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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: demystify, Most Recent at Top [Help]
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1. Reference Links to Help With Query Letter Writing


This illustration of the cute girl with pink glasses above was sent in by Carol Schulman. She is the author of two books on art, both now represented by Schulman Literary in NY.  The first, “The Creative Path: Process and Practice” is a look at creativity from philosophical, psychological and practical points of view.  The sequel: “Art Smarts: A Book to Help You Become a GR8 Artist” is a sequel for children. See more at: http://www.carolynschlam.com/Art_Pages/Illustration/Illustration_info.html

Leslie has been focusing on querying agents and looking for places that had good information about navigating this process. She decided to share some resources she gathered from various writing friends on her blog “Rear in Gear”. She says, “I’m always thankful for their help, and thought I’d pay it forward in a small way.”

Queries Not Questions

by Leslie Zampettis at Rear in Gear.

Here is Leslie’s list, in no particular order:


Chuck Sambuchino’s Guide to Literary Agents

Successful Queries (a subsection of the above guide)

Preditors and Editors

Publishers’ Submission Guidelines


SCBWI BlueBoard

 8 Steps to Finding the Right Agent

 Critiquing First Pages and Queries

10 Questions to Ask an Agent

Kidlit.com – Queries

How to Write the Perfect Query Letter

Query Shark

Query Tracker

Writers Market  *This is a subscription service. IMHO, well worth it.

Children’s Writer Newsletter  *Another subscription service. Articles often contain market bib biographies, and every issue contains market profiles. Also well worth it.

  • lesliezLeslie Zampetti has had stories published in online children’s magazines and is now querying agents for her middle grade fantasy novel. A childhood spent in Florida has this transplanted New Yorker frequently dreaming of sunshine – but she enjoys the whirl of the city and its riches, not least of which is the New York Public Library.

    According to most successful authors, the best way to succeed is to plant your tushy in your seat and write. Leslie’s been doing that for some years now and is beginning to see the seeds of her labor blossom. Interested in knowing more? Stop by her blog, “Rear in Gear,” at http://zampettilw.wordpress.com.

Thank you Leslie to sending this to me. It is nice to have a list and it is nice that you were willing to share the wealth. I am sure everyone will bookmark this one.

Talk tomorrow,



Filed under: demystify, How to, list, reference, Writing Tips Tagged: Carol Schulman, Leslie Zampettis, Links to resources, Queries, Rear in Gear

3 Comments on Reference Links to Help With Query Letter Writing, last added: 4/15/2014
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2. Illustrator Saturday – Christopher Denise

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

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

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

Christopher Denise lives in Rhode Island with his family.

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

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

christopherBaking Day_announcement500

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


Rough sketch


Adding more details


More details and first layer


Laying in some color


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


Painting in color on clothes


Worked on background and more detail on clothes


Adding shadows and details on house


Continuing to deepen shadows and details


Adding highlights


Deepening colors



Adding color to tree.


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


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


When did you first get interested in art?

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

christophersleepytime me jkt front

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

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

christopherblog_site construction

What made you move back to the states?

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


Do you feel Ireland influences your illustrations?

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


Do you still have an Irish brogue?

Only after a very long dinner party with old friends!


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

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

christopherbiddy cover

What was the first piece of art that you sold?

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


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

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


Did you always want to illustrate children’s books?

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



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

Since that day it has been all freelance work.



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

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



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

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



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

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


christopherredwall convoy

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

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



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

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

christopherKnitty kitty cover


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

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



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

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



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

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



christopherbella and stella

Which animated films did you work on?

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

christopherblog_bella copy


What is involved in visual development in animation?

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



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

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



Has your style changed over the years?

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


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

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



What do you think has been your greatest career accomplishment?

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



How many children books have you illustrated?

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


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

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


How many of those books have you illustrated?

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


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

Nine books with Philomel so far.


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

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


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

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


Do they have a studio in your house?

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


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

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


Have you done illustrations for any children’s magazines?

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

christopherbig view

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

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



How long did you have to illustrate that whole book?

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



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

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


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

My sketchbook-no doubt.


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

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



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

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



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

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



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

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



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

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


Do you use Photoshop or a graphic tablet when illustrating?

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


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

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


What are you working on now?

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


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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

Talk tomorrow,


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

10 Comments on Illustrator Saturday – Christopher Denise, last added: 4/12/2014
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3. The Query Letter

great-query-jacketFor the last few weeks we have gone over how to format your manuscript and how to write a synopsis. Every week I have pointed you towards agents and what they are looking for, but really the first thing you need to do is hone your skills on writing a great query letter. It is wonderful that more and more agents are accepting query letters via email, but there a perils that come along with this. We are so used to quickly jotting down a few sentences to talk with friends and hitting the send button without thinking, that the same thing can happen when emailing a query letter to an agent. We all need to beware of doing this an approach the query letter with the same respect as the rest of our writing.

Agent Noah Lukeman has written a whole book on how to do this in his appropriately title book, HOW TO WRITE A GREAT QUERY LETTER.

Love the way Noah explains this: Most writers put a tremendous amount of effort into their content, spending months or years with their manuscripts, agonizing over word choice, scene order, character development. Yet when it comes time to write a query letter, they will often write something off the top of their head, sometimes with a mere hour’s effort, and let this suffice to represent their work. They rush through the letter process so that the agent can get to the book itself, which they feel will explain everything. They feel that if an agent just sees the writing, nothing else will matter, and that a poor query letter will even be forgiven. This is faulty thinking. For agents, the query letter is all. If it’s not exceptional, agents will not even request to see the writing, and writers will never even get a chance to showcase their talent. For most writers, the query letter—which they rushed through—becomes the only piece of writing they will ever be judged by, and unfortunately, the only chance they ever had. While it may seem as if a query letter is a shallow way to judge an author, I can tell you from an agent’s perspective that it is a very effective tool.

For the professional eye, a query letter is much more than just a letter:

1. It shows the agent whether you are able to exhibit word economy

2. Whether you have a grasp on the nature of your own work

3. Whether you have a realistic grasp on your own background and credentials.

4. For non-fiction: It also demonstrates whether you have a grasp on your market and your competition. A query letter can also serve to warn an agent, to act as a red flag, if for example you are too aggressive, or pitch too many projects at once. The way it physically looks speaks volumes, as does whether you’ve sent it to the right person in the right way. A layman looks at a query and sees a one page letter. An agent looks at it and scans it for 100 different criteria.

This mere page can tell an agent more about the writer and his work than you can possibly imagine.

This week we will talk about what goes into making your query letter stand out and get noticed. Remember: The query letter might be the only thing that agent ever reads of your writing. Remember: Agents have a big pile of other writer’s query letters sitting in front of them and would like to get through that pile sitting on their desk, so small things can be the difference between them saying, “Send more” and “not interested.” But also, Remember: Agents want to find the next great book or else they wouldn’t be facing that pile.

So let’s learn what to do, learn how to avoid the pitfalls that get our letter tossed and signal an amateur.

Noah Lukeman is giving away a .pdf of this book and How to Land an Agent. You can also get it for free on your Kindle at Amazon.

Here is the link for the download: http://www.landaliteraryagent.com/

Here is the layout for this week:


Wednesday: Query Letter Tips – Examples and Links

Thursday: Agent Wishlist

Friday: First Page Critique Results

Talk tomorrow,


Filed under: Advice, Agent, demystify, need to know, Process, reference, Writing Tips Tagged: Agent Noah Lukeman, The goal of the Query Letter, The Query Letter, What a query letter says about you

5 Comments on The Query Letter, last added: 3/25/2014
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4. Illstrator Saturday – Gideon Kendall

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

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

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

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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


My favorite illustration in this book.


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

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


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

Yes. I have a BFA from Cooper.


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

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

gideonelliott2cover bw

gideonfairy on head

What were you favorite classes?

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


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

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


What was your main painting technique back then?

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


Have the materials you used changed over the years?

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



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

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


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

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


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

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


What was your first job after your graduated?

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


What kind of creature is Elliott going to fight?

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



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

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


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

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


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

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


How did you get your first book contract?

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


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

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

gideoninterior art

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

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


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

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


How did you get to do The Seems series?

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


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

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


gideonblack and white500

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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


Have worked with any educational publishers?

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


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


Have you done illustrations for any children’s magazines?

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


Do you think the Internet has opened doors for you?

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


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

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


What do you feel was your greatest success?

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


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


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

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


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

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


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




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

If they can pay me and I like the project.


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

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


Do you use Photoshop or Corel Painter with your illustrations?

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

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

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


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

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


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

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


What are you working on now?

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




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

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


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

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

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

Talk tomorrow,


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

3 Comments on Illstrator Saturday – Gideon Kendall, last added: 4/5/2014
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5. Workshop for Poetry & Ask Kathy Answers

logo_highlightsDavid Harrison is conducting a Highlights Foundation workshop:

Poetry for the Delight of It

September 29 – October 2. 

David’s first book for children, The Boy with a Drum, was released in 1969 and eventually sold more than two million copies. In 1972, David won national recognition when he received the Christopher Award for The Book of Giant Stories. Since then David has published seventy-seven original titles that have sold more than fifteen million copies and earned numerous honors.

From budding poet to published veteran, if you like to think, talk, write, and share poetry, this one’s for you. Don’t wait too long to decide, this workshop sold out last year.

Here is the agenda:

Session 1:   The Study of Poetry
Session 2:   Verse
Session 3:   Are You Funny?
Session 4:   Skype Guest Kenn Nesbitt
Session 5:   Revising and Rewriting
Session 6:   Skype Guest Jane Yolen
Session 7:   Performing Your Work
Session 8:   Tips on Marketing
Session 9:   Self-Publishing
Session 10: Poetry Editor Rebecca Davis
Session 11: Becoming an Expert
Session 12: Open Forum
Session 13: The Big Performance
Session 14:  Setting Doable Goals
Wrap Up, Pictures, Goodbyes

Individual activities will include time to:

  • Practice writing what you’re learning
  • Be still with your thoughts
  • Start at least three new poems
  • Meet one-on-one with your workshop leader
  • Have your work critiqued by your workshop leader
  • Fun, impromptu gatherings by the fire to share poems
  • Chance to learn from others

Here is the link: http://www.highlightsfoundation.org/workshops/poetry-for-the-delight-of-it-2014

Below are a few of the questions and answers I received at last weekend Writer’s Retreat with Agent Sean McCarthy and Publisher Steve Meltzer.

1. When formatting a manuscript: Do you know of any rule that says you must NOT indent the first paragraph of a new chapter? What do you think?

Both Sean and Steve, thought I was crazy when I asked this and couldn’t understand why this question was being asked. I explained that when you read a book, the first paragraph of each chapter is not indented. Apparently this is something that has carried over from the old days in publishing. It is nothing that a writer needs to do when formatting their manuscript.

2. What do you think of prologues? Use them or lose them? 

Both Sean and Steve agreed that it is okay to use a prologue if it is important to telling the story. The word, “Important” is the key. Could the same story be told without the prologue? Is it something that the reader needs to know and will it tie into the end of the novel? They said editors worry about them, because many readers skip the prologue.

3. Are there any conventions for labeling manuscripts/books that mix genres? (For example, a series that is historical/science fiction/fantasy.)

The word for mixing these different genres is called, “Speculative Fiction.”

4. Because agents now often don’t respond if they aren’t interested in a query, that certainly makes it acceptable, almost imperative, to send simultaneous queries (although with each obviously tailored to a particular agent/agency). Is ten to a dozen too many to send out at once?

There was total agreement from everyone that you should not submit or query to only one agent. Ten seemed to be the standard amount to send out at one time.

5. Underlining makes it clearer to copyeditors and typesetters what needs to be italicized, but do agents have a preference whether the manuscript uses the italic or the underline function of the computer to indicate what will ultimately be italicized?

This was another one that didn’t seem to matter to Sean or Steve. Just italicize and don’t underline, since that is more standard. They weren’t worried about that detail, since they are paying the copyeditors to catch those type of things.

More Answers during the week, so check back.

Talk tomorrow,



Filed under: Advice, Agent, Conferences and Workshops, demystify, Editors Tagged: Agent Sean McCarthy, Ask Kathy, David L Harrison, Hightlights Foundation, Publisher Steve Meltzer

4 Comments on Workshop for Poetry & Ask Kathy Answers, last added: 4/7/2014
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6. Ask Kathy Questions Answered

Julia Rosenbaum snarl-screamApril
For all you writers and illustrators who have days where you feel like the publishing industry could make you stop, scream and pull their hair out, this cute illustration sent in by Julia Rosenbaum is for you. 

Julia has always wanted to be a children’s book writer/illustrator…and so she went to law school. A few years after that interesting episode in her life, she learned how to use Photoshop and became a graphic designer. She is now working on her original dream: writing picture book manuscripts and creating illustrations. You can find her online at juliadraws.com and on Twitter @julia_draws.

Here are a few more Answers to the Questions you sent in and the answers from the Writer’s Retreat the other weekend with Agent Sean McCarthy and Associate Publisher at Penguin Putnam, Steve Meltzer.

1. Because agents now often don’t respond if they aren’t interested in a query, that makes almost imperative to send simultaneous queries. Is ten to a dozen too many to send out at once?

The consensus was to send ten queries at a time. No one thought you should send one query at a time and wait to hear back before sending your work out to someone else. Here are my thoughts about other similar questions I get asked: You may get five agents asking to see your full manuscript from the query letters you send out. Some may ask for an exclusive submission. If they do, you will need to way their request against the other agents. That exclusive submission request might throw that agent out of the running or they might be at the top of your list of agents you would want to represent you. If they are, then make sure you find out how long they expect to have an exclusive for your manuscript.

Is this amount of time acceptable? It may be, but now you know how to proceed. I personally think six weeks would be my limit, other people may be willing to wait three months. As long as both of you are on the same page it should work.

What if you send out your full manuscript to five agents or editors and one gets saying they are interested, before you say yes to them representing you and blow off the others, you should email saying you haven’t heard back from them and another agent is interested in offering you representation. Many agents appreciate you letting them know so they can pull your manuscript out of the pile to see if they are interested in your story. No need to do this if an agent stated up front that if you haven’t heard back in three weeks they are not interested.

Say you submit to an agent who turns around and works with you, offers a lot of advice that you use when revising your manuscript, and asks to see it again, IMO, you should make sure you resubmit the manuscript to them, before offering it to another agent.

If you have submitted the manuscript to editors, you should always make sure the agent offering representation knows who has seen it right up front. You don’t want to get in the position of signing a contract with the agent and then have them say they didn’t know it had been read by numerous editors in the industry. They might be thinking they could sell it to the same people you already sent it to. Now you have someone who doesn’t want to work with you and may even cancel the contract with you. Supposed this happens after you have turned down another agent who was interested in your work. Now you have lost out on two agents at one time. Oh yes, this can happen and it doesn’t matter if the agent should have asked these questions, you are now the one who is on the losing end of this scenario.

2. What’s the best way to label a manuscript/book that falls on the borderline between middle grades and young adult? (Think ages 10 to 14. For example, I’m talking about a horsey book, and that is the age at which the most girls are the most horse-crazy, and the best time to market such a book to them.) Would agents/editors want to see it called upper middle grades? Tween?

Sean McCarthy and Steve Meltzer said don’t put MG or YA in the query, put the age group and let them decide where it fits. The other idea you can use is to go to the book store and peruse the shelves. Where would the store shelve your book? What are the titles of the other books on that shelf? You could include a couple in your query letter.

3. What amount of books do you need to sell to have a publisher think your book was successful?

The general number was 20,000 copies, but it could be lower. It depends on the amount of your advance and the projected amount of sales the publisher expects after all there meetings and calculations. As Steve pointed out, a publisher who expects to sell a million copies of a book and only sells 600,000 copies might consider that book a failure. While a book that they projected 10,000 sales and sells 20,000, might be considered a great success.

4. I read on your blog to only use one space between each sentence in your manuscript. I had someone tell me they have asked editors and were told it was okay. Would you double check with Sean McCarthy and Steve Meltzer on this?

I did and both said it would not stop them from reading your manuscript. But I will not tell you that not doing this is okay, because I am trying to get you to do things according to the standard. My goal is to tell you how to do things that will make sure no one will find fault with. If 50% or even 20% of the editors and agents could pick up your manuscript and go on to the next on sitting on their desk because of the extra space, then I say, “Let’s do it right, so you are only judged on the content of your writing.” Over the years, I know little things can make a big difference.

5. I never heard of using capital letters the first time a character is mentioned in a synopsis. Would you ask about that at your retreat?

This is another one that would not stop Sean and Steve from reading your synopsis. I had said that I didn’t think this was a deal breaker when I told you how to format  your synopsis, but again that is the standard. It makes it easier for the editor or agent to read, which shows you care about them and that you approach your writing as a professional who knows the industry.

Talk tomorrow,


Filed under: Advice, Agent, Asking opinion, authors and illustrators, demystify, How to Tagged: Ask Kathy, Julia Rosenbaum, Publishing Industry Answers, Questions and Answers

0 Comments on Ask Kathy Questions Answered as of 4/9/2014 1:21:00 AM
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7. Illustrator Saturday – Wendy Martin

WendyMartinPortraitA transplanted New Yorker now living in Missouri, Wendy Martin has been working as an illustrator for 25+ years.

Wendy’s love affair with art and illustration began at an early age. One of her earliest memories is of sitting with a pile of crayons and papers strewn around her proclaiming to her parents that someday everyone in the world would be looking at her art. In spite of her parents’ attempts to steer her toward a more practical choice, she never wanted to do anything else.

So, Wendy followed her heart and earned a degree in Fashion Design from the Fashion Institute of Technology, then continued her art education at the School of Visual Arts, earning a B.F.A. in Graphic Design. These disciplines can still be seen in her work in her strong lines, textures and detailed patterns.

Her career began in advertising and graphic design in New York, where she was often called upon to create spot art for a variety of clients, which included Fortune 500 companies such as Kraft, General Electric and Sears. After her move to Missouri in 2000, she turned her focus to her true love, children’s books. An Ordinary Girl, A Magical Child, a children’s book she both wrote and illustrated was released in 2005. When the original publisher folded, An Ordinary Girl, A Magical Child was picked up by a new house, edited and re-released in 2008, then went on to become a finalist in the 2009 international COVR awards. Four additional picture books and a coloring book quickly followed.

Wendy can still be found sitting around her studio with papers strewn around her creating stories and illustrations for children. She has since traded in her crayons for watercolor, pen and ink, and a computer.

She is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, and the Mixed-Up Files of Middle-Grade Authors.

Here is Wendy discussing the February 2014 promotional postcard mailer she created entirely in Adobe Illustrator:

I’ve been using AI since it first came out. Sometime in the early to mid 90s, I believe. That first version of the program was installed via a couple of 3×3 floppy disks. Remember those? Not very floppy, and incredibly tiny amount of storage space. I currently use CS5, the CD for the program stores more data than my first Apple computer.

Not only has AI become a much bigger program, it now has so many more capabilities to create painterly art. Here is my illustration process in Adobe Illustrator.

I start out with paper and pencil. I may use a sketchbook, but in most cases, I just grab a piece of blank copy paper and scribble till something comes of it. Once I have a messy thumbnail down (I won’t bother sharing it, since it is unintelligible to anyone but myself) I work on character development. Characters are sketched separately, scanned in and layered into Photoshop. Adjustments and revisions are made and background options explored.


Once I have my rough layout designed in Photoshop, I bring the file into Illustrator as a template layer. I begin inking over the pencil rough. As you can see above, the inking has some major changes, especially to the right half of the image. I decided the image of the three boys and a dog playing with a couple of basketballs was too ordinary. I added more story telling to the illustration by changing the middle boy’s basketball to a swirl of light. Where the boys crossed over the division delineated by the swirl, they and their environment became a fantasy world. The dog was out-of-place, so it transformed into a fox.

I create my characters on separate layers in AI, that way I can revise them in placement, size etc, easily. The only drawback, if you can call it that, of this technique is I have to draw each character in its entirety. It’s a little more work initially, but makes the fine adjustments throughout the image creation much less of a hassle.


When the majority of the character inking is done, I begin adding flat color. With this piece, I had several false starts with getting the swirling light and the portal to reflect the vision in my head. Glowing orbs of light are a lot easier to accomplish in Photoshop, apparently, because I couldn’t find any reference or samples created utilizing AI. Since I didn’t want the background to compete with all that was going on with the main characters, I hadn’t inked it. I wanted to simulate a bright sunny day, but differentiate the left side from the right. I also wanted to avoid flat colors in the hills, fields and court surface, so I messed around with a variety of textures until I got the effect I was looking for. The glowing orb and separation are progressing to closer to the image in my mind. I added a larger, darker version of the background flowers to the foreground.


I worked the details into the left side of the background, adding leaves to the tree with flowers and grass at its roots. I decided the costuming on the boys was too similar in color and values to those of the background. I changed them so the boys appeared to jump forward in the space. The glowing orb and its trailing light has finally come close to what I was aiming for. I began laying in the fur on the fox to make it more dimensional. Then I moved to the boy on the left and concentrated on the highlights and shadows on him, his clothing and the basketball he’s dribbling.


I worked on the boy and then moved over to the fox bring dimensionality and a painterly feel to both of these characters. Then I completed the background on the right side, adding the trees, leaves, flowers and grasses along with their shadows. The color and shading were also added to the basketball hoop. Shading and highlighting of the middle boy was also attacked, paying special attention to the cross-over details on his clothing to differentiate the mundane from the magical worlds he was straddling. The lighting on this was tricky since he is split by the trailing light of the glowing orb.


More details were added to the fox before I moved on to the last boy. As I was working, I noticed all the boys’ legs were in the same position. I didn’t like the way the elf shoes were hitting the fox, so I revised the boy’s lower half to add more variety to the children and remove the confusion between the elf shoes and fox. Once the revisions were made, I continued adding details to the woodland elf costume. It’s hard to tell here, but the elf-child has leaves scattered in his hair as well. I also decided the style of middle boy’s hand didn’t match the rest of the image, so I made it more realistic and changed its position.

While I was adding final details, I decided the two boys on the left needed to have their faces revised. Although the adjustments are minor, they gave the boys more definition and made their faces more in keeping with the semi-realistic style of the image. Almost done but for a few more minor revisions.


Finished piece.


Here is the printed piece back from the printer and ready to mail out.

How long have you been illustrating?

I’ve been creating art in one form or another for as long as I can remember. When I was 12, the children’s librarian was so impressed with my origami pieces she invited me to be the guest artist for the display cases in the children’s wing library entrance. It was quite an honor, since the guest artists were usually well-known professionals from Long Island or New York. The display cases where 2’x6’ long and about 18” high, one case on each side of the entrance hall. I created a mountain village scene for one and a fishing village scene for the other. It took me three months to complete all the origami pieces.


How did you decide to attend Fashion Design from the Fashion Institute of Technology?

I went to a very large high school. There were close to 3,000 students in the 3 grades. Because of the size of the school, and the affluence of a lot of the surrounding communities, my upper grade education was more like college. The high school had wings divided by discipline. One of the wings was the Arts and Theater wing. I had classes in fashion illustration, textile design, life drawing and costuming. I was very passionate about pattern and textile. Everyone assumed I would go to an art college. I wanted to focus on illustration, but my parents talked me into going into fashion design because they believed it had more practical applications in the working world. I applied to Pratt, FIT and Parsons. Pratt granted me a full scholarship, but when my parents and I went to visit the college, they were afraid for my safety in the Brooklyn neighborhood the college was located in. I chose FIT because it had a 2-year program and I wanted to get out on my own as soon as possible.


What made you decide to continue your education at the School of Visual Arts for Graphic Design?

I was offered a job before I even graduated from FIT. I was thrilled until the newness wore off. I was the designer for a little firm that created clothing for low-end department stores similar to what Wal-Mart is today. Part of my job was to go to places like Macy’s and Bloomingdales and make sketches of their merchandise, bring my sketches back and make patterns for my employer. In the fashion world it’s called a knock-off and was part of the business. It was sucking the soul right out of me. So I left the fashion world and got a job as an illustrator at a hand-painted clothing store. I was paid by the piece, and became really fast at copying the owner’s designs onto various items of clothing. I struck out on my own, came up with my own line and gave it a go. Part of what I needed to do was create advertising. I loved putting all the pieces together, but decided I would be better off if I got my BFA and learned from experts. So I applied to SVA for their Graphic Design program.


What were you favorite classes?

Richard Wilde, the head of the Graphic Design program, taught one of my classes. He really pushed the students to think outside of the box to fulfill the assignments. I loved that class because there was always a new challenge. I no longer remember what it was called, but I do know Mr. Wilde create a book a number of years later based on the class with samples of student work.


Did SVA help you get the job in advertising after you graduated?

Not really. At that time NYC was a very scary place to be living. I move to Connecticut right after I graduated. I got a job as an Art Director for a publisher of 5 business trade publications. After working there for a while, I found a job closer to home as a paste-up artist for an advertising firm that created ads for the telephone book yellow pages and menus for fine dining establishments. The owner of that business got into serious trouble with the law. One day, after I’d been working there for a few years, I showed up to work and the building was padlocked shut. So I became a freelancer. One of the places I freelanced for was Black Birch Graphics, a non-fiction school library book publisher. Another place I freelanced was an advertising agency creating business-to-business publications for Fortune 500 companies. Eventually, I ended up freelancing for this company full time. I was with them for 9 years.


What made you leave that job in Connecticut and move to Missouri?

I blame the Internet. I met the man who became my husband on-line. He didn’t want to be separated from his children by moving to New England, so I sold my house by the beach and relocated to Missouri.


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

Yes. I love patterns and flowing lines in clothing. My style is very graphic as well, probably from long years as a technical illustrator with the advertising agency.


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

When I was 11 or 12, my mother hired me to illustrate a pamphlet she wrote on dog training. I created 5 illustrations for her. I think she paid me $50. The illustrations were not very professional, but I got paid.

My first “real” illustration job was for Crossword Magazine in 1987. Mr. Wilde had an agreement with the art director to show him student work. If the AD liked any of the images, the student was offered the opportunity to create mechanicals for the cover of the magazine. I had two pieces selected. This was before computers. I had to ink all those lines by hand, with a Rapidograph. I was lousy at it and ended up hiring a fellow student to do the inking for me. We split the fee.


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

After I moved to Missouri.


How did you do freelance work while you were working to break into the children’s publishing industry?

I freelanced for places like Sear Photo Studios, Purina, and Mays Company. I did illustration, logo design, prop design, photo retouching and general graphic design.


Was An Ordinary Girl, A Magical Child, your first book?



Who published that book in 2005?

Pagan World Press


How did that contract come about?

Ordinary Girl is a very niche book. The rejections I received all told me the book’s market was too small. I was lamenting this to a fellow writer friend of mine when she said her publisher was looking for Pagan-focused books. I sent him a query and he jumped at the chance to publish the book. Sadly, the publisher folded shortly after my book was released.


How did you find another publisher after the first publisher folded?

It pays to have friends who know people. Another friend put me in touch with this publisher and I signed a 3-book contract, which included the already published book.


Did you have a hard time regaining your rights, so you could get it published with a new publisher?

I had a lawyer review the first publisher’s contract before signing it. One of the clauses was reversion of rights after a certain time period of the book being unavailable. So I waited the allotted time period, had the lawyer draft me a letter declaring my intentions and the clause for reversion of the rights and got them back. It pays to have a good lawyer on your side.


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

Ordinary Girl went on to get an award sticker and was reprinted 3 times. It’s had a good run and still outsells all my other books.


How many picture books have you published?



Were they with the same publisher?



Do you plan to write and illustrate more books?

I’m working on several dummies at the moment.


Are you open to working with self-published authors?

I am, under certain conditions.


What materials do you use to paint your color illustrations?

I use digital and traditional medias.


What do you use with your black and white?

Mostly digital. I always start with a pencil sketch.


Do you feel there is more work out there for black and white illustrations?

I think it depends on the market and the artist’s style. My dream job would be doing color covers with interior line art for chapter or middle grade books.


Have you done illustrations for any children’s magazines?


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

I used to advertise in print annuals and on group portfolio sites, but most of my paying work came from postcards and direct email marketing so that’s where I focus my efforts now.


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

A padded seat cushion. After spending hours in a chair, it really makes a huge difference in being able to keep working in comfort.


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

I consider illustration my full-time job. I am in the studio every weekday morning at 7. I usually work until 3 or 4. If I have a pressing deadline, I will go back to work in the evenings and on weekends. I’d say I spend about 40-50 hours a week in the studio, either working on a piece or on marketing or updating my blog and web site.


Do you actively look for school visits? Or do they find you through word of mouth?

At the moment I’m not actively seeking school visits. I will probably go back to it when I have a new book to promote.


Do you have an artist rep.? If yes, who? If not, would you like to have one?

I’m between agents right now. My last rep decided she no longer wanted to be in the publishing business and quit. The book she was marketing is hidden in a drawer somewhere since I don’t know where it was shown. I have several picture books out on submission with carefully selected agents.


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

I spend a good portion of time on research and reference collection before and during any project. I used to berate myself that I was wasting time, but I now know it’s an essential part of my process.


Do you think the Internet has opened doors for you?

Most definitely.


Do you use Photoshop or Corel Painter with your illustrations?

I use Photoshop only after an illustration is 90% done. Mostly for minor editing or color correction.


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

I have a 12-year-old 4X5 Wacom tablet. I use it nearly every day.


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

I’d like to illustrate books for the major publishers. I’d also like to have steady educational publishing clients.


What are you working on now?

I create new pieces all the time. I also have several picture book dummies in the works. Plus, I’ve branched out into fantastic art in the past few years. Last May, my husband and I took a mini vacation to Kansas City and attended Spectrum Fantastic Art Live. I went as a spectator, but took some postcards with me. Charles Vess chastised me for not having a booth and displaying my art there. So this year I bit the bullet and applied for a booth and was accepted. May is only a few short months away, so I’m focusing on creating enough fantasy art to fill my booth. I hope Mr. Vess likes what he sees.


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.

One thing I tell my traditional media students is to buy the best quality art supplies they can afford. For years I used the cheapest paper, paints and brushes to save money. When I finally splurged on quality supplies the difference in my paintings was huge. I had a lot more successful end results.


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

Draw or write every day. Creative endeavors require constant practice. Illustrating is a marathon event. You have to train constantly to compete.


Thank you Wendy for sharing your journey, talent, and process with us. Please remember to keep us up-to-date with all your future successes. You can find Wendy at: www.wendymartinillustration.com

Please take a minute to leave Wendy a comment. I am sure she would like that and so would I. Thanks.

Talk tomorrow,


Filed under: Advice, authors and illustrators, demystify, Illustrator's Saturday, inspiration, Interview, Process, Tips Tagged: An Ordinary Girl, School of Visual Arts, Wendy Martin

9 Comments on Illustrator Saturday – Wendy Martin, last added: 3/3/2014
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8. New Idea – What Do You Think?

mellisawinter clothes

This fun illustration was sent in by Melissa Iwai. Melissa has illustrated over twenty picture books, and her first picture book that she wrote and illustrated was, Soup Day. She was featured on Illustrator Saturday on October 13, 2012. Click here to view.

In the past couple of weeks I have realized that there are always new writers and illustrators stopping by in hopes to learn more about the children’s book publishing industry. I have been blogging everyday for the last five years and so many subjects have been discussed, but many of you have not been following me for that many years. Example, I was afraid to blog about the formatting issue thinking that writers would think I wasn’t covering a important topic, but it turns out that many of you thanked me for clarifying  the subject. I breathed a sigh of relief, because I don’t want to waste anyone’s time.

This lead me to wondering if you had more questions that you would like answered. If you do I would be willing to collect them, answer the ones I know and get editors and agents to weigh in on others. Why don’t we give it a test run? I am going to the March Writer’s Retreat that I put out there at the end of last year. Steve Meltzer, Associate Publisher/Executive Managing Editor of Dial Books for Young Readers, Dutton Children’s Books, Kathy Dawson Books, and Celebra Children’s Books and Agent Sean McCarthy from McCarthy Lit are the two faculty members for our small group. We will be spending the weekend with them, so I could get answers to anything you want to know.

If you have a burning question, please send it to Kathy.temean(at)gmail.com. You can ask more than one question and it can be about any aspect of the children’s publishing industry. You can be a completely new writer or illustrator, or an author or and illustrator who has published many books. Just make sure you put ASK KATHY in the subject area of the email, so I can search on that. I look forward to reading your questions and sharing the answers later the month.

Had to share the picture below with all you winter weary people out there. Nanci Turner Steveson move from New Jersey to her dream state – Wyoming. Maybe you will feel a little less weary after you see all the snow at her house.


Now that is snow. It brings the words, “Cabin Fever” to my mine.

Talk tomorrow,


Filed under: authors and illustrators, demystify, How to Tagged: Agent Sean McCarthy, Ask Kathy, March Writer's Retreat, Melissa Iwai, Nanci Turner-Steveson, New Idea, Steve Meltzer

6 Comments on New Idea – What Do You Think?, last added: 3/6/2014
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9. Agent Hanna Bowman Wishlist

hannah-bowmanThought you might like to see what agent Hanna Bowman said she was looking for this past week. Just remember now is not to time to start writing a story to fit this wish list, since by the time you finish, Hanna will probably be on to wanting other things. But maybe there is someone reading this post who has a manuscript written that is a perfect fit and is looking for a home. Or maybe you are working on something that fits and this will spur you on to finishing the book. Tip: Just make sure your manuscript is revised and polished before submitting. I hope this helps someone.

Hannah Bowman joined Liza Dawson Associates Literary Agency in 2011. She has a B.A. from Cornell University, summa cum laude in English and magna cum laude in  Mathematics. While a student, she spent four summers working in particle physics at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, before  eventually deciding her true interest was books. 

Hannah’s clients include:

-Pierce Brown (RED RISING trilogy, Del Rey, Feb. 2014)   -Rosamund Hodge (CRUEL BEAUTY, Balzer & Bray/HarperCollins, Jan. 2014)   -Brian Staveley (THE EMPEROR’S BLADES, Tor, Jan. 2014)   -Dianna Anderson (DAMAGED GOODS: CHRISTIAN AND FEMINIST IN THE WAR ON   WOMEN, Jericho Books, Spring 2015)

In her free time, she plays the organ.

Hannah specializes in commercial fiction, especially science fiction and fantasy, young adult fiction, women’s fiction, cozy mysteries, and romance. Hannah is also interested in nonfiction, particularly in the areas of mathematics, science and religion (especially history and sociology of Christianity).

HERE IS HANNA’S WISH LIST (This past week):

1. I’d love some great narrative nonfic about the history of science, like Bill Bryson’s A SHORT HISTORY OF NEARLY EVERYTHING.

2. A Crichton-esque science thriller that really knows its science.

3. I’d love a great medieval mystery like Sharon Kay Penman’s THE QUEEN’S MAN

4. And I’m always looking for funny, lighthearted YA contemporary romance, the kind with no heavy issues.

5. I would love to find some great YA fantasy with a female protagonist — think Tamora Pierce, Sabriel,

6. I’m looking for books that play with narrative form like CODE NAME VERITY

7. I would love some great historical fantasy, or other epic fantasy for adults.

8. You know what I want? Fantasy, adult or YA, as fresh and creative as SABRIEL

9. The next Thursday Next. Smart, funny, brilliant, creative, full of literary meta-references

10. A medieval mystery series like Sharon Kay Penman’s THE QUEEN’S MAN or Sharan Newman’s DEATH COMES AS EPIPHANY.

11. YA girl-power fantasy a la Tamora Pierce with some really new, unusual worldbuilding.

12. In YA: a really funny (makes me laugh out loud funny) contemporary.

13. Funny urban fantasy like Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid books.

14. More fantasy: I want the next LIES OF LOCKE LAMORA or THE PALACE JOB. Magic and heists and cons!

15. Military fantasy that tells its battles as well as THE THOUSAND NAMES — a really great magical campaign.

16. Gorgeously-written, literary historical fantasy — something as numinous as JONATHAN STRANGE AND MR. NORRELL.

Contact Hannah at queryhannah@lizadawsonassociates.com.


1. Who’s the main character, and why is he or she interesting/appealing?

2. What’s the plot, and how will it surprise me and take my breath away?

3. What’s the setting, and what interesting elements make it seem real?

4. A compelling, three-dimensional character in a well-realized setting (realistic or speculative) with a page-turning story to tell, will hook me.

Blog: http://hannahbowman.tumblr.com/


For further insight, Literary Rambles has an interview and links to other interviews with Hanna.

Talk tomorrow,


Filed under: Agent, demystify, Editor & Agent Info, opportunity, Places to sumit, Publishers and Agencies, Tips Tagged: Agent Looking for..., Agent Query, Agent Wishlist, Hannah Bowman, Liza Dawson Associates Literary Agency

1 Comments on Agent Hanna Bowman Wishlist, last added: 3/5/2014
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10. Illustrator Saturday – Elisabeth Alba


Elisabeth Alba live and work in New York City after moving here in 2006 in order to complete my MFA in Illustration as Visual Essay at the School of Visual Arts. Before then, I had received my dual degree BA in English (with a focus on children’s literature) and visual art studies at the University of Florida. I’ve traveled a lot, which has led to an obsession with history and an interest in other cultures throughout the ages. I’ve always loved children’s literature and film, especially fantasy and historical fiction.

Clients include Scholastic, Simon + Schuster, Oxford University Press, Henry Holt Books for Young Readers, Small Beer Press, AAA Traveler magazine, and MTV Books. I’m the illustrator of Diamond and Fancy, both published by Cartwheel Books, an imprint of Scholastic, and part of the Breyer Stablemates easy-to-read series. Recently illustrated I am Martin Luther King Jr. I am George Lucas, and I Am Cleopatra, all written by Grace Norwich and published by Scholastic; and I contributed illustrations for The Shadowhunter’s Codex by Cassandra Clare, Simon & Schuster.

Here is Elisabeth discussing her process:

I had just read Richard Burton’s translation of One Thousand and One Nights and was inspired to do an illustration of Scheherazade. I decided to make it a scene, with the Sultan in the background.

I used my usual, watercolor and acryla gouache. It’s fairly large for me at 12.5×17.5. Trying to work bigger… but it’s hard with the small space I have to work in.


After working on a few thumbnails I knew right away what I kind of wanted, so I took some
photo reference of myself! (and my fiance, but he’d prefer I not share him in lady slippers)


This is a quick sketch using the reference working it all out.


After doing a real pencil drawing and scanning it I began working on it digitally, getting the tones and lighting right, working out the pose a little more.


The final sketch with color test. You can see I moved the hand and gave her more of a tilt. I usually bring my color compositions to an almost finished state (if they were digital paintings), just to make sure I’ve figured it all out before painting.


I print out the digital drawing. It was too big for my printer to print directly on the watercolor paper. I then traced the image using graphite paper to transfer it to the watercolor paper. Then I started blocking in a base color.


More blocking in of base colors.


Don’t have progress photos from after that, but I continue to layer watercolor and get darker and darker, then I seal it with matte medium before continuing to add color with acryla gouache. I then varnish and scan and do any digital touch-ups.


Final image. It’s darker than the actual painting, because it just looks better that way on a computer screen.


Above and Below: Where an assignment during my mentorship with the art director for the Harry Potter books (he was a guest). We had a different art director critique us each month and he assigned us the first book!

How long have you been illustrating?

I’d say since 2006, when I moved to NYC. I had done some small work before but it wasn’t very interesting to me. I didn’t consider myself a professional until 2006 at the earliest. Though I was also in grad school at the time so couldn’t take too much on.


I see you attended the University of Florida to study both children’s literature and visual art. That makes me think that in high school you had an interest in writing and illustrating for children. How did that idea of a career develop with you?

I loved writing and reading but also loved art, so I wasn’t sure which to pick as a major. I started as a BFA art student, but because I was mostly doing fine arts as a student, and wanted more illustration experience, I decided to switch to a less work intensive BA so that I could double major in English as well (and I concentrated in children’s literature).


How did you decide to attend the University of Florida?

I went to high school in Florida. There was a great scholarship for Florida students called the Bright Futures Scholarship. If you got a certain GPA and SAT or ACT score, and you completed a certain amount of community service hours, you received 100% tuition to a Florida college. My sister and brother were both at UF already, so I wanted to join them. I wasn’t ready to go too far away to an art school, and I knew UF was considered a very good school.


What type of things did you learn in college that you still use today?

I had a chance to experiment with a lot of art materials, so that helped me to settle on what I liked best. I think the best stuff I got was writing skills though. I had to write sooo many critical papers in my English classes (as well as art classes, actually), I read hundreds of children’s books, and I wrote a lot of short stories. And I had fantastic English professors. I have a wonderful day job in communications at a private school that I wouldn’t have gotten without my writing skills, and it has helped support my burgeoning illustration career.


Did you immediately decide you want to get your MFA or did you get a job right out of college and then decide to continue your education in illustration?

I moved to NYC to start my MFA program right out of undergrad. I had no idea how to go about finding illustration work, since, as I mentioned, my art classes at UF were all fine arts, and I needed to be in an art school environment.


What made you decide to attend the School of Visual Arts in NYC?

At the time there were only three grad programs in illustration. SCAD, SVA, and AAU. I applied to and was accepted to all three. I only had a chance to visit SCAD and SVA. I planned to visit AAU, but as soon as I visited SVA and met the chairman, Marshall Arisman, I knew I found the school for me!


Did you have any favorite classes?

So hard to choose! They were all different. We had a location drawing class that was super fun. We got to visit the circus, a boxing gym, the botanical gardens, the zoo, and many other cool places, so it was great for someone who had just moved to NYC. Sightseeing while at school!


What specifically does an MFA in Illustration as Visual Essay teach you that just an MFA in Illustration doesn’t?

I don’t think there’s a difference. It’s still an MFA. Illustration as Visual Essay is just the name of the program. The ‘visual essay’ portion had to do with finding your own voice, and there was a lot of writing involved – we had a creative writing class, and we also had to write papers about gallery shows in a fine arts class and comics in a comic history class.


Did the School help you get work?

They certainly helped, but it’s not the school that gets you work, it’s the amount of time you put into bettering yourself and actively keeping up with contacts as well. Work’s not just going to drop in your lap (sometimes it might… but don’t count on it)! I worked on some concept work  while I was still student for SpotCo after meeting the art director on a visit to the offices and having one of my teachers recommend me. I also interned with illustrator Brian Pinkney since he contacted the program for help (he was an alumnus). My thesis advisor, Brett Helquist, also hired me after I graduated for various  projects. And I made a lot of connections through classmates (which resulted in my working with Scholastic). SVA also has a career services department that seemed pretty great but I never needed to use it.


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

Not really, actually. I always just did my own thing. My professors at UF let me do my own thing, thankfully, because they knew I wanted to be an illustrator not a fine artist, and they were open to me making children’s book work. SVA was more of the same, just concentrating on working out what I wanted to do, and my style. I guess my classes also helped me to see what I didn’t want to do, in terms of style and genre.


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

I graduated in 2008. I continued doing concept work for SpotCo – I was helping ‘storyboard’ musical theater posters for Broadway, so they would tell me what actors I had to portray and what was going on, and I’d come up with some ideas. They would then show my ideas to the clients and take the final photos based on our ideas. I also taught kids that summer after graduating at an after school art program. And I got my day job at the private school, which I’ve had since.


Above: Final mentorship project with Rebecca Guay. The assigned by Irene Gallo, art director at Tor Books to create an illustration for a short story.

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

I’d been paid for drawing since my freshman year as an undergrad, when I would draw fanart commissions. I also had a few small local assignments in Florida. I’d say my first real paycheck came when I was in grad school and did some work for author Rick Yancey (my favorite english professor at UF, Dr. Cech, knew him and recommended me) for a manuscript he was working on. It was never picked up by a publisher, but he’s been writing some marvelous books that came after! My first publishing job was a cover for Farrar Straus & Giroux half a year after graduating from SVA… but unfortunately the job was killed.


Above: Done with watercolor, colored pencil, and acryla gouache. 10″x12.5″

Do you have an agent or artist rep.? If so, who and how did the two of you connect? If not, would you like to find representation?

I don’t. Whenever I’ve contacted them they usually tell me my work is too traditional or realistic. But I haven’t needed one so far. Sometimes I think about looking for another, but I’ve heard mixed reviews, and I just haven’t needed one yet.


Sketch to final for self-published book, Brendan and the Beast – an alternative retelling of the classic fairytale.


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

I guess I would say Diamond, written by Suzanne Weyn, one of the Breyer Stablemates books published by Cartwheel Books/Scholastic. That was in early 2009.


How did that contract come about?

One of my classmates became a graphic designer at Scholastic. She recommended me. They needed someone who could draw horses, and she had remembered that I drew some at SVA. I had to paint the cover first, to show that I was capable of drawing a horse and just good enough in general, and they went with me!


Above: Watercolor/acryla gouache/some digital touch ups.

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

For sure! It was the biggest paycheck I ever got. Went directly to my student loans.


Have you tried to write and illustrate a children’s book, yet?

I have written and illustrated two of my own books while at SVA. I showed them to a few publishers but nothing came of them. One was a book about the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, called Amytis’s Garden. The other was a book called Nico’s Journey, about a boy searching for the best paella in Spain. They were fun to work on and great learning experiences!


Above: From Amytis’s Garden


What type of work have you done for Scholastic?

I did two books for the Breyer Stablemates series, Diamond, which I mentioned above, and Fancy by Kristin Earhart. I also did a map for 39 Clues, a map for Infinity Ring, and three biographies for the I Am series, on Martin Luther King Jr., George Lucas, and Cleopatra.


Same two questions again for Henry Holt Books for Young Readers.

So far I’ve only done one job for Henry Holt Books for Young Readers, and it was very recent. I illustrated two maps for the upcoming book, The Last Days of Jesus, which is a middle grade adaptation of Killing Jesus by Bill O’Reilly. The art director, Patrick Collins, has in-person portfolio reviews with illustrators if you contact him beforehand by snail mail to set up a time (See here: http://us.macmillan.com/Content.aspx?publisher=holtbyr&id=375). So I sent him a postcard and a few months later we met!


It must have been exciting to be asked to do some illustrations for Cassandra Clare’s book, The Shadowhunter’s Codex. How did that come about?

It was fantastic. That was a dream job, because I don’t often get fantasy work from publishers and it’s what I really want to do. I was in a mentorship with illustrator Rebecca Guay (http://www.smarterartschool.com/) which was the best thing to happen to me in my illustration career since grad school. She is a fantastic teacher and my work has really developed since the mentorship. I made many new contacts too. It’s all about networking. Anyway, she knew the art director working on The Shadowhunter’s Codex and he was looking for some new illustrators. I submitted samples based on text he had sent. He ended up hiring me!

albasilentbrothers-bDo you feel living in New York City helps you get more work?

It has definitely helped, because it’s easy for me to go in for portfolio reviews and go to amazing illustration shows and lectures and events here. The Society of Illustrators is one of my favorite places. Meeting people face to face definitely puts you a step up, I think. It’s a huge community and you get to know so many people and mingle. Illustrators are generally pretty nice folks. I’ve gotten work thanks to them, and I have also passed on jobs to them as well. It’s just a friendly giving community.


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

Hard to choose, but I guess the Scholastic one since they have hired me multiple times!


It looks like you exhibit your work at conventions? Can you tell us about that and has it been helpful in making contacts and getting you more business?

I’ve been to a lot of conventions, but the first one where I had a booth was Gen Con 2013. It is a gaming convention (board games, roleplaying games, etc), and it has a wonderful art show that my fiance has been a part of for a few years. I’d tag along and decided I wanted to exhibit at the art show too. I’d like to try to get some gaming work, and I am also breaking into the collectors market—that is, people who buy prints and original paintings. You can meet a lot of art directors at conventions. They stop by the booths, but sometimes they have portfolio reviews that you can sign up for. And it’s just more exposure in general for people who might want to collect art. Gen Con was a pretty successful first convention for me, a lot of sales!


How did you get involved in illustrating maps?

I worked on a private commission for an author who is self publishing her novel online (www.whyismud.com). She needed a fantasy map. I’d never done one before, but it was actually super fun. That single map was all I needed to get more map work.


Have most of the maps you’ve done been for educational publishers or more for fantasy books?

A mix. For publishers it has been educational, and for private clients  who are self publishing it has been fantasy.


Have you done illustrations for any children’s magazines?

Not yet!


What materials do you use to paint your color illustrations?

My favorite materials are Dr. Ph. Martin’s Hydrus liquid watercolors and Holbein acryla gouache. Sometimes I use ink too, FW acrylic sepia ink or Dr. Ph. Martin’s Black Star matte ink. Sometimes I use a little bit of colored pencil. I also like working with pencil when I work in black and white.


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

So much! Half the work is promoting yourself. I keep my website updated, my facebook artist page, tumblr, just started using twitter, selling on Etsy, various portfolio sites like Behance. I carry around business cards and attend a lot of illustration networking events. I make promotional postcards and greeting cards and mail them to a list of art directors from the SCBWI market guide, and to my contacts that I already have. I also email samples to my contacts and to any companies that accept email submissions. I attend conventions to meet more art directors and artists.


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

Probably my computer…. I do so much research on it, and keep all my reference images on it, and I do a lot of stuff digitally… It’s just so dang useful.


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

I try to work 2-4 hours Monday-Thursday after my day job, and I get most of my work done Friday-Sunday. It depends on what I’m doing socially or how much illustration work I have. Sometimes on weekends I work from morning to late night, but sometimes I let myself off by dinnertime. I’d love to work even more but the day job makes it difficult!


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

All the time! Since my work is more realistic I like to make sure my anatomy is correct and that my poses are actually doable. I also research historical clothing, architecture, plants, animals, etc.


Do you think the Internet has opened doors for you?

Definitely. It’s great for promoting and networking, and that mentorship I mentioned with Rebecca Guay was all done online. If you’re not on the internet promoting your work or with a website than I can’t imagine how you would get work now…


Do you use Photoshop or Corel Painter with your illustrations?

I’ve used Painter in the past and would like to relearn it. I use Photoshop all the time though.


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

I have an ancient Intuos II tablet. Should really buy a new one because it’s starting to act wonky! I do a lot of my sketching on Photoshop with my tablet. Also make my color tests digitally. Sometimes I work entirely digitally, but I prefer traditional media. It’s very useful to know though.



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

I would love to get more fantasy work from publishers. My dream job would be to do covers and interior illustrations for a middle grade or YA fantasy book/series, like Harry Potter or Series of Unfortunate Events. Someday I might like to write and illustrate a book, but right now I’m just concentrating on getting more clients and building/improving my portfolio.


Above: Scholastic’s Fancy, part of the Breyer Stablemates book series.

What are you working on now?

I gave myself time to work on a personal project – I have a booth at MOCCA in April, a comic convention here in NYC. I wanted to make a comic sample to share, so I am working on that all this month. I am also working with a private client on her self-published fantasy book – a map and book cover!


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 Dr. Ph. Martin Black Star matte ink. Sometimes it’s hard to find. I had to order it online last time. It’s completely waterproof and flows wonderfully. I also love working with layers of acryla gouache. My mentor, Rebecca Guay, recommended them. They flow like watercolor but dry like acrylics, so they don’t wipe away. Also, if the paper I’m working on isn’t too thick and it’s not too big, I print out my drawings directly onto the watercolor paper so that I don’t have to redraw it!


Book Cover for SVA thesis book, Nico’s Journey, watercolor and ink.


Interior Art


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

Don’t get discouraged. Do everything you can to keep improving. It is a lifetime of learning and practicing! Do what you love, not what you think gets work. You’ll end up making better work.


One of my interior illustrations of a young George Lucas (he was actually very handsome!) working on a draft of Star Wars, surrounded by reference material.

Thank you Elisabeth for sharing your process, journey, talent, and expertise with us. It is easy to see how you have managed to be so successful. Please make sure you let us know about all your future successes. We’d love to have you share them with us. You can see Elisabeth’s work at:








Please take a minute to leave a comment for Elisabeth. I know I would love it if you did and I am sure Elisabeth would enjoy hearing from you. Who knows she could someday illustrate your book.

Talk tomorrow,


Filed under: authors and illustrators, demystify, illustrating, Illustrator's Saturday, inspiration, Process Tagged: Elisabeth Alba, MFA in Illustration, School of Visual Arts, University of Flordia

8 Comments on Illustrator Saturday – Elisabeth Alba, last added: 3/9/2014
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11. Avoiding Common Mistakes in the First Five Pages

first five pagesWe’ve been talking a lot about how to format your manuscript, so I bought The First Five Pages: A Writers Guide To Staying Out of the Rejection Pile by Noah Lukeman to see what other things might be good to share and already he has reminded me of things I forgot to mention to you that you should do before submitting.

He says, “There are no rules to assure great writing, but there are ways to avoid bad writing.” He also points out that agents and editors don’t read manuscripts to enjoy them; they read solely with the goal of getting through the pile, solely with an eye to dismiss a manuscript.

So obviously, we want to do everything to look good and make our first contact a professional one. We want to make sure our manuscripts do not signal carelessness, sloppiness, ignorance, or defiance of the industry’s standards; that the writer doesn’t care enough to do the minimum amount of research to make a manuscript industry presentable. An editor or agent will assume that the careless presentation continues in the manuscript.

Avoid rejection in the first few minutes by making sure your manuscript is presented properly:

Paper: 8 1/2  x 11 inch standard 20 pound bond white computer paper.

Text: 12 pt. Times New Roman font.  Printed only on one side of the page.

Clean: Do not send out a manuscript that you have sent out to other agents or editors if it appears the slightest bit worn.

Eliminate: Make sure you do not send out a manuscripts filled with boldface, underlined, capitalized, or italicized words everywhere, unless you purposely want to drive the agent or editor crazy.

Printing: Do not try to squeeze the last drops of ink from your printer and send out dim/hard to see and please if anyone still has a dot-matrix printer, throw it out and buy an ink-jet or laser printer.

Spacing: Double spaced lines with 1 inch margins. New paragraphs should be indented and also dialog should always be indented. Make sure you indent enough spaces (8-10 spaces on my computer). Nothing is worse than trying to read a manuscript when the indentations are so slight it is easy to miss them. Leave a half of a page between chapters. Line breaks between paragraphs scream amateur.

Do Not Include: Artwork or illustrations throughout the pages. It screams amateur. You might feel that adding some clip art helps the editor or agent get a feel for what you book is really about, but it is not professional. If you text needs a picture to explain what is going on, then add an illustrator’s note. Try to keep them to a minimum.

If you are an illustrator and have written and illustrated your book and have a book dummy; make sure you mention this in your query and give a website link where they can visit to see your art. You might want develop a page on your website exclusively to give to editors/agents, so they could view it online. Never send in original art.

Rights: When you present a manuscript to an agent or editor you are offering all rights. Do not put “Copyright” on your manuscript. It makes you look paranoid and besides it is not necessary.

Avoid Overuse of: Question marks, exclamation points, and parentheses. The abundant use of foreign words or phrases. Noah also say to avoid the inappropriate use of fancy words; crude of vulgar language or images; graphic blood and sex, but most of all cliché. Doing this in the first five pages can lead to instant rejection.

I think this covers all of the instant cosmetic rejections. Hope this helps.

Talk tomorrow,


Filed under: Advice, authors and illustrators, Book, demystify, How to, inspiration, reference, rejection, Writing Tips Tagged: Formatting your manuscript, Noah Lukeman, Staying out of the Rejection Pile, The First Five Pages

8 Comments on Avoiding Common Mistakes in the First Five Pages, last added: 3/12/2014
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12. 15 Things to Consider When Writing Description

Word PaintingSome of us try to use description language too much in our writing and others need to start thinking about how to use this literary tool more often.

The dictionary defines “describe” as:

To transmit a mental image or impression
To trace or draw the figure of; to outline
To give a verbal account of; to tell about in detail

Used properly it can take your reader into your fictional dream and that is a good thing.

I just bought Word Painting by Rebecca Mcclanahan and thought I would share some of the things she talks about in the first chapter that should give you food for thought. Like I said I just bought it, but so far I am glad I added it to my “How to” books.

1. Descriptive passages create the illusion of reality, inviting the reader to move in, unpack, and move in for a spell. They provide verisimilitude. What John Gardner (author of The Art of Fiction) calls the “proofs” that support and sustain your fictional dream. It is not a bunch of “flowery stuff.” It is not just something we stitch on top of our writing to make it more presentable.

2. Description composed of sensory detail penetrates layers of consciousness, engaging your reader emotionally as well as intellectually. The success of all fiction depends in part on descriptive image-making power.

3. Carefully selected descriptive details can establish you characters and setting quickly and efficiently. It is not merely describing how something looks with visual detail, but also smells, tastes, textures, and sounds.

4. As a framing device, description establishes the narrator’s, or character’s point of view. Shifts in the description frame (or eye) can signal shifts in point of view or a significant change in the character. Description begins in the eye, ear, mouth, nose, and hand of the beholder. Careful and imaginative observation may well be the most essential task of any writer.

5. Well-placed descriptive passages can move your story along, shape the narrative line and unfold the plot. It is not a way to hide from the truth. The world isn’t always pretty. Describe it honestly and face difficult, even ugly, subjects when necessary.

6. Descriptive passages can act as gearshifts, changing the pace of your story – speeding it up or slowing it down, then increasing the story’s tension.

7. Description can serve as a transitional device, a way of linking scene or changing time and place.

8. Description can orchestrate the dance between scene and summary.

9. Description can serve as a unifying thematic device, what Stanley Kunitz calls the “constellation of images” that appears and reappears in a literary work, suggesting the idea or feeling that lives beneath the story line.

10. Description can provide the palette of gradations in mood and tone. Dip you brush in one description and the darkens; in another, and the sun breaks through.

11. The language of you descriptions, its rhythms and sounds, can provide the equivalent of a muscial score for the fictional dream, a subliminal music that plays beneath the story line.

12. Writing descriptively doesn’t always mean writing gracefully. It won’t necessarily make our writing more refine, lyrical, or poetic. Some descriptions demand uneven syntax and plainspoken, blunt prose. Jagged, even. Fragments, too. Slice of chin. Buzz saw.

13. Description doesn’t always require a bigger vocabulary. House is probably a better choice than domicile, a horse is easier to visualize than an equine mammal, and red blood is brighter than the sanguine flow of bodily fluids.

14. Writing descriptively doesn’t necessitate writing more. Description isn’t a steroid, something to make our language bigger and stronger, nor is it an additive promising more miles to the fictional gallon. Sometimes writing descriptively means writing less or disappear altogether.

15. Description rarely stands alone. It should be woven in and seamlessly intertwined with other literary elements. Description isn’t something we simply insert, block style, into passages of narration or exposition. Yes, sometimes we write passages of description. But the term passage suggests a channel, a movement from one place to another; it implies that we’re going somewhere. That somewhere is the story.

Hope this helps.

Talk tomorrow,


Filed under: Advice, Book, demystify, inspiration, reference, Writing Tips Tagged: Description in Your Writing, Rebecca Mcclanahan, Word Painting, Writer's Digest

4 Comments on 15 Things to Consider When Writing Description, last added: 3/12/2014
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13. Tips on Writing A Synopsis


Doris Ettlinger sent in this gorgeous illustration reminding us of how March comes in as a lion and goes out like a lamb. Doris graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design and received an MFA from the University of Wisconsin – Madison.  She was featured on Illustrator Saturday in 2010: http://kathytemean.wordpress.com/2010/07/17/illustrator-saturday-doris-ettlinger/ 

After talking about formatting your manuscripts, it was logical to receive a few emails asking about how to format a synopsis. That lead to adding other things you need to consider when writing one for your novel.

How to format your synopsis.

Use a one inch margins on the top, bottom and sides. Justify text at the left margin only. Use Times New Roman 12 pt. font. Type your name, address, phone number, fax number and e-mail address, each on a separate line single-spaced at the top left margin on the first page of your synopsis.

If you can fit your synopsis on one page, then you can single space the text with a space between paragraphs . If it goes over one page, then double space your text. Editors generally want one or two pages, but if you must go longer than you must – just keep it tight. You should always check a publisher’s submission guidelines, just to make sure you are following their rules before submitting.

Here are some things to help guide you through the synopsis writing process:

• You want to briefly tell what happens. This is one place you can ignore Show, Don’t Tell.

• Your goal should be to give an escalating series of turning points, a strong central crisis, a dramatic climax and a satisfying resolution.

• Introduce your main character first. Type a character’s name in all CAPS the first time you use it in the synopsis. Why? It helps the editor remember or find your character names.

• Remember your synopsis should showcase your unique voice.

• The synopsis should reflect your story. If it is humorous, be funny, etc.

• Start with a hook.

• Use present tense. This gives the story immediacy.

• Write the high points of your story in chronological order. Keep these paragraphs tight.

• Always answer basic who, what, where, when, why–early in the synopsis.

• Don’t waste words or time describing settings, unless crucial. Sometimes it’s enough just to put the date and place at the top, then start your synopsis.

• Omit unimportant details.

• Only include backstory if it is necessary to give the editor the information they need about the character’s motives.

• Always resolve the external plot question before you resolve the internal and/or relationship question.

• If it’s not a turning point, it doesn’t belong in the synopsis.

• Don’t use secondary characters in your synopsis, unless they are absolutely critical to the emotional turning points of the relationship. Even then, try to get by with the using the secondary’s relationship to the major characters (sister, teacher, boss.) They are too hard to keep up with and only add clutter. Only name them when necessary.

• Clearly convey the central question of the story, and what the resolution looks like. And resolve it at the end — don’t leave the editor guessing. They hate that, so spell out the story, including the ending.

• Rewrite your synopsis until each sentence is polished to the point of perfection. Use strong adjectives and verbs. Make every word count.

Check back tomorrow for a synopsis checklist you can use when drafting one for your manuscript.

Talk tomorrow,



Filed under: demystify, How to, list, Process, reference, Tips Tagged: Doris Ettlinger, Rhode Island School of Design, Synopsis Format, Synopsis Guide

3 Comments on Tips on Writing A Synopsis, last added: 3/21/2014
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14. Synopsis Check List

CeciliaClarkcherry blossom

This illustration my Cecilia Clark gives us a glimpse of what awaits us after this long cold winter. Cecilia is a budding writer and illustrator from Australia. Her writing and illustrating has been published in anthologies. She is a member of SCBWI Australia and New Zealand(Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) the Fellowship of Australian Writers (FWA) and Romance Writer’s Australia(RWA).  http://ceciliaaclark.blogspot.com.au

Synopsis Checklist:

1.   Is your synopsis between one and three pages?  Double spaced if more than one page?

2.   Does the opening paragraph have a hook to keep the editor or agent reading?

3.   Did you use capital letters the first time you introduced a character?

4.   Did you show your characters goal, motivation, conflict, and growth?

Your synopsis should give a clear idea as to what your book is about, what characters we will care about (or dislike), what is at stake for your heroes, what they stand to lose, and how it all turns out.

5.   Have you hit on the major scenes, the major plot points of your book, and include the ending?

6.   How you gotten to the who, what, where, when and why in your synopsis?

7.   Do you keep the interest level up throughout the synopsis?

8.   Is there good flow between  paragraphs.

9.   Have you avoided all grammar, spelling, and punctuation mistakes?

10. Do you think you captured the flavor of your manuscript?

See yesterday’s post for synopsis details.

Talk tomorrow,


Filed under: demystify, How to, list, Process, reference, Writing Tips Tagged: Australian Illustrator, Celcilia Clark, Synopsis Checklist, Synopsis evaluation

0 Comments on Synopsis Check List as of 3/20/2014 3:13:00 AM
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15. Free Fall Friday – Agent Janine Hauber Critiques

maryjogirl w_chicken

This Good Friday Illustration was sent in by MaryJo Scott, a freelance illustrator and mother of three. Besides filling journals with sketches and words, she moonlights as an open mic storyteller and poet. Growing up the youngest of six and working in my parents’ coffee/gift shop, has given me an unending supply of humorous and poignant stories. My favorite things are walking out of a library with an armful of books, hiking, gardening, visiting with my chickens (the girls and one talkative rooster) and looking for salamanders under rocks with my kids. http://maryjoscott.carbonmade.com


Leading off the critiques for March is the only one who used the picture prompt. I want to thank everyone for submitting their first pages and thank Janine for taking time out of her busy schedule to critique the four pages and help so many writers in the process.

HE LOVES ME NOT  By Lauri C. Meyers – YA 

       “He loves me. He loves me not. He loves me.” Rose said plucking the lily’s purple petals.

“You’re doing it all wrong,” a voice spoke behind her. Rose turned to see a beautiful stranger approaching. Almost too lovely for real life, and certainly too gorgeous for Corning.

“I can show you the correct way, but,” the stranger paused, her eyes gleaming, “you should only try if you’re certain of his love. Though, you wouldn’t be pulling petals if you were sure.”

“I know he loves me deeply. I was merely,” Rose selected her words, “reassuring myself.”

“Delightful. Then you are indeed ready for the test. Escort me to the water.” Though Rose was not in the habit of following strangers, she easily slid her arm in the woman’s elbow when offered.  This woman felt safe, or at least irresistible.

“Water flows all around the world, across the land, down the mountains, into the sky, and through every living thing. Water courses through you right now.  If anyone knew the truth, it would be the water.”  The stranger brushed Rose’s cheek with her supple fingers. The words sounded as true as anything she had ever learned. Certainly, water did know more than anyone.

“Though my pastor says,” Rose attempted to collect the letters floating around her head into the words she heard every Sunday, but the truth was strong. The stranger’s smile dazzled.

“To ask the water, you must be in the water.” Rose didn’t remove her slippers or raise her gown as though entering a carriage, but rather waltzed right into the lake.

“Now say your words. He loves me. He loves me not. He loves me.”

“He loves me. He loves me not.  He loves me. He loves me not,”  Rose chanted.

The water rippled around her, and bubbles began to pop around her fingertips. Then the water tugged her under. She didn’t struggle as the liquid filled her mouth; she just let go knowing the answer to the question.

“It seems he loves you not.”  The stranger walked away from the water.

Here is Janine’s critique for HE LOVES ME NOT by Lauri C. Meyers:

I like how this story opens with a familiar action that immediately tells us something about the main character and creates anticipation for both Rose and the reader–will her love be reciprocated? Then the introduction of the stranger with a better solution follows immediately, breaking our expectations and adding a layer of intrigue. I love the description of the stranger as “Almost too lovely for real life, and certainly too gorgeous for Corning” because it tells us not only about the stranger but also about the setting and, in contrast, presumably, about Rose. The description could also allude to some magical or paranormal ability, which the following paragraphs lead me to believe she possesses. Was that intended? If so, I love the use of simple language to work on so many levels.

While Rose’s interactions with the woman seem strange, I’m willing to believe because the author hangs a lantern on it by saying Rose wouldn’t normally follow strangers but this woman feels irresistible. I do wonder, however what it was Rose was saying about her pastor and why she can’t recall it in the woman’s presence. Has the woman (literally or metaphorically) cast a spell on her? This may be explained in the following pages, and in that case, it’s fine to leave the reader wondering at this point. It seems that Rose has some misgivings about the woman’s proposal, but yet they never fully arise, and for some reason, I’m picturing her as Alice following the White Rabbit down the hole, which I really like. The line that I am hung up on, though, is that “the truth was strong”. I don’t know what that means, and maybe that should be made more clear.

When Rose enters the water and chants, I like the images of the water rippling and the bubbles popping around her. Again, there’s something beautiful and mystical about this description. After that I’m not quite sure what actually happens. Does the current pull her under? Is it some supernatural force? And does she come back up?

There’s a wonderfully enchanting mood set in this piece, and I would definitely keep reading to find out what happens. I do feel a bit disconnected from the two characters, though. If Rose (or the mysterious woman) is the main character, how can we learn more about her? And if neither of them is the protagonist, how are they connected to the protagonist in a way that it sets the stage for the rest of the story?

It would also be beneficial to check for common spelling and grammar errors, which can distract readers. Overall, an engaging first page.

YA Novel  BABY  by Kathleen Elken

            “Ain’t no way to come into this world.”

That’s what most people say about me bein born in a Port Authority toilet bowl.  That ain’t how I feel about it though.  Givin birth to me in that dirty, ol’ pot was the second best thing my Mama ever done for me.  The best thing was her leavin me there.  Nobody, not nobody should be with someone who don’t love ‘em.  Least that’s what Nell always said, and she be the one who found me.

Hittin that cold water must a been like the slap most babies get ‘cause Nell said I was bawlin like a banshee when she opened that stall door.  She stuck her hands right in and scooped me out.  Used a ribbon from the flowers she was carryin to cut my cord.  Then she wrapped me tight in her coat and held me close.  Back and forth, back and forth she rocked, waitin on that other lady to bring back help.

Those transit cops, they said I was so blue, so cold, I’d never make it.
“Hush!” Nell said to them.  “Go find this baby girl’s Mama!”

And they did.  Just followed her blood trail out a that bathroom.  Past those statue people, down those steps, all the way past Hudson News, right up to the Greyhound Ticket Counter.  Mama was just gettin off line, grippin a ticket to Pittsburgh.  She must a used up her whole life savins ‘cause they don’t find no other money on her.

It was good the cops had a hold a her by the arms since her knees buckled right then and there.  They ended up takin both a us down to St. Vincent’s.  We was in that hospital a week, and every day the nurses ask her don’t she want to see me.  But she never did…

Here is Janine’s critique for BABY by Kathleen Elken

What’s most intriguing to me about this main character is not her dramatic birth but her unique perspective on it. I think most readers can agree being abandoned in a public toilet is “no way to come into this world”, but the main character holds no grudges and wants no sympathy, finding herself lucky to have at least been given a chance at a life with someone who loved her, which presumably she found in Nell. Immediately, I’m drawn to like this character who sees her own bad fate in the best possible light.

I love the imagery in this first page, from the baby hitting the water like a slap, to the transit cops following the trail of blood “past those statue people…”, to the mother gripping a bus ticket to Pittsburgh. The voice is compelling, and I’d definitely want to keep reading.

As I’ve noted, the story about the main character’s birth is interesting and sweeps me along, and it certainly tells us a lot about the character. However, at the end of this page, I have very little idea what the novel is about. I assume the main character is now a young adult and I wonder what’s going on with this character at present. Perhaps this first page is actually back story that could be worked in later once we’re better grounded in the plot? Or maybe one paragraph could come before the first line to set up why this information is important for us to know right away?

One general thing to keep in mind here is the dialect. While I enjoy the element it adds to the narrator’s voice, I think the level of dialect may be a little intense for some readers. I found it distracting that in some sentences there were multiple words in dialect. It might sound more natural if less dialect were used to greater effect; for example, adding the “g” back in at the end of words ending in “ing” but keeping more impactful expressions like “ol’ pot”.

The first page has great writing and a strong protagonist.

Picture Book   Ants in My Pants by Linda Bozzo

Amy Sue whirled into Room 13 waving a note. “This is from my mom.”
She bounced up and down on her left foot. Then she bounced up and down on her right foot.

Dear Mrs. Diaz,
Amy Sue can’t stay still today. I hope you’ll know what to do.
Mrs. Jitters

Amy Sue plopped down in her desk. Her toes tapped. Tappity, tap, tap. Her hands clapped. Clappity, clap, clap.
The class could not help but notice.

Amy Sue pulled out her book and tried to read. But her backside grew fidgety. Her desk shook. Smack! Amy Sue’s crayons crashed to the floor.

“Amy Sue, why can’t you stay still today?” asked Mrs. Diaz.

“I’ve got ants in my pants and I don’t know what to do.”

“Oh, my!” said Mrs. Diaz. “Be a dear and give this to Mrs. Water and ask her for new crayons.”

Amy Sue zigzagged to the art room. She dashed from one side of the room to the other before she dropped the note on Mrs. Water’s desk.

Dear Mrs. Waters,
Amy Sue needs a new box of crayons. By the way, she can’t stay still today. Can you help?
Mrs. Diaz

“Amy Sue, why can’t you stay still?”

“I have ants in my pants and I don’t know what to do.”

Here is Janine’s critique of ANTS IN MY PANTS by Linda Bozzo:

This story has the potential to be a really fun read aloud. I love the verbs here: whirled, bounced, plopped, tapped, clapped, shook, crashed, zigzagged, dashed… I can see Amy Sue moving and I think young readers would be drawn in by her actions (and perhaps able to relate in not being able to control their fidgets). I would definitely keep reading to find out what else those ants will make Amy do and how she’ll get rid of them.

As engaging as the narration was, I was a little less enthralled with the notes and the dialog, and I found they pulled me away from Amy’s motion that was otherwise propelling the story forward. I wonder if those interactions couldn’t be summed up in the narration? Taking this a step further, as written now, the grownups are trying to solve Amy’s problem, when it might be more interesting to see the main character search for her own solutions. How does she try to control the “ants in her pants” and what other trouble does she cause enroute to succeed?

This is a strong first page. I think if you continue developing the main character and the action, it could be even stronger. Again, I’d read further to find out what happens here.


As I opened the screen door I sensed tension. Something was wrong, but what?   Dad sat at the kitchen table- normal.   He had a cup of coffee- normal.  His head was down like he was reading or deep in thought- normal.  I dropped my backpack onto the floor with a thud. He didn’t look up – UNUSUAL!

“Guess who aced her Algebra test?”  I said, trying to sound cheerful. But for some reason, it felt like cockroaches were gnawing on the insides of my stomach.

“Jilly,” Dad said letting out a mournful sigh.  The tone in his voice stopped me in my tracks.

“Huh?” I said slipping into the chair across from him.  He sucked in a deep breath and whispered. “I have to go.”  His blue eyes looked faded, lifeless and his face taunt. “I got my orders. I’ve been called up.”

For a moment, I couldn’t comprehend what he was talking about.  But then it was clear.  Dad was going to war and I was going to live with Aunt Karen. A sick feeling coiled around me like the tentacles of a massive squid.  My chest hurt. Every bit of life was being squeezed out of me.  It was a panicky feeling I knew all too well.

Dad stood up and walked to the kitchen window. “This isn’t what I planned.”   He looked over the driveway- staring blankly as if somehow- someway the answer to our problems could be found, written in the asphalt.  A few seconds later he walked over, put his hand on my shoulder and said “We’ll be all right. We’ve been through worse.  You and me kid, we always make it through.” But his voice sounded weak.

I needed it strong. What could I say?  No problem.  Everything will be fine.  I don’t mind changing schools again.  Keppler and Cruze will be fine without me. I really wanted to make him feel better.  I wanted to say, everything will be all right. But damn it! Things were different this time.

Here is Janine’s critique for FOURTEEN AND FEELING LIKE POLLYWOG POO by Doris Stone:

I’m torn about this first paragraph. I like what it tells us about Jilly’s relationship with her father: they’re close enough that she can immediately sense her father’s tension, even if she doesn’t know how she knows. It rings true to me that she takes stock of the situation

to try and figure out what’s different. However, the mental checklist format feels a bit unnatural as she would make those observations more quickly and running through it that way gives a bit of a detective feel, which doesn’t seem to fit with the scene that follows.

The author uses great metaphors to show how the main character’s feeling, such as, “A sick feeling coiled around me like the tentacles of a massive squid.” With such a strong sentence, I don’t know if the next two sentences are necessary because they essentially say the same thing but less effectively. I also feel the father’s emotion when he stares out the window and speaks reassuring words in a weak voice. I would be careful to keep the girl’s voice age-appropriate, though. It seems out of character for a young girl to observe “His blue eyes looked faded, lifeless and his face taunt”. What does the father do to show his feelings? What subtle things would the character more likely notice, like in the above example? It also felt out of voice to me later when the character says “damn it” in a way that seems too adult. Most of the things Jilly does, says, and feels seem believable and age appropriate, so I wouldn’t want to pull the reader away from her story with these more adult lines.

I’m intrigued that apparently the father has been deployed (or at least transferred) before but this time things are different. I want to know more about that. What’s different? And just who are Kepler and Cruze? I like that these facts are dropped in, and I’d want to keep reading to find out the answers. However, there are some details I feel need to be filled in sooner. I’m unsure how many times Jilly’s father has been deployed; Jilly doesn’t comprehend what her father means at first, but then she says she knows the feeling all too well and that she’s changed schools before. These statements seem to contradict each other. Additionally, I wonder what worse things the father and daughter have been through before? And has Jilly lived with Aunt Karen in the past or was there a mother (or someone else) in the picture before? When too many of these questions creep in without any answers, I start feeling like I’m observing a private conversation, and I want to be more in the loop so I can feel fully invested in the characters.

As a note, the fourth paragraph should be split into two so you don’t have two characters speaking in one paragraph. Another great first page that would keep me reading!


Remember you can meet Janine Hauber from the Sheldon  Fogelman Agency at the New Jersey SCBWI Conference in June. For more details, or to register go to: www.regonline.com/njscbwi2013conference This is a great opportunity to get to know Janine. Thanks again Janine. It is very appreciated!

Talk tomorrow,


Filed under: Agent, demystify, Process, Writing Tips Tagged: Agent Janine Hauber, Doris Stone, First Page Critiques, Kathleen Elken, Lauri C. Meyers, Linda Bozzo

7 Comments on Free Fall Friday – Agent Janine Hauber Critiques, last added: 4/9/2013
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16. Illustrator Saturday – Manelle Oliphant


Manelle graduated with a bachelor’s degree in illustration from Brigham Young University Idaho and has been working as an Illustrator since 2005.  She’s illustrated multiple books. Most recently, In the Garden, (spring 2012) In the Woods, (fall 2012) and At the Beach (spring 2013) for Peachtree Publishers.

Some of my other clients include: McGraw-Hill, Friend Magazine, The Empress Theatre, and Blooming Tree Press.

I work with watercolor, prismacolor pencil, pencil, Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign.

Manelle says, “My object in writing and illustrating books for children is: to recapture imagination, rekindle curiosity, and demonstrate the rewards of knowledge and virtue. Pretty good eh? I stole it from Walden Media. Regardless I am creating books and illustrations for children with this in mind. Hoping that others will have a chance to have fun, and learn from the products I create.”

Manelle has sent three panels that describe her process, thinking, and interview answers.

manellecover process
Have you always lived in Salt Lake Utah?

Basically, I did go to school in Idaho. I lived in West Yellowstone Montana one summer and I lived in Provo Utah for about a year after college.


How did you go to college to study illustration?

Well, yes, sort of, I went to college to study art. I thought I wanted to be a gallery artist but then I took an illustration class and the rest is history.


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

Like I said I took this one illustration class… It was intense and really hard. It seems like during the semester I was just exhausted the whole time but it really gave me the tools I needed to be able to draw the kinds of pictures I always wanted to draw. In the end I took that class three times, twice with the same teacher and once with another teacher. I learned so much in all of them.

manelle walking through woods

What did you do after you graduated?

After I graduated I moved to Provo Utah and got a job doing layout for an educational publisher. I liked it there and I sometime I got to do small illustrations. It was fun learning more about Graphic design and layout there. I still use those skills all time.

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

I think it was an illustration for the Friend magazine.


How long have you been illustrating?

Eight years


What materials did you start out using for your illustrations?

Watercolor and pen, and I also did a lot of digital painting at first.


Have those material changed over time?

Yes. I still use watercolor but now I use colored pencil and pencil more than pen. I just use the computer for prep work now, value studies and things like that. I stopped doing digital after I got a few jobs painting that way and realized I didn’t enjoy doing that as much. And sometimes l like to just try something completely different if I can. That is what Ruby and the Skateboard is, a fun style experiment.


Was the artwork for Don’t be Afraid a self-published book project?

No it was for a small Christian publisher. I think the first book job I got. I was pretty excited about it at the time.


How did you get involved with Familius?

It’s a long story. I’ll try to sum up. The Just In Time books were first being published by another publisher and they hired me. But before they were published the authors decided they wanted to go a different rout than that publisher was going so they pulled out. I had already done some sketches and things for them and I really, REALLY, wanted to do them. Luckily the authors, Cheri Earl and Carol Williams, live in Utah and I had met them at some SCBWI conferences, so the next time I saw one of them at a conference I told her how baldly I wanted to do those books. Later I emailed the sketches I had done and she liked them. She said she would suggest me as an illustrator if they found another publisher. Years later they found Familius and Familius hired me. So I think the moral of the story is be patient, and go to conferences, you never know what will happen.


Will there be other Just in Time books coming out?

Yes, 50 are planned, one for each state.


Can you tell us something about Familius?

They are new as of last year (2012). Christopher Robbins the publisher used to be CEO of Gibbs smith. So far they have been good to work with and we’ve enjoyed getting the Just In Time books ready for publication.


Will you be the illustrator for all of them?

That’s the plan.


Did you do any interior art for The Princess and the Pee or was it just the cover?

Yeah, I did an illustration for each chapter.


manellebanjo log

I see that you just wrote and illustration your own picture book and are selling it on Amazon for $.99. Was it easy to take the book dummy and turn it into an ebook?

It wasn’t too hard. But like I said I had a job doing layout and I took some deign classes in college. I don’t know that it would have been as easy if I didn’t know how to do that.  After the layout there is just some mechanical stuff to figure out that takes time but isn’t too hard. Julie Olsen has a nice blog post about how to do that. http://jujubeeillustrations.blogspot.com/2012/01/how-to-create-and-publish-ebook-picture.html


How hard is it to get people to notice your ebook?

I haven’t been good at it yet. Gradually I’m selling more and more and I’ve been trying things here and there to market them. Just learning stuff from people online and trying it. No giant success yet but I kind of enjoy the trying.


Do you plan to produce the book and self publish it, so kids can hold it in their hands?

Not at this point. Both of the ebooks I have out right now were just little things I did for fun and for practice telling stories. I think they will always just be ebooks.


What are your thoughts about the acceptance of buying a digital picture book?

I think people are accepting it more and more and that we all aren’t sure what a digital book is exactly. It’s all a process and I just want to be involved in the new fun. I don’t have programing skills or animation skills so my books are just pictures and text but there are so many more things they can be. I plan to keeping learning and telling better stories and just seeing what happens with digital picture books.  And having fun with them as they evolve.


Do you plan to write and illustrate another children’s picture book?

Of course. I think the reason illustration appealed to me in the first place was the chance to tell stories with my art. I plan on doing that until I die and still doing it in the after life. Why stop right? I have some fun manuscripts written and new ideas all the time, and as I said I feel like I’ve just been practicing so far. I plan on getting better at telling better stories.


Are you concentrating on becoming a children’s picture book illustrator?

Um… yes, and no. I like variety I love picture books but that is not all that I want to do. Mostly I just want to tell good stories.

manellerabbit hatbigger

How did you get involved with Peach Tree Publishers and the board book you illustrated for them?

They hired me after I sent sample postcards.


Who is Jeremy D. Miller and how did you work together on a wordless picture book?

Ha ha, good question. Jeremy is my husband and after I had the idea for Ruby and the Skateboard he helped me figure out everything that would happen to her. Then I drew it.


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

Postcard mailings, and a website are the main things. Conferences are great also. You never know what is going to happen. I have heard of people getting jobs from twitter but that hasn’t happened to me yet.


Do you have an agent? If so, who and how long have the represented you?  If not, would you like one?

I don’t have one. I would like one but I want them to be the right one so I keep dragging my feet. I’ve submitted to some before and got some offers but they never felt right. I’ve also gotten a lot (and I mean a lot) of rejections. That was a couple years ago though so maybe I’ll try again soon. But not having an agent has been good for learning. I feel like I know my way around contracts and I’m getting better at taking better jobs. It’s hard asking for more money or changes in contracts. When I have to do stuff like that It’s always nerve racking but I like the feeling of accomplishment at doing something hard even if I don’t get what I want. And of course I’m getting better at it the more I do it.

maellegirl talk

I see you have used your artwork to make t-shirts, cards, ipad, iphone covers, etc.  Can you tell us a little bit about this?

Yeah, I just use the website society6 which is a service where I upload my art and they print on demand. If someone buys something of mine I get a percentage. I think they have good quality from what I’ve seen. It’s been a fun little side thing.


Do you ever use two different materials in one illustration?

Yes. Right now almost all of my color illustrations are a combination of watercolor and colored pencils. Some of my pencil stuff has a grayscale digital under painting. Doing that helps me save time.  Ruby and the Skateboard is ink and digital.


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

Yes. Although I don’t know how I can explain it in detail.


Have you gotten any work through networking?

Yes. I would say the just in time books are a good example of that.


Have you published any illustration in magazines or newspapers?

Yes. I’ve done a couple jobs for the Friend Magazine, and some other stuff here and there. I’ve also done illustrations for text books and thing like that.


Do you do any art exhibits to help get noticed?

Not usually but sometimes if the opportunity arises.


Are you open to doing illustrations for self-published picture book authors?



Do you ever use Photoshop?

Yes. I use it for value and color studies and all kinds of other stuff. I used to do a lot of my paintings with it but now I just do paintings with Photoshop for fun when I’m doing experiments and the like.


Do you own a graphic tablet? If so, how do you use it?

Yes. I use it  for painting in Photoshop mostly.


How much time do you spend illustrating?

As much as I can I suppose and sometimes more. I just finished the second book for Just in Time. We had a really tight deadline with it and I spent every waking hour illustrating.


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

I suppose I would prefer not ever live without the salt lake county library system. They provide most excellent recorded books for me to listen to while I’m illustrating (It’s not technically in my studio but the books are).


Any picture books on the horizon?

Not right now.  I have some manuscripts I’ve been working on but it remains to be seen if I will turn them into ebooks or try to publish traditionally. Right now I’m just really busy with Just In Time.


What are your career goals?

Be amazing and keep getting better.  I did have the goal to illustrate cover and interiors for beginning chapter and middle grade books. That’s what Just in Time is and they will keep me busy for a long time.  So I met that goal and haven’t made any new ones yet. I suppose my goal would be to not mess them up. I have some personal projects in mind to do while I’m working on those as well.


What are you working on now?

I just finished the second, Just In time and will probably start on the third soon.


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

Every painting needs an awesome composition and the right values.


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

Keep moving forward. I still think I’m in development stage but when I look back I can see that I have made progress. It has been slow going but the work is starting to pay off. I just had to be persistent and I have to keep being persistent and believe it’s gonna be great.

Thank you Manelle for sharing you process and journey with us. We look forward to hearing more success stories from you. Please make sure you let us know.

If you would like to visit Manelle you can go to her website: www.manelleoliphant.com And please take a minute to leave a comment here for Manelle. It would be  much appreciated. Thanks!

Talk tomorrow,


Filed under: authors and illustrators, demystify, How to, illustrating, Illustrator's Saturday, inspiration, Interview, picture books Tagged: Brigham Young University, Manelle Oliphant, Peachtree Publishers

10 Comments on Illustrator Saturday – Manelle Oliphant, last added: 4/18/2013
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17. How to Break Into TV Writing Intensive Workshop

alan_newcroppedAlan Kingsberg was asked to be part of the New Jersey SCBWI Conference, because we a few of our member are studying with him in NYC.  The views of what they are learning from him and how he has helped improve their middle grade books are fabulous. So if you can see you book as a TV show or just want to enhance your book with more visual scenes, then you should consider signing up for this intensive workshop. Here is the description:

This intensive workshop is designed to teach children’s book authors and illustrators How To Break Into TV Writing. Topics will include: How to adapt your book or story for TV; how to structure a TV script that sells; how to build a writing portfolio to get an agent or a job; story telling for books vs. TV, and how to start writing a pilot script or improve the one you’re writing. This class is designed to teach you how to break into a growing and lucrative market with your existing talents and creative skills. The class is suited for beginners and experienced writers. Whether your goal is to turn your book into a successful TV series, get staffed on an existing TV show, or simply explore a new creative arena, this workshop will help you move forward. Clips will be screened from iCarly, Victorious, 30 Rock, News Room and Seinfeld.

In 1999, Alan Kingsberg created the popular TV writing workshop at Columbia University’s Graduate Film School.  He’s been teaching TV Writing and Advanced TV Writing to Columbia MFA students for over a decade. His students’ TV scripts have won many national contests, including the Humanitas Award and multiple first place prizes at the highly competitive film festivals.


Alan has written for numerous network and cable shows including NBC’s “Law and Order: Criminal Intent” and Nickeloden’s “Are You Afraid of the Dark?”  He has been a show runner on five animated TV series including the hits “Winx Club”, “Pokemon” and “Cubix”.  As a show runner he produced or wrote over 220 half hour episodes.

Email Alan


“Alan is a phenomenal teacher, who taught me everything about TV writing, from story structure to dialogue.  In his class, I wrote and revised the scripts that launched my career in the industry.”  –– Vanessa Reisen, Supervising Producer, WEEDS, CALIFORNICATION.

“The script I wrote in Alan’s class won first prize at the Austin Film Festival, secured me an agent, and got me my first feature screenwriting job at Fox Searchlight Films.” – Martina Broner, Writer/Producer.

“Alan inspires you to write.  He is straightforward and clear.  When you take his class, you’ll end up writing a spec script for a TV show.  He is the real deal.”  – Beth Einhorn, Writer: THE TONIGHT SHOW.

“The Scrubs Spec I wrote in Alan’s class won the Humanitas award ($10,000).  Alan’s class prepared me to work successfully in the industry.”  Chris Carlson, Editorial Director, SPIKE TV.

Conference Link: www.regonline.com/njscbwi2013conference

Talk tomorrow,


Filed under: authors and illustrators, Conferences and Workshops, demystify, opportunity, Writing Tips Tagged: Alan Kingsberg, Breaking into TV Writing, Intensive Workshop, Learn how to write for TV

2 Comments on How to Break Into TV Writing Intensive Workshop, last added: 4/17/2013
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18. Illustrator Saturday – Susan Eaddy

eaddypicWhen her Mom framed the rooster she drew in kindergarten, Susan Eaddy decided that she wanted to be an artist. She has been building on those basic skills learned at age 5 and never lost her love for “ClayThings”.

When she grew up, she worked as an Art Director in educational book publishing for 8 years. She illustrated over 80 educational books and covers in many different media, and won awards for her paper sculpture. She became the Art Director at RCA Records Nashville, receiving a Grammy Award Nomination for the art direction of the “Los Super Seven” CD package.

Susan Eaddy After 7 years she left RCA to open ClayThings Illustration. Today, she works entirely in polymer and modeling clay, and has appropriated every kitchen tool in the house for her art.Her ClayThings appear in magazines, books, catalogs, advertising, greeting cards, wallpaper, kitchen textiles & other licensed products. She lives in Nashville, Tennessee with her husband & Mr. FuzzBoy the fat cat. She is a long-standing member of the SCBWI and is the Illustrator Coordinator for the Midsouth Region.

Here is Susan explaining her process:

I usually use plasticine or modeling clay, which never hardens. It is oil based and melty in the summer, hard as a rock in the winter, so I use ice in the summer and a heating pad in the winter.

I use needle tools, knives, onion bags, buttons, screen, rubber stamps, canvas and plastic texture sheets or ANYTHING for texture, garlic press and /or a clay extruder for hair and grass, pasta roller to roll flat sheets of clay, and food processor for mixing large quantities of a particular color.

Here are the steps:

1. Create a tight sketch.
2. Begin to fill in my background first, using the smush method with thumbs and fingers.
3. Build individual critters or leaves or people, one at a time and layer them into place.
4. Photograph the finished artwork in my studio with a professional camera.
5. Put the raw digital file into my computer, import to photoshop for final clean up. tweaking and preparation to final size for my clients.
6. Upload to an FTP site for clients.

Here are a few videos that show the illustrations coming to life.







Here’s the video:

eaddyTide Pool sketch


Some of Susan’s Book Covers:





Have you always lived in Tennesse?

No, I grew up in FL, but have been in TN now most of my life.


Did you ever take any art lessons?

Yes, My parents always encouraged me, and I took art lessons in 6th grade one night a week. When I was in high school, I wrangled my schedule so that I had 4 hours of art every day in my senior year.


What was the first art related thing you got paid for?

I won a contest sponsored by Phillip Pickens Realty in the 7th grade. Their office was in an old house across the street from the school and they wanted students to paint their office/house. I won $25 and they got to keep the painting.


How did you did the job as art director at an educational publishing house? Which one was it?

When I found that I was moving to Nashville after college, I researched the publishers there and discovered Incentive Publications. Their artwork and covers had a beautiful trade book look to them, so I made a general pest of myself until they hired me first for free lance, then as in- house illustrator and finally as AD.


When and what happened to make you decide you wanted to add children’s book illustrator to your resume?

When I was in fifth grade, my mother gave me a workbook of poetry with space for illustration. I LOVED that book and decided that I wanted to combine my 2 favorite things, art and reading, and hoped that one day I could be an illustrator.


Did you take any classes on doing clay illustration?

No, when I was AD at incentive, I was able to illustrate the projects that interested me and free- lance out the rest. So during that time I experimented with every sort of medium, including clay. I had found my love.


What types of things do you do think helped develop your clay work?

My interest in layering, and cut paper, plus I like getting my hands dirty. And probably the biggest thing is that I like NOT knowing what I am doing, so the process is constant discovery. I am driven by my curiosity in how the piece will turn out, as I figure out how to solve each problem as it comes along.


Have the materials you use changed over the years?

Well, I used to use plasticine exclusively, but now I do use some Sculpey as well.


Have you ever tried to write and illustrate a children’s book?

Yes! I have a drawer full!


I see that you have done a lot of clay illustration for Ladybug Magazine. How did that happen?

I had sent postcards to them for years. Once I even got a postcard back saying thanks but no thanks, my style was not a good fit. Wah! I was crushed, but I continued to send them postcards. Then one day, Sue Beck called and gave me a chance. ( she was not the one who had turned me down) Yay! And now I have done quite a few for Carus with LadyBug, Spider, Click and Babybug.


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

I send promotional postcards, maintain a presence on childrensillustrators.com and go to SCBWI conferences.


Do you have an agent? If so, who and how long have the represented you?  If not, would you like one?

I have been working with Karen Grencik from Red Fox Literary since Fall of 2012. She just sold Poppy’s Best Paper to Charlesbridge, my first PB as author! The clay was not a good fit for this ms, and the fabulous french illustrator Rosalinde Bonnet will be doing the illustrations.


I would love to have a real 3-D sculpture like what you do hanging on my wall. Have you ever thought about using a permanent clay material to create lasting 3-D pictures to sell?

Yes, I do use Sculpey from time to time and it works as a wall hanging in a shadow box, since it can be baked. It has a different look and feel from the plasticine & I usually paint the clay instead of mixing colors. My Sculpey pieces are smaller, and it is a bit trickier to work with, I think.


Do you ever do any paintings?

No, not anymore…I used too, when I was AD at both Incentive and RCA. I did paintings for book covers and magazine ads. I love to draw and I went through a period of time a couple of years ago where I revisited using watercolor. But I found that I missed the clay too much! and I felt I was spreading myself too thin.


How many picture books have you published?

Papa Fish’s Lullaby, First look at Trucks, First Look at Aircraft, and First Look at Rescue vehicles.


I see that Papa’s Fish’s Lullaby was published by Cooper Square Publishing. Could you tell us a little bit about this publisher and how you landed the contract to illustrate the book?

Actually Papa Fish was published by Northwords Books for Young Readers, but about 6 months after its release, the company was sold to Cooper Square. Again, I had been sending out postcards to my list for years… and I was contacted by the AD who was working with Northwords. She said,” I have had your postcard on my bulletin Board for the last year and a half, just waiting for the right project!”


Is the illustration of the mouse holding the monkey’s hand coming out of the library an illustration from a book?

That was an illustration for Babybug Magazine. Quiet Mouse. And I was thrilled to find out that it won the SCBWI Magazine Merit Honor award for 2012.


First Look at Aircraft is a board book published by Soundprints. How many illustrations do you have to do for a board book?

These books are unusual because they are published in conjunction with the Smithsonian and they wanted a realistic component in addition to the clay artwork. So in each there are 5 clay pictures and 5 photographs. It was so interesting, because I had to have all of my clay aircraft, trucks and rescue vehicles approved by a museum curator at the Smithsonian!


How did you get hired by Soundprints to do those books?

I had exhibited my work at a licensing show in NYC called Surtex. Someone from the Smithsonian stopped by my booth and was especially attracted to my clay trucks. She told me that they partner with Soundprints for some of their children’s books and that she would mention my work to the Publisher. So in May, I sent follow-up emails to both Smithsonian and Soundprints, (never getting a response) and in August I sent a mock- up of a truck board book to Sound Prints. I heard nothing. But then in February I received an email saying that they wanted to do a series of books with me. Yay!


Why is the Smithsonian (Smithsonian First Looks) on one of the books. Did they buy the publisher? You have illustrated a few book with Studio Mouse. How did you find each other?

I am not sure exactly how it works. It is a dual copyright between the Publisher (Trudy Corporation) and the Smithsonian on all 3 books.  Soundprints, and Studio Mouse are imprints of the Trudy Corporation. However, I think the Trudy Corp has now been bought and is operating as Palm Kids!


When you add a new layer of clay to an illustration, do you have to do anything to help adhere it in place?

With plasticine the smush method works every time. When I am using Sculpey, I use Sculpey Bake & Bond, before I bake.


Have you gotten any work through networking?

I met Karen Grencik of Red Fox literary through SCBWI at the LA conference.


Do you do any art exhibits to help get noticed?

No, since my work cannot be hung, I don’t do galleries. But I did have a booth at Surtex for 5 years where I displayed large prints of my work.


How long does it take to do an illustration?

It is a three-part process. The first part is research. I want to make sure that my animals and/or characters and settings are accurate. I go to the library and search the Internet, gathering materials to educate myself about whatever I am illustrating. For Papa Fish’s Lullaby it took me six weeks of solid research before I even put pencil to paper.

Next I do rough sketches and then tight drawings of the pages. It takes anywhere from one to three days to get the drawing and composition to my satisfaction. Then it takes me another day or so to work out the color scheme.

By the time I start working in clay, most of the hardest work is over! The actual clay work on Papa Fish took as little as three days for some spreads and as much as six days for others. The final size of each original is 11×17 inches.


Do you ever use Photoshop?

Yes. I could not do my job without it.


Do you own a graphic tablet? If so, how do you use it?

Yes. A Wacom. I am just more comfortable with a pen than a mouse and I use it exclusively when doing Photoshop work.

eaddyapp This is cool. It is a kid’s activity (app) on Ladybug Magazine’s Website for fun. Check it out. http://www.ladybugmagkids.com/activities/artscrafts/make-your-own-starry-night

How much time do you spend working on your clay illustrations?

I spend as much time, actually MORE time, researching, drawing, figuring out composition and palette as I spend doing the clay. By the time I get to the clay, most of the problem solving is done and I can PLAY!


I noticed that you have a studio set up in your attic. Do you try to work in a cooler place in the summer?

No, it’s a small house and I’m lucky to have a dedicated space. And the clay is not very transportable. I have all of my tools and mountains of clay at my fingertips in my studio. It’s easier to bring in ice than it is to take over another part of the house. (much to my husband’s relief)


What is the most important tool that you use?

Oooohhh do I have to choose only one? If that is the case it would be an exacto knife, but if I get more it would be the needle tools, knife, garlic press and a tiny flat blade for scooping.

eaddy babybug59239

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

 Oh yes, I lOVE to research!! I have to watch myself, because I can so easily get carried away in the fascination of learning new stuff! I do take photos and I love using the iPad as an easy way to access my research photos.


As Illustrator Coordinator, what types of things have you done with the Mid-South SCBWI chapter members?

We have a monthly Illustrator Meeting in Nashville. We sometimes pay a model, sometimes we just bring in work on which we want feedback. If someone has been to a distant conference (LA, NY) they bring back notes to share. We trade tips and moral support and I am ALWAYS enriched by our gatherings. Sometimes, in addition, we gather to sketch in a graveyard or hear a lecture at the Frist Art Museum. We currently have an SCBWI Illustrator Showcase in the Main Library in Nashville, we’ve had an Illustrator Day with the fabulous Laurent Linn. I maintain a public Midsouth Illustrator’s Blog and encourage members to post their works in progress. We also have a private PictureBook critique blog. We’ve just created a video guide to Putting Together Your Portfolio. I serve on the Midsouth Fall Conference Committeee & oversee all Illustration related matters such as our Illustrator Intensive, Portfolio Showcase, Illustrator Contest, and all Illustrator breakouts ( as well as other fun tasks).


I see that you attend the Bolgna Children’s Book Fair in 2012. Since most of us only dream about attending, could you tell us a little bit about it. Did it help to promote your work?

I had ALWAYS wanted to see what the Bologna Book Fair was about. When I discovered that my work had been chosen to be part of an SCBWI Portfolio I decided that now was as good a time as any. And by staying in monasteries, I was able to travel on a shoestring. While I did not get any direct foreign rights deals there, I met fabulous, fascinating people of great talent, and attended seminars on cutting edge issues in childrens’ publishing. One of the BEST parts for me, was meeting and getting to know the International Team. My contact with them led to school visits in Hong Kong earlier this year. There is a project in the works with Julie Hedlund, whom I also met in Bologna. In 2014 three of us Southern ICs plan to travel to Bologna.( Elizabeth Dulemba and Bonnie Adamson) I’m not sure what to expect, but one NEVER knows where things will lead.

You can see Susan’s sketch book journal at: http://claythings-susaneaddy.blogspot.com/


Any exciting projects on the horizon?

We’re still working out all the details so I can’t reveal specifics, but if all goes forward I will be illustrating one of Julie Hedlund’s delightful picture books.


What are your career goals?

To write and illustrate and have my books published and in the hands of kids!


What are you working on now?

I’m writing a PB right now. The Midnight Brownie  is in at least its 500th draft ;o) and I am doing clay sketches for it as I write. I’m also finishing up my journal from a recent trip to China and working on a new iMovie short with my clay critters.


Are there any clay tips.(Example: Something you love – the best place to buy – a new product that you’ve tried – A how to tip, materials etc.) you can share that work well for you? Technique tips?

Well, I do stalk the Micheal’s website for coupons and buy quantities of both Plasticine(modeling clay)and Sculpey and fun looking texture sheets or rubber stamps when they have 40 % off. If using Sculpey with a texture sheet lightly dust it with powder first so it doesn’t stick. They have some great books on working with Polymer clay  too. Go there and browse!


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

I know that you hear this a lot, but perseverance is key. In these days of American Idol and instant celebrity stories you may expect quick success and allow yourself to become discouraged. Quick success IS the exception, wonderful if it happens, but it isn’t the norm. If you love children’s books just keep at it, and surround yourself with other people who love it as much as you do. And try to surround yourself with people who are better than you and LEARN from them. And I know this is going to sound like an ad, but truly, the SCBWI conferences are invaluable for career development, networking and inspiration. Being surrounded by hundreds of people who are passionate about what YOU love??? It doesn’t get much better than that.


If you would like to visit Susan, you can find her at: www.susaneaddy.com. If you have a few minutes, please take the time to leave a comment for Susan. Thanks!

Thank you Susan. I loved seeing your process videos. You make me want to try my hand at clay. Looks like a bunch of fun. Please remember to keep us informed of all your future successes. We’d love to hear about them.

Talk tomorrow,


Filed under: Advice, authors and illustrators, demystify, illustrating, Illustrator's Saturday, inspiration, Interview, Process Tagged: SCBWI Mid-South Illustrator Coordinator, Susan Eaddy

14 Comments on Illustrator Saturday – Susan Eaddy, last added: 6/1/2013
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19. Conflict – No Pain, No Gain

Back in April I had two posts Titled What is a Story Architect’s at Paper Lantern, followed by an article from their writing toolbox about building chapters. Today I bring you another terrific article from Paper Lantern’s Toolbox. You know the information has to be good, when Lexa Hillyer and Lauren Oliver are the ones behind the scenes.

Here are the two links, in case you missed them in April.



In life, most of us avoid conflict. We want to get along and we want everything to go smoothly. However we also know that other people’s conflicts are fantastically interesting. We watch shows called “Desperate Housewives, not “Happy Functional Women.”

This doesn’t make us sadists… it makes us story-lovers. We don’t go to brunch on Sunday to hear about how calm everyone’s Saturday night was—we go to find out about scandals, secrets, surprises, and spectacles. Conflict requires action, and inspires triumph.

Pin this over your desk: NO PAIN, NO GAIN. Both in life and in narrative.

As a fiction-writer, CONFLICT IS YOUR BEST FRIEND. Does this mean your characters should always be throwing half-finished martinis on each other’s dresses, staging battles, or balling their fists and shouting to the heavens? No, of course not.

The whole notion of conflict is to give characters an issue to resolve, aka, to give them a trajectory, a goal, a forward motion of some kind.


Why is this such a big deal? Too often, our early drafts of novels are boring !!!!

Ever secretly worry that your story is only interesting to YOU? Well conflict is your cure. As readers, we’re compulsive about conflict—we love it, and the more we get, the more we hungrily read along. “How the heck is she going to get out of this one?!” we exclaim, eagerly flipping the pages.

Though of course there are always exceptions to a rule, most people would prefer to read a completely unoriginal story with great narrative drive than read a fantastically inventive, beautifully written book with no direction or point. How do you ensure your novel is the conflict-filled, compulsively readable kind?

First, examine your novel chapter by chapter. How many beats make things harder for the main character? More specifically, does it get more difficult for the character to achieve her established goal? If not, try out PLL’s five tried and true conflict tricks:

 1) ADD STRANGE FRUIT TO FRUITLESS SEARCHES. First draft: Character A asks around for information but comes up with no answers. Change to: Character A does a search and comes up with utterly surprising results that set her on a new course.

(Throw in a curveball that even YOU weren’t expecting!) For instance, a girl searches files for information on her adoptive family. She discovers—gasp—her parents were part of a magical circus. OR she discovers—gasp—her parents are the parents of the boy she loves. She’s in love with her own brother! As you can see, these reveals can pull the plot in extremely different directions

2) ESCAPE ISN’T SO EASY. First draft: Character A narrowly escapes harm. Change to: Character A gets injured, captured, or forced down an unexpected path.

-How can this lead to new plot potential? How will the character get better, what will the injury require him to do next or prevent him from being able to do next? How will he break out of captivity or what will he learn from being held? Where will the unexpected route lead him? Who will he run into there

3) HOLD GRUDGES! First draft: Two characters argue, but come to reconcile their views or agree to disagree. Change to: two characters argue. The disagreement becomes explosive, leading to violence, a drastic measure, or swearing allegiance to a third party.

-How can this open new possibilities for the story? Force the characters to work through the conflict by making more mistakes and truly grappling through the book rather than resolving quickly and cleanly.

4) WE LIKE BIG BUTS AND WE CANNOT LIE. When in doubt, insert a BUT. She tried to sneak in undetected, BUT… She planned to kill him, BUT… She asked him to the dance, BUT.

5) MAKE MISTAKES. Are all the character’s difficulties coming from external forces (bad timing, storms, coincidences, society, other characters’ evil machinations/ villainy) or internal forces/ character-agency (making mistakes, overreacting, wanting something too much, essentially making a dangerous, risky or bad choice)?

-When in doubt, try to use more character-agency to create hurdles. The most interesting problems to solve are the ones we’ve in some way created ourselves!

-A few storms and bad guys are often necessary for good story-telling too, though. :)

So go ahead, awaken the Inner Demon/Diva/Desperate housewife. Don’t worry—you’ll get to save your characters in the end… Just don’t let them off the hook before then!

If you are attending the New Jersey SCBWI Conference this weekend, make sure you look for both Lexa and Lauren. They will be there. Since I will be there too, I will report back next week hoping to share some of the information so no one feels left out.

Talk tomorrow,


Filed under: Advice, article, demystify, How to, need to know, revisions, Tips, Young Adult Novel Tagged: Adding Conflict in your writing, Inner Demon, Lauren Oliver, Lexa Hillyer

2 Comments on Conflict – No Pain, No Gain, last added: 6/4/2013
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20. 6 Mistakes Authors Make in Assemblies

Alexis_ONeill_Headshot_med270So you have a written and successfully gotten a publisher to offer you a contract. Now is the time to start thinking of how you plan to market your book. One of the first things that comes to mind are school visits, but you could use some help in figuring out how to maneuver that whole avenue. Well, I am going to point you to a great site – School Visits Experts. Once you visit them I am sure you will agree they share great information on there site. It was founded by Alexis O’Neill. You may already know Alexis, since she has been the SCBWI Regional Advisor in California for the last 18 years and has helped so many children’s writers and illustrators. I know everyone who reads the SCBWI Bulletin and everyone on the West Coast knows Alexis, but for those who live in other places, have a stack of SCBWI Bulletins waiting to be read, or haven’t read one of her books, this might be your first encounter with Alexis.

ALEXIS O’NEILL is the author of THE RECESS QUEEN(Scholastic), THE WORST BEST  FRIEND (Scholastic), LOUD EMILY (Simon & Schuster), ESTELA’S SWAP (Lee &  Low), THREE IRISH TALES (Kindle), and other award-winning picture books as well as a museum education consultant and an instructor for the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program. Her nonfiction works have been published in Spider, Cobblestone, Calliope, Faces, and Odyssey. Her newest book, THE KITE THAT BRIDGED TWO NATIONS: HOMAN WALSH  AND THE FIRST NIAGARA SUSPENSION BRIDGE (Calkins Creek Books, September  2013) will be launched this fall at Niagara Falls in both New York and Ontario, Canada. Alexis writes “The Truth About School Visits” column for the SCBWI Bulletin, offering advice to published authors and illustrators on the art and business of doing presentations. www.alexisoneill.com . www.SchoolVisitExperts.com .

She was also the recipient of the California Reading Association’s Dr. Marcus Foster Memorial Award 2010 for making significant and outstanding contributions to reading throughout California. www.californiareads.org

Thought I would share this book trailer for Alexis new book, since I’m always pointing out good trailer, so a little bit will wash off on you and help you down the road. Here is the book trailer for The Kite That Bridged Two Nations — coming September 2013!

Here’s Alexis:


Mistake #1. Opening weakly

Solution: Get attention! Invite the audience in immediately with a startling statement or image, a communal action (singing, chanting, clapping in rhythm) – anything that commands attention and shows the kids that the program is in your capable hands.

Mistake #2. Being unaware of audience reaction

Solution: Learn to “read” the room.  Are kids getting restless? Beginning to chat? Turning away from your presentation?  Time to switch up the content or pace and get them refocused.

Mistake #3. Speaking too softly, quickly or monotonously

Solution: Practice breathing, projecting, slowing the pace and speaking with lots of expression. Even if you think you have a voice like a foghorn, it will sound strained to those in the back of the multipurpose room.  Be sure to use a microphone. And don’t talk to the screen or easel – face your audience.

Mistake #4. Using visuals or props that are hard to see

Solution: Aim for the kids in the back of the room.  Make props oversize. Be sure everyone has a clear view of your props and the screen.

Mistake #5: Going overtime

Solution: Appoint a timekeeper to give you warnings at 10 minutes, 5 minutes and the end. Keep your eye on the clock so that you can adjust your pacing.

Mistake #6. Failing to create an ending with impact or with a call to action

Solution: If you like to incorporate a Q & A into your assembly, don’t end with it – place it just before the ending. Wrap up by sending the group out with one last anecdote, a summary of the points you made in your presentation or an appeal for them to do something (Be sure to read! Write! Start a book club!)

SchoolVisitExperts.com is a place for published and soon-to-be-published authors & illustrators to find and share advice on how to create and deliver quality programs for kids, teachers and librarians. This is the place to find guidance on

  • Designing meaningful programs
  • Managing the business side of school visits
  • Getting hired
  • Evaluating the impact of your program
  • Working effectively with children, teachers, librarians, booksellers, and hosts

The ultimate purpose of SchoolVisitExperts.com is to help you deliver presentations that have a positive, meaningful and motivational benefit for students, teachers, librarians, educational specialists, administrators and parents, increase your visibility and assist you in your quest to secure engagements.

For Advice on how to start looking for a school visit, read this article from Alexis: http://schoolvisitexperts.com/?p=589

Talk tomorrow,


Filed under: Advice, article, demystify, How to, reference Tagged: Alexis O'Neill, SCBWI, School Visit Experts, school visits, The Kite That Bridged Two Nations

4 Comments on 6 Mistakes Authors Make in Assemblies, last added: 6/6/2013
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21. Formatting Your Manuscript For E-Book Conversion Tips

There are three main file types currently associated with eBooks:

EPUB (.epub) – Short for “electronic publication,” this is the most popular open standard format for eBooks that allows DRM (digital rights management). It is also the format used with all the major retailers EXCEPT Amazon/Kindle. With EPUB, reflowable content ensures that text is displayed in the optimal manner for each eReader or smartphone device.

• Mobipocket (.mobi) – An eBook format that allows users to add a blank page at any point in the text for notes, bookmarks, corrections, and drawings.

• Kindle (.azw) – Amazon’s proprietary format is based on mobipocket, but it comes with its own DRM protections.

1) Once your book has been converted to ePub format, it’s too late to fix a typo! So proof your files for spelling, grammar, and syntax. Remember you are now your own editor! It is up to you to make sure the document you convert to an eBook is meticulously proofread. Even if you pay a company to do the converting for you, you still have to have it perfectly edited, so you might want to consider paying someone to edit your book prior to conversion.

2) Don’t use tabs or the space bar to format paragraphs and individual lines. While it may look the way you want it in a Word or text file, tabs and spaces wreak havoc when converted to eBook format. Use the “Format/Paragraph” menu or alignment buttons in the toolbar of your text-editing program if you want indents.

3) Use standard fonts such as Times New Roman or Courier New. Not all fonts are supported by the eBook format and eReaders. The standard text size is 12 point size font for body text and 14-18 point for chapter titles. Another reason to use Times New Roman: Any special symbols may not convert properly to ePub when using other fonts.

4) The publisher’s name and address, date of publication, copyright info, ISBN number, and other credits should be included on the first two pages of the document.

5) Don’t resize your images in Word or a text editor. All images must be in .png, .jpg, or .tif format, 72 dpi, and in RGB color mode. Do all image resizing outside of the document with image editing software, then reinsert them in your document.

6) If you pay a company to format your manuscript to an ebook, check to make sure of their specs. In general, you will need to resize large images to 300 pixels high if you would like them to display in-line with text. Cover and full-page images should 800-1,000 pixels high by 550-700 pixels wide. Logos or simple images should be 75-100 pixels high.

7) All images (except full-page images) should be set in-line with text. Do not wrap text around images.

8) Tables, sidebars, and inserts will not display properly in ePub format, so extract this type of content and list as ordinary text. Of course, you can always included them as images.

9) Do not include any elements that refer to page numbers other than your formatted Table of Contents. Pages in your document will not coincide with the “pages” on any given eReader.

Talk tomorrow,


Filed under: Advice, Book, demystify, Process, Tips Tagged: ebook conversion, ePub format, How to handle images, HowDispaly images in line with text, No page numbers

3 Comments on Formatting Your Manuscript For E-Book Conversion Tips, last added: 6/17/2013
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22. Three Pillars of Fiction

katiarainasmallKatia Raina is the author of “Castle of Concrete,” a young adult novel about a timid half-Russian, half-Jewish teen in search of a braver “self” reuniting with her dissident mother in the last year of the collapsing Soviet Union, to be published by Namelos.

She also is attending the Vermont College of Fine Arts, where she has just completed her first semester in their MFA program. This past week she had a very good post about what she has learned during her first semester. The one I am sharing is the second article to that first post. The link is at the bottom of the page.

Here is Katia’s article on the Three Pillars of Fiction:

DESIRE desire

We all want things. That’s what makes life interesting. Fiction, too. Fuel your character’s journey with desire.

What does your character want? It sounds obvious. But looking back, I know I didn’t used to think enough about it. Now, before I write my scenes, I really hone in on the protagonist’s desire. If I am unclear on what it is, I pre-write, have my character speak to me for a couple of hundred words, or throw a few of my people together and let them have a conversation.

It’s good to be aware of both what the character wants throughout the entire story and what the character wants in the scene/chapter you’re working on. As Kurt Vonnegut said: “Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.”

Not wanting something/dreading something can work well too. But, as I always tell my kids, when you focus on what you want, instead of what you don’t want, the results will be so much better!

There is another level of desire for the writer to be aware of: what your character thinks he or she wants. vs. what your character really wants. And why. That’s something else to know.

Finally, a good story is populated with people, all sorts of wonderful, terrible, flawed people, right? The more desires those people have, the more alive and real they will feel to both the writer and the reader. So, get to know your people’s secret (or not so secret) wishes. Then place them into your scenes, sit back and watch, as their desires clash and propel your story forward.


I credit one of my workshop advisors from January, the wise and generous Kathi Appelt, with opening my eyes up to the idea of a character’s “truest truth.” Every character — and I think maybe every person – should have at least one, a big one. Take a moment now to think: what is one thing you believe in with your entire being? What is one truth you could stake your life on? belief

And then do the same for your characters. Maybe he believes in the power of music. Maybe his belief is that life is not fair. Maybe her belief is that her physical beauty will carry her through. Or that her mom is perfect. Or that dragons exist, or that there is no God, or that global warming will one day kill us all, or that one day, she will sprout wings, that one day she will fly. (That last one’s from Castle of Concrete, my debut novel :)  ). Do you see? The belief can be wise or misguided, positive or negative. But characters are much more interesting when they believe in something.

Also keep in mind, belief is subject to change. When the character’s innermost belief is shattered by the challenges and events that have been pushing your story forward all along, it turns into an unforgettable moment that transforms your protagonist, and ideally, your reader.

CHANGE change

Of course your main character must change in the course of the novel. An interesting main character will also affect change on others around him. But keep change in mind on scene and chapter level as well, as you write, plot or revise your story. In every single scene something should happen. Which is another way of saying, in every single scene, a change must occur. Or it’s not a scene at all. Just as with desires, changes come in two varieties: internal and external. Here is what I do for every scene, especially when revising (not always when rough drafting, where I explore more):

I write down an Outer Turning Point and an Inner Turning Point for each chapter. Sometimes, by the way, there are more than one. An outer turning point deals with external action, (anything from witnessing a car accident, to leaving the room, to finding treasure), while an inner turning point shows a shift in thought or feeling: for example a change from hope to despair, or a shift in awareness (he will never like me; I am wasting my time). Being aware of these changes helps prevent the characters from constantly see-sawing, or flip-flopping, in their feelings and decisions. (As in: now she likes him, now she doesn’t, now she likes him again). Sure, sometimes a character might change his mind, but it happens in a series of inner and outer turning points building on each other, building into an arc, a progression of change and growth that feels true.

Also, sometimes when I am revising, I’ll copy the first sentence of my scene, and the last, and look at them together. This is a very telling exercise. If you do this, you’ll know right away if there was change or growth in your chapter. You will know whether it was cohesive, or if it falls flat.

So, that’s it. Desire, truth and change.

If your scene loses momentum, or your story does, go back to those three pillars.

These are good to keep in mind for real life as well.

In human experience, desire, truth and change mean everything — or at least they should.  As we live out our lives, let’s never be lulled by the daily routine, by the sameness of days and weeks and years, into forgetting our own truths and desires, and change — good change – will take care of itself!

Don’t Miss Reading Katia’s Post Titled, What I’ve Learned At VCFA Series: Semester One (Included: The Secret To Productivity!)

Katia talks about writing and history, and occasionally features interviews and all kinds of lists on her blog, The Magic Mirror, www.katiaraina.wordpress.com.

Talk tomorrow,


Filed under: Advice, article, demystify, Writing Tips Tagged: Castle of Concrete, Katia Raina, Namelos, Three Pillars of Fiction, Vermont College of Fine Arts

4 Comments on Three Pillars of Fiction, last added: 7/2/2013
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23. Six Common Myths about Book Reviews

Last week we talked about the importance of getting book reviews, so I thought you might be interested in reading Dana Lynn Smith’s article that I found on Maggie Lyons Blog http://www.maggie-lyons.blogspot.com/. Maggie is always on the lookout for writing information to share. I think Dana’s information will really help you promote your books.

Six Common Myths about Book Reviews

by Dana Lynn Smith, the Savvy Book Marketer

Book reviews are a powerful promotional tool, but many authors have some misconceptions about reviews and how to obtain them. Here are some common myths about getting book reviews.

Myth #1 – Book reviews are just for new books.

It’s true that book review journals read by librarians and booksellers review books at or soon after publication. It’s best to focus your review efforts during the first year of a book’s life, but some venues will review older books.

Myth #2 – No one will review a self-published book.

It is more challenging for self-published authors and small presses to get reviews in certain venues, but it’s certainly not impossible. Self-published books are far more likely to be reviewed if they are produced to industry standards (well written, edited and designed). A number of book review websites welcome self-published books or even focus specifically on them, and there are several book journals like Midwest Book Review that are friendly to independent and small presses.

Myth #3 – Book reviews are just for books being sold to bookstores and libraries.

Trade journals like Publishers Weekly and Library Journal are designed to meet the needs of booksellers and librarians, so they focus on books that are available through major distributors and wholesalers at standard discounts. But there are plenty of other places to get book reviews, including book blogs, topical blogs, online bookstores, specialty publications, literary magazines, and reader networks.

Myth #4 – You can’t get reviews for ebooks.

It takes some extra research to identify revenue venues that will review books that are available only in ebook format. Many reviewers accept only printed books, although that is slowly changing as the use of ebook readers becomes more widespread. There are several websites, such as Kindle Obsessed, that focus on ebooks.

Myth #5 – No one pays attention to the reviews in online bookstores.

It’s true that some shoppers view online reviews with skepticism, but I do believe that reviews (or the lack of them) influences shoppers in online bookstores. In my book, How to Get Your Book Reviewed, I cite a research study by the Yale School of Management that backs this up. With so many books to choose from, shoppers are often looking for some factor to help them decide between several books.

Having very few or no reviews on an Amazon sales page can give the impression that the book isn’t very popular. Reviews can also give the shopper more insight into the book, beyond the product description.

Be sure to encourage customers and book reviewers to post their review or recommendation on Amazon.

Myth #6 – It’s not worth the effort of pursing reviews.

Book reviews serve two basic purposes: they bring your book to the attention of people who might not have learned about it otherwise, and they help potential customers decide if your book is a good fit for them. The more reviews you have, and the more places those reviews appear, the greater your reach and your selling power.

All book marketing plans should include a strategy for maximizing the value of reviews, endorsements and testimonials.

About the Author

Dana Lynn Smith, The Savvy Book Marketer, helps authors and indie publishers learn how to sell more books through her how-to guides, blog, newsletter, and private coaching.

Learn how to use reviews to sell more books in her comprehensive guide, How to Get Your Book Reviewed, and get more book marketing tips at TheSavvyBookMarketer.com.

Talk tomorrow,


Filed under: Advice, article, demystify, Marketing a book, Uncategorized Tagged: book reviews, Dana Lynn Smith, Finding and settiing up book reviews, Maggie Lyons, The Savvy Book Marketer

2 Comments on Six Common Myths about Book Reviews, last added: 7/4/2013
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24. Hero vs. Anti Hero


Bullies, Bastards & Bitches
How to Write the Bad Guys of Fiction

by Jessica Page Morrell

Writer’s Digest Books, 2008
ISBN 978-1-58297-484-2
$16.99 paperback, 304 pages

Amazon  |  BN.com :

  • Here are some general differences between a hero and an anti-hero, and how an anti-hero is the antithesis of a traditional hero from:
  • A hero is an idealist.
  • An anti-hero is a realist.
  • A hero has a conventional moral code.
  • An anti-hero has a moral code that is quirky and individual.
  • A hero is somehow extraordinary.
  • An anti-hero can be ordinary.
  • A hero is always proactive and striving.
  • An anti-hero can be passive.
  • A hero is often decisive.
  • An anti-hero can be indecisive or pushed into action against his will.
  • A hero is a modern version of a knight in shining armor.
  • An anti-hero can be a tarnished knight, and sometimes a criminal.
  • A hero succeeds at his ultimate goals, unless the story is a tragedy.
  • An anti-hero might fail in a tragedy, but in other stories he might be redeemed by the story’s events, or he might remain largely unchanged, including being immoral.
  • A hero is motivated by virtues, morals, a higher calling, pure intentions, and love for a specific person or humanity.
  • An anti-hero can be motivated by a more primitive, lower nature, including greed or lust, through much of the story, but he can sometimes be redeemed and answer a higher calling near the end.
  • A hero is motivated to overcome flaws and fears, and to reach a higher level. This higher level might be about self-improvement, a deeper spiritual connection, or trying to save humankind from extinction. His motivation and usually altruistic nature lends courage and creativity to his cause. Often, a hero makes sacrifices in the story for the better of others.
  • An anti-hero, while possibly motivated by love or compassion at times, is most often propelled by self-interest.
  • A hero (usually when he is the star of the story in genre fiction, such as Westerns) concludes the story on an upward arc, meaning he’s overcome something from within or has learned a valuable lesson in the story.
  • An anti-hero can appear in mainstream or genre fiction, and the conclusion will not always find him changed, especially if he’s a character in a series.
  • A hero always faces monstrous opposition, which essentially makes him heroic in the first place. As he’s standing up to the bad guys and troubles the world hurls at him, he will take tremendous risks and sometimes battle an authority. His stance is always based on principles.
  • An anti-hero also battles authority and sometimes go up against tremendous odds, but not always because of principles. His motives can be selfish, criminal, or rebellious.
  • A hero simply is a good guy, the type of character the reader was taught to cheer for since childhood.
  • An anti-hero can be a bad guy in manner and speech. He can cuss, drink to excess, talk down to others, and back up his threats with fists or a gun, yet the reader somehow sympathizes with or genuinely likes him and cheer him on.
  • A hero can be complex, but he is generally unambivalent; an anti-hero is a complicated character who reflects the ambivalence of many real people.
  • An anti-hero’s actions and ways of thinking demand that the reader think about issues and ask difficult questions.

Hope you will take some time to reflect on whether you can punch up your story by creating nuanced, three-dimensional bad guys who are indispensable to your story. I’m going to add this book to my book shelf.

Talk tomorrow,


Filed under: Advice, Book, demystify, reference, writing, Writing Tips Tagged: Bullies Bastards & Bitches, Jessica Page Morrell, Writer's Digest Books

2 Comments on Hero vs. Anti Hero, last added: 9/25/2013
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25. First Page Problems


This fun winter illustration was sent in by Illustrator Tracey Berglund. Don’t miss the snowman in the window. It makes me think of the photo Leeza Hernandez sent me a few weeks ago. Her daughter and her built the smallest snowman I ever saw. They made it small, so they could save it in the freezer. Now that is thinking out-of-box. Tracey was my first featured illustrator on Illustrator Saturday back in June 2010. Here is the link: http://kathytemean.wordpress.com/2010/06/05/tracey-berglund-illustrator-saturday/ I think you can see how much Illustrator Saturday has grown since then.

February was a record month for first page submissions. I did not look at all the submissions to see the percentage of people who did not submit properly. We are close to getting the First Pages correct for the monthly critique, but there are still problems which caused a number of people to be pulled out for critique and then skipped, when I opened their Word document and it was not correct.

I think everyone now understands how to format their manuscript when submitting to an agent or editor, so lets just zero in on how to submit for the monthly critique for this blog. You would only format your page this way when you submit a first page to me. If you are doing a first page for an SCBWI event, then they would probably would want a similar forma, but make sure you check. Why the difference? Because if you use the standard format for a first page, you can not show enough for a good critique.

I know I asked you to cut and paste your text into the email, but I sent the word doc to the editor or agent, so if the Word doc isn’t formatted correctly, I can’t send it. I state a first page can have 23 lines, but that doesn’t mean that every manuscript’s text will work out to 23 lines. Some may only be able to fit 21 lines. The first page, just can not be more than 23 lines. Please do not send more than one page.

You don’t have room to put all your contact information on the page. Just your name, title, and genre at the very top. Then start your text on the next line. The example below from Carol Foote drops one line for her title. This is acceptable, but she could have gotten in the 23rd line if she had put everything across the top. The reason her page was not included in the drawing was due to her submitting it after the deadline.


So as long as you follow the guidelines and the example above, send it in before the deadline, cut and paste the text into the email and attach a Word document of the text, put the required title in the Subject area (I search for the submissions using that title), send it to the email listed, and do not include more than one page, you will be good to go.

Hope this helps. If you submitted a first page and did not have it critiqued, please send it in for review in March. Check back tomorrow to read the four that were critiqued. Next week I will announce our Guest Critiquer for March. Deadline for March is March 21st. Title in the subject area March First Page Critique. Email to: Kathy(dot)temean(at)gmail(dot)com

Links for more formatting posts:

Novel: http://kathytemean.wordpress.com/2014/02/13/formatting-novel-manuscript-example/

Picture book: http://kathytemean.wordpress.com/2014/02/02/first-page-critiquer-for-february-formatting-mistakes-call-for-illustrations/

Standards: http://kathytemean.wordpress.com/2009/03/16/formatting-your-manuscript/

Talk tomorrow,


Filed under: authors and illustrators, Contest, demystify, How to, need to know Tagged: First Page Critique, Formatting problems, Tracey Berglund

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