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In December 2014,  Deb and Pete of the Reading Reptile sent an email about “an entirely new place to experience children’s literature.” They put out a call for volunteers, requesting everyone from tearers and seekers to shapers and sewers. I attended Deb’s “Mushroom Making Lesson” on January 15th, an introduction to shaping and paper-macheing. Thus began my journey volunteering for The Rabbit hOle.

Over the next couple of months, I shaped mushrooms at home from newspaper and masking tape. Every other week, I’d come in to paper-mache.

In February 2015, Deb and Pete announced the lease of a temporary home, a start-up space in the Crossroads. Throughout the spring and summer, The Rabbit hOle team was hard at work building out the space, laying plans, and launching their capital campaign.

In September, we toured this temporary space during “Late Night at The Rabbit hOle with Brian Selznick and Lemony Snicket.” What a place!

In January, The Rabbit hOle sent out another call for volunteers. This time, they needed help putting together an Immersive Storybook Gallery based on The Incredible Painting of Felix Clousseau by Jon Agee, a proof of concept for the World’s First ExploraStorium.

Again, volunteers came out to tear paper, shape walls and frames, paper-mache, and paint. Meanwhile, more volunteers started construction on the space at 700 East 16th Street.

The Immersive Gallery opened to the public on April 9th. Today Aaron and I had the privilege and pleasure of taking a guided tour.

It’s been a thrill to watch the The Rabbit hOle come into being.

You can help, too!

Right now The Rabbit hOle is in the midst of an Indiegogo campaign. Every dollar is appreciated and there are all kinds of children’s literature-themed perks to choose from. Once you’ve given, there’s a handy badge you can display on your social media or wherever else you please:

I Contributed

If you live in Kansas City, you can sign up to be notified when they need more volunteers. Word on the street is there will be a new Immersive Gallery debuting August 1st.

Of course, you can also help by simply spreading the word. Follow The Rabbit hOle on Twitter, InstagramFacebook, and Pinterest and share their posts with your friends.

Together, we can make the World’s First ExploraStorium a reality!

Would you like to see something neat?

That’s my illustration on the Kansas SCBWI Fall 2012 Conference name tag! It was a wonderful surprise to find my art featured this way.

In related news, I posted some notes from the conference sessions on the Illustrators for Kids blog. Come on by!

Here are my take-aways from the weekend:

  • Always remember that anything you post online can be read by anybody, including your future colleagues. Be honest and professional, and consider how your words could be interpreted by others.
  • Do not expect other authors or illustrators to reciprocate if you write a review of their book, send them a compliment, or retweet something they post. Think about it as contributing to the kid lit culture.
  • Be open to revision. The goal is to work with other publishing professionals. View publication as a collaborative process that relies on feedback from critique partners, agents, and editors.
  • Don’t be afraid to explore other writing avenues. You don’t have to limit yourself to one genre or age group.
  • Seek to include multiple layers of meaning when creating picture books.
  • Don’t give up! Rejection is an opportunity to evaluate your manuscript and/or portfolio, reflect on your path to publication, and try something new.