly the illustrations were coming along over the past months. I receive many emails asking me when Qayqa will come out, and along with your feedback to the excerpt recently, I know it’s her time. Mark and I had many conversations about why he’s stuck, how I could help him, how he could help himself. Part of the reason why he is stuck has to do with the very vague and slippery notion of the desert Damian falls into. How do you depict emptiness? How do you illustrate a divine deity, an earth goddess? – without being all hippie ethereal.

I know how hard it is for me to get over writer’s block. How do you help an artist get over illustrating block?

Mark has many illustrations of Damian and Pacha Mama, and we were both unsatisfied with them. When we were in Peru in 2009, touring with our film Children of Roots, Mark created several fascinating illustrations that so wonderfully tapped into Peruvian art and culture. I was amazed that a man who never studied Peruvian art could mimic it so well. We agreed that one of them would make it into Qayqa. This one: 

pre-production illustration by Mark Klawikowski

pre-production illustration by Mark Klawikowski

He tapped into the Peruvian mythical world so well here, but with Qayqa, there are stricter guidelines, not to mention that Pacha Mama is such an enigma to paint.

For a few months, I have been toying with an idea, and one night when I couldn’t sleep, I sent off the message I had been writing in my head for months. I wrote an artist friend.

He is someone I volunteered with at Helping Hands in Cusco two years ago. Let’s just call him “Ryan”. I called him to discuss the possibility of him illustrating the desert scenes in Qayqa. Ryan’s work is … surreal – but I’m not entirely sure what other genres or categories to use to describe his work. You decide:

"Foxes" by Ryan and Amy, painted at Helping Hands Cusco

“Foxes” by Ryan and Amy, painted at Helping Hands Cusco

"Love from Peru" screen print by Ryan

“Love from Peru” screen print by Ryan

When I spoke to Ryan on the phone and explained briefly what Qayqa – particularly the desert scenes – is about, he became very excited. Having spent several months traveling Latin America with his girlfriend, he understands not only the concept, but also the love and lifestyle behind “Pacha Mama”.

My main worry is that having two artists illustrate one book might not have a homogenous outcome. But I promised to be honest to you, and I want you to participate in this journey of my self-publication – with all possible pitfalls. So you know now that this is something we are considering.

I just sent a long email to Ryan with a short description of Qayqa for him to hold on to, and several of Mark’s completed illustrations, so that he can see the direction Mark has taken so far. I also sent Ryan excerpts from Qayqa, from the chapters of Damian in the desert so that he can send me 3 sketches as suggestions of how he would approach this job.

When I spoke to Mark about the possibility of Ryan boarding Qayqa, he was very optimistic – and relieved. The main argument for two artists working on one book is that the world in the desert is completely distinct to the world of the caravans, of the flying people. It is almost an alternate universe, so perhaps an alternate approach could work. It really all depends on how Ryan approaches what Mark has done so far. Either way, it will be incredibly interesting to see!

At the moment, Mark is finishing his two final illustrations. Then we’ll move on to discuss the cover of Qayqa. He is also working on little sidekick illustrations which will appear either within the text or framing it at the end of the page. Here is one I love:

x Wald

by Mark Klawikowski

I would love if we could bring Ryan onboard, but this is a question of two styles finding a common ground. It could either enrich Qayqa‘s desert world – or not. But if it doesn’t work, at least I left no stone unturned.

I suppose these are the experiments we have to dare to take. We have to find solutions for artists’ blocks – and who knows if a collaboration is a good solution?

I’ll let you know what happens.

This is the quiet progress Qayqa is making. A lot of whispering over Skype.

my celebratory countdown to my 30th birthday in June

my celebratory countdown to my 30th birthday in June

Thank you to everyone who sent me feedback to my excerpt from Qayqa! I was surprised at how diverse it was; I honestly thought it would be more unanimous. But thank you so much for speaking up, for critiquing, for being honest. I sincerely appreciate it.

