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1. Homework Help Tip – Additional First Page Critiquer for April


This month everyone who submits a First Page for critique will have double the opportunity to get their page critiqued, since we have two Guest Critiquers for April.

I announced Agent SAMANTHA BREMEKAMP from the Corvisiero Literary Agency on Free Fall Friday’s post and today I want everyone to know that JENNA POCIUS from Bloomsbury has agreed to read four first pages, too.

Jenna’s information is below. Also, I have listed the Guest for May and June and a number of agents and editors who have been Guest Critiquers in the past. Why am I doing this? Well, here’s my tip:

All these editors and agents will be attending this years New Jersey SCBWI Conference at the end of June. I have provided the link to their critiques next to their name, so you can read about them and go over how they think. It might help you decide on whether you should register for the conference and it definitely will help you decide if you would like a critique with one of them if you go.

If you have already signed up for the conference, it will help you decide who you would like to make sure you meet while you are there.

Even if you can’t attend, this post will give you good information on whether any of the editor/agents are a good fit for your manuscript. Hope you find it helpful.

Jenna PociusJENNA POCIUS, Assistant Editor, Bloomsbury – GUEST CRITIQUER APRIL 2014

Jenna Pocius is an Assistant Editor at Bloomsbury who works on everything from picture books to YA. Before joining Bloomsbury, she worked for Abrams BFYR. She has edited numerous books including Dragon’s Extraordinary Egg by Debi Gliori, A Soldier’s Secret by Marissa Moss, and the upcoming Mad Scientist Academy series by Matthew McElligott. She’s most interested in YA with strong voice and emotional depth, and she is particularly interested in contemporary realistic fiction, magic realism, and well-crafted fantasy and science fiction with a contemporary voice. She’s interested in middle grade that is quirky and character-driven, particularly girl-centered stories. And she loves picture books that are poignant and sweet or humorously clever. She is also a sucker for dog stories.

samanthafor litagency bioSAMANTHA BREMEKAMP, Junior Agent, Corvisiero Literary Agency – GUEST CRITIQUER APRIL 2014

Samantha Bremekamp started her career in publishing in 2008, and quickly realized that she preferred working directly with authors from the other side of the industry. She runs critique groups and writing groups for fun, as she also loves to write and help others to fulfill their writing ambitions. She is fully aware of how hard of an industry it really is in this day and age. Her favorite writing is children’s, middle grade, young adult, and new adult. There is something so pure about each building block of life these book groups represent. Although there may be a difference between a three year old and a 33 year old, maybe, Samantha finds that all of life’s challenges in these age groups really show the potential for amazing growth in a character. Samantha’s background is in English literature, communications, and Spanish. She really thinks that if a writer is confident and believes in their work, their work will show that without having to showboat to prove it via a pitch. Samantha loves reading Children’s, MG, YA, and NA fiction. She is open to any genre within those age groups, but prefers speculative fiction, mystery, and quirky romance.

quinlanQUINLAN LEE, Agent, Adams LiteraryGUEST CRITIQUER MAY 2014

Quinlan Lee is an agent and a published author of numerous books that help young readers learn to read and love reading. She has been a part of the Adams Literary team since 2008, representing clients in all genres from picture books to YA. She enjoys meeting others who share her love of children’s literature and is an active member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) and a founding board member of the Charlotte Chapter of the Women’s National Book Association (WNBA). Quinlan graduated from Tulane University and has lived all over the United States—from the mountains of Western Colorado to the Garden District of New Orleans to downtown Chicago—and for the past 14 years she’s been happily settled in North Carolina.

