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Post by James
Gerardo Suzán is an illustrator working professionally since 1985. He focuses mainly on books for young people but his work also appears in advertising, posters, magazines and newspapers. He has won several prizes in Mexico, Japan and USA.
Migration has always been a central topic throughout Gerardo Suzán’s artistic career. The work shown above from one of his children’s books speaks of the importance of self-identity and cultural roots.
Suzán’s formal education includes graphic design at the National School of Visual Arts in México, as well as etching and drawing at the Centro dell’ Incisione with Gigi Pedroli and with Giuliana Consilvio in Milan. He attended the Illustration Seminar organized by the UNESCO and the ACCU (Asian Cultural Center for the UNESCO) taught by Dusan Kallay in Moravany, Slovakia.
You can see more of Gerardo’s work on his website.
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On Friday author Kathleen Hale wrote an article for The Guardian about her experience being catfished. On Monday Twitter, and a number of blogs, got quite excited about this topic and lots of people had lots of opinions. I came upon the article when Jessica Alvarez mentioned it to me and before reading anything about it I went to The Guardian article. I wanted to base any opinion I had on what Kathleen Hale had to say rather than read the opinions of others first.
Even without reading what others thought I know that some people feel that Kathleen Hale was catfished, others feel she crossed a line herself and was not the victim or the only victim and still others wonder if the entire post was made up. After reading just Kathleen Hale's post I do stand behind her in some respects. Not all, but some.
I've been in this business long enough to know the impact a review can have on an author. I've seen smart, successful authors completely lose all self-confidence because of one review or one comment on a writing loop or in a blog. In most cases authors who reacted this way were not the stereotypical "neurotic" or introverted authors. They are almost always people who are successful in various different aspects of their lives. They deal with high stress jobs, families and seem to juggle an entire life on top of a writing life. In other words, these are people who have faced adversity before and wore it well.
In fact, while I'm not an author, I've been one of those people. After six years of blogging about what I really thought it was bound to happen. And happen it did. Time and time again. There were times when the comments on the blog got so contentious I would stop sleeping. I panicked that I had alienated my clients, editors or ruined it for all of us. There were times I would have to shut down the computer and walk away for the day. But each and every time it happened walking away was always the best answer for me.
In Kathleen Hale's case the only story we know is hers. As of yet, to the best of my knowledge, we haven't heard from the reviewer she's charging with catfishing. A term by the way I had never heard until reading her article. Whether or not she was catfished, in my mind, doesn't really matter. Fro a variety of reasons reviewers and bloggers act anonymously. In some ways it's one of the great things about the Internet. It's also one of worst things. Being anonymous allows us to really say what we want to say and what we think. Something a lot of people wouldn't be comfortable doing under their own name or couldn't do (it might hurt a career or their own reputation in some way). True confession here, before starting the blog I used to comment anonymously all the time on writing forums. I acknowledged that I was an agent, but I was uncomfortable giving my real name. I didn't want what I said to bite a new agency in the butt. Was I catfishing? I don't think so, I was just giving an opinion. And certainly there have been a ton of anonymous publishing bloggers and Tweeters, people who just want to say what they believe without facing repercussions.
Did Kathleen Hale go to far? Probably. Personally I think any time you start tracking down someone in person you are probably going to far. But I get how someone can go there. Putting yourself out there, whether its by writing a book, an opinion piece in a magazine, or a blog, is a scary, scary thing. Sure you feel great about saying what you believe or finding others to read your work, but at the same time you know you're going to face a backlash. That reviewers will hate what you write and have an opinion about it that differs from your own and you know they're not going to be afraid to say something. Especially because they have the right to remain anonymous in any way they see fit. And when we or our opinion or our writing is attacked it's hard. It often impacts our psyche in a big way.
Personally I've never gone to the lengths Kathleen Hale did to discover the truth about her naysayer, but I get it. Sort of. When someone says something really awful about you or your work you want a chance to discuss it with them. You want a chance to defend yourself without sounding defensive (which is often what happens when you start that discussion on comments). And probably you want the chance to discredit that person. To say, you are wrong and how would you know anyway because.... When someone posts anonymously she knows a whole lot about us, but we know nothing about her. It takes all the power away from us and gives it to her.
There were times when I have been attacked on this blog. Right or wrong, people came out to do whatever they could to discredit me and attack me and my professional integrity. I was scared, I was angry and I Googled. What I learned early on however, and what Kathleen Hale admits to learning in the long run, is that the best answer is to just sit quietly and, as they say, this too shall pass. Let the topic speak for itself or let the other readers comment and take care of it. Sometimes the biggest mistake we can make is saying something at all. What we're doing in that case is exactly what the naysayer wants. We're giving her attention. It's sort of like when Buford grabs my slipper and runs around the office with it. I have the option to chase him, call him and feed him treats. To give him the attention he wants. Or I can sit and work and watch him slowly drop the slipper, confused about why he's not getting the attention he wants.
I'm actually pretty impressed that Kathleen Hale wrote the article at all. Maybe she did it to finally get back at the reviewer, or maybe she just decided to put it out there and get rid of her moment of weakness once and for all. Either way it took bravery. Once again she's getting hit with a lot of opinions from a lot of people who don't know her. Sure its a choice she's making, but as writers I think we all know how difficult it is to face the opinions of others.
I love October. October 3 (my wedding anniversary) and October 31st (the best holiday of all!) are my favorite days, but today, October 21st, is really giving them a run for their money because not one, but TWO books that I've been eagerly awaiting are coming out. I seriously couldn't be more excited about these books if they were my own: ROOKIE YEARBOOK THREE, edited by Tavi Gevinson, and THIS IS YOUR AFTERLIFE, the YA debut by my hilarious, brilliant, amazing, simply-not-enough-cool-adjectives-exist-to-fully-describe-her critique partner, Vanessa Barneveld!
Let's talk about the amazing Vanessa and her book first. My books would basically not exist if not for Vanessa--well, they definitely would not be as good. We became online critique partners (Vanessa lives in Australia where I really hope to visit her one day!) shortly after I WANNA BE YOUR JOEY RAMONE sold in 2007. She's read multiple versions of both of my books (and some not-published manuscripts as well) and was a total lifesaver during the revisions of BALLADS OF SUBURBIA in particular, reading and immediately responding to the changes I was making at 3 am (this was where it was very convenient to have an Australian CP). She's got an eye for character and an ear for voice, which have helped me a ton, but those plus her incredible sense of humor have made her manuscripts a blast for me to read over the years and I AM SO FREAKIN' EXCITED that readers EVERYWHERE get to be swept into one of Vanessa's worlds.
Here's the lowdown on THIS IS YOUR AFTERLIFE!
When the one boy you crushed on in life can't seem to stay away in death, it's hard to be a normal teen when you're a teen paranormal.
Sixteen-year-old Keira Nolan has finally got what she wanted—the captain of the football team in her bedroom. Problem is he’s not in the flesh. He’s a ghost and she’s the only one who can see him.
Keira's determined to do anything to find Jimmy's killer. Even it if means teaming up with his prickly-yet-dangerously-attractive brother, Dan, also Keira's ex-best-friend. Keira finds that her childish crush is fading, but her feelings for Dan are just starting to heat up, and as the story of Jimmy’s murder unfolds, anyone could be a suspect.
This thrilling debut from Vanessa Barneveld crosses over from our world to the next, and brings a whole delightful new meaning to "teen spirit".
Here's the book trailer:
I devoured THIS IS YOUR AFTERLIFE. It was funny, it was sad, it kept me turning pages, and best of all, it reminded me of my own teenage years when I was obsessed with the Ouija Board and longing for the psychic abilities that Keira has. If you are looking for great ghost story with laugh-out-loud moments and more thrills than chills, this is it.
To celebrate her launch, Vanessa is throwing a big, online bash on her blog from tomorrow, October 22nd through October 31st. It will be filled with guests, including me! I'm doing a post and a giveaway (of an anthology featuring a ghost story I've written) on October 30th. I hope to see you there!
And now.... (drum roll)... on to ROOKIE!!!!
I've had the privilege of being a part of Rookie magazine since it launched in September of 2011. (Remember this super-excited blog post when it debuted?) I'm still in awe of everything that we do. The Yearbooks feature the best of the best of our online pieces for each year as well as some cool added bonuses. This is our first Yearbook with Razorbill and since I'm a Penguin/Random House author too now, I'm think that's pretty awesome. I also have two essays in this one, which feels like a huge accomplishment.
Here's the lowdown on ROOKIE YEARBOOK THREE!
The Tonight Show host Jimmy Fallon has been working on a new book. Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group will release Your Baby’s First Word Will Be Dada as a board book on June 09, 2015.
The story follows a father as he tries to make is so that his child’s first word is “dada.” This project was inspired by Fallon’s mission to compel his daughter, Winnie Rose, to say “dada” for her first word. Sadly, the young girl did not comply and instead said “mama.”
Here’s more from The Hollywood Reporter: “This is Fallon’s second board book. The first, Snowball Fight, about kids having fun when school is canceled for snow, came out in 2005. He’s also the author of a couple of funny books for adults — Thank You Notes and Thank You Notes 2 — that were based on skits from his late night TV show.”
New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.Add a Comment
I was just speaking with a colleague about the need to incite curiosity as the basis for research. Questioning, wondering and imagining are essential real life skills that are certainly nurtured in speculative fiction.
Earlier this year, authors Zetta Elliott and Ibi Zoboi published part of a conversation about race and representation in The Hunger Games and YA speculative fiction. Their conversation, which continued on Zetta’s blog brought out significant points on the critical importance of brown girls being seen in worlds of flight and fantasy.
IBI: My first contact with speculative fiction was the stories I would hear my family tell. They
happened in Haiti—political stories intermingled with loogaroo stories, which is like a vampire-type figure in Haitian folklore. There was always a sense of magic and darkness and fear in those stories. There was always somebody who didn’t come home and it was usually associated with the tonton macoute (a bogeyman with a sack), or a loogaroo who came to get somebody’s child. I had two mystical, folkloric figures woven into these political stories about family and friends, so that line between what was real and what was not was never clear.
ZETTA: In my childhood, that line between fantasy and reality was very clear because I was reading British novels in Canada—C.S. Lewis and Frances Hodgson Burnett, which isn’t
exactly fantasy. But her work featured these wealthy, white children living on the moors in England and was so far removed from my reality. And because those books didn’t serve as a mirror, fantasy was very much something that happened to other people. I didn’t really imagine magical, wonderful things happening to me because everything that I read said it only happened to kids of a certain color or a certain class. In terms of gender, at least girls were having adventures, too, so that was a good thing.
You and I are both writers and we’re obviously trying to generate our own stories. Is there a way for us to make an intervention in the field of YA fantasy? How do our stories reach our kids? MORE
Eboni Elizabeth, writing at the Dark Fantastic positions the following regarding people of color and Native Americans and how YA lit fails in this regard.
There is an imagination gap when we can’t imagine a little Black girl as the symbolic Mockingjay who inspires a revolution in one of today’s most popular YA megaseries.
There is an imagination gap when one of the most popular Black female characters on teen television is stripped of agency, marginalized within the larger story, and becomes a caricature of her literary counterpart.
There is an imagination gap when a Korean-Canadian woman’s critique of J.K. Rowling’s character Cho Chang in the Harry Potter novels is seen as more problematic than certain aspects of the character herself.
There is an imagination gap when a Nambe Pueblo critic’s perspectives on a pre-Columbian America “without people, but with animals” are seen as more problematic than the worldbuilding itself.
This is taken from “The Imagination Gap in #Kidlit and #YAlit: An Introduction to the Dark Fantastic“, her initial blog post. In addition to pulling readers into spaces of deep conversation, Eboni highlights numerous Dark Fantastic/Black Speculative Fiction resources in her side bar.
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Lauren had her first adolescent lit class last night at HGSE (Harvard Graduate School of Education). For last night’s class we talked about How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff. I love this part of a course when the students go from names and faces on a roster to real people with opinions about books. Lauren gave an excellent overview of literature for adolescents: the history, the jargon, the genres.
For next Monday’s class the theme is Windows & Mirrors and they will all read Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. For their second book, they have a choice between Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor & Park and Cynthia Kadohata’s The Thing About Luck. Tough choice!
Please join us as we discuss these books before Monday evening’s class. Things tend to pick up steam later in the week, but we like to put up the posts early for those who are reading ahead.Add a Comment
Your house always had that spooky charm, what with the old chandeliers, cobwebs everywhere and the occasional knock no one could identify. Well that all came crashing back into your head as you looked down the dark hallway and heard something shuffling towards you in the darkness. Oh and it’s picking up speed. What do you do? What do you see?
Want more creative writing prompts?
Pick up a copy of A Year of Writing Prompts: 365 Story Ideas for Honing Your Craft and Eliminating Writer’s Block. There’s a prompt for every day of the year and you can start on any day.
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As I streamline my biz, I realize I don’t have time for making the flower essences, so I am having a BIG SALE all this week. All essences are $5.00 each only this week. Tell your friends, grab a bunch before they are gone for good. All essences are formulated for the sensitive made with Apple Cider Vinegar instead of alcohol.
Thanks so much to CANSCAIP for inviting me to be a speaker at the Packaging Your Imagination conference at Humber College this past weekend. I had a fantastic time and once again appreciated what a wonderful kidlit/YA community we have here in Canada.
Thanks to Kate Blair for being my "shadow" during the event; Kate helped get me find the right rooms, introduced me at my workshop, made me feel welcome. Kate is a middle grade and YA writer, and placed 2nd in the 2010 Toronto Star Short Story Contest (out of 1800 entries!) as well as being longlisted for the CBC short story contest in both 2011 and 2012. You can find out more about Kate and her work at Kateblair.com.
Anyway, the subway was shut down between Eglinton and Bloor so I ended up taking a cab and arrived way early! The organizers were still setting up. I think I was one of the first to pick up my speaker badge:
Ran into my Torkidlit friend Karen Krossing, who helped distract me from my pre-talk jitters by walking around the venue with me, figuring out where the speaker coats could be stored, etc. Here are CANSCAIP Administrative Director Helena Aalto and PYI Co-Director Lorna Poplak, just before the conference officially opened:
I also had time to check out the art show. So much wonderful children's book art, and I also loved the process sketches that some people included. I'm new enough that I also got a thrill to see my own art up on display...and also very cool to see my sister's art right beside it:
Teresa Toten's opening keynote was inspiring! I've just started reading THE UNLIKELY HERO OF ROOM 13B, Teresa's novel that won the 2013 Governor General Literary Award For Children's Literature, and am loving it so far.
After that were the first set of workshop sessions, including mine! Thanks SO much to the Humber AV crew, who did a fantastic job at PYI:
and the E-Learning team in my session, who helped the streaming portion run smoothly for virtual attendees:
And here's her screen with the live video in the top left and my current slide on the right:
After the conference, I asked Kate how the streaming went and she reports it ran smoothly, thanks to the Humber College tech crew. You can also read Kate's report about being a virtual attendee at CANSCAIP's event on her blog. Kate's FIRST children's book (she's author/illustrator), GRACE, comes out from Holiday House Books early next year!
Back to PYI. My session seemed to go well, yay. I was still really nervous, but it was a bit easier than last time I gave a talk, plus the attendees were enthusiastic and asked interesting questions. After my session, I stayed in the room so I could hear Ashley Spires talk about her work:
I so love Ashley's bubbly enthusiasm and energy! Ashley talked about the creation process for Binky The Space Cat series of junior graphic novels, which I found fascinating, entertaining and informative. Did you know that Ashley initially drew all her herringbone and other intricate textures by HAND? Wow. I think Ashley noticed the look of awe (ok, maybe more like horror :-)) on my face when she told us this.
Anyway, finally getting to meet Ashley Spires in person was one of my personal highlights at PYI.
With my talk over, I could relax at lunchtime and just chat. Thanks to my lunchtime companions for some great kidlit/YA conversation (including my Torkidlit pal Nicole Winters in the bottom right):
I looked around for my MiGWriters critique partner, Andrea Mack, but missed seeing her! Happily, we ran into each other later in the conference. Here are Lana Button, Jan Dolby (so great to finally meet Jan in person!!) and Joyce Grant:
Lana Button, Jan Dolby and Joyce Grant at PYI 2014. Joyce and Jan are the creative team behind the GABBY series from Fitzhenry and Whiteside Publishers. Finally getting to meet Jan Dolby in person was another personal highlight during the conference. Lana's WILLOW FINDS A WAY was just nominated for a 2014 Blue Spruce Award, by the way!
In the afternoon, I was faced (again) with an impossible choice: I wanted to attend all the workshops! I ended up opting for the industry panel with Susan Rich (Editor-At-Large at Little, Brown) and Tara Walker (Editorial director at Tundra Books):
An excellent panel, so informative AND entertaining. :-D Teresa Toten was a fabulous moderator.
I stupidly missed getting a photo of Susin Nielsen, who gave a wonderful closing keynote (see audience above). We even got to see a clip of her acting role in the original Degrassi Junior High (she was a screenwriter)!
Plus LOOK, I won a prize in the raffle! I never win anything but thanks to CANSCAIP and the Vermont College Of Fine Arts, I won this bag of goodies:
Thanks to Lena Coakley for giving me a lift to a small gathering hosted by Sharon Jennings afterwards. Sadly, a bad headache prevented me from staying as long as I had wished but it was fun chatting with some of the others who came. Thank you, Sharon!
And again, THANK YOU so much to CANSCAIP and all the volunteers and organizers. Everything went so smoothly and I had so much fun, plus came away super-inspired.
If you're a Canadian children's book author, illustrator or performer, I strongly recommend you checking out CANSCAIP's website....and do consider attending next year's PYI event!Add a Comment
More than two weeks after Mma has passed away, I'm slowly pulling the threads of my new life together. Traditionally in Phokeng, we pack up the deceased's stuff (clothing, shoes, linen, personal knicknacks etc) immediately after they pass away, even before the funeral. So all Mma's personal things are in storage to later go to the relevant people and the house, which is very big, feels evenAdd a Comment
Last weekend my friend Lori was in town and we took the dogs for a walk in the schoolyard across the street. Three tween girls were hanging out on the jungle gym and as we passed they started whispering ostentatiously in our direction and laughing meanly. ‘Girls that age” said Lori, a middle-school math teacher in the Bronx, “are the worst.”
That encounter stayed with me as I started exploring the saga of YA author Kathleen Hale and the Goodreads troll, which Hale described at great, great length in the Guardian. What did the editors think to let her go on for 5000 words? Perhaps they are part of the great catfishing* conspiracy erected to oppress Ms. Hale, because while you begin the essay thinking “poor her,” as Hale unravels you start to smile nervously and look for an exit. It’s far away.
Then I went to a blog that Hale cited as an ally in her fight against the Dark, Stop the GR [Goodreads] Bullies, which I thought would be, I don’t know, some kind of manifesto about maintaining decency in book discussion. Instead I soon felt like Jennifer Connelly discovering Russell Crowe’s crazypants chalkboard diagrams as pages of scans and proofs and links and trolls and catfish whirled about each other with manic glee. Here, as in Hale’s confessional, I saw no victims, just bullies on all sides.
I know it’s unlikely–or NOT, he adds, as the madness infects him–that any of the participants in this circus are twelve-year-old girls, but watching the accusations fly and the drama being whipped up reminded me of those kids at the school, a big helping of attention-seeking with a side of hostility. I’ve avoided Goodreads only because it was too much like work, but it always seemed like such a nice place. Now it looks to me like those spy novels I love, where the apparent placidity of daily life and ordinary citizens is completely at the mercy of the puppet masters. If you want me, I’m in hiding.
*as Liz Burns points out, that word does not mean what Hale thinks it does.
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Pictured above is the title page illustration from Nancy Van Laan’s Forget Me Not, released by Schwartz & Wade Books in August. This is the poignant and lovingly-rendered story of a young girl whose grandmother is experiencing significant memory loss. It slowly builds in the story — to the point where she is placed in an assisted living center, while her granddaughter watches with concern. The illustrations were rendered by my visitor today, Stephanie Graegin, pictured below.
As you’ll read below, this is Stephanie’s fourth picture book. (Three were released last year.) She’s also illustrated middle grade novels and is working on her own picture book. Graegin’s warm palettes capture the small moments of life, and I wanted to have her over for a cyber-breakfast to discuss her work and see even more art. Normally, she tells me, she’d have a bowl of cereal. But today we are going to splurge by taking a walk to pick up a bacon and egg dub pie from the Dub Pie Shop across the street, along with a coffee.
I thank her for visiting.
Jules: Are you an illustrator or author/illustrator?
I am in the early stages of working on a picture book that I also wrote (although it has no words), but it feels too soon to call myself an author.
Jules: Can you list your books-to-date?
Middle Grade Novels:
Jules: What is your usual medium?
Stephanie: I draw in pencil (mechanical 2B .5) on paper (Moleskine sketchbook, usually). I draw very tiny and scan the drawing in very high-res to blow it up larger, as I have found I just can’t draw as well large. I make many layers on duralar (a clear paper) of texture, shading, and patterns — using colored pencil, watercolor, and ink. I scan everything into the computer, then compile and color everything digitally in Photoshop. Drawing in pure pencil is my absolute favorite, though.
Jules: If you have illustrated for various age ranges (such as, both picture books and early reader books OR, say, picture books and chapter books), can you briefly discuss the differences, if any, in illustrating for one age group to another?
Stephanie: I have done both picture books and middle grade novels. While I love both, I’ll admit that illustrating a picture book is more challenging — but also more rewarding. A picture book’s text is less specific than a novel, and you are given much more room to explore and to create the world inside the book. A picture book is wide open; almost anything can happen. At times the multitude of options for a illustrating picture book can be overwhelming, but I love the challenge of it. It can be a nice balance to be working on both formats at once — to be able to go back and forth between working in color and in black & white.
Jules: Where are your stompin’ grounds?
Stephanie: I’m in Park Slope, Brooklyn, NY, right outside of Prospect Park (the park the book Water in the Park was inspired by). I lived in various neighborhoods in Brooklyn for the last 10 years. I came to Brooklyn to go to graduate school at Pratt Institute. Before I lived in Brooklyn, I lived in Austin, Texas, and Baltimore, MD (where I went to undergrad at The Maryland Institute College of Art). As a kid I lived in Houston, TX; Fort Wayne, IN; and Chicago IL.
Jules: Can you tell me about your road to publication?
Stephanie: I studied Fine Arts, focusing on printmaking in college and graduate school. I made a lot of artist’s books with etchings, which looking back, were essentially hand-printed picture books. Illustrating children’s books was something I have wanted to do since I was about five, but it wasn’t until I was in my late twenties that I focused all my energy on making it a reality. Everything fell into place around the same time. I changed the way I was working — I had been making Edward Gorey-inspired work using pen and ink, but it wasn’t right for me. I started drawing only in pencil and adding the color digitally. Something clicked, and the work became so much better.
When the work was in a place where I felt ready to show it, I spent about a year making children’s book portfolio pieces and then about three months putting together a hand-bound mini portfolio booklet, which fit into a 4×6 envelope.
I sent these out to around 250 editors and art directors, and the calls for book work started happening. Around this same time, I was extremely fortunate that Nate Williams posted a blog post of my work on illustrationmundo, and literary agent Steven Malk at Writers House saw it. Steven reached out to me, and he’s been my agent since then.
Jules: Can you please point readers to your web site and/or blog?
Jules: Any new titles/projects you might be working on now that you can tell me about?
Stephanie: I’m very thankful that there are a lot of books on the way!
I illustrated a picture book for Penguin (Dial), titled Peace Is an Offering [pictured below], coming out in March 2015. Written by Annette LeBox, the text is a beautiful poem about finding peace in your community.
I’m currently working on a second picture book for Farrar, Straus and Giroux about two young, adorable brothers. The first picture book in the duo is titled How to Share with a Bear and was written by Eric Pinder. It comes out in Fall 2015.
There are three other picture books I am newly working on, including the book I am writing — but its still too early to give details on those.
Okay, we’ve got more coffee, and it’s time to get a bit more detailed with seven questions over breakfast. I thank Stephanie again for visiting 7-Imp.
1. Jules: What exactly is your process when you are illustrating a book? You can start wherever you’d like when answering: getting initial ideas, starting to illustrate, or even what it’s like under deadline, etc. Do you outline a great deal of the book before you illustrate or just let your muse lead you on and see where you end up?
Stephanie: The very first thing I do when given a manuscript is break up the text into pages. When I’m given a manuscript, it’s a Word document with no page breaks. I make very tiny thumbnails (about an inch big) to figure out the page count (32 or 40 pages) and what goes where.
I keep working slightly bigger as I revise. In the early rough sketch phase, I draw the whole book around 3×3 inches a page. After revising these, I draw larger, more refined sketches. I then send these sketches to the editor or art director. They make suggestions, and then I revise again — usually, a few times before going to final art. During the initial sketch stage, I also do a lot of character studies, drawing them in my sketchbook, which I take everywhere, to get to know what these characters look like before I start the final sketches.
The final art stage is the most time-consuming but can be the most rewarding — with the book finally coming to life in full color. I usually spend three months on final art. Those three months are filled with very late nights working, and I pretty much become a hermit. I start with very loose color studies over the final sketches in Photoshop to get an idea of the palette for the entire book. Nailing down the perfect palette for the mood of the book, for me, is one of the more difficult steps in the finals process. Once I have a palette that I’m comfortable with, I start making the layers of texture and shading with watercolors and colored pencil. Those are scanned in, and I start the assembly and digital coloring process. I pretty much keep working and reworking the art until the deadline day.
2. Jules: Describe your studio or usual work space.
Stephanie: I work out of my apartment, and it’s small. So really my whole apartment is my work space. My favorite spot to draw is at my kitchen table.
3. Jules: As a book-lover, it interests me: What books or authors and/or illustrators influenced you as an early reader?
Stephanie: I was obsessed with the Richard Scarry Busytown books and What Do People Do All Day? He was a major influence in how I learned to draw animals.
As for novels, I loved Beverly Cleary, especially the Ramona books. I had the same haircut and attitude as Ramona and felt she was written just for me. One of my prized possessions is a postcard Beverly Cleary sent me when I was six. My older sister and I had written to her to tell her how much we loved the books.
4. Jules: If you could have three (living) authors or illustrators—whom you have not yet met—over for coffee or a glass of rich, red wine, whom would you choose? (Some people cheat and list deceased authors/illustrators. I won’t tell.)
Beirut, The Dodos, Boards of Canada.
5. Jules: What is currently in rotation on your iPod or loaded in your CD player? Do you listen to music while you create books?
6. Jules: What’s one thing that most people don’t know about you?
Stephanie: My family called me “Bird,” instead of Stephanie, until I left for college. My older sister gave me the nickname when I was a baby, and it stuck for 18 years.
7. Jules: Is there something you wish interviewers would ask you — but never do? Feel free to ask and respond here.
Stephanie: I think I’ve been asked this before, but its something I’m asked often by students, so it’s good to repeat.
Advice to students/young illustrators starting out? Keep drawing and drawing and drawing. Practice is the only way to get better. Drawing skills are really the most essential thing to being an illustrator; there’s no way around that.
Also, don’t give up! The road to becoming a working illustrator is a long one — expect to still have work a day job for a while, even after you get those first projects.
Jules: What is your favorite word?
Jules: What is your least favorite word?
Jules: What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally?
Stephanie: A great story, a new sketchbook, a long walk.
Jules: What turns you off?
Stephanie: Negative people.
Jules: What is your favorite curse word? (optional)
Jules: What sound or noise do you love?
Stephanie: My cat Bustopher’s happy meow.
Jules: What sound or noise do you hate?
Stephanie: Annoying street noise I can hear from my apartment — sirens, car alarms, car horns, and the loud movie theater air conditioner next door to me.
Jules: What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
Stephanie: Something outside — gardener or vegetable farmer.
Jules: What profession would you not like to do?
Stephanie: Retail. I spent too many years doing that already, and I’ve had my fill of it.
Jules: If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?
Stephanie: “The library is right over there.”
All artwork and images are used with permission of Stephanie Graegin.
The spiffy and slightly sinister gentleman introducing the Pivot Questionnaire is Alfred, © 2009 Matt Phelan.Display Comments Add a Comment
2048 may be 2 to the eleventh power, but it’s also the name of a game I have noticed a lot of people playing lately. It’s based on a paid game, Threes!, which has won numerous game design awards, but the story behind 2048 involves a teen game developer, Gabriele Cirulli who tackled the design as a weekend project then released the game as open-source so that anyone can use the code behind it to build their own versions. You can play through a browser as well.
This game really doesn’t support STEM — the applicability of math to success is minimal. Instead, you combine the same numbers to perform the additive operation. But the real challenge is in thinking ahead and positioning your number tiles. Moving one tiles moves ALL the tiles, and the number of moves available to you are finite.
It’s easy to see how 2048 builds adopts the gaming strategies in Threes!. There are many, many knock-off versions of these games around, and much digital ink has been spilled from both amateur and professional quarters discussing strategies. There are ads in the free version, too. But for free, 2048 is an easy way to give these sorts of games a go. As Wired categorized them, these are games that are “Hard Enough to Be Played Forever.”Add a Comment
Dark Horse Comics has formed a partnership with Humble Bundle. The two organizations have crafted a digital comics package tailored for Star Wars fans.
According to the press release, this deal makes it so that “fans of the epic sci-fi franchise can pay what they want for up to $190 worth of digital comics.” Buyers who pay $15.00 or more will have access to a total of 89 different titles.
Customers can choose whether the funds go towards the publishing house or the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. This Humble Bundle deal will be made available until October 29th. What do you think?
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Is it possible for a guy who has won three BGHB Honors, four Coretta Scott King Honors, and one Caldecott Honor (in 1998, for Harlem) to be underrated? Why yes, yes it is. Christopher Myers continues to fly under the radar every year when it comes to Caldecott buzz, but I’m guessing the real committee will take a good look at this one.
Julie Danielson interviewed illustrator Myers and author/ballet dancer Misty Copeland at Kirkus a while back; it’s a great piece that is definitely worth a look. In it, Myers talks about how he decided on collage because it allowed him to “choreograph across the page,” using color and texture to reflect the juxtaposition of the “riotous energy” and “careful attention to detail” that constitutes the essence of dance. Keeping this in mind when reading Firebird, I would contend that Myers nailed the “appropriateness of style” criterion…but I would argue that he scores nearly as well with the other criteria, too.
Myers’s illustrations are like intricate puzzles for the reader to take apart and put back together, over and over again. For instance, look at the first full-page spread: the young, unnamed dancer gazes up from the bottom left corner as adult ballerina Misty leaps across a night skyline. In the background, buildings twinkle above a frothy-looking river spanned by a bridge. Misty’s white outfit makes a striking contrast against the lovely midnight blues and deep purples of the sky and river. But don’t stop there: look closer. Note first the texture of the collage, the overlapping pieces of cut paper used to make the night sky, the white-washed blues and blacks of the river below. Now zero in on that skyline. The building above Misty’s outstretched right calf…is that a picture of someone’s hand resting on a gray table, cut into a building shape? And the building above her right knee looks to be a shadowed photo of a brick wall… or is that a fence? All of this is barely noticeable when viewing the spread as a whole, but the bizarre (yet lovely) details become apparent when you lean in for a better look.
In Jules’s piece, Myers talks about how he focused mostly on color and texture to show emotion, and to my mind he succeeded completely. To give just one example, the endpapers are a fiery mix of reds, golds, and oranges, extending that Firebird motif from the front cover. This is some abstract stuff, but young readers will no doubt respond to the hot colors (forget that they are normally referred to as “warm”; these hues are habanero-smoking hot) and texture. To be sure, reading Firebird is an extremely tactile visual experience. Looking closer at the endpapers, I see feathers, the bumps of a diamond-studded (I think) strawberry, a fabric of some sort, and either a shag carpet close-up or a sea anemone. And here, as throughout the book, the reader can clearly see where each piece of cut paper ends and the next begins.
I hate to bring up the typography because I find the book to be practically perfect in every way, but the two fonts are not perfectly chosen. The text is a dialogue between the two characters, with the young girl’s words appearing in a bold italic font and Misty’s words appearing in a bold Roman font. I wish there was more differentiation between the two type styles, because I had to look twice on many occasions to see who was talking. It’s a lovely text, though, and Myers does a fabulous job with his interpretation.
Speaking of interpretation, my own interpretive skills aren’t terribly great, so I’m always curious to hear what others think. What do you all think is going on in some of those spreads? Especially intriguing to me is the final spread, where Misty and the young girl dance together wearing matching white tutus. Silhouetted dancers leap and twirl in front of multi-colored backgrounds, including what I believe is a male dancer to the extreme right. The spread itself is a stunner — it’s absolutely gorgeous — but I don’t completely understand it. Thoughts? And in more general terms, what does everyone think? Are you all high on Firebird, too?Add a Comment
Random House has released Margaret Atwood’s new short fiction collection, Stone Mattress. One of the nine tales, “The Freeze-Dried Groom,” has been posted on Wattpad. This particular piece leaves the reader with many unanswered questions.
Some of these queries include “Will Sam be a killer or a victim?” and “What are the other characters’ versions of events?” Fans are invited to take part in a writing contest to answer these questions. Follow this link to learn about all the rules.
The deadline has been set for October 31st at 11:59 p.m. EST and a winner will be announced on November 18th. The grand prize winner will receive a signed Stone Mattress anthology, a tweet from Atwood, and loot from Wattpad. Two runner-ups will also receive autographed of copies of Atwood’s book.
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The First Book organization will be overseeing a digital platform called “We Need Books.” The website features 300 beloved children’s books that youngsters, guardians, and educators can access using a tablet or computer.
The Pearson Foundation and Penguin Group (USA) originally developed this project and launched it 4 years ago. Pearson will also be donating $1.3 million to First Book.
Here’s more from the press release: “In addition to inspiring lifelong readers, We Give Books also provides a platform for giving back. Books read at www.wegivebooks.org trigger donations of new books that are given to programs and classrooms serving children in need…By assuming control of We Give Books and associated programming initiatives – including the 2015 Read for My School program in the United Kingdom – First Book adds the distribution of digital books to its growing catalog of offerings for under-resourced classrooms and community organizations.”
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The calendar said early March, but the smell in the air said late October. A crisp sun shone over Cellar Hollow, melting the final bits of ice from the bare trees. Steam rose from the soil like a phantom, carrying with it a whisper of autumn smoke that had been lying dormant in the frosty underground. Squinting through the trees, you could just make out the winding path that ran from the village all the way to the woods in the south. People seldom traveled in that direction, but on this March-morning-that-felt-like-October, a horse and cart rattled down the road. It was a fish cart with a broken back wheel and no fish. Riding atop the bench were two children, a girl and a boy, both with striking red hair. The girl was named Molly, and the boy, her brother, was Kip. And they were riding to their deaths. This, at least, was what Molly had been told by no fewer than a dozen people as they traveled from farm to farm in search of the Windsor estate.I loved Molly and Kip. It wasn't that either protagonist was perfect. It was that I felt both were oh-so-human. These two do find the Windsor estate. And they do manage to stay on as help. Even though they don't necessarily receive wages--just room and board. This country estate is...well, I don't want to spoil it. But the people who warned them to stay away from the estate, from the sour woods, well they had good intentions. The book is creepy in all the right ways. It is a WONDERFUL read if you love rich, detailed storytelling.
Hester touched the button, "Funny things, wishes. You can't hold'em in your hand, and yet just one could unmake the world." She looked up at Molly. (214)
"You asked me for a story; now you call it a lie." She folded her arms. "So tell me, then: What marks the difference between the two?"I loved the story. I loved the pacing. It was a great read!!! Definitely recommended!
Agitated as she was, Molly couldn't help but consider the question. It was something she had asked herself in one form or another many times in her life. Still, Molly could tell the difference between the two as easily as she could tell hot from cold--a lie put a sting in her throat that made the words catch. It had been some time, however, since she had felt that sting. "A lie hurts people," she finally answered. "A story helps 'em."
"True enough! But helps them do what?" She wagged a finger. "That's the real question..." (214)