The main thing you taught me is this: I have to continue listening to my gut. It helps so much to ask you, and I learnt that several gut decisions I made in the past were good – because you said so in your feedback. You also helped me make some valuable decisions concerning the future of the excerpt, and when you read the book, you will see some differences and you will know it is thanks to you. I will post another excerpt soon. I wanted to tonight, but I think this post is long enough as is.

I am very happy to working so closely with you on this. How many artists can say that? I honestly love that Qayqa is growing up so close to you, that you are influencing her. I’d like to see how far I can take this. Until then, thank you for being out there.

I wish you all a beautiful & happy Valentines’ Day on Friday. A grateful hug to you from Scotland. 

Love, Ritti

Keep Calm and Feed a Writer

16 Nov

Happy Belated Halloween!

After one month on the road, I am back in Ulm. I was teaching in Holland for two weeks, being private for one week, and the last week, I spent on a farm house near Schwäbisch Gmünd, taking circus lessons. Now I’m back, and I’m doing my best to finally catch up with friends – most of who haven’t seen me since I left for Peru in June. And after our catch-up, as they wave goodbye, they automatically say: “And let me know when you’re back!”

But I am back. I’m not leaving! I’m back, I’m back, I’m back.

Even my students at the Circus School Serrando have become accustomed to my comings and goings. One of them has been sweet enough to establish a Punishment System. For every lesson I miss, I have to pay him (but only him) 10 euros. I asked him if it goes both ways: if he misses a lesson, do I get 10 euros? He agreed, but thoughtfully added: “- but not if I’m sick, or it’s Christmas… Or if I’m about to be baptised. Or it’s a holiday. Or-”

Friends have been asking me what it’s like to be back. If my head is still in a million pieces? If I feel ready to be back?

While I was on the road, I had one moment when I was brushing my teeth and I looked inside my sponge bag. I had shampoo from Germany, toothpaste from Peru, body cream from Holland and a little shaver from Colombia. In German, the sponge bag is so adeptly called Kulturbeutel: “culture bag”. This gives the phrase a whole new meaning! After brushing my teeth and musing about the contents of my culture bag, I was putting on my pjamas when a sudden thought struck me: I love my life.

packing up Ochoa, after this room was my home for two weeks, and ready to take a train from Holland to southern Germany

 I love that all this travelling has to do with my work. I love that I have a blog where I can tell you this. If you didn’t want my work, then I could not be doing this.

Am I ready to be back? Yes. Is my head still in a million pieces? Yes!

After two weeks in Holland, I took a few trains to southern Germany, where, for the following week, this became my new home:

sweet isolation on the Rappenhof

one of the lodgings

the new circus training hall on the Rappenhof, Gschwend

In the beginning of this year, I began a circus apprenticeship with the Jojo Center for Circus Pedagogue. It all began when I became circus trainer for aerial arts at the Circus School Serrando in Ulm. I heard about the apprenticeship to get a degree as Circus and Theater Pedagogue from the other trainers in Serrando, and when my affair with the circus proved to be a lifelong romance, I signed up for the apprenticeship. Writing Qayqa certainly influenced this decision a lot.

Luckily, the apprenticeship is taught in one-week modules spread over a year and half, giving its students time inbetween to travel and work. That’s how I’ve been doing it.

The other circus people I have met at the apprenticeship modules are fascinating. Some arrive with three suitcases: one for their cloths and two for their circus artefacts (juggling balls, unicycles, juggling hats, pois, hoola hoops, drums, guitars, trapezes, aerial tissues,…). Some arrive in large camper vans or buses, in which they have been living for the last 14 months. Most are “passing through” and after the week of lessons, will travel on to some other part of Europe, where they’ll perform / teach at festivals / schools / on the street. Almost all live from the circus. All of them are kind, good-humoured and huggable. They love wine, card games, juggling and acrobatics. You can walk up to almost any one of them and climb onto their shoulders, and there will be no twitch of surprise. Easy body contact and no fear of being judged.

The week I spent in the circus school was both demanding and relaxing. We were taught by internationally acclaimed circus artists, who can tell you the most amazing stories from the circus world, in the most down-to-earth manner. They were funny, challenging and within a day, they were family. What I especially loved was that they repeatedly said this: “This is not about all reaching the same level. This is about getting to know your body, understanding it, and giving it a new sense of success each time you push it a little further.”