Sarah-Bradford-Lit-photoSARAH LaPOLLA, Literary Agent, Bradford Literary GUEST CRITIQUER JUNE 2014

Sarah LaPolla joined Bradford Literary Agency in May 2013. Prior to joining the team, Sarah worked for five years in the foreign rights department at Curtis Brown, Ltd., and became an associate agent there in 2010. She received her MFA in Creative Writing (Nonfiction) from The New School in 2008 and has a B.A. in Creative Writing from Ithaca College. Sarah represents YA and adult fiction. On the adult side, she is looking for literary fiction, science fiction, magical realism, dark/psychological mystery, and upmarket commercial and/or women’s fiction. For YA, she is interested in contemporary/realistic fiction that doesn’t shy away from the darker side of adolescence. YA sci-fi, horror, mystery, and magical realism are also welcome; and she would love to find a modern Judy Blume for the MG market. No matter what genre,
Sarah is drawn to layered/strong characters, engaging narrators, and a story that’s impossible to put down.

susan-dobinickSUSAN DOBINICK, Assistant Editor, Farrar Straus Giroux – GUEST CRITIQUER MARCH

Susan Dobinick is an associate editor at Farrar Straus Giroux Books for Young Readers. Among other books, she has edited SPIRIT’S KEY, a middle grade magical realism novel about a girl who sees the ghost of her pet dog and solves a mystery on a small southern island, and DEAR YETI, a picture book about two little boy hikers who go searching for the mythical creature. She is looking for quirky but heartfelt picture books, design-centered picture books, heartfelt middle grade, sophisticated YA, and mysteries and ghost stories for all ages. In nonfiction, she likes books with feminist, social justice, and civil rights themes.

allisonmooreALLISON MOORE, Assistant Editor, Little, Brown & Co. – GUEST CRITIQUER FEBRUARY

Allison Moore is an assistant editor at Little, Brown Books for Young Readers. She works on a range of titles including picture books by Todd Parr, Marc Brown, Andrea and Brian Pinkney, Sujean Rim, Nancy Tafuri, Julie Andrews and Emma Walton Hamilton, and Bob Staake; leveled readers; novelty books by Sandra Magsamen and Matthew Reinhart; and novels by Jewell Parker Rhodes, Sherri Winston, and Karen Healey. Allison is particularly interested in smart picture books that can be appreciated by all ages; unique and memorable illustration styles; early readers with a strong voice; inventive novelty ideas; middle grade stories with interesting settings; and YA novels that encourage readers to consider new points of view. Before working at Little, Brown, she interned at Bloomsbury and Walker Books for Young Readers, Barefoot Books, the Kneerim & Williams literary agency, and Simon & Schuster UK; worked at a bookstore and at her hometown library; and attended the Columbia Publishing Course. Originally from Fair Lawn, NJ, Allison graduated from Boston University and now lives in Brooklyn. You can find her on Twitter @allisonm610.

mccarthysmall200SEAN McCARTHY, Literary Agent, Sean McCarthy Literary Agency – GUEST CRITIQUER JANUARY 2014

Sean McCarthy began his publishing career as an editorial intern at Overlook Press before moving to the Sheldon Fogelman Agency. He worked as the submissions coordinator and permissions manager before becoming a full-time literary agent. In 2013, he founded his own literary agency. He works on children’s books for all ages, and is actively looking to build his client list. His clients include Zachariah O’Hora, Hyewon Yum, Mark Fearing, Jamie Swenson, Andrea Offermann, Dasha Tolstikova, and Judith Robbins Rose. Sean graduated from Macalester College with a degree in English-Creative Writing, and is grateful that he no longer has to spend his winters in Minnesota. He is drawn to flawed, multifaceted characters with devastatingly concise writing in YA, and boy-friendly mysteries or adventures in MG. In picture books, he looks more for unforgettable characters, off-beat humor, and especially clever endings. He is not currently interested in high fantasy, message-driven stories, or query letters that pose too many questions.

meredith-mundy-headshotsmallMEREDITH MUNDY, Executive Editor, Sterling Publishing – GUEST CRITIQUER APRIL 2013

Meredith Mundy, Executive Editor at Sterling Children’s Books, is nuts about character-centered picture books (recent projects include BROWNIE GROUNDHOG AND THE WINTRY SURPRISE by Susan
Blackaby, RUFUS GOES TO SCHOOL by Kim Griswell, PUDDLE PUG by Kim Norman, and GOODNIGHT SONGS by Margaret Wise Brown), but she is also seeking everything from funny, original board books to unforgettable middle grade novels to gripping YA fiction. (No vampires, angels, werewolves, or dystopian plots, please.) While she enjoys editing lively nonfiction, she wouldn’t be the
right editor for poetry collections or a project geared primarily toward the school and library market.

