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1. Outlining Your Novel

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

Here it is:

Benefits of Outlining Your Story

 

  1. Ensures Balance and Cohesion

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

  1. Prevents Dead-End Ideas

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

  1. Provides Foreshadowing

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

  1. Smoothes Pacing

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

  1. Indicates Preferable POVs

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

  1. Maintains Consistent Character Voice

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

  1. Offers Motivation and Assurance

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

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


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

2 Comments on Before the Sale – Book Appeal, last added: 11/24/2014
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3. Creative ways to think outside the box

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It’s easy to presume that your doodles, illustrations, paintings and creative thoughts should make their way straight to paper or canvas although just for a minute why not think outside the box.  Break the rules and do something creatively different that sets your doodles apart , not to abandon your sketchbook for to long but challenge yourself to something different. To help get you started heres just a few creative ways you can do that and truly think outside the box to show others just how creative you can be.

  • Remember that rather dull phone or tablet case you bought thats lacking a certain creative omph, well grab yourself some paint or a paint based marker and create your own custom case design.  Add your own style and choose your own theme to make a stylish creative case you’d want to show off and not hide.
  • Mugs are great because they often get filled with heart warming teas or beverages although a plain little old mug is some what sad and gloomy. However with some ceramic paint or markers you  could give it an unique handdrawn design of its own that is sure to make your tea breaks even better.
  • For fellow lovers of fabric the dream is no doubt to create your own and you can even without a huge fabric printer. With some acrylic paints and fabric medium you can paint your own designs onto calico, making reams of your own one of a kind design to embellish any type of project from home furnishings to wallart and more.
  • That little pair of converse you happen to have sitting in the hallway could use a splash of ink wouldn’t you say? Grab yourself some pens and markers ( ones that work well on canvas fabric and will not run) and create yourself a fashion piece that will set you apart from everyone else.

Image by artist  Jaco Haasbroek  you can find out more about their work here.

0 Comments on Creative ways to think outside the box as of 11/23/2014 4:48:00 PM
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4. Illustrator Saturday – Leeza Hernandez

leeza_johnlithgow

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

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

Leezawcat

Here is Leeza explaining her process:

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

Adobe Photoshop PDF

These are the thumbnail sketches for the book layout.

Adobe Photoshop PDF

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

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

CreativeReference

Below you can see the process of the cover art.

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Below is an up close look at the final cover.

never play music

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

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

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When did you decide you wanted to illustrate for children?

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

Leeza_IF_wisdom400

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

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

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

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

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

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Have you met John Lithgow?

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

BN-AB344_lithgo_Q_20131019142409

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

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

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

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

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Will there be a third book with Ann?

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

eat your math homework

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

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

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

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

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

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Do you have plans to write and illustrate another book?

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

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What do you consider your first big success?

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

PencilOnArches

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

PencilOnArches2What is on the drawing board now?

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

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Do you ever use Corel Painter or Photoshop when illustrating?

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

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Do you own a graphic tablet?

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

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

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

Hernandez_Wolf

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

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

lhernandez_wolf

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

LeezaHernandez_Blog

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

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

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

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

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

leeza

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

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

leeza in and outcropped

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

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

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

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

leeza rock bandcropped

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

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

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


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

10 Comments on Illustrator Saturday – Leeza Hernandez, last added: 11/24/2014
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5. Keeping the Flame Alive – Erika Wassall

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

Keeping the Flame Alive

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

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

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

Bottom line: Writing is very hard work.

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

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

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

Basically, I indulge myself.

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

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

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

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

The outcome?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

… you, and your manuscripts are worth it.

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

Thank you Erika for another great post. I think everyone looks forward to your posts.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


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

7 Comments on Keeping the Flame Alive – Erika Wassall, last added: 11/20/2014
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6. Do you make time to draw?

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Do you make enough time to draw? Some of us doodle at any opportunity we get. Yet there are also times when we get so swept up in daily doings that we don’t quite draw as much as we’d like to for fun and enjoyment.  Taking more time to doodle will not only keep your creative idea’s flowing , fill your sketchbooks with beautiful things but also make drawing fun feeling less like work.  So here are afew places you can sketch with ease, seize the opportunity  pick up that pencil and draw!

Places you can draw:

  • On the bus
  • On the train
  • In the car
  • On a rainy day
  • On the phone
  • In bed
  • At the park
  • In the garden
  • On your lunch break

Remeber, you should draw because the more you do draw the more those amazing ideas in your creative mind will meet the page for all to see.

Image by Illustrator Chuck Groenink you can find out more about his work here .

0 Comments on Do you make time to draw? as of 11/16/2014 2:57:00 PM
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7. It’s Just as Easy to Fall in Love with a Rich Mag as a Poor Mag

money_freelancerI’ve been noticing something weird from aspiring writers lately.

And it’s not the fact that we’re always starting forum threads about their favorite type of pen, though that does weird me out a bit. I mean, who’s doing writing assignments and blog posts with a pen? It also seems like a stalling tactic…hey, let’s have a rousing conversation about writing tools instead of actually writing! :)

No, it’s that they’re always asking me (and Carol, the Den Mother at the Freelance Writers Den) how they can break into the Huffington Post.

Why, for the love of all that is good and holy…WHY?

So we ask these writers why they want to write for a market that doesn’t pay its writers, and they reply that it will be good exposure. They think if their writing appears on this particular site, editors of paying pubs will see it and burn up the keyboard to offer lucrative writing assignments.

When I hear this, I want to turn into your grandma. Women writers, has your grandmother ever told you, “It’s just as easy to fall in love with a rich man as a poor man”? Well, the same philosophy applies to writing: It’s just as easy to fall in love with a rich mag as a poor mag.

If you can break into the Huffington Post or some other market that pays in exposure only, then you have what it takes to land assignments from markets that pay actual money. The same amount of effort can bring you a poor mag…or a rich one. You still need to craft a killer query. You still need to write a kick-ass article. Why not do it for pay?

The whole idea of writing for free for a poor mag to eventually attract a rich mag doesn’t fly, anyway. Because, you know what? You can find a metric buttload of paying pubs that have as large a readership as the Huffington Post. So if your goal is to write for, say, health magazines, you could go after the poor mag with a big audience, like HuffPo — or you can pitch a rich mag with a big audience, like Health. (And which one do you think the editors of Fitness, and Women’s Health, and WebMD are more likely to be scoping out?)

The poor mag tries to entice you with exposure, hoping you don’t realize you can do the same writing for pay AND exposure. Don’t fall for it. [lf]

Also, a BIG announcement: Carol Tice and I will be running our Article Writing Masterclass again in January. This 10-week class includes five info-packed lessons on everything from nailing a mag’s style to dealing with revisions; plenty of free resources and extras; and assignment critiques by actual editors. (Last session, we had a Redbook editor and a former Entrepreneur editor.) Carol and I will be offering a special deal just to people on the class’s waiting list, so sign up for the waitlist now!

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8. Three Tricks For Showing Rather Than Telling

Three Tricks For Showing Rather Than Telling

 by Trish Wilkinson

trish20131226_D800_trishwilkinson_family_5447_trish_2x3-225x300For readers to become invested in a story, they need to “see” characters’ movement and action within a setting. Writers often hear, “Show don’t tell,” and sometimes we think, “But I did show – didn’t I? How do I fix this?”

Here are a few quick tips for showing rather than telling:

  1. Use ACTIVE VERBS rather than passive ones wherever possible.

Keep this list of passive verbs near your computer until you get in the habit of using them sparingly. (I tell my students: “If you must use passive verbs, limit them to no more than one or two on a page.”)

  • Forms of be to AVOID: is, are, was, were, be, being, and been
  • Auxiliary verbs: am, did, do, does, can, may, might, will, would, shall, should, must, has, have, had, could
  • Adjectives (describing words)
  • Adverbs (words used to modify verbs that tell us when, where, how, in what manner, or to what extent – words ending in –ly; other examples: yesterday, here, barefoot, fastest)

Telling/Passive: She was running quickly to the dilapidated shed because she needed a place to hide.

Showing/Active: She sprinted to the shed, slipped inside, and crouched under a sawhorse behind a stack of paint cans.

  1. Place your characters in a setting at the beginning of every scene, so your reader can “see” them.

Begin every scene with a few words of setting BEFORE a character shares thoughts or engages in conversation. Otherwise, fuzzy talking heads float in space until the writer gets around to putting the characters in a specific location.

Example:

I heard the T.V., so I went to the living room and found my dad on the couch rubbing his temples.

            “You got it wrong,” I said. “Someday these time-wasting doodles will make me rich.”

A quick aside: Forget all the fancy words you learned in middle school – replied, chortled, stuttered, etc. – and use SAID, which is considered the invisible dialogue tag.

  1. Write ACTION TAGS within conversations rather than dialogue tags wherever possible.

If your characters shove their hands in their pockets or tuck a curl behind an ear or move to the other side of the room, action tags can show details and movement, adding to the depth of the scene.

Example:

I heard the T.V., so I went to the living room and found my dad on the couch, rubbing his temples.

“You got it wrong.” I dropped my drawing in front of him on the coffee table. “Someday these time-wasting doodles will make me rich.”

These three things: active verbs, establishing the setting, and using action tags in dialogue, will transform your scenes from flat and fuzzy into mental motion pictures.

Trish Wilkinson is a writing coach, content and line editor. You can find her at: www.write-to-win.com

Thanks Trish for sharing your expertise with us. I am sure it will help many of the new writers who visit and also help remind the rest of us to always strive for an active voice.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Filed under: Advice, article, How to, Process, reference, Writing Tips Tagged: Action Tags, Active Verbs, Trish Wilkinson, Write to Win

6 Comments on Three Tricks For Showing Rather Than Telling, last added: 11/14/2014
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9. Managing Eagerness

I tell clients all the time that my job is to manage expectations. Part of working with a freelance editor is expecting to be pushed outside of your manuscript comfort zone a little bit. Most writers come to me with the thought, “I am excited by my idea but I know there are several things that aren’t working. I want to learn and grow and make it better.” Maybe that writer has gotten some early feedback from critique partners about things that need tweaking. Or they’ve already done an unsuccessful submission round with agents or editors and they didn’t get the response they expected. Or maybe their manuscript isn’t meeting their own internal expectations and they just don’t know what to do about it. Enter a second pair of eyes: an editor.

A small percentage of writers, however, and I’ve only had this experience twice in my editorial career, are so convinced of the merits of the manuscript that they’re not looking for an editor. They are looking, I’d imagine, to get on the radar of someone even tangentially connected to the industry, and get a booster to the top. Maybe they think I will recommend them personally to agents. Maybe they think I’ll start agenting again myself for the sake of scooping up a hot project. Or maybe they just want the gold star from someone who has made a career of saying, basically, “yes” or “no” to thousands of other writers.

I try very hard to generate constructive, actionable feedback. I’ve never sent a set of notes that says, “This sucks, it’s dead in the water, and you should probably stick with your day job.” One time, at a conference, I met with a writer who told me something shocking. “This,” she said, “is the first manuscript I’ve written in twenty-five years. I had a writing teacher in college tell me I was no good, and it hurt so much that I stopped writing altogether.”

This woman lost twenty-five years of her writing life. She clearly loved doing it, but because one voice (in a presumed position of authority) told her she wasn’t good enough, she gave up on her dream for a quarter of a decade (and almost all of her adult life up until that point). People perceive me as an authority, too. And so I have made it my goal to never wield that power in a way that hurts a writer.

Do I rave about every manuscript unequivocally, then? Absolutely not. Even excellent writers have some blind spots. So whether I’m helping a beginning writer cut fancy “said” synonyms out of their dialogue, or I’m helping an MFA-graduate with beautiful prose work on plot and overall sales hook, I try my best to do it with the dignity and respect that each writer and each manuscript deserves, for where they are in their individual journey.

All that said, I still run into writers who have expectations that perhaps outpace their current manuscripts. Whether those expectations are of the one-in-a-million runaway success, or their shot at being a multimedia mogul, perhaps even in the query letter, I see this happen with writers. They’ve created websites, maybe, or products, or they’ve already self-published. They have a lot to say about various awards they’ve won or endorsements they’ve gotten. There’s little talk about the manuscript, though, as if that was just an afterthought.

This sends a message to me that the writer isn’t as interested in rolling up their sleeves and working on the product itself. To me, everything but the manuscript is just noise. You can send me a t-shirt with your characters on it, or a list of testimonials from school appearances, and all that is fine and good. I’m a driven, type-A personality, too, and I have way more ideas than I have time to make them all a reality. I respect proactive people. But my only concern is the manuscript.

It’s what an agent or editor will respond to. It’s what will stand out among the noise if it’s, indeed, worthwhile. I saw excitement bubbling over for a perfectly lovely client last week, and I wrote to them: “The only way to get someone excited about your work is by presenting good work, and letting it speak for itself.” It’s easy to say but very hard to do. It’s also at the very core of what I do as an editor. Every writer has a different personality, and some are more eager than others. That’s okay. My job, however, is to help put the crucial piece of that manuscript into place, and help writers create good work so that they can then present it. It’s as simple and as difficult as that, but, man, do I love my job.

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10. 5 ways to take your sketchbook ideas and turn them into finished pieces

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Last week we were spending a creative sunday discovering ways you can have fun filling the pages of your sketchbook.  No doubt by now those exact same pages are filled with the seeds of a great creative project , now all you have to do is take those initial sketchbook ideas and turn them into something creatively amazing and here’s ways following last week’s post you can do that.

1.  From a continuous fine liner doodle look at what you’ve created. Is there are character or motif on your page that you can trace on layout paper turning it into a developed illustration piece. Could you grow that initial idea; add extra aspects to it that weren’t there before and develop it into something new that might be a great addition to your portfolio.

2.  What was once a spontaneous splash on your page might now be an amazing initial illustration idea all dried up and ready for developing. You might have a series of quirky inky characters, imaginative creatures and more that you can now scan and turn into anything from a surface pattern to a series of illustrative prints.

3. Were you brave enough to rip a hole in your sketchbook page? If you were and grew a little illustration into a bigger one, growing a concept for a story or filling it with typography script, you could now scan and digitally colour your pieces turning them into a book or series of prints for an online shop.

4. If you dabbled in paper collage and created a sketched paper piece, you could take elements from your experimentation that worked and move them further in your project. So for example if a black fine line doodle contrasted better on graph paper collage, then use those elements that work along with your drawing theme of choice to develop further turning initial sketchbook ideas into a series of framed pieces maybe?

5. The last sketchbook filling idea was to find one thing where you were and sketch it in different ways, materials and perspectives on your pages to create a number of motifs. Once you’ve done this you could retrace your sketches onto tracing paper to tidy up the best designs you want to use. Then begin incorporating colour and combine shapes to make new pattern prints that could be for many different things from phone cases to notebook covers, fabric and more.

Image by artist Sarah Ahearn you can find out more about her work here.

0 Comments on 5 ways to take your sketchbook ideas and turn them into finished pieces as of 1/1/1900
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11. Illustrator Saturday – Sholta Walker

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

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

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

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

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

Here is Sholta discussing his process:

Creating ‘Bug!’ and Brer Fox

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

Image 1b

 

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

Image 2a

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

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

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

Image 3a

 

Image 3b

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

Image 4a

Image 4b

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

Image 5a

Image 5b

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

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How long have you been illustrating?

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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When did you decide you wanted to illustrate for children?

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

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

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

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Have you done any other books with HarperCollins?

Yes several. At least four or five.

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

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

 

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How many books have you illustrated?

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

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

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

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

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

The Tin Soldier

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

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

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Have you done any illustrating for children’s magazines?

No, not so far.

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

Dip pen and Indian ink. Then Photoshop and Illustrator.

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Has that changed over time?

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

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What do you consider is your first big success?

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

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How did that come about?

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

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

Yes

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

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

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

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

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Have you done any work for educational publishers?

Yes, lots.

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Has all your work come from European publishers?

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

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

My bicycle, hanging on the wall.

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

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

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Do you think the Internet has opened doors for you?

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

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Do you use Photoshop or Corel Painter with your illustrations?

Photoshop.

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

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

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

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

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What are you working on now?

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

160-86754Do you have any material type tips you can share with us? Example: Paint or paper that you love – the best place to buy – a new product that you’ve tried – A how to tip, etc.

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

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

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

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

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

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Filed under: Advice, authors and illustrators, illustrating, Illustrator's Saturday, inspiration, Interview, picture books, Process, Tips Tagged: Cheltenham College of Art in Cheltenham, England, Ilustrationweb.com, Sholta Walker

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12. SCBWI School Visit Webinar

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Webinar – School Visits with Suzanne Morgan Williams

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

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

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

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

Click HERE to register for:

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

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

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

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


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

4 Comments on SCBWI School Visit Webinar, last added: 11/6/2014
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13. Dealing with Rejection by Erika Wassall

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

FULL DISCLOSURE – Dealing with a Rejecting Critique

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

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

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

Suffice it to say: Liza was not a fan.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“She just doesn’t GET it.”

A few hours passed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Because you know what? Our manuscripts are worth it.

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

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


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

7 Comments on Dealing with Rejection by Erika Wassall, last added: 11/7/2014
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14. 5 creative ways to fill your sketchbook

Liliema Brainstorm (3)

If you’re ready to start a new project or just feel like taking a lazy sunday to doodle but aren’t quite sure how to best start filling those blank sketchbook pages with amazing things, here’s 5 ways to fill your sketchbook and have fun doing it.

  1. Take a fine liner and draw in one continuous line filling all spaces on your page without actually taking the pen off the surface until you’re finished.
  2. Using ink make a spontaneous splash, drip, or dribble on your page then leave it to dry and afterwards using a material of choice (pen or pencil etc.) create something from that drip whether an animal, flower , imaginative creature and more.
  3. Rip a hole in a middle section of your page and begin drawing an illustration or doodle in the middle of the hole. The idea is to grow the little illustration into something bigger out of that hole, could be anything in any shape or form you wish from typography, pattern to an imaginative story like concept .
  4. Take a piece of paper collage ( this could be a newspaper clipping, diary piece, parcel paper, map or magazine clipping) and stick it to the sketchbook page, then create an illustration on its surface. If you’re a lover of fashion illustration you could for example cut out models and create your own imaginative designs the potentials endless because so is your imagination.
  5. Find one thing where you are now (whether you’re outside, at home ,bedroom or office) and sketch that one thing in different ways, materials and perspectives on that one page creating a pattern of that one thing you chose.

Once you’re done you can then develop these initial sketchbook ideas into something bigger like a series of book illustrations, patterns, fashion pieces, paintings and more. So grab those materials, open up those sketchbooks and get started  having fun working on those big ideas.

Image by artist Aurelie you can find out more about her work here.

1 Comments on 5 creative ways to fill your sketchbook, last added: 11/4/2014
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15. Illustrator Saturday – Laura-Susan Thomas

Laura-SusanThomasphotoLauren-Susan Thomas currently illustrating children’s books, on the foggy Central Coast of California. She earned my BFA in Illustration at the University of Arizona, worked as an illustrator/designer since graduating in ’87’ and worked as a ‘Walt Disney Imagineer’ for 11 years creating themed dimensional graphics and illustrations from creatures under the sea mermaids to dinosaurs to ancient Tibetan ruins.

She has illustrated for, BabyBug magazine, Kids Reading Room LA TImes and an up coming book series, ‘Reid’s Amazing Universe’ the first of which is out on ibooks for children.

Here is Laura-Susan discussing her illustrating process:

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I had to share Laura-Susan’s cute little studio. It is only a few yards from her house.

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How long have you been illustrating?

I have been Illustrating since graduating from college, way back in 1987, but drawing since I was a kid. I doodled on my notebooks, school assignments and was forever thrilled when my elementary teachers uttered the word, Diorama. My dad would bring home reams of old spreadsheets from his work and I would draw on the backsides.  My favorite thing to draw were characters and the worlds they inhabited in my imagination, which without realizing was a great primer for the storytelling and world building later at Disney and the children’s literature world.

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What made you choose to you study art at the University of Arizona and get your BFA?

I always knew I wanted to be an artist, but I also loved archeology and the romance of ancient civilizations, so I chose U of A because they had a strong Fine Arts department and a renowned Archeology Department as well! I actually was able to combine some of my love for archeology and old civilizations with art and when I was at Disney Imagineering on some of the lands I worked on.

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Have you taken any other art related courses after that?

Currently I am very excited and inspired, in August I started with EB Lewis in his “Visual Mentor” program. It has been such great opportunity and chance to learn and expand the feel and look of my artwork!

After graduation form college, I took some animation courses and many figure drawing courses. At Disney they encouraged their artists to keep learning and offered free Wednesday figure drawing sessions after work.  I went back to school while at Disney in the evenings, for computer arts, learning vector based and digital based tools for the arts, photoshop and illustrator.

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

The first legit paying gigs I had were in College. I created the character/mascot for a yearly triathlon in Tucson, A buff bike riding, running swimming frog and I painted the billboards for the drama theater on campus for a time and did some summer theater backstage work.

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

I worked for a screen printer creating graphics and designs for surf wear and clothing.

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How did you get the job with Disney?

I applied through an industry ad for a screen printing fine arts separator. It was my fine arts background and my first job in screen printing that helped me get the job at Disney Imagineering. Our department produced the final hand done separations and the fine arts Serigraphs and posters for the parks. From there I moved on and worked in the Graphic Design department as a comp/production artist, and later as a Designer and Illustrator. As an Imagineer you are part of creating essentially the worlds biggest stage sets. Being an artist at Imagineering was a fun, nontraditional, imaginative, job. As a designer, you had the honor of working with, Blue sky designers, writers, architects, interior designers, props, sculptors, robotics experts and more. I got to be part of creating all sorts of things, from themed ancient tibetan ruins, giant carved fish characters, to dinosaur paintings and mermaids, in Euro Disney, Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Tokyo Disney Seas.

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How did you decide you wanted to venture into freelance art projects?

In 1996, my husband, Hariette (our pet rabbit) and I took a a chance and an adventure and made our way from Los Angeles up to the little surf towns, ranches and rolling oak covered hills of the Central Coast of California. I continued to work for Disney full time from afar. I was one of their first full time telecommuters back in the age of dial up, conference calls and Fedex, painting away in my foggy studio. Our Fedex planes here were prop planes and our post office was actually in the back of hardware store and I admit many conference phone calls were done while working, wearing my “casual attire”. FaceTime did not exist yet thank goodness. It worked wonderfully and I would drive to LA once week and travel to job sites in Florida for many years. When my daughter and later my son arrived I took a break from travel and full time work, it seemed the perfect time to start working on a freelance basis.

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Do you think Disney influenced your style?

Imagineering was all about backstory, telling the tale of the place through characters, through writing, props and themed space, that helped a guest believe they had gone from reality to another world. I think that idea greatly influenced my work and I love to be able to create art for books, that transports someone to a world they believe in and get to play in for awhile.

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When did you decide you wanted to illustrate for children?

I attended a Conference in Marian Del Rey when the SCBWI was SCBW and was hooked. I began collecting children books before I had kids. When my kids were school age, I jumped in full time. Five years ago. I Attended a conference in LA, met a circle of friends who later became our fantastic illustrators critique group! Between my critique group and all the amazing people I have met through the SCBWI, I am so excited to be a part of this community!

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

I have postcards and a website with childrensillustrators.com and Carbonmade, and try to keep up by reading industry blogs. Attending conferences and smaller SCBWI events and participating in portfolio reviews whenever they are offered and portfolio showcase through the LA conference.

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

Definitely a portfolio online and a real world portfolio. I try to update both when I have new work. Sometimes I make small dummies for ideas I am working on.  It is a interesting process and great way to really see how your work flows with the page turns.

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Have you done any illustrating for children’s magazines?

I had the opportunity to do a cover illustration and a full spread for Babybug Magazine.  As well as Magazine work, I produced illustrations for some of the short stories featured in the, Los Angeles Time’s Kids Reading Room. It is fast turnaround but fun to focus so intently and figure out how to tell a story in one illustration.

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

I don’t have an artists rep., but I would love to find representation.

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

I tend to be a bit of a very shy, nerdy, introvert so Social media and self promotion are the hardest parts of children illustration for me. I know it is important though so I try and get out there at conferences and talk to people, make connections, get my work into portfolio reviews and such. Sending postcards, is an introverts best friend! A great way to reach out and have your work be seen from afar. So far I have only met wonderful nurturing people in this field, so for my fellow artists introverts, take the leap and put yourself out there and take chances, it does pay off!

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What is your favorite medium to use?

For sketching I love regular old black ball point pens.  The cheaper the better. I find when you sketch with a medium where there is no eraser and no “undo” it frees you up. I also love that you can get so much variation in line and shading with those old crummy pens. For finished work, I love to work in gouache. and pen and ink in the real world, Corel Painter and my Wacom in the digital world.

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Has that changed over time?

Yes, Since the recent ebooks series I worked on was going to have some animation, I wanted to be able to manipulate the art on layers. I started using Corel painter and a wacom tablet. I love the way you can mimic real world art mediums and still maintain layers and experiment. I still start with those old crummy pens and pencil in the real world even when I am going digital. It still feels fresher to me.

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What do you consider is your first big success?

BabyBug was exciting, to be able to do not just create a spread but also the cover art for a large publication was wonderful!  It was happy dance day!

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How did that come about?

I think getting your work out there with websites and postcards. The art director at Carus Publishing had seen some of my work and when a job came along that matched my style, she contacted me. I had missed the call, as I was out picking up kids, so she had left a message for me. I listened to the message three times, did a dance around the room with the kids, regained my demeanor and called her back, very excited to be working with them.

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

Absolutely, I would love to get some of the worlds and the stories, rolling around in my imagination and my sketchbooks, onto the page and into a book! I am working on my writing craft along with my illustration.

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

It would depend on the story and situation. I have worked with one author, self publishing an ebook series, “Reid’s Amazing Universe”. Getting a book, out there and seen, seems to be an issue in self publishing, especially in the digital realm, competing with apps and more. The author and developer in this case, are very good at self promotion and marketing and had some good connections so it seemed like a good challenge. I think the challenge to self publishing for an illustrator specifically, is not having an Art Director. It is difficult to self edit your work and having a talented art director on board is invaluable.

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

I get books from the library, google images and make big image boards for characters and setting and color palates. Right now my wall is filled with gorillas, smug kids, and downtown street scenes. I have a little mirror above my art table so I can make faces at myself,  in order to get a great facial expression in my characters.

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Have you done any work for educational publishers?

No, but I am interested in both this area and the Middle Grade areas, after hearing two great breakout sessions at the conference this summer in LA.

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

Music, I tend to work in different mediums and love my studio space, but I have about six different albums that play in the background when I work. It helps me to get lost in my drawings.

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

I really believe keeping a good balance helps your creativity and with your life as a whole. I try hard to do this, even though I am an Artist-Mom/taxi driver of short people, I set aside around 5 to 6 hours each day during the week to sketch, paint, research and learn. If I have a deadline approaching then it is whatever it takes. That can mean, walking out to my studio at 4am in the quiet hours, or in the late evening hours, keeping the balance with my family’s daily life and get the deadline met.  My kids love the studio. If I need to put in the extra time even as my kids get older, I will find myself working with someone reading a book under my art table and listening to my husband practice guitar in the house. It becomes creative time for everyone.

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Do you have an agent? If yes, who? If not would you like to find one?

I don’t have an Agent, but yes,  I’d love to have an agent. I think it can be a great partnership for an artist, to navigate the ins and outs of the children’s field and to help further their work.

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Do you think the Internet has opened doors for you?

For artists I think the internet is fantastic! It allows us to share our work and inspiration and ideas and connect with other artists and people in our industry through Facebook, websites , Instagram and more. In my case, I Skype each week for the Visual Mentor program, and my critique group has maintained a strong bond and can help each other in an instant, even though we are from all different parts of the country. Once again internet a great tool for introverted artists!

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Do you use Photoshop or Corel Painter with your illustrations?

For many years I used Photoshop, but I have become a Corel Painter fan. If I work digitally I tend to work in Corel with a Wacom tablet.

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

I love my Bamboo Wacom tablet. it is as portable as a sketchbook!

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

My Career Dream, I would like to have been a part of creating books with humor and heart, that are worn on the edges, because they are the ones grabbed off the bookshelf over an over again to be read We on the couch at bedtime.

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What are you working on now?

I’m starting to sketch on the third ebook series for “Reid’s Amazing Universe” and working on expanding my art and creating illustrations for a possible book in my Visual Mentor program.

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

I love sketching with ball point pens but also I have a few sets of warm and cool  grays, and black Faber-Castell pens and tracing paper. They come in sets of warm and cool grey and black with different sized tips and brush pens. When I am working I will have several layers of tracing paper with different shading or trying out different gestures above the original sketch. I find my work is much looser if I am sketching by hand rather than on a screen. Later I will combine what is working either in the real world or in Corel Painter to form a final sketch before going on to the finished art.
For Art supplies we live in a small coastal area so Blicks online is my go to source for supplies.

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

I am not nearly as far along as many of the creative and talented illustrators whom I admire, interviewed on this blog. As far as words of wisdom, I think to get where I am today with some success at being published and hopefully more opportunities in my future, for me it comes down to truly wanting to be a children’s illustrator, loving this field, and as an Artis/Mom, finding the time to truly work hard, getting your work out there to be seen.

Becoming a member of the SCBWI was an important step for me and an amazing organization with wonderful talented people. Everyone I have met has been willing to talk or help a new or emerging illustrator or writer to the find their way and welcome them into the children’s books community. It is where I have garnered friends, critique groups and contacts. Attend conferences and events through the SCBWI. Take classes, be open to opportunities!

Most importantly, find the time and the balance for your art or writing in your week and stick to it. Laundry will still be there tomorrow and I do believe Dust Bunnies qualify as pets, so give them a cute name, pat them on the head, and go sketch!

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Thank you Laura-Susan for sharing your journey and process with us. Please let us know all your future successes. We’d love to hear about them and cheer you on. You can visit Susan at:  www.laurasusanthomasillustrator.carbonmade.com  

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

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Filed under: Advice, demystify, illustrating, Illustrator's Saturday, inspiration, Interview, picture books, Process Tagged: Baby Bug Magazine, Laura-Susan Thomas, University of Arizona

6 Comments on Illustrator Saturday – Laura-Susan Thomas, last added: 11/3/2014
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16. Free Fall Friday – October Results

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This illustration was sent in by Patricia Pinsk. She works primarily with water colour, ink, digital photography, coloured pencil and collage. Patricia holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Vancouver’s Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design (now called Emily Carr University of Art and Design), as well as a Certificate in New Media from Vancouver Film School. Web: www.patriciapinsk.com/ Facebook: www.facebook.com/patriciapinskillustration?ref=hl Twitter: @patriciapinsk

Here are the first page critiques brought to you this month by Liza Fleissig from the Liza Royce Agency.

The Tattletail’s Claw: A CreatureNet Chronicle by Jody Staton – Middle Grade Novel

“Be Careful What You Wish For”

“. . .and that, Clawdia,” says Hershey’s voice in my head, “is why you must never let two-leggers know what we are.”

I lick a paw, and swipe it across my whiskers. Curled up on his wide brown rump, warmed by his body heat, I’m lulled half to sleep.

Zzzzt! A huge horsefly dive-bombs us. Wide awake now, I swat with a paw, and miss. Hershey flicks his long black tail. Whipping horsehairs send the fly tumbling. It buzzes around his legs, he stomps a hoof. His rump becomes an earthquake. I leap to my feet, teetering because I dare not dig into his hide the few claws I have left. We are next to a water trough, and I jump over it to a split-rail fence.

“Sorry about that,” he says. He ducks his head—in apology, I think. No, he’s just rubbing his head against the edge of the trough, scratching the lump that mars his forehead. Then, stern, like the police horse he used to be, Hershey demands that I repeat what he just told me.

I blink. “About the interstellar ark?”

“Wrong. About how two-leggers wouldn’t understand. How can you teach these stories to other Listeners if you don’t know them well yourself?”

I twitch my question-mark tail. “Why? Yesterday you said how few of us—”

“Lunchtime, Clawdia.” A human voice cuts me off. From the back porch of the Schwartz Veterinary Clinic, across a gravel drive from Hershey’s farm, it’s a young voice. And familiar!

“Dookie! I knew she’d come again this summer.” Forget Hershey’s lectures—my favorite person is here! I leap from the fence, streak across the drive. Dookie jumps from the porch, falls over a small bush, picks herself up, and races toward me. We meet in a mess of legs and arms, fur and tight curls, purrings and kisses.

Here is what Liza had to say: 

Staton, The Tattletail’s Claw

The writing itself is nice, with many nice details (like “I lick a paw and swipe it over my whiskers” and “his rump becomes an earthquake”). But my first impression is one of confusion—there are a lot of elements that are unexplained, and it’s rather difficult to paint a picture or figure out what’s going on.

The very first sentence is a difficult and awkward way to begin a story—with dialogue in the midst of being spoken. Perhaps the writer is trying to created intrigue, but younger readers will be confused. For one, we do not yet know they are animals and two, “two-leggers” will be an unfamiliar term.

It takes quite a while to figure out what kind of animals these are, which also causes confusion—you don’t want readers to be wondering about this so much that it detracts from what’s happening in the story.

Other questions: The cat says, “I dare not dig into his hide the few claws I have left”—why is this? Is this a detail we need to know right now, on the first page? Then, the horse says, “How can you teach these stories to other Listeners if you don’t know them well yourself?” First of all, what stories? Secondly, who are the Listeners? Third, why does the cat not seem to care about the stories (and why does the horse)? Again, you want to create intrigue, but you don’t want to leave the reader with so little to work with, and here there are just too many unanswered questions.

If this is a story about talking animals, then it’s a story for young readers. The sentence structure is a bit too complex, and combined with the above questions, I think younger readers are going to feel lost (what is an “interstellar” ark, for example?) We need to have a simpler, cleaner and more appealing introduction to the story. The set-up needs to be such that young readers want to keep on reading. The detail with Dookie is very sweet—perhaps concentrate on this as an introduction—and maybe the fact that these animals can talk is enough of a mystery that the reader will be excited to find out more.

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Daddy, What’s a Redneck? by Erika Wassall Picture Book

Little Lainey squatted, tugged on the pant legs sticking out between the two tires and asked, “Daddy, what’s a Redneck?” (illus: Daddy is underneath a vehicle working on it.)

Daddy laughed. He opened his mouth to answer, but stopped short.

“Hand me that yellow screwdriver and I’ll tell you,” he said. “Your great-granddaddy was a Redneck. He worked out in the cotton fields all day, with the sun beating on the back of his NECK.” Daddy slid out from underneath the engine and smiled. “What happens to your nose and shoulders when you’re out in the sun all day?”

Little Lainey’s eyes lit up, “They get all RED!” she cried.

Daddy nodded. “Exactly! Back then, working in the fields meant you couldn’t go to school. Calling someone a Redneck could have been hurtful, meaning they weren’t very smart. People started to think that folks who worked with their hands all day were fools.”

Little Lainey stared at Daddy’s grease covered hands and sternly shook her head. “But Daddy! Your hands can fix everything! They’re the smartest hands I know.”

“Darn right!” said Daddy. “Folks often try to find ways to put others down. That doesn’t make them right. People all across the country are proud to be Rednecks.” (illus: Daddy’s leaning over so we can see his red neck)

“Why?” asked Little Lainey, as she watched the rainbows dance on the top of the oil pan.

Here is what Liza had to say:

Wassall, Daddy, What’s a Redneck?

Opening paragraph is sweet. I just don’t know how much this topic is going to interest readers. Does this make a story? What is the story here? Dad is answering a question, but what is the story? Why does the little girl ask this question in the first place?

My concern is that the title feels like a joke and it’s hard to take the story seriously upon first hearing what the title is. In fact, there may be a lot of people who take offense before they even have a chance to read the story.

Dad’s answers to the little girl’s question are nice, but there’s a lot that feels a bit too adult here and which young readers might have a hard time understanding: “Folks often try to find ways to put others down” etc.

General kid appeal: a little low. It’s hard to imagine a kid wanting to read this based on the first page (and keep going back to it). Feels a bit too earnest and “issue” driven. Combined with the title, I don’t think this would be something an editor would request over other things currently being shopped.

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JEREMY’S SLED By Sue Heavenrich – Picture Book

Jeremy pulled his new sled out of the car. He squeaked his boots on the fresh snow. “Sugarhouse Hill, here I come!”

“We still need noisemakers for our New Year’s party,” said Dad. “Stick to the small hill until I get back from the store.”

“Okay,” said Jeremy. He waved to Dad and then plodded up the hard-packed path. But instead of stopping where he should have, his feet took him up, up, up to the top of the highest hill in the whole park.

“Just one run,” Jeremy whispered. He climbed into his sled. It teetered, it tottered, it wibbled and wobbled, then –

WHOOSH! Off he flew down, down, down to the line of straw bales that stopped runaway sleds. Jeremy slipped through a gap…

…. and tangled the leash between a woman and her dog.

“Sorry!” Jeremy yelled as the dog flew into the air and landed in the sled. The sled sped across the slick road, down a slope and onto the pond.

“Sliding through!” Jeremy shouted. The sled knocked a puck into the net and flipped a hockey player into the sled.

“Hang on!” The sled slid through a flock of ducks, hit a bump and flew

through the air…

… scared a squirrel out of a tree, knocked a hat off a snowman,

and barely cleared the back fence of the zoo.

Here is what Liza had to say:

Heavenrich, Jeremy’s Sled

I like the fun of the sled ride gone out of control—readers will think this is super fun and entertaining. The beginning is slow, though. Why do we need the earnest, adult details of dad telling Jeremy that he’s going to the store and stick to the small hill? Why not just have Jeremy at the big hill pondering it “mom and dad always tell me to stick to the small hills, but just once I’d like to try the big one” or something like this.

The wild sled ride itself seems to need to be slowed down a bit, too much happens too quickly. The writer could have a lot of fun here by making each thing that winds up in the sled a more fun acquisition.

The title needs to be more interesting and compelling, something that reflects the fun that both Jeremy and the reader are in for. The language as well, while nice, is not really reflective in rhythm and language of a wild sled ride. Writer should look at some comparable picture books for examples.

___________________________________________________________

Rule Breaker by Angela Larson & Zander Mowat, Middle Grade Novel

Detective Derk’s Spy Manual for the Disgruntled made surveillance sound a lot easier than it was. Knelling on a bent knee, peering around a corner with a mirror, Aaron Adams switched the mirror from one hand to the other. This was just long enough for him to shake out his arm, which had started to go numb. He resumed his position, but his back and knee still ached. For the whole lunch period he’d been looking down the long hall that leads to the school’s cafeteria. He’d been on surveillance since Monday and now that it was Friday, he was losing hope that this would work. An internal debate started to brew in his mind, was it worth skipping lunch again, after the lack of success all week. Then, his target, his jerk older brother Roger Adams, turned the corner.

Roger strolled down the hall in his ‘I’m too important to walk any faster’ mode and pulled what appeared to be a coin from his pocket. Roger never has change, this doesn’t make sense, thought Aaron. Roger walked toward a row of old-fashioned vending machines. These ancient relics had been in the school forever, since a time when their Principle attended here as a kid. They were always full of candy bars, but no one carries change anymore except old people, like Aaron’s rusty teachers.

Aaron’s arm was starting to shake by the time Roger stopped in front of the vending machines. He took slow steady breaths; this was described in Detective Derk’s manual as something you should do if you ever need to steady yourself. He kept the mirror focused on his target.

Roger slid a quarter into a slot, pressed a button and the sound of the candy hitting the tray echoed down the hall. I KNOW he doesn’t carry money.

Aaron leaned so far forward the mirror started to fog from his breath. Before the image…

Here is what Liza had to say:

Larson & Mowat, Rule Breaker

Writing is a bit awkward and clunky—the very first paragraph is actually quite a mouthful to read aloud, and I worry that readers’ introduction to this story will not be as compelling as it needs to be in order to hook readers and get them interesting in reading further. Words like “disgruntled” and “knelling” (is this an error?? didn’t make sense) further confusing the narration.

Kids will find spying fun, but why is one brother spying on another? I think we need a better sense of this. And why is one brother spying on another brother at school (when he can spy on him at home)? In other words, I worry that this may come across as a plot that’s not so exciting (as opposed to having Aaron spy on someone more interesting, like a school enemy, for example).

Words are misspelled throughout (knelling rather than kneeling, Principle rather than Principal) and grammar is shaky. As an agent, this isn’t something I request to see further.

____________________________________________________________

Thank you Liza for sharing your time and expertise with all of us. It is much appreciated.

Hope everyone has a Happy Halloween.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

 


Filed under: Advice, Agent, inspiration, Process, revisions, Tips, writing Tagged: First Page Critiques, Free Fall Friday, Liza Fleissig, Liza Royce Agency

3 Comments on Free Fall Friday – October Results, last added: 10/31/2014
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17. Five lessons from extreme places

Throughout history, some people have chosen to take huge risks. What can we learn from their experiences?

Extreme activities, such as polar exploration, deep-sea diving, mountaineering, space faring, and long-distance sailing, create extraordinary physical and psychological demands. The physical risks, such as freezing, drowning, suffocating or starving, are usually obvious. But the psychological pressures are what make extreme environments truly daunting.

The ability to deal with fear and anxiety is, of course, essential. But people in extremes may endure days or weeks of monotony between the moments of terror. Solo adventurers face loneliness and the risk of psychological breakdown, while those whose mission involves long-term confinement with a small group may experience stressful interpersonal conflict. All of that is on top of the physical hardships like sleep deprivation, pain, hunger, and squalor.

What can the rest of us learn from those hardy individuals who survive and thrive in extreme places? We believe there are many psychological lessons from hard places that can help us all in everyday life. They include the following.

  1. Cultivate focus.

Focus – the ability to pay attention to the right things and ignore all distractions, for as long as it takes – is a fundamental skill. Laser-like concentration is obviously essential during hazardous moves on a rock face or a spacewalk. Focus also helps when enduring prolonged hardship, such as on punishing polar treks. A good strategy for dealing with hardship is to focus tightly on the next bite-sized action rather than dwelling on the entire daunting mission.

The ability to focus attention is a much-underestimated skill in everyday life. It helps you get things done and tolerate discomfort. And it is rewarding: when someone is utterly absorbed in a demanding and stretching activity, they experience a satisfying psychological state called ‘flow’ (or being ‘in the zone’). A person in flow feels in control, forgets everyday anxieties, and tends to perform well at the task in hand. The good news is that we can all become better at focusing our attention. One scientifically-proven method is through the regular practice of meditation.

  1. Value ‘knowhow’

Focus helps when tackling difficult tasks, but you also need expertise – high levels of skills and knowledge – to perform those tasks well. Expertise underpins effective planning and preparation and enables informed and measured judgements about risks. In high-risk situations experts make more accurate decisions than novices, who may become paralysed with indecision or take rapid, panicky actions that make things worse.

Expertise also helps people in extreme environments to manage stress. Stress occurs when the demands on you exceed your actual or perceived capacity to cope. An effective way of reducing stress, in everyday life as well as extremes, is by increasing your ability to cope by developing high levels of skills and experience.

Developing expertise requires hard work and persistence. But it’s worth the investment – the dividends include better assessment of risk, better decision-making, and less vulnerability to stress.

Climber
Climber, by aatlas. Public Domain via Pixabay.
  1. Value sleep.

Getting enough sleep is often difficult in extreme environments, where the physical demands can deprive people of sleep, disrupt their circadian rhythms, or both.

Bad sleep has a range of adverse effects on mental and physical wellbeing, including impairing alertness, judgment, memory, decision-making, and mood. Unsurprisingly, it makes people much more likely to have accidents.

Many of us are chronically sleep deprived in everyday life: we go to bed late, get up early, and experience low-quality sleep in between. Most of us would feel better if we slept more and slept better. So don’t feel guilty about spending more time in bed.

Experts in extreme environments often make use of tactical napping. Research has shown that napping is an effective way of alleviating the adverse consequences of bad sleep. It’s also enjoyable.

  1. Be tolerant and tolerable.

Adventures in extreme environments often require small groups of people to be trapped together for months at a time. Even the best of friends can get on each other’s nerves under such circumstances. Social conflict can build rapidly over petty issues. Groups split apart, individuals are ostracised, and simmering tensions may even explode into violence.

When forming a team for an extreme mission, as much emphasis should be placed on team members’ interpersonal skills as on their specialist skills or physical capability. Research shows that team-building exercises – though often mocked – can be an effective way of enhancing teamwork.

Effective teams are alert to mounting tensions. Individuals keep the little annoyances in perspective and respect others’ need for privacy. To survive and thrive in demanding situations, people must learn to be tolerant and tolerable. The same is true in everyday life.

  1. Cultivate resilience

Extreme environments are dangerous places where people endure great hardship. They may suffer terrifying accidents or watch others die. Such experiences can be traumatic and, in some cases, cause long-term damage to mental health.

But this is by no means inevitable. Research has shown that many individuals emerge from extreme experiences with greater resilience and a better understanding of their own strengths. By coping with life-threatening situations, they become more self-confident and more appreciative of life.

Resilience is a common quality in everyday life. We tend to underestimate our own ability to cope with stress, and overestimate its adverse consequences. Some stress is good for us and we should not try to avoid it completely.

Featured image credit: Mount Everest, by tpsdave. Public Domain via Pixabay.

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18. Why Writers Need to Learn to Read as Well as They Write

Sending a follow up e-mailI’ve come to the conclusion that most writers don’t read as well as they write.

Every time I send an email, I get back several responses asking questions that were answered in the message. For example, I’ll say, “The call is at 5 pm Eastern time,” and a few people will respond, “What time zone is the call in?” Or I’ll invite readers to join a waitlist to receive an announcement when a class registration is open, and that the class will cost $X, and inevitably some people will write back with, “I signed up for your class using that link you sent and didn’t get the materials.”

I feel okay saying this because it’s something I struggle with myself. I’m impatient and tend to skim emails, instructions, and so on — and wind up asking “duh” questions that later make me want to kick myself.

Just today, I received a long email about my son’s soccer team and for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out when his practices are. Only after I sent a desperate email to the coach did I reread the message and realize they had attached a schedule.

We writers tend to be scattered and easily overwhelmed. I’m not sure if these characteristics are typical of creative people (probably), or if there’s something about the writing life that makes us this way.

But knowing this, lately I’ve been making an intensive effort to thoroughly study and understand everything I read.

This is especially, super, vitally important because most of our communication with clients, editors, and sources is via email. And too often, I get frantic messages from writers saying things like, “I just read my assignment letter and realized I was supposed to write a sidebar — and the article is due today!”

Here’s how to bump up your reading comprehension: (And yes, I’m working on doing these things, too!)

  • When an editor sends you instructions or a request, read them carefully — then read them again. If, after careful reading, there’s something you don’t understand — ask.
  • When you’re scheduling an interview or anything else, double-check to make sure you know what time zone it’s in, and whether it’s AM or PM. It’s amazing how many people automatically assume everything happens in their own time zone!
  • If you received an email from an editor that seems to be missing a vital piece of information, like the word count of an assignment, go back through your communications by reading through all the emails in the thread. Chances are, he mentioned it in a previous email.
  • Re-read your assignment specs right before you begin writing. Chances are, you’ve forgotten some details from when you first read them.

Writers, let’s get reading — and we’ll cut out a lot of angst, do better work — and get more assignments!

How about you: Have you ever misread a piece of information from a client or colleague — and if so, what happened? Bonus points if your story is funny!

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19. Illustrator Saturday – David Harrington

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

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

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

Here is David sharing his process:

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

Whistling Willie illus 1

 

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

Whistling Willie illus 2

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

Whistling Willie illus 3

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

Whistling Willie illus 4

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

Whistling Willie illus 5

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

Whistling Willie illus 6

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

Whistling Willie illus 7

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

spaghetticove2r

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

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

spaghetti

How long have you been illustrating?

I’ve been illustrating professionally for about 25 years.

davidexoticwoman

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

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

jumpoutboat

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

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

wave

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

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

partingthesea

Did the School help you get work?

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

shiver

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

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

octoman

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

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

holdinghead

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

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

giant

When did you decide you wanted to illustrate for children?

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

tiger

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

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

tigermountain

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

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

tireswing

Do you have an agent or artist rep.?

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

whipit

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

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

soupsup

Are you the same David Harrington who does fantasy art?

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

cook

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

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

fishbowlcage

How long did you have to illustrate each one?

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

artclass

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

Yes I would if I like the story.

jumpingfish

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

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

pp-secret-sauce1

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

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

jumpingjack

Have you done illustrations for any children’s magazines?

Yes, mostly Club House magazine.

library

What materials do you use to paint your color illustrations?

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

redponytail

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

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

lady in red

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

My Mac!

splat

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

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

snowgirl

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

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

ghost

Do you think the Internet has opened doors for you?

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

sandystone

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

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

balc

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

Yes, Wacom Cintiq, it’s amazing!

hand

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

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

pyramid

What are you working on now?

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

cleocat

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

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

cowboy

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

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

santa

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

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

birds

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

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

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


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

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20. New Writing Video Series by Lin Oliver – Free

need writing advice

 

free video series


subscribecropped

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


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

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21. Creatively managing your time

il_570xN.420696788_a1ei

We’re all guilty at some point of not managing our time as effectively as we could have done. Whether you’re running late for a university submission, deadline for a client is looming or just finding it hard to keep on top of your to do’s maybe creatively managing your time better is something you could improve. Now you don’t need to make major changes to your routine to manage your time better, simply by bringing just some of the tips I have here into your creative day you’ll be surprised just how well you can meet those deadlines on time stress free.

1 . Seperate your tasks into time chunks whether 30-45 minute chunks followed by a break to refresh your mind ready for the next task.

2. Set an alarm to ring when your time is up this will prompt you to move onto the next task and if unfinished come back to your current one later.

3.Use app’s or timers to track how much time you’ve already spent on your project.

4. Pop on a tv series or film is another way of managing your time if you don’t mind abit of background noise, once the show is over you’re prompted to finish what your doing ( just don’t get to distracted watching it if you’re a adventure time fan it might be best to stick to the gardening channel instead).

5. Use a calendar whether paper based or digital to track how much time you have from the start date to finish for your project. This way you can allocate set days and time to progress with your project.

Image by illustrator Kritsten Vasgaard you can find out more about their work here .

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22. Mastering Kid-Speak – Erika Wassall

erikaphoto-45Jersey Farm Scribe here on…

A Dialogue Tune-up: Mastering Kid-Speak

Dialogue is one of the most important pieces of any manuscript, and this often goes double for children’s works. Dialogue moves the story along, develops the connection between your readers and the characters and keeps things tangible and realistic.

That means that mastering Kid-Speak is unequivocally important.

There is a rhyme and rhythm to the way that kids communicate, where they pause to think, how they choose their words, the direction their stream of conscious takes them in. I’ve often wondered if there are linguists who study children specifically.  I bet we could learn a lot about the development of the brain and human instincts by looking at how and why kids pick their words.

As writers, if our characters don’t sound realistic, we’ve already lost the battle.  It’s something a child will instantly and instinctively pick up on.  The character will seem fake and they won’t bond with them.  Even in a plot-driven story, if the readers don’t connect with the characters, the story won’t resonate.

Here are a few things you can do to work on the dialogue in your stories: 

Eavesdrop!

Listening to children talk is one of my favorite things to do. This can be a bit trickier to do with older kids.  Teenagers aren’t big on you overhearing their devastatingly important and secret information.  But there’s a great trick to overcome that.  Stick two or more kids in the back of a car and drive around a while.  Even teenagers will fairly quickly forget that you can probably hear them and get swept up in the excitement of their chatter.  When hushed whispers are completely ignored, they often become full-volume conversations within a few minutes.

It’ll be a hit with the other adults in your life too! The fact that I’m quick to volunteer for anything kid and car-pool related is a much-appreciated running joke among my friends and family.

Listen to yourself:

Most writers understand the value of reading the dialogue sections of a manuscript out-loud. But you can take this even further.  Record yourself reading it.  Play it back.  Have someone else read it to you.  Have multiple someones read it to you.

Better yet, have an age-appropriate child read it to you. See how it sounds coming from them.  Does it sound natural?  Stale?  Funny?  Bland?  Vocabulary that encourages learning and reaching is excellent when carefully placed in children’s books.  But (unless it’s your character’s quirk) you want to keep the dialogue age-appropriate.

Hearing how the lines sound with the natural intonation of a child’s voice can be a simple and surprisingly effective way of polishing up the dialogue.

Give Everyone Their Own Unique Voice

If you ask five kids the same question, you will get five different responses, even if they all have the same general answer. You have a voice as a writer.  Be sure each of your characters has a voice of their own as well.

We all have our little verbal tics, especially kids. Some are simple speakers, short, two to three word sentences.  Some seem to look for any opportunity to use flowery, descriptive words.  They know different words based on who and what occupies the majority of their time.

A friend’s five year old used the word “bonemeal” when he was commenting on my conversation with his mother about my garden next year. Turns out, it’s basically a type of fertilizer in Minecraft.  I was amazed that he made the connection to a real-life garden, but it was just his natural Kid-Speak.

A great test for this is to pull out all the dialogue in your manuscript and see if you can tell who said what without even looking at the character name. 

It’s not an easy test. But for me, it’s given me great perspective on places I need to have the opportunity to personalize and develop that critical bond between my readers, and the characters they’re going to take the journey with.

Dialogue does so much in our manuscripts. It allows us to remove unnecessary words, breaks up long, difficult to read paragraphs, advances the story, gives us relatable realism and lets us see how a character thinks.  Take these opportunities to really let the uniqueness of your characters shine, and capture your readers.

Kid-Speak varies for different ages, backgrounds and situations, making it a versatile and powerful tool to make your story, and your character jump off the page and into the reader’s heart.

Your character’s personalities, and your manuscripts, are worth it.

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

Thank you Erika for another great post. I always enjoy them.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Filed under: Advice, article, How to, inspiration, Writing Tips Tagged: A Dialogue Tune Up, Erika Walssal, Guest Blogger Post, Mastering Kid-Speak

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23. Illustrator Saturday – Anne Wertheim

annepic

Anne attended College of Art in Hamburg, Germany (Fachhochschule fuer Gestaltung), from which she graduated in 1995 with a degree in illustration. Right after earning her degree she moved to Maui/Hawaii. She has been working as a freelance illustrator, painter and designer, working for advertising agencies, design studios and publishers for nearly 20 years in Maui.

She has worked on a variety of projects including product packaging, advertising, publishing, point of purchase displays and animation backgrounds.

Here is Anne explaining her process:

My work process creating one out of 44 cards for the “Oracle Deck of Flowers”.

Publisher: Llewellyn Worldwide, Author: Tess Whitehurst

For this oracle card, I am asked to show a heroic woman blowing a horn standing amidst a field of blossoming foxgloves. The title of the card is “Summon your Courage – Foxglove”

porcess1

I start out with a black and white line sketch. To get the pose right, I often use the help of another application: Poser

process2

I work on two monitors. Monitor One is the smallest of the Cintique tablets, monitor two is a 30 “ Dell. On the Dell I have several documents open showing reference images as well as an additional window of the current illustration I am working on. The Cintique will have only my illustration window open as well as show a window with my brush presets and another one for layers.

process2a

While I work I constantly go back and forth between painting on the Cintique and evaluating my illustration on the Dell. The Dell I have color calibrated. I always work in a CMYK color space when working on print projects.

process3a

I do a very quick color sketch. On this card, I feel confident about how I want the colors to be, so I decide not spend too much time on the color sketch.

process4

I desaturate the color sketch to have it in black and white.

process5

I add a muliply layer over my black and white sketch and use a soft brush to paint over it in orange.

process6

I usually start with the background, in this case the sky. I always use textures in my Photoshop brushes. My main brush has a texture, I made myself by applying acrylic gel to a board, painting it black and and dry brushing white over it.

I have a texture library of splatters, ice , fabric, rocks, marble etc. anything that will make a nice texture. While I work I often choose different textures.

For the sky I chose a splatter texture. I put the sky on one layer and the clouds on another. On layer three I have my Poser

figure on layer 4 my sketch. I want to create a dramatic sky, somehow evoking a feeling of fire or a battle far away.

process7

As soon as I have roughed in the sky, I start working on the figure. At this stage I work fairly rough, as I want to paint in all the elements of the illustration before I get into more detail. It is always so tempting to get detailed too soon, only to realize later, that some of the detail does not work with other parts of the illustration.

process8

Next I rough in the foxgloves and start working on her face. Now that all the elements of the illustration are in place it is time to fine tune. I put several layers of paint over the sky. Sometimes lightening the sky up with heavily textured brushes and then toning everything back down by adding a multiply layer and glazing a shade of blue or magenta over the sky.

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I am working similarly when working on her clothes and face. Here I just stick to my main texture brush. I lift her left arm a bit, to make the pose a little bit more dynamic and add all the highlights for her clothing and on the flowers.

Almost all elements of the illustration are on different layers. Flowers on one, leaves on another, her legs, her skirt, belts, west etc. Having everything on different layers makes it easier to work and rework each part.

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And that is pretty much it!

How long have you lived in Maui?

I moved here in 1995, right after I finished art school in Germany.

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How long have you been illustrating?

I have been illustrating as a professional and full time since 1995, after I got my degree in illustration from the college of art in Hamburg/Germany. But I have been pretty much done some form of art my whole life.

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Did you study art in college? If so, where?

Yes! I went to the “Fachhochschule for Gestaltung” in Hamburg (college of design).

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What were you favorite classes in college?

My favorite class in college was “Educational Illustration,” as well as life drawing and painting.

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Did the School help you get work?

They didn’t really help us get work, but found publishers that wanted to work with us, while we were still students.
Our illustration class did several projects for different publishers.
Together with 5 students I illustrated one of my first books for a German publisher (Frankh Kosmos) with the title “Animals at the Coast and the Beach” (�Tiere an Strand und K�ste).
On another assignment we designed and illustrated an exhibition for a marine biology institute.

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

Right after High School, I interned  for two years in an illustration and design studio. During my internship I was fortunate enough to illustrate some book covers that my boss otherwise would have done himself.

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

While still in college, I worked for a big German publisher, doing layout for several magazines as well as teaching computer graphics on the Mac. After I graduated I started my career as a freelance illustrator.

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Do you think the classes you took in college or living in paradise influenced your style?

Neither one and both to a certain extent. It has helped me to have an education in the arts. No doubt, all my art classes in college have given me a strong foundation to work as an illustrator. Nevertheless, I feel life has influenced me the most. Right after college, I felt I needed to learn soooo much more than what they had taught me in college and even now, almost 20 years after I graduated I am still learning with every single project that I take on. I think Maui’s abundance of natural beauty, lushness and bright colors, are in sync with my need for nature, beauty and color in my life and work.

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Do you do a lot of art shows and exhibits? Is that how you got noticed?

No, I don’t do any art shows and exhibits at the moment. After I had my two children in 2001 and 2003, I wanted more freedom in my creative process. So I did a lot of plein air painting. For about three years, I painted mostly on sight in oil all over Maui. I really enjoyed this time. It taught me so much about painting, landscapes, color, light etc. I exhibited and sold my paintings in my husbands gallery close to where we live.

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When did you do your the first illustration for children?

For my thesis in college we had to pick a larger project to illustrate. I decided to write and illustrate a picture book about a family of barn owls. To complete my thesis, I only needed to create the concept and 5 illustrations. I had a lot of fun writing the story and illustrating it. Instead of just the required 5 illustrations, I did all the illustrations for the book. It turned out so well, that the same publisher I worked for before, picked it up and published it the next year.

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When did you decide you wanted to illustrate books?

I never was set on just illustrating books. Right now, I actually prefer shorter projects.

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How did get the contract for the “Food Chain” book series?

I got the contract for the “Food Chain” series, by doing a lot of cold calls and got lucky to give Capstone/Picture Books at the right time when they were looking for somebody to illustrate “Food Chains”.

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Have you worked with educational publishers?

All my children’s books have been geared towards the educational market. I just recently worked for University Press and did some illustrations for a few school books.

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How many children’s books have you illustrated?

If I counted right a total of 10.

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

Not at the moment.

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Have you done any illustrating for children’s magazines?

I did some illustrations for Highlights and Cricket Magazine.

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Do you have an artist rep.? If so, who? And how did you connect with them?

I am repped by Steve Munro of Munro Campagna in Chicago. When I felt In needed a rep, I looked up all the reps, who represented illustrators that I either admired or where similar in style to me. I then sent out e-mails with samples of my work and Steve took me on.

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What types of things did you do to market your work?

I always think I should be doing more and I definitely could improve a lot in terms of marketing myself. I market myself by showcasing my work in the Workbook, the ISpot, as well as CreativeSource in Canada. I occasionally send out postcards. I used to do email blasts, but have not found that sending mass e-mails produces great results. I am just in the process of redoing my own webpage and am determined, once done to blog about my process on a more regular basis.

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What is your favorite medium to use?

These days it is digital.

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Has that changed over time?

At the beginning of my career I did all my work in acrylics and used a mix of airbrush and acrylic painting. I switched to digital in 2010 and have not regretted it, even though I miss not having originals anymore

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Do you have a studio in your house?

Yes, my studio is in our house.

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

My Cintique tablet.

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

I usually start my workday  between 6 and 7 am. I am an early morning person, which makes communicating with the East Coast a lot easier. I take in between 30 minutes and an hour each day to do things that are not related to doing my craft. Usually these are my least favorite subjects and the ones I procrastinate the most about: marketing, office tasks, writing bills (which actually should be considered fun), blogging and currently it is working on my new webpage (which I actually really do enjoy)
The rest of the day is devoted to working on my illustrations..

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

Yes! Depending on the project, I might take photos, ask a friend, my children or even a stranger to model for me and /or do a lot  of research on the internet.

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Do you think the Internet has opened doors for you?

I couldn’t live without it. For my most recent project of illustrating 44 Tarot cards, I must have collected thousands of reference images.

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What do you tell was your biggest success?

My first Celestial Seasonings illustration is just now gracing one of their new tea boxes: Apple Caramel Dreams.

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Do you use Photoshop with your illustrations?

Yes. Photoshop is my main application I use when illustrating.

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

I started out on an Intuous and upgraded to a Cintique last year.

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

Next year I want to learn Maya and start getting into 3D.

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What are you working on now?

I currently am working on a deck of 44 Tarot or oracle cards. The deck will be called “The Oracle Deck of Flowers”

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

My favorite tool is my Cintique. Before I got it, I never thought it would make such a difference in my work. I was using the Intuous graphic tablet before,which seemed fine to me at that time. But actually drawing on a monitor is such a big improvement. I love it.

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

A good mix of talent coupled with perseverance, stubbornness, and a burning desire to create will help a lot in becoming a successful writer or illustrator.

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Thank you Anne for sharing your journey and process with us. Please let us know all your future successes. We’d love to hear about them and cheer you on. You can visit Anne at: http://www.annewertheim.com

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

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Filed under: Advice, demystify, illustrating, Illustrator's Saturday, inspiration, Interview, Process Tagged: Anne Wertheim, Freelance artist Maui, Oracle Deck of Flowers

4 Comments on Illustrator Saturday – Anne Wertheim, last added: 10/28/2014
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24. To the creative overthinker …

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Dear creative overthinker,

I know no doubt there have been times where you were sat at your desk deep in thought or maybe you were previously to reading this. With your pen , paintbrush, camera or graphics tablet in hand your mind begins to fizzle into a whirlwind of creative over thought causing you to over think your entire creative practice. As you do this the creative work that you do that was “fun” to begin with that filled you with inspiration , motivation and enthusiasm begins to feel more like ” hard work” and thus bringing the creativity inside you to a halt. Thoughts such as:

” What if I post my design and no one likes it ?”

” What if I post this set of cards, notebooks and prints and no one buys them?”

“What if I go to that design interview and I get turned down?”

“What if I email this client the price quote for a commission and they think I’m really overpriced?”

In a nut shell thoughts like this cause “you” to stop and your creativity will stop with it, all the “what if’s” in our head’s are sometimes enough to stop us doing what we love to do. So my dear creative over thinker try to stop thinking so much , live in the creative moment, make smart prompt decisions that may scare the pants off you and be brave.

Image by artist Tim Bontan you can find more of his work here .

0 Comments on To the creative overthinker … as of 10/26/2014 10:05:00 AM
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25. Guest Post: I killed My Mother by Terry Jennings

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Terry Jennings

I killed my mother, I must confess. And while I’m at it, I should admit I killed my baby brother too.  In the interest of full disclosure I should also own up to doing away with an uncle and a few cousins as well.

I know full well that matricide, fratricide—familycide in general—are frowned upon in polite society.  But I’m not the least bit sorry. In fact, under the right circumstances, I wouldn’t hesitate to repeat the act. I had to do it. My story, a fictional novel very loosely based on my life, was drowning with the weight of its characters.

To assuage any sensibilities that may be aroused by my dastardly acts, I will let you know that the murders were done off stage, very discretely. I could have lined them all up against a wall and shot them, right in front of God and everybody, and been totally within my rights. My story, after all, is set during the Cuban revolution in 1958—executions were common place. But I disposed of my family gently, elegantly. My mother, bless her soul, died giving birth to me. With one stroke of the pen I not only got rid of one very significant adult, but I also gave my protagonist a reason to have guilt—because she lived, her brother didn’t have a mother. I transformed the baby brother into a 17 year old and morphed the essence of the combined souls of the rest of my relatives into his character.

Having to kill and change people is a peril you run into when you write a novel loosely based on fact. Not just historical novels, like mine. When we know the story so well—when it’s our story, or the story of someone we know or have come to know—it is difficult to sacrifice the truth in order to let that fictional story shine through.

I think it was Stephen King that said you have to kill your darlings. I’m not sure he meant fratricide and matricide, but in essence, he said get rid of anything that doesn’t move your story forward. That is particularly hard when it comes to characters. Each one of those people had a story, an experience, which was significant to the historical context. Their experiences weren’t darlings to be cast aside. They were representative and exciting. And my real life was so lame, I had to draw on their experiences for my plot. I needed their experiences. Every one of them. But even I realized that the reader would need a cheat sheet with the names and life stories of each relative in order to keep up with the plot.

It was my friend Ivy Ruckman (Night of the Twister), who suggested an older brother replace the uncle. Why hadn’t I thought of that? That simple change made everything simple. In the brother I could develop the mindset of the young revolutionary, in love with Fidel Castro who could be the foil against the pro-establishment and anti-Fidel father. The brief discussions about the revolution which happen as a result of the action, are now organic. A perfect case of the new pared down cast showing rather than telling what it was like living in those first two and a half years of Castro’s revolution.

Another result of my murderous binge was that now my protagonist participated fully in all of the experiences without having to take a taxi. In the previous version, an older cousin (it happened, I promise) was writing pamphlets against the revolution to hand out at school.

Eventually, someone finds out, calls her and tells her she’d better stop of else. My cousin ended up in an embassy not long after that phone call. But in order to get my protagonist to see that, I had to invite her to a meeting at her older cousins’ house, find a way to get her money for a taxi and a way to sneak off to her cousins’ house, hear what the older kids are saying and later find out about the phone call and her cousin’s exile from her father. With the brother embodying some of the experiences of other characters, my protagonist is right there, in the same room. She chooses to write pamphlets of her own to distribute at church, and she is the one who picks up the phone when the ultimatum is received—who’s the ultimatum for, her or her brother? Now the book is full of energy and the narrative moves quickly from one exciting scene to another. No more taking a figurative taxi or a bus to get the protagonist to the action.

It was a significant change in the book, I must admit. More of a re-imagining of the whole story than a revision. But I believe it has been well worth it. Now we’ll see if a power that be agrees with me and buys my story. I really hope someone does. My cousins are really not happy that I killed them, whether on or off the stage. They were all hoping for a cameo. The only way I’ll keep them quiet is to prove them wrong and have a best seller.

http://literarymidwives.com/

Terry Jennings began writing in 1999. Her first piece “Moving Over to the Passenger’s Side,” about teaching her fifteen-year-old to drive was published by The Washington Post. She has written a few other articles for them and Long Island News Day.  Since then she has written for Ranger Rick and had a family humor column in her local newspaper, The Reston Connection. Primarily she writes educational text for the Smithsonian Science Education Center and other educational outlets. Gopher to the Rescue! A Volcano Recovery Story (Sylvan Dell, 2012) was named Outstanding Science Trade Book by the National Science Teachers’ Association and the Children’s Book Council.  Her other book, The Women’s Liberation Movement: 1960-1990 (Mason Crest, 2013) was named to the Amelia Bloomer Project’s recommended feminist literature for women birth to 18. Sounds of the Savanna, a book about sound as told through predator/prey interactions in the African savanna  is on its way with Arbordale Publishers. It’s due out fall of 2015.  Currently she is working on a historical novel about the Cuban Revolution (1959-1961) loosely based on her childhood along with a couple of other picture books–one on Magnetism and one on Erosion.

Thanks Terry for sharing your article with us. I will be doing a lot of killing this week.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Filed under: Advice, article, Author, demystify, Process, revisions, Writing Tips Tagged: Literary Midwives, Terry Jennings

5 Comments on Guest Post: I killed My Mother by Terry Jennings, last added: 10/27/2014
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