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1. Holding Yourself Accountable & Staying Motivated

Writing Life Banner

by

Susan Dennard

I’ve talked about productivity in great detail before. I’ve discussed how BICHOK is a sure-fire way to get your writing where it needs to be, how endurance can be increased, and how fear can often hold back your writing.

But what about those times when it’s just plain ol’ laziness that’s keeping you from the productivity you want? What about those days where you spend four hours at the computer and write all of 4 words because OMG! Look at all the pretties and shinies on the internet? And ungh, I’m hungry…and hey, when did that squirrel move into the tree outside my window?

Yeah, it’s kinda like that.

On those distraction-heavy days, my friend, it’s time to seek help elsewhere. It’s time to find SOMEONE ELSE to hold you accountable.

I mean, think about it: when you were in high school, you got your work done (or I hope you did…). Maybe it was at the last minute or maybe it wasn’t always your best work, but you finished. Why? Because someone else expected you to.

I’ve talked at great length about this with my author and solo-entrepreneur friends. We have no bosses! We have NO ONE to look over our shoulders and make sure we’re getting the work done.

Another thing we don’t have are people to validate us when we do make progress. So what if you had a great day writing–there’s no one there to be impressed or to pat you on the back or to say, “Great job! You deserve a raise.” We simply slog on, all alone.

But what if we put a dose of SOMEONE ELSE in our writing lives? What if we find (or start) a Twitter hashtag so we can make accountability partners? Or cheerleader/validation partners? Or what if we interact in forums or via email chains or Facebook groups? Writing is solitary, but it certainly doesn’t have to be.

I think camaraderie is one of the reasons that NaNoWriMo is SO successful for people! They’re all writing together, interacting, sharing, and keeping each other motivated.

So if you’re finding you need a bit more motivation in your life, I challenge you to find another writer who’ll hold you accountable and send you lots of smiley faces when you need ‘em. Heck, come join me in my forums–I’m definitely in need of some writing buddies!! Or add me as a friend for NaNoWriMo!

You tell me: Is this something you would ever do? Or do you already have someone like this in your writing life?

If you like what you read here, consider signing up for my newsletter, the Misfits & Daydreamers or swinging by my For Writers page!

SusanDennardBefore she settled down as a full-time novelist and writing instructor, Susan Dennard traveled the world as marine biologist. She is the author of the Something Strange and Deadly series as well as the forthcoming Witchlands series (Tor, 2015), and when not writing, she can be found hiking with her dogs, exploring tidal pools, or practicing her tap dance shuffles. You can learn more about Susan on her blogTwitterFacebook, or Pinterest.

 

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2. New Writing Video Series by Lin Oliver – Free

need writing advice

 

free video series


subscribecropped

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Filed under: Advice, authors and illustrators, Courses, demystify, How to, inspiration, opportunity, revisions Tagged: Free Writing Video Series, Lexa Hillyer, Lin Oliver

2 Comments on New Writing Video Series by Lin Oliver – Free, last added: 10/19/2014
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3. Chicken by Chicken: Accepting Who We Are.

Hi, folks, this week is another response  blog. I heard a song called Constellations by Brendan James and it resonated with me. This is a long ramble, a thought journey, inspired by that song, and I hope that you find something to take with you.

I feel like don't really understand the world, and it makes me cry. I feel so out of step with the seasons and times. I can't stand reading the news, or even checking out my Facebook half the time. There are too many wars. Nation against nation. Neighbor against neighbor. Here inside me, I hunger to see people come together, to take a deep breath and just figure out where to go from here. I hope bridges are built, coalitions are made, and every voice is heard. I dream that we would all listen and find better ways. I don't want to join the madding crowd that wants to heckle the stupid, drop bombs, and dehumanize others, all in the name of a better world.

I see the Universe at night and how it is able to spin out wondrous things and at the same time wreak great destruction. I feel the transience of life and yet eternity hums in my heart. Everyone I know is trying to get through the day without dwelling on the darkness. Some take the "be positive about everything" route. Some take the "find a cause" route. I swing between the route of despair and the route of hope, that I might be the voice that breaks through the noise and says something helpful.

I have had unshakable confidence throughout my life that if I got a chance on a stage that I would move the hearts of those shivering on the edges. I have believed that I would grow like a wild weed, but now see so clearly that my life is just a breath and is gone. A Monarch butterfly was caught in between the window and the screen in my house. Some hapless caterpillar crawled between the window and screen and formed a chrysalis. The butterfly emerged and now would die if I did not figure out a gentle way to remove the screen and let it go on it's way to the graveyards of Mexico for the day of dead. When I figured out a way to set the butterfly free, it occurred to me that all of my life might be just for that. Perhaps those beautiful wings have more purpose than I will ever have.

This brings me to the heart of this thought journey. I have hungered for purpose. I have believed all my life that a day was coming that the gifts within me would become visible, like the span over us -- Orion, the Pleiades, the evening star, the moon, and the swath of the Milky Way. I have believed my gifts would come clear like those lights in the heavens. But here I am making less than minimum wage and imploding under the stress of another miss in terms of my intended goal.

In the end we are not in control of our story, and hence I must embrace the days given us. I find embracing the smallness of who I am is difficult. Megalomania is expected in rock stars, but not here in Suburbia. I have to laugh at myself a little and laugh at my little dramas.There is certainly a ridiculousness to me.

Ah, you are just a onion flower in the yard. Most folks will pass by the onion flower but, hey, go ahead and bloom. Touch ten hearts, fifty hearts, A copper star for you.  Not the silver, not the gold. That's all, dear. Work it out.

Thank you for dropping by and remember every little thing shines.  See you next week.

This week is a page from my Halloween project: CHICKENS TAKE OVER HALLOWEEN. 


Here is a quote for your pocket.
The end of law is not to abolish or restrain, but to preserve and enlarge freedom. For in all the states of created beings capable of law, where there is no law, there is no freedom.John Locke.

0 Comments on Chicken by Chicken: Accepting Who We Are. as of 10/18/2014 3:48:00 PM
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4. Illustrator Saturday – David Harrington

Harrington, DavidDavid Harrington’s affinity for art began at an early age, when he enthusiastically drew on floors, walls, furniture, and other inanimate objects. A native of southern California, Harrington pursued a career in illustration by enrolling in the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, where he earned a BFA with honors. As a student, his favorite classes were figure drawing and painting. 

In his professional career, Harrington has illustrated numerous children’s books. He believes that they open a door to a new world, and he admits that he studied books for hours on end as a child. In addition to children’s illustrations, Harrington creates advertising images for toys, games, food packaging, educational materials, medical equipment, and various other products. 

Bold lines, sharp contrast, and vibrant colors render Harrington’s images stunning and memorable. He portrays real emotions such as fun and excitement through playful and accentuated cartoon images. The clarity of detail that Harrington gives to the page can bring a child’s imagination to life. He is the recipient of a WWA Spur Awards Storyteller Award for his illustrations in Pecos Bill Invents the Ten-Gallon Hat. David lives with his wife and children in Laguna Hills, California.

Here is David sharing his process:

This illustration is from a book I’m currently working on where some bandits steal all the ice cream in town during the middle of summer!

Whistling Willie illus 1

 

First, very rough, fast sketches trying to capture the energy, mood, emotion etc. Once I have a rough sketch I like then I keep tracing it and making revisions until I get to the final sketch.

Whistling Willie illus 2

I put the final sketch on a medium value, textured background. I keep it on a separate layer so it can be removed later.

Whistling Willie illus 3

Starting with the face, I put down a thin, base skin tone letting the background texture show through. Then I start building up the dark tones adding just a little red color to the nose and cheeks and a few high lights.

Whistling Willie illus 4

I keep building up the darks and start introducing some blues, purples and greens into the shadows.

Whistling Willie illus 5

When I have the colors and values of the face where I want them, I’ll start on the rest of the figure working from light to dark.

Whistling Willie illus 6

For the ice cream, I put down a medium tone trying to let the background texture show through. I then added a lighter color to one side and hit the other side with a faint shadow.

Whistling Willie illus 7

Lastly, I added the background, leaving some of the original texture untouched. I removed the sketch and then I add fine line detail.

spaghetticove2r

Spaghetti Smiles by Margo Sorenson – published by Pelican Publishing Press (September 15, 2014). How many books have you illustrated for Pelican Publishing?

Spaghetti Smiles was just released and that was the fifth book I’ve illustrated for Pelican Publishing and I’m working on another right now.

spaghetti

How long have you been illustrating?

I’ve been illustrating professionally for about 25 years.

davidexoticwoman

How did you decide to attended At Center College of Design in Pasadena, CA to study fine art?

During high school I took some Saturday classes at Art Center and fell in love with the school.

jumpoutboat

You say in your bio that figure drawing and painting were your favorite classes? Is that still a favorite thing for you to illustrate?

Absolutely, anytime there are figures in an illustration, whether they are stylized or realistic, it’s always fun and they bring life to the piece.

wave

What was the first art related work that you were paid?

I painted store windows at Christmas time when I was a teen.

partingthesea

Did the School help you get work?

Yes they did, I got some work doing movie poster concept sketches for Warner Brothers right after graduation.

shiver

Do you feel the classes you took in college have influenced you style?

I don’t know, my style has been changing over the years.

octoman

What type of work did you do right after you graduated?

About six months after graduating I took a full time job as an art director/illustrator at a small company doing mostly sports art.

holdinghead

How did you make the decision to jump into freelance work?

I had been trying to make the transition to freelance by working at night but then when I got laid off unexpectedly from my full time job, I decided that -Now is the time.

giant

When did you decide you wanted to illustrate for children?

I did a lot of soft drink advertising work for a good client and he asked me if I could illustrate a Children’s book, so I gave it a shot- and loved it!

tiger

When and what was the first children’s book that you illustrated?

It was called Gabby, about a little girl and a science fair project that went wrong resulting in a giant bubble-gum monster.

tigermountain

Do you consider that book to be your first big success?

No, but it opened my eyes to how much fun Children’s book are to illustrate. I love creating characters.

tireswing

Do you have an agent or artist rep.?

No, I don’t have a representative but am not opposed to one either.

whipit

Do you have any desire to write and illustrate your own picture book?

Yes I have written some books and hope to be an Author/illustrator someday.

soupsup

Are you the same David Harrington who does fantasy art?

No that is another David Harrington, although I have done some fantasy art over the years.

cook

How did you get the contract to illustrate, Since We’re Friends: An Autism Picture Book at Sky Pony Press?

I don’t remember how I got that contract, but I remember it was two books.

fishbowlcage

How long did you have to illustrate each one?

The whole process from sketches to final illustration takes about four to five months.

artclass

Would you be willing to work with an author who wants to self-publisher their picture book?

Yes I would if I like the story.

jumpingfish

What illustrating contract do feel really pushed you down the road to a successful career?

I did about a dozen Book covers for Pee Wee Scouts from Random House and that led to more work.

pp-secret-sauce1

When is the title of the pirate book that you are working on and when is it coming out? Is that your next book that will hit the book shelves?

It’s a cowboy book titled Whistling Willie and should be released in the Spring of 2015.

jumpingjack

Have you done illustrations for any children’s magazines?

Yes, mostly Club House magazine.

library

What materials do you use to paint your color illustrations?

Well it started with acrylic paint and pencils and over the years has transitioned to a Mac computer, graphic tablet and Photoshop.

redponytail

What types of things do you do to find illustration work?

Once or twice a year I send out promotional post cards to publishers. But word of mouth is how I get most of my work.

lady in red

What is the one thing in your studio that you could not live without?

My Mac!

splat

Do you try to spend a specific amount of time working on your craft?

I try to find time to experiment and learn new techniques or try different media. I love oil painting and sculpting!

snowgirl

Do you take pictures or do any types of research before you start a project?

Yes I do a lot of on-line research and look for inspiration.

ghost

Do you think the Internet has opened doors for you?

Yes, it has changed everything about this business, from research to communication to the way finished projects are delivered.

sandystone

Do you use Photoshop, Illustrator, or Corel Painter with your illustrations?

Yes, Photoshop and sometimes Illustrator. I have tried painter and that’s a good program too.

balc

Do you own or have you used a Graphic Drawing Tablet in your illustrating?

Yes, Wacom Cintiq, it’s amazing!

hand

When did you start using the computer to paint your illustrations?

That was a very slow transition, about 15 years ago I would just add the final details to an illustration in Photoshop. Then at some point I would finish a painting half way and then complete it with the computer using a mouse. Now, all or almost all of the art is created using a Graphic Tablet.

pyramid

What are you working on now?

Right now I’m jugging about 12 different illustration jobs including Whistling Willie from Pelican Publishing.

cleocat

Do you have any material type tips you can share with us? Example: Paint or paper that you love – the best place to buy – a new product that you’ve tried – A how to tip, etc.

My favorite is Winsor & Newton oils on canvas, from Art Supply Warehouse in Westminster, CA

cowboy

Do you have any career dreams that you want to fulfill?

Yes, I would like to illustrate the stories I’ve written.

santa

Any words of wisdom on how to become a successful writer or illustrator?

You must be persistent, never give up and always strive to improve.

birds

Thank you David for sharing your journey and process with us. Please let us know when your new picture book comes out , in addition to all your future successes. We’d love to see them and hear about them, so we can cheer you on. You can visit Daivd at: http://www.davidharrington.com/

If you have a moment I am sure David would like to read your comments. I enjoy reading them, too, even if I don’t always have time to reply. Thanks!

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Filed under: Advice, authors and illustrators, demystify, Illustrator's Saturday, inspiration, Interview, picture books, Process, Tips Tagged: David Harrington, Spaghetti Smiles

7 Comments on Illustrator Saturday – David Harrington, last added: 10/19/2014
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5. Book Recommendation: The History of the Franks by Gregory of Tours

Book Recommendation banner

By

Biljana Likic

So you’re writing that sweeping historical novel full of war and political intrigue, and you maybe need some inspiration. Where better to turn than to history books? Only problem is that they can be a bit dry, and at times the forced impartiality (“I must present this as facts uncoloured by my opinion!”) can make the prose frustratingly ambiguous. Then there’s the whole “history is written by the victor” thing. The phrase reveals the difficulties readers face when approaching historical writing. Not to mention, it’s practically impossible to write about a historical event in a completely detached way without it sounding like a recipe.

Honestly, it makes me glad I write fiction. The pressure of writing a history book is terrifying. What sources you include, and where you include them, and why…no matter how you organize them, there will always be an expert disagreeing with you.

Enter Gregory of Tours. He was a 6th century bishop of (you guessed it) Tours, France, and is our best contemporary source of the Merovingian dynasty in modern-day France and Germany. He wrote history, but it’s only in very recent times that we started giving him more credit as an actual historian. Why did it take so long? You only need to take a gander at all the wild stuff he says in his most famous work, The History of the Franks.

Here’s the deal. Remember the whole “no such thing as no bias” spiel? This is very apparent in Gregory. A lot of people read the Histories assuming they’re a moralistic work about how those who aren’t Catholic will suffer the demons of hell, and those that are will be saved in heaven. To be fair, it’s not a hard conclusion to reach. There’s one story of a priest conspiring against his superior, and as alleged punishment from God, on the morning the priest is getting ready to betray him, this happens: “He went off to the lavatory and while he was occupied in emptying his bowels he lost his soul instead.”

Lost his soul on the can. He quite literally shit himself to death. There are fewer effective ways to teach someone a lesson about going against a saintly authority.

But then, in another story, Queen Deuteria is afraid that her husband might “desire and take advantage of” their maturing daughter so she puts her in a cart drawn by untamed bulls and the daughter crashes into a river and dies. And this happens in like three sentences with no moral. No ceremony, no “The shadow of sin is cast upon the loveless mother!”, no “Don’t lust after your own daughter or else your wife might kill her (and also, sin)!”, only a few nearly parenthetical phrases, perhaps just to explain what happened to the daughter when the King later takes a new wife and refuses to take Deuteria back. I wonder why he’d do that.

So you have this one priest’s story taking up a few sizable, memorable paragraphs about him conspiring against his bishop, and then you have this other one of a horrific filicide told in a measly three sentences. That’s the fascinating thing about this work. It’s a bunch of to-the-point recitations of facts mixed together with wildly moralistic tales where common sicknesses and coincidences are explains away as God’s doing. In some sections it even reads like fantasy. It’s as full of people having prophetic dreams and being warned about the dangers ahead as it is of short side notes about a perfectly Christian king being poisoned just because…well…he was king, and he was poisoned.

But the reason the Histories are so valuable today, aside from being a long and spectacular feat of story-telling, is because there really is a genuinely massive amount of historical information within them. Every so often you’ll find entire letters Gregory directly transcribed so he could give us the primary source rather than rephrasing an event in his own words. Some of these letters survive in different forms and can be used to cross-reference events in the book. Others only survive through his writing. There is a ton of specificity about the Church, and especially about the history of the bishopric of Tours. There’s stuff in there about the actual daily lives of people living in the 6th century, their traditions, habits, and gossip, written by a person living in the 6th century. That is absolutely invaluable.

Not to mention a freaking amazing read. Merovingian kings and queens meant business. The backstabbing, the stealing of territory, copious amounts of regicide, broken alliances, queens abandoning their husbands for other kings because others were manlier and held more promise as conquerors… These people were ruthless. Contrast that with the general thread of what it means to be a good Christian weaving through the work, and you’ve got some damn awesome dichotomies going on.

So move this baby up your to-read list. Not only is it full of events that actually happened, making it an excellent book to read for personal research, but it’s also a great literary window into the workings of 6th century Continental Europe.

biljana new picBiljana Likic is working on her fantasy WIPs and has just started her MA in Medieval Studies, from which she can’t wait to graduate so she’ll finally have all the time in the world to write. You can follow her on Twitter.

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6.

by

Jodi Meadows

Lately, I’ve been thinking about how much my other creative pursuits influence my writing — and even help me get through tough problems when I’m working.

There’s something about knitting, for me, that allows me to keep my hands busy and focus juuuuust a little, but frees the rest of my mind to work out a plot tangle or a question about character arcs. I’ve found the same thing in spinning (yarn, not exercise — ugh), and even calligraphy.

IMG_9478IMG_5766IMG_0286
(Click to enlarge.)

I started wondering if some of my fellow Pub Crawlers had other creative outlets, as well. And yep. When I put out the call, they delivered.

JJJJ: I’ll start! When it comes to other creative outlets (or as I call them, other procrastinatory outlets ;-)), I tend to play my piano or guitar, draw, take pictures, or redesign my website. I think they all fulfill different functions; for example, I often redesign my website when I’m stuck or between drafts because fiddling with CSS and other types of code is soothing. There is something about typing one thing and have it show up as a concrete THING on the other end that is very, very comforting (especially when writing fiction, which is anything BUT concrete sometimes). I find it kind of mindless in the way algebra is mindless: simple enough to keep me occupied and let the subconscious wander free. (Which is why I am often redesigning my website when I am stuck.)

Music is less mindless to me, and I often play when I need to completely shut off and do something else for a while. I studied piano for 15 years, but when I play now, it’s less the classical stuff and more the “I just the heard the latest pop song and I want to do a cover” type of thing. Usually I cheat and figure out the chord progressions on my guitar first (I am a terrible, terrible, terrible formal musician. 15 years and I know fuck-all about theory.), or sometimes look up the tabs. Then I transfer the work to the piano. (Luckily, 99% of all the pop songs are the same four chords I-V-vi-IV.)

Sometimes, I doodle drawings of my characters. But that’s usually when I’m doing something ELSE and unable to write (that’s often at the day job). Doodling sketches of my characters keeps me in the right frame of mind for my story, but it also helps me figure out what they look like in my head. (I often post my doodles to Instagram and Tumblr. My doodles can also be found on my blog and Deviantart.)

I also take photographs.

If there’s a procrastinatory technique, then I will do it. ;-) Are you sensing a theme here?

SusanDennardSusan: I enjoy tap dancing, sewing, and blogging/newslettering. They all demand really different kinds of creative energy.

One thing that I started doing this year (and that I do a lot of now) is making my own body products and makeup. It’s like cooking crossed with chem lab. Lots of stirring and weighing and melting involved. Plus, you have to really understand how various butters or oils, oxides or clays interact–otherwise the consistency of the cream/lotion/lip gloss won’t be right. Or you might end up with a blush that’s TOO red or a pressed powder that’s so pale you look like a corpse. :) I find that all that mixing and melting and measuring requires just enough focus that I can’t totally zone out, but it also frees up enough headspace for my subconscious to work through story knots.

Erin BowmanErin: As most of you know, I was a web designer prior to jumping into writing. Design is still a huge outlet for me. Even though it’s related to writing, I absolutely love designing my own promotional materials (bookmarks, stickers, postcards, etc), as well as maintaining my website. I’m a bit type nerd, too, so I tend to collect (read: buy) way more fonts than I should.

Another huge distraction for me, while not necessarily creative, is getting outdoors. Walks, hikes, camping, canoeing . . . you name it. I find being outside, totally away from the computer/technology is one of the best ways to give my brain a break and reset the creative well, if you will.

Kat ZhangKat: I love all kinds of art, and I get really inspired watching people dance, or put on a play, or things like that. As for as things I actually do myself, though, I paint (mostly watercolor at the moment), and I’ve gotten into digital art (“painting” with a wacom tablet and photoshop) this past year or so. It’s a great creative outlet that’s not word-based.

I love photography as well, but since I’m mostly interested in portrait/lifestyle photography, my ability to do it is limited to the times when my friends are willing to play model ;)

I post a lot of both my art and my photography on my Tumblr :)

Janice HardyJanice: I’m a graphic designer by trade, and I think that’s helped me a lot with being able to handle feedback without taking it personally. Clients always ask for changes and comment on my “art” and it’s helped me be able to see my creative work as a product and not just an expression of myself, and how the creative process can be a group effort to great success.

The last few years I’ve been drawing and painting for fun, and crazy as it sounds, I’ve been painting Nerf guns and toys. All of the guns were bright orange and yellow plastic when I started. My husband gave me a huge AT-AT toy for my birthday that I’m dying to paint. It takes hours, but it’s a lot of fun and very absorbing. It’s a combination of spray paint, fine detail hand painting and dry brushing.

red space pistolsteampunky shotgun blue space gun
(Click to enlarge.)
I’m not sure how “creative” this is, but I’m a gamer and I’ve feel having to make decisions about what to do it games and thinking about what that character would do (their motivations) has helped me plot my novels easier. It forced me to think about cause and effect and how character choices created effects and consequences. There’s also a lot of creativity in designing a game for friends and running one, almost like writing a book where you have no control over the characters, hehe.

Jodi Meadows lives and writes in the Shenandoah Valley, Virginia, with her husband, a Kippy*, and an alarming number of ferrets. She is a confessed book addict, and has wanted to be a writer ever since she decided against becoming an astronaut. She is the author of the INCARNATE Trilogy (HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen).
*A Kippy is a cat.

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7. How Not to Quit

by Julie Eshbaugh

~~~

JulieThis is my first post for PubCrawl since my big news came out. For those of you who have not yet heard, I am thrilled to announce that my debut novel, IVORY AND BONE, has sold to HarperCollins in a three book deal. Yay! Here’s the summary from Goodreads.com:

Pitched as a YA Clan of the Cave Bear, this fantastical debut with a unique narrative structure tells the story of two star-crossed teens whose competing clans share a dark history, and who must choose between trusting—or fighting—each other.

Sharing this news with the readers of this blog is nothing less than a dream come true. If you’ve been following PubCrawl for long (and maybe even its predecessor, Let The Words Flow,) you know that this didn’t happen for me overnight. I joined Let The Words Flow in 2010. I’m not sure exactly when I first set the goal of becoming a published novelist, (I feel like it crept up on me slowly, developing over time,) but I think it would be safe to say the goal was fully formed somewhere between the summer and fall of 2008, six years ago.

Six years… Six years of writing almost every day. Six years of setting word count goals, of giving up evenings out and favorite TV shows. Six years of getting up early and going to bed late so I could get the writing done.

None of that makes me unique or special – I know I’m far from alone in this. Over these six years, many of you have been pursuing your writing dreams right alongside me.  But since IVORY AND BONE was officially announced, I’ve been congratulated on my tenacity. A few people have said they were impressed that I never gave up.

The truth is, I almost never considered giving up. I rarely thought I was wasting my time. Thoughts of quitting only darkened my mind on the very worst of days, which, thankfully, were few.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately, trying to figure out what exactly kept those thoughts at bay. I’ve come to realize that, while some of it can be credited to a naturally persistent (some might say stubborn,) disposition, much of my ability to persevere is owed to my fantastic support system. In hopes that this might help readers of this blog that may be dealing with the temptation to quit, here are my thoughts on the aspects of my life that have kept me going:

The people closest to me understand the creative process. This has probably been the biggest boost to my perseverance. Both my husband and son have their own creative pursuits. My son studies acting and filmmaking. My husband is a singer-songwriter. Since the day I met my husband, writing songs has been a part of his daily life. He has been a fantastic example for me of a person who relentlessly pursues his art. Not for glory or money or external validation, but for the art itself. Because he didn’t choose music; music chose him. His example has helped me to live as if writing chose me.

I have writer friends and critique partners who tirelessly cheer for me. Writing is lonely. By its nature, it’s solitary and isolating. That’s why I can’t overstate the impact my writing friends have had on me. To say they encouraged me would be a horrific understatement. When it felt like the whole world was telling me “no,” they screamed “YES!” Yes, you can do it. Yes, you’re good enough. Yes, you will get there. I cannot thank them enough. If you do not have friends like this around you, find them. Join a writing group. Engage with the online writing community. (The #amwriting hashtag on Twitter will lead you to lots of likeminded people.) Find people who understand what you’re trying to do. Find people who will cheer for you (and cheer for them, too!)

I blog about writing. Blogging may seem like just one more obligation, something that takes up more time and might make it even harder to keep pursuing your writing. And for some people, blogging does get in the way. But for me, blogging has been a godsend. It’s connected me with all of you who read this blog – writers and readers willing to exchange ideas with me. That process has helped me to form my identity as a writer. When you have a day job that takes up forty (plus) hours of your week, it’s easy to forget that you are a writer first. But this community keeps me focused, so thank you, thank you, THANK YOU. Thank you for supporting my posts, because every time I post I have the audacity to call myself a writer. It’s right there in my bio. Julie Eshbaugh writes fiction for young adults.

Of course, that statement in my bio is true, simply because I choose to make it true. I do write fiction for young adults. Nothing about that part of my life is going to change. Except now, I’ll have the guidance of an experienced editor. I’ll have the support of an established publisher. And sometime in 2016, some of the fiction I write for young adults will go out into the world as a book. :)

How about you? What keeps you writing? What’s pulled you through when you’ve been tempted to quit? Please share your thoughts in the comments!

  ~~~

Julie Eshbaugh writes fiction for young adults. She is the author of the upcoming Ivory & Bone (HarperCollins, 2016.) You can add Julie on Goodreads and follow her on Twitter and Pinterest.

 

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8. Two Books to Read

pandemic

This weekend I read my friend Yvonne Ventresca’s GREAT novel PANDEMIC. It is so much fun to read a book where you have been part of the journey and to see it take flight. With that in mind, I truly believe my review is dead-on and not misleading in anyway.

Even though this book came out in May (of course written a few years before that), Yvonne has linked into the current Ebola news of the day. This is a real gift for her, so I hope she takes advantage by contacting radio shows, who I know would like to talk about such a timely topic.

Yvonne has managed to write a dark tale woven around a contemporary coming of age story. The book shows the dark side and the light side of humanity. Lil, the main character, struggles through the death of friends and family, deals was past demons, overcomes grief and sorrow, and helps the community, all while her parents are away and can’t get home.

The book is a great read. The reader don’t want to put the book down. You can tell that Yvonne did her research on pandemics, medicine, medical protocol because she is dead-on about how quickly society could spin out of control if a contagion hits us and sweeps the globe. I never once found myself saying, “really?” and you know how often someone reading as a writer will do that.

There are great page turning chapter endings and very nice similes and metaphors throughout the book. So if you like books with a great mix of dark elements, sadness, sweetness, love, sexual tension, and suspense, then you will enjoy this book. It might be YA, but adults will love it too, just like they did another YA book, THE HUNGER GAMES. I give this a 5 out of 5 stars.

flatoutlove

Note: Please read to the bottom.

I thought I would write about another book I read this week, FLAT OUT LOVE by Jessica Park. This book came out two years ago and was on the NY Times Best Seller List. I bought it on my Kindle, back then and just found the time to read it last week. Why did I buy it? I liked the cover, the sample that I read, and the price was right ($3.99).

This is another contemporary book that I really enjoyed. It is about an 18 year old girl from Ohio who arrives in Boston to start her first year of college and realizes the room where she is supposed to live does not exist and there are no rooms left to rent.

The thing that is interesting is that this is another example of a successful self-published book. I took the time to type out what Jessica said at the end of her book because I think it will give you food for thought.

Here is Jessica Park:

Amazon has changed my life, and without them I might not be writing anymore. I’m not a fan of playing by rules, and knowing that I might self-publish through KDP let me write. I got to write FLAT-OUT LOVE with total abandon. I got to write the story that I wanted to – the one I believed in – not the one that I thought legacy publishers would want me to. Deciding to self-publish this book was the smartest thing I’ve done. Now that I’ve signed with Amazon Children’s Publishing, I get to hold on to so many of the benefits that I’ve had, but now with the added support of a dynamic team. ACP not only supports writing outside of the box, they embrace it, and signing over FLAT-OUT LOVE and my next book to such a stupendous team is pure joy. Associate Publisher Tim Ditlow and the entire publishing team at Amazon are outstanding: their belief in me and in my career is deeply humbling, and I am deeply grateful. I have true partners now, and there is no better feeling. Amazon my be a massive company, but I know without a doubt that my team has heart, dedication, and a drive to try new things. They run to unchartered territory, and those are my kind of people.

My agent, Deborah Schneider, has been devoted to this book from the beginning, and she took the repeated this-book-will-never-sell rejections from traditional publishers as hard as I did. When I decided to self-publish, she cheered me on. “Give ‘em hell!” she said. And I did. We did. Finally. Deborah, thank you for everything that you have done for me, and most of all thank you for letter me yell, “Congratulations! You’re still my agent!” and not hanging up on me.

Before you rush out and change direction, understand that Jessica did her homework. She had a lot of people help along the way (she talks about them too at the end of the book. She had a professional design her book cover (a very important part of marketing) and she spent the time to polish her manuscript.

Oh, you will find a couple of typos, but I have seen that in books from major publishers. I don’t even know Jessica and I am very proud of her. She has helped everyone who might decide to self-publish by putting out a book that rivals what the major publishers put out because she did not let herself lower the bar and diminish the future of the self-published book. If you decide to go that root, I hope you will work hard to do the same.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Filed under: Book, inspiration, success, Young Adult Novel Tagged: Book /REview, Flat-Out Love, Jessica Park, New Adult, Pandemic, Yvonne Ventresca

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9. Two Books to Read

pandemic

This weekend I read my friend Yvonne Ventresca’s GREAT novel PANDEMIC. It is so much fun to read a book where you have been part of the journey and to see it take flight. With that in mind, I truly believe my review is dead-on and not misleading in anyway.

Even though this book came out in May (of course written a few years before that), Yvonne has linked into the current Ebola news of the day. This is a real gift for her, so I hope she takes advantage by contacting radio shows, who I know would like to talk about such a timely topic.

Yvonne has managed to write a dark tale woven around a contemporary coming of age story. The book shows the dark side and the light side of humanity. Lil, the main character, struggles through the death of friends and family, deals was past demons, overcomes grief and sorrow, and helps the community, all while her parents are away and can’t get home.

The book is a great read. The reader don’t want to put the book down. You can tell that Yvonne did her research on pandemics, medicine, medical protocol because she is dead-on about how quickly society could spin out of control if a contagion hits us and sweeps the globe. I never once found myself saying, “really?” and you know how often someone reading as a writer will do that.

There are great page turning chapter endings and very nice similes and metaphors throughout the book. So if you like books with a great mix of dark elements, sadness, sweetness, love, sexual tension, and suspense, then you will enjoy this book. It might be YA, but adults will love it too, just like they did another YA book, THE HUNGER GAMES. I give this a 5 out of 5 stars.

flatoutlove

Note: Please read to the bottom.

I thought I would write about another book I read this week, FLAT OUT LOVE by Jessica Park. This book came out two years ago and was on the NY Times Best Seller List. I bought it on my Kindle, back then and just found the time to read it last week. Why did I buy it? I liked the cover, the sample that I read, and the price was right ($3.99).

This is another contemporary book that I really enjoyed. It is about an 18 year old girl from Ohio who arrives in Boston to start her first year of college and realizes the room where she is supposed to live does not exist and there are no rooms left to rent.

The thing that is interesting is that this is another example of a successful self-published book. I took the time to type out what Jessica said at the end of her book because I think it will give you food for thought.

Here is Jessica Park:

Amazon has changed my life, and without them I might not be writing anymore. I’m not a fan of playing by rules, and knowing that I might self-publish through KDP let me write. I got to write FLAT-OUT LOVE with total abandon. I got to write the story that I wanted to – the one I believed in – not the one that I thought legacy publishers would want me to. Deciding to self-publish this book was the smartest thing I’ve done. Now that I’ve signed with Amazon Children’s Publishing, I get to hold on to so many of the benefits that I’ve had, but now with the added support of a dynamic team. ACP not only supports writing outside of the box, they embrace it, and signing over FLAT-OUT LOVE and my next book to such a stupendous team is pure joy. Associate Publisher Tim Ditlow and the entire publishing team at Amazon are outstanding: their belief in me and in my career is deeply humbling, and I am deeply grateful. I have true partners now, and there is no better feeling. Amazon my be a massive company, but I know without a doubt that my team has heart, dedication, and a drive to try new things. They run to unchartered territory, and those are my kind of people.

My agent, Deborah Schneider, has been devoted to this book from the beginning, and she took the repeated this-book-will-never-sell rejections from traditional publishers as hard as I did. When I decided to self-publish, she cheered me on. “Give ‘em hell!” she said. And I did. We did. Finally. Deborah, thank you for everything that you have done for me, and most of all thank you for letter me yell, “Congratulations! You’re still my agent!” and not hanging up on me.

Before you rush out and change direction, understand that Jessica did her homework. She had a lot of people help along the way (she talks about them too at the end of the book. She had a professional design her book cover (a very important part of marketing) and she spent the time to polish her manuscript.

Oh, you will find a couple of typos, but I have seen that in books from major publishers. I don’t even know Jessica and I am very proud of her. She has helped everyone who might decide to self-publish by putting out a book that rivals what the major publishers put out because she did not let herself lower the bar and diminish the future of the self-published book. If you decide to go that root, I hope you will work hard to do the same.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Filed under: Book, inspiration, success, Young Adult Novel Tagged: Book /REview, Flat-Out Love, Jessica Park, New Adult, Pandemic, Yvonne Ventresca

6 Comments on Two Books to Read, last added: 10/13/2014
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10. Illustrator Saturday – Anna Guillotte

Anna-Guillotte-picAnna Guillotte is an American illustrator, designer, and writer living in Heidelberg, Germany. With a degree in graphic design, Anna worked as a graphic artist in the corporate world for seven years. Though she was also a mural artist and painter throughout that time, she began illustrating in 2010 when she attended a mentor program for artists in San Diego, California where she lived at the time. Through this program she realized her true calling for storytelling. She has since joined the SCBWI, attended numerous SCBWI conferences and her illustrations have been published internationally. She enjoys creating whimsical, funny, touching, and beautiful art for the advertising, book, and animation markets.

Here is Anna showing one of her techniques:

anna1There’s something about light and shadows that really soothes the eye. I guess I could do research on the scientific reason as to why us humans are attracted to depth in images, but I already spend too much time on the net. I’m guessing since that we live in a 3-dimensional world our eyes are built to receive and digest lovely indications of depth (i.e. shadows, light vs. dark, cool vs. warm colors) and by nature we crave that. I tend to indulge in lighting my illustrations so I thought I would share how I go about doing that – from sketch to finished image.

The key here is to make the scene believable, even if it’s not 100% accurate. So I guess in a sense you become a car salesman convincing a customer that not only is the Hyundai Elantra a great car, but the most awesome car you will ever buy in your life.

anna2

I start with a hand-drawn sketch. Why not go digital? Eh, the tablet doesn’t feel right and I guess I need to feel paper and pencils in my hand. I then scan the drawings in Photoshop.

anna3

In Photoshop I clean up the images and create separate layers for the different visual elements. This allows for more control over placement, size, coloring, and opacity. For example, in the image below I have a layer for each character, the background, and several additional details I added in later (the plane, smokestacks, birds, fence, and sticker on signpost). Keep in mind that all the coloring layers are in the “multiply” blend mode – and the texture layers are in “color burn” and “overlay” blend mode. I suggest playing around with those settings and see what you come up with : )

Here is a video tutorial on How to use Blending mode in Photoshop CC.

anna4

Now I block in the foreground shade. I imagined this bus stop scene taking place under a large tree. And as we have all observed – shade from trees are not one massive blob, but a shadow dance of many, many leaves. I made a layer of a dark blue and masked it out. Then I removed bit by bit the “shadow dance” until I thought it was convincing. Sometimes I consult with Google Images to make sure the lighting is believable.

anna5

I added additional shadowing on a separate layer.

anna6

And now the color! We begin with the background color. The blue sky on a separate layer from the tree/grass.

anna7

Another layer is added for the foreground objects.

anna8

Now the characters are colored in on another layer.

anna9

One of the biggest challenges of working in Photoshop is to make the images not look so “Photoshoppy”. So I have added a yellow layer (6%) and a water color image to add “texture”. I have also added several details, such as the balloon reflection, text on the bus sign and the little sticker on the sign post. As the image comes to life, I have fun adding in little details – this also helps with the “believability” factor.

anna10

Additionally, I have added another “texture” layer (image of paint strokes on canvas) and a faint shadow around the edge of the image to give a more old-photo look.

anna1412009388223

How long have you been illustrating?

I started focusing on illustrating in 2010, but I have been painting for over 20 years. My paintings were very illustrative and often people would ask me “Why don’t you go into children’s book illustration?”

annabearonardo-morning

Where did you study graphic design?

I first started my studies at the University of Hartford/Hartford Art School and took every type of art class imaginable except glass blowing and jewelry. Then I studied film for a year, then moved on to multimedia (animation and video) and that’s when I finally decided to major in graphic design. I studied and majored in graphic design at Eastern Connecticut State University – my home state.

annabearonardo-sticky-wake-up

Have you attended other art related courses since studying Graphic Design?

I took a picture book illustration class and also a children’s book writing course at University of California San Diego.

annabearonardo-catapult2

What was the first painting or illustration that you did where someone paid you for your artwork?

I painted an outdoor mural at an Elementary school in Boston.

annachester-peanut-cover-2

What type of job did you do right after you graduated?

I was hired as a graphic artist at Sonalyst, Inc. in Connecticut. While there, I mostly created graphics and multimedia for US Navy computer-based training, but also did graphics and web design for private companies.

annabearsnakefilecropped

What do you think most influenced your style?

I think a lot of the shows and movies I watched as a kid influenced me. I loved the old cartoons like Tom and Jerry or Looney tunes. I’ve always been a big movie buff – not just the storytelling but also the cinematic style and I think that has carried over to my work.

annaboypeekingfilecropped

When did you decide you wanted to illustrate for children?

I signed up for an artist mentor program in San Diego in 2010. It was a program designed to help professional artists get unstuck. I was painting and doing murals but I felt my art career lacked a bit of focus. My mentor took one look at my work and suggested children’s book illustration. Her coworker knew Dan Santat from a previous job so we arranged a studio visit at Dan’s home (which Dan so graciously provided). Its funny, because at the time I didn’t know anything about children’s books and had no idea who Dan Santat was. He took the time to show me his work, how he got started, and what its like to work in the industry. After a few hours of the visit, I was sold!

annafilecropped

What type of art jobs have you landed?

I have worked as a graphic and multimedia artist, have done many children’s murals, and focusing on illustration work for the children’s book market and editorials.

annabathfilecropped

What are you doing to help connect with art directors and editors?

I have gone to many SCBWI conferences and heard art directors, agents and editors speak. It’s really helped me put a face to a name, so it doesn’t feel so abstract when sending my work to them. As far as how I connect – mostly I have sent postcards or emailed my website. I have also sent out a book dummy to several editors. I’ve also just created an email newsletter too for my contact list.

annapaintfilecropped

Have you put together a portfolio and or a book dummy?

I found that I have only used the physical portfolio when displaying at a SCBWI conference, otherwise I almost exclusively use my online portfolio. I have several book dummies as well, but they are mostly in digital format (PDF) as opposed to the physical book dummy format.

annarain

What made you decide to move to Germany?

I had no previous plans to move to Europe, but my partner got a job offer in Germany last year so I moved as well. I wrote about the decision in more detail on my blog: http://annaguillotte.com/blog/2013/11/13/why-i-am-moving-to-germany

It’s been an interesting experience to say the least and has definitely tested my limits at times. But having lived in the US my whole life, now I have the opportunity to live on the other side of the fence. Now I am the immigrant dealing with visa, work, driving, language, and cultural barriers. But since moving, I’ve had the unique opportunity to explore Europe and a experience a different lifestyle, which I think has given me an inspirational spark and influenced my work.

annawater-shoes

How would you compare the US market to the market for art in Germany?

For one, the German market is much, much smaller and for that reason has more international artists participating. My impression is the US market is so big and has so many talented artists that you don’t see as much artwork from outside the country.

annatank

Have you exhibited your illustrations in Germany?

Not yet : )

annahappy_birthday

Have you done any illustrating for children’s magazines?

I have done some children’s illustrations for magazines but they were not specifically children’s magazines.

annachester-run

Do you have an Artist Rep. to represent you? If not, would you like to find representation?

I don’t have an artist rep now, but I would like a rep for two reasons: 1. Help with finding illustration projects and marketing so I can spend more time focusing on the creative part 2. To have a sounding board – a mutual, creative and professional relationship with someone where we can share creative ideas on how to make a project even better and enjoy the process. Though I am coming from a visual artist background, I would like to write and illustrate my own stories as well and would ideally like a representative that would work with both my art and writing or allow me to have both an art and literary agent.

annagoodbye-postcard

What types of things do you do to find illustration work?

I keep my website updated and have several online portfolios (Behance, LinkedIn, Devianart) so people can find me. I submit my art to magazines and illustration competitions. I also send postcards to art directors and I just made an email newsletter too.

annafood_music

What is your favorite medium to use?

I have gravitated towards mixed media – drawing with pen, pencil, crayon, etc. scanning in and then coloring with Photoshop.

annapig-poster-morning

Has that changed over time?

Definitely! I used to paint using oils, then I switched to acrylic paints, then I began to import my paintings into Photoshop to edit them. About two years ago I began using Photoshop exclusively to color and have experimented using different textures to create a more natural look.

annapig-ride2

Do you take pictures or do any types of research before you start a project?

If I have a specific pose or lighting that I want to accurately capture, I will either take a photo of myself or search pictures on google images. I like to search google images also for ideas and inspiration.

annashopping

What are you working on now?

This past summer I was working on developing a story idea for one of my characters, Bearonardo. Now, I’m in a marketing mode and fine-tuning the business side of my illustrations. For example, being more consistent with contacting and updating art directors. It’s not the glamorous part, but just as important!

anna_400

Do you want to write and illustrate a picture book?

I sure do! I have a bunch of stories I’ve written and made book dummies for. I’m definitely open to illustrating stories written by others too if they’re a good fit with me.

annawhat-the-bleepDo you have any material type tips you can share with us? Example: Paint or paper that you love – the best place to buy – a new product that you’ve tried – A how to tip, etc.

If you use Photoshop a lot in your illustrations, I would highly suggest experimenting with using different textures and patterns (whether you scan them in or find texture images online) and using the blending mode.

annaSCBWI-comic

Thank you Anna for sharing you journey and process with us. Please let us know when your new picture books come out. We’d love to see them and cheer you on. You can visit Anna at: http://annaguillotte.com/  

If you have a moment I am sure Anna would like to read your comments. I enjoy reading them, too, even if sometimes I don’t have time to reply to all of them. Thanks!

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Filed under: Advice, bio, demystify, How to, illustrating, Illustrator's Saturday, inspiration, Interview, Process Tagged: Anna Guillotte

4 Comments on Illustrator Saturday – Anna Guillotte, last added: 10/12/2014
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11. Right to Write What You Write

erikaphoto-45Hi. Jersey Farm Scribe here on:

You’re Right to Write What You Write

I have important information. It’s big guys. I mean, hold on to your seats B-I-G. Ready? Okay. Here goes:

Getting published is hard.

Phew! Wait, what? You knew that?

Truth is, getting published is hard no matter what you write. I’m always surprised when I hear someone say, they REALLY write (fill in the blank), but they know they’ll never get their first book deal with that, so for now, they write (fill in the blank) so they can get an agent.

In my opinion, this simply won’t work. First of all, the relationship you’ll have with your agent must be based on openness, trust and honesty. This feels misleading to me; as if they’re presenting themselves as someone they don’t really want to be.

But even more than that, a pre-published author has a hard row to hoe. A pre-published author not writing the work that’s truly in their heart?? They will have twice as hard a time, no matter how “marketable” their genre or topic is.

I write picture books and chapter books; quite possibly two of the hardest first sells. But that’s what I write. It’s not even a decision that I made. It’s simply the type of stories that I have right now. I could force the stories to be something that they’re not, but then I wouldn’t be putting my best foot forward, not fair to me, my manuscripts or the agent. We all know our stories have a heartbeat, a LIFE of their own. The best writers allow the stories to flow through them, instead of forcing them into the box they think they SHOULD fit in.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s important to look around, see how your book falls into the current market. If YA or middle grade is saturated in vampire and witch novels, you need to know that if you’re writing one. But NOT because it should stop you from writing the vampire story you’ve been telling yourself for years. That story needs to be told.

Instead, use your market research as a way to learn what makes your manuscript different. Why is yours an important addition to a child’s already established collection of vampire tales?

Often times, we have stories inside of us because we feel there is something missing in the books already out there. The piles of somewhat similar novels we’ve read have only enhanced this craving inside of us, a longing to feel the thrill of a story with just the right amount of ____________ and that really touches on the _________, in a way that no other book does!

What goes in those blanks? You tell me.

THAT is what’s important about YOUR book. No matter how saturated the market is in your theme or genre, what matters is filling in those blanks.

Sure, agents have “not-interested” lists. And they’re important. Search for them. Read them. Respect them. Plan your submissions around them. But do NOT plan your manuscripts around them.

If you write slice-of-life picture books and notice that some agents are not interested in them, be happy that you learned they’re not the right agent for you. Part of finding the right agent, is learning who it’s not. You want someone who is going to see your story and say THIS is it! THIS is what I’ve been looking for!

And they’re out there.

Don’t try to mold your story into what you think an agent is looking for. Most agents say nothing trumps writing, trends are always changing, and ultimately, Marketability and Greatness are somewhat interchangeable. What agents really look for, is greatness. Use your knowledge of the market to find the greatness in your own story, what makes it different, what drives the need to write it, to give it life?

Your story is important. It has something special to give the world. And writing what is truly inside of you is what will make you successful. The best thing you can do as a writer, is to write. And to trust that it will find it’s own unique place in the market.

You’re right to write what you write, because you’re bringing the story inside of you into the world.

