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This is the weekend I'll be speaking at the Southern Festival of Books, October 12th in Nashville, Tennessee. I'll share my Halloween picture book, LULA'S BREW on the Youth Stage at 11:00am with a book signing afterwards. Can you join me?
I'll also be at AVID BOOKSHOP in Athens, Georgia on Saturday, October 26th at 10:30 am and at Hall Book Exchange in Gainesville, Georgia at 2:00pm that same day. I hope you can drop by - preferably dressed as your favorite Halloween character!
I've been a long-time fan of Will Terry's work. I love his saturated colors, vibrant palettes and most of all, his wonderful light! I can also say Will is a fabulous speaker. Not all illustrators can teach what they do, but Will spoke at our 2013 Illustrators' Day and gave one of the best talks I've ever heard on illustrating children's books - both on method and the industry itself. So I'm thrilled to help Will celebrate the release of his newest title, a Halloween book - SKELETON FOR DINNER - written by Margery Cuyler and illustrated by the marvelous Will. He dropped by my blog to talk about it...
Q. Will, have you done a few holiday-specific books. What's your favorite holiday? Are you happy to now have a Halloween book under your belt? A. I've done one other Christmas book and just finished another Christmas book that should be out in a few weeks for this Christmas but this is my first Halloween picture book and I've wanted to do one for SOOO long!
Q. You obviously have a thing for frogs. They pop up in a lot of your books. In fact, Little Witch has one right there on her hat! So, what is it about frogs!? A. Frogs are compact little slimers full of color and shiny surfaces - and I just love to include them when I can!
Q. What was your medium for this book and how did you get all those wonderful textures? A. I've been using Photoshop for the past 3 years now and I get the texture by scanning an actual textured paper surface made with gel medium. Then I define the texture as a pattern in Photoshop and use the texture settings in the brush pallet to paint with texture digitally. Of course this means nothing if you don't use Photoshop - it's pure magic to me still - I can't believe how amazing the digital tools are today. My new love is my Cintiq monitor which is a pressure sensitive monitor I can draw and paint directly on. Amazing doesn't quite capture how I feel about this device!
Q. I've always been amazed by your use of light. This book is no exception with the Witch's fire and the moon. How do you approach light when you're first working on a piece? A. I try to mimic certain aspects of the real world while exagerating some of them as well. For me having good color starts with defining light sources and designing them into the composition before color is even thought of. After my composition is working with value - good lights and darks - I can start to think about color. One of the main problems I see in my students work is the lack of a light source. If you don't know where the light is coming from you don't know where to put shadows. If you don't have shadows the elements in the image appear to float. If things are floating you lose spacial relationships and so on... You need to know where the light is coming from. Observation from life is a great start. Looking at how other artists solve value patterns is another very important step. Copying other artists work is the next step. Not copying to satisfy assignments but copying to improve your understanding of concept - just like we teach athletes to copy the moves (drills) of the "greats" that went before them.
Q. How long did it take for your style to develop? Did you do it consciously or did it just sort of happen? A. It really just happened. I truly believe that style is an extension of years of practice. It's inside all of us waiting to get out. If you love drawing and spend thousands of hours doing it you will start to take on a style that others will recognize before you do.
Q. Can you share your path to publication with my readers? A.Oh boy - I could write paragraphs on this one... Things are much different today than they were when I started over 20 years ago. I don't think my story would be much help today. I sent out post cards, had a rep, and published my work in Showcase and Workbook which aren't even around anymore. Today my advice is simple yet probably hard to justify without an hour long presentation. I think illustrators should do several things if they really want to have their work published.
1) Have an amazing aspect to your work. Either the art itself is hard to look away from because it's just so amazing. Or it's really hip - mine isn't hip but art directors seem to be looking for "hip". If you can't be hip combine your art with great original stories. In short something about your creations needs to be unforgettable to get the attention of art directors and editors.