rachel orr new_headshot1croppedRACHEL ORR, Literary Agent, Prospect Agency – GUEST CRITIQUER FEBRUARY 2013

RACHEL ORR is celebrating her seventh year at Prospect Agency. She previously worked for eight
rewarding years at HarperCollins Children’s Books, and now uses those editorial skills to help prepare her clients’ work for submission. Her clients include a wide-range of picture-book authors, illustrators, and middle-grade/YA novelists, including A.C.E. Bauer (GIL MARSH), Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen (DUCK, DUCK, MOOSE), Cori Doerrfeld (BARNYARD BABY) and Leeza Hernandez (NEVER PLAY MUSIC RIGHT NEXT TO THE ZOO). Rachel lives in Hoboken, New Jersey, with her husband and two young children. She has no spare time—-but, if she did, she would spend it dancing, running and reading, of course.

PAULA SADLER, Assistant Editor, Random House – GUEST CRITIQUER OCTOBER 2012

Paula Sadler is an Assistant Editor at Random House Books for Young Readers. She joined the group in 2012 after three wonderful years at Putnam Children’s. At Random House, Paula currently edits the Totally True Adventures nonfiction chapter book series and the Ballpark Mysteries, as well as the middle grade Oliver and the Seawigs by Philip Reeve and Sarah McIntyre. At the moment, Paula is looking for narrative nonfiction writers and chapter book series with a strong hook. In middle grade, humor—whether wry or madcap, nostalgic or plucky—is the key to Paula’s heart. Her wish list includes contemporary escapades with a nerdy twist (think Origami Yoda and The Wednesday Wars), mysteries with a spunky wit (like the Enola Holmes mysteries), and epic adventures with a big heart (like How to Train Your Dragon and The True Meaning of Smekday). In books and in real life, she’s a sucker for strong friendships, pesky siblings, scrappy underdogs, colorful sidekicks, a healthy serving of trouble, and a great big dollop of mischief.

SUSAN HAWK, Literary Agent, The Bent Agency – GUEST CRITIQUER JULY 2012

Susan Hawk is a Literary Agent at The Bent Agency, representing middle grade, YA, picture books, and non-fiction for kids. Projects she represents share powerful and original writing, strong story-telling and a distinctive, sometimes off-kilter voice. In middle-grade and YA, she’s looking for unforgettable characters, rich world-building, and she’s a sucker for bittersweet; bonus points for something that makes her laugh out loud. In picture books, she’s looking particularly for author-illustrators, succinct but expressive texts, and indelible characters. Her favorite projects live at the intersection of literary and commercial. Before
agenting, she spent fifteen years in children’s book marketing at Penguin, Henry Holt and North-South Books; she also worked in Editorial at Dutton Children’s Books, and as a children’s librarian and bookseller. http://www.thebentagency.com @susanhawk


Liza Fleissig, with her partner Ginger Harris-Dontzin, opened the Liza Royce Agency (LRA) in early 2011. A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business with a BSE in Finance, and the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law with a JD, Liza brings 20 years of litigation and negotiating experience to the field. On the children’s side of publishing, being a mother to a preschooler girl and a pre-teen boy, she is interested in everything from picture books to middle grade and young adult.

Talk tomorrow,


Filed under: authors and illustrators, Conferences and Workshops, Editor & Agent Info, opportunity Tagged: Allison Moore, April First Page Critique, Jenna Pocius, Quinlan Lee, Samantha Bremekamp, Sarah LaPolla, Susan Dobinick

4 Comments on Homework Help Tip – Additional First Page Critiquer for April, last added: 4/14/2014
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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. Strategies for Pricing Your Illustrating Work



You may know Joann Miller over at the Directory of Illustration. Well, she asked Friend + Johnson (illustration representation agency) if she could share the best advice they had about pricing that they would give an illustrator. I thought I would share the part about how to come up with a price for a potential client. It is quite good.

Here is a list of questions to ask your potential client to help create an accurate estimate that fulfills both their expectations and your needs.


1. How did you find out about me? Is there something in your portfolio that inspired them to think of you for this project? Make sure you understand exactly what they’re referencing so you can make sure you’re comfortable executing it, and are clear on what they’re hiring you to do. This will also help you determine the level of complexity of the illustration they’re looking for.

Project Description

2. Do you have a layout? How complex are the illustrations? Are they single-spot illustrations or more complex scenarios? Are they providing any references for you to use? Are they looking for you to concept illustration ideas with the creatives, or are you working from a pre-approved layout that will not allow for much change? Is this black-and-white or a four-color piece? Are you working in layers?

3. What is the timing for the initial pencils and the final illustration? Usually, you should have three to four days for the initial pencils, and after client approval, another five to seven days to deliver the final. Two rounds of pencils are standard; anything more should have an additional charge.

Usage, Licensing and Copyright

4. Usage is very important in helping you price your project. Note that consumer advertising will be priced much higher than illustrations for a children’s book or direct mail.

Does the client want national, regional, international, web or worldwide uses? How long is the usage? What is the media use: consumer ad, trade ad, packaging, direct mail, billboards, brochures?

5. If clients say they want unlimited use, you should explore if this is really what they need and offer alternative licensing to match their budget. Often times, clients are not “educated” in this area of rights-based pricing; they will be much more understanding if you take the time to outline that they will ultimately save money by purchasing just the usage they need. For example, if they see the difference in cost for a two-, three- or five-year use, this may be more in-line with what they really need vs. unlimited use/time. 

Most clients aren’t planning on a consumer magazine campaign or any out of home use, they may just want unlimited collateral (direct mail and consumer or trade brochures and inserts) use. Find out specifically what they’ll use the artwork for and tailor your pricing to match.

6. If at all possible, never do “work for hire,” give buyouts or sell your copyright. You’re essentially giving away all of your rights as the creator of the artwork and giving ownership to your client. They in turn can reuse and resell the artwork in any way they want.

You can still retain your copyright even if it’s unlimited use, worldwide for an unlimited time and exclusive to them. If they feel they may need the artwork for other uses down the road or for a longer period of time, these extended uses can be renegotiated or factored into the original contract as well.

Remember, they want to use you and you want to work with them. This is a negotiation to give them what they need and pay you fairly for the creation and use of the work. You’re working together to create a fair contract for both parties.

7. Will this image have resale potential in stock or other markets? Does your licensing give you this option?

Keep Budgets & Other Paperwork in Mind

8. Editorial and book clients usually have a predetermined budget. Sometimes you can renegotiate if you feel it’s too low for the amount of work they’re requesting. You should always get a credit line for editorial or pro-bono work.

9. Do they have an allotted budget already in mind? If not, when do they need numbers?

10. Is there a contract? You should have your own contract in addition to anything they supply.

Hang Up

11. Never give an estimate while you’re on the phone with your client. It’s best to hang up and think about what you’re comfortable with.

12. Review your estimate before submitting it. A great source for guidelines for estimating various projects is the “Graphic Artists Guild Handbook” at www.graphicartistsguild.org/handbook/.


13. After you have submitted your estimate and it’s approved, make sure to have it signed and sent back to you.

14. After the project is confirmed, you should bill 50% of the job. This is important for cash flow since illustration projects can stretch over a number of weeks with the back-and-forth for approvals. This is also important with a new client that you don’t have a payment history with.

15. In addition to billing upon confirmation AND having a new client sign your contract, you may want to get a purchase order from you client as it is a contract to purchase your services from your buyer.

To read all the other helpful information use this link: http://joannsartadvice.blogspot.com/2014/03/take-charge-of-pricing-your.html

Talk tomorrow,


Filed under: Advice, Agent, article, authors and illustrators, How to, illustrating, list, Tips Tagged: Directory of Illustration, Freelance Pricing, Friend + Johnson, Joann Miller

2 Comments on Strategies for Pricing Your Illustrating Work, last added: 4/1/2014
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4. Free Fall Friday – April

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

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

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


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

Here are the submission guidelines for submitting a First Page in April: Please “April First Page Critique” or “April First Page Picture Prompt Critique” in the subject line. Please make sure you include your name, the title of the piece, and whether it is as picture book, middle grade, or young adult, etc. at the top.

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

DEADLINE: April 24th.

RESULTS: May 2nd.

