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1. Outlining Your Novel

outlining your novelI am a big believer in creating an outline of your story and keep telling other writers how much it will help them with writing their novel. They nod their head, when they really want to pat me on the head and say, “Thanks, but no thanks.” So tonight read the beginning of K.M. Weiland’s “how to write book” titled, OUTLINING YOUR NOVEL, hoping to find someone else who could help persuade others to realize how much it will help them with their manuscripts. After reading the excerpt below, I bought the book and I hope you will check it out. She lays out some good reasons to outline.

Here it is:

Benefits of Outlining Your Story

 

  1. Ensures Balance and Cohesion

In an outline, you can see at a glance if the inciting even take place too late in the sotry, if the middle sags, or if the climax doesn’t resonate. Instead of having to diagnose and remedy these problems after the first draft, you can fix problems in the outline in only a few keystrokes.

  1. Prevents Dead-End Ideas

How many times have you started writing an exciting new plot twist, only to realize – 5,000 words later – that it’s led you to a cul-de-sac? You either have to spend valuable time bactracking and trying to write your way around the roadblock – or you have to cut the subplot altogether and start afresh. Outlines allow you to follow plot twists and subplots to their logical end (or lack thereof) in much less time. You can identify the dead-end ideas and cull them before they become annoying and embarrassing ploy holes.

  1. Provides Foreshadowing

It’s nearly impossible for an author to foreshadow and event of which he has no idea. As a pantser, when a startling plot twist occurs late in the book, you’ll have to go back and sow your foreshadowing into earlier scenes. Not only is this extra work, it can often be difficult to make the new hints of what’s yet to come flow effortlessly with your already constructed scenes. Because an outline give you inside knowledge about what’s going to happen in subsequent scenes, it provides you the opportunity to plant some organic foreshadowing.

  1. Smoothes Pacing

Like foreshadowing, pacing often requires inside knowledge. If the author doesn’t know the protagonist is about to be shot in the back, he can hardly adjust the pacing to introduce this shocking new event in the right manner. An outline shows you the places where your story is running too fast and the places where it is lagging and sagging.

  1. Indicates Preferable POVs

When working with multiple points of view it can often be challenging to know which scene should be written from which POV. Too often, we write a scene from one character’s POV, only to realize a different character’s narrative perspective would probably have offered a better experience for the reader. As a result, we’re forced to go back and rewrite the entire scene. Outlines allow us to make educated decisions about POV, thanks to insights regarding plot and character. Just as importantly, outlines permit us to look at the balance of you POVs over the course of the entire novel, so we can ensure each character is getting an appropriate amount of time at the mic.

  1. Maintains Consistent Character Voice

When writing without an outline, we’re often discovering the characters right along with the readers, and because our perception and understanding of our character often evolve over the course of the story, the result can be an uneven presentation of the character’s voice.

  1. Offers Motivation and Assurance

Writing a novel can be overwhelming. Typing thousands of words is an undertaking in itself – but when those words all have to hang together in a way that is sensible, entertaining, and resonant, that’s enough to make our knees start shaking beneath our desks. Outlines give us the assurance that we can craft a complete story; all we have to do now is fill in the blanks. And because those blanks are ones that fascinate us, outlines also motivate us to keep on writing through the tough spots, so we can get to the good stuff.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Filed under: Advice, How to, inspiration, reference, revisions, Writing Tips Tagged: Benefits of outlining Your Story, K.M. Weiland, Outlining your novel, Reason to outline

1 Comments on Outlining Your Novel, last added: 11/25/2014
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2. Before the Sale – Book Appeal

Have you ever thought about how you decide to buy a book? In my case, unless it is written by a friend or someone has told me I must read a book, I first look at the cover. If the cover has a good title and the cover art grabs me, then I look inside. If the flap jacket pitch sounds interesting, then I flip through the pages.

I look to see if the book has good margins, short paragraphs, and good amount of white space. Long blocky paragraphs exposition, narrative, and description make me think… SKIP!

Studies show that using white space is important because it helps make a book look friendly. And, it is dialogue that provides the eye candy for a reader. As a potential buyer flips through your book, rapid back-and-forth dialogue will make your book more appealing before the reader even reads a word.

So paying attention to dialogue when you revise it is worth the time and effort. I would start by flipping through the manuscript for places that look dense and circle them. Later go back to read and analyze. Ask yourself, “Can I use dialogue to breakup this long paragraph? Would dialogue work better here than what I have now?”

Here are ten things that dialogue can do to help keep your reader reading.

  1. Dialogue draws a reader into your story.
  2. Dialogue adds immediacy, picks up the pace, and makes your text easier and more fun to read.
  3. Dialogue can give the writer a more effective way to provide information about emotional states and inner thoughts.
  4. Dialogue can reveal motive, insight into a character without overt telling.
  5. Dialogue can help set the mood of the scene. Example: “This doesn’t feel right… It’s too quiet.”
  6. Dialogue can intensify the conflict. A confrontation conversation between adversaries can ramp up the tension and remind readers what’s at stake.
  7. Good Dialogue moves the story forward.
  8. Dialogue is a useful tool to provide information the reader must know without slowing down the pacing.
  9. Dialogue is good to use to get out critical bits of information, back-story, and background.
  10. Dialogue can even be use to suggest a theme.

Of course, dialogue is only one thing to work on while you revise, but the above list can help you can see the many things it can help improve in your novel.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Filed under: Advice, article, inspiration, Marketing a book, revisions, Writing Tips Tagged: Book Appeal, Getting readers to buy your book

2 Comments on Before the Sale – Book Appeal, last added: 11/24/2014
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3. Illustrator Saturday – Leeza Hernandez

leeza_johnlithgow

Leeza Hernandez is an award-winning illustrator and children’s book author, hails from the south of England, but has been living in New Jersey since 1999. In 2004 she switched from newspaper and magazine design to children’s books, and hasn’t looked back. With a few books now under her belt, she’s currently working on three new projects: a follow up to Dog Gone! called Cat Napped; a sequel to Eat Your Math Homework called Eat Your Science Homework, other released this year. In 2013 she illustrated a picture book written by acclaimed actor and author John Lithgow. Follow Leeza on Twitter @leezaworks. She also took over my place as the Regional Advisor for the New Jersey SCBWI chapter and is doing a great job.

Below is Leeza at six years old with her cat Minnie Weasle!

Leezawcat

Here is Leeza explaining her process:

The cover of Never Play Music Right Next to the Zoo took a fair amount of working out—between not giving too much away and showing to little that it looked too vague. The images show a handful of the different covers that were sketched up, then the progression of the final color cover.

Adobe Photoshop PDF

These are the thumbnail sketches for the book layout.

Adobe Photoshop PDF

Because there were so many animals in Never Play Music Right Next to the Zoo, I kept all my research pictures organized in a jumbo ring binder.

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But, no matter how hard I looked, I just couldn’t find an image of a yak playing a sax so had to use some creative license!

CreativeReference

Below you can see the process of the cover art.

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Below is an up close look at the final cover.

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What caused you to move from the UK to the US?

Work. I took an art director position at a newspaper in the late 90s which was the field I worked in back then.

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When did you decide you wanted to illustrate for children?

It wasn’t a conscious decision really, but in the early 2000s I discovered Illustration Friday (www.illustrationfriday.com)—a great source of inspiration but also a way to help you create illustrations for yourself based upon a weekly word prompt. Browsing through the site, one link led to another and I eventually landed at SCBWI (www.scbwi.org) and that was that!

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This image was created for the Illustration Friday prompt “Wisdom” and received an American Illustration selection back in the early 2000s. I added it to my portfolio among a handful of painted images and it was what art directors responded to the most. I was encouraged to create more!

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What was the first picture book that you illustrated? And how did that contract come your way?

Eat Your Math Homework was the first trade picture book I was hired to illustrate, which came about after attending a Rutgers One-on-One Plus conference (ruccl.org). I met an editor at the luncheon who took my promo postcard away with her and about six months later the designer reached out to my agent asking if I was available-yay!

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How did you connect with John Lithgow to illustrate his book, Never Play Music Right Next to the Zoo ?

I was asked to do some samples (along with some other illustrators) for a book written by a ‘high-profile’ author but I didn’t know who it was until I found out I was picked for the project. It was all very mysterious and exciting!

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Have you met John Lithgow?

Yes, he’s lovely. We launched the book together in New York, it was so much fun. He sang his songs. I spared the audience and did not sing!

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How long did you have to illustrate Never Play Music Right Next to the Zoo?

This was one of the quickest turnaround books I have worked on and it was 40 pages. From initial sketches, through revisions and to final art was a little less than eight months total.

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I see you illustrated a second book with Ann McCallum this year, titled Eat Your Science Homework. Did you sign a two-book deal when you illustrated Eat Your Math Homework in 2011?

No two-book deal. It was simply an organic progression. Ann had an idea and submitted her proposal for the science book and a few months after they acquired the manuscript, Charlesbridge asked if I’d
illustrate it.

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Will there be a third book with Ann?

Yes! Eat Your U.S. History Homework is due to release in late 2015.

eat your math homework

I am assuming that Cat Napped! published by G. P. Putnam’s Sons came about due to the previous book you wrote and illustrated titled, Dog Gone! Can you tell us the story behind these two books?

Back in 2009 I won the Tomie de Paola portfolio award at the New York SCBWI conference—which was amazing. As a result, I was invited in to the Penguin offices to meet with an editor, publisher and art director and they looked at my work as well as a sample and manuscript for Dog Gone! and they took it. I was beyond thrilled and so, so grateful for the opportunity.

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During the time I worked on Dog Gone! I had this idea that I wanted to create a cat book in the same vein and I already had the title Cat Napped! noodling around in my head, but it took a while to flesh out the story. I remember having submitted the story along with a couple of other ideas to the editor and right after Dog Gone! released they took it.

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Have any of the books you worked on won any awards?

Eat Your Science Homework was awarded a 2014 Junior Library Guild selection—awesomesauce!

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Do you have plans to write and illustrate another book?

Hahaha, yes of course! I hope I never stop.

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What do you consider your first big success?

Wow, that’s a tough question. I’m not sure I can measure one big success that easily. Having a book published is amazing, but I also consider the ever-evolving process as a series of successful stepping-
stones and I do a little happy dance each time I move to the next one—because they all teach me something about myself and/or my work. Creative folks are such sensitive creatures and it can be
intimidating to put our work out there in front of people, so each time we are brave and face our fears head on, that’s a success. Actually, when I attended a SCBWI conference for the first time, I was so overwhelmed I almost didn’t go back the next day—so I’d say not giving up right off the bat was my first big success!

PencilOnArches

For pencil work, I use 2H, HB, 2B and 5 or 6B pencils on Arches hotpress 140lb paper.

PencilOnArches2What is on the drawing board now?

My schedule has been a little nuts lately so I am taking a rest-of-the-year break and finally getting around to updating my website, which has been somewhat neglected.

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Do you ever use Corel Painter or Photoshop when illustrating?

I ‘collage’ in Photoshop. I take all the pieces that I create by hand, scan them in, then slice ‘n’ dice them into a final illustration. I think of Photoshop as my digital scissors and glue, but I don’t actually illustrate with Photoshop if that makes sense, like, I’m not drawing or painting digitally using brushes and filters.

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Do you own a graphic tablet?

No. If you mean a Cintiq or Wacom, that is. I’ve seen them in action though, wow!

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Is there one thing that you did or happened that you feel really pushed your career to the next level?

I joined SCBWI. So far, this has been an amazing journey of education, connections, opportunities, projects and rewards, but it all started with this incredible organization that continues to play a role—LOVE SCBWI!

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

Before and during—yes. Having reference material gives me a much better understanding of what I am drawing than simply imagining. I like to begin by drawing realistically before I think about characterizing for a book because it gives me an accurate sense of anatomy, behavior, body language, etc., even though they’re very loose drawings. There were a number of animals in Never Play Music Right Next to the Zoo that I hadn’t drawn before, so I filled a ring binder with reference just for that project.

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The original pick-up truck for Cat Napped! was a struggle, but after sharing with my editor, we realized it was too square and modern, so I went back and researched vintage trucks from the 40s and 50s. The end result was a bit of a hybrid but its softer, curvier edges suited the tone of the book far better than the angular truck I had originally drawn.

LeezaHernandez_Blog

The internet is a powerful tool—National Geographic (nationalgeographic.com), Nat Geo Kids (kids.nationalgeographic.com), NASA (nasa.gov), and Pinterest (pinterest.com) are some of my favorites but discipline is key. The amount of research I do depends upon the project but I have to be careful with the amount of time I spend researching versus creating the art.

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I use a timer to stay on top of it. And even if I am not researching for a particular project, I carry a sketchbook with me and either have my phone or camera for taking any pictures. Inspiration strikes when I least expect it so I like to be as prepared as possible.

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Have you found most art directors and editors give you a lot of freedom when illustrating a book? Do they want to be involved all the way through the process?

Once, I was given very specific art notes for an educational book but the turnaround time was tight, so the notes were helpful for me to jump right in. I’ve received minimal notes for nonfiction projects if there was a point that needed to be demonstrated visually for some specific text. For example: the Homework books sometimes have charts.

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For the fictional projects, I’m pretty much left to it for the first round of sketches, then the art director and/or editor and I discuss together. Sometimes, I’ll offer up additional sketch options for a handful of spreads if I have lots of ideas and can’t decide which direction to go. There can be a lot of back and forth on the cover, though.

leeza

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

My art materials—pencils, brushes, paper, inks, sketchbooks—I’d be kinda lost without them!

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

Yes, even if it’s only for ten minutes, that’s my rule.

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

To travel, keep making art, and continue creating books for young readers—that would be lovely!

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Thank you Leeza haring your journey and process with us. Can’t wait to see your career go forward. You can visit Leeza at her website: http://www.leezaworks.com to see more of her work.

If you have a moment I am sure Leeza would love to read your comments. I enjoy them too. Thanks!

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Filed under: Advice, authors and illustrators, How to, illustrating, Illustrator's Saturday, inspiration, Interview, picture books, Process Tagged: John Lithgow, Leeza Hernandez, Never Play Music Right Next to the Zoo

10 Comments on Illustrator Saturday – Leeza Hernandez, last added: 11/24/2014
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4. Free Fall Friday – Mish Mash

CALL FOR HOLIDAY ILLUSTRATIONS – Needs to be at least 500 pixels wide. Send to Kathy.temean (at) gmail.com.

I forgot to give you the date for when I will announce the two book give-a-ways from my post on November 14th. I will announce the two winners on Thanksgiving. Good news! You still can leave a comment on that post for your chance to win up until Wednesday at 6pm EST.

Authors: Did you know that I am repeating what we did with the Halloween Poems? Please send in your Thanksgiving Poems and I will post them on November 26th and the public will vote for their favorite. The winner will receive a chit for a future post about them and or a book they have coming out.

undertheneversky2The first book of the UNDER THE NEVER SKY trilogy by Veronica Rossi price has dropped to only $1.99 for the Kindle version on Amazon.

From a New York Times bestselling author comes a dystopian masterpiece called “inspired, offbeat, and mesmerizing” (Kirkus Reviews). Though from different worlds, Aria and Perry must depend on one another for survival. “You won’t be able to put this book down” (Seventeen).

Great Buy! One of my favorite trilogies, BTW. Here is the link on Amazon.

grave mercy
Grave Mercy: His Fair Assassin, Book I (His Fair Assassin Trilogy 1) by Robin LaFevers is $1.99 on the Kindle.

From a New York Times bestselling author comes an Amazon Best Book of the Month with over 300 five-star reviews. In medieval Europe, Ismae discovers her destiny as a handmaiden to Death. But can she kill the man she loves? “A page-turner — with grace” (Kirkus Reviews).

Here is the link on Amazon

 

VOTE NOW FOR THIS YEARS GOODREADS 2014 BEST BOOKS:

http://www.goodreads.com/choiceawards/best-books-2014?utm_campaign=final_round&utm_content=choice_vote_button&utm_medium=email&utm_source=GRCA_2014

 

From Publisher’s Lunch:

Children’s/YA Sales Drive Sales Again In August

The AAP released their monthly Stat Shot statistics from approximately 1,200 reporting publishers for August, with sales remaining true to the pattern from all of 2014: Strong children’s/YA sales — in all formats — continue to carry the trade, accounting for all of the gains and then some, as new release adult hardcovers (and thus companion ebooks) remain lackluster.

For August itself, adult sales of $415 million did rise slightly from $408 million a year ago, and children’s/YA sales of $170 million were up from $141 million last August. Adult hardcover sales were down again, though, and have been weak all year (down 7.2 percent for the first 8 months of 2014); adult ebook sales for August were $107 million, down 2 percent from $109 million a year ago. Adult ebook sales for the year are barely below flat, at $853 million.

Remember that the AAP is measuring net shipments to and from accounts, not consumer sell-through (except for ebooks); so the August numbers reflect stores bringing in inventory to prepare for the big holiday season — but the lack of adult breakout titles may show itself in monthly numbers later this year and early into 2015. Informally, publishing and retail executives have expressed concern over the past month or two over the lack of new, breakout hits pulling consumers’ attention in advance of those holiday sales.

But the smaller children’s/YA market tells a different story. Registering their best month so far in a strong year (children’s sales are up $225 million, or more than 20 percent), August children’s sales were $170 million. Children’s ebook sales gained $5 million, rising to $17.9 million, still leaving total ebook sales of $124.6 up slightly from $122 million a year ago. eBooks accounted for 21 percent of August’s sales.

At Little, Brown Children’s, Alvina Ling has been promoted to vp, editor-in-chief, overseeing the publishing program (excluding licensing). Pam Gruber moves up to senior editor; and Allison Moore is now associate editor.
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Last Friday, Wendy McLeod MacKnight was signed by the LKG Literary Agency in New York City for her children’s chapter book! Woo-hoo!

Check back next week for November’s First Page Critiques by agent Alex Slater from Trident Media Group.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Filed under: Agent, Author, Book, children writing, inspiration, Kudos, Publishing Industry Tagged: 2014 Goodreads Best Book Voting, Children's YA drives Book Industry Sales, LKG Literary, Veronica Rossi's Under the Never Sky

1 Comments on Free Fall Friday – Mish Mash, last added: 11/21/2014
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5. Agent Looking to Build List

CSLOGO

Lana Popovic

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Lana Popovic

Lana Popovic holds a B.A. with honors from Yale University, a J.D. from the Boston University School of Law, where she focused on intellectual property, and an M.A. with highest honors from the Emerson College Publishing and Writing program. Prior to joining Chalberg & Sussman, Lana worked at Zachary Shuster Harmsworth, where she built a list of Young Adult and adult literary authors while managing foreign rights for the agency.

Lana’s clients include Leah Thomas (Because You’ll Never Meet Me, forthcoming from Bloomsbury), Rebecca Podos (The Mystery of Hollow Places, forthcoming from Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins), Michelle Smith (Play On, forthcoming from Spencer Hill Contemporary), and Marie Jaskulka (The Lost Marble Notebook of Forgotten Girl and Random Boy, forthcoming from Skyhorse).

With an abiding love for dark themes and shamelessly nerdy fare—Battlestar Galactica and Joss Whedon are two of her great loves—Lana is looking for a broad spectrum of Young Adult and Middle Grade projects, from contemporary realism to speculative fiction, fantasy, horror, and sci-fi. For the adult market, Lana is interested in literary thrillers, horror, fantasy, sophisticated erotica and romance, and select nonfiction. An avid traveler, she has a particular fondness for stories set in Eastern Europe, the Middle East, North Africa, and Asia, although she also loves reading about American subcultures.

Lana is accepting:

  1. Young Adult/Middle Grade Fiction: Contemporary/realistic, mysteries, thrillers, fantasy, historical, horror, sci-fi
  2. Adult Fiction: Literary thrillers, sci-fi, horror, romance, erotica, women’s literary fiction
  3. Adult Nonfiction: Pop culture, blog-to-book, literary memoir

Twitter at @LanaPopovicLit.

To query Lana, please email lana@chalbergsussman.com with the first ten pages of the manuscript included in the body of the email. Lana accepts queries by email only.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Filed under: Agent, Editor & Agent Info, inspiration, opportunity, Places to Submit Tagged: Boston University School of Law, Chalberg & Sussman, Lana Popovic, Yale University

0 Comments on Agent Looking to Build List as of 11/20/2014 12:50:00 AM
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6. How Are You?

The most disingenuous three words in the English language. Unless you are the ultimate cynic and cast your lot with I love you. I hope that’s not the case.

Do we ever mean it when we ask? Really? When is the last time you passed someone in the hall and said “how are you” and truly wanted to take the time to know how they were? I’ll bet it’s been a while.

I’m not holier than thou. I say it all the time and rarely care. If some slick gunslinger is quicker on the draw than me, I even add the oft-disregarded, “I am well, and you?” Of course, I don’t want to know.

Until yesterday.

I get these wild hairs – often they involve really stupid things, but this one actually had redeeming potential. I decided to spend my lunch hour in the lobby of my building asking people I saw, “How are you?” and giving them available time and a proper interest to see if they would answer.

Most people don’t stop long enough to notice my disarming voice beckoning them to unburden themselves. The first seven I asked kept moving and gave the appropriate return without so much as an upward glance.

I don’t believe that anyone is “fine” like these seven told me. Pawn your lies and rote responses elsewhere.

Fine

Number eight seemed to think I had serious mental problems and eyed me warily while reaching into her purse for either a small handgun or pepper spray. Needless to say I decided against an elevator ride with this charmer. “I’ll take the next one, Bonnie Parker.”

You can trap the elderly.

In walked a slow, older gentleman. Number nine. He began scanning the directory and seemed somewhat confused.

“How are you?” I asked in a very welcoming and reassuring tone.

“I’m fine young man, just fine,” he replied. Something was different, though. Before he spoke, he turned and made eye contact.

He was rather unkempt, smelled like my high school gym teacher, and had a thick bushel of hair growing out of each nostril. But he smiled warmly. In fact, he smiled all over… an infectious smiled that started at his lips, slowly ran through his eyes and worked its way off his person and onto me. I liked this old dude.

“Say, would you know where the office of Litton & Driscoll is located,” he asked.

“I think that’s on the fourth floor.”

He patted me gently on the chest with some paperwork he had rolled into a tube, like a kid’s telescope. “Thank you, friend.”

“Don’t mention it.” Judging from his demeanor, this might be my first victim who actually was okay. He might just be fine. I had to be certain, though. “Are you sure you are fine?”

He looked at me long whilst I returned my best, biggest, dopiest smile.

“Well, I am headed up to settle my wife’s affairs. So, if you want an honest answer, I suppose I’m not fine.”

Oh boy…  Panic!   In over my head…  I thought I would learn about a foot ailment… or a wayward kitten. Not this. Why am I so stupid? All of me wanted to say, “I’m fine, and you?” But I got myself into this.

“I’m sorry to hear that. I can’t imagine.”

“You married?”

“Yes, sir. For 22 years now.”

“Seem young for that.”

I really liked this old dude.

“How long were you married?”

“Fifty-three years last August….”

And so began a wonderful story of love and loss.

You know what? I’m glad I asked. In fact, I’m going to break the habit of asking when I don’t care. From now on, I will only ask, “how are you” if I have time and interest in the answer. Try it yourself. Better yet, come join Joseph and me for coffee tomorrow morning and see that infectious smile.


Filed under: Learned Along the Way

5 Comments on How Are You?, last added: 11/19/2014
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7. Keeping the Flame Alive – Erika Wassall

erikaphoto-45Erika Wassall, the Jersey Farm Scribe here on…. 

Keeping the Flame Alive

The farther I dive into the world of writing, the busier I become. I have done small amounts of freelance writing for years, but about a year ago, in hopes of gaining experience and honing my craft, I dove deeper into the world of freelance. I wrote for a few online magazines like Honesty For Breakfast (aimed at girls in their 20s), I did some ghost web-copy writing for travel websites and a flower shop, am working on a project with RawSpiceBar.com , and do regular posts for Family Focus Blog with farm fresh recipes and family-friendly projects.

I learned a lot about my writing too. I learned that my instinctively conversational style makes me a natural fit for certain things and not others. I’ve found great success with product description writing and online course curriculum development, because I get to play with different styles of description and ways of engaging an audience. But grant or technical writing for things like computer software manuals… not for me.

So what’s my point? Well, between freelance writing and working on my manuscripts, I am doing hours of writing every single day. And while this has been great in many ways, forcing me to flex my writing and creativity muscles, working with deadlines and not being able to stop because I’m just not “feeling it”, it can also become cumbersome.

Bottom line: Writing is very hard work.

I needed a way to regularly stoke the fire, the furious passion that I’ve always had for the written word. A way to remind myself that writing is fun!

Once a week, I schedule two entire hours, where I sit down and write without a goal, and away from the computer. No deadlines, no projects, no one to tell me what’s wrong with it, just writing. It can be free association writing, prose, anything I want. I can use characters from my manuscripts, but I don’t allow myself to work on actual scenes. I write silly rhymes that follow absolutely no patterns, write sentences with horrible grammar, and break as many rules as I can in 120 minutes.

Sometimes I spend the whole two hours writing what turns into a sort of journal entry, and I am reminded of why I fell in love with writing in the first place… the hidden truths it has always seemed to bring forward.

Basically, I indulge myself.

For me, being away from the computer is an important aspect. I do my work from my computer as a writer and a business owner, so just sitting in the chair has innate associations with obligation. This is playtime not work time.

Curling up with a notebook, a pen and absolutely nothing but chaos to guide me connects with the teenager in me who found refuge in writing as words she was constantly scribbling in the margins seemed to bring her closer to understanding herself and the world around her.

Do I always look forward to it? Nope. Not at all. I’d say a solid 40-50 percent of the time, I’m going into this thinking, ech… this is dumb. I don’t have the time to waste just doing nothing. 

But (so far at least!) I have managed to convince myself to do it anyway.

The outcome?

Even when I didn’t FEEL like doing it, when the hours are up, I find myself unbelievably refreshed, both on a personal level, and as a writer. In fact, the times when I’ve wanted to do it the least have frequently been the times it’s had the most effect.

More often than not, I’ve sparked some new ideas for ways to handle scenes I was stuck on, or projects I wasn’t sure of. This means that these two hours actually end up SAVING me time, as I’m able to be more fluid in my work moving on.

And every single time, I renew that secret smile on my face that tells the story of how writing is a profoundly integral part of who I am.

So… do I think this strategy will work for everyone?

Well… sort of. (not exactly a deep meaningful answer there, I know. But bear with me!)  

I think finding a way to reconnect with the raw passion of your writing is essential for all of us. Will a two-hour scribble in a notebook once a week do that for you?

It just might. As writers, I’ve found that many of us have similar stories of falling in love with the written word. So I would highly suggest giving it a try. But if after a few times, you find yourself drawn to something else, don’t fight it. Let the wistful, playful side of you run this show, and you may be pleasantly surprised at the outcome.

My two-hour decadent dive into the frivolous side of writing has become a stimulating catalyst for not only my writing but my own spirit and the spirit of my characters. And while I know it’s never always easy to find two hours of your time to put aside, I strongly believe that…

… you, and your manuscripts 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. I think everyone looks forward to your posts.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Filed under: Advice, article, inspiration, Tips, writing Tagged: Erika Wassall, Freelance writing, Keeping the Flame Alive, Manuscripts

7 Comments on Keeping the Flame Alive – Erika Wassall, last added: 11/20/2014
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8. Illustrator Saturday – Maja Sereda

majaMaja Sereda has illustrated number of picture books published in English, Afrikaans and other African languages. She has received 3 ATKV awards for best illustration (category ages 3–6) in 2008, 2009, 2011. And her book A kite’s flight written by W. Gumede won the Crystal Kite member’s choice award for the Africa region, 2011. Her latest book La Grande Fleur, written by Yves Pinguilly, was published in France (2013).

Maja tackles each project with great passion and enthusiasm, which she best communicates through her fun and quirky illustrations. Maja works in soft pastels as well as digital media. She loves drawing all creatures great and small, including little children!

Here is Maja explaining her process:

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I create a sketch for my illustration using a colour pencil on 60gsm paper.
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The sketch is scanned and rough colour dropped in.

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I trace image onto final pastel paper and start pasteling.

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I always work from left to right or from the center outwards in order not to smudge the pastel. It is a very delicate medium.

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To create details I use pastel pencils, whereas for the fine outlines I once again bring in a colour pencil. Most often a brown.

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Background is drawn last.

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Final Illustration

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Below: Snow Games written by Joanna Marple (www.utales.com) 2012

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LA GRANDE FLEUR COVER

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La Grande Fleur was published in France by Oscar Editeur in 2013.

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The book was part of the French/South African season.

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La Grande Fleur interior art.

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How long have you been illustrating?

I’ve been illustrating books since 2007.

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What made your family move from Poland to South Africa when you were young?

My dad received a work contract and decided to take it. It was supposed to be a temporary move, but I fell in love with South Africa and persuaded my family to stay.

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Have you ever gone back to Poland?

I like to visit from time to time. I still have family and primary school friends living in Poland.

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What University did you attend and what did you study?

I studied BA (Information Design) aka graphic design at University of Pretoria.

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

I did a number of illustration jobs while working in the design/advertising industry, such as story boarding or product drawings. I believe the very first paid illustration job was my first book.

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

I moved to Dublin, Ireland for a year where I worked for a marketing company as a junior art director.

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When did you decide you wanted to illustrate for children?

It was in my final year of studies. I realized that I’ve chosen the wrong field. Design was simply not for me. It took me a few years before I could start freelancing and working as a full time illustrator.

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How many picture books have you illustrated?

Approximately 17 picture books, however I’m not counting illustration work done for educational books.

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Were any of them published by a US Publisher?

Unfortunately not, however I’m hoping it will happen one day soon. I’m always dreaming and wishing.

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What was the first picture book that you illustrated? And how did that contract come your way?

My sister put me in touch with a client who wanted to illustrate a story that her father wrote. It was small private project. Out of that book, an illustration of mine title ‘catching rabbits’ was born, which I sent to a local South African publisher. They replied immediately and asked me to pitch for a book. I had my first real book contract within in a week. I was over the moon.

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How do you connect with art directors and editors and find illustration work?

So far I’ve been very lucky. Work finds me. Nevertheless, from time to time I do like to contact a publisher via email and send them my updated portfolio.

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Are you represented by artist agency? If so, who? If not would you like to find one?

I’m not represented by anyone at the moment and I am currently looking for US representation. In South Africa, the market is very small and a freelance illustrator can easily approach publishers directly.

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It looks like you have illustrated books in many different languages. How do publishers help you work with a book that is written in another language?

Even though my Afrikaans isn’t very good, I do understand it and therefore am able to read a manuscript without translation. Many of the other African languages are sent to me with the English translation. I’m currently studying French. One of my latest books LA GRANDE FLEUR written by Yves Pinguilly, was also translated for me into English.

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Have you done any illustrating for children’s magazines?

I do regular work for a local magazine Hoezit! It is also an Afrikaans publication.

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Have you done any work for educational publishers?

I work for educational publishers on a regular basis. This work however doesn’t inspire me and therefore doesn’t feature in my portfolio. I prefer to work on picture books for young children.

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What is your favorite medium to use to do your illustrations?

At the moment, it’s soft pastels. I simply love the medium – the intensity and variety of colour is incredible. Most of my recent work has been done in pastels. In the past, I’ve worked with gouache, acrylic, ink, oil and Photoshop.

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Has that changed over time?

I have grown a lot as an illustrator, I don’t think one ever stops growing and learning. When I started illustrating my focus was simply on creating sweet, quirky illustrations, but now I’m leaning more and more towards fantasy and also more personal work.

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What do you consider is your first big success?

My first book received an award for best illustration, it definitely inspired me to keep going.

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Do you ever want to write and illustrate a picture book?

Yes, mostly definitely. I write and sketch ideas often – my big aim is to set aside some time and only focus on doing my own book. Perhaps this coming year! Recent trip to Reunion Island was very inspiring and I would like to use some of the incredible imagery in my book.

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Would you be open to working with an author who wants to self-publish a picture book?

Yes, and I have in the past although these projects are often tricky. There is the issue of budget, quality of the writing, etc.

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

I take photographs, I search the web, look through books. Research is vital for any project.

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Do you think your Polish roots or the South African culture is reflected in your art?

Little bit of both, however I do feel a stronger connection with my polish roots.

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

I have so many things, it’s difficult to choose! Pastels of course, but also colouring pencils. I find them fantastic to sketch with, much better than the graphite pencil.

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

As much as I can, but I don’t have a specific number of hours in mind. I also believe it’s good to take breaks from drawing and creating. I love spending time behind the camera lens as well, especially photographing birds and insects.

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Do you think the Internet has opened doors for you?

Absolutely. Hasn’t it for everyone? It is incredible how we are all connected, we share our work and meet fantastic people online.

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Do you use Photoshop or Corel Painter with your illustrations?

I use Photoshop for my digital artwork. I also use to help me plan layouts.

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

Yes, I use a Wacom tablet.

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

I have many dreams, it’s hard to summarize them all here. Ideally I want to have the freedom to write and illustrate my own books. Also create a product line using my art.

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What are you working on now?

I have one or two potential books to create. I’m still deciding which one to take on.

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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.

I love using 60gsm layout paper for sketching because it’s slightly transparent. I can always overlay my sketches and work over them.

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

Work hard, believe in your dream, make sure that the work you produce is of high quality and then be brave. Not everyone is going to be a fan of your work, but sometimes you simply have to look for the right audience.

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Thank you Maja for sharing your journey and process with us. Please let us know all your future successes. We’d love to hear about them and cheer you on. You can see more of Maja’s work on www.childrensillustrators.com/majasereda and see more of  her portfolio on:  http://www.facebook.com/MajaSeredaIllustration

If you have a moment I am sure Maja 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: authors and illustrators, illustrating, Illustrator's Saturday, inspiration, Interview, picture books, Process Tagged: Illustrator Journey, Maja Sereda, University of Pretoria

6 Comments on Illustrator Saturday – Maja Sereda, last added: 11/16/2014
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9. new beginnings and searching for stories ~ parts three and four

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muse-four


Filed under: autumn, dances, journeys, love, poetry, songs, trees

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10. THE DAY I DELETED MINECRAFT; A LETTER TO MY SON By: Jennifer Reinharz

Today’s post was first published in Mamalode on October 8th and promoted on Twitter by Brain,Child Magazine.  It was an interesting – and somewhat controversial -  topic that I asked Jennifer if I could feature it here.  We’d both welcome your feedback.

Dear Bubbe,
I never intended to do it; really. One second it was a quivering icon, the next it was gone. Just. Like. Magic.

Honestly, it brought on a smile. I’m not trying to be mean. Chalk it up to a Mommy epiphany, a moment of clarity. The day I deleted Minecraft, I liberated myself and you of a virtual, addictive burden. Pressing that shaky, little X ushered you back to real life. That made me happy.

In the beginning, I was a fan.
Compared to the other choices the video game world has to offer, I could see why you wanted to tap the piggy bank to invest in one that requires players to scavenge for resources, earn survival treasure, design landscapes, construct villages, and defend against intruders. As a lifelong rock collector, forager of sorts, visual thinker, and creative designer it appealed to many of your natural sensibilities.

A popular topic of discussion at summer camp and later in the school cafeteria, Minecraft was also something to bond over with friends. Game play and conversations led to art projects, dissecting handbooks, sharing song parodies, and pretend play. It was a vehicle to stretch your imagination, apply ingenuity, problem solve, and socialize. So like organized sports, enrichment programs, and play dates, this Mommy approved video game quickly became outsourcing I could justify.

Not only did I feel like I was doing right by your development; it kept you busy, safe, in an earshot and out of my hair all at the same time. My afternoon was still my own and I didn’t necessarily have to entertain or engage with you all that much.
Then I began to notice screen time and giving up the screen made you cranky and angry. You responded less to Dad and me, ignored guests, and blew off friends playing outside. Preferred downtime was spent in the basement; alone in a Minecraft cave.
Even with the game shut off, I was living with a one note Bubbe on Enderman autopilot. It was all you wanted to talk, draw, write, and think about. And when The Skootch got access, twice the misery ensued.       jen post pic

So in an effort to find balance, we set up a schedule to earn and limit play time.

It didn’t work.

The timer chime was drowned out daily by your pleading, sometimes screaming voice, “I wasn’t done; I just found iron, I need a diamond sword, a creeper destroyed my supplies and all I have left is a raw chicken!”
It was only after the drama escalated to the point where I found myself ripping the IPad from your grip and yelling back, “Who cares; it’s not real!” that I knew we needed a big change.
All craziness combined led me to Deletion Day.

In the future, I’m not ruling out screen time completely; that would make me a hypocrite but Minecraft was sucking wind from your childhood and it needed to go away.
Proof of my decision came the morning after Deletion Day when I read an article about Steve Jobs; the man who invented the tablet on which you play. He was brilliant for many reasons, particularly in his choice to limit his own children’s access to technology.
A few hours later, you played with months old Minecraft Legos for the first time and said, “Mom, this is fun. I never would have known if I kept playing video games.” I then knew we were heading in a better direction.
Your Lego comment got me thinking more about fun and parent approved outsourcing, both today and when I was your age.

Like you, I kept busy after school and like you, my mother gravitated toward outsourcing. She didn’t have insight into child development or the value of play, I’m just pretty sure that when she came home from work, she didn’t want to see my face until dinner.
But I didn’t play video games, do gobs of after school activities, or have scheduled dates to see friends.
I was let out of the house and off the leash; in an earshot of only the person on the bike next to me and left in an unstructured and by modern standards, unsafe environment to play pickup games with neighboring kids, defend myself against obnoxious villagers, explore the nearby pond, collect crystals from a stream, build forts, and roam through the woods.
Call it my own, private Minecraft. No IPad needed.
And it was good fun.

Growing up isn’t easy but parenting isn’t simple. You can’t always get what you want when you want it, and I can’t always do what makes my life easier. In an effort to raise you to be a thinking, well adjusted, connected, kind, happy, independent human being I sometimes have to check myself and then love you enough to say enough.
Your childhood is just out of my reach, but it is not yet out of yours. Embrace. Enjoy. Experience. Take time in the real world to discover unchartered lands, dig caves, build cities, mix it up with the villagers, and have adventures. You’ll be glad you did.

Now go. I’ll see you at dinner.             jen photo
I Love You,
Mom

Jennifer can be reached at: http://www.redsaidwhat.com
Twitter: @redsaidwhatblog
Facebook page: Red said what?


2 Comments on THE DAY I DELETED MINECRAFT; A LETTER TO MY SON By: Jennifer Reinharz, last added: 11/16/2014
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11. Free Fall Friday – Two Book-Give-a-Ways & Poem Winner

OPPORTUNITY: TWO BOOK-GIVE-A-WAYS

greaterthangoldGayle Aanensen’s new 88 page novella, GREATER THAN GOLD hit the book shelves this week. It is now available on Amazon and will appeal to anyone who celebrates Christmas.

Greater than Gold is the story of two troubled boys and their two Christmases—Oscar in the present day, and Omar way back in biblical time. A good description would be The Polar Express meets The Book of Luke. After all, if a magical train ride can restore a boy’s belief in Santa Claus, why can’t an angel time-travel Oscar back to Bethlehem, where he discovers the peace, joy (and danger!) of the very first Christmas. Twelve-year-old Oscar Olsen is missing his soldier Dad, and he wants nothing (repeat, nothing) to do with Christmas this year! He acts out his anger on his Mom, his friend, Melissa, and even the strange new kid in church, Albert. A young, inexperienced angel, still struggling to control her wings, appears in Oscar’s bedroom. She tells Oscar that her official alphanumerical name is too long, so he can call her Earth Angel 10. She whirls him back to 2,000 years ago, where he becomes Omar, an orphaned camel-boy, riding with the Magi. Omar is a brand-new person in the traditional nativity story. Young readers will be drawn into the boys’ two parallel stories, told in alternating chapters.

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Ten days ago, I featured Margo Sorensen new book, SPAGHETTI SMILES and forgot to offer everyone a chance to win a copy her wonderful book illustrated by David Harrington who was featured on Illustrator Saturday. So we are offering the book give-a-way this week.

So if you leave a comment to this post you will automatically have a chance to win GREATER THAN GOLD OR SPAGHETTI SMILES.

If you reblog, tweet, post on your facebook page you will get an extra ticket with your name paced in the hat. This will definitely up your chances for winning one of the books. You can comment now and then do the other things later, but please come back before the deadline and let me know how many things you did. Both will make a nice gift for the holidays. Good luck!

The Unusual Stew by Robert Zammarchi was voted as the best Halloween poem. His prize is a featured post right here on Writing and Illustrating. He can choose to use it right away or hold on to it for when he wants to talk about something special. Thank you to everyone who submitted poems and to everyone who voted.

I think everyone enjoyed this, so I am going to do the same thing for Thanksgiving. If you have a poem or an illustration inspired by the holiday, please email it to me at: Kathy(dot)temean(at)gmail.com – Please put THANKSGIVING POEM or THANKSGIVING ILLUSTRATION in the Subject Box.

Alexander Slater

Agent Alex Slater

Remember to submit your first pages for this month. It is the last one for this year.

The four winning first pages will be sent to Alex Slater from Trident Media for critique. PLEASE DO NOT SUBMIT IF YOU DO NOT WANT TO HAVE YOUR CRITIQUE POSTED.

Here are the guidelines for submitting a First Page in November:

In the subject line, please write “November 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. First page should not be submitted with two pages. Send to: kathy(dot)temean(at)gmail(dot)com.

PLEASE FOLLOW THE GUIDELINES: Last month a number of submissions were taken out of the mix, due to not following the directions for both the pasted email and the attached Word doc.

DEADLINE: November 24th.

RESULTS: November 28th.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Filed under: Agent, Contests, illustrating, inspiration, opportunity, Poems Tagged: Agent Alex Slater, November First Page Critiques, Thanksgiving Poems, Two Book Give-a-Ways, Winner of Halloween Poem Contest

10 Comments on Free Fall Friday – Two Book-Give-a-Ways & Poem Winner, last added: 11/14/2014
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12. To grandmother’s house we go

Image by doodlemachine/iStockphoto What do Robin Hood, Red Riding Hood, Hansel & Gretel, The Wind in the Willows and countless other novels, legends, fairy tales, fables and myths have in common? They have woods, of course–deep, dark, primeval, archetypal woods. It’s where the heart and soul of the story reside, and, not coincidentally, it’s where our hearts […]

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13. To My Fellow Horrible Acne Sufferers

It’s been a long time since I had acne. Thankfully. Because I had severe cystic acne–the kind that looks like open sores all over your face and chest and back–all through college and well into my late 20s. I think I saw the last of it when I was 29, and that was only after two full rounds of Accutane. Accutane is some scary stuff. I had to sign all sorts of waivers and promises to stay on birth control because the drug causes horrible birth defects. Over the course of the two years I used it, I couldn’t wear contacts because my eyeballs dried out. I had to put lotion on every inch of my skin several times a day because it was all so parched and flaking. I felt itchy and sore. But yes, the drug finally worked. And I was incredibly grateful.

Which is why I’m posting this video. Because if I had known when I was younger what Randa and Nina have discovered, I would have changed my diet right away. Acne like the kind they and I had destroys your self-confidence and makes you want to crawl into a hole and not let the world see you. And in my case, unlike theirs, I was also obese in college, so between that and the acne, you can imagine I wasn’t really enjoying my 20s.

If I could go back to the young woman I was and whisper in her ear, “Hey! Look at this!” I would. But until I’ve worked out all the mechanics of time travel, the best I can do is to help any of you who might be suffering from the same problem. Because it is suffering–I know that too well.

Best of luck to all of you! And thanks Nina and Randa for sharing your story and your pictures. I know that was hard!

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14. G is for Grecian Sphinx and Gabriel Alborozo (with an appearance by the unfortunate Mrs DoubtyHead)

Recently, the brilliant, talented and inspiring artist and writer Gabriel Alborozo wrote some beautiful comments about my illustrated interview on the wonderful Zoe Toft’s blog ~ and Gabriel’s words lifted my spirit, my smile and my pencil and paints. I have loved Gabriel’s work for a long time ~ bold, sweet, funny, silly (a HUGE complement) and utterly brilliant. I wanted to say an illustrated thank you, so here it is:

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Filed under: dances, giraffe, one-tooth dog, trees

1 Comments on G is for Grecian Sphinx and Gabriel Alborozo (with an appearance by the unfortunate Mrs DoubtyHead), last added: 11/12/2014
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15. Why I write mysteries and thrillers - and read them, too

A lot of readers ask me why I write the kinds of books I do.

First of all, I love mysteries and thrillers because they offer the built-in drama of life or death. The stakes can’t get any higher. There’s also crime fiction for every taste. It can be as cozy or as bloody as you like. The mystery can be solved by cats or shape-shifters, amateurs or professionals.

Mysteries and thrillers are also democratic - appealing to most people at some point, if only as a beach or airplane read. It’s one genre that attracts a wide following. Most men won’t read romance. A lot of people won’t read westerns or horror. But almost everyone will read a mystery or a thriller.

Making sense of the senseless
All too often, real life often doesn’t make sense. Events happen randomly. You get a great new job, your best friend gets cancer, someone breaks into your car and steals one boot, you go to to the grocery store, you find a five-dollar bill in the bushes. There is no story arc.

It’s not always darkest before the dawn. Sometimes there is no dawn.

Real crimes are usually senseless and stupid. A lot of murders involve, not a criminal mastermind, but rival gang members, people selling drugs, men who can't believe their wife or girlfriend can really be leaving them, or someone who is far too drunk to be driving, let alone handling a gun.The murderer may not be a black-hearted villain and the victim is not always lily white.

The randomness of life is one reason why the more predictable patterns of fiction are so appealing. And in a book, you can usually count on there being a good guy. A good guy who wins at the end. He may be bloody and bruised, but he still wins.

There is something very satisfying about writing or reading those kind of stories.

Using brain, not brawn
In a mystery or a thriller the crimes are usually clever, involving layers of deception. Each one is slowly peeled back to reveal yet another layer.

In the real world, killers are not often geniuses. The predator who manages to keep several steps ahead of the cops, or who plays a mean game of cat-and-mouse, is not a staple of real life. How much more satisfying for a reader to mentally match wits with a mastermind, not some mope with a gun.

And as a writer, it’s even more fun to think up a complicated, convoluted crime.

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16. A Reminder to Actually Write

Writing Life Banner

by

Susan Dennard

WritingThis is a repost from my personal blog, and it’s something that I KEEP finding myself pointing writers to this NaNoWriMo.

As such, this has become a personal “disclaimer” of sorts, and I thought the lovely readers of Pub Crawl might enjoy it too. :)

I get a lot of emails (and tweets, tumblr asks, facebook messages, etc.) asking me about my process–and that’s great! I love sharing what I do, and I love hearing about what YOU do.

But the thing is, no matter what my process is (or her process…or his process), at the end of the day, the writing is all that really matters.

I think it’s easy to get caught up in different “methods” or “outlining plans” or “character creation schemes” because we’re all looking for that Top Secret Foolproof Magic Bullet. I see this most often in new writers–they want that special, insider trick that will make writing a breeze.

Heck, I see it in experienced writers too. They think, If I just follow X-author’s approach step-by-step, then the first draft will basically write itself! 

Or, If I just interview my characters like Y-author does, then that first draft will pour out of me!

Or even, If I find my story cookies like Sooz does and write screenplays for every scene, then this book won’t be hard to write!

And I totally understand that attitude, guys! I mean, no one is more guilty of wanting a Magic Bullet than I. Whenever I’m feeling even the slightest resistance in my drafting, I’ll start scouring books on craft 0r author blogs or online workshops. I want anything that will make this writing easier!

But at the end of the day, no matter what method I use–no matter how carefully I prepare or how strictly I follow X-author’s Top Secret Foolproof Magic Bullet–I still have to write the book. All the outlines in the world won’t change that. Knowing my characters as well as I know myself won’t change that either. And even getting pumped up with my cheerleading critique partners won’t change that CRUCIAL step in writing a book.

You know, the part where I actually have to write a book.

Now, I’m not saying that you shouldn’t explore other methods and techniques. I love trying new approaches to the same “problem.” But you HAVE to realize that no matter what: you’re still going to have to write a book, word by word, page by page, and scene by scene.

You’re going to have put your butt in the chair and your hands on the keyboard. You’re going to have to push through every chapter until you reach, The End. And nothing–absolutely nothing in this entire world (short of hiring someone to do it for you) will change the fact that the writing is all that really matters.

So go forth and write. Even when you feel shaky and unsure.

ESPECIALLY when you feel shaky and unsure.

Sit down (or stand. That’s what I do.) and write one sentence. Then write another sentence. Then write another and another until you have a page.

And then write another page. And another after that.

Don’t stop! Keep going. Maybe not right away, but a wrote little bit as often you can, and eventually you’ll find yourself with a finished book.

If you like what you read here, consider signing up for my newsletter, the Misfits & Daydreamers or swinging by my For Writers page! All subscribers get a free guide to query writing OR a free extra scene from A Darkness Strange & Lovely.

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 blogTwitterFacebookPinterest, or Wattpad.

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17. Two Worthy Causes to Sponsor on Veteran’s Day.

Even though the holiday season is fast approaching, and thoughts of outdoor activities turn indoors, you can still show your support to two worthwhile causes throughout the year.

1. How can you honor Veteran’s on this Veteran’s Day?  Pick up a box of Band-Aids Our Veteran Heroes design bandages. With each purchase, the company makes a donation to TEAM RED, WHITE & BLUE, an organization that helps and supports veterans.  You can find them at Drugstores nationwide.

2.  Saturday, November 15 is AMERICA RECYCLES DAY.  Sort your cans, bottles,  and paper and help keep America beautiful.  visit: http://www.americarecyclesday.org


3 Comments on Two Worthy Causes to Sponsor on Veteran’s Day., last added: 11/13/2014
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18. World's End - Eve Ainsworth





When I was thirteen, something quite amazing happened.

Prior to this, I had been scribbling ideas at home. I had even sent a children's story - Muddles the Mouse - to Penguin, typed on a second hand rusty typewriter, to which I'd received a glowing letter and several paperback books. But my inspiration was drying up. I was young and no longer felt inspired by either books or my writing.

But then I found a bookshop - World's End. This was an age when I was first allowed to trek to town by myself or with friends and it was during this time that we discovered the shop, tucked away in the back streets. It was an unassuming building, hardly the most exciting thing to see - but when we wandered in, we found the thrill of books overpowering.

To be honest, it was pretty intimidating. The back of shop was full of comics and graphic novels. Teenage boys filled the aisles, leafing through the boxes and glaring at us skinny, nervous girls as we slipped in.

I remember rows of new shiny books, stacks of crime journals which pricked my curiosity. And then - on a bottom shelf, in the far corner - was a shelf marked TEEN.

We crouched down and pulled out some battered second-hand gems - the majority of them American. My eyes darted across the text. Christopher Pike, Lois Duncan, Lois Lowry.

My first purchase was Christopher Pike -  Gimme a Kiss. This book kept me up at night. It was pacy, thrilling, daring.  I never looked back.

Every week I would be in that shop, ignoring the boys at the back - just leafing through my new inspiration. Some days I could afford to buy, others I would just plan my next purchase. I particularly grew to love Pan Horizon books and gained an impressive collection.
The owners got used to seeing me, as I took away another book encased in a crisp paper bag. Inside my head was buzzing with ideas. I knew now that I wanted to write just like these authors.

It was a sad day when the shop finally closed in the late 90's, but of course by then the teen market was expanding rapidly. Things were changing. But I missed my backstreet shop, the smell of old books, the rough carpet against my legs as I sat reading, the gentle bell as the door was opened.

And I'll never forget it.

Perhaps even stranger - I ended up marrying one of those intimating teens that lurked at the back - so at least we can reminisce together.





 

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19. The inspiration for my new novel - David Thorpe

Stormteller David Thorpe
My first novel in several years is out this week – Like Hybrids it's still YA, it's still set in the future, but it's very different in subject matter. I thought it might be interesting to talk about why I wanted to write it.

I lived in mid-Wales, where Stormteller is set, for nearly 20 years. After separating from my first wife I eventually landed up in Taliesin, partly because I was attracted to a place named after Wales' legendary bard.

I know the landscape almost as well as I know my back garden now, having walked over much of it. I always felt when I moved to this edge of the British Isles from London that here, unlike most places, the skin of the present is thin: you can feel the vibrations from the past still reverberating down the centuries like thunder beneath your feet.

Just inland from Taliesin village is a collapsed dolmen that is given the name 'Taliesin's grave' – though it is much older than that.



Between my house at that time and the sea, lies Borth bog: you may remember the images in the media last winter when flames were leaping across it from burning peat despite the snow: spooky.


And then Borth itself: a long sliver of a town that shouldn't be there, streamed onto a spur of land against the glint of the sea, on a section of coast that is the most vulnerable in the whole of Wales to storm surges. Again, it was in the media last winter when it was attacked by giant waves.


The spur continues to Ynys Las, a nature reserve of sand dunes opposite the Dyfi estuary from Aberdyfi – a colony of English retirees and yachting people largely immune to the influence of the past.

Above it, however, by the Bearded Lake, is allegedly a footprint left by King Arthur when he passed this way, and north of there the mountain Cader Idris, Welsh for Seat of Arthur.

But the real stories that come from this area are older than Arthur's: the birth of Taliesin and Cantr'er Gwaelod, which is the tale of how the land that now lies beneath Cardigan Bay was drowned by the sea.

It's these, and the beautiful, wild and dramatic landscape, that sparked my imagination to write this novel.

Let me tell you the beginning of the first story: a mother had two children – a beautiful girl and a hideous boy with a hunched back. The girl wasn't a problem, she's not even part of the story, probably got married off to a Prince.

But the boy... the mother felt sorry for him. Perhaps the gift of wit and wisdom might make him popular so she could get him off her hands. So she laboured a year and a day to make a magic potion for him, but on the last day she left the servant boy, Gwion, in charge while she popped out. "Just stir: don't taste," she told him.

You can probably guess what happened next. The long and the short of it is that Gwion got to sample the potion and he received all the gifts intended for the son. He was the one who became Taliesin.

Nowadays, Taliesin is revered in Wales and beyond for his poetic and shamanic genius. But his talents should have belonged to someone else – the son, whose name is Afagddu. No one remembers him now, but Taliesin has a village and even an arts centre named after him.

So I thought: how would Afagddu feel? What would he want?

And this is a starting point for Stormteller.

As a rebirthed baby, Gwion floated down the Dyfi river to Ynyslas where he was found by a local prince, who named him Taliesin. That leads into the second story....

...with a tragic ending – the flooding of the land – that it seemed to me has echoes of the threat that Borth and the whole coast of Britain faces now and in the future: rising sea levels, more storms and extreme weather caused by climate change.

We all feel threatened by climate change. We feel powerless to do anything about it. So I wanted the novel partly to be about giving some degree of optimism. It's trying to look at the question of rewriting the endings of stories: ours – about climate change – and these two old legends.

It's easy to give into a sense of fatalism. I believe that we can all rewrite our stories, we at least have the power to do that. And this is true for the teenagers Tomos and Eira in the novel. But, as in life, there are always sacrifices to be made...

You can find out more about the background to the novel here.

0 Comments on The inspiration for my new novel - David Thorpe as of 11/4/2014 5:57:00 AM
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20. Once Upon a Time...in Prague by Savita Kalhan


The Astrological Clock
Everything about the origins of Prague, from the castles, the river, the cobbled streets of the old city to Charles Bridge, almost everything has a story, a myth or a legend associated with it.

 

Prague’s origins are said to go back to the 7th century and the Slavic Princess Libuše. Not only beautiful and wise, she also possessed prophetic powers. Libuše and her husband, Prince Přemysl, ruled peacefully over the Czech lands from the hill of Vyšehrad. According to legend, one day Libuše had a vision as she stood on a cliff overlooking the Vltava. She pointed to a forested hill across the river, and proclaimed: "I see a great city whose glory will touch the stars." She instructed her people to build a castle where a man was building the threshold (práh in Czech) of a house. "And because even the great noblemen must bow low before a threshold, you shall give it the name Praha." And so Prague was born.
The Old Square
Charles Bridge
The Arch to Charles Bridge


Wenceslas Square
 


 
St.Vitus Cathedral
 
 
 

I won’t recount all the myths and legends associated with the city, because there are so many. There are tales of tragedy, of love, of valour and of sacrifice. Here are but a few titles in case you wish to look them up.

The Iron Man, The Silver Fish, The Headless Templar, The One-Armed Thief, The Ghost of the Miller’s Daughter, The Begging Skeleton, Karbourek the Water Sprite, The Golem of Prague, The Murdered Nun, The Mad Barber, The Legend of Dalibor, Prophecies of the Clock.




Chair of Nails


Torture Chamber
 


Surreal urination at the Franz Kafka Museum...


Modern day declarations of love
If you run out of books...
Prague was a great source of inspiration to me. It was as if I were stepping back in time. Sadly I missed out on a Ghost Tour of this magical city. Oh well, I’ll just have to go back...


 
My website

Twitter: @savitakalhan

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21. Dealing with Rejection by Erika Wassall

erikaphoto-45Erika Wassall, the Jersey Farm Scribe here with…

FULL DISCLOSURE – Dealing with a Rejecting Critique

This past Friday the 31st, on Halloween, I had a fright like no ghost or goblin costume could compare to.

My first page critique of Daddy, What’s A Redneck! (see it here)

The full manuscript is a touching story of a father who finds himself surprisingly stumped on how to explain the history and pride of an important piece of his family’s culture. He explains the actual origin of the term, the ingenuity, fun-loving and family-oriented traditions that mean so much to him. Little Lainey’s excitement grows as she learns not only about a term and a family, but about herself.

Suffice it to say: Liza was not a fan.

My first response was the famous kneejerk: “I’m NEVER writing ANYthing EVER again,” supported by the ever-popular: “What’s the point??” and the sister thought: “What does SHE know anyway?”

To be honest, I clicked off the site, without even reading the critique in full. Said nothing to anyone. Ignored it. Told myself it didn’t matter.

But, I am proud to say that it wasn’t long before I took a deep breath and tried to take a more realistic look at what was happening.

Okay. So an agent had read my work, and not liked it.

Ummm…. that’s NOT new!!! I’ve had agents turn my work down before. Even successful authors get rejected.

I decided I would go back to Kathy’s site and read Liza’s comments in full, THREE TIMES before the NJ SCBWI event the next day.

The first time I read them, they made me angry. I disagreed with EVERY word, and rolled my eyes at LEAST half a dozen times.

“She just doesn’t GET it.”

A few hours passed.

The second read, I saw where she coming from with. I shrugged a few times where I had previously crinkled my nose and shook my head. I reminded myself that while my usual writing is exceedingly kid-centric, this manuscript in particular is not mainstream-minded.

I reminded myself of three things: (1) writing is an art, not a science (2) her critique was for MY benefit, she got nothing out of this (3) as a successful agent, she knows much more than I, (and that’s a fact, not an insult).

The next morning, I read it a third time. This time, I saw real value in her comments. She mentions a lack of motivation. WHY is the little girl asking the question in the first place?

Huh…. I guess that could set the stage a bit better….

She mentions the title not properly representing the story itself, that people may even be insulted and not read it.

My “darling” cried out to me to be saved…. But I LOVE the title… I crafted it with certain connotations, liking the idea of that it was counter-balanced by a story of love and honor.

But … um… HELLO??!!! They have to READ the story to know that. If they see the title and turn away, the power of the irony is useless.

By the time I left for the SCBWI event, I no longer felt that dejected combination of anger and self-doubt. After all, as I’ve said myself, rejections are PROOF that I’m a writer!

I’ll be completely honest that I still do not agree with all of her comments. And that’s okay too. It is an earnest somewhat “issue” driven story, which while not something everyone is looking for, can have its place.

But even the comments I may not fully agree with have given me insight into my writing. Some of them I found may even apply to other manuscripts or projects I’m working on.

This week, when I sat down to write my post, fueled by amazing speakers, and an afternoon of great workshops at the SCBWI craft day, including a chance to see my dream editor Amy Cloud (I just genuinely enjoy her personality), I wrote the opening paragraph to three different articles. None of them worked.

I looked over my notes from the workshops. Nothing felt right.

I looked at Kathy’s site, as I often do, and it hit me. I had a chance to write about dealing with critique in a very unique, painfully honest way.

So a big thank you to Kathy for the opportunity. And a genuinely GIANT thank you to Liza for helping me grow as a writer, and realistically, probably also as a person.

And to you… I give a heart-felt thanks for indulging me by reading my story. It has immeasurably solidified for me the importance of not only accepting but also truly embracing critique in order to allow for growth.

Because you know what? Our manuscripts are worth it.

Erika, what can I say other than thank you for giving us another great post. I think we all have experienced this, so I hope others will take note of how you dealt with the angst of a negative critique and benefit from your reaction and journey.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Filed under: Advice, Agent, Author, demystify, inspiration, Process, rejection, revisions Tagged: Dealing with Rejection, Erika Wassall, First Page Critique, Guest Blogger

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22. SCBWI School Visit Webinar

michiganbanner-2

Webinar – School Visits with Suzanne Morgan Williams

Date/Time
Date(s) – 11/12/2014
7:00 pm – 9:00 pm

COST: $25.00 For All SCBWI Members – $30.00 Non-Members

Suzanne-Portrait-2012300dpi-150x150The best school visits are age appropriate, energetic, engage the students, and add value to the school’s curriculum. How do you design amazing presentations? Gain confidence in your performance, teaching, and negotiations? How do you get schools (or more schools) to hire you? Author, former teacher, and school presenter, Suzanne Morgan Williams, uses handouts, exercises, and the online presentation to help you plan programs based on your strengths, your books, and students’ needs.

She’ll share her best tips for connecting with schools and negotiating fair deals. If you’re serious about giving presentations that leave schools buzzing tune in for this one. The webinar will end with an optional online question and answer time.  Homework and supplemental information will be forwarded to participants as they register. A link to the online classroom will be provided 24 hours prior to the event.

Click HERE to register for:

So You’re Not a Juggler: Planning Amazing School Visits with Suzanne Morgan Williams

Suzanne Morgan Williams is the author of the middle grade novel Bull Rider and eleven nonfiction books for children. Bull Rider is a Junior Library Guild Selection, is on state award lists in Texas, Nevada, Missouri, Wyoming, and Indiana, and won a Western Heritage Award from the National Cowboy Museum in Oklahoma City. Suzanne’s nonfiction titles include Pinatas and Smiling Skeleton. The Inuit, Made in China, Nevada, and her latest book, China’s Daughters.

Suzanne has presented to adult and children’s audiences and taught writing workshops at dozens of schools, professional conferences, and literary events across the US and Canada. A former teacher, she has an M.Ed, teaching credentials, and a Montessori teacher certification. She’s been commissioned to create teacher’s guides for other writers as well as to write and support community cultural and literacy projects such as Nevada Hispanic Service’s/Nevada Humanities’ Great Latinos Biography Project. Visit www.suzannemorganwilliams.com

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Filed under: Advice, Author, Events, inspiration, opportunity, organizations, Uncategorized Tagged: school visits, Suzy Morgan Williams, Webinar

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23. Illustrator Saturday – Sholta Walker

MeSholta Walker was trained and graduated as a painter in 1988 and since 1995 he has worked professionally as a full-time artist and illustrator.

The great majority of his work has been for children, with clients across the World, including Harper Collins, Random House, Egmont, Annick Press, The BBC, Macmillan and Oxford University Press.

Most of the illustrations you see here combine digital techniques with more traditional skills and media. He uses vigourous ink line work, which is usually digitally coloured and enhanced. This has given him an opportunity to produce illustrations for my clients which give great scope for expressing ideas.

Some of the work shown here is also available as limited edition
prints.

His published books include Long Grey Norris, King Arthur, Bug Wars and The Beastly Beast.., a compendium of short stories by author Garth Nix. I have recently completed work for a book by Michal Kozlowski called Louis, the Tiger Who Came From the Sea.

Here is Sholta discussing his process:

Creating ‘Bug!’ and Brer Fox

Image 1a

I made these drawings a few years ago. Both at the time were fairly experimental, but borrowed heavily from methods I was already regularly using. Brer Fox was a character I was asked to develop along with his nemesis Brer Rabbit, for a UK publisher. Bug! I made when I worked briefly with an animator-friend while he was working on his Masters Degree in animation.

Image 1b

 

The picture always begins with a drawing on paper. If I’m working on a character I always rough him or her out in pencil. It usually takes several attempts to create the character I’m after. It’s important to get this stage right. Any decisions made now will set the tone for the whole image and are likely to remain with you to the end of the project. The drawing process helps inform the image you have in your head, which then feeds back to your drawing. At its best this busy two-way street of drawing and imagining is a marvelously efficient creative process.

Image 2a

When I have the character I want, I either trace it through a lightbox or work directly over the top in Indian ink with a dip-pen. The type of commission will dictate how free and expressive I am with the pen. In the case of Brer Fox particularly, I was trying to work very freely. One way I do this is to create all the initial pencil sketches as quickly as I can. When I find the drawing I like I then reproduce it by drawing over the top with my pen at a similar speed. This gives the drawing energy and enables me to exploit the naturally temperamental nature of a traditional drawing nib when it’s loaded with ink.

Image 2b

While still fairly loose, Bug! was a little more considered. Also, I created the bug character and his background as two separate drawings and combined them in Photoshop later.

Image 2c

Once the ink is completely dry, any pencil marks are erased and the drawing is scanned and opened in Photoshop. The ink line now has to be separated from the the paper surface. To help improve definition I usually increase the contrast before selecting out the black lines in one piece. The drawing part of the scan is then pasted into a new document, creating a new layer over a white background layer. The original scan is now discarded. At this stage I take the opportunity to have a good look at the image and to erase any dust specks and unwanted ink spots that were picked up in the selection. I may also make any adjustments or small additions to the drawing using Photoshop’s pencil and brush tools. Finally I ‘multiply’ the layer to prevent any whitening of the pixels in the final artwork. Because I like the honesty of a hand made ink drawing I make no further digital enhancements to it.

Image 3a

 

Image 3b

In the case of Bug!, the character’s colour was created in Illustrator. I imported the line drawing (without the garden) into Illustrator, then, on a new layer, between the white background and the drawing layer, I put in the colour in a series of simple, fairly roughly drawn shapes. In more complex images I may create the colours on several layers, but on a simple image like this, one colour layer is sufficient. Brer Fox was slightly different. He stayed in Photoshop because in this case I didn’t want the flatter look that Illustrator tends to give my drawings. The layering technique however is identical, with the basic under-painting on the figure created using the lasso tool to make a shape into which I drop the colour. Further painting, shading and colour were then added with various brush tools. A basic background layer is also quickly rendered at this stage.

Image 4a

Image 4b

To create the textures in Brer Fox I went back to paper and ink. All the effects in this image are made using either ink applied through a mouth diffuser, (a simple breath-powered spraying device) or from an old toothbrush. The results are then scanned and separated out as in the original drawings. They are then collaged into the artwork, each on a separate layer. For Brer Fox I also experimented with some scans of torn paper. With Bug!, only the garden received this treatment. Once colouring of the insect character was complete in Illustrator, I returned him to Photoshop and combined him with the garden scene that I had drawn and coloured separately in Photoshop using the textures I made in a similar way to those previously described.

Image 5a

Image 5b

Finally, I added any extra bits and spent some time continuing to tweak the drawing. Some layers are switched off or discarded and occasionally some basic effects are added as in Brer Fox’s drop shadow. I’ll often go back at this stage and draw some new elements (extra flowers maybe) that I think might further improve the image. These will then be scanned and added to the drawing, colouring them up as necessary. A key feature of much of my work is that the process remains very fluid right up to its completion.

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How long have you been illustrating?

Full-time, around twenty years. I spent a few years before that working part time on occasional commissions that came my way.

 

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What made you choose to you study art at Cheltenham College of Art in London?

That’s Cheltenham College of Art in Cheltenham, England. Cheltenham is a large town about one hundred miles West of London. I had a bit of a shaky start in fact. In England, most visual arts degrees begin with a year-long Foundation Course, which most students are expected to complete, usually at a different college, before beginning their three-year degree proper. My foundation year was very enjoyable and successful, but I left still unsure in which direction I was going to take my art. Eventually I chose Fine Art with a painting specialism, but I think my lack of certainty was picked up during the several interviews I attended at various art colleges and found to the surprise of most people that knew me that I wasn’t offered a place at any of them on the first round. So I got a job and tried again a few months later. I was finally accepted at Cheltenham. I’d like to say this was the college I had my sights on all along; that I had studied the work of the tutors and lecturers there; that I was drawn to the verdant Cotswold Hills that rise majestically above the town, but none of that would be true. Nope. It turned out they were the only college that would have me.

Reading

 

 

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

I’m not too sure, but I think it was probably a tiny drawing for one of those classified small ads you see in the back of newspapers. It was around 1986.

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

When I graduated I had no idea what to do. Looking back I think plenty of ex-students, particularly with art degrees find themselves in a similar situation. I’m not sure how it is now, but there was absolutely zero consideration given by the colleges as to what their students would do when they left. I don’t think this is necessarily a bad thing because fine art courses should not be job-training courses. So when I left I discovered two things pretty quickly: first, I needed to earn some money and second, degrees in Painting do not make you very employable. I was no longer comfortable at home, so I moved to London where most British students seem to pitch up after graduating. I worked briefly at the famous Cornelissen and Son art shop near the British Museum. The shop’s been trading since 1855 and has and still does supply materials to some of the greatest names in British Art. Then I bought a bike and spent a year as a bicycle courier, risking life and limb on the London streets.

 

160-68056

 

How did you decide you wanted to go into the freelance art business?

After a year or two of struggling to pay my way in London, I thought I needed to make a decision. As a child, making pictures was always something I enjoyed doing and was good at. My degree had pointed me towards traditional oil painting but at that time I could see no way that I was going to be making oil paintings for a living. It was a very slow start. My dad was publishing a music magazine at the time and he managed to convince the editor (thanks Paul!) to ask me to try illustrating a few things. The jobs were very occasional and fairly straightforward, but it was these simple commissions that really got the ball rolling for me. I continued working in various low-paid jobs, but it was those occasional illustration commissions that gave me a sense of purpose. Doing something I enjoyed while being paid to do it. I decided fairly quickly that this was what I needed to pursue.

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When did you decide you wanted to illustrate for children?

I never decided, my work seems to lend itself to that. When I began as an illustrator I just drew stuff. I had no idea what the illustration business was like and never gave a thought to the idea that illustration could be classified into ‘types’. After my degree, my first portfolio consisted mainly of miniature versions of what I had been producing at art college. Many were very dark and introspective, typical art student stuff really. The colours were full of dark reds and blues. Lots of angst. I was still somewhere between a painter and an illustrator. All my techniques were from three years’ training as a painter working in oils on canvas, so as an illustrator I really had to start from scratch. That meant finding new materials and methods that suited my approach and were practical. As my work developed, much of it became brighter and I found I could express and develop in my work a kind of knowing humour and a sense of the absurd that I have always enjoyed and has always been a part of my character I think. Adults seem to like this at least as much as their children and it appears in most of my best work. I think that this has always been there in my work even during my student days, but as I’ve evolved as a working illustrator I’ve learned to refine it and make it more accessible.

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How did you get the job to illustrate Buzz and Bingo in the Starry Sky with HarperCollins?

Wow, that one was quite a while ago. It came through my agent. In fact, now I think of it, it was probably the first full book commission I had with Harper Collins. I think it was also the first book I illustrated digitally. It was actually part of a series for young readers and as far as I’m aware has been very popular in British schools. I have met several parents over the years that know me by name and then realize their son and daughter is learning to read with one of my books. It’s always nice when that happens. My sister lives in Spain and she called me one day to say that her daughter was reading a book I had illustrated as part of her reading program. That was perfect because I had included a dedication to her and her brothers on the title page. I think my sister cried.

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Have you done any other books with HarperCollins?

Yes several. At least four or five.

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What was the first picture book that you illustrated? And how did that contract come your way?

My first picture book was probably one of the Buzz and Bingo series. I had illustrated a few books before that, but they were more for slightly older readers, so they weren’t strictly speaking ‘picture books’. I had worked on other commissions for Harper Collins prior to Buzz and Bingo so I had built up a bit of a track record. I often think that is, at least in part, how it works. Once a client is happy you can make a deadline, you are professional and reliable and assuming they like what you do of course, you are likely to be asked to take on bigger projects.

 

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How many books have you illustrated?

Well, if you mean both part books and as full cover-to-cover commissions, then the answer’s probably hundreds. If you mean whole books, then probably around thirty.

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Before you had an Art Rep., what did you do to help connect with art directors and editors and find illustration work?

It was a long and painful process. Once I had set my mind to being a professional illustrator I knew I needed to start building a portfolio to show round. I put together about fifteen drawings that included several of the commissions I had been picking up as well as some of my own work. One idea I had was to buy a few magazines and find articles in them that I felt I could illustrate. If they were successful I would then include them in the portfolio. The next step was to travel to London from Bath where I was by then living and show my work around. In those days, before the internet and online portfolios, this was the only way to do it. I must have spent a fortune on fares, not to mention postage for all the mail shots I made. I picked up very little direct work from all this effort and expense, but I don’t regret it at all because I really got to see what it was I needed to do while showing me what the publishing, design and advertising world outside my studio really looked like. I also still remember to this day some of the dozens of busy art directors and designers I saw who, almost to a person, patiently leafed through my portfolio and usually sent me away with some valuable words of advice. Anyway, I did that for a year or so until I decided it was time to reassess the situation. It was then I turned my mind to getting an agent. I thought if I found the right one, they would do all that work for me.

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How did you connect to your artist agency, Illustrationsweb.com? How long have they been representing you?

Yet another trip to London in around 1995 with a list of illustrator’s agents in my pocket finally brought me together with Illustration, which is Illustration USA Inc’s parent company. At that time they lurked up a flight of stairs in a dusty old office in the heart of Soho, West London. They were called Garden Studio then and had been since 1929 when they were first established. It was there I met the excellent Harry Lyon-Smith who took my portfolio away and told me to come back after lunch. When I returned he offered to represent me and that was that.

The Tin Soldier

Tell us a little bit about the 200-year-old building in your backyard and the studio you have in there.

I think it was once just a simple stone outbuilding. It was converted to something reasonably habitable about twenty-five years ago and given an electricity and water supply. I’m in Somerset, England, so everything older than about a century is built from stone. The walls are two feet thick, which is normal in old buildings here, but it makes mobile (cell)-phone use next to impossible. If anyone needs to call me at work it’s landline only I’m afraid. Oh, and the roof leaks a bit. I sit beside a window that looks out onto our garden and an apple tree that produces a rare local apple called Ashmead’s Kernal. If you can ignore their gnarled and crusty appearance and take a bite you’ll find they’re incredibly juicy and sweet.

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Have you done any illustrating for children’s magazines?

No, not so far.

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What is your favorite medium to use to do your illustrations?

Dip pen and Indian ink. Then Photoshop and Illustrator.

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Has that changed over time?

Yes. When I began as an illustrator I developed a way of working that had its beginnings in my pre-art college mid-teens. I would create a pencil drawing that I would render in water-colour and gouache. I would then work over the whole thing in coloured pencil, before putting an ink line drawing on top. This made for beautifully vibrant illustrations, but was hugely labour-intensive. It meant I would often be up all night for even the simplest commissions. I realized this wasn’t sustainable, so in around 2000 I bit the bullet and bought an Apple Mac. Over the next year I figured out a way of working that still retained plenty of me, but was just far more efficient.

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What do you consider is your first big success?

Probably Louis, the Tiger Who Came From the Sea. It’s a difficult question really because I’m very self-critical and I’m usually reluctant to pore over past work too long. I’m always thinking about the next opportunity to get it ‘right.’

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How did that come about?

Apparently out of the blue. It’s how all the best work comes. You’re sitting around one day trying to remember how you ended up doing what you do when the ‘phone rings. Or the email arrives, as it usually is these days. In the case of Louis the Tiger, Colleen Macmillan at Annick Press contacted Stacey at my agent’s New York office and offered me the commission. They had seen my portfolio and decided I was the one they wanted to illustrate Michal Kozlowski’s wonderful story. It’s great when that happens.

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Do you ever want to write and illustrate a picture book?

Yes

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Would you be open to working with an author who wants to self-publish a picture book?

Absolutely. In fact I’ve illustrated a few of these already. Initially I was quite wary of working with self-publishing projects because commissions like these can lack structure and any real management process. I worried the job could really get out of hand. Before you commit I think it’s important to read the manuscript (don’t forget they’ve usually not been through any kind of editorial process) and also try to get a clear idea of what the client (author) is expecting from you and what if any experience they have of producing a book. The great thing about self-publishing commissions is they often give you great creative freedom because there are no sales departments controlling the process as so often happens with established publishers.

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

Very rarely. If an illustration requires a certain animal for example I usually reach for one of several natural history or wildlife reference books I keep. I recently completed ‘How to Slay a Werewolf’, a new book for Conran Octopus here in the UK. The story’s set in early Twentieth Century England so I had to get the clothes more or less accurate and then there was the werewolf of course, which required a fair bit of preliminary work. The internet has changed everything. In the past research usually meant repeated trips to the local library and bookshops and owning shelves groaning with reference material. Now most research is a mouse click away.

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Have you done any work for educational publishers?

Yes, lots.

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Has all your work come from European publishers?

No. I have worked on projects from around the world. My agent has seen to that. As well as most of Europe, I’ve worked for clients in the USA, Australia, Canada, South Korea and South America.

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

My bicycle, hanging on the wall.

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

I don’t usually need to make a conscious effort to because I’m usually busy. This was one of the reasons I was drawn to illustration in the first place. I knew if I was a working illustrator and I was getting regular work, the commissions would keep me busy – I wouldn’t have to risk being stricken too often with that dreaded lack of motivation so many artists can suffer from.

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Do you think the Internet has opened doors for you?

Absolutely! Having my work on the web is like having a private art gallery in every home and office on the planet that has access to the internet.

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Do you use Photoshop or Corel Painter with your illustrations?

Photoshop.

160-82920Do you own or have you used a Graphic Drawing Tablet in your illustrating?

I couldn’t work without one. Working with a mouse is about the same as drawing with a bar of soap.

160-86961Do you have any career dreams that you want to fulfill?

One or two. I really need to write and illustrate a book.

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What are you working on now?

I’ve just completed the front and back cover art for a self-publishing project actually. Very imaginative. Very weird…

160-86754Do 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.

Yes: If you work digitally invest in the best and biggest display you can find. Preferably two. Don’t forget it’s your canvas. If you make your pictures on paper, remember, if you want your work to outlast you, use the best paper and media you can find.

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

Whatever you do don’t follow fashions. Be you and keep being you.

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Thank you Sholta for sharing your journey and process with us. Please let us know all your future successes. We’d love to hear about them and cheer you on. You follow Sholta on Twitter @Sholtawalker
or visit his agency at: http://www.illustrationweb.us/artists/SholtoWalker/view

If you have a moment I am sure Sholta 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, illustrating, Illustrator's Saturday, inspiration, Interview, picture books, Process, Tips Tagged: Cheltenham College of Art in Cheltenham, England, Ilustrationweb.com, Sholta Walker

0 Comments on Illustrator Saturday – Sholta Walker as of 11/8/2014 2:14:00 AM
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24. The Writer is a Bad Influence…

It’s Picture Book Idea Month! Click here to learn all of this writer’s *secrets*…

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Filed under: Inspiration Tagged: PbIdMo, writing

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25. new beginnings ~ and searching for stories…

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Filed under: autumn, children's illustration, flying, journeys, love, poetry

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