Starting the New Year with New Art Forms

It’s no secret I’m a creature of habit. If my online calendar crashed, my life would fall into utter chaos. I make lists. Even lists of my lists. There’s only one way to juggle so many balls for myself, my husband, and my daughter. I take organization to crazy, scary new levels.

Yet I have an artistic side that loves to create – within pretty rigid boundaries. I write children’s novels and paint landscapes with oils. Within that comfort zone, I’ve always felt free to experiment and create. Occasionally I stray into the realms of acrylic or watercolor paint for my landscapes, but they are very similar mediums to oil painting. And I’ve ranged from middle grade to young adult audiences with my novels, which really only changes the length and maturity of the story.

For the first time this year, instead of resolving to exercise more and eat healthier (which are admirable goals I usually forget by February 1), I decided to push myself into completely new artistic terrain.

I recently completed my first landscape paintings with alcohol ink, a very un-brush-like medium of painting.



And I started my first stained glass panel, which added breaking pliers and a soldering iron to my brush box.


My biggest new risk: writing a graphic novel manuscript. Maybe even attempting to illustrate it too!

I was pulled into this unfamiliar terrain by my daughter, who loves stories but is a reluctant reader. She’ll eagerly listen to me read all my favorite middle grade novels, but when the time comes to sit down and read a story herself, she’s all about graphic novels. It’s been a challenge continuing to put great age-appropriate material in her hands, especially because she isn’t interested in super heroes. So far the big hits have been Rapunzel’s Revenge, Amulet, Baby Mouse, Phoebe and her Unicorn, Zita the Spacegirl, and Bones. I was thrilled to discover most of these great graphic novel series are available in her school library. But she’s read them all and is seeking new material.

Enter Abigail and the Snowman.

My daughter has officially crossed over to reading comic books. So my research moved in another new direction: searching for the best E for Everyone comic book series. And the impossible quest: finding a child friendly comic book store to take her to. Special shout out to Toad Hall Books and Records for helping me on both fronts.

During my hunt I discovered the new Jem and the Holograms comic book series. I’m officially hooked on a comic book for the first time in my life. I may have even secretly drawn some fan art in my doodle book.


My daughter is upset it’s rated T for Teens. So I started to write my first middle grade graphic novel for her – basically Jem and the Holograms for a younger audience. Not fan fiction. I used a multicultural cast of characters modeled after the third-grade girls in my daughter’s after school program.

My search for guidance on writing a graphic novel manuscript played out much like my original search for graphic novel series for my daughter to read. There are gems out there, but be prepared for a massive hunt to find them. My best resource: my awesome sister who loves manga and graphic novels. But if you don’t know anyone already familiar with the comic / manga / graphic novel marketplace, there are awesome author / illustrators with tons of helpful information online. Google Mark Fearing or Scott McCloud to get started. From there, create and explore to the limits of your imagination.



About Jennifer Kay

Jennifer Kay is a KidLit author and Structural Engineer. She has a VCFA MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults, is an SCBWI Rockford Network Rep, edits the SCBWI IL Prairie Wind, and belongs to Mystery Writers of America. Jennifer works as a writer, freelance editor, literary agency reader, and creative writing teacher.
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