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

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

Talk tomorrow,


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

0 Comments on Free Fall Friday – April as of 4/4/2014 12:59:00 AM
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5. 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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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

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7. 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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8. New Imprint At Capstone

Back in February I reported about how Capstone was expanding their new Young Readers trade imprint. This week they announced they were launching Switch Press their new YA Imprint, so now there is something for most all of  you out there to consider, even historical fiction, graphic novels.  Scroll down to read.

capstone2Capstone Publishing Group, which has been aggressively expanding beyond the school and library markets with the launch six months ago of its Capstone Young Readers trade imprint, is adding picture books to the list this spring. Thirteen picture books in print format will be released initially under the CYR imprint; after the first list, the imprint will release four to six picture books each year.

Capstone Publishing Group has previously published picture books for the educational and trade markets under its Picture Window imprint and will continue to do so; this is the first time the company is publishing picture books under the CYR imprint. Thus far, board books, chapter books, and hobbies and crafts books have been published under the CYR imprint, which is overseen by senior product manager John Rahm and editorial directors Michael Dahl and Nick Healy.

In May Capstone will launch a Web site to promote its new CYR line, www.capstoneyoungreaders.com. CYR titles will be available in digital formats as well as in print. While only select Capstone Publishing titles for the educational market are available in digital formats, all of Capstone’s trade titles will be available in both print and e-book formats.

Capstone Young Readers Launches YA Imprint: Offers Wide Range of Nonfiction and Fiction Titles

Capstone Young Readers, a leading publisher of children’s books and digital products and services, announced the launch of Switch Press, a new imprint dedicated to titles that appeal to the wide range of interests of the young adult audience today. Switch Press will include a broad selection of contemporary nonfiction and fiction book titles such as graphic novels, cookbooks, craft/how-to, narrative non-fiction, historical fiction, poetry, fantasy and other speculative fiction.

Talk tomorrow,


Filed under: authors and illustrators, Middle Grade Novels, opportunity, Places to sumit, poetry, publishers, Young Adult Novel Tagged: Capstone Young Readers Trade Imprint, Fiction and Non-fiction, Graphic Novels, Historical Fiction, Switch Press YA Imprint

3 Comments on New Imprint At Capstone, last added: 3/14/2014
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9. Agent Wish List


Illustrator Hans Wilhelm has a Pig that he always dresses up for the holidays. Here is Jolantha dressed up and wishing you a Happy St. Patty’s Day. She says, “I’m not Irish but I am a very lucky pig. Rub my nose and you’ll be lucky too.” Han was featured on Illustrator Saturday. http://kathytemean.wordpress.com/2011/11/12/illustrator-saturday-hans-wilhelm/

Here is an Irish wish for you:

“As you slide down the bannister of life,
May the splinters never point the wrong way.”

beth phelanlDWNIBlFCarly Watters is a literary agent with the P.S. Literary Agency. She is a hands-on agent that develops proposals and manuscripts with attention to detail and the relevant markets. PSLA’s mission is to manage authors’ literary brands for their entire career.

Never without a book on hand she reads across categories which is reflected in the genres she represents and is actively seeking new authors in including women’s fiction, commercial fiction, literary thrillers, upmarket non fiction, and all genres of YA. Carly is drawn to emotional, well-paced narratives, with a great voice and characters that readers can get invested in.

Clients include Taylor Jenkins Reid, Colin Mochrie, Jay Onrait, Julianna Scott, Danny Appleby, Paulette Lambert and more. 

Here are some of the things that interest Carly:

Carly Watters PS Literary

Coming of age stories like Age of Miracles, Arcadia or The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls. Use setting to bring story to life.

ms where character attributes aren’t black & white. Should you love or hate them?”

Love pop science/pop psychology. Experts with something innovative & exciting to say. I.e. Mary Roach, Power of Habit, Art of the Sale.

I am looking for well-paced YA & women’s fiction. Unforgettable characters. Emotional connections. Authentic dialogue.

looking for older YA. Surprise me. A like a romance, high stakes, high drama, maybe a mystery/thriller angle, something fresh.

Looking for Jodi Picoult/Elin Hilderbrand-type structure: multiple POV, teens & adults, high drama, intertwined lives.

Foreign settings I like: Ireland (beