If you'd told me last year at this time that I'd write a songwriting book for kids, I would have been pleased and excited, but not necessarily surprised. But if you'd said I would illustrate the book, I would've thought that notion was ridiculous (a word that my daughters say I use too much).
Gina Boe and I were pretty far along in writing our songwriting book for kids, and we approached several people about illustrating it for us. Everyone said no for one reason or another. I decided I would at least try. I'm not an artist. But I am determined.
Several things helped me, and I see God's hand in the way it all turned out.
1. I've been using an iPad Pro for about year and I've gotten to where it's all I use for co-writes. Sometimes for short trips, I don't even take my laptop with me anymore. My iPad Pro is versatile and light, and it can do almost everything I need to do.
2. I've started saving pretty much everything to Dropbox or I-Cloud. I have access to those files whatever device I happen to be using. .
3. I bought an Apple Pencil, and I have to say, I love it. I've used styluses before and they are usually clunky and have a lag time. But the Apple Pencil is just like using a great pen or marker.
4. After some early attempts with another app, I found one called Sketchbook Pro that I used for all the illustrations. It took a while to learn how to use it—my early efforts show that clearly—and once I'd gotten better at all it's little features and tricks, I had to go back and re-do my first illustrations.
5. It turns out you can actually learn to do almost anything on You Tube. When I would get stuck, I'd just go there and look for something like "How to draw a cartoon hand holding a piece of paper." And some expert would show me how.
6. The biggest factor was this: My husband John had surgery in February and then another surgery 10 weeks later. I couldn't travel to Nashville to write. I needed to stay with him. That meant I had tons of time to work. And I did spend tons of time. There's an illustration near the end of the book that took over 8 hours of work.
7. Finally, I did a lot of praying that God would help me. There's no other way this could have happened. Sort of like my whole writing career.
Now that the book is available to everyone, I have to admit it's a little scary. Sometimes I look at the drawings and think, "These aren't bad." And other times I just go, "What was I thinking?" Mostly I hope people will extend grace. Because you see, I'm not an illustrator. Not really.
sue c. smith
• Staff songwriter for Universal/Capitol CMG Publishing