Friday, November 14, 2014

THE BIRTH OF BLOBS by Amy Nielander

Back in May, I began the journey of redesigning my website. With the help of an incredible web designer, my task was almost complete, until I was asked, “Do I want a Blog?”

A blog. That means I need to... open my world up. Share thoughts and comments
with people I can’t even see, don’t even know, and may... not like my work. 
This was already tough to do - with an actual person.

Writing in an unedited kind of way, under a cyber-spotlight, felt out of my comfort zone. It was just not easy -  due mostly to a design background that earned me a highly critical eye, a music background that rewarded me with a highly critical ear, and a brain that doesn’t know any better but… to follow suit with general criticalness in everything else. This art for fine tuning serves my picture book drafts very well, but pains any off-the-cuff kind of writing that comes out of me (you’re reading the 8th version of this piece).  

How do I warm up to being a blogger? For a person who is wired to DO versus have to TALK about what I'm doing, I decided maybe I need to put a spin on the traditional blog. Get to know my audience, just as they are getting to know me. Then I can ease into the-sharing-thoughts-with-strangers platform better.

As word play often happens with us crafty book people, I started dallying around with the word, BLOG. BLOB BLOG struck a chord. Then, more questions. What IS that? What could a BLOB be?

Fast forward to some idea testing, my website launch, then making the final decision to use BLOBS as a tool. They would help me accomplish what my hopes as an author/illustrator were: 

Encourage and support creativity
Provide an activity families could enjoy together (a little like…reading?)
Set the stage for laughter    
And even go beyond what a picture book could do -
Build confidence in kids to problem solve on their feet

All of these wrapped up had the power to deliver a child or family, JOY.

BLOBS would be a playground for building and extending imaginations. Giving those far-fetched ideas, a place to live, for the simple fun of it. But, how? Tapping back into my memories of SCBWI conferences, the common request from editors and agents sprung to mind. Give me VOICE. Give me CHARACTER. 

There was my challenge. Turn a BLOB into a character.

So how does THE BLOB BLOG work? I create 4 random shapes on an activity sheet every Monday. Families/kids can download them and share their designs with me over the week (the first person to do so – will get posted!), or just check results on Friday. I post my own designs along with my kids.  As THE BLOB BLOG extends its audience, various artists/designers will be featured.

After getting excellent support and interest from a couple of our very own Michigan author/illustrators, Heidi Woodward Sheffield and Virginia Rinkel (plus family!), I received confirmation. BLOBS work - YES! We weren’t the only ones having fun. 

What have I learned so far?  

#1  BLOBS challenge me too! Turning nothing into something every week, and then sharing (even if I don’t LOVE what I did) is tough. The self-imposed posting schedule holds me accountable.  Sometimes I don’t even get to finishing them until late on Thursday nights (when I’d rather be bundled under covers) but have to deliver on my word. Not knowing if anyone is planning on checking in, I still push myself to stick to my creative duties.

#2  I have loosened up. Because of the tight turnaround and producing separate work at the same time, I can’t get hung up on details. The big picture has to reign. This is not about perfection, only ideas.

#3  BLOBS create connections. The room booms with laughter when my kids and I are designing characters together. We have a blast every Monday morning doing these after breakfast. It’s a routine we look forward to now. BLOBS have that MadLibs kind of effect. They are unexpected and silly.  They open doors to communicating with one another in a different way. After our sheets are finished, we share and talk about what our characters are, how we were inspired, where they came from and names. BLOBS are quick, but rich on return.

Here are a few of my favorites from us…

What are the future of BLOBS? Keep doing them and create occasional product! I gave it a try with HUNGRY HALLOWEEN BLOB cards for kids in October:

I opened an Etsy shop (lean - but filled with love) and have a Holiday line in the works. Here’s a rough glimpse of a deer inspired BLOB…

While story making is still first and foremost (THE LADYBUG RACE will be released 2015, PomegranateKids), BLOBS are a great exercise in character/story building and creativity. 

Check in at on Mondays and Fridays to test The BLOB BLOG out for yourself!  You can also find me on Facebook for other news and work.

Thanks so much for having me SCBWI-MICHIGAN!  I am honored to be part of The Mitten! Wishing everyone warm and wonderful holidays! Thanks for reading : ) 

Thanks for sharing your fun project with us, Amy! We hope your Blob Blog gets shared far and wide with children, parents, writers, artists, and teachers joining you in creating new Blob characters. (Try saying Blob Blog fast three times!)

Exciting changes are brewing here at The Mitten. You may have noticed some new names under the Meet the Editors section on the sidebar. I'll fill you in next Friday.

Have a great weekend,


  1. I had so much fun doing the Blob Blog challenge!! My daughter did, too. And it's a great way for thinking outside the box. You might even go away with a new character or two...

  2. What an inspiring and satisfying post, Amy. I love how you recognized a bit of fear of the unknown, marched in anyway, and are seizing the opportunity born from the experience. That is the mark of a creative entrepreneur! Thanks for sharing this.

  3. This makes me wish my kids were home. Creating this way can make you go in a different direction than you'd usually go. Thanks Amy!

  4. I love this idea! I can't wait to try it with my kids. Even the one who "hates" drawing might enjoy creating blob characters.

  5. Thanks Amy for doing this. We had great fun and it's so 'free', as there are no right or wrong ways to do anything here. Just draw a line, which leads your mind to think of what else it could create, and before you know it, you're off and running with a new character for a book or short note, complete with color if you wish. We all enjoyed this 'exercise' very much last summer. Hope to do it again when the Irish grandkids are over next July.

  6. Thanks so much for your comments! So glad you enjoyed the post and exercise!