Artist-in-Residence at Webster Hill

FInders Keepers Audience

In September, the lovely people at Webster Hill Elementary contacted me about doing a program there.  This is not unusual.  But what was different about this request was that it wasn’t about my books, or even illustrations.  It was about rocks.  You see, I am also an artist and a few years ago I – along with the artist group that I belong to – started something in town called Finders Keepers.  Each year in December, a group of artists paint and decorate rocks and we hide them in town, giving clues each day.  It’s a fun event that is totally free for the finders and a great way to connect local artists with their community.

Webster Hill School wanted me to bring the aspects of community sharing and generosity into the presentation.  So I did.  I spent the next two months writing and illustrating a story called Art of Giving in which a boy named Art paints rocks and gives them to people as a way for him to have fun and make friends.

Art of Giving

Then I talked about Finders Keepers and we played some find-the-rock-in-the-picture games.

At the end, I gave them a brief tutorial of how to paint rocks.  I wanted them to be prepared for the rest of my visit, rock painting in the art room.

For the next four days, I took every class through rock painting lessons.  The Kindergarteners and First Graders painted bugs.


IMG_1038 (1)

The Second and Third Graders painted birds.


And the Fourth and Fifth Graders painted octopus rocks.



They all did a really fabulous job.  HUGE THANKS to the teachers, students, and the PTO of Webster Hill School for having me in.  What an honor and a treat!


Illustration Art Show

Monkey Ono illustrations on display at the West Hartford Art League.

Monkey Ono illustrations on display at the West Hartford Art League.

I am thrilled to have original illustrations of my book, MONKEY ONO, up at the West Hartford Art League for their Art of Children’s Book exhibit.  It was difficult picking which illustrations to show.  I tried to choose a variety of scenes that showed different methods of illustration.

Yesterday, there was a book reading and signing.  (Below) Here I am reading MONKEY ONO.  Oddly enough, there were a lot of adults there – adults with no children in tow.  It’s always a little odd to read a children’s book to adults, but I just go for it. I give them the full Julie performance.   And there was a sweet little girl in the front who was giving me a lot of feedback.  I was the straight man and she was getting all the laughs.  Worked for me!

J. C. Phillipps reads her book, Monkey Ono at the West Hartford Art League.

J. C. Phillipps reads her book, Monkey Ono at the West Hartford Art League.

This was an illustration show, so some of us read through the books and some of us talked more about the illustrations.  Andrea Wisnewski read her brand new book, Trio, (which comes out in October.)  It’s sooo cute and beautiful!  If you’re in the market for a picture book and you already have all of mine (wink, wink) then definitely pick this one up.

At the end, all of the illustrators – me, Robert Noreika, Andrea Wisnewski, and Sandy Chase – got together for a group shot.  It was a lovely event and I am honored to have been a part of it.

J. C. Phillipps, Robert Noreika, Andrea Wisnewski, and Sandy Chase pose with their books.

J. C. Phillipps, Robert Noreika, Andrea Wisnewski, and Sandy Chase pose with their books.

Last Visit of the 2016-2017 School Year

Students and I make crazy faces for the camera.

Students and I make crazy faces for the camera.

Yesterday I had a lovely author visit in Massachusettes.  I read Wink The Ninja Who Wanted to Be Noticed to groups of Kindergartners and First Graders and told them about how I made the book.  Then I visited their classrooms and taught students how to make a collage Wink.

Kindergartners make collage Winks!

Kindergartners make collage Winks!

They did a really great job with the project.  It’s always fun to see what groups of kids will glitch on, though.  For this group, it was the eyes.  Because of the nature of the collage, the eyes are the last thing we do.  They are small and they go on top.  So they’re last.  That’s how collage works.  But kids have a really hard time with creating a face without eyes.  It’s like it just doesn’t make sense to them.  It’s too abstract.  Kids kept asking me, “When are we doing the eyes?  You forgot the eyes!”  By the time I was at the fourth group, I was giving everyone a warning up front, “Don’t worry.  We’ll do the eyes last.  I won’t forget the eyes.”  That helped – but still, some kids could not help themselves from drawing eyes on the back of the collage – just so the face makes sense to them.  :)

Waiting in the stairwell between classroom projects.