The week flew by in seconds. Before we knew it, we were hugging and kissing our group goodbye, as everyone drifted off to separate corners of Germany. I have no idea where most of my circus family lives or who they are in their daily lives. I take what they tell me, melt it, and mix it into Munay.

I am getting into the habit of photographing my short-term homes before I leave them

After a week of intense training, I returned to Ulm exhausted, relaxed and highly highlymotivated. I am apartment-hunting. It’s time to unpack the boxes I packed up in June. But my nest will never be a place to stay; it’s a place to return to. If 2012 taught me anything, it’s that you can always just pack up and go. I satisfied a hunger in my soul that was screaming for the road and I never want the road to go cold again.

As soon as I got back to Ulm (about 4 days ago), I sat at my temporary desk and faced a mountain of bills, confusion and paperwork. That’s the price of travelling so much. You come home to a stack of letters that all want immediate answering. My insurance is confused as to why I’m travelling so much and demands to know if I’m still making a living as an artist or not. The tax offices want my tax return. Customers wants Children of Roots dvds. Now now now.

That’s how The Famous German Stress gets you: with the little things. It’s never one mountain that you hack at and when it’s done, you sit, exhausted and sweaty, on the empty space where it once loomed. It’s always little bits and pieces that sneak in every day in the form of emails, letters, questions, … I spent my first day back in Ulm in the car, running errands all over town. Pleased with myself that I had done so much in one day, I was shattered when, on the following day, just as many little errands descended upon me again.

I remember this stress, and I want to be very careful with it. Resting is just as important as working. Seeing friends is just as important as working. Make time to slow down. Make time to curl up with a hot water bottle and read. Sing a slow song while you drive until it calms your heartbeat. This is what I’ve been singing in the car and shower:

I’m doing all I can to keep the calm Peruvian attitude I had the last four months. Tranquilo, tranquilo, everyone said. Latin Americans know that tranquilidad, peace, tranquilty, relaxation, is one of the most important aspects of life. Being rich isn’t having money. Being rich is living a quiet, calm life. My ayllu in Cusco taught me this. Whenever I asked him how he was, he always replied: “Estoy tranquilo. I am calm.” And he looked like the richest man on Earth.

this is he

The great challenge is in finding the balance between living the way I do, wanting to do all the things I want to do … and staying calm.

This is another moment when I’d like to know more about YOU who reads this. Is your life stressful? If so, what tricks do you use to stay calm?

One of the reasons why I love asking you these questions, why I love this communication, is because … well … you inspire me. There, I said it. What a line! So… your place or my place??? (Your place. I don’t have an apartment yet.)

In case you haven’t realised this: my work bounces off your feedback. I study you. Yes, I admit it! I probably shouldn’t tell you this, but the truth is I analyse which posts get the most reactions out of you. So far, the mundane posts are winning over the bizarre ones. And the minute something resembling a dialogue takes place, I bounce on it with the predatory howl of a wolf. I love our exchanges, our quirky dialogues, and yes yes, they inspire me. They give me ideas for my future work, and I absolutely love it.

Independent artists are publishing their work online, using twitter, blogs and tumblr as excellent platforms to reach their audience. Publishing houses are rapidly looking like a thing of the past. I’m considering taking this “cutting out the middleman” a step further. Why should artists only publish and the audience only witness? What would happen if we collaborated and published something together? Such were my midnight thoughts on Tumblr last night. I’m letting that idea grow and ripen, and if it looks tasty, I’ll blog about it in the future.

