"Cat party" Erin Taylor illustration

It's a cat party! An illustration by Erin Taylor shows a witch having fun with her fluffy feline friends.

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Writing a novel seems like a formidable task. It can take months or even years to write chapter after chapter of text and it could take even longer to research a specific subject. So writing children's stories ought to be pretty straightforward, right? 

Not quite. According to Sioux City writer and illustrator Erin Taylor, it's "very hard to make something simple." Scrolling through her PowerPoint presentation on her laptop, Taylor came across some of the early illustrations she made as a child. Those may be simple, but compared to her current works, they're child's play.

The images will be presented at her exhibit opening at 6 p.m. Friday (March 11) at Vangarde Arts. Taylor will share her current illustrations and include a slideshow of her progress as an illustrator, from crayon-made stories of a princess to a witch and her collection of cats.

"I've spent so much time working on all these stories, but I haven't shown my work in years," said Taylor, who is also going to be holding a class on Sunday (March 13) for kids who want to learn how to come up with and create their own stories.

With the aforementioned cat story, Taylor had this idea that witches in other stories always had a feline companion. What if one witch didn't have a cat? What would happen if she had a bunch at the same time? Those who have owned cats could likely guess what happened next.

Another of Taylor's stories involves a dog's struggle to get a slice of delicious cake -- a tale that's derived from an experience with her stepmother's dog. And another involves a porcupine that desperately wants a balloon, but outside forces such as a bee and a bird keep popping his inflatable keepsakes.

The stories seem simple. But don't be fooled. It's more difficult than it looks.

"Charles Schulz, who did 'Peanuts,' is a huge influence on me -- he made that look so simple," said Taylor. "All the emotion that he put in those characters with very few lines and panels. It's like that with picture books, too."

Taylor has been working since 2009 for her stories to be published. She's been writing and illustrating the entire way through, learning from each rejection letter. She's learned how difficult it is to get published, but Taylor has been diligent nonetheless. It also helps that she's been illustrating her own books since she was 5 years old.

"Being creative is just part of who I am," she said. "I'd continue to do this whether my books ever go published or not."

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