Waiting in the stairwell between classroom projects.

Sometimes there is a chunk of downtime between classroom visits.  It’s okay if I show up to a classroom five minutes early, but fifteen is too much.  They might be reading a story or doing some other kind of lesson.  Sometimes I’ll pop into the library, but this school was so big and a little confusing, I didn’t want to get lost.  So I just sat in the stairwell.  If ever anyone thinks being a professional author is glamorous, all they have to do is look at this picture of me hanging out in a stairwell to know that it’s a myth.  Still … nice stairwell.


Writing Narratives at Bowers School


I had another lovely visit at the Bowers School in Manchester, CT.  This time I talked about Writing Narratives.  I spoke a lot about personal narratives and told stories from my own life.  One story is called Pants Problem and it’s about a time when I wet my pants in gym class.  The students all giggled and laughed like it’s the most embarrassing thing ever.  But for the rest of the day little kids approached me to tell me their own pants-wetting story.  I replied, “Maybe you’ll write about it some day!”

I have workshops will all the students over the next two weeks, but today I worked with the first graders.  I know it’s difficult for the little ones to think of a good story from their lives when writing personal narratives.  I wanted them to learn that moments with strong emotions often lead to a good story.  And since the younger students often draw their stories out, I wanted to teach them how to draw emotions.  We did happy, sad, angry, surprised, confused, and proud.  I could have taken 100 photographs of all of their wonderful work!  But here’s one example.

Tomorrow I work with the Kindergartners!  I can’t wait to see what they draw!


A Duck-lightful Surprise

I love doing my thing at school visits.  When I present a large group presentation, I know I am putting my MA in Theater Education to work, because I can project, I can entertain, and I can read the crowd.  (And it’s pretty much the only time I’m using that degree.)  I also love doing writing and art workshops in classrooms and working more closely with the students.

But sometimes … sometimes I get a surprise.  During my last school visit at Whittemore Elementary in Massachusetts, I had a 20 minute long break.  I found myself a little chair to sit in and rest my voice.  Then my friend Meredith Charles, who is the drama teacher there, saw me in my leisure and invited me to sit in on her drama class with the Kindergarteners.  They performed a Wishy-Washy play, based on the Wishy-Washy books, in which things, animals, and people get dirty and Mrs. Wishy-Washy cleans them.

It was very sweet and fun, and I wanted in.  So when they did it a second time, I asked to be the duck.  I got the part!

I play a duck who gets washed in a classroom play.

I play a duck who gets washed in a classroom play.

I play the role of Farm Duck who has carelessly paddled in mud causing a huge mess.  (This is after Cow and Pig have rolled in the mud.)  Mr. Wishy-Washy has discovered our mishap and has put us in the tub, one-by-one, to clean us.  See my wings, see my vacant, yet slightly distressed eyes.  I am committing to this duck role.  Acting!

Taking a Bow


The audience erupted, much like they do at the end of Hamilton I assume, and the cast and I took our bows.

I had THE BEST time in that short 20 minute break.  SO MUCH FUN.  Big thanks to Whittemore School for having me, to Meredith Charles for hooking me up with the gig, and to the lovely children who allowed me to be silly with them.


Fan Mail

Who doesn’t love fan mail? It’s one of the best parts of the job. You’re at home. The mailman comes. Instead of a handful of bills and a flyer for 40% off chimney cleaning, you get a big envelope filled with love and appreciation. It’s kinda awesome!

Yesterday, I got just that. Let me share a few.

In addition to the action and energy here, I love that the artist has drawn himself in the art.  This means I’ve done my job.  I’ve created a character and a world that the reader wants to participate in.  Love it!



This young artist drew a ninja on her Thank You note, then added that it was much more difficult than she thought it was going to be.  :)




This my favorite.  This note speaks directly to my presentation, not my work.  Kids, like many adults, are often under the misconception that because a picture book is shorter  and intended for a younger audience, that it is, therefore, easier to make.  I stress to the students how hard I work on the writing, how many drafts I do, the time I put into it.  And then, I talk to them about all the different aspects it takes to compose art that helps tell a story.


I LOVE making books, but they are so much more difficult than even my biggest, best, and most complicated paintings. Like this one:

Pair of Koi    J. C. Phillipps 2015

Pair of Koi J. C. Phillipps 2015

Painting this was cherry cheesecake compared to making a picture book.

And whereas I never want to make it seem like making a book is an insurmountable task to any young artist or writer, I do want them to read a book and appreciate all the work, craft, and talent that has gone into it.

A note like this makes me feel like I’ve done my job well.

Character Development at Bowers Elementary

We played a game called Charlie Brown or Lucy when looking at character's voice

We played a game called Charlie Brown or Lucy when discussing voice

I had a wonderful author visit at the Bowers Elementary School yesterday. When they contacted me months ago, they said the students were interested in learning about character development, so I created a program just for them. The presentation talked about character analysis, voice, consistency, and character choices. I love to make the presentations as fun and inclusive as possible. I created a game called Lucy or Charlie Brown in which students come up to the front and are given a paddle on which one side had a picture of Charlie Brown and one side had a picture of Lucy. They students were then shown – with no context at all – a quote. They had to decide, based on the word choices and tone, if Charlie Brown said it or Lucy. They did a fabulous job with it!

Analyzing characters with an Outside/Inside worksheet

Analyzing characters with an Outside/Inside worksheet

I did some workshops throughout the day. With the Kindergartners, I did OUTSIDE/INSIDE worksheets. I read LOST AND FOUND by Oliver Jeffers and we talked about the outside of the character, Boy, and what he was like on the inside. I gave the students symbols to represent caring, smart, brave, calm, etc.

Acting out a student scene for a character development exercise.

Acting out a student scene for a character development exercise.

The second graders had a different task. We created two characters with opposite character traits, then I assigned them a short scene to write. Their goal was to try to shape the voice of their characters to inform the reader/listener of their character traits. This is a difficult task to accomplish in 30 minutes, but they did a great job! Here, I am reading a scene with a student about two video game characters and mine just went BOOM!

Silly Face Classroom Shot

Silly Face Classroom Shot

I had a fabulous time with all the Bowers students and I’m really looking forward to returning and working with the older grades! THANK YOU BOWERS ELEMENTARY SCHOOL!

World Read Aloud Day

I'm Skyping with Kindergartners for World Read Aloud Day!

I’m Skyping with Kindergartners for World Read Aloud Day!

It’s World Read Aloud Day! Yay! I celebrated by speaking with 60 lovely and well-behaved Kindergartners, reading Wink: The Ninja Who Wanted to Nap, making a horse collage, and seeing some fabulous student art. That’s my kind of party!

Ninja Brownies

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of hanging with a lovely troop of Brownies.  I was a Brownie.  I wore the brown sash.  I sold the cookies.  The whole she-bang.

These lovely ladies had a ton of enthusiasm and we did something new: a ninja read-along.  Enough of them had bought their own books, so when one asked if she could read along with me, I said, “Sure!”







After reading, I talked about the process of making the book – ever so briefly. Then we made our own collage ninja. I was particularly charmed by this Ninja Cat. I think there’s a book there!


BIG THANKS to the Brownies for having me in. I had a great time with you all!

Forty-Six Skype Visits

Scenes from my Skype Author Visits

Scenes from my Skype Author Visits


In March, I signed up with Skype in the Classroom to do 30-minute Skype Author Visits.  It’s a virtual world, people, and this is the way things are moving.  Part of me loves this, because I really don’t like to travel very much.  But there is something very nice about going into a school, meeting children and teachers, and working with the kids.  Plus – when I go to a school they buy books and I get paid.  That’s always nice.  Skype visits are free.  Well, as of right now they are free.  If and when I ever become a big wig, I can charge.  Mwah-ha-ha, money, money, money.  But until that time, I’m fine with free.

Another bonus is that teachers send me these great shots of my big face on a giant screen looking silly, and shots of the fabulous collage creations the kids make after they speak with me (and sometimes before.)  I love that!

After 46 visits in 3 months, I have learned a few things about doing Skype Visits.  If you’re an author or illustrator or something who wants to know more about Skyping, check out my blog post.

Thanks for dropping in.  Enjoy the site!