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1. Eight Ways to a Happy Earth Day – Part 1

Earth Day helps us focus on being kind to our planet.  We often take for granted all the wonders this beautiful place we call home provides.  To honor the earth, on Earth Day, and every day, here are some things you can do:

1.  Recycle EVERYTHING you can.  Find a list at http://www.recyclingcenters.org

2.  Repurpose and find other uses for objects you  used to throw away. One example is to use empty tin cans and jars for pencils or flower vases.  Visit  http://www.creatingreallyawesomefreethings.com   to find some great “tin can crafts”.

3.  Instead of the cardboard coffee cup sleeve, check ebay.com for unique and clever cotton and knitted reusable coffee cup sleeves.

4.  Learn how to make yarn from plastic bags (plarn)  at: http://www.wikihow.com

5.  Donate your old electronics by visiting: http://www.pickupplease.org  for details.

6.  When shipping items, use old newspapers for packing instead of Styrofoam peanuts.

7.  Catch rain in buckets to water the garden.

8.  Use bar soap instead of liquid in plastic bottles.

If you’re wondering where you can go to take part in Earth Day events, visit http://www.earthday.org  to find local events in your area as well as volunteer opportunities.  Being a good steward of the earth is important, and there’s no reason why it shouldn’t also be fun.  I’ll post more ways to be a friend to the earth on Monday as well as tell you how to get free seeds for plants that attract butterflies to your garden.  Stay tuned.

 

 


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2. Interview at All Creativelike

I was so happy to be interviewed by Leigh Medeiros at All Creativelike. I have worked with Leigh as a consultant and she is fantastic. I highly recommend that you check out All Creativelike and the many ways that Leigh works with artists. Coaching, products for artists, Retreats & Workshops, Classes, Research/Story Notes-she does it all. Subscribe to her blog to see the many way that she works with creative people and be sure to read the testimonials-she is the real deal.



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3. Don’t Be Discouraged? Writers and the Creative Gap


Goodreads Book Giveaway

Vagabonds by Darcy Pattison

Vagabonds

by Darcy Pattison

Giveaway ends May 09, 2014.

See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

Enter to win

After the first draft, there’s are really two stories: there’s the one in your head (and it’s perfect) and the one you actually put on paper (and it’s not perfect). And they don’t match up. It’s OK. Don’t let this creativity gap give you writer’s block. Revision is the process of re-envisioning.!

THE GAP by Ira Glass from frohlocke on Vimeo.

If you can’t see this video, click here.

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4. Underwear Isn’t Supposed to Hurt, and Other Things Mindy Kaling and I Probably Agree On

First of all, have you watched this yet? If not, do. Then we’ll talk:

Now here’s what I have to add to the topic of weight and body image and all that:

When I was quite a bit heavier than I am now, I went through Weight Watchers. And I’ll never forget what the instructor told us at one of the meetings: “Underwear isn’t supposed to hurt.” Changed my life, that statement. But maybe not for reasons the instructor would have expected.

She was trying to inspire us to reach our goal weights, and that was fine, as far as it went. But what it really said–to me, at least–was that we might not even realize we’re being mean to ourselves by wearing clothes that don’t fit us well. Maybe we’re so caught up in the idea of “these are the pants I’ll wear when I get down to X pounds,” we forget that we’re allowed to feel comfortable NOW, even before or while we work on losing weight.

Maybe some of you are like me, and you’re very good at being stern with yourselves. Being the drill sergeant, the disciplinarian, the one who makes up all the rules and then tries to come up with proper consequences when you violate them. So if you eat this cupcake, you’d better work out twice as hard tomorrow. Or my favorite at one time, the “bland days” that would follow a few days of unbridled eating. Then it was nothing but rice and vegetables or dry toast for me. Fun, huh? Really enjoying my life.

But I don’t do any of that anymore. Because I realized there’s no one making me be mean to myself but me. I’m a full-grown adult now, and I’m allowed to treat myself the way I would treat someone I love. I can’t imagine saying to my niece or to my best friend, “You ate half a bag of tortilla chips and a whole container of salsa this afternoon? Bad! You’re horrible! You’d better eat nothing but salads for the next five days!” Instead I’m sure I’d laugh it off, tell them I’ve done the same and more in times of stress (you have no idea how many cookies I sometimes need to get myself through the writing of some chapter that’s giving me fits), and then we’d go on talking about something far more important than whether her pants would be too tight tomorrow. Yes, they probably will. So what? Life goes on.

What I always found destructive in those times of self-criticism was the attitude of, “Oh, well, I’ve ruined it already. Might as well just keep eating everything in the world.” Uh, no. Might as well go do something sweet for myself instead, like take a hot bath or read a great book or pop in some rom-com DVD. Any of those take the place of chips or cookies–pure indulgence, meant only for me. Which means I’m also not allowed to criticize myself for goofing off. That’s right, I’m doing this right now. Because I’m allowed to be nice to myself.

I mentioned last week that I’m currently on a green smoothie kick, but let me be clear: It’s not a punishment of some kind. I’m doing it because I finally experienced what a proper green smoothie tastes like, I enjoyed it, I liked how it felt in my body, and so as a kindness to myself I’m going to drink some more. But if at any point I decide I don’t like the taste anymore or I don’t like that full feeling from having gobs and gobs of fruits and nuts and vegetables in what seems like a simple chocolate milkshake (by the way, I’ve been working on that recipe and have made it even better), then that’s it. No more. I’ll only do it if it feels nice.

That’s one of the pleasures of being an adult. A pleasure I wish I had learned back when I was a chubby teenager wearing clothing that hurt me every day, thinking it would motivate me to be skinnier. It didn’t. It just made me feel bad.

So I hope next time you pull on a pair of underwear with a waistband that cuts into your skin, you stop yourself and think, “Underwear isn’t supposed to hurt.” And that you take the next step by going to Target or wherever and buying yourself a package of underwear one size up. Or two sizes up, if you need to. Because that one simple thing might mean the difference between you feeling happy and comfortable in your body today, and you feeling miserable and guilty and unworthy. Such a simple fix. And believe me, you deserve it.

And the next time you go crazy eating something you’re sure you’re not supposed to eat, shrug it off. Do better tomorrow. Or do better starting a minute from now–the right path is always there waiting for you, whenever you feel like stepping back onto it. No worries, no punishment, no “bland days” or drill sergeant. The time to be sweet to yourself starts now.

It’s the kind of thing you can get used to.

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5. Art Speaks

Writing Life Banner

Kat Zhang

(I found an old post in my files and found it to still ring very much true. So I edited it a bit and posted. Hope it rings true for you guys, as well!)

Kat ZhangLet’s talk about art.

Anything? Anyone want to go first?
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Okay, I’ll go first.
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I love art. Really, really, love it. I’m the girl who almost cries at the opera and stares giddy at the ballet and can spend hours going on and on about how beautiful a shot is framed in a movie. I have to put down books sometimes because I’m so overwhelmed by someone’s writing — or just by the feel of the story. Once, while reading someone’s ARC, I scribbled the margins full of “OMG MY FEELINGS. MY FEELINGS.”
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The thing I’ve come to realize about art is that the more I “get” it, the more I love it.
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I’ll try to explain, since I know that doesn’t make a ton of sense.
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I used to not be a huge film buff. I watched movies, of course, and television, but I preferred my books. Film, I thought, all high-and-mighty. They just…show you everything. And those weird indy films? So boring.
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Then one day, I watched a director’s commentary for a film. I can’t even remember which film it was, but the director kept talking about how he’d chosen this one shot for this reason—emotional, thematic, etc, etc — and that shot for another, and how the costume designer had picked these clothes for this character because…and so on. I was utterly captivated.
Suddenly — just a tiny, tiny bit — I got film. I saw beyond the “product” to the “meaning” behind the product. I’m now super into film, and cinematography, and yes, if I think you’ll stand for it, I’ll pause a movie and rhapsodize about the framing of a shot.
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There’s always danger in discussing what an artist is trying to say with a piece of work. For many people, art should stand on its own. For them, a book, a film, a painting “says” things all by itself, and what the creator meant doesn’t matter. In large part, I agree with this, which is why whenever I’m asked in an interview about messages I want people to take away from What’s Left of Me or Once We Were, I always say that messages are up to the reader to figure out for themselves, not for the author to broadcast. I think that’s part of the brilliance of art—different people come to a piece of work and leave with something completely unique.
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Art speaks on its own. Sometimes, it says things to certain people that the author never meant to say. I’ve  stopped reading reviews, but back when I did, I discovered people who saw things in What’s Left of Me I never imagined anyone would ever see. Some of these things are in accordance with my world views—things I would proudly say in real life. Some are the very opposite of what I actually believe, and initially, I was horrified that anyone would think I ever meant to imply such a thing through my story.
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But that’s the thing, isn’t it? Stories speak. Art speaks. On purpose. By accident. That’s why it can be so powerful. Personally, I believe that as writers/artists/whatever, we do have a responsibility to be careful about what we say—even accidentally. I do spend time thinking, “What sort of message am I sending by having this character do this? Or by having this happen?”
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But on the other hand, I will never catch everything. And sometimes things just need to happen. Sometimes the yellow curtains are just yellow because I happened to sit on a yellow crayon while writing, not because of some deep psychological meaning I’m trying to get across.
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Somebody (probably many somebodies) will always find some part of my story/characterization and construct it to mean something I never wanted it to mean. But you know what? That’s fine. That’s more than fine. That’s great. Because every time that happens, I learn a little more. I get to see the world through a fresh pair of eyes. I am more careful the next time.
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Art speaks, and not only to the audience, but to the creator, as well.
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Do you pay attention to your themes and possible messages when you write?
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Kat Zhang loves traveling to places both real and fictional–the former allows for better souvenirs, but the latter allows for dragons, so it’s a tough pick. Her novel WHAT’S LEFT OF ME is about a girl struggling to survive in an alternate universe where people are born with two souls, and one is doomed to disappear. It is the first book in a trilogy and was published by HarperCollins in September of 2012.  Book 2, ONCE WE WERE, released September 2013, and Book 3, ECHOES OF US, will come out September 16, 2014. You can learn all about Kat at her site, or listen to her ramblings on twitter.

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6. GOING ON AN ADVENTURE WITH GARY PAULSEN

Today’s wonderful post comes from my blogger friend Marriah K. Nissen.  Here’s Marriah:

Every night at bedtime, my daughter and husband crack open a book and wander through a story someone else has dreamed up. My daughter is more of the fairytale fanatic, enjoying journeys that take place in a realm that I read about as a child. Her most recent personal read has been the original story of The Little Mermaid by Hans Christian Anderson. My husband, on the other hand, tends to be more of a realist. The middle ground they both decide on means that the book they choose has to have adventure. Lately, the type of adventure they’ve both been seeking has centered on the works of one author in particular – Gary Paulsen.

The fact that my husband enjoys Paulsen’s work comes as no surprise. I never read any of Paulsen’s books while I was growing up, and when I saw the tomes lining my shelves after I got married, I wasn’t surprised to see why I hadn’t. Paulsen has a flair for writing more from the young boy perspective, which sadly enough, I feel is lacking in MG and YA literature today. That’s not to say that works aren’t being written for boys, but the most popular ones tend to hinge on fantastical elements and far-fetched storylines, like Percy Jackson and Harry Potter, both of which still hit the tops of most MG and YA lists. What’s missing in these books is real-life adventure, something a boy can go out and experience on his own.

You might be asking then why my daughter loves Paulsen’s books so much. Mainly because the stories hinge on that big “S” word we all like to find in our novels – Suspense. In Paulsen’s stories, like Dogsong, The Voyage of the Frog, and Hatchet, the main characters are boys, but these are kids around her age, kids going through real-life conflicts and hardships. They find themselves in uncertain, often times harrowing circumstances, and she’s just hoping that they survive in the end. She loves anything that will take her on a great adventure as seen through the eyes of a child around her age.

In Dogsong, young Russel Suskitt leaves the modern world with nothing more than a dog sled and a chance to find his own “song” inside himself. In The Voyage of the Frog, David Alspeth sets out to fulfill his uncle’s final wish and sets sail in the Frog.     voyage of Frog

And in Hatchet, Brian Robeson finds himself stranded in the wilderness of Canada and must somehow stay alive. In all of these stories, unknown adventures await the main characters, adventures they never knew they’d encounter. What makes these stories so wonderful to read is that the characters come out better for it on the other end:

 Russel finds his “song” and helps a young girl along the way.       Paulsen_-_Dogsong_Coverart

 David, even after being lost at sea, knows he’s fulfilled his uncle’s last request.

 Brian not only survives the wilderness, but teaches others how to as well in The River, the sequel to Hatchet.

In all, Paulsen writes stories about survival, something for which children today still hold a keen interest. Not only do they get to read a story that puts them on the edge of their seat, but they also absorb a learning experience about how to hack your way out of the wilds of Canada or survive a storm at sea in a tiny sailboat. If we are to believe as writers the old saying, “Write what you know,” much like Paulsen did, then we should also take it one step further. Add a little excitement and suspense into the mix. After running away from home at the age of 14, Gary Paulsen used his experiences in his writing when he embarked on a life filled with odd jobs, such as traveling with a carnival, being a sailor, and entering the Iditarod.                     200px-Hatchet

When he decided to write about his journeys in life, he managed to do it with a suspenseful flair. To this day he remains a mainstay in the young adult market and continues to show his “intense desire to tap deeply into the human spirit and to encourage readers to observe and care about the world around them.”*

If you’ve never taken the opportunity to read one of Paulsen’s many stories, then I encourage you to do so. You just might glean a little insight into your own life.

*According to: http://www.randomhouse.com/features/garypaulsen/about.html

Marriah K. Nissen is an adult historical author and co-author of the award-winning blog The Writing Sisterhood. Her previous work has won both regional and national competitions, including the Soul-Making Keats Literary Awards, the Southwest Writers Literary Contest, and the Pacific Northwest Writers Association Literary Contest. For the third straight year, she has recently received the New Mexico Press Women’s Award for best informational blog. She has her M.A. in French language, literature and culture and is an active member of SouthWest Writers in Albuquerque, New Mexico. She is currently working on her latest novel, which centers on the building of the first atomic bomb in Los Alamos, New Mexico.

 


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7. Creating Your Own Flourish List

Now that I’ve outed myself as the secret author of books by Elizabeth Ruston, I can freely talk about one of the concepts in the book Love Proof.

We writers always hear “Write what you know!” Well, I’ve known many of the things I wrote about in Love Proof, including the life of a striving law student, the beginning uncertain years of practicing law, the sometimes disgusting personalities of some of the lawyers you have to deal with, and yes, even the unexpected excitement of accidentally falling in love with your opposing counsel. Yeah, that happens.

But I’ve also known the kind of poverty Sarah Henley experiences in the book. And that was really interesting for me to write about, because I know I still have some vestiges of that poverty mentality deep inside my brain. And I have to actively make choices to move myself past that way of thinking.

One of the things Sarah does in the book to deal with her own poverty mentality is to create a Flourish List. It’s an idea that came to me a few years ago, and something I tried for myself before ever putting it into my fiction.

The name comes from both definitions of flourish: “an extraneous florid embellishment” (or as Sarah puts it, “something I want, but don’t actually need”), and “a period of thriving.”

I don’t know about you, but at times I am MUCH too stingy with myself. I call it frugality, but sometimes it’s just being harsh for no great reason. Perfect example from last night: I was down to maybe the last half-squeeze on my toothpaste tube, and I could have forced out that last little bit, but I decided to make a grand gesture of actually throwing it away–that’s right, without it being fully empty (call the frugality police, go ahead)–and treated myself to a brand new tube. I’ve had to give myself that same permission with bars of soap that have already broken into multiple parts that I have to gather together in a little pile in my palm just to work up a decent sud. Lately, out they go, fresh bar, and if I feel guilty, I know it will pass.

So where did this new radical attitude come from? A few summers ago while I was backpacking in a beautiful section of the South San Juan mountain range in Colorado, I had an afternoon to myself when I sat out in a meadow, my faithful backpacking dog at my side, while my husband took off to fish. And as Bear and I sat there looking at the small white butterflies flitting over the meadow flowers, the thought occurred to me that those butterflies were not strictly necessary. Not in their dainty, pretty form. They could have been ugly and still done the job. Or they could have left their work to the yellow and brown butterflies–why do we need the extra? But having pretty white butterflies is a form of nature’s flourish.

And that led to the companion idea that if flourish is allowed in nature, wouldn’t it be all right to have some of it in my own life?

So right then and there I pulled out pen and paper and started making my Flourish List. Spent an hour writing down all the things I’d wanted for years and years, but never allowed myself to have. I’m not talking about extravagances like a private jet or a personal chef, I’m talking about small pleasures like new, pretty sheets (even though the current ones were still in perfectly good shape); new long underwear that fit better; a new bra; high-quality lotion from one of the bath and body shops; fancy bubble bath. The most expensive item on my list was a pillow-top mattress to replace the plain old Costco mattress we’d been sleeping on for the past twenty years.

I gave myself the chance to write down everything, large or small, just to see it all on paper. And you know what? It wasn’t that much. I had maybe fifteen items. Then, still sitting out in that meadow, I did a tally of what I thought it would all cost. I knew the mattress would probably be very expensive, so I estimated high (no internet connection out there in the wilderness, otherwise I could have researched actual numbers). I think I ended up estimating about $3,000 for the whole list. And that sounded pretty expensive to me. So I just put the list away and promised myself I’d start buying some of the cheaper items when we got home.

And I did. New underwear. Vanilla lotions and bubble baths. New sheets. And finally, a few months later, a pillow-top mattress, on sale, less than $400. By the time I checked off the last item on my list last fall, I had spent less than $1,000. That might still sound like a lot, but in the greater scheme I felt like it was too small an amount to have denied myself all those little pleasures all those many years. Especially if I had bought myself one of those items every year–I know I never would have noticed the cost.

So that’s my suggestion for today: Create your own Flourish List, just like Sarah and I have, and give yourself the pleasure of writing down every small or large thing you want for yourself right now. All the little treats. Maybe they’re not so little–maybe this is the year you need a new car or some other big-ticket item. But that’s a “Need” list. This is your Flourish List–everything you want but don’t necessarily need.

And then? Treat yourself. Choose one item every week or every month, and give it to yourself. And if you feel strange about replacing something you don’t like with something you know you will, then remember to pass on that other item to someone else who might love it more than you did. I’ve done that with clothes, kitchenware, books: it feels so good to take everything you don’t want and give it to a thrift store where someone else can be happy to have found it, and found it so cheaply. Maybe there’s someone out there with a Flourish List that includes a pair of boots like the ones that have just been gathering dust in your closet. Stop hoarding them. Move them on to their new, appreciative owner.

And by doing that, you make room in your own life for things you’ll appreciate and enjoy. It’s hard to invite abundance when you’re chock full of clutter. Make some room. Make your list. And then start treating yourself the way you deserve by no longer withholding those little items that you know will make you smile.

I felt pretty great throwing out that nearly-empty tube of toothpaste last night. It doesn’t take much to make me happy. But I didn’t really realize that until I sat in a meadow and enjoyed the simple sight of some unnecessary butterflies.

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8. “Kids Don’t Learn from People They Don’t Like”

Great talk for my teacher friends in the crowd–and for all of us who have had great teachers or just wished we had!

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9. Illustrator Saturday – Christopher Denise

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Christopher Denise is an award-winning children’s book illustrator and visual development artist. His first book, a retelling of the Russian folktale The Fool of the World and the Flying Ship, was pronounced “a stunning debut” by Publishers Weekly.

Since then, Chris has illustrated more than twenty books for children, including Alison McGhee’s upcoming Firefly Hollow, Rosemary Wells’ Following Grandfather, Phyllis Root’s Oliver Finds His Way, his wife Anika Denise’s Bella and Stella Come Home and some in Brian Jacques’ acclaimed Redwall series.

His books have appeared on the New York Times bestseller list and have been recognized by Bank Street College of Education, Parents’ Choice Foundation, and the Society of Illustrators Annual Exhibition.

Christopher Denise lives in Rhode Island with his family.

Christopher has two books coming out in the next few months. The first is SLEEPYTIME ME written by Edith Hope Fine coming out May 27th.

The second book, BAKING DAY at GRANDMA’S is written by his wife Anika and will be available in August.

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Christopher gives us a sneak peek of some of the interior shots below, with his process pictures on how he did a double page spread for the book. (Please check back later today. Christopher and I got our wires crossed with the process text. He is at a book festival and will be sending it as soon as he can get to Wi-Fi)

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Rough sketch

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Adding more details

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More details and first layer

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Laying in some color

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Refining details, inking in bark on tree, and deepening color of sky

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Painting in color on clothes

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Worked on background and more detail on clothes

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Adding shadows and details on house

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Continuing to deepen shadows and details

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Adding highlights

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Deepening colors

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Adding color to tree.

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Changed my mind about the color of the clothes and added for detail to the final illustration.

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Above are the bears in this double page spread on their way to Grandma’s and below they are getting ready to bake.

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When did you first get interested in art?

As a kid! All kids love art-I just never stopped. I never let anyone talk me out of it-it is too much fun.

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Why did your family move to Ireland from Massachusetts after you were born?

We moved to Ireland when I was six years old. My father had been working with General Electric and they offered him an opportunity to relocate and set up a headquarters in Shannon. He saw it not only as a great career opportunity but a chance to expose his kids to a very different way of life. This was in the early 70′s so Shannon was more like the States in the 50′s. It was an amazing place to spend some of my formative years.

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What made you move back to the states?

He had completed much of what he set out to do and my oldest brother was preparing to enter high school and my parents thought it best to return to the states.

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Do you feel Ireland influences your illustrations?

Absolutely. In Ireland we kids had an amazing amount of autonomy and unstructured time. Broadcast television began after 6pm and there was very little programing geared at children so we spent our days outside exploring the countryside and creating our own adventures. I look at the art I created for The Redwall picture books and I see so much of those childhood days.

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Do you still have an Irish brogue?

Only after a very long dinner party with old friends!

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How did you decide to go to Rhode Island School of Design to study art?

After high school I was studying Art History and Archeology at St. Lawrence University. I was also spending a lot of time in art studio classes. It was fantastic and I was doing very well but I felt I needed more direction. My brother was studying architecture at RISD and after my first visit I knew that I needed to be there. While RISD students were dancing on the tables listening to The Talking Heads (very appealing to me) they were also having serious conversations about art and their own work.

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What was the first piece of art that you sold?

I started freelancing for the Providence Journal in my Junior year at RISD. I created a series of black and white illustrations for a re-printing of A Child’s Christmas in Wales by Dylan Thomas.

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I read that you started illustrating books for educational publishers while you were still attending RISD. How did you make those connections?

I did and internship at Silver Burdett and Ginn, an educational publisher just outside of Boston. I was in charge of opening the submissions from artists and filing their promotional materials. It was not long before I realized that I wanted to be on the mailing end of the equation. When the internship finished I created my own mailers, asked the art directors to look at the work and for recommendations about where I might send them.

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Did you always want to illustrate children’s books?

I never had any intention of becoming a children’s book illustrator, I sort of fell into the career. I knew I liked making art, so I left St. Lawrence University and transferred to Rhode Island School of Design. I remember while at RISD I had an assignment to create this illustration using an animal of our choice doing something specific. I think my animal was racoons and the subject was things you do at camp. Honestly, I Bobbaton Questthought I was way too cool to do something like that. I had been painting these big abstract paintings and when making illustrations they were always very cool and smart. But animals with clothes on? Forget it. I never finished the assignment. Fortunately, the teacher stayed on me and gave me another assignment. This time she had me illustrating scenes from Wind and the Willows. Somehow the writing grabbed me and became something that I could sink my teeth into. I really thought about the characters and what they should look like, their clothes, their houses, how they would walk and stand, etc. Then I surprised myself by really enjoying the process of making the art and people loved it. I ended up using those images to start my professional career when I was still a Junior in college to get freelance jobs with educational publishers. The rest is history.

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Were you continue doing freelance work when you graduated? Or did you take a job illustrating?

Since that day it has been all freelance work.

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How did you connect with Philomel to illustrate your first picture book?

That was a friend of a friend situation. I heard that this person, whom I had met a few times socially, worked as an assistant editor at Philomel Books. She was incredibly generous and offered to look at my work. I don’t think she expected much but she actually liked my art and offered to take it down to the Art department. The Art Director promptly rejected it and told me to come back in a few years. Luckily she hung one of my mailers on her wall where it caught the attention of the esteemed editor Patti Gauch (Owl Moon, Lon Po Po). Patti called me up right there and asked when I could be in New York. I borrowed the cash for the train and within a week I was sitting in her office talking about books.

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christopherpartytime

Your name is the only name for THE FOOL OF THE WORLD AND THE FLYING SHIP. Did you do the writing of the retold Russian tale?

Patti suggested that I consider illustrating the story of the fool and sent me on my way. The first edition I found was the Caldecott award winning version illustrated and retold by Uri Schulevitz. Lets not forget, that this is the guy who had literally written THE book on writing and illustrating picture books, Writing With Pictures. After being paralyzed with fear and then realizing there was no way out of this I started my research. I came across a wonderful version of the text by Petr Nikolaevich Polevoi published by St. Petersberg in 1874. Patti and I loved the language and just made a few minor edits. There is a note about the text on the last page of my edition.

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christopherredwallsnow

What was the next book that you illustrated and how did you get that assignment?

My next book was The Great Redwall Feast by Brian Jaques. Patti was Brian’s stateside editor and had been hounding him to write a picture book. Brian saw The Fool and wrote The Feast for me to illustrate. We quickly became close friends and I had the pleasure of working with him for many years. He is missed and I think of him often.

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Did anyone hire you just to illustrate a cover for a book?

Yes, I created the artwork for Brian’s Castaways of the Flying Dutchman. I created two paintings for the cover but ultimately they were never used.

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Did anyone hire you just to illustrate a cover for a book?

Yes, I created the artwork for Brian’s Castaways of the Flying Dutchman. I created two paintings for the cover but ultimately they were never used.

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I see that your wife Anika is an author. How many books have you illustrated for her?

We have a really fun wintertime read-aloud book due out this August called Baking Day at Grandma’s (Philomel Books). That will be our third. Before that we collaborated on Pigs Love Potatoes (Philomel Books 2007) and Bella and Stella Come Home (Philomel, 2010). Both are still in print and seem to be popular!

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ChristopherifIcould

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

Desire-yes but I have not felt like I have had the chops to pull it off until recently. Writing a solid picture book, as many of your readers know, is incredibly difficult. I have a few things on my desk that are showing some promise and with the help of my incredible agent and friend, Emily vanBeek at Folio Jr., I am sure that a few of them will come to fruition at some point. Recently, I came up with the initial concept and art for a book that I tried writing but it was terrible! Thankfully, Alison McGhee (Someday, Bink & Gollie, Shadow Baby) came to my rescue and penned a gorgeous novel called Firefly Hollow that I am working on right now.

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Christophercollector

How and when did you get involved in visual development work for animated feature films?

A RISD alumni who knew my work called me to work on a project that was in development with Blue Sky Studios ( Ice age, Rio, Epic). I was part of a very small team of artists all outside the film studio creating images for what the film might look like. I ended up staying with the project for nearly a year. Its a beautiful story that I hope they make into a film someday!

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Which animated films did you work on?

Left Tern (Blue Sky studios), Beasts of Burden (ReelFx), a bit of work on Rio (Blue Sky studios) after it was already in production, and a few others that have not yet been made and I am not supposed to talk about!

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What is involved in visual development in animation?

Visual Development artists are called in to work with a director and/or production designer to help envision the look and feel of a film. You need to check your ego at the door, stay flexible, and work very, very quickly. I would turn out 20-30 paintings a week. Many loose, some more finished. Sometimes your paintings would be sent off to another artist to paint over and then sent back to you for work again. Often there is not a solid script and you are flying by the seat of your pants with a story summary and a few story beats (moments in a film) that you need to nail down. I love the collaborative aspect of the work and the idea that it is all about the story-not just making one or two pretty pictures.

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I noticed that you used pastels on one of your illustrations. Is that your favorite medium?

I love pastel work but really I love whatever is working for that particular book. Its always about the book on my desk and what it needs from me. I do enjoy the flexibility and speed of photoshop. I am impatient with my work and want to get to the good stuff as soon as possible. I need to get in there and start painting and changing things. Acting and re-acting. Photoshop is a wonderful tool for that type of work.

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Has your style changed over the years?

Sure, with every book and the demands of each manuscript. Writing is hard and I think it would be a great disservice to the author and the story for me to impose a particular style on a book.

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How did you connect with the lovely agent, Emily van Beek?

How long have the two of you been together? Emily and I met when I signed on with Pippin about 5 years ago. I was thrilled to re-connect with her later on when she started Folio Junior.

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What do you think has been your greatest career accomplishment?

Wow. Tough question. Ask me again in about twenty years! A Redwall Winters Tale and Oliver Finds His Way would both rank pretty high up there for different reasons but I always think that I am only as good as my last book. I feel pretty good about the last year. I completed two books that I am VERY proud of. Sleepytime Me by Edith Fine (Random House, May 2014) and Baking Day at Grandma’s (Philomel, August 2014)

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christopherfollowinggrandfather

How many children books have you illustrated?

About twenty two I think. A few of the titles were created for educational publishers then re-published for the regular trade market.

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How did you get involved in illustrating the Redwall series of books?

Patti Gauch was responsible for showing Brian Jacques my work. Thanks, Patti!

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How many of those books have you illustrated?

I illustrated three books for the the Redwall picture-book series. The Great Redwall Feast (Philomel 1996), A Redwall Winters Tale (Philomel 2001), and The Redwall Cookbook (Philomel 2005)

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It looks like you have done a lot of books with Philomel. How many books have you illustrated for them?

Nine books with Philomel so far.

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OLIVER FINDS HIS WAY was published by Candlewick. How did that contract come about?

Chris Paul at Candlewick called me up out of the blue one day and said she had a project that she would like me to consider. They are just up in Somerville so I drove up for lunch and met with Chris and the wonderful Mary Lee Donovan. I knew right away that I wanted to work with them. Candlewick is a fantastic house, beautiful books, super nice people.

christophermousetoast

I think Jane Yolen lives near you. Did you know her before you illustrated THE SEA MAN? Was that the only Merman you have illustrated?

I did not know Jane before I illustrated The Sea Man, but of course I knew Jane’s work. We just saw each other at Kindling Words in January and since then have talked about the possibility of working together again. Yes-that was the very first Merman I was asked to illustrate.

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Do they have a studio in your house?

My studio is about 15′ from my back door in a separate building that I re-built just three years ago. For years I had studios in Providence. Downtown is only about twelve miles away from the little beach-side community where we live but the drive home, late at night if I was working on deadline or a film project, was not fun. It was convenient when I was teaching at RISD but I was also missing my wife and the kids. I like to be able to quit at 4:00, spend some time with my family, have a glass of wine, dinner, read to the kids, and put them to bed. After that I walk back out to the studio for another session. Making books is hard work but my family life and walks on the beach keep me anchored and very happy.

christopherscropped

I was able to see some of your wonderful black and white interior drawings that did you do for Rosemary Well’s book, FOLLOWING GRANDFATHER. How many did you do for the 64 page book?

Gosh, I don’t remember-quite a few! I loved working with Rosemary and since then we have become good friends.

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Have you done illustrations for any children’s magazines?

Yes, I think I did work for Ladybug magazine. I may have done work for Cricket.

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Your new book coming out in May titled, SLEEPYTIME ME is beautiful. How did you get that contract with Random House?

I was working with Elena Mechlin at Pippin and she brought the manuscript to me. Edith’s (Fine) writing is so wonderful. That was another fantastic project. Random House gave me lots of support and complete freedom.

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christopherolivercover

How long did you have to illustrate that whole book?

I created that suite of images in about six months. They were long days but I loved the work.

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christophergarden

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

Not so many things personally. Emily, my agent, makes sure that I have plenty on my plate. I work closely with her making sure that we have a plan and chart out the production schedule. Our biggest challenge is leaving some blocks of time off-especially in the summer

christopherchef

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

My sketchbook-no doubt.

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

I do try to take some time in the summer to go landscape painting. But in truth I work on my craft every single day. I try to start each session as a novice.

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christopherprespectiveredwall

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

I do take some pictures. I browse books ( fine art, photography, other picture books) from my own shelves and the library-seeing what comes to me. The internet, of course, is amazing.

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christopherchefs

I notice that you are doing the illustrations for Betsy Devany’s debut picture book, SMELLY BABY. Both of you are represented by Emily van Beek. I can’t wait to see the illustrations. Great match-up! How was Emily able to get you two together?

This is one of the great things about Emily. We were talking about what I wanted to work on, scheduling and such and she was already thinking way ahead of me about what would serve us (because we are most definately a team) professionally but also allow me to stretch artistically. She called me up a few days later and asked how I felt about working on something funny and emailed Betsy’s manuscript for Smelly Baby. I read it through and forced my self to wait for ten minutes before I said YES!

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Have you won any awards that you are particularly proud of?

Yes but it has nothing to do with publishing! I was nominated for the Frazier award in teaching at RISD. That nomination was particularly meaningful to me because it is the students who vote for the few nominees that make the cut. That was such an honor because I loved working with such wonderfully talented young artists and I put my heart in soul into teaching those classes. Of course I am grateful and honored when any of my books receive recognition.

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christophervampirepig

Out of all the books you have illustrated, do you have a favorite?

Another tough question. The books are like my girls, they are all my favorites for different reasons. If I had to choose I would choose four. Pigs Love Potatoes (Anika Denise) Oliver Finds His Way (Phyllis Root), Sleepytime Me (Edith Fine), and Baking Day at Grandma’s (Anika Denise).

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Do you use Photoshop or a graphic tablet when illustrating?

I paint and draw in Photoshop using a medium size wacom intuos tablet and pen.

christopherlaundrypig

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

I am in the process of doing just that! I spend my days drawing pictures and coming up with stories. How great is that?!

christopherpigdinner

What are you working on now?

Firefly Holly ( Simon & Schuster) an illustrated novel by Alison McGhee, and Betsy Devany’s picture book Smelly Baby (Henry Holt & Company)

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Do you have any material type tips or software type tips you can share with us? Example: A new product that you’ve tried – A how to tip, etc.

I think my breakthrough with digital tools came when I stopped trying to “learn” the software and started to think of using photoshop to replicate my traditional process. To use the program in the same way as I used my traditional tools. Same layering process, same ways of applying color. Make the digital tools work for you-mistakes and all. In the end you have more flexibility and can change things. Also-be brave and create your own brushes to get the effects that you want.

christopherracoondad

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

Trust your instincts. Do what you need to do to get by but after that point do not be afraid to say no to something if your heart is not in it.

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Thank you Christopher for sharing your talent, process, expertise, and journey with us. Please keep in touch and let us know all of your future successes. We would love to hear about them.

You can visit Christopher at: http://www.christopherdenise.com You can link over to his blog and his Etsy shop where he sell original artwork.

facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Christopher-Denise-Illustrator

I really appreciate it when you leave a comment, so please take a minute to leave Christopher a comment. Thanks!

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Filed under: authors and illustrators, demystify, illustrating, Illustrator's Saturday, inspiration, Tips Tagged: Anika Denise, Baking Day at Grandma's, Christopher Denise, Patty Gauch, Sleepytime Me

10 Comments on Illustrator Saturday – Christopher Denise, last added: 4/12/2014
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10. Getting Over the Need To Be Polite

You’ll just have to trust me that there’s a story behind this. Mine isn’t as interesting as the one that taught me this lesson:

One of my favorite women adventurers is Helen Thayer. She’s a New Zealander by birth, now living in Washington State, and I first heard of her when I read her book Polar Dream.  Here’s the description:

In 1988, at the age of 50, Helen Thayer became the first woman in the world to travel on foot to the magnetic North Pole, one of the world’s most remote and dangerous regions. Her only companion was Charlie, her loyal husky, who was integral to her survival. Polar Dream is the story of their heroic trek and extraordinary relationship as they faced polar bears, unimaginable cold, and a storm that destroyed most of their supplies and food.

So yeah, super burly. I’ve referenced that adventure in a few books of mine–Doggirl and Parallelogram 3: Seize the Parallel–because I remain so thoroughly inspired and impressed by what Ms. Thayer accomplished despite the incredible danger and hardships. And that wasn’t her only big adventure. She and her husband and the dog from Polar Dream lived among wolves for a year (see her book Three Among the Wolves) and later, when she was in her 60s and her husband was in his 70s, they both trekked across the Gobi Desert, just the two of them and a few camels (see Walking the Gobi: A 1600 Mile Trek Across a Desert of Hope and Despair). You can understand why she’s a hero of mine.

And one of her lessons that has always stuck with me is the one about being too polite.

Here’s the situation: On her last morning in civilization before Helen set off for the magnetic North Pole, the Inuit villagers who had graciously hosted her the night before took their hospitality one step further by helping Helen pack up her sled for the journey. Helen had a particular packing system in mind, but she didn’t have the heart to tell the villagers she didn’t want their help. They were so happy and enthusiastic about it, she didn’t want to hurt their feelings. So she just smiled and said thank you as she watched them stuff her gear and clothing every which way into various pockets and pouches. She figured she’d fix it all later once she was alone in camp that night.

Big mistake.

Because when she finally stopped skiing across the ice that first night and began setting up her camp, she could feel the cold beginning to affect her fingers. She understood the dangers of frostbite. She needed to put on her pair of heavy, insulated mittens, but where were they? As she frantically searched for them, she could feel the dry cold and the wind chill of minus 100 quickly taking their toll. By the time she finally found the mittens, her fingers already felt like hard wooden blocks. The damage was done.

When she woke up the next morning, her hands were swollen and covered with blisters. And they felt incredibly, horribly painful. They stayed that way for the whole first week, making everything so much harder: lighting her stove, dressing herself, setting up and breaking down her camp–anything that required manual dexterity and ended up leaving her fingers throbbing with agonizing pain.

All because she’d been afraid to say, “No. No, thank you. I need to do this myself.”

What’s amazing is you’d think someone as brave as Helen Thayer would have no trouble telling people no. But it just shows you hard it can be sometimes to retrain ourselves to do what might seem impolite.

Years ago I saw an Oprah episode where she interviewed Gavin de Becker, the guy who wrote The Gift of Fear. Does anybody else remember that episode? He talked about how predators sometimes test their prey by insisting on “helping.” “Oh, here, let me bring this to your car. You dropped this, I’ll just bring it upstairs for you.” And when you say, “No,” the predator still insists. Because he’s testing whether he can dominate you.

De Becker and Oprah discussed how it wasn’t just dangerous criminals doing that, it could also be friends or family members. De Becker said, “Anyone who won’t hear your ‘no’ is trying to control you.” When you think of it that way, you can probably see it all around you: in your bossy co-worker, your critical mother-in-law, even your well-meaning sister or friend. Here you are taking a stand and actually using your “no,” and the person refuses to accept it.

Annoying, and, as de Becker points out, also potentially dangerous. People practice on us. We need to practice, too.

This is all a way of saying the same thing someone once told me: “It’s only fair if it’s fair to you, too.” How’s that again? You get a vote. If it’s nice for someone else, is it also nice for you? Or are you going to end up exhausted/broke/angry/resentful/out of time to watch your favorite show if you do “just this one more” favor?

Don’t get me wrong–it feels good to be nice. No doubt about it. But it feels less good to always be the one giving and giving, while your own store of personal energy and good will feels like it’s slowly draining away. Then, if you’re like me, one day it’s finally enough, and the answer for everybody is “No, no, and NO,” even if a few of those would have been yesses if they’d caught you on a better day. And maybe that grumpy, surly no-ness lasts for a lot longer than you meant it to–*cough* three years–and you realize when you come out of it that you could have had a much easier life and been much happier if you’d only moderated your yesses one by one instead of letting them all pile up in such an unbalanced way.

See where I’m going with this?

As my best friend sometimes has to remind us both, “We don’t have to act nice, we are nice.” And if you look closely at your own behavior, you can see the times when you’re just performing–wanting to appear nice–as opposed to genuinely wanting to do something out of love or friendship or simple human kindness. There is a difference. One of them drains you, the other fills you up. It’s very noticeable once you really start looking at it.

Sometimes you need to work the problem backwards. How will you feel afterward if you say no here versus yes? Forget how hard it might feel in the moment to tell someone no–think about how you want to feel afterward. If you really, really want to go home tonight and slip into something slouchy and treat yourself to an evening of quiet and Call the Midwife, then why are you saying yes to anything else? Don’t you get a vote, too? Don’t you ever get the yes?

Or, like I’m doing today, you work out a balance: ten nice things for other people, ten nice things for yourself. That seems like the best recipe for me lately to be able to handle all of my obligations cheerfully. I know at the end of a long stream of yesses today I’ll get to sit down and binge watch season 2 of The Mindy Project.

Now that’s my kind of balance.

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11. The Little Magic Box for School Visits and Signing

Debbie 2My Little Magic Box by Debbie Dadey

It took me about twenty years to figure it out, but making a magic box to take with me to book events was a great idea! Okay, it’s not magic but it does have everything I need to make a book signing or school visit go smoothly. What does my little plastic container have inside? Here’s what I’ve collected for my little 6.5 by 4.5 inch box (a left-over from my teaching days):

1. Business cards (Because the minute you don’t have one, you need one.)

2. Tissues (Because boogers are not pleasant with 200 kids watching!)

3. Book plates (Someone will always cry because they forgot their book.)

debbiebox2004. Award winning author stickers (Which I bought in a silly moment, but kids like stickers.)

5. Sticky notes (Because kids have the strangest names these days and it’s better to write it first on a note than ruin the book-better yet have the school or bookstore do it for you while the kids are waiting in line.)

6. Tic Tacs (Bad breath is not an author’s friend.)

debbiecontent2007. Protein bar (Let’s face it, sometimes school lunches are horrible.)

8. Candy (see above)

9. Cough drops (A coughing fit really doesn’t work well with my presentation.)

10. Hand lotion (It makes me feel better!)

11. Hand sanitizer (It keeps me from catching every illness because schools are breeding grounds!)

12. Chap stick (I am prone to fever blisters and they aren’t pretty.)

13. iPad adapter (I started taking my iPad on school visits instead of my laptop and I love it.)

14. Clips to hold up something (Just a handy thing to have for posters.)

15. Memory stick with presentations (Some schools have their computers far away. I also have a clicker to advance slides. There is an app available to advance Keynote-the iPad version of PowerPoint. PowerPoint will convert to Keynote, but there are always a few adjustments to be made.)

16. Slips for information (These are leftovers from a giveaway and everyone likes free stuff.)

17. Rubber band (These come in handy for keeping my rolled up posters tidy.)

18. Markers or ink pens (Some people like Sharpies to autograph with, but I’m not picky).

Missing from my box are my fun red Author pin, camera, book signs, bookmarks, a bottle of water, and school visit brochures. Not all of them will fit inside my box, but I have them listed in marker on the inside of my box so I don’t forget them. Something I’ve been wanting to get is a tablecloth with my logo and maybe some book covers on it. On my scheduling page (http://www.debbiedadey.com/Events/Scheduling/index.php)

debbieDream of the Blue TurtleI have an Author Visit Checklist that lists everything I could think of to help a school prepare for my visit. Click Here to View. 

Perhaps there is something on it you can adapt for yourself. Do you have more suggestions for my box? Please let me know, I have more book events coming up soon!

Check www.debbiedadey.com for one near you.

My newest book is Dream of the Blue Turtle (Mermaid Tales #7) with Simon and Schuster. Treasure in Trident City (#8) comes out in May. I hope you’ll like me on Facebook.com/debbiedadey. I’m hoping it doesn’t take me twenty years to get the hang of Facebook!

Thanks Debbie for sharing your idea for having a handy box that you can grab whenever you do a book event. It will definitely help everyone who has a hard time juggling everything that has to be done in our busy lives.

I love the idea of getting a table cloth made with your logo and covers. They don’t cost very much and it really adds to making you look exciting and professional.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Filed under: Advice, Events, inspiration, list, Tips Tagged: Debbie Dadey, Dream of the Blue Turtle, Simon & Schuster, Tresaure of Trident City

4 Comments on The Little Magic Box for School Visits and Signing, last added: 4/8/2014
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12. Because You’ve Secretly Wanted To Do Stunt Work

Come on, who hasn’t? Even in your pretend alternate life? We can be honest here.

Here’s a short video to whet your appetite, courtesy Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls. (I’ve become obsessed with Amy’s website and all her many videos, so I can promise this won’t be the only one you’ll see.  But it’s a fun place to start!)

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13. What Do Libraries and Poetry Have in Common?

April is the month we will honor and celebrate to very reading/writing related things: Poetry and Libraries.  April is National Poetry Month and also National School Library Month. What better way to celebrate than to gather poetry books from the school library and read aloud in class. This could be a lead-in to having kids write their own poetry.  Ken Nesbitt has a great website especially for kids:  http://www.poetry4kids.com   You’ll find all kinds of wonderful poems, a rhyming dictionary and even poetry contests.  Be sure to check out this wonderful sight.

To learn more about activities to celebrate School Libraries, visit the American Library Association website at: http://www.ala.org


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14. Can’t Go Wrong With Some Joy

This video has been around for a while, but every now and then I love to watch it again and see if it still gets me all misty-eyed as soon as the violins come in. Yes, it does. And by the end I’m always in full-on happy tears. See if it doesn’t do the same for you:

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15. Illstrator Saturday – Gideon Kendall

gideonpictureGideon Kendall was born in Austin, Texas and spent his childhood on a commune deep in the backwoods of West Virginia. He attended high school in Philadelphia, PA and moved to New York City to attend art school. Since receiving his BFA from The Cooper Union in New York City (1989) he has been working as an illustrator, animation, designer, and musician in Brooklyn, NY.

Gideon was the production designer (backgrounds) on “Pepper Ann”, a Saturday morning cartoon show on ABC.   For five years (the duration of the series), he was the production designer (backgrounds) on “CODENAME: Kids Next Door” on the Cartoon Network.  He has also designed backgrounds, props and characters for many other television shows, including Robotomy, Stroker & Hoop, Chuggington and Word World.

Gideon has illustrated articles and record covers for companies such as The New York Times, Puma, Children’s Television Workshop, Scholastic, Geffen, and College Music Journal. He has exhibited his artwork at a variety of galleries including Ethan Cohen Fine Arts and PS122 in New York City.

Gideon has been involved in many musical/performance art projects, and has toured the country with his band, Fake Brain. The band also wrote and performed the theme song for “The Kids Next Door” on Cartoon Network. Most recently he wrote, performed in, and created sets and animation for a multimedia comedic performance entitled “Dr. Wei-Wei & The Fake Brain” which was performed at The Bowery Poetry Club in New York City in 2006. His current project, The Ditty Committee, performs regulary in and around New York City.

Here is Gideon showing and discussing his process on his book cover, ELLIOTT and the LAST UNDERWORLD WAR:

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The image is entirely digital. It took probably about 3 days total, but of course it was spread out over weeks of approvals, edits, etc.

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This is the rough, obviously. Just trying to sell the editor on the basic idea and work out for myself the composition and lighting. I always use tone on my sketches because I need to get a sense of the lighting. Light and shadow are essential for both clarity, focus, and drama. In the story, Elliot, the main character uses a magic glowing broom at a crucial point in the story. This was a great device for lighting this scene.

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Here is where I set aside the lighting for the most part and focus on delineating the image. Although I love getting carried away with details and hidden jokes I try not to loose focus on the characters. Sometimes this comes easy. Other times not so much. The peripheral characters fell into place with little effort but I really struggled with aspects of Elliot. Finding that sweet spot of anger and determination while still keeping him cute was a challenge and I also had a hard time with getting his hands and arms right. I had my wife take pictures of me in the pose to help get it right and I still struggled.

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Now I introduce the lighting. This layer may or may not be used in the final art, but either way it helps me to finalize the composition.

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At this point I change the line drawing into a multiply layer and put it on top. I hide the tone layer and work up the color to a near-final state.

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Then I add a layer of highlights on top of the line layer.

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I kept the image of the pixie as its own element so that I could control her luminosity separately. I do her line work, color, and rendering and then balance her against the glow of the broom.

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I wasn’t pleased with the way the broom was looking so I made a new drawing of it and colored it in a way to give it bit more 3-dimensionality. I refined the highlights and played around with the luminosity of the broom, and then I was done.

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Early on in the process I played around with having the demon’s claws in the picture, thinking it might heighten the sense of confrontation. The editor thought it complicated things unnecessarily and I don’t disagree.

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Just for kicks, an earlier cover sketch. This snow monster was removed from the story so I had to start over. Probably for the best.

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Here’s a detail shot just for the hell of it.

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My favorite illustration in this book.

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When did you first know that you were good at art and wanted that for your future?

My mom says that she put pens in my crib when I was a baby and I drew cars and cities all over my sheets. so I guess it was decided pretty early on. My early loves were Dr. Seuss and Marvel Comics.

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Did you study art at The Cooper Union in New York City?

Yes. I have a BFA from Cooper.

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What made you think of putting little Goblins in the big Goblin?

I was just trying to think of how to make him as creepy as possible. It’s an idea similar to themes in some of my “grown up” art.

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What were you favorite classes?

Painting and drawing. I also enjoyed printmaking, particularly intaglio etching.

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What was the first thing you illustrated and got paid for doing?

I got hired by a local paper in high school to do some courtroom illustration. First and last time I ever did that kind of work. Judging from your next question I think you mean post-collegiate…Hmm. The thing is I went to a strictly “fine art” school. They frowned on illustration, so I had to bury my love of such things.

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What was your main painting technique back then?

Oils. I did a semester abroad in Italy my junior year and learned the basics of old-fashioned glaze techniques. I’ve loosened up a little since then but my painting technique has always been pretty formal.

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Have the materials you used changed over the years?

Completely. I work almost entirely digitally now. Oil painting is reserved for my personal enjoyment or for the rare occasion when budgets and schedules are generous.

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Has the style of your illustration change or evolved into a new style?

I have developed a few distinct styles for the different kinds of work that I enjoy doing. traditional children’s book illustration is at this point only a small part of what I do. among other things I also do black and white chapter book illustrations, puzzle pictures for highlight’s Magazine, maps and diagrams for books, posters, advertisements, etc. I also do “whiteboard” animations as well as graphic novels and comics. Unless you’re hugely successful at one thing, you gotta be a jack of all trades to survive. If one of the things I do really took off I’d be happy to focus more, but in the meantime I do enjoy the challenge.

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Since you graduated right as the Internet and computers were taking hold. Did you jump into experimenting with digital art at that time?

No, the computer was primarily a word processor and mailing label machine for me for many years. It wasn’t until the late “90′s that I began doing some digital color on my drawings and then the big leap was when I got my first Cintiq in ’06.

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Do you own and use graphic tablet? If so, which one?

A few months ago I got the Cintiq 24HD touch and I’m in love with it.

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What was your first job after your graduated?

I tried to do the art gallery thing; working as an installer and packer/shipper. It was awful. The people were vain and pretentious and I felt alienated and bored. I got laid off. Freed from the shackles of fine art education/employment, I went back to my early loves: kids books and comics.

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What kind of creature is Elliott going to fight?

Those guys are goblins. The big red/pink creature is the demon Kovol, Elliot’s main nemesis.

 

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I see you do a lot of black and white illustration. Is that because there is more available work for that?

I wouldn’t say there’s more of it, its just that I’m well-suited for it and I’ve found that I like doing work for older kids (less cutesy stuff, more monsters and weird stuff) and I guess there is more B&W work in that market.

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Have most of your comic book art been done for magazines?

No. I haven’t done much comics work for paying clients. I wouldn’t mind it, though. I’m having a great time working on my graphic novel and it would be fun if it led to other opportunities.

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How did you hook up with Ronnie Herman Agency? How long has she represented you?

Way back in the early ’90′s my friend Ian Schoenherr set up a meeting for me with Ronnie when she was an editor at Penguin. At the time my “portfolio” was a mess, consisting of a hodgepodge of different styles, none of them particularly well-executed. Ronnie kept one sample from my portfolio: a painting of a daddy rabbit reading a bedtime story to a baby rabbit. I never got a call from Penguin, but several years later when Ronnie retired from Penguin and started her agency, she remembered that image and called me. She took me on and was very patient with me and helped me develop a cohesive portfolio.

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How did you get your first book contract?

Ronnie showed my samples around for a couple years before she got anyone to give me a book project. Eventually Albert Whitman hired me to illustrate Littlebat’s Halloween Story. Not sure what samples got that gig. Interestingly, it was a little painting of a hamster driving a sportscar that got me the Dino Pets gig. That one’s a mystery to me but I’m glad it worked out.

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Was Littlebat’s Halloween Story the only picture you have illustrated?

No, I’ve done three. Littlebat, Dino Pets, & Dino Pets Go To School.

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I see you have two books published with Sterling. How did those contracts come about?

Charlie Nix, An old friend from college contacted me about doing the cartoons for those books. He designed the books.

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Did you know that it was a two-book deal at the time?

We were pretty sure, but it wasn’t guaranteed.

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How did you get to do The Seems series?

Oh boy that’s a long story! Here goes: I was introduced to the authors by a mutual friend who thought we’d make a good creative team. We discussed making a bedtime themed picture book and threw around ideas for a while. We eventually decided on a pillow fort theme and put together a pitch. No one bit on it and I forgot about it but Mike and John didn’t give up and over the next few years they expanded the idea into what eventually became The Seems. Bloomsbury bought it and the authors pushed hard to have me brought in as the artist. They eventually went with someone else for the covers which pissed me off, but I had a great time collaborating with Mike and John and making those pictures. I put a lot into those images. We actually got a movie deal out of it which was a nice windfall but as usual that never went anywhere.

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gideonSeems3_500Did you know it was going to be a series when you illustrated the first book?

The author’s plan was for it to be at least a 3-book series. Of course we all hoped it would go far beyond that….

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Do you expect there will be more books to that series?

I doubt it. I think it would have had to sell much better for that to happen. The overall concept is certainly deep enough to warrant more stories though.

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You illustrated four books that came out in 2007. Were you under a lot of pressure to get four books done during that time?

Yeah, but I was happy to have so much work.

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How long do you normally have to work on the illustrations for a book? Shortest? Longest?

There’s no real “normal”. Every job is different. I’d say in general, schedules just get shorter and shorter as everyone expects work to be done digitally.

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How many black and white illustrations are usually required for a middle grade book?

Anywhere from 8-30. The Elliot books had lots of illustrations, some full page, some spot. Those books were so much fun to illustrate.

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Have worked with any educational publishers?

Yeah, these days that’s where a lot of my work comes from. The money is almost always terrible and of course there are no royalties but its the kind of work you can feel good about doing.

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Do you ever see yourself writing one of your own books? Oh yes, believe me! I have numerous unpublished book projects on file, and they’re all awesome, so all you editors and publishers out there, give me or Ronnie a call.

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Have you done illustrations for any children’s magazines?

As mentioned, Highlights. They are keeping me very busy these days. I do a monthly hidden picture for one of their magazines and I’m also doing several of the books for their Which Way USA series.

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Do you think the Internet has opened doors for you?

Yes. It’s also wasted a lot of my time.

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

I don’t really seek it out anymore. It comes in through Ronnie or from previous clients or referrals.

gideonLordSterling

What do you feel was your greatest success?

I don’t think I’ve had it yet. I’m proud of the painting in “Dino Pets Go To School” but that book is going out of print I think. I’m also proud of the work I did on the Elliot series and the Seems but neither of those series sold well. Sigh. I’m still waiting I guess.

gideonsky

How did you get involved in TV cartoons, backgrounds, production design, and props.?
In ’94 I was broke and my attempts at being an illustrator were mostly failing. A friend introduced me to J.J. Sedelmier (of Beavis and Butthead & SNL TV Funhouse fame) and he took me on as an intern. I knew nothing about animation but I could draw and paint so I found a role as a background painter (this was pre-digital). I made a short film with Tom Warburton which was seen by some folks at Disney and they hired us to be the designers of a new show for ABC called Pepper Ann. We worked together on that for several years and then Tom created Codename: Kids Next Door for Cartoon Network and I served as his background designer on that show too (a guy named Mo Willems just so happened to be the head writer on the show. Ever heard of him? Even if I never have a hit children’s book I can say that I have played touch football with Mo Willems). After that the bottom fell out of the NYC series animation industry. Most of my colleagues in the industry moved to California. I decided to stay on the east coast and recommit to illustration.

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

I work in the upstairs back room of my house. I’ve got a nice sliding glass door leading out onto a deck with a view of some ugly apartment buildings. I love my Cintiq, and all of my reference books, but the thing I really couldn’t live without is the espresso machine in the kitchen.

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

Every job is a chance to improve some aspect of my skill set. I just did a story for an educational publisher in which the main character was a 10-year old Asian boy. I took the job mostly because I’m not very good at drawing Asian kids. I just finished the job today and I think I got a little better at it…

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

I do. I use an OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA.

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Are you open to doing any illustrations for a writer who wants to self-publish?

If they can pay me and I like the project.

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Have you ever thought of self-publishing a book of your own?

Sure. It’s getting easier and more practical to do so. I am self-publishing my graphic novel and selling it and my other comics and prints at various events such as MOCCAfest (happening this weekend in NYC).

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Do you use Photoshop or Corel Painter with your illustrations?

I keep meaning to learn Painter at this point I’m strictly a Photoshop guy.gideonWHATZIT_3_3_1

Have you used or plan to use your comic illustrations in a graphic novel?

Yes, I’m working on a graphic novel now. It is definitely not for kids, however. It’s called WHATZIT and you can buy it, along with a lot of my other not-for-kids stuff at http://www.WHATZITCOMIC.COM

gideonBG_art

It sounds like you are not only a talented illustrator, but an accomplished musician. Could you tell us a little bit about that side of your life, and how you got interested in music?

Acccomplished??? Ha! No, I just love writing songs. I am not particularly skilled as a musician but I enjoy performing and writing, as well as the collaborative nature of music. ITs a nice antidote to sitting alone in my underwear all day drawing pictures.

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

I want to get some of my own children’s books published.

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What are you working on now?

Issue #2 of WHATZIT, some whiteboard projects for Idea Rocket, the next issue of Which Way USA for Hightlights, a serious of fine art prints depicting surreal animals and plants in various states of decay, a revision of one my book pitches (it’s called “The Last Story”. Its awesome. Somebody publish it for god’s sake!). I’m busy.

gideonsnackbar

 

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

Work your ass of and then get very lucky? I dunno, let me call Mo Willems and get back to you. I do however have some advice on how to function and survive as an unsuccessful illustrator: Love your work. Never be satisfied. Get some exercise. Punk rock and espresso are great for tight deadlines.

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Gideon thank you for sharing your wonderful illustrations, process, journey, and expertise with us. Please keep in touch and let us know of all your future successes. We would love to hear about them.

You can visit Gideon at his Illustration website:  http://www.gideonkendall.com
Graphic Novel Website: WHATZIT : http://activatecomix.com/152.comic

Please take a minute and leave Gideon a comment. It is always appreciated. Thanks!

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Filed under: authors and illustrators, demystify, How to, Illustrator's Saturday, inspiration, Interview, picture books, Process Tagged: Cartoon Network, Gideon Kendall

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16. Do You Want Writers (Including Me) To Show Our Work?

I read this really intriguing book last night and this morning: Show Your Work by Austin Kleon.

Here’s his premise: Artists would do well to talk about their work as they work. It helps get their audience more involved and is basically just a friendly thing to do. Which sounds right to me–especially the second part.

I’d be interested in hearing your opinions on this: Do you want to look behind the curtain of a writer’s process? Some of the time, at least? Or would you rather just see the finished product and never really know how a book and all its characters and plot came to be?

For me, if someone like JK Rowling wanted to tell me every week what she did to write that current volume of Harry Potter, I’d be ALL OVER IT. But she’s JK Rowling. There might be other writers whose process wouldn’t thrill me at all. Hard to say.

It’s also hard for me to say whether any of you would be interested in hearing about that process from me. My creative mind sucks up all sorts of influences from all over the place, including a lot of non-fiction sources that I enjoy bringing to new readers via my fiction. Would you be interested in seeing that trail of breadcrumbs from initial idea, through research and writing, to final production? Or would you, honestly, not?

I’d really love to hear your thoughts on this! Thanks!

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17. Taking the Risk of Trying Something New

I recently discovered this wonderful website by artist and writer Stephen McCranie. You could spend hours clicking on every one of his comics/lessons. Here’s a good place to start, with his lesson on why we should be happy to make friends with failure.

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18. Free Fall Friday – April

The New Jersey SCBWI June Conference opened for registration yesterday and it is already one third full, so don’t wait too long to register.  Here is the link: https://www.regonline.com/builder/site/Default.aspx?EventID=1427434

CALL FOR ILLUSTRATIONS: Still need illustrations for the month of April. Would love to show off your illustrations during one of my daily posts. So please submit your illustrations: To kathy (dot) temean (at) gmail (dot) com. Illustrations must be at least 500 pixels wide and include a blurb about you that I can use. Thanks!

Below is the April picture prompt for anyone who would like to use it. Guest Critiquer will be announced next week.

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The above illustration was done by Elizabeth Alba. She works in watercolor and gouche. Elizabeth was featured on Illustrator Saturday in March. Here is the link: http://kathytemean.wordpress.com/2014/03/08/illustrator-saturday-elisabeth-alba/

Here are the submission guidelines for submitting a First Page in April: Please “April First Page Critique” or “April First Page Picture Prompt Critique” in the subject line. 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.

Please attach your first page submission using one inch margins and 12 point font – double spaced, no more than 23 lines to an e-mail and send it to: kathy(dot)temean(at)gmail(dot)com. Also cut and paste it into the body of the e-mail and then also attach it in a Word document to the email.

DEADLINE: April 24th.

RESULTS: May 2nd.

Use inch margins – double space your text – 12 pt. New Times Roman font – no more than 23 lines – paste into body of the email

You can only send in one first page each month. It can be the same first page each month or a different one, but if you sent it to me last month and it didn’t get chosen, you need to send it again using the April’s directions. Of course, it doesn’t have to be the same submission. It can be a first page from a work in process or you can use the picture prompt above.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Filed under: authors and illustrators, Competition, inspiration, opportunity, Places to sumit, Writer's Prompt Tagged: 2014 NJSCBWI Conference, April First Page Critique, Elizabeth Alba, Free Fall Friday

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19. Motives

Writing Life Banner By

Biljana Likic

biljana new picI used to do a lot of acting. I went to an arts high school, my major being drama. Acting isn’t a very big part of my life anymore, but the things I learned in drama class were a massive influence on my development as a writer. Writing is similar to acting, in that you have to connect to the characters you’re creating and that usually involves putting yourself in their shoes. This can be difficult. Motives aren’t always easy to decipher, and I there are times where I just plain don’t know why a character is doing something. Times like these, I remember drama class.

My teacher had this method. It was an all-encompassing method that she gave to us in answer to any issue we had with motives or tactics. What was it?

Find the love in the scene.

The man loves the woman, and the woman is indifferent. Why is she indifferent? She doesn’t love him back.

Boring! Negation doesn’t leave a very good impression compared to agreement. In acting, the first rule of improvisation is that you’re not allowed to negate what your partner says. Granted, a woman’s love isn’t improv, but the point here is that negation isn’t very interesting. It can’t go anywhere. If she doesn’t love him, then who does she love? Someone else? Her work? Her independence? A flat no, without reason, will stagnate. Find the love in her life, and suddenly her reasons for not loving him are clear, and they create deeper conflict that you can develop.

Since conflict makes the story-world go round, it’s fortunate that love is the kind of emotion that is strong enough to start wars. Somebody flying in the face of your love is a serious offense and if it’s bad enough, it will move you to defend your love with everything you have. Characters in a novel are no different. If you find yourself struggling with a plot hole made from a character’s lack of reasons for action, find the love in the scene. If they’re reacting with an anger or hate you can’t explain, all you have to do is consider why they might be angry or have hate. Which is so obvious, I know, but the simplest way of doing that is having the characters love the opposite of what they hate and building the scene around that. If you have a girl glaring at a guy for tossing her a wolf whistle, don’t make it about how she hates bigotry. Make it about how much she loves equality and respect. After that, the hate comes naturally, and its depth is exponential.

Another reason love is so damn important is because from love you can create nearly every kind of relationship or reaction possible. There are three big questions when it comes to acting that you have to ask yourself while developing your character: What does the character want? Why did the character move? Why did the character say that? It’s not a coincidence that those are the exact same questions that I ask myself when I’m struggling with a scene. In the end, the most effective method of answering them is by figuring out what they love. Their loves can be numerous. They can extend away from people and reach into the realm of both abstract and concrete concepts: I love humour, I love music, I love freedom. Take those away from me, and I will fight you. Give them to me and I will appreciate you. Tease me with them, string me along, and I’ll follow, because just the glimpse of those things, just the possibility of possessing them to a greater extent, will seduce me into a state of obedience.

Suddenly, I have three relationships, all three extremely different, all built around what I love, all with perfectly explicable motives that are true to myself and make me consistent about being who I am.

Consider this with your characters, and clarity will follow.

Find the love in the scene.

Biljana Likic is working on her fantasy WIPs and in her fourth year of university, where she can’t wait till she’s out so she’ll finally have all the time in the world to write. You can follow her on Twitter.

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20. SCBWI Conference, My Trip Part 2: Things I Learned! #NY14SCBWI

Snippets of Wisdom from the NY SCBWI Conference



It's been over a month since the conference, but today in part 2, I'm keeping my promise to share a few of the snippets of wisdom I learned at the SCBWI New York Conference. 

What I learned from Tomie DePaola, children's book illustrator:



The influence of theater in Illustration.



Tomie was involved in theater from a young age. In college he had a teacher who told him that "Joining the theater is best thing you can do for your illustration. If you want to be an illustrator, you must love great theater." Tomie has really taken that to heart over the years! 

Costumes can really help define a character. You have to think both in time period and personality when it comes to costumes. Also it's important to take the color of the costume into account with designing the set.

When designing scenery for your illustration, think of how you can change the mood of the scene with color and weather changes.

Character sketches are your casting call. It's important to contrast your characters with size differences and varying features. Make sure you give different characters in the scene different reactions.



What I learned from Brett Helquist, children's book illustrator:



Casting and Character Development


It is important to really spend time to learn the craft of drawing. When characters are drawn well, they are alive. Often times we see illustrations are very well rendered and beautifully composed but the characters are lifeless. 

It is important to push the faces of your characters to be different and not falling into the habit of always drawing the same face.

Don't fuss with the details early on. Be messy and make mistakes. Just start drawing different characters until you find the right one. Do loose and  fast drawings to develop emotions and moods. Don't be afraid to play around with shapes and sizes. Push yourself to draw things you've never drawn before.



What I learned from Paul O. Zelinski, children's book illustrator:



Staging


A Picture book makers could be making a movie. There are characters, lighting and costumes. The edge of the books makes the set. You need to stage every element of the design, including the text in each spread.

The story will tell you what the right shape is for your particular book.

Perspective is fun. Different angles can add to a picture. Horizontal lines represent rules, strictness or stillness. Diagonal lines represent chaos, or moving. Low angle and high angle can tell different stories and add to the psychology of the picture.



What I learned from Holly McGhee art agent, Arthur Levine publisher, and Lily Malcom art director:


This was a panel where these three industry professionals were critiquing work from attendees of the illustrators intensive. Here's a little bit of what they had to say:

It's good to show different expressions and emotional interactions between characters in a picture book. Show the relationships between characters. Use diversity in your characters. Show that two characters relate differently to another character or event in the story.

Show energy in your illustration, don't make your illustrations static. A curve of the neck or a turn of a hand can make a character less wooden.

Vary your values. Remember atmospheric perspective. Recede values. Lights and darks can help to focus and mood a piece. Pay attention to your color palette.

Book covers should convey one clear moment instead of trying to capture the whole book in one image.


What I learned from Laurant Lynn, art director at Simon and Schuster:



Self-Promotion


Remember You are a business. Consider making a recognizable branding. Make goals for updating your website and sending out postcards. Make a one year plan and a five year plan and keep on task.

Website. Keep it clean, simple and easy to navigate. Separate different styles. Include a bio.

Postcards. Send your best work to art directors on post cards with images on both sides. Send out a new card every 3-4 months.

Expand your horizons. Try doing different kinds of illustration and art work. Don't get pigeon holed into a certain genre.

Go to Conferences. Get out and talk to people. Ask questions.

Challenge yourself and your craft. Continually update your art. You never know who is looking at your art. Know what is essential to have in your portfolio, and what you should take out.

Challenge yourself to get better at drawing. Go to figure drawing classes. Read all the time!

Social Media. Just do it! Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Blog!

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21. Illustrator Saturday – Lyn Stone

lynMe @ HobbledownsmallLyn Stone has worked in a variety of jobs, including a Curator at the Tower of London. Being rather small she was the only member of staff who could climb into the display cabinets to clean Henry VIII’s Codpiece, whilst Japanese tourists happily took photographs! She can also boast accidentally shocking an Amerian tourist who mistook two flintlock dueling pistols for gun with real amo! She has also worked as a freelance model-maker for television, working on a variety of shows, for the BBC and ITV. As a model-maker she found herself working with puppets, actors as well TV crew. On one memorable occasion Lyn made a model so big, it had to be built in her garage. Much to the amusement of all her neighbours when a large lorry, bearing the slogan ‘British Broadcasting Corporation’ turned up to collect it and struggled up a very narrow lane! 

Her main line of work, however, has been that of an artist and illustrator. Her amusing drawings have enlivened the pages of many children’s books, from history books to children’s play scripts, and pop-up books. Some of her regular clients have included Oxford University Press, Templar Publishing and Armadillo Childrens books. 

She has lived all her life in south-east London, and when not at her lightbox she enjoys forays from the suburbs to the bright lights, theatres and cinemas of the West End. However soon she’ll be packing her bags and moving to the seaside in Kent, and is hoping that the Kent countryside and beaches will inspire her work!

Here is Lyn showing and discussing her process:

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Step 1 – I place the sketch or enlarged thumbnail onto a lightbox. The watercolour paper is placed on top and using an acrylic-based ink I begin inking the drawing, without following the sketch too carefully.

Step 2

Step 2 – Here is the finished inked artwork. I then stretch the paper using traditional methods.

Step 03

Step 3 – Once dry. I flood the paper with clear water and begin adding the first colour, which spreads and pools in the water in nice unpredictable ways. Start building the colours up a little. Again I am using the wet-in-wet technique.

Step 4revised


Step 4 – While everything is still very wet, I like to ‘push’ the colours around a little so they merge.

Step 5


Step 5 – Now I begin adding colours in a more controlled way with the paper dry but mixing the watercolour over the paper by adding clear water to it.

Step 6


Step 6 – With this particular picture I added the background colours at a later stage.

Step 7

Step 7 – Now I can start adding some texture and pattern by flicking the paintbrush, loaded with paint across the picture – this is great fun!

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Step 8 – Once dry I then scan the artwork and this instance dropped it into a template for an iPAD skin using Photoshop.

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How long have you been illustrating?

Over 20 years

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Did you go to college for art? If so, where I attended.

Southwark College off the Old Kent road in London, where I completed a B/Tec diploma. I then went onto to do a BA Hons at Middlesex University in 3D design. I originally worked in television and am self taught as an illustrator.

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lyngizmo&scatz3How did you decide to attend that school?

Well the first college had a really good reputation at the time and a very good tutor for drawing, even though we did call him Hitler, because he worked us so hard! My second choice probably wasn’t a good one, as I should have done an illustration course, maybe at Brighton, but I learned a range of skills from doing it.

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Can you tell us a little bit about the school and the type of degree you received?

Well it was 3-dimensional work, so ceramics, jewellery making, glass blowing, silversmithing, furniture making, etc., we also studied the history of art.

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lynexploringwideWhat were you favorite classes?

History of art and probably ceramics

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Did the School help you get work?

No. It’s the one bad thing they do not do. You never get to hear about what it’s really like out there in the real world. Universities could do with introducing a few lectures on this subject alone. I am very self-motivated. A year before I was due to graduate I approached the head of design at ITV television. He interviewed me with my portfolio and said to contact him when I graduated. I did and he gave me my first job!

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

I worked on many different British TV shows for both ITV and the BBC.

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

No. I have been influenced by other artists and illustrators. I love the artists Turner and Kandinksy, the illustrators Peter Woodroft, Chris Riddell and my favourite by far is Heath Robinson!

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What was the first art related work that you did for money?

I guess for TV. I built a 25th scale model of The Bill set, and for 10 years it was on display in the MOMI, The Museum Of Moving Image in Central London.

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

I sort fell into it really. A friend of mine wrote travel books and wrote a children’s play that he wanted illustrated. I was known by that time as being very good at creating leaving cards for people, and he suggested I illustrate his book. The publisher then proceeded to use me for more projects, and it very gradually snowballed.

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What was the first book you illustrated?

My friend’s play, entitled The Looking-glass Alchemist

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How did that contract come about?

My friend really put my name forward to the publisher. In those days you could get away with that, lol.

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What do you consider is your first big success?

My first commission with Oxford University Press.

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How did that opportunity come about?

I sent them samples of my work and they asked me to produce a single illustration. What I didn’t realise at the time was that I was competing with three other illustrators for the commission! I got it – hurrah! I had to do over 150 illustrations – a huge project.

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How many picture books have you illustrated?

A true 25-page illustrated picture-book is something I am yet to be commissioned to do – come on publishers, give me that commission! However I have illustrated over 43 books!

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I see you were a model-maker for television. What does a model maker do?

Well a range of interesting things. I used to make mini models of sets, so cameramen could work out where to film, models that were props on set, and models for exhibition purpose.

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How did you get involved in creating pop-up books?

To some publishers my style seems to lend itself to the pop-up genre. The first one I did was a dummy book for the Bologna book fair for Templar Publishing.

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Do you work with the physical creation and working parts of the pop-up books?

A paper engineer will send me a mock up that actually works and the designer on paper will send me templates, so I know the space my artwork must fill.

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What is the children’s publishing industry like in London?

Well the recent recession hit it a bit and it is picking up again, but you cannot get the same fees that were available ten years ago, but that is an international problem. I still love what I do very much, it is just a shame that the profession has been somehow diminished a little by the industry.

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How did you find your agent and how long have you had them?

I have been with Peter now for four years, but tried two others before that. I simply emailed samples of my work and a little of my history and client list (very important if you want to be considered). They receive hundreds of requests weekly, and so I was very lucky.

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Do you always use watercolor to paint your color illustrations?

No, sometimes inks and I have experimented with mix media too!

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What do you use to create your black and white drawings?

An old fashioned dip nib and an acrylic based sepia or black ink. Sometimes however they are created digitally, using illustrator. My greyscale illustrations are created using a propelling pencil with a nice soft led. They’re great because you never need to stop to sharpen them.

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Have you done illustrations for any children’s magazines?

No, but I recently completed working on a two-year project for the Agatha Christie book collection. I illustrated all the villains! Great fun.

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How did you get involved with painting for stage and theatre?

I have never worked in the theatre or on stage as a painter. Only television. However I have produced an illustration for a pantomime, Cinderella for a theatre in Scarborough. It was used on their posters and promotional material.

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Have done any artwork for educational publishers?

Yes. Lots and lots.

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Do illustrators do school visits in the UK?

Yes, and museums and libraries. I have certainly run childrens workshops in both libraries and at a museum – the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich.

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

I find the internet is becoming more and more important. I am on several websites, including the AOI, Association of Illustrators. I also blog regularly, tweet and have a Facebook page.

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Do you ever exhibit your artwork?

Not yet, no. But what a good idea!

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What is the one thing in your studio that you could not live without, other than your paints?

My light box!!!

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

It varies, if you have a tight deadline then a twelve hour day is quite normal!

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Do you have any desire to write and illustrated your own books?

Yes. I have just written three picture books, which are currently being looked at by Macmillan Books. Hopefully they will buy my project – fingers crossed.

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

Often, yes. Especially for a reference book.

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Do you think the Internet has opened doors for you?

Most definitely.

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Do you use Photoshop or Corel Painter with your illustrations?

These days publishers very rarely want original artwork, and of course some of my clients are half way round the world. So I tend to scan my illustrations and digitally prepare them to upload to a client, using Photoshop.

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

Yes own and used! I had to do a series of vector illustrations using illustrator. They were all silhouetted characters and animals.

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

Yes. To write and illustrate my own books. I have always enjoyed writing too.

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What are you working on now?

Have just completed working on peek-o-boo book. They are quite hard to work on, because you have to think in three dimensions all the time, and there are many layout  restrictions. Each page of the book opens up into what I can only describe as a theatre set, and you can peek through to various layers, which together tell a story. Very complex work indeed.

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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 particularly like using Fabriano heat sealed, hand made watercolour paper. It has no knot at all, and takes a bit of knocking about too. Very good quality paper indeed. All artists are different. I prefer to stretch my paper first, the old fashioned way. You can throw as much water and paint at it as you like and it always dry completely flat, which makes scanning less of a headache. My father taught me how to stretch paper as a child.

My favourite art shops are Corneillison & Sons, in Great Russell Street, London, and Chromos in Canterbury. Both hold extremely good stock.

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

You need a will of iron, determination, patience. Unless you are extremely lucky, it can take years to become truly established. Grow a thick skin too. Publishers can be quite harsh about your work when it gets to editing roughs stage. Join an illustration association, as they can provide you with advice on fees and legal advice. They can often provide standard contracts too that you can give to potential clients, and so well worth joining. Above enjoy what you do!

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Lyn thank you for sharing your wonderful illustrations, process, journey, and expertise with us. Please keep in touch and let us know of all your future successes. We would love to hear about them.

You can visit Lyn at her website:  http://www.lynstone.com or stop by the agency that represents her: The Illustrator Agency

Please take a minute and leave Lyn a comment. It is always appreciated. Thanks!

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Filed under: How to, illustrating, Illustrator's Saturday, inspiration, Interview, Process, Tips Tagged: Armadillo Childrens books., Lyn Stone, Templar Publishing

6 Comments on Illustrator Saturday – Lyn Stone, last added: 4/1/2014
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22. Deciding To Worry About That Tomorrow

Two posts about fear and worry in the past few weeks? Yeah, you bet. Because I’ve been skiing for the past few weeks, and that always reactivates all the fear cells in my body and makes me think about my safety in ways I don’t normally have to in my everyday life.

I like the ground. I like dirt. I love to run and hike and backpack–all at my own bodily speed.

But when you’re at the mercy of gravity and two slick planks speeding over slippery snow, that’s not normal. Even Olympic downhill racers will tell you so.

The problem is, I love it. Love leaving my southwest desert town where it’s already in the mid-80s (sorry, east-coasters) and going to the mountains where it’s still winter. Love being out in the snowy wilderness with husband and dogs, cross-country skiing for hours at a time while our year-old black Labrador, Moose, rolls in every snowbank he can find and the older Lab, Bear, trots along beside us hoping he won’t have to run too much because really, this is fun and all, but isn’t it time for a nap?

So to reconcile those two things, I’ve had to adopt the Worry About That Tomorrow schedule.

It’s something I read about years ago, and thought was ridiculous–until I tried it.

The idea is to schedule your worry. Decide, “Okay, at 3:00 PM every Thursday, I’m going to sit down for an hour and really cut loose. Remind myself of everything I’ve been afraid of all week–maybe even keep a list of worries for just that reason–and then sit down and go through each of them and really feel the fear. No shame, no holds barred. Steep in it. Go.”

Sure, some weeks by the time Thursday afternoon came around I was already over the anxiety I’d felt about something on Monday. But there were also times when I really looked forward to giving myself permission to flip out if I wanted to. It feels good to be your own best friend and say, “Okay, let’s hear it. Tell me everything.”

Once I got used to putting off fear until a specific day of the week, I learned to extend it for weeks at a time. And eventually to months. Here’s what I’m talking about:

It was the beginning of summer. Sweltering hot (see March temperature above and add 30 degrees to it). I was reading Outside Magazine and came across an article about outdoor summer adventures in Iceland.

Ice-land. YESSSSS.

Luckily, I have the kind of husband who, when I send him an e-mail asking, “Want to go to Iceland in a few weeks?” writes back succinctly, “Sure.”

So I started planning and reserving, and put together an awesome adventure trip. One that included staying on an Icelandic horse farm for a week, then kayaking in the North Atlantic, then backpacking on this very remote, rugged, isolated spot of land.

And to do all that, we’d have to (1) ride on big horses, (2) ride in small boats, and (3) ride in small planes. All of which have a history of activating my fear cells.

But I really wanted to do it. Really wanted the adventure, all those experiences, and especially really wanted to get the heck out of the hell temperatures we were experiencing.

So I just scheduled my fears. Picked a date on the calendar that was a few days after our trip was over, and made myself the solemn promise that I would completely freak out then about all of the dangers I had to face.

And I’m telling you, it worked.

Every time my heart started to beat a little faster during the trip, I’d remind myself, “Not now. Later.” And because I was so used to keeping my promise about fully feeling the fear at scheduled times, I knew that promise was real. So I immediately settled down.

We did crazy things for those two and a half weeks. Scary, dangerous things that I didn’t even know we’d be doing when I planned the trip. And I was completely serene about all of them.

And ever since then, because of that, I know I can flip the switch on and off. That was a really important experiment for me. And it’s a skill I’ve taught friends and family, and a lot of them have had similar successes.  It’s doable, people, I promise you. You can put your fears under your own control. I urge you to try the experiment for yourself.

I’ve also learned to apply it to my writing life. I always have dual reactions when a new book of mine comes out. On the one hand, I’m all, Look! I made this for you! I hope you all read it and love it!” But there’s an equally strong part of me that says, “No! Don’t read that! It’s full of my feelings and opinions! It’s too personal! Look away!”

It reminds me of a friend of mine whose little 3-year-old boy stood with her in the checkout lane at a grocery store, and had his hands down the front of his pants. The customer behind him kept looking at him and smiling, and finally the little boy blurted out, “Stop looking at me!”

Sorry, little dude, but if you’re going to stand in public with your hands down your pants, people are going to look.

That’s right, launching a new book is like standing around with your hands down your pants. You heard it here first.

I definitely had that reaction to my new book THE GOOD LIE coming out last month. I’d been sitting on it for a while, but then when that Woody Allen-Dylan Farrow controversy broke in January of this year, I knew I had some of my own feelings and opinions about the topic that I wanted to share. So I released the book, but definitely felt both “Read it!” and “Don’t read it!” at the same time.

So as with all of my books, I’ve had to pick a date in the future–four months seems about right–when I’m allowed to worry about it. On June 5 I will sit down and have a whole long session about it. But until then, nope, sorry, it’s all just perfectly fine.

Which makes this seem like a good spot to include this button you can push to enter to win a free signed copy of the book later next month. Go ahead. I’m not afraid. How can I be? It’s not even close to June 5 yet.

But I’m telling you, on that day, whew. Look out.

Good luck with your own experiments. Feel free to report back. :)

Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Good Lie by Robin Brande

The Good Lie

by Robin Brande

Giveaway ends April 25, 2014.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

 

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23. More Showing, Less Telling

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I met Erika Wassall at the end of February at a NJSCBWI get-together in Cherry Hill, NJ. I let the writers there know how open I am to writers sending me articles I could use on my blog. Erika sent me this interesting article below for today’s post. I think you will enjoy it.

More Showing, Less Telling

Really? I mean, what’s the difference? If I say, Billy was sick, then we all know that Billy is sick, right? Isn’t that what’s important?

Why do I have to worry so much about SHOWING as opposed to TELLING the reader what my characters are doing? What difference does it REALLY make?

The best way I’ve learned it is that the difference largely comes down to… all right, so Billy is sick…. But why should I CARE??

We all know we want our readers to care about our characters. Max from Where the Wild Things Are, Harold with his Purple Crayon, all the way up to Katniss and down to Christopher Robin, these characters were tugging at our heartstrings even when they were just picking up a jug of honey.

One of the many ways that we do this is through the special little nuances of the way they do things. Anyone can pick up a jug of honey. But the way Winnie the Pooh does it, now THAT’s special.

We read about his sticky paws and the giant drop of honey dripping down his check. And ultimately, isn’t that why we love him?

It’s all about creating images. Ideally images that are burned into the readers brain so much that it links right to their heart.

For me, the next question was… okay, so how, exactly, do I do that?

How do I really know for sure if I’m showing rather than telling?

Via brainstorming with a few other fabulous writers over at Julie Hedlund’s 12×12 extravaganza, we came up with what is not only a great way to test if you’re showing, but is also a wonderful writing exercise.

It’s fantastically simple too. You say to yourself:

How Can I PROVE It?

So Billy is sick. But if no one TOLD me Bill was sick, how do I KNOW?

Is there snot dripping from his nose? Is there a river of sweat pouring from his temples? Is he frighteningly feverish, maddeningly mopey or curled in a cocoon under his covers?

I know personally, I FEEL more for a child curled up in bed with a snotty nose and his arms crossed in mopey madness than I do for a child who is just… sick.

I use this trick in two ways.

1) When I read over my manuscripts, I ask myself… if I wasn’t the omnipotent narrator… how would I KNOW this was true? How can I create a vivid image where I don’t even have to say the words themselves, instead the reader can SEE it.

2) As an exercise my 12×12 friends and I exchange phrases, and basically say PROVE IT!!! to each other.

Here’s an example:

Johnny hurt his knee.

If I’m looking through a window, watching Johnny play, what happens that proves to me that he hurt his knee?

Johnny crashed to the ground and rolled onto his back, clutching his knee.

Or depending on who I’m trying to portray Johnny as, maybe…

The pain shot up Johnny’s knee and filled his eyes to the brim with tears. But he gritted his teeth and picked up his hockey stick. He wasn’t going to let the other boys know he wanted to quit.

Showing and not telling is a challenge for all writers. But it can also provide some fantastic opportunities to add depth to our characters, and build that emotional connection with the reader that we all strive for.

Here’s a few for you to try. Ask yourself, how can I PROVE this? And see what you can come up with!!

Bobby hated school. 

Theresa wanted to go home. 

Puddles the Poodle couldn’t wait for his boy to get home.

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 and tanks for offering to do regular posts here on Writing and Illustrating.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Filed under: article, inspiration, writing excercise, Writing Tips Tagged: Erika Wassall, Guest Blogger, Julie Hedlund, Less Telling, More Showing

12 Comments on More Showing, Less Telling, last added: 4/2/2014
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24. So Good It Hurts (In a Good Way)

OMG, this video had me bawling. So great. Love this whole idea of making the sky rain goodness over one person.

Enjoy!

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25. Calling Young Writers Grades 1-8.

The Society of Young Inklings, a non-profit with a mission of empowering young writers, publishes an annual anthology of the stories and poems of talented young writers–this year we are holding a contest to see whose pieces will be included. We are looking for fresh new voices to publish in our anthology.

Young writers in grades 1-8 with stories or poems are encouraged to enter the contest. Submissions must be in final draft and students must commit to completing an editing process if their piece is chosen. For more information on the contest please check HERE.

We’re looking for bloggers who might want to do a guest post about the contest to help us reach students who may not otherwise know about the opportunity. We also have an email specifically for educators in case anyone wants that to pass on to a teacher/librarian. If you’d like that email to forward on, email me directly, and I’m happy to forward it to you.

Here are some Q and A’s about the contest.

Q: Who is the Inklings Book Contest for?

A: All young writers who are ready to take their writing to the next level. Writing is just one part of the creative process. Just as it’s important for actors, musicians and dancers to perform, it’s important for writers to have their stories read and enjoyed. We learn new things about ourselves as writers when we prepare our work for readers, and also when we hear feedback about our published pieces. All writers, regardless of their age, need access to that kind of essential feedback. Plus, it’s inspiring to hear that a reader loved our story, and it makes all the hard work worthwhile. Positive feedback sends writers back to their writing desks to create again.

Q: How will I know if my story is ready to submit?

A: One excellent way to prepare a story for submission is to read it out loud to a friend or a group of friends. Ask for feedback about what’s working and what questions your friends may have. Aside from being a huge confidence booster, you’ll also find out what additions or changes may help your story be more clear and more engaging. Notice where people laugh, in particular, and see if you can magnify that effect. Humor often comes in threes. If you have one funny moment that’s working well, you can build on it by repeating the moment with a small change. On the Young Inklings website, you’ll also find a checklist to help you check the fine details of your story just before sending it in.

Q: Why do you ask all of the writers to revise for the Inklings Book?

A: When professional writers send their work into a publisher, they have the opportunity to work with an editor who helps them refine their work. At some point in the writing process, writers need an outside eye. This person helps us read the story from a new perspective: the perspective of someone who doesn’t have all of our personal memories, experiences and passions. We learn what we might need to add or change to help a reader experience the story fully. Some writers are worried about revising with someone else, because they feel their story shouldn’t be influenced by anyone but themselves. All artists are influenced by many factors, though. Our writing is influenced by the books we read, the experiences we have, the voices in our communities, and many other sources. When an editor provides us with outside perspective, this is just another way to make our writing even more spectacular.

Q: Is it a real, published book?

A: Yep! We’re thrilled because the Inklings Book is not going to only be available online, but also in the fabulous independent store, Hicklebees. Young writers and their mentors will all be contributing authors for the book, so the final product will be a collaboration of many creative minds.
******************
Naomi Kinsman

Executive Director
Society of Young Inklings

www.younginklings.org

Thanks for helping me spread the word to deserving young writers!

 

 

 


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