A wandering writer GIVEAWAY

Confession time: I’m an office hopper. By that, I mean I’ve never had an “officey” office, or even managed to store all my writing/art related tools in a single space. That’s partly because our house is small, but also because I’m organizationally challenged. Or maybe I enjoy the hunt, trying to remember where I stored some elusive item.

The Wicker Years

I’ve tried various storage methods over the years. There were the wicker years. This one, ratty but still intact, was a catalog gift from my mother. Remember Lillian Vernon? It’s still full of hanging folders stuffed with half-finished stories and shot records of kids who’ve flown from the nest. Now serves one purpose: a drop station for items headed for the second floor.

Notebooks, of course. Soooo many notebooks. The submission records are long torn from this one, now simple blank pages ready for action — piled inside another relic of the wicker years. I used to try to keep all the jottings from any one pic book manuscript in a single notebook. One notebook per story. I think I only managed it for Crocodaddy, which did sell fairly quickly on a cold query, so maybe I should have tried harder to maintain that habit.

Remember Trapper Keepers? I keep thinking they’ll be good for longer works. But no. I’ve still never managed to turn in that novel I keep promising my agent. It would probably help if I ever managed to get past three chapters before turning to a shiny new idea.

Then there were the Pendaflex hanging folders. Those actually worked pretty well for keeping track of editorial correspondence, one folder per story. I owned more than one set because… try try again. Probably obsolete in this digital world, so I donated them to my church.

Similar to Trapper Keepers, but something that actually works. (Thanks, Dad!) Inside, there’s a big flat pocket, open at both ends, perfect for slipping in an iPad, which was a Jettson-era dream when my dad sold insurance in the 80s. I carry it out to my “porch office” nearly every day. I wish it were a “funner” color, but I guess 1980s office supplies in lavender were hard to come by.

Document storage: This old dresser decoupaged with vintage illustrations. Still holds royalty statements and… notebooks, of course. And drawing supplies. And thrift store books that still spark joy… if I happen to open that drawer. (Fun fact: I paid five bucks for that mid-century chair to the right. A friend who deals in those items told me she would have asked at least a hundred for it. Score!)

Speaking of thrift stores, they’ve been the source of most of my pic book collection. A few of the most beloved from my kids’ childhoods I turned into wall art, trimmed with some of my grandmother’s jewelry, over the drafting table in my art room…

… which also houses some of my vintage luggage collection. I love repurposing old “train cases” (makeup cases.) I own the suitcases both my mother and my mother-in-law carried to school in the late 40s & early 50s. Pretty cool, huh?

The downside to Pinterest-worthy vintage luggage: you can’t see what’s inside, so things can disappear. Like ALL my colored pencils. For nearly a year. (I have mentioned my organizational challenges, right?)

Truth in advertising, dog-stomped “courtyard” in view, complete with bits of disemboweled stuffed animal fluff.

Writing spaces themselves travel around the house or even to a nearby park. (Thank you, portable laptops and iPad drawing apps!) This time of year, my favorite workspace is at an old table on the porch, flanked by rotating thrift store art impulse buys. We call it “the Frugal-heim Exhibit.” Snort!

So when am I going to get to the GIVEAWAY part of this post? Right NOW! I’ve recently started volunteering at a charity thrift store where I lucked into a couple of “new” train cases for my collection. (Middle two cases on the shelf with the robot, a few images up.) Here’s a closeup of my favorite two repurposed cases, one with a vintage dress pattern theme and one with a vintage office theme, using the pages of an old Gregg Transcription instruction book. I haven’t done one in a while, so why not give myself the incentive to repurpose one of my new ones by offering it as a giveaway to one lucky Picture Book Builders reader?! Fair warning: they all retain a faint essence of perfumed makeup. That’s not a bad memory, right? To be entered into a random drawing for a Kim-Norman-repurposed-train-case, comment below with a office/art-studio tip/reminiscence. It’ll be one of the two I pointed out above, in the robot picture… design & theme as yet to be determined.

Since I’ve traded with Andrea and won’t be doing a May post, I’ll do the drawing for the winner on May 24, 2022. So be sure to drop a comment by then. Good luck!

Congratulations to Brigid Finucane, winner of last month’s giveaway of Liz Dubois’ DUCK AND CLUCK book. Congratulations, Brigid!

Kim Norman

Kim Norman is the author of more than twenty children’s books, already or soon to be in print, published by Sterling; Scholastic; Penguin/Random House; Farrar, Straus and Giroux; Candlewick, and Abrams. Calling herself a “Bedtime reading evangelist,” Kim has been invited to countless schools around the US and even wrote a book on the subject with the embarrassingly mercenary title, SELL BOOKS AND GET PAID DOING AUTHOR SCHOOL VISITS. The parents of two grown sons, Kim and her husband live in Smithfield, Virginia, with two dogs in a little house shaded by giant pecan trees. Read more about Kim and her books at kimnorman.com.


  1. My “office” needs to meet your office(s). They have a lot in common.

  2. Danielle Hammelef

    You are so creative! I love the vintage kids’ books turned into wall art with your personal jewelry connection.

    • Thank you, Danielle. My grandmother also had some cool really cool old buttons. I don’t really sew — unless you count hot-gluing — so it seemed like a nice way to extend the life of all those fun little trinkets.

  3. My office tip is to stay organized. I can’t work around clutter! Your cases are beautiful, Kim!! As a seamstress, I love the vintage dresses.

    • Thank you! Aren’t those cool?! Another thrift store find. Used to be able to buy old patterns for a quarter, but I think they’ve gone up. I was proud I *almost* centered up that skirt center on the front. lol!

  4. Elizabeth W Saba

    I love this post! Repurpose! Love it! I also manage to stay organized for a moment or two. Then I find myself re organizing.

  5. Ha! I identified a lot with the organizational “phases” outlined here. I’m currently enjoying a rolling cart era, paired with a plastic snap-top desk tray–and often use of the dining room table during the workday. 🙂

    • Ooo! I LOVE roller carts! My church has these magnificent wire mesh ones that I used to borrow from the kitchen every week during music practice. I bought a big plastic one to hold paint cans at the community theater where I used to paint sets. Made me lament all the years I had hauled out cans one at a time. Set painters had to fight to keep actors from confiscating it, though. I was also an actor, but very much a painter when it came to sharing that cart! lol!

  6. Ooo! I LOVE roller carts! My church has these magnificent wire mesh ones that I used to borrow from the kitchen every week during music practice. I bought a big plastic one to hold paint cans at the community theater where I used to paint sets. Made me lament all the years I had hauled out cans one at a time. Set painters had to fight to keep actors from confiscating it, though. I was also an actor, but very much a painter when it came to sharing that cart! lol!

    • Stoopid Blogger. Posted twice!

      • Oh, how I delight in your confessions! Especially the wicker years.
        My desk is crazy. It’s also the size of a table….and too big, but handmade by my great uncle so…

        Notebooks are my weakness. And paper scraps. And finding notes later on.

        But…we put on an addition last year. So I will have more room to organize or get messy sometime this summer when the office is done. Or decorate with my first train case!

  7. I call these lifetime treasures. They always deserve a special place in our house and kept with precious memories. I applaud your orderliness. I call you treasures keeper.

  8. What a fun blog! I love the repurposed makeup bags. Thanks for all the images.

  9. What a fun post! I love your creativity and all the photos. I wish I could be more organized, but I end up with stacks of notebooks everywhere and my desk too cluttered to work at. Thanks for this post!

  10. Your cases are amazing. I really believe everyone organizes differently. Find your style and stick to it. It is all part of the ‘process.’

  11. Kim, what a beautiful post with all this history and beauty that you surround yourself with. I have very few old things (one of the downsides of being an immigrant) –my mom’s prayer book, some saris, my childhood plates and bowls we use daily (stainless steel is indestructible), my husband’s grandmother’s cross that I wear, all so very precious because they hold sweet memories.

    I love thrift stores for the treasures I’ve found–handmade clothes, silver spoons, a silver bread and butter dish–and I use them daily. And I love your repurposed cases. I know what I’d use them for too! Thanks for hosting this giveaway.

    • Thank you, Vijaya! There may be one good thing about the immigrant experience, when it comes to possessions: it forces decisions about what’s really important, and then makes those few possessions all the more cherished. I love that you really use your thrift store items. It’s so easy to go overboard, filling house with impulse buys that end up forgotten in the hoard. If you win, you’ll have to show us what you use it for! ❤️

  12. Rhonda-Kay Gatlin

    I understand your organizational system it fits well with mine. I work in the dining room across from the living room. I have another room I call the dungeon. It is in the back of the house where some of my manuscripts which I finished, but need something. I have an entire bookshelf of picture books and drawers of pens, colored pencils, pencils, and erasers. So you see what I mean we must be kindred spirits. One factor you have multiple published books and I’m still querying and writing more. I love writing.

    • I love meeting a kindred spirit — and love hearing about the dungeon. lol! I’m sure you’re well on your way, Rhonda-Kay. Clearly you’re taking the time to learn all you can about the biz. I see so many people at writers’ conferences who clearly haven’t read a children’s book in 50 years. It’s so important to keep up with current trends. I’m rooting for you!

  13. So cool! I LOVE the old suitcases and your fun decor! Thrift store shopping is the best. You just never know when you will find the next treasure!

    • Yes!!! Which is why I have to be REALLY careful volunteering in that new charity thrift store in town. I’ve already brought home some treasures. Hubby says it’s a very dangerous place for me to volunteer. Ha! I think he’s safe, though. I’ve always said I have the opposite of hoarding disorder: I don’t tend to get the kind of emotional attachment that some people do with things (ahem, Mom, are you listening? 😉) so I’ll throw out ANYTHING, even if I regret it later.

  14. In my “office,” I have a small figure of an otter because on the day I sold my first picture book, I was on an Alaskan cruise when I got the email from an editor who loved my manuscript. Every time I look at that otter, I relive seeing otters on that cruise…and the joy of my first sale.

  15. What a fun post! I love the train case makeover. I do organize my stuff but my office is often very cluttery. Too many stacks of journals, papers, etc. My desk is filled with post it notes and odds and ends.

  16. I have my grandmother’s train case. She carried her makeup in it when she visited us. I painted it red a few years ago! You are organized in a very unique, kinda way!!

    • Oh dang, I wish the blog would let us post pics in the comments. Would love to see your grand’s. They’re all a little different, depending on age and brand. I really like that white one under the stuffed polar bear at the top of the page. I like it so much, I’ve procrastinated on how to repurpose it, like I’m afraid to commit. lol!

  17. Oh I love it! You have just given me an idea as to what to do with old books I have from my dad’s childhood.

  18. Great and fun ideas. I thought I was the only one who actually likes that odd, old perfumed smell that reminds me of my grandma!

  19. My best office memories as a child was playing with my grandma Aliene’s typewriter! She did all of the paperwork for my grandpa’s contractor business so visiting her meant time in the office a couple hours each week. We were allowed to type “important” letters or stories and when she needed to type…we got to sit at Poppa’s drafting table and draw!

    • Kimberly Norman

      I love that story, Mel! Maybe I have told you about being similarly impressed with my grandmother’s clerical abilities. I was SO impressed at her rapid-fire keyboard skills on a grand, noisy old typewriter. Not old then, of course. (Nor was my grandmother — step grandmother — who married my widowed grandfather when she was only about 38, around the time I was born.) Because of that early influence, I enjoy typing to this day, although not as much on shallow, not-nearly-noisy-enough laptop keyboards. I have a cheap bluetooth keyboard I sometimes pair with my iPad. That’s actually got some nice, clickety action. I’d be tempted to pair it with my laptop for a more satisfying typing experience, but then the mouse pad would be inconveniently far away. And heaven forbid I burn a calorie by reaching a few inches further for the mousepad. Ha!

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