Most of you have noticed by now that I recently discovered Tumblr. I’m using it for nifty snapshots that won’t make it to the blog; for midnight thoughts; and generally: things will hit my tumblr quicker than my blog, because a blog post takes longer to compose, whereas on Tumblr, I’m done in two seconds flat. I’ll never kill the blog: this is my favourite place in the world. But if my Tumblr sounds like something you want, check me out and follow me at:  rittisoncco.tumblr.com

On Tumblr, I announced my next performance: I’ll be performing on the aerial tissue at the Scharfe Spitzen Lingerie Fashion Show. This is the official flyer for the event:

It’s tomorrow (Friday), entry is free and the show starts at 8pm. If you can join us, PLEASE COME! I performed there last year and loved it. Half naked men and women running around in sexy lingerie; everyone was so friendly and supportive, and the audience was great. This year, my good friend Valerie will be performing with her 6 hoola hoops, and she’s promising a show with a bang! My performance will be a bit more quiet but hopefully just as exciting.

I’ve been training all week for this performance, and on one of the evenings, my father accompanied me and filmed my work-in-progress. I thought I’d share it, not only for the effect of a work-in-progress minus the usual aerial tissue height … but also because this video has quickly become a personal favourite. I love the way it ends. It makes me smile a big big heart.


As always, I’d be thrilled to see you there. ♥ If you can come and you spot my father, please go up to him and greet him with these words: “Hello Herr Soncco.” He loves that.

Tomorrow is another anniversary, too. Last year, after I came home from the fashion show performance, my answering machine had terrible news. A friendhad overdosed. It was a powerful “coincidence”, because my performance was in Illertissen, his home town, and when I arrived at the train station, I was flooded with thoughts of him and wondered how he was doing. I had heard that he was in rehab and doing really well. Everyone spoke of a full recovery. He was 29 when he overdosed, and the funeral was in the next week. I couldn’t attend, and I haven’t been to his grave yet. I’m hoping to do so tomorrow.

I wrote a short story about his death entitled In the Milk, and filmed myself reading it while I was in Lima. You can find the video and transcript here. I received intense feedback from people who had lost friends to drug overdoses. Some said that In the Milk helped them cope; other said that it mirrored exactly what they had felt at the time of their loss. I want to thank you all for these words. It took me over 6 months to reach a place where I was ready to publish In the Milk, and I was certainly nervous to do so. Tomorrow is the anniversary. That’s all I wanted to say.

I’d like to end this post on a “happy” note: one of progression and a vision for the future. This morning, Mark Klawikowski and I had our first inofficial meeting about my upcoming publication of Qayqa. After extensive research, I’ve decided to primarily publish Qayqa on my own, and publize her with a book tour throughout Germany. Mark will be illustrating my first novel and advising me on the graphic layout.

Mark Klawikowski in the nonchalant pose of the illustrator

Over a delicious brunch (in which I displayed, once again, that I eat like a horse) we discussed his prelimiary sketches. He lived with Qayqa while I was writing it, and I feel that I barely need to explain anything to him. He understands exactly where I want to go with it. He helped me when I had writer’s block; he saw the emotional and spiritual lessons I had to learn in order to continue writing; and when I finished Qayqa at 7 in the morning and felt like my whole world was made of thin glass, he got out of bed and said: “And now, I think you should write a sequel.”

Hearing that, I thought I would die of exhaustion. And here we are, two years later, finally preparing Qayqa for publication. He knows Qayqa inside out. Going through his sketch book, I felt an exploding excitement grow inside my throat. This is going to be a lot of work, but this is going to be so much fun. In his sketches, Mark is playing around with the world and giving me all sorts of new ideas for the characters, for new plants, for new sideline adventures.

Mark testing out what one of the caravans could look like. I love it and think Ti lives there.

All in all, I am terribly excited about this upcoming collaboration. We haven’t worked together in this fashion since my first book Overripe Fruits four years ago. Now, with more caution and more experience, we are preparing ourselves for what looks to be a very very large project. We’ve scheduled for the illustrations & graphic collaboration to begin in two weeks…

So now you know what to expect from the blog in the upcoming weeks! I would like to take YOU behind the scenes. Let me take you into the process of illustrating my first novel. I’ll show you our endless hours of work, our frustrations. I’ll post sneakpeaks of illustrations that will make it into the book… and some of those that won’t. And hopefully, in the end, you’ll come to my reading, buy the book, and holding it in your hands, you’ll know exactly the journey it undertook until it could rest easy in your world.

All of this, just so that you can: