Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Interview with Sandy Steen Bartholomew

Sandy Steen Bartholomew is an author, illustrator, mixed-media artist and a Certified Zentangle Teacher (CZT). She also runs a Creativity General Store (Wingdoodle), a studio (BeezInk Studio), an Etsy shop (Bumblebat), a teaching studio (The Belfry), and a blog (Beez in the Belfry).

She is inspired by juicy, jewel-tones, rusty-crusty, peeling, earth-covered... things. Magic, mystery, bits, pieces, and weird little creatures. If it sits still, she'll paint it. Sandy lives with her two kids (Alex and Lilah) and her cat, Lilo, in their colorful, mixed-media house in New Hampshire.


How did you get started in your line of work?
I have been an illustrator my entire life. I drew on walls as a kid, did cartoons for a local newspaper as a teen, and started sending out my children's book manuscripts when I was 15. I also wanted to be an Egyptologist (Indiana Jones). I went to Brown University for the archaeology, then dropped out to go to the School of Visual Arts in NYC, then back to Providence for Rhode Island School of Design.


What was your path towards publication like?
I have been sending out manuscripts for most of my life, but one thing or another always happened to throw a wrench into the process. After I had kids, I stuck the ideas in the flat file and tried to "move-on".

After I learned Zentangle, I started working on a little book called AlphaTangle which I self-published with a local printer. I brought the sketches to a Zentangle training workshop, where I met Suzanne McNeill from Design Originals.

After I got up enough courage to actually talk to her, I showed her my sketches and she said, "So tell me about your book." I almost keeled over when I realized she meant a different book, not AlphaTangle; a new book. One I had never really thought about! That new thought eventually became Totally Tangled.


What is your biggest obstacle when it comes to pitching yourself as an author and what steps have you taken to overcome that obstacle?
I am an introvert. Very introverted. When I took the self-test inside "The Introvert Advantage"... they didn't have a score high enough to rate me.

Sometimes one obstacle or challenge can actually provide the solution for another one. For example: I got divorced this past winter. Not a good experience in itself or a great way to overcome introversion, but I found I "needed" to earn money and I "needed" to speak up and ask questions. So, I had to do a lot of things that did not come easily to me and being introverted wasn't an excuse anymore. I feel comfortable on the internet. So I pitch myself with my blog, website, Facebook, etc. I still don't like talking on the phone, though.


How do you balance your life as an entrepreneur with your duties as a parent or spouse?
I don't balance my life. I think my recent divorce proves that I failed as a spouse. Honestly, I think I terrified my ex-husband. I am an idea person and my brain generates new ideas faster than I can breathe.

I exhaust myself, and I can't multi-task. I need an assistant for my business and an Alice (from Brady Bunch) for my home. Then I think I would be a normal-ish human being. I think I am a good parent though.

My secret is to let go of the mommy-guilt. I learned when my son was very little that I could not be a stay-at-home mom. I couldn't be around people, even teeny ones that I adore, for more than a few hours at a time. So I worked very hard at finding other people who actually like playgrounds and story time and are more patient than I am... to watch my kids. And then, when they are with me in the afternoons or evening, I try to really pay attention to them. I listen and talk and play and watch movies with them. My kids seem OK with that set up.


What is your best advice for getting past writer's block?
Writer's block has never been a problem. But there are always two bad "moments" in every worthwhile project.

1. Getting started - but once I finally picture the project and what I want it to be - then things chug along.

2. The Mid-Life Crisis - at some point I panic and think I've messed it all up. I throw things around the studio, scream, stomp my feet, glare at the cat, eat some chocolate, get a new idea, and get moving again.


What was the best writing-related advice you ever received?
Write what you know.

The best, worst advice came from Natalie Babbitt. She was my hero and a teacher got me an interview with her at her home in Providence. I was thrilled beyond words. Just to bask in her presence... she looked at my work and my portfolio and told me to find another career. I was so mad, I vowed I would keep at it until I was more famous than she was. So, if you were just wondering, "Natalie who?" Then you made my day. If not, that's OK. "Tuck Everlasting" is still a classic.


What do you feel is the single most detrimental thing an entrepreneur could do to destroy his/her career?
I'd say... letting your customers down. That's my biggest fear. I don't want to disappoint people.


Can you tell us a little bit about your latest book?
I love this book! It's only 20 pages but it is packed as full as I could get it. It is called "Zentangle for Kidz Zentangle for Kidz" It is a comic book introduction to Zentangle and features my kids and cat. It was so much fun to draw and my son wrote the intro and the bit on Mendhi tattoos.


How did you come up with the idea for your book?
My publisher, Suzanne McNeill, called me up and said put your other project on hold and do a book on Zentangle for Kids. She wanted one that would fit into her Zentangle Basics line, but that was "her" line, not mine... and I am a bit of a pain. So I thought "20 pages. Stapled in the middle. OH! (light bulb!) A comic book!" And I have always joked that my children are more cartoon character than human.


What was the most difficult aspect of writing this book?
Paying the hotel bill. Yes, I am ashamed to say that most of my books are written in hotel rooms. It works out OK when the deadline is "off-season". My hotel of choice is the Beachmere in Oguquit, ME and I can't afford it during the spring and summer!

There is just too much going on around me and I cannot concentrate in any of my work spaces, so I run away to write and draw each book. I need to ask for a larger advance! Or maybe the Beachmere would give me a free room if I put "This book was set in Rockwell type, and designed on a king-size bed at The Beachmere in Ogunquit, Maine." in the book.


Did you have to do any special research for your book?
I did force my children to draw Zentangles. And I convinced my son to do all the research on the Mendhi Tattoos. But most of the information in my books comes from my teaching experiences and my own experimenting with materials.


If you could choose just one thing for your book to accomplish, what would it be?
To give people creative confidence. Everyone can do this type of art and I want my books to empower them. I don't want to show off, I want people to think "Oooh, I bet I could do that with some practice."

I want to get them started and then encourage them to find their own voices and styles and passions... and to keep going!


What’s ahead for your writing?
I have an interactive, Zentangle, coloring book due next week! It's called the "Tangled Fashionista". I can't run away to Maine in the middle of Beach Season so I had better get to work! I have a gazillion other ideas too.

Learn more about Sandy Steen Bartholomew's work at www.beezinkstudio.com

Order Zentangle for Kidz Zentangle for Kidz on Amazon.com for just $8.99

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This post was sponsored by The Dabbling Mum.

For more articles geared towards creating art, check out The Dabbling Mum eMagazine.

3 comments:

Sandy Steen Bartholomew said...

Thank you so much for featuring me and my books! It is quite a thrill to be on your blog with so many other fascinating people. Cheers. :-)
Sandy B.

Alyice Edrich said...

You are welcome. Thank you so much for taking the time to be interviewed!

Alice said...

i know this article ran along time ago, but i'm just seeing it today. i love sandy's work - i have every one of her books and even though the others are meatier and more challenging, i love her kids' book the most. i am always pulling it out for ideas. i love the cartoon/comic aspect! i never realized these were sandy's kids! this fun fact makes it even better :)

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