And the manuscripts that live inside you are worth it!

Erika Wassall is a writer, a farmer and a liver of life. She is a member of SCBWI and a proud Mad Scientist, bringing science experiments right into children’s classrooms, and hearts. She has a small farm in New Jersey with sheep, chickens, pigs and vegetables. Check out her new website at www.TheJerseyFarmScribe.com where as a first generation farmer, she often takes the long way, learning the tricks of the trade on The Farm. On her website is also The Shop page with tips and a free Q/A from her husband’s mechanic shop, and The Writer page where she shares stories, experiences and characters from the heart. Follow her on Twitter at @NJFarmScribe. She’d love to hear from you!

Thank you Erika for another great post.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Filed under: Advice, article, inspiration, Process, writing Tagged: Erika Wassell, Jersey Farm Scribe, Right to Write What You Write

10 Comments on Right to Write What You Write, last added: 10/9/2014
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12. Writing: is it theft? by Savita Kalhan



“Mediocre writers borrow. Great writers steal.” T. S. Eliot



A couple of recent articles by writers have made me think about the process of writing and the question of theft in writing. I’m often asked the question, “Where do you get your ideas from?” I’m pretty sure every writer gets asked this question at some point in time.

My imagination is pretty vivid, I would usually respond. So when I hear a story, or a piece of news, or someone relates an incident that has happened to them, I store it away – to perhaps use one day. My imagination will usually do the rest, amplify it, alter it, assign it to a character, incorporate it into a story line, perhaps even make it the whole crux of a plot. As William S Burroughs said, “All writing is in fact cut-ups. A collage of words read heard overheard. What else?”

I’m not sure anyone would really call it theft or stealing – unless you ‘borrow’ whole sentences or paragraphs, and that’s a whole different blog! What makes stories relevant, individual and original is how the source of inspiration is used and manipulated by writers. If a number of writers are asked to use the same news item as the inspiration for a story, you can be assured that it will result in several very different stories. I ran a creative writing workshop last week where I gave fifteen students the same opening sentence. By the end of the session, each of the students had taken that sentence and continued it into a whole variety of stories ranging from ghost stories, adventure, romance, fantasy and science fiction. In Jean-Luc Godard’s words: “It’s not where you take things from—it’s where you take them to.”

In a recent essay describing his creative process, Ian Fleming, said that many of the scenes in his books are drawn from real incidents that he “dolled up, attached a hero, villain and heroine to, and there was the book.”

He may have over-simplified it, but perhaps not – he used to write the first draft of a story in six weeks, which is pretty astounding. Here’s a link to the rest of his essay. It’s an interesting read. http://www.mi6-hq.com/sections/articles/literary-ian-fleming-how-to-write-a-thriller?t&s&id=03763

My writing process has come under pressure these past few months, and my motivation and staying-power is not quite what it used to be. I’ve tried working in different places and at different times, but I have felt stuck. October is the month that that will all change. Or, at least, that’s what I’ve told myself. Fleming had a tropical island hideaway where he wrote, uninterrupted, 2000 words a day. I may not be in the fortunate position to be able to fly away to Jamaica and work four solid hours a day so that at the end of just six weeks I could have a first draft of 60,000 words under my belt, but I’m damned well going to try and get the current work in progress from draft to manuscript.

And yes, my story was partly inspired by something I read in the newspaper, partly by other stories read when I was much younger, and by simply observing what modern day teenagers get up to when they’re up to no good...
 
 

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13. Illustrator Saturday – Lita Judge

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19_me_and_crittersLita Judge is a writer and artist whose greatest passion is creating children’s books. She is the author/illustrator for over a dozen fiction and nonfiction picture books including Flight School (Simon & Schuster, 2014), Red Hat (S&S, 2013), Red Sled (S&S, 2011), Bird Talk (Roaring Brook, 2012), One Thousand Tracings, and Pennies for Elephants (Disney-Hyperion). Her background in geology, paleontology and biology inspires her nonfiction books. Lita spent several years working for the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Paleontology before turning to writing about dinosaurs and other natural history subjects. But her background with animals also inspires her whimsical fictional tales filled with characters who forge big dreams.

Several of her books have been selected as Junior Library Guild picks and they have received numerous awards including the 2013 Sterling North Award, the Jane Addams Honor Book, ALA Notable Children’s Book, the International Reading Association Children’s Book Award, Michigan Notable Book, and Kirkus Best Children’s book of 2011. She enjoys teaching both writing and illustration to students of all ages and shares much about her creative process in classrooms and on her blog and website.

Lita lives with her husband, two cats and a little green parrot named Beatrix Potter in Peterborough, New Hampshire.

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Here is Lita talking about her process:

For me, creating art for one of my books involves a lot of drawing to capture a character’s gesture or body movement and expression. For example in my newest book, Born in the Wild, to be released this October, I had to draw a lot of animals. But I didn’t want my readers to just know what a chimpanzee or orangutan looks like. I want them to feel a connection to them. I want them to look into the faces of my animals and feel like there is an animal looking back at them. I also want them to get an understanding of the intimate world of animals within their own world. How does a mother panda hold her baby, or a baby orangutan curl up and feel safe with its parent? To capture all this I first do hundreds of very loose sketches, focusing on body language long before I worry about details and paint.

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Once I feel like I’ve captured that intimate portrait between the animals, I start focusing on the details, which describe their faces and bodies. Slowly my drawings become more refined until at last, it is ready for a light watercolor wash at the end.

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Interior and end pages

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How long have you been illustrating?

The first book I illustrated came out in 2006. Then my first picture book, One Thousand Tracings, which I wrote and illustrated was released in 2007.

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Above: Cover of One Thousand Tracings, 2007 Hyperion)

How did you get to work at the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Paleontology?

Many kids outgrow the dinosaur-crazed phase after elementary school, but when I was 14, during the summer before high school, I still had set my cap on becoming a paleontologist. I was eager to get started so I wrote dozens of letters to museums, curators and paleontologists who were working in the field, and basically pleaded with them to let me work on their dig. I had heard the Tyrrell Museum was working on a dig with literally thousands of dinosaurs in a bonebed and they were from the Cretaceous, the age I particularly wanted to study. I guess I ended up writing so many letters to Phil Currie, he eventually called and said welcome aboard. So the day after school let out the following summer, I was on a bus to Canada. I returned every year to work there and went on to graduate with a degree in Geology.

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Lita on dinosaur dig

Did you do illustrating work for them?

Not really, we didn’t have much time for anything other than digging up fossils. But I did do a few drawings on my own, and they asked if they could use them for t-shirts and mugs. That was a boost, to think I could draw dinosaurs perhaps someday for pay.

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Cover of How Big, released 2013, Roaring Brook Press

Did you go to School to study art? If so, when and where?

My only schooling was in Geology, at Oregon State University. I never studied art in school. I credit all the bird watching and sketching I did as a kid for teaching me how to see, how to observe. Then later, I traveled to many great museums all over the world which, painting on location, and looking at great art.

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Field paintings from Europe. Above: Stockholm cemetery. Below: Paris museum.04_Paris

What was the first painting or illustration that you did where someone paid you for your artwork?

I think I sold a painting of a humming bird for about $35 at a Christmas fair. Back when I was a Geologist, I started drawing notecard and bookmark designs to get into doing art. Eventually I had over a hundred wildlife designs and sold them all over the country with a homemade catalogue I ran on a xerox machine. Then I started doing shows and craft fairs. Eventually I sold the business because I was spending all my time folding and filling notecard orders rather than painting. The dream was to paint, not fill orders. So I started showing and selling work in galleries. But I didn’t find my real home in art until I turned to writing and illustrating children books. The element of story is what made my art feel complete for me.

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What type of job did you do right after you graduated?

I was an environmental geologist for the Forest Service. Spent a lot of time in the mud and rain working on the Oregon Coast.

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What do you think influenced your style?

I don’t really think in terms of style. My art changes and evolves each time I do a story. I think it’s because I also write them and I have a wide range of interests — science, nature, historical, fiction, whimsical — so I do a broad range of stories. Each time I create a story it needs it’s own approach to the art.

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When did you do your the first illustration for children?

In 2006, my first book was to illustrate the middle grade book, Ugly, written by Donna Jo Napoli.

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How did that come about?

I had sent an art dummy of a story I had written into Hyperion and my soon-to-be editor, Namrata Tripathi, called and asked if I’d like to do a cover for a book. Of course I said yes! I was so excited I illustrated several interior pieces as well, which made it into the book, so it turned into a nice project, and a lovely friendship with Namrata. When that was done I sent her another dummy and we were off and running on my first picture book together.

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How many children’s books have you illustrated?

I’m working on my 20th right now. Several in the pipeline also.

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When did you decide you wanted to illustrate a children’s book?

I’ve always wanted to on some level but when I was living in really remote areas on the west coast it just didn’t seem possible. I had never met an illustrator and really didn’t know how to go about getting published. When My husband and I moved to New Hampshire I was able to meet people in the field and soon after I began submitting work. Once my first book was in the works, I knew this would be what I would spend the rest of my life doing, I LOVE it!

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How long did it take you after that to get your first picture book contract?

I was pretty fortunate. I sent out work I think in early November and got that first project on Valentine’s Day 2005. But I had been drawing and drawing and drawing, and painting for years before then. I had built up a huge body of work before attempting to get published and I think that helped me.

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I see you illustrated a second book by Donna Jo Napoli. Did you know you were doing that book when you signed to do UGLY?

No, Donna Jo hadn’t even written it. It just grew naturally from the fact that Ugly was received well and we both had fun on that project.

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What was the first book that you wrote and illustrated?

One Thousand Tracings. It’s a true story about a relief effort my grandparents did to help people who had lost their homes in Europe after WWII. I found letters and foot tracings in my grandmother’s attic after she died and knew immediately I wanted to write about this amazing thing they had done to help all those families.

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How did you find a home for that book?

I sent it to my editor at Hyperion about a week after I turned the art in for Ugly.

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What book would you say has been your most successful?

Hmmm, I really don’t think of success in terms of how many books sold or how many editions. I think a book is successful if I as an artist got to create something I feel passionately about, and it connects with readers who also feel passionately about the same thing. Some of my nonfiction books may not sell as many books as Red Sled or Flight School, but I still feel like that little girl obsessed with dinosaurs craving to make a living as an artist when I create them and that is better than any measured success. And they solicit such beautiful responses from kids who share the same obsession, so it’s a pretty wonderful feeling. And my fiction, well that’s a dream too. To create a character that people respond to, that makes them smile or feel a connection, that is the best. I leave others to worry about book sales and things, and I just worry about making the stories I love. My career feels like a dream come true, so I guess all my books are successful in their own little ways.

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What book award are you the most proud of winning?

Kind of the same feeling, I’m just so grateful when any group of librarians or teachers or reviewers gathers a group of books together that they love and decides to bestow an honor on one of my books. I treasure each nod I’ve received and am thankful because they always make me believe a little more each time I really get to keep doing this beautiful, fantastic, crazy career!

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Have you worked with educational publishers?

No.

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Have you done any illustrating for children’s magazines?

No. I’ve been asked for both, but I can never seem to pull away on the stories I’m brewing up. My imagination seems to keep my docket pretty darn full these days.

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Do you have an Artist Rep. to represent you?

I work with a literary agent, Linda Pratt, who I adore because she keeps life sane for me, juggling all the contracts and turn-in dates. But more importantly, she is my sounding board for stories. She always gives me a safe creative place to bounce around ideas.

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What types of things do you do to find illustration work?

Nothing, other than I just keep writing stories. I work on them nearly every day. As soon as one is turned in to my editor and I’m waiting for feedback, I turn to the next. I don’t worry about projects, just about stories, and somehow that has kept me fully employed since the day I started.

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What is your favorite medium to use?

Pencil and watercolor.

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Has that changed over time?

My approach changes each time I launch into a new story. Sometimes I have a whimsical story that has to be light and fresh and very gestural. Another time, I may be working on a nonfiction that needs a more detailed approach. I’m working now on a book that takes place at night and has an element of mystery so things are dark with kind of magical lighting and a big beautiful moon. Another story I’m working on now is for much older kids and it’s kind of dark and at times very sad and scary, so that means a huge departure on my approach. I love not having a set style. It means I have to reinvent myself a lot, and that can take a lot of hours at the easel, but it is never boring.

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What I really want to know is how did you find such a great studio? Did you buy the house because of that room? Had it been a church?

I build it. My husband and I found a piece of land and I designed it. We had been saving and dreaming for a very long time, so the studio grew out of that energy. I found a salvaged church window and lugged some niches home from France that were made out of 15th century oak and were in a church that was sadly destroyed in WWI, but they have a home with me now. And I carved ravens for the roofline outside to reflect my background. I was born on the Tlingit Indian reservation in Alaska and the ravens are my homage to their beautiful art and culture that inspires me. I’m grateful for everyday I get to create in this space!

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What is the one thing in your studio that you could not live without?

Natural light and my critters!

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Do you try to spend a specific amount of time working on your craft?

I just work. Really I don’t keep hours. I just wake up every day eager to get back to the stories, and march on through the day and into the night and through the weekends. I hate being sick because that’s about the only time I’m not working and that for me is just plain boring. There is always at least 3 unfinished stories on my easel and a few more whispering in my ears, so as long as that is true, I’ll be working. I occasionally slip out for a bike ride, but I’m pretty much to be found with pencil or brush in hand.

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Do you take pictures or do any types of research before you start a project?

I do lots of research and quite often take pictures. That is always a fun part. My parents are wildlife photographers and my grandparents were research biologists. So I think I came to love that part of the work naturally. I do a lot of photo shoots with kids and animals, whatever the need may be. Have had fun over the years, travelling to places I paint, working with elephants, taking back trips up into the back country, feeding giraffes. Research is the fun part indeed!

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Which illustrated book is your favorite?

Ah, that is like asking a mom which is her favorite kid. OK, I may have a special fondness for a certain penguin (in Flight School) but don’t tell the others. And I’m working on two books now that I’m bursting to let out in to the world, but that will have to wait. I’ll just say Paris, Owlets, moons and fun!

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Do you think the Internet has opened doors for you?

Oh yes, it’s a wonderful way to connect with people you would never meet otherwise. I get offers to speak and all sorts of wonderful things come out of the fact that people can so easily find your website and get a sense of what you have to offer. And I’m grateful for wonderful friendships with other writers whom I rarely see but keep in touch with.

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Do you use Photoshop with your illustrations?

I do a lot of planning with Photoshop. I find it a wonderful creative tool hat helps me really explore and push a composition in a way I can’t with just pencil. I love how I can really play around with values as well so that you don’t have to muck around too much in guesswork with real paint. That never works well with watercolors.

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Do you own or have you used a Graphic Drawing Tablet in your illustrating?

I do use one a lot in the planning stages. And a little in the final art- again it really depends on the story and what effect I’m trying to get. They are wonderful for some things, but I find a good old fashioned brush loaded in paint my favorite tool.

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Do you have any career dreams that you want to fulfill?

To keep doing books that excite and interest me for the rest of my life! To never ever have the feeling that I want to slow down. And to travel to more wonderful places that allow me to soak up their beauty and capture their essence in a story. To continue connecting with kids, teachers, and parents over stories and feel in some small way your work was a part of their imagination and life. That’s all I want.

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What are you working on now?

Well I have 5 books in various stages. Some I can let out of the bag, and a couple that need to stay inside where it’s safe and warm just a little longer. My next nonfiction book, BORN IN THE WILD, coming out with Roaring Brook has already gotten two starred reviews and will be released on October 21st, so that’s exciting. Then I have a picture book about my Parrot, Beatrix, coming out next spring with Atheneum entitled, GOOD MORNIGN TO ME! It’s a fun story about life with a very happy and exuberant parrot. Then I have a book I’m illustrating about a pygmy marmoset that has been a delight work on and took me on a mental journey to the Amazon, pretty fun (coming out with Boyd’s Mill). And then my owlet book set in Paris which I’m working on now (to be released with Dial), and then… oops, I can’t tell you what I’m working on after that, but it’s a big project that has pushed me to extremes and I can’t wait for it to be ready to break out of the studio and into the world.

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Cover of Good Morning to Me, to be released Spring 2015, Ateneum

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Do you have any material type tips you can share with us? Example: Paint or paper that you love – the best place to buy – a new product that you’ve tried – A how to tip, etc.

My all time favorite brush is an Isabey Petite Gris brush, all sizes. It’s shaped kind of flat and fat so it holds gobs of paint while still keeping a good point. I bought my first in Paris after I dropped my brushes in the Seine, and man am I glad I did, because this brush paints like a dream. I also love cheep bamboo calligraphy brushes as I do a lot of line work. My tools are pretty simple 4b pencils, arches watercolor paper, Windsor Newton paint.

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Any words of wisdom on how to become a successful writer or illustrator?

It sounds kind of flippant, but I mean it in all sincerity – don’t worry about success. Just worry about the writing and/or the art. People want good stories, they crave them, if you focus on the craft, on making it the best piece of art or writing humanly possible, the “success” part of it will fall into place, at least enough so that you get to make a comfortable living at it and keep doing it. I honestly don’t think about number of books sold, etc, I’d go crazy second guessing every whisper of an idea that comes into my brain and I’d give up on it long before it had the time and nurturing from me to grow into a real story. But if you just focus on the art, and the writing, it will grow into something others can love. Just make a Utopia for yourself of your work, and the other “career” part of things will come out of that.

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Sketch for upcoming book, Born in the Wild

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Thank you Lita for sharing you journey and process with us. Please let us know when your new picture books come out. We’d love to see them and cheer you on. You can visit Lita at: http://www.litajudge.net

If you have a moment I am sure Lita would like to read your comments. I enjoy reading them, too, even if sometimes I don’t have time to reply to all of them. Thanks!

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Filed under: Advice, authors and illustrators, demystify, illustrating, Illustrator's Saturday, inspiration, Interview, picture books, Process Tagged: Born in the Wild, Flight School, Lita Judge, Red Sledge

16 Comments on Illustrator Saturday – Lita Judge, last added: 10/4/2014
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14. THE AMAZING STORY GENERATOR: Book Review

THE AMAZING STORY GENERATOR
By
Jason Sacher (Chronicle Books 2012 $14.95 hardcover)     1

“Longing for a simpler life, famous Children’s Book Author joins a cult.”
“Penniless after years of rejection, Picture Book Author wannebe, dons a cape and mask to fight crime.”
“During the hottest summer on record, an out- of -work writer refuses to leave the bathtub.”

Are these tabloid headlines or stressed out writers looking for easier ways to earn a living? The answer to those questions just might be the basis of your next story.
The concept of THE AMAZING STORY GENERATOR is unique and simple. You choose a prompt from each of three sections set up in a flip-book style – a setting, a character, and a conflict. Written down, it becomes your “elevator pitch” and the start of a story, novel, screenplay or picture book.

This book is entertaining to read in and of itself. Passing it around among family members left all of us laughing and contemplating all sorts of possible scenarios. At its best, this book is a perfect when you need a jump start for a story, a new idea, or a way out of writer’s block. It’s a useful format for summing up your own stories or novels that are ready to be “pitched” to editors and agents. You can create thousands of different prompts and storylines. I found that practicing the format opens up endless ideas.        3

Here’s an example using one setting, one character, and several conflicts:
“Suddenly able to hear others’ thoughts, a spoiled teenager solves a ten year old murder, OR robs a series of banks, OR wakes up in a strange house.”
Do the same thing by varying the settings or characters and you can see the endless possibilities. Who knows, you could have the formula for the next mystery/sci-fi/YA thriller.
THE AMAZING STORY GENERATOR is the perfect addition to any creative writing program and should be part of every storytellers library.
“Inspired by THE AMAZING STORY GENERATOR, a children’s author writes the next bestseller.”
It could happen. Even if it doesn’t, think of what a great story it would make.


1 Comments on THE AMAZING STORY GENERATOR: Book Review, last added: 10/3/2014
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15. Free Fall Friday – NaNoWriMo – PiBoIdMo

Here are the guidelines for submitting a First Page in October: In the subject line, please write “October First Page Critique” and paste the text in the email. Please make sure you include your name, the title of the piece, and whether it is as picture book, middle grade, or young adult, etc. at the top.

Plus attach your first page Word doc. to email. Format using one inch margins and 12 point New Times Roman font – double space – no more than 23 lines. Send to: kathy(dot)temean(at)gmail(dot)com. Guidelines must be followed. Four first page will be critiqued and the rtesults posted.

DEADLINE: September 24th.

RESULTS: October 31st.

ILLUSTRATORS: Illustrations needed for this blog.

IF YOU LIVE IN THE AREA DON’T MISS THE OPPORTUNITY BELOW:

NaNoWriMo and PiBoIdMo Kick-Off night.

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FREE EVENT!* 

Monday, Oct. 6, 2014 – 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

Adams House, Princeton Theological Seminary, Library Place. Princeton.

Cost: * FREE SCBWI Members / $35 Non-SCBWI Members

Join presenters—and published authors—Charlotte Bennardo and Tara Lazar for tips, tricks and ways to prepare for November’s National Novel Writing Month or Picture Book Idea Month.

A great way to light the motivational fire under your writing buns!

If you’re a novelist and want to finish up that first draft, try out a new story idea, and beyond, come and meet Charlotte Bennardo and learn how to prepare for thirty days and thirty nights of literary abandon! The goal of National Novel Writing Month is to write 50,000 words of your novel. That’s it plain and simple. So, join to chat about novel writing and learn how to stay on target, keep track of your word count, receive motivational tips, ask questions, and more!

For more about NaNoWriMo, visit http://nanowrimo.org

New to generate some new ideas? Read on …

If you are a picture book writer (and/or illustrator), PiBoIdMo is for you! 

Founded online by http://taralazar.com the goal of PiBoIdMo, during the month of November, is for each participant to jot down one new picture book concept daily in their personal “idea notebook”. To help you along on this journey, each day http://taralazar.com will feature published authors and illustrators blogging about their sources of inspiration. The ideas you create this November will fuel your writing for the coming year.

Click here to register for the NaNoWriMo/PiBoIdMo event

About Charlotte: 

As the co-author of the YA Sirenz Series (Sirenz, Sirenz Back in Fashion- Flux) and Blonde Ops (Thomas Dunne 2014) Charlotte also writes solo novels (MG, YA) which she is working on and shopping around. She has written numerous articles for publications like NJSCBWI ‘Sprouts’, Centauri, Happy, Working Mother and other magazines, and given numerous workshops at the NJSCBWI annual conferences. She’s looking for her backyard squirrel who lost his home when the tree was trimmed (He answers to “Jack.”)

About Tara:
Street magic performer. Hog-calling champion. Award-winning ice sculptor. These are all things Tara Lazar has never been. Instead, she writes quirky, humorous picture books featuring magical places that adults never find. Her debut picture book, THE MONSTORE, is available now from Aladdin/Simon & Schuster. Tara has several more books being released in the coming years with Random House, Sterling and Disney-Hyperion. Tara is the founder of PiBoIdMo, Picture Book Idea Month, an online picture book writer’s event held every November at taralazar.com or piboidmo.com.

This year’s event marks the 6th year of PiBoIdMo, and more than 1200 writers are expected to register.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Filed under: authors and illustrators, children writing, Contest, Events, inspiration, opportunity Tagged: Charlotte Bennardo, First Page Contest Critique, Free Fall Friday, NJSCBWI Free Event, Tara Lazar

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16. Life as an Editor Married to an Author

Industry Life

 

 

  by

Jordan Hamessley London

Jordan Hamessley LondonEarlier this month, my husband Matt London, experienced something as an author that I’ve experienced many times as an editor. He launched his middle grade debut novel, The 8th Continent. In my career I’ve witnessed many book launches and supported my authors through all that goes with the publishing process as their editor. With Matt and The 8th Continent, I finally experienced it as a family member.

Let’s rewind about a decade…

My husband and I both got our starts in the publishing world around the same time. In fact, if it weren’t for him, I might not even be an editor today. I had taken a semester off of college to do a national theatre tour and after I returned, I spent the majority of my time in his dorm room reading a book a day. One day, Matt said “You’re a freakishly fast reader. You really should find out how to be a reader for a publishing house or literary agent.” The next day, I applied for an internship at a lit agency, snagged the job, and started my long journey to becoming an editor.

Matt was always writing. Since college I’ve been his first reader on nearly everything he’s written. We dreamed of the day I would be an editor and he would be a published author and we’d be living in a big penthouse on Central Park West… The realities of publishing salaries and the life of a freelance author have made that last big a tad hard to fulfill, but as of this month, we have the first two boxes checked off.

As you can imagine, life in an apartment with one editor and one author can be tricky, so here’s how we have survived.

  • No Crossing the Streams: It was always important to us that we each support each other while keeping up boundaries. When Matt’s book went on submission, there was never a moment when we considered sending it to me or my imprint. In fact, when he received his offer from Razorbill, I was still working at Penguin, and the editor had no idea we were married until he went in for a meeting. Of course, over the years we’ve both made contacts from interactions we’ve had at various parties and book launch parties, but I never sent an email to anyone saying “Hey, my man has a book you should read.” That said, at non-publishing events we often get a side-eye when people ask us what we do. “I’m a children’s book author.” “I’m a children’s book editor.” Quickly followed by an “Uh-huh…”
  • Empathy: I have to say having lived with an author on submission, it does make me look at my long list of submissions with more empathy for the writers. They also have family members listening to them freak out over long submission times and why an agent or editor is tweeting about reading (or not reading) submissions. On the other hand, I’m able to say “Hey, editors are human and sometimes just want to spend some time playing video games (yes, we’re nerds) with their husband or watch some Scandal. Chill out.” We’ve both humanized the other side for each other.
  • Knowing When to Step Aside: Once Matt got his book deal, I told him that I was going to stand back and leave the editing up to his editor. These days I typically read a first draft before he sends it just to assure him it’s not terrible. I don’t read the book again until it’s finished. I know how it can be as an editor knowing that an author has a bevy of beta-readers and family members reading each draft and how those voices can occasionally muddy the editorial process, so I just don’t insert myself. That said, whenever he starts a new project, I’m always very excited to read his new work.
  • Perspective: After spending my entire publishing career living with me, Matt has had a leg up in what to expect as a debut author. He’s been to many events for my authors and has heard all of the behind-the-scenes information on every book I’ve edited, so he went into the publishing process understanding the reality of being a debut middle grade author and did always have me to fall back on if he had a question about part of the process.

So after nearly ten years of working toward our goal, Matt’s book came out this month and it has been amazing and crazy and I couldn’t be more proud of him. I know now firsthand how intense launch week is for an author and their family and want to send hugs to every author and family I’ve ever worked with.

Here’s to many more years of our crazy life in publishing.

Jordan Hamessley London is an Editor at Egmont USA, where she edits middle grade and YA. Her current titles include Isla J. Bick’s new series, The Dark Passages (#1 White Space), Bree DeSpain’s new series Into the Dark (#1 The Shadow Prince), and more. Prior to Egmont, Jordan worked at Grosset and Dunlap, an imprint of Penguin Young Readers where she edited Adam-Troy Castro’s middle grade horror series Gustav Gloom, Ben H. Winters and Adam F. Watkin’s book of horror poetry Literally Disturbed, Michelle Schusterman’s I Heart Band series, Adam F. Watkins’s alphabet picture book R is for Robot and more. When not editing, Jordan can be found on twitter talking about books, scary movies, and musical theater.

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17. The Tyrant Villain

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By

Biljana Likic

biljana new picA common trope in stories is the merciless ruler whose reign must be toppled by the hero. I admit to being guilty of shameless adherence to this archetype. My current fantasy WIP features a villainous tyrant on the throne, and boy, am I having a tough time making him convincing.

What are the first things you think of when you think of a tyrant? Madness? Cruelty? Lust for power? A god complex? All possibilities, all easy to come up with on the spot during a lazy bout of brainstorming. After these character flaws might come the political implications of what a tyrant is: an absolute ruler, a leader of vast armies, an arbitrary judge. When I started thinking about the things my tyrant might do, I came up with capricious murder, genocide, induced famine, city-razing, and general disregard towards the value of a human life. Personally, thinking about tyranny leaves me in desperate need of rainbows and cupcakes, so when I approached my fantasy, I perhaps hadn’t given my villain enough thought, and it wasn’t until recently that I forced myself to confront it.

I started with the character flaws. Madness, cruelty, lust for power, and a god complex. In no time, my tyrant was a caricature. But there was nothing wrong with that, as long as I worked towards fixing it. It’s always good to start with base flaws and virtues when trying to flesh out a character. Once you have those, though, you have to begin adding depth. The shock value of mindless murder wears off very quickly. What never becomes dull is the potential for logical reasoning behind the tyrant’s twisted actions. So we venture into the realm of “whys”.

Backstory

Every tyrant starts small. After all, I believe a god complex is created through experiences. Perhaps there’s a string of eerie coincidences and close calls with death that lead him (male, because my tyrant is male) to believe that somebody is watching over him. Following that, he starts comparing himself to others, and if his intelligence is above average, begins to truly believe that he’s better. Already suspecting his divine status, he just needs one friend to tell him what he wants to hear to become brainwashed by the seductive prospect that maybe he actually is a god. And since gods know better than people about what’s right and wrong, it’s a god’s job to guide them in the proper direction. And if that has to be done through absolute rule, so be it.

The idea is that the tyrant actually believes that what he’s doing is for the good of the people. He’s driven by what he thinks is right. Nobody views their own self as an evil person. He has a set of values by which he abides, shaped by his childhood and relationships, and everybody against them is in the wrong.

But he can’t just waltz into a palace and plop down onto a throne. He has to convince everybody else that he’s a god first; he has to earn his power. And he can’t earn his power until he has some kind of control over the people. Fear works, of course, but even then he needs soldiers to confirm it throughout the countryside. And the way he gets those soldiers is…

Charisma

A charismatic person is someone who displays magnetism and charm in everything they do: someone you would follow off a cliff if you didn’t stop and think about it. No tyrant gets to where he wants to be without the ability to lead an army. But armies aren’t stupid. Of course, mob mentality sometimes makes them act in questionable ways, but they wouldn’t follow just anybody. A tyrant is a person who has successfully won over a massive amount of people to do their bidding. You have to have insane talent for public speaking to pull that off, and you have to value the people around you who do their jobs well. So often, tyrants in media are portrayed as baby-killing cracks who behead their irreplaceable right-hand man when he accidentally bumps into them. And while he might end up doing that eventually (especially if he boards the crazy train) it’s important to remember that throughout history, those events were the beginning of the end of a tyrant’s career. Somebody always ends up killing him off. So unless you want your story to last about two pages, don’t make everybody hate the tyrant.

A more convincing reason for not making everybody hate the tyrant is that the hero has to have opposition, and the opposition has to be great. If everybody agrees that the world would be a better place without Emperor Quintus the Bat-Shit Insane, chances are somebody else will kill him before your hero can even walk.

But most importantly, a tyrant with charisma is disturbing. They make the reader feel like maybe they’re rooting for the wrong person. A charismatic villain is one that you dislike not necessarily because of the bloodbaths they cause, but because they trouble you by forcing you to challenge your own beliefs on things you thought you knew. They’re the kind of villain that you love to hate. You’re relieved when they’re gone, but you also miss them.

Doubt

Bringing this back to the characteristics of your tyrant, doubt is one that is essential. Doubt is the root of power lust. If the tyrant is a god, he should have no problem taking over the land. So why is it so much trouble? Probably because he still doesn’t have enough power. If the doubt is “Maybe I’m not a god,” the answer is to continue taking over lands until you prove that you are. If the doubt is “Maybe I’m wrong,” the answer is change the laws until they prove that you’re right.

There’s the old saying that absolute power corrupts absolutely, but the truth is, power corrupts those who don’t have it. If you want a corrupt tyrant, never give him absolute power, because then nothing would have to change. He would be satisfied. Instead, you have to always make sure to keep the tyrant unsatisfied with what he has by making him riddled with doubt over the sustainability of his empire. If he has full control over the people, don’t give him full control over himself, too. Don’t give him confidence in his own abilities to keep the people in his sway. If confidence is hidden from him, he’ll struggle to find it by going to extremes, and he’ll take it out on his people in an attempt to assert his rule. As time passes and his fist tightens, the penalty for tax evasion eventually turns from a few days in the stocks to death by stoning. Hunting on royal grounds slowly becomes punishable by the chopping off of limbs instead of a simple fine. The gradual increase in brutality has to be just that: gradual. A continuous one-upmanship against himself to see how far he can go. As the tyrant’s doubt rises, as madness settles in, the times change to reflect his state of mind, but the people’s memory of his greatness stalls any action against him. Because remember: the tyrant has charisma. There are people that like him, and might be blind to the changes until they begin to directly affect them. And as long as they don’t steal or hunt on royal grounds, the people think they’re safe. But because the tyrant is crazy, that’s not quite the case.

Eventually, the tyrant’s enemies become his own people. As a conqueror, when it was his armies against foreign armies, the distinction was clear. But as it turns into his armies against his own people, what does he do? How can he make the right decision? How far can he push until they turn against him? How much more control does he need until he can be sure that civil unrest will never happen? Who can he preemptively kill for the good of the peaceful state?

Commitment

Finally, we get to the most important point of all. Commit to your tyrant. As you continue to explore the possibilities within his character, you’ll be tempted to turn him into a victim. I did this in my fantasy WIP. Twice. With two separate characters that had started out as villains. Now they’re both misunderstood good guys. And it was when I almost did it a third time that I had to stop myself, because it would’ve made conflict impossible, and a story with no conflict is boring.

Always remember: your tyrant is a bad person. He kills. He destroys. He threatens humanity. Because you’re a fantastic writer and you developed his character so well, your knowledge of his motives will trick you into feeling empathetic towards him.

Don’t. He is a bad person.

You want to show his side of the argument, and you want to show it well enough to make the reader conflicted over his eventual defeat, but you have to maintain the status quo: He is the villain, and the hero has to defeat him. When he and the hero meet, they can’t just sit around and talk about their feelings over copious amounts of chocolate cake and then decide to hold hands and start over. Even if your hero ends up understanding him, they cannot agree. Because as soon as they agree, poof goes the conflict. The best stories are the ones where the differences in ideology are understandable, but irreconcilable.

And ultimately, how do you forgive cold-blooded murder? How do you forgive genocide? How do you forgive systematic oppression and mutilation of a people by their own leader?

You can’t. And even if, in the end, the tyrant is repentant, it’s too late. He must pay for his sins.

That’s the tragedy of a perfect villain: they are beyond saving, beyond any hope for atonement. But regardless of all their terrible actions, you are able to understand and pity them, because you can see the forks in the road at which they took the wrong turns.

Well. I don’t know that I’ll be able to write my tyrant like this. It takes quite a bit of skill, and I’m not sure I’m there yet. But this is my goal, and I hope these ramblings were useful to others struggling through the same obstacles as I am.

Biljana Likic is working on her fantasy WIPs and has just started her MA in Medieval Studies, from which she can’t wait to graduate so she’ll finally have all the time in the world to write. You can follow her on Twitter.

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18. Interview With YA Author Janet Fox.

I “met” Janet after reading her fabulous YA historical novels and letting her know how much I enjoyed them.  She was kind enough to read  WHEELS OF CHANGE before it was published and wrote a wonderful blurb that appears in the book. We’ve had an e-mail friendship ever since. I couldn’t wait to talk to Janet about her YA novels and her new venture: a debut MG. Janet was also kind enough to feature me on her blog today.  You can check out that post at: http://www.kidswriterjfox.blogspot.com

1. SIRENS takes place in the “Roaring Twenties”. What attracted you to writing about that era?                   Sirens front cover.indd
SIRENS is set in New York City in 1925. When seventeen-year-old Josephine Winter’s father ships her off to live with her rich cousins on the glittering island of Manhattan, he says it’s to find a husband. But Jo knows better–there’s trouble brewing, and in 1925, all that glitters is not gold. Caught up in a swirl of her cousin’s bobbed-hair set–and the men that court them–Jo soon realizes that this world of jazz and gangsters and their molls hides a nest of lies. But when she befriends the girlfriend of one of the most powerful and dangerous gangsters in town, Jo begins to uncover secrets–secrets that threaten an empire and could destroy everyone she loves. Jo is faced with a choice: hang on to her soul, or lose herself in the decade of decadence.

My first two YA historical novels were contracted for together, and I linked them by tying in  characters, although the second is not strictly a sequel. Just as I was putting the finishing touches on FORGIVEN my publisher contacted my agent and asked if I would be interested in trying my hand at a novel set in the 1920s. I said yes, and wrote a proposal, and they accepted it.

I don’t always say yes to suggestions like this. But I’ve always been fascinated by the twenties – it was a time of such rapid social change as to be explosive. Plus there are nuances like the fascination with the supernatural and the subtle political rumblings that led straight toward World War II. I had a lot of fun researching and writing SIRENS.

2. You wrote two other wonderful YA Historical Fiction books: FAITHFUL and FORGIVEN. How did you come to be a writer of historical fiction?

Thank you! It was a total accident. I don’t consider myself to be an historical fiction author, and in fact most of my current projects are anything but. FAITHFUL, my first novel, was really written as a way for me to deal with the sudden death of my mother. When I went to craft Maggie’s story about her search for her mother, I picked Yellowstone as a setting, and 1904 as the year only because I was interested in that period of history and it’s a fantastic period within the Park.                Faithful high res

FORGIVEN carries on from FAITHFUL but I set it in San Francisco because as a former geologist I wanted to write about the 1906 earthquake.    Forgiven with award

3. As someone who also writes historical fiction, I’m interested in how you conduct your research. Tell us about your process.

I almost never research ahead. It’s important to me to know my character first, so I often write quite a bit before I feel the need to dig into research. Once I know my character, then I try to craft a story that will delve into the rich human experience. And then I often research on the fly – hunting for material that I need to know.

For example, with SIRENS, I knew Jo and I knew she was going to befriend Lou, and I knew the two girls would get mixed up somehow with a gangster and bootlegging. But it wasn’t until I heard a radio interview one winter night with the author of a book about the 1920’s magician Howard Thurston that I realized that the twenties’ obsession with spiritualism would be central to my theme. It fit my character, it fit the story, and it was an interesting aspect of the twenties that doesn’t get much attention.

That said, at some point I do the following: read newspaper ads and articles of the period; read something written in the period; read the society columns of the time; find vocabulary lists or terms popular at the time; find clothing catalogs of the time; look for popular pastimes. These all comprise my socio-economic understanding, the atmosphere that surrounds my character.

4. You recently sold your first middle grade historical titled CHATELAINE: THE THIRTEENTH CHARM. Can you tell us about that and how it was writing your first MG novel?

Actually CHATELAINE is much more fantasy than historical. Yes, it’s set in 1940 and the children are escaping the blitz; yes, there is a German spy and an enigma machine. But after that, it’s very much a story about ghosts, a steampunk witch, an immortal wizard, children who are disappearing, artifacts with magical powers, peculiar teachers, a creepy castle, the rainy Scottish Highlands…in short, a slightly scary run-for-your-life mystery.
I loved writing this novel. It came out of nowhere – actually it was inspired by a piece of jewelry I saw on the internet – but as I was writing I was remembering all those days as a preteen when I was holed up in the corner on a rainy afternoon with one of the Narnia books or an Agatha Christie novel. Kat is such a great character and I had so much fun writing her story and then embellishing it with wild and crazy twists and turns…I hope readers will love it, too.

It sounds amazing Janet. I will definitely be adding that one to my reading list!

5. Of all your memorable characters, which one is your favorite and why?

Wow. That’s like loving one of your children more than the others!

I guess if I had to be pinned to the wall, I would say Maggie, because she’s my first. But then there’s Kula, feisty Kula, who begged to have her story told. And Jo – she’s such a determined, strong-willed girl – and Lou, who comes from nothing and has street-smarts. Now Kat, she’s the pragmatic girl who has to develop her imagination…and then there’s Rima, from my next novel…obviously, this is the impossible choice!

Thanks so much, Darlene!                                    janet fox

Janet Fox writes award-winning fiction and non-fiction for children of all ages. She became a children’s author in the mid-90s, when her son’s learning differences led her to develop her non-fiction book for Free Spirit Publishing, GET ORGANIZED WITHOUT LOSING IT (2006). Other work for children includes short fiction (Spider Magazine) and science non-fiction (Highlights for Children). Her young adult debut novel, FAITHFUL (Speak/Penguin Group, 2010) was an Amelia Bloomer List pick, and was followed by a companion novel, FORGIVEN (Penguin, 2011), a Junior Library Guild selection and WILLA Literary Award Finalist, and a YA historical set in the 1920s, SIRENS (Penguin, 2012).
Her debut middle grade novel CHATELAINE: THE THIRTEENTH CHARM is an historical fantasy (Viking, 2016). She is a 2010 graduate of the MFA/Writing for Children and Young Adults program at Vermont College of Fine Arts, a former Regional Advisor for the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, and a former high school English teacher. Janet lives in Bozeman, Montana, where Janet and her husband enjoy the mountain vistas.

You can also find her at http://www.janetsfox.com and at http://www.kidswriterjfox.blogspot.com


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19. The Indomitable Struggle for Meaning

Hi folks, This is a real ramble this week. I was out having breakfast at my favorite little breakfast stop yesterday. It was late morning and I was the only one in the place. I took some pages of my WIP, bought my obligatory cup of iced tea (this is Texas), and picked up the provided newspapers to sift through. I still like to read a newspaper one or two times a week. It brings back warm memories of growing up when my family shared the Sunday paper. 

One of the employees was reading from her phone. 

"Oh, I love Shel Silverstein," she exclaimed.  

Her fellow workers all chimed back similar love.  Immediately. 

"Which one are you reading?" one called.

The phone reader called out, "You have to hear this. Hug O'War."

She read it. Tables stopped being wiped. The kitchen grew silent. The manager put down his tablet.

When she finished, I heard murmured happy comments of how much they all loved Shel Silverstein and how they have treasured him their whole lives (18 to 25 years). They called out his book titles; Light in the Attic, The Giving Tree, and Falling Up! And when this conversation ended they launched into the The Giver by Lois Lowery. 

I felt like a very happy fly on the wall.This conversation brought me close to my life's mission -- I'm caught up in the indomitable struggle for meaning.  I know, I have a life mission. I'm fighting the sound and fury part of life. I'm kicking against entropy.

This hunger to share something of who we are and what we want feels like rocket fuel inside me. Unfortunately, failure is an option that I have run into again and again. You see, I really want to create a morning in a breakfast shop in the future where someone reads from their phone, shares my words, and heads nod in happy communing over these familiar words. I so want to contribute a verse. 

I keep searching for that spark of meaning that will light the fire of human souls. I call this an indomitable struggle because I will not quit. I will not, but I must be honest. I've been feeling like Moses looking over into a promised land this week, wondering if I'm just barred because I hit a rock in frustration to make water flow. I'm feeling like Apollo Thirteen astronauts who got  mighty close to the moon but their story became one of just getting home and the wonders of duct tape. The worst of it, I'm feeling like the member of a host of women whose quiet serviceable lives are lost amid the clamoring voices of the flashier members of our species. 

I am the most pedestrian creature to have a far flung dream. I'm off the beaten track, dwelling in the yawning wilderness of suburbia, You really don't hear much about the "Voice that Cried from Surburbia!" I live in a "little box" on a street of ticky-tacky houses. I'm a housewife and a mother. I think the government calls me unemployed. My everyday projects are a garage sale and going grocery shopping. I might mow the lawn.  

And yet I'm caught up in this indomitable struggle for meaning. Here I am, hoping to rattle the bones. You know, a weed will spring up in any crack in the concrete. I hope that you hold onto your struggle. I hope you find meaning on this journey of life. I hope that you share it. Bloom, even in that impossible place. I have a deep seated belief that "every little thing is going to shine."

Will be back next week with more musing. 

Here is a doodle.



In our life there is a single color, as on an artist's palette, which provides the meaning of life and art. It is the color of love. Marc Chagall

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20. Secret Doors and Other Wonders

One of the commenters following Mac Barnett’s Ted Talk “Why a good book is a secret door” quoted Antoine de Saint-Exupéry from The Little Prince: “Grown-ups never understand anything by themselves, and it is tiresome for children to be always and forever explaining things to them.” The essence of this statement is a perfect way […]

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21. Picture Books: Character Development in Every Word!

erikaphoto-45Jersey Farm Scribe here on

Picture Books: Character Development in Every Word!

We all know that our characters need to resonate with the audience. They need to relate to them, yearn to grow with them, feel their pain and celebrate their accomplishments.

It’s asking a lot. But it’s what keeps little fingers reaching for the same stories again and again.

It’s not as easy task when I’m working on an MG project, and I’m sure it’s a struggle for any authors no matter what the genre. But when I’m working on a picture book, I have an even smaller window to describe my characters, and far less opportunities to tell SHOW others what makes them so special.

The intimate relationship we have with our manuscripts sometimes makes it necessary to take a step or two back. WE may know Little Lucy or Bumbling Bradley just as well as we know living, breathing children in our life. But we are tasked with putting entire personalities into as few as 500 words and still having room for a story!

  1. I just re-read that last sentence. Putting it that way on paper makes it sound even more daunting.

But (deep breath) fear not! There is something truly beautiful hidden here as well.

One of my favorite things about writing picture books is that it is genuinely the epitome of the POWER of words. An entire story told in fewer words than this blog post will have. A full story arc with beginning, a middle and an end. And not just ANY story arc, one that will attract an agent, dazzle a publisher and make both parents and children reach to pull the story from the shelf time and time again.

Each word has a fingerprint.

Every word chosen MUST fit not only in the sentence, but in the essence of the story itself. Verbs are not only describing the action of the story, but setting the intangible style, the VIBE of the characters and of the story itself.   Adjectives do more than describe the subject they’re linked to, but represent the attitude and individuality of the characters they are entangled with.

Snort and giggle may have the same definition. But the aura of the characters they describe, are distinctly different.

Bounding, lurching and hopping may all describe the same actions, but one word may bring up stronger images of chaos, versus innocence or playfulness. And to make things more… let’s say exciting… there are no hard and fast rules. The same word used in one sentence may have different implications when used in a different way.

Well, that’s just not helpful at all, is it?

While a daunting task for sure, these word description choices also open almost limitless doors. The power is in our hands.   The slight change of a few words can alter an entire story, or give that extra shimmer of life that our characters so desire to have.

So okay, how do I DO that?

For me, something that helps me is when I assess every individual sentence in my picture books in two ways:

Auditory and Meaning

Auditory:

We have the benefit of knowing that 99 percent of the time picture books are read, out loud, TO our ultimate target audience. That’s powerful knowledge! And it’s important to capitalize on it. Of course, most picture book authors know the importance of reading your manuscript out loud from cover to cover. But you can go a step beyond that as well.

I take every individual sentence and read it out loud, numerous times in a row. Think about how the words sound together, how they physically feel coming off the tongue. Try different adjectives, new verbs, try to add or remove a comma, just to see if anything has a more pleasing flow, a more playful sound or something that fits better with the mood I want my readers to be experiencing.

And I ask myself, what would my character think of these sounds?

If I don’t feel that my character would have a natural and deep connection with the sounds and intonations throughout the story, than I’m probably not giving my readers a chance to connect with my character.

Meaning:

Again I take each and every word from each sentence individually and dissect it for meaning. As the great Ame Dyckman would say (author of Boy + Bot, Tea Party Rules and more), it’s the Picture Book Word Count SMACKDOWN! If a word does not make you tingle, if you don’t read it and say to yourself, THAT’S IT, that’s EXACTLY IT… find a better word or take it out!! Trust that your illustrators will know what they’re doing and that they will express the details and description so that you can focus on action.

Again, play with new verbs or adjectives and be sure that each word matches not only the scene that you’re painting in their minds, but the tone of the moment, the spirit of the main character and the emotion that the memory of reading the book will create.

The best picture books and characters are often burned into our memories for our entire lives. The words from these stories carried much more significance than their mere definitions. They were the medium for living, breathing characters that tiptoed off the pages and into our world. Your manuscripts have the opportunity to exercise the profound power of each individual word.

Your manuscripts… and the characters they will bring to life… are worth it!

Erika

Erika Wassall is a writer, a farmer and a liver of life. She is a member of SCBWI and a proud Mad Scientist, bringing science experiments right into children’s classrooms, and hearts. She has a small farm in New Jersey with sheep, chickens, pigs and vegetables. Check out her new website at www.TheJerseyFarmScribe.com where as a first generation farmer, she often takes the long way, learning the tricks of the trade on The Farm. On her website is also The Shop page with tips and a free Q/A from her husband’s mechanic shop, and The Writer page where she shares stories, experiences and characters from the heart. Follow her on Twitter at @NJFarmScribe. She’d love to hear from you!

Thank you Erika for another great post.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Filed under: Advice, article, Author, inspiration, picture books, Process Tagged: Develop every word, Erika Wassell, Jersey Farm Scribe, Picture Book Characters

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22. Guest Post: Lessons Learned from Hong Kong Movies

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by

Grady Hendrix

Horrorstor

Note from Sooz: I am so delighted to share a guest post from author Grady Hendrix today. Personally, I am desperate to soak up any writing wisdom he might be so kind as to share.

Because guys, his new book Horrostör is incredible. Like, I got a copy of this in the mail, opened the package and snickered at the cover (and how the entire book is laid out like an Ikea catalog). Then I started reading…

…and two hours later, I finished the book. I COULDN’T PUT IT DOWN. It was laugh-out-loud funny and also thoroughly terrifying. Plus, there was incredible character development, a thoroughly twisty plot, and OH MY GOSH, what an ending!!

Since I’m sure y’all are dying to read this book too now (seriously: everyone should read it.), then make sure you fill out the Rafflecopter form below! We’re giving away 2 copies (hooray!).

Now, I’ll hand over the mic to Sir Grady, writer extraordinaire.

When I was in college, I lived near the Music Palace and that gave me the better education by far. A vast, rotting hulk of a movie palace it showed Hong Kong double features for $6 and, being broke, that was a deal I couldn’t resist. The Music Palace led to me co-founding the New York Asian Film Festival, it led to me moving to Hong Kong, my wife and I bonded over our shared love for Stephen Chow’s Love on Delivery and the hand amputations in Always Be the Winners, and it taught me how to write. Because everything I learned about writing, I learned at the Music Palace.

Everything I learned about language, I learned from subtitles.

“Say if you find him lousy!” Uncle Bill shouts. “Thanks for elephant, it’ll be worse if it’s dinosaur,” mutters Lam Ching-ying. “Are you an archeologist or a sucker!” a cop screams in frustration. Hong Kong movies have to be subtitled in English, but that doesn’t mean the subtitles have to make sense. Recruiting random strangers off the street, or sometimes just making a production assistant stay up late with an out-of-date Cantonese-to-English dictionary, Hong Kong subtitles emerge looking like William Burroughs cut-ups. And I love them. Every time they stretch, push, bend, or otherwise mutate the English language I feel like a door is opening inside my brain. At this point in my life I’ve watched thousands of Hong Kong movies, and not a day goes by when I don’t find subtitles popping into my head. Stuck on a packed elevator? “It’s getting crowdy,” I think. Cut off by an annoying driver? “Damn you, stink man, try my melon!” rolls off my tongue. As I learned from Hong Kong movies, it’s not the actual words that are important. It’s the feeling.

Everything I learned about character, I learned from John Woo.

You may think that John Woo is all about the gunfights, but his secret weapon is his mastery of crafting iconic characters. He doesn’t need plots, he just drops his characters into the ring and lets their conflicting motives drive the story. Whether it’s happy-go-lucky Mark (Chow Yun-fat) in A Better Tomorrow who finally gets sick of being treated like an errand boy and decides to demand respect, or Jeff (Chow Yun-fat, again) in The Killer who’s wracked with guilt over blinding a bystander in an assassination and tries to earn enough money to get her a cornea transplant, or Ben, Frank, and Paul, trapped in Vietnam, one of them wanting to rescue a woman, one of them wanting to steal a crate of gold, and one of them just wanting to go home. In Woo’s movies there are simply characters who want things, and what they want and how they get it drives the story into some of the most insane action sequences ever put onscreen. Because character is action. Quite literally.

Everything I learned about plot, I learned from Comrades, Almost a Love Story

Plot means you throw everything horrible you can think of at your characters and watch them squirm, and by the end they need to be in a different place than where they began. No movie is better at this than Peter Chan’s Comrades, Almost a Love Story. When the movie begins, Leon Lai is a Mainlander who comes to Hong Kong to make money. He falls for local girl, Maggie Cheung, and then…complications. Chan (and screenwriter Ivy Ho) throw every conceivable twist at their two romantic leads and by the time the movie’s over these two characters may seem to be right back where they began, but the viewer isn’t. You’ll find yourself crying buckets of tears not over the main characters but over the people they’ve hurt on their way to “happiness.” Comrades is a movie where every time you think you know the story, you suddenly realize that it’s about something else entirely. Like a great magician, the creators distract your attention over there, and then take you by surprise from over here.

Everything I learned about writing scenes, I learned from Peking Opera Blues

I firmly believe that Peking Opera Blues is the greatest motion picture ever made. Period. Full stop. Movies don’t get any better than Tsui Hark’s tale of three women trying to keep their heads above water during the early 20th century when China was torn into factions by greedy warlords. And one thing he does better than anyone else is stage big fat setpieces that keep going, and going, and going. Just when you think a scene has gone as far as it can, it goes even further. Writers often skip from scene to scene, but great directors know that if you’re going to go through the trouble of lighting a scene, dressing a set, and placing your camera, then you better wring every last ounce of drama out of it. And so, for Tsui, even a scene of a character waking up becomes a slapstick ballet as her father enters her bedroom and she has to keep him from detecting any of the four other people hidden on her bed, armed with nothing more than a blanket. Rather than starting a new scene every ten minutes, Tsui digs deep and plays every spin, variation, and complication on every scene that he can possibly find, turning each one into a setpiece that’s packed with emotional and dramatic information.

Everything I learned about writing women, I learned from The Heroic Trio.

Hollywood has two models for women: mothers and whores. Sometimes they dish up a motherly whore, or a whorish mother, but that’s just about the entire emotional spectrum. I was lucky enough to see The Heroic Trio back in 1993 when it first came out, and in Johnnie To’s movie an evil undead Chinese eunuch from the past is living in an underground lair in a dystopian future, stealing babies to turn them into an army of feral monsters. Opposing him are Wonder Woman (Anita Mui), Thief Catcher (Maggie Cheung), and Invisible Girl (Michelle Yeoh). Wonder Woman is a devoted mother who doesn’t get to spend as much time as she wants with her family because she’s constantly saving the world from evil. Thief Catcher is only in it for the money, but she’ll ultimately do the right thing. And Invisible Girl starts out purely evil, but changes sides when Wonder Woman and Thief Catcher offer her what she’s been missing: friendship. I came out of that movie theater understanding that inside every woman is a Thief Catcher, an Invisible Girl, and a Wonder Woman. I do my best to write them that way.

Well, you have succeeded, my friend. I ADORED Amy in Horrorstör. Thank you so much for joining us, Grady! And for all you readers interested in absorbing more of his wisdom, he’ll be touring all week across the interwebs:

Finally, here’s the giveaway we promised!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Grady Hendrix writes fiction, also called “lies,” and he writes non-fiction, which people sometimes mistakenly pay him for. There is a science fiction book called Occupy Space that he is the author of, and also a fantasy book called Satan Loves You which he wrote as well. Along with his BFF from high school, Katie Crouch, he is the co-author of the YA series, The Magnolia League. With Ryan Dunlavey he was co-authored the Li’l Classix series, which are cartoon degradations of classic literature, and with his wife, and Ryan, he wrote Dirt Candy: A Cookbook, the first graphic novel cookbook in America. His fiction has appeared in Strange Horizons, Pseudopod, and the anthology, The Mad Scientist’s Guide to World Domination.

He is very, very beautiful, but if you ever meet him, please do not let this make you uncomfortable. He does not judge.

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23. Free Fall Friday – Results

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Let’s all brew a cup of tea and join the characters having tea in this illustration by Denise Holmes. Seems like a great way to enjoy reading the critiques done by Agent Rachel Brooks for September’s first page winners.

Denise Holmes created the above illustration for a collective called The Happy Happy Art Collective. She is represented by Nicole Tugeau over at T2 IllustratorsHer first picture book was released in June 2014 – If I Wrote A Book About You by Stephany Aulenback! Here is Denise’s website: www.niseemade.com

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Rachel_Brooks_LPA_photo_17781343_stdAgent Rachel Brooks from the L Perkins Agency critiqued the following first page winners. Hope you take the time to read. You can learn a lot from listening to what the experts have to say about a first page, even if it is written by someone else.

CODENAME FOX by Donna Maloy

PROLOGUE. London. September, 1800.

I was all of seven years old, but Noreen’s iron shovel looked to me as big as a Scots battle axe. It clanged on the stone floor, not an arm’s length from my head.

“Oh, please don’t hit her!” my brother cried, yanking on her skirts.

But the scullery maid was determined. Her shovel banged down again, this time against the hearth behind me. A piece of stone whizzed past my whiskers.

“Get out o’ me way,” she told Graham. “Nasty, dirty thing that is. Tracking flour all over me clean floor.”

With a yell like a savage pirate, four-year-old Graham chomped down on her arm. The shovel flew out of her hands, clattering to a stop—right in front of Papa’s black, spit-polished boots. He’d come to see what all the noise was about. Now I was in a different sort of trouble.

With a sob, Graham pulled at Papa’s leg. “Make Noreen stop trying to kill Celia!”

Papa’s head jerked up and he looked toward the corner where I crouched.

“Celia?”

I couldn’t see any point in lying. Shaking with fear, I looked up and nodded.

He stared at me. Of course I didn’t look much like an Ashleigh right then. I looked like a small, flour-speckled mouse.

“Come here,” he said, much too calmly. I could almost feel a spanking on the way.

“Miss Ce-Celia?” Noreen frowned. “But that’s only a dirty little mousie, idn’t it? What’s wrong with killin’ it?” She backed up against the chopping table, eyeing my father and me as if she didn’t know which of us worried her more.

“Get out,” Papa said quietly, speaking to the girl but never taking his eyes from me. Oh, I was in for it now. That was the voice Papa used with stable boys who played dice.

HERE IS RACHEL:

CODENAME FOX by Donna Maloy

This title is intriguing! Sounds like a story filled with fun adventure, although it doesn’t give me a 1800s London vibe, more sci-fi or spy.

I think this opening line could be stronger. It tells us the character’s age, rather than showing us how old the character is through how he talks, the story, etc. Also, the diction of this character doesn’t feel like a seven year old, but a much older character looking back and retelling the tale? If that’s the case, then the diction fits, but if he is in fact seven, the language needs reworked.

When the “stone whizzed past my whiskers” I thought it was a cat (or even fox as the title suggests) but it is actually a mouse. Maybe you can weave in some more clues that this is a mouse talking rather than telling us “I looked like a small, flour-speckled mouse” later down the page.

There’s quite a bit of repetition in this one page about the mouse/person being in trouble, being “in for it”, having a spanking on the way, etc. I don’t think we need to be told so much, since the shovel and yelling definitely tell us this isn’t going well.

Without knowing when chapter one starts in time and events, it’s hard to recommend whether you need this prologue or not. But the prologue camp is usually pretty divided on whether you should have one or cut it. It’s something for you to consider—do readers need this info for the rest of the story to make sense or is it setup that could be woven in throughout? If the answers is yes, readers do need it, then it’s good you have lots of action.

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A SPARROW IN THEHAND   MG by Darlene Beck Jacobson

Helen hurried down the dirt road, clutching her lunch sack in one hand.  She reached for  her sister Fran’s arm with her freehand, trying to get her to move faster.

Fran pulled away from Helen’s reach and continued to plod along. They were going to be late; why couldn’t Fran see that?

The sun poked out its head between two grey clouds just as they reached the schoolyard and the bell rang. Miss Thomson stood in the doorway of the one room building glaring at the sisters.

“I don’t tolerate tardiness.”

Helen stopped at the door, gasping. Her heart dropped like heavy stone as she struggled to steady her breathing. “I’m…sorry…Miss Thomson.” She took a deep breath, feeling calmer. “Ma needed our help this morning. It won’t happen again.”

Miss Thomson stared at Helen, lips pinched closed by an invisible clothespin.  “See that it doesn’t, Miss Wasekowski.” She looked at Fran.  “That goes for you too.”

“Yes, Miss Thomson,” Fran said, her plump cheeks flushed from hurrying.

Helen’s breathing finally settled as she smoothed her shoulder length hair from her face. Her eyes darted around the room, searching for her friend Mary. Why wasn’t she here?

Miss Thomson marched to the front of the room. Her stiff, proper skirt stood at attention. Helen bet her laced up shoes pinched her toes as tightly as the bun in her hair pulled at the corners of her cold, dark, eyes. She was nothing like Miss Norton, the teacher who left last year to get married. Miss Norton was like a willow tree, bending and flexible when the situation called for it. Helen doubted Miss Thomson liked teaching or children for that matter.

It was Miss Norton who had given Helen a thirst for learning that never seemed to be satisfied. She’d also ignited an ember that Helen kept buried deep in her soul. That ember was dormant. Waiting. It held Helen’s hope, dream, wish, to become a teacher one day.

No one – except her best friend Mary – knew of Helen’s deepest desire. Mary also held a secret desire of her own. To become a nurse. Both girls knew their dreams were like the wings of a bird – fragile and easily broken.

HERE’S RACHEL:

A SPARROW IN THE HAND by Darlene Beck Jacobson

The description of Miss Thomson is great with her pinched bun and skirt standing at attention. I can picture her for sure! But I’d like to see what Miss Thomson looks like sooner, while she glares out the doorway, rather than waiting until the kids are seated in class to describe her. It might make their tardiness feel more threatening.

Some of the language choices don’t feel MG-aged to me. For middle grade, I’m thinking Helen and Fran are somewhere between 10 to 14 ish? For example, I’m not sure “ignited an ember” or “a thirst for learning” are phrases that a kid of that age would use in that way. The author voice rather than the character’s voice is coming through here.

I’m also a bit confused about why the dreams of becoming a nurse and teacher are so fragile? These don’t seem like farfetched ambitions on the surface. I think I’m missing something here as far as setting that would reveal why these dreams are so fragile. It’s great to know their dreams early on, so the seeds are there, and just need a little nudge to get us to connect with why they’re at risk of being shattered.

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Michelle Kogan Early Chapter Book Through a Sunflower

Rhea wanted to grow a sunflower house more than anything in the world. But even more then that, she wanted to grow it all on her own. She was going to enter it in the Petalpath 10th anniversary magazine contest and try to win $100.00. Ever since her dad lost his job everyone in the family was helping out. Rhea wanted to show she was big enough to help too!

“Come on sunflower, stand up!” Rhea said.  “I’ve replanted you three times, ‘cause the squirrels ate the seeds.”

“Can I help?” called her mom.

“No, I want to do it myself!” said Rhea, “I’m growing my own sunflowers this year! I’ve been helping you for the last three years. This year you even said, I know enough to grow them all by myself!”

“You know sunflowers, you haven’t given me an easy time. This is the third time I’ve replanted your seeds, cause the squirrels kept on eating them. Now stop wiggling around so I can get you propped up!”

As Rhea wrangled with her sunflowers she noticed a caterpillar that was staring right at her. She slooowly moved closer bringing her eye-to-eye with the caterpillar, and stared right back. The next minute the caterpillar cocked it’s head and starred up, then back at Rhea, and then up again.

“Hey caterpillar, what’s going on up there?”

A goldfinch swooped down barely missing Rhea. It nosed right into her back pocket and plucked out her sketchbook. Her prize sketchbook where she had been keeping all her notes and

HERE’S RACHEL:

THROUGH A SUNFLOWER by Michelle Kogan

The idea of Rhea wanting to help out her family financially is great. It shows us how much she loves her parents, while being selfless in giving up the prize money.

Is a “sunflower house” a greenhouse for sunflowers? A house for one single special sunflower? I’m having trouble picturing this.

It switches between singular and plural for how many sunflowers Rhea’s growing, so whichever it is, don’t forget to be consistent. We need to be able to picture if she’s growing a flower or a whole bunch of them!

The transition from staring at the caterpillar to the goldfinch is a bit awkward. Why is the caterpillar important if the real action is the sketchbook getting stolen? The sketchbook list could be integrated in some way sooner too, so we know what is going on with the sunflower/contest from the start.

Integrating sunflower into the title is smart, but I think it could be tweaked, since it doesn’t sound as fun and grabbing for kids as it could be. It’s all about this awesome sunflower contest, so bouncing off of that could be cool.

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Alice Golin Normal – Young Adult Novel

The calendar on the wall stares at me. Stark diagonal lines drawn through bright blue numbers. Reaching under my pillow, I curl my fingers around the thick black crayon I use to mark each day. Each daty that Dad’s been missing. Twelve so far in September. Choking back tears, I put a slash through yesterday.

Leafing back through the months I come to the end of May. A red circle like an evil eye marks Memorial Day, the day we were told of Dad’s disappearance somewhere in Afghanistan. How? Why? We get no answers. Do they even know?

My phone rings. A real call. not a text. Ignoring it, I stare at the red circle desperately hoping for some message. some sign. But the numerals 31 tell me nothing. Unless choosing Memorial Day was some hidden code.

I shudder at the thought and let the pages slip through my fingers until I’m back to September. The box for today is fresh, unmarked.

“Please God,” I whisper, “let us hear today.” But unlike those early days, I have little hope.

My phone keeps ringing. Stops. Rings again. The caller has no mercy. Giving in, I grope around on the floor until I find the intruder.

“Get out of bed, Nikkia,” Micah says gently.  And then, more sharply, because he knows I don’t want to listen, “Now!”

I want to shout, ‘No, I won’t. Not until we hear from Dad.’ But Micah’s gone and besides there’s no point. If I don’t get up, Mom will come for me. And she’s got enough to deal with.

My phone rings again. I grip it tightly, tempted to throw it across the room. It’s Gillian. She and Micah must have planned this.

HERE’S RACHEL:

NORMAL by Alice Golin

It’s clear that your protagonist is in a lot of pain over missing her dad, and it’s great you let us in on this emotional connection from the first page.

It’s not clear why she isn’t answering the phone. This call seems important, but then she ignores it. Confused a bit here, since isn’t she desperately wanting to hear from her dad or any news about him? Wouldn’t she pounce on any call to see if it was news?

Micah appears, but where did he come from? It feels like the transition is a bit awkward from the phone to being told to get out of bed. Is he a friend, sibling? Was the door open, or did Micah have to open it, in which case wouldn’t she hear him coming in? I think the author is seeing this scene more clearly than I am.

This first page overall feels slower and more repetitive than it could be. The core information of her dad disappearing and not wanting to get up are there, but then the pacing and interest-level get dragged down some by talking about the calendar then searching for the ringing phone at-length. I’d rework this to keep the core info, but relay it in a more concise, emotion-heavy way. This will help us immediately feel for her that she wants to hear from her dad but hasn’t in so long.

Shorter titles can be good, but I think this one could be more grabbing. Maybe tweak it, possibly keeping NORMAL in it, but ramping up the grab-me-factor. Then we’ll be sucked in!

Thank you Rachel for sharing your time and expertise with us. It is truly appreciated.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Filed under: Advice, Agent, authors and illustrators, illustrating, inspiration, revisions Tagged: Denise Holmes, Free Fall Friday - Results, L Perkins Agency, Rachel Brooks, T2 Illustrators

2 Comments on Free Fall Friday – Results, last added: 9/26/2014
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24. Illustrator Saturday – Lisa Fields

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LisaFieldsLisa Fields is an illustrator based out of New York City and is represented by Chris Tugeau.

She received her BFA in Illustration from the Ringling School of Art and Design in Sarasota, Florida and attended The Illustration Academy.

Lisa is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.

Some clients include:

Boys’ Life
Cobblestone Magazine
Cricket Magazine
Dig Magazine
Faces Magazine
Highlights for Children
Houghton Mifflin
Kaeden Books
Odyssey Magazine
Pelican Publishing
Pinata Books
Ranger Rick Magazine
Tricycle Press

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1. How long have you been illustrating?

I graduated from college in 2006. After graduating I moved back home with my parents for a while so I could start my freelance illustration career…but obviously like most artists I have been drawing for as long as I can remember.

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How did you end up attending the Ringling School of Art and Design in Sarasota, Florida to get your BFA?

I can’t remember how exactly I came across Ringling in my art school research. I know I had my portfolio reviewed by them at one of the school fairs. Ringling was rated one of the best art schools and it was in Florida by the beach! As an 18 year old I was very excited about both of those things. I went to visit the school with my mom and after the visit decided that out of all the art schools I had seen it was the best fit for me as a person and as an artist.

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What types of classes did you take that really helped you to develop as an illustrator?

I learned a lot in figure drawing/painting classes. It is amazing how much you learn from drawing from life.

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Tell us about the Illustration Academy. Is that an online college?

The illustration Academy really changed my life. It is a summer program that I attended after my junior year and then again after my senior year of College. I found out about it because Ringling actually hosted them for a few years. They gave a presentation to my school and once I saw it I knew that it was something I needed to do. Along with the amazing faculty that stays the entire workshop, every week there is a guest artist that comes in and gives you an assignment, critiques your work and talks about the industry in general. You get to meet, work with, and get advice from the top illustrators in the industry today. I encourage artists of any level to check them out: http://www.artconnectionacademy.com/IllustrationAcademy.aspx.

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What did attending the Illustration Academy bring to the table for you?

I learned invaluable advice from all the faculty at the illustration academy. They helped me round out my portfolio and gave me a realistic view of what to expect once I got out of school. It was also a great time and REALLY inspiring.

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What was the first things you did that you got paid to do?

The first assignment I was paid for was for a Magazine called Las Olas magazine. I illustrated portraits of five local chefs in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

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Have any of your college connections ended up helping you get work?

 

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How did you end up leaving in Florida to live in New York?

The first assignment I was paid for was for a Magazine called Las Olas magazine. I illustrated portraits of five local chefs in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

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How and when did you decide that you wanted to illustrate children’s books?

Illustrating children’s books was something that I was always interested in but for some reason coming out of school I really did not have that many images of children in my portfolio. When I got out of school adding more images of kids to my portfolio was one of the first things I worked on.

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What was the title of your first book? When and how did you get that contract?

The first children’s book I illustrated was The Triple Banana Split Boy with Pinata books. The art director contacted me after a promotional mailing that I did. I would send out postcards every couple of months to a mailing list that I had created. The mailing list was mostly compiled from this book: http://www.amazon.com/2014-Childrens-Writers-Illustrators-Market/dp/159963726X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=undefined&sr=8-1&keywords=childrens+book+artist+guide.

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How long have your been represented by Christina Tugeau? How did the two of you connect?

I am fairly new to Chris’ agency. I have been represented by her for a little over a year now. One of her former artists that she used to represent was a teacher at Ringling and I remember him telling me and my friend to check out her site. I didn’t think I was ready for an agent at the time but agency with the Cat was always in the back of my mind. When I decided I wanted to get an agent she was the first person I emailed and I was thrilled that she wanted to set up a meeting the next time she came to New York City.

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What types of things do you personally do to get your work seen by publishing professionals?

I still send out postcards myself every now again but that is mostly for editorial work. I try my best to stay active on social media because you never know who might end up on your page. I have a Facebook page and a twitter account. I have to admit I don’t think I have quite grasped the world of Twitter but I still tweet out new images just in case! I also try to keep my website and blog up to date with my most recent work. I am always bummed myself when I go to artists blogs that I like and it has not been updated in a few years so I try my best to keep on top of it.

 

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Have you ever tried to write and illustrate your own story?

This is definitely something that I am interested in. I have a few ideas floating around my head that I have to get on paper. I used to write stories and illustrate them all the time when I was a kid. It is hilarious to find them and read them now. I remember in elementary school we would get to write a story every year that would be published in the “publishing center” (ie a cardboard cover wrapped in wallpaper). It was the best time of the school year. One of my masterpieces was called The Princess and the Unicorn. You can’t get any more girly than that!

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What is your favorite medium to use?

These days I have been working digitally. I got a Wacom cintiq a couple of years ago and fell in love with it. I live in a little NYC apartment so it is more practical for me to sit down at the computer instead of setting out all the paints.

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Have you seen your style change since you first started illustrating?

I think my style has changed a lot. I learn with every project that I do and I am always trying to do better than my last assignment. I think someone would probably be able to tell that the images were drawn by the same person but I think my work looks a little more polished and consistent now.

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How many picture books have you illustrated?

I am currently working on my 4th book with Pinata books. I have illustrated two books for Pelican Publishing and one for Tricyle Press which was an imprint at Random House.

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How did you get the contract with Pinata Books to illustrate GRADMA’S CHOCOLATE?

I had already illustrated The Triple Banana Split boy with Pinata Books. I think the art director I worked with thought that Grandma’s chocolate would be a good fit for me as well.

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I see you, also illustrated TRIPLE BANANA SPLIY BOY with Pinata Books, too. Was that a two book deal?

It was! It was the first book that I illustrated.

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What is your biggest success story? The thing you are most proud of?

I am always proud if a client comes back and asks me to do more work for them. After leaving school you don’t really get critiques anymore which is something that you were so used to all the time. When a client comes back to you and asks you to do more work for them that’s how you really know they were happy with what you did for them in the past. There are so many artists out there to choose from so it means a lot!

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Are you open to working with self-published authors or is that something Christina would not let you do?

Typically I work with publishing houses but I might be open to it if it was a story that I really liked as well.

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Have you thought about writing and illustrating your own books?

 

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Is Lewis Tewanima: Born to Run your latest picture book? How did Christine get that contract for you?

Lewis Tewanima: Born to Run was the second book that I did for Pelican Publishing. I already had a contact at Pelican before I was represented by Chris. Again, I got the first book from a postcard mailing. The art director told me she had been keeping my postcards for years so you shouldn’t give up hope if you do not hear back from people right away.

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Have you done any work for educational publishers?

Yes, I have done a lot of work in the past year for educational publishers through jobs that Chris has gotten me. I am currently working on my 4th reader for Heinemann Books at Houghton Mifflin. These types of jobs I think would be very hard to find without an agent so it has been really great working with Chris.

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Do you use Photoshop in your work?

I do use Photoshop on my wacom cintiq.

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Do you own a graphic tablet?

I have a big wacom cintiq at my desk and also a portable one so I can take my illustrations on the go with me (or sometimes it is nice to just sit on the couch and work in a differnet room). I am able to sync my files between the two devices with Adobe’s cloud service.

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How much time do you spend illustrating?

I draw every day. If I don’t have an assignment to work on I work on some of my own stuff.

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Do you have a studio set up in your house?

I have a studio area does that count?…NYC apartment living. One day I will have a house with a studio! J

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Is there anything in your studio, other than paint and brushes, that you couldn’t live without?

I have a rather large collection of children’s books and art books. I often look at them for inspiration. The children’s books have a wide range of styles. It is fun to see how different artist approach illustrating a book. My all time favorite is probably Kadir Nelson and I am loving Peter Brown and LeUyen Pham books these days as well.

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Do you take pictures or any other type of research before you start a project?

Yes, reference pictures are important for me. I usually find photos online or I take photo reference myself. The internet is an amazing tool. I don’t know what I would do without it. It would be nice to take reference pictures myself all the time but often projects call for different ages and ethnicities and the chances of knowing a model that fits the bill is not very likely in most cases.

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Do you think the Internet has opened doors for you?

The internet has definitely opened doors. Being able to have your portfolio online, up to date and accessible at all times is important.

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Do you have any career dreams that you want to fulfill?

I would like to write and illustrate a book.

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What are you working on now?

Right now I am working on some pirates for an article in Appleseeds magazine. The art director would like the pirates to be a bit menecing…which is not something that I typically do. It is a challenge and I am having a lot of fun with it! I am trying my best to make sure they are not cute, menecing pirates. I am also working on sketches for a reader for Heinemann and sketches for a book for Pinata.

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Are there any painting tips (materials, paper, etc.) you can share that work well for you? Technique tips?

I know that I have mentioned it a couple of times already but I love my Wacom cintiq. If you work digitally you should definitely look into it. It is expensive…but it is so worth it!

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Any words of wisdom you can share with the illustrators who are trying to develop their career?

One of my favorite things to do is go to the bookstore and check out what is on the shelves. You will be inspired and will also see what art directors are looking for. If there are books that look like something your work would be a good fit for write down the name of the publisher/imprint and add them to your mailing list. I have had multiple people tell me that they saved my postcards until a project comes along that I would be a good fit for so stick with it and don’t get discouraged if you don’t hear back from people right away.

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Filed under: authors and illustrators, How to, illustrating, Illustrator's Saturday, inspiration, Interview, picture books, Process Tagged: Lisa Fields, The Ringling School of Art and Design

3 Comments on Illustrator Saturday – Lisa Fields, last added: 9/30/2014
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25. How Play Helps Me Find My Groove

Hi folks, I've been pressured this week. I have a deadline looming. It's a few months off, but it mocks me from the distance. A ton of work is between me and that deadline. My creative self is just not happy being forced to perform. The writing is feeling very mechanical, and I've been feeling edgy. I can do the ton of work ahead, but I have to have an infusion of fun or this is going to be a dismal project.

As a professional writer, I don't have the luxury of waiting for a muse or finding the right mood. That said, without the muse or the mood, I struggle to get anything on the page that is infused with awesomeness. Without finding my groove, my work is painful and generally worthless and uninspired.  To find my groove, I have to give myself time to play, a lot of time to play, This week I started up a project that is really for the fun of it. It's a silly project that is self-indulgent, silly, and sarcastic. No one wants this project. It's just for me. I delight in it.

Allowing myself to do something that lights me up, whether anyone else cares or not, fuels me with energy. The project has one targeted audience and that is myself. I am always working on projects like this. I doodle. I bake, I crochet, I knit, I sew, I sing, I play my flute, pluck on my dulcimer, weed my flowerbeds, chase with the cats or let them chase me, joke with my kids, write silly bits. I play. There are reasons for this creative play. One, I must be able to finish things because it makes me feel jazzed. Two, I must be free to complete something for my own self, something that sends a sense of accomplishment into my soul. Three,  I get to call the flaws in my work character.

Play is like taking a tub of olive oil and tumping it on my head. It a lubricant that cuts down resistance. I jump into my work and slide forward with a rush of speed. I'm ungummed from the commercialization and commodifying of imagination. I find that sweet place of the song bird, croaking frog, or shimmering cicadas.  I find what heart tells me to do. The dreaded deadline no longer looms. It's just a date on a calendar that happen to coincide with the marvelous creative journey I'm on. This dear readers, is the GROOVE.

I hope you have some fun and find your groove this week!  I will be back with more musing next week.

Here is a doodle.


Here is a quote for your pocket.

Wrinkles should merely indicate where smiles have been. ~Mark Twain, Following the Equator

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