2) Work on your own products and publish them yourself. Whether it's books, apps, ebooks, games, comics, graphic novels, etc. Don't be satisfied with "maybe"..."maybe we'll get back with you, maybe we'll work with you, maybe we'll publish your book, maybe we'll"....NO - the tools are in your hands right now. The cost of entry is extremely low. You can do it if you're committed.
3) Be visible online. If you're making gold but nobody knows you're selling gold - how will anyone buy your GOLD? Get on facebook and twitter...and pinterest, and start a blog. Don't have the time for all of that? Ummmm...that's where everyone is and if they like what you're doing they can't wait to share it with their friends. Advertising doesn't work like it used to. We've transcended traditional advertising - we're now in the connection age. Get connected or don't exist.
Q. I know you always have interesting things up your sleeve - tell us about some of the projects which inspire you right now. A.Working on a story app with Rick Walton right now and should be out before Christmas. It's about a Gopher who builds a house that's way too big for his needs and the consequences that follow - sound familiar?
Q. Anything else you'd like to share? A. I'm also really excited about our new SVS online live and recorded classes for drawing, digital painting, children's books, etc. We've been selling out each class and our students have been very happy with our format - two teachers in the class challenging eachother and supporting eachother as we explain concepts and then having one-on-one follow up sessions and critiques. It's so rewarding to be able to dream up an idea and use online tools to bring it to life! http://schoolofvisualstorytelling.bigcartel.com/
Q. Thanks so much for stopping by, Will! And y'all do check out Will's links. He's one of the most brilliant instructors I know!
The publisher of SKELETON FOR DINNER, Albert Whitman, has kindly agreed to give away one free copy of the book to one of my lucky commenters. (Must live in the US or Canada to win.) The drawing will be in one week. Enter below! a Rafflecopter giveaway
Nina Myers! Congratulations Nina for winning my giveaway for a free copy of LULA'S BREW!
And thanks so much for all your entries (the most ever!) and overwhelming words of support for LULA'S BREW! I wish I could send a copy to you all! Just know - I so appreciate my followers—especially those who keep coming back (you know who you are and trust me, I do too!)
If you didn't win a free copy of LULA'S BREW, you can still purchase the book in time for Halloween!
Option 1:Ask your local bookseller. If they don't have it, they should have time to order it if you ask soon!
Option 2: Don't know where your closest independent bookseller is? Go through Indiebound!
Saturday, Michael Allen Austin organized a truly special Sketch Book Event for our Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators Southern Breeze Illustrators. We went to the BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha - Shri Swaminarayan Mandir. This is a bona fide, carved in India, Hindu temple smack dab in the middle of Tucker, Georgia. Who knew?
Not only was it breathtakingly gorgeous, inside it was a place for worship, but also a constant outreach program to non-Hindu visitors. Harry (?? - president) talks people through how the religion works, why there are so many statues, and how people worship (often prostrate on the ground) . . . which they were doing all around us as we drew. We tried to be respectful and stay out of the way, but apparently we were just as interesting to them as they were to us. Worshipers often stopped to watch over our shoulders as we drew. With that sort of pressure, I wanted to make sure I did a good job! So I slowed down and spent more time with my drawings . . . The beautiful statues. The amazing carvings which seemed to drip from the ceiling like frosting.
The metal work in all the window panes - I never saw two alike.
And who couldn't sit for hours at the elephant fountain?
It was such a beautiful day, the entire experience was downright spiritual. I'll add more photos on our Illustrators' Corner as I get them ready. So CLICK HERE SOON for more!
a stick of butter. Remember this from Sesame Street? I always loved it. (In my memory it was always much longer/bigger/jazzier - I guess to my young mind it was all of that!) It was so on my mind when I was working on my picture book Soap, soap, soap ~ Jabón, jabón, jabón! Can you see why?
Lola Schaefer has published over 200 books for children, so you've probably read something she wrote already. Or maybe it will be her latest book: LIFETIME—a dazzling display of animal achievements over the course of a lifetime, illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal. I'm proud to call Lola a friend, and today I'm pleased to welcome her to my blog!
Q. Congratulations on yet another brilliant book, Lola! Once again you've managed to combine learning and entertainment into a lovely story about nature and its quirky numbers. For instance, the Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake will add 40 beads to its rattle in a lifetime. How did the idea for this book come to you? A. Thank you for the kind words, E. I'm so glad that you are enjoying LIFETIME. I wish I could blush and say that this idea was all mine, but it wasn't. Actually, my editor at Chronicle Books came up with the initial concept. We emailed and spoke about the idea and what it might look like. Right from the beginning I was excited about the potential. But it's funny, even in my wildest dream I didn't imagine that the final book would be this layered and jam-packed with information.
Q. You must have done a ton of research to learn such things as the Swallowtail butterfly will visit 900 flowers, sipping nectar, in its lifetime. Tell us about your journey! A. This kind of book reads easy and seamless. (At least, I hope it does!) The reader will never know all of the work that went into each sentence that appears on a spread, but I do! Like any book based on factual information, I needed to contact and speak with quite a few experts. However, LIFETIME was a most unusual journey, and at times resembled a giant puzzle. First, I needed agreement from my experts on the average lifespan of each of the animals in the wild (except for the alpaca). That alone proved to be difficult at times. Then came the job of locating animals with behaviors or features that could be drawn by the illustrator. Finally, I needed to find numbers that would range from 1-1,000 since that's the scope we hoped to show. Most numbers were either too low, or astronomically high. But perseverance won out - that and some fabulous experts who kept working with other professionals on their end to locate the needed facts.
The Swallowtail information is new. My contact told me that just recently scientists were able to follow several Swallowtails during their 6-7 hours of feeding time each day and count the number of flowers visited. Amazing! I had hoped to learn that specific information, but thought it was a long shot. Again, so much depends on finding people in the various fields who gladly give their time to help create an interesting and accurate book for children.
Q. Some of the numbers were hard to believe. Who knew a female kangaroo will birth 50 joeys in her lifetime - that's a LOT! Did you believe it at first? A. Oh, E, I always learn so much while writing nonfiction. I guess the number didn't amaze me as much as the fact that after reaching maturity and giving birth, it's fairly common for a female red kangaroo to have a joey in her pouch almost nonstop for many years. Typically, she has to push an older joey out when another baby is born. And quite often this kangaroo will have one baby in her pouch, but still be nursing an older joey. That's a lot of intense mothering. Nature provides an endless supply of surprising facts and patterns. I think that's why I enjoy writing nonfiction.
Q. I loved learning about the seahorse, especially. How wonderful that the male seahorse will carry and birth 1,000 babies in its lifetime! I'm surprised we don't see more of them when we visit the ocean. Have you ever seen a bunch of baby seahorses? (And do you wish humans were a bit more like seahorses?) A. I haven't ever seen one seahorse, let alone a bunch, in the shallows. Believe me, I've looked. I know that they camouflage themselves really well, but as much time as my husband and I have spent snorkeling, I always thought I'd see a few. No such luck. As far as your second question . . . good parenting is always hard work. I doubt who does what is as important as two parents, if possible, contributing the best of themselves to the effort. (And as far as numbers go . . . NO. I'm thrilled that humans are not anything like seahorses in that respect. Aren't you?)
Q. Teachers will love this book as they introduce calculating averages to their students. Do you have a teacher guide for them to accompany the book? A. I haven't developed a teacher guide. I'd like to think that the book is self-explanatory. The backmatter does a bang-up job of extending the text by offering the reader more scientific information on each animal, providing a definition of the term "average", and posing a few math animal problems directly to the reader.
However, you never know . . . a teacher guide might pop up on the scene at a later date.
Q. You are probably the most prolific writer I know. Do you have any advice on how to keep a (publishing) pace like yours going over a career? A. Ha! I'm not sure it's very wise to offer other writers advice since we all have our own unique routines, schedules, and motivations. For me, it's all about discovery. I don't think I realized that when I first began this journey many years ago. I truly enjoy that stage of the process when I realize or "find" the true fictional story, or the core of what I want to say in a nonfiction piece. I typically work on 3-4 different writing projects at one time until one pushes forward and screams for attention. Then I hunker down with just that one script for a few months and become quite obsessive.
However I do think that audience is a strong motivator to write more and write better. It's my great privilege to work with hundreds of children each year, sometimes in classrooms while visiting schools, other times during writing camps, and occasionally in private workshops. Speaking with kids and learning what they appreciate most about my work and the work of other children's authors, motivates me to keep busy on the next manuscripts.
Q. Any events you'd like my readers to know about? A. This fall I'm working in a few Georgia schools, as well as out of state. I'm not scheduled for any major booksignings or conferences. I'm pretty excited to meet new audiences, talk writer to writer with students, and spend long days drafting and revising here at home.
Q. Congratulations again and thanks for visiting! A. Thank you, E, for welcoming me and LIFETIME to your blog.
How many readers will you reach in one lifetime. More than I can count!
Once again, Chronicle is offering a free copy of LIFETIME to one of my lucky commenters! (Must live in the continental US to win.) The drawing will be held next Thursday (and announced again in my "Coloring Page Tuesday" newsletter, so enter now! a Rafflecopter giveaway
We're in the thick of Banned Book Week, September 22—28th. Do you stand for intellectual freedom? I do! And y'know, if parents and librarians and teachers are involved with your child's reading, there is no reason any book should ever be banned!
Read more at PW: Twitter, YouTube, Will Promote Banned Books Week.
The Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI.org) is the largest writing organization of its kind in the world and many successes can be attributed to being a member/participant. As Illustrator Coordinator for the Southern Breeze region (Alabama, Georgia, and the Florida panhandle) I can confirm the SCBWI has opened many doors for me. And many writers and illustrators say they never would have made it in the kidlit biz without it. Read about many success stories at Ink and Angst: Gate Crashers Ask Why SCBWI. And if you live in our region, it's not too late to sign up for our Fall Writing and Illustrating for Kids (WIK) conference in Birmingham, Alabama on October 11-12, 2013. Go to Southern-Breeze.net.
How did this not hit my radar until now? Apparently Mr. Shatner recorded "I Can't Get Behind That" in 2004. Considering we used to love listening to his dramatized version of Rocket Man and such (gads, it used to crack us UP!) when I worked at Stone Mountain Lasers (doing the laser show animation), I just adore this!
Just in time for Halloween, I'm giving away a free hard cover copy of LULA'S BREW, signed and dedicated to your favorite witchie!!!
Lula's Aunties want her to be a witch like them. But Lula would rather study cookbooks than spell books (and hates to fly on a broom). Lula wants to be a famous chef. In desperation, the Aunties insist she try to make one last potion. Lula secretly adds her cooking flair and creates a brew that bewitches the entire town, including her Aunties!
This fun rhyming tale transcends the typical Halloween story to appeal to cooks and "foodies" throughout the year.
I usually host other people's books with interviews and giveaways on Thursdays. Well, this Thursday the giveaway is mine. And I'll share some tidbits about LULA'S BREW...
Did you know that artwork from my original LULA'S BREW dummy won me a Grand Prize in the SmartWriters.com competition? I got a trophy and everything!
Did you know that LULA'S BREW was an APP before it was a book? Yup, one of the very first children's picture book apps for the iPhone and later for the iPad. I even did the voice for the apps! (And learned that it's a bad idea to eat salty food before doing a voice recording.)
I wrote an article about my experiences with Lula for the SCBWI Bulletin (the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators): "My 1st iPhone/iPad Picture Book App." I gave talks at conferences and even did some very high-tech school visits. LULA'S BREW was cutting edge back then.
Did you know that as an app, LULA'S BREW was downloaded over 10,000 times? Not too shabby, eh? I'm proud - yes indeedy.
Did you know that LULA'S BREW is available not only in hard cover and paperback, but also for the iPhone, iPad, Kindle, Kindle Fire, Nook, and as a pdf? CLICK HERE for links to them all.
Did you know that LULA'S BREW is still breaking new ground with Xist Publishing's publishing model? All of Xist's printed books are are produced using print-on-demand resources. (They aren't actually produced until orders are placed.) It cuts down on waste, warehousing, and may be the wave of the future for publishing. This is definitely something to keep an eye on!
Did you know that one of my best fan emails ever was from a mom whose little girl dressed up as Lula for Halloween? BREAK my heart to little pieces!!! OMG!
Did you know I have LULA'S BREW coloring pages, a word-find puzzle, computer wallpaper, and the actual recipe for Lula's Brew? Yup - CLICK HERE!
GIVEAWAY I am giving away a FREE signed and dedicated copy of LULA'S BREW along with a bookmark and coloring pages to one of my commenters! (Must live in the continental US to win.) Sign up below...
a Rafflecopter giveaway
I just adore this. An artist mother is working with her daughter to come up with unique, whimsical, wonderful illustrations like this:
Artist Mica Angela Hendricks draws the face, then lets her daughter take over for a while, before she comes back and 'finishes' the piece. The result is mature, finished art with a childish influence which breaks all bounds. Rather brilliant and completely inspiring I say! Go to her blog, Busy Mockingbird, to see the process and examples of other pieces. Thanks to Colossal for the heads up!
THE FRAZZLE FAMILY FINDS A WAY is a new picture book written by Ann Bonwill and illustrated by Caldecott-winning Stephen Gammell. (Whose work I adore.) This book is a perfect example of what can happen when strong words and pictures come together to create an even stronger whole.
The Frazzle family has a problem - they can't remember anything. So their Aunt Rosemary comes to help with her lists and string. Still, nothing works until Annie comes up with a musical solution.
I asked Ann and Stephen about their new book...
Q. Ann, your mother was a children's book librarian, so I imagine you've read a few. How did The Frazzle Family come to you? A. Yes, I have read a few! I was very lucky to grow up around books, and reading so many has definitely shaped who I am as a writer. As a child I loved the characters of Frances and Little Bear. In those stories the parents were always so comfortingly perfect, but I thought it might be fun to explore a family where the parents could use a little help! Goodness knows that as a parent I don't have all the answers, so it was nice to have the parents learning from the children for a change. And fun to depict the love and warmth that can exist even amid chaos.
Another of my favorite books from childhood is THE RELATIVES CAME, written by Cynthia Rylant and illustrated by Stephen Gammell. You can imagine my excitement when I heard that Stephen would be illustrating my book, too!
Q. Ann, I love how forgetful they are - children and adults will relate! Are you forgetful? A. No, I'm really not forgetful. I'm more like Aunt Rosemary - the type A neurotic - for better or for worse!
Q. Stephen, I adore the frenetic energy in your work. Not just in THE FRAZZLE FAMILY but also in MUDKIN, and your Caldecott-winning SONG AND DANCE MAN. How do you bring such energy to your work? A. Thank you, Elizabeth, for mentioning MUDKIN...one of my better efforts, I daresay...Energy, energy, what is that? Trying to do the right thing for the text, and hoping it looks like it just appeared before you turned the page. Picture books should have a magical and unique quality that is removed from the world we toil around in, and I suppose that's what I'm after in my books. Or, one might say, this probably couldn't happen in your day, but in the Frazzle's day, it's completely normal...and so hopefully, the reader/looker will say "I want to be there!"
Q. Stephen, Can you share your method? A. No, it's a secret...I don't even know what a method is. A voice, or a point of view, or something you take at the first sign of a cold.
Q. Stephen, you've been in the children's book business a long time, but can you share how you first got into it? A.
Back in the early 70's, I went to New York, and visited a few houses, inquiring about work, and rather straight away, Barbara Lucas (then at Putnam) gave me my first book. I was delighted in being able to do this, and so just kept on, and other houses and editors began giving me work, and time went on until at some moment, I began to realize I was illustrating books. What a surprise! Still at it, thankful to say.
Q. Ann, I'd love to hear your path to publication as well. A. I published my first book while living in the UK. I met my editor during a critique session at an SCBWI conference there. She did not decide to acquire the manuscript she critiqued, but she liked it well enough to consider my other stories, including the text that ultimately became my first picture book, POCKET'S CHRISTMAS WISH. After publishing four books in England, I found an agent in the US and have now sold several stories here, as well as some co-editions of my UK books. It's been an adventure and a dream come true, and a real learning experience every step of the way.
Are there any special events coming up to help celebrate THE FRAZZLE FAMILY? Please share! Ann: I've had some lovely school events to celebrate the Frazzles, and I hope to plan more for the fall. I really enjoy sharing my books with children of all ages, and it's been especially gratifying to hear the laughter that the Frazzle family's antics inspire. Stephen:
None that I know of. You know of any? If so, let me (or HH) know.
Holiday House is very kindly giving away a free copy of THE FRAZZLE FAMILY to one of my lucky commenters. (Must live in the US/Canada to win.) Enter below! a Rafflecopter giveaway
If you read my blog, you probably already know that I'm a fan of Moonbot Studios - creators of The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore. Well, I'm also a fan of Chipotle. A friend of mine is their restaurant promoter here in Atlanta, so I've been turned onto their yumminess since day 1. Whenever I have to run an errand that direction in town, I try to plan it around lunch at Chipotle.
So, I was inclined to love a collaboration between Moonbot and Chipotle anyhow. But who could have guessed something as powerful and beautiful as this!?
(There's also a game you can download at the Chipotle website.)
Yes, it's heavy handed on the message, but y'know what? After two years of taking personal responsibility to change my diet to fix the things that were wrong with me that the doctors couldn't figure out (turned out I was gluten intolerant), I'm all for some heavy messages about nutrition and how we feed ourselves and our loved ones.
Back that up with all the research I've been doing about poor environmental practices as I get ready for my novel, A Bird on Water Street, to come out, and we could all use more education on the background behind the things we depend on - the basics like food and water.
All said, GOOD FOR YOU Moonbot and Chipotle! Keep it coming!
Read more about the journey for this ad at There's No Getting Around It: The New Chipotle Ad Is Amazing at Gawker.
I have a few tricks up my sleeve when it comes to writing - tools that I lean on a good bit. I thought I'd share them with you today...
Rhymezone - It's an online dictionary, spell-checker, thesaurus, etc. Need to find that perfect word that's kind of like this, but slightly more like that? The synonyms tool is what I use the most.
Google Translate - Not only does it translate, you can look at words in many different languages and hear how they're pronounced! Need something unusual for a term or phrase, start here!
Grammarly - This one is fairly new to me, but I see it becoming an important tool - especially considering I still can't figure out that whole lay/lie thing!
Facebook - Believe it or not! When I'm stumped for a factoid or I'm wondering if a certain word was used at a certain time in recent history, I ask my friends on facebook (most are also writers). My most recent inquiries were for 'bass-ackwards' and 'cheesy.' That thread got funny!
Scrivner - Have you discovered this writing program yet? You can pool all your research, images, links, etc. into ONE document. It makes life SO much easier!!!
Do you have any tricks up your sleeve? Share them in the comments below!
Today's post was sponsored by Grammarly. And they have a plagiarism checker too! (So you can make sure that brilliant line you just came up with really is original!) I'll bet teachers could find that one useful!
Self-confessed tinkerer Blair Somerville has been creating his Lost Gypsy Gallery in New Zealand for ten years now. He reminds me a bit of Howard Finster and his Paradise Garden, with his inspired creations and transformation of his personal environment. His is a wonderful mind - a gift to us all:
Blair's creations are called "Fine Acts of Junk." I love the way his whales move - so fluid. And why not?
A film experiment by Joey Bania, made with funding from the BBC Worldwide Young Producers' grant. Music provided by The Books - thebooksmusic.com/ Thanks to This is Colossal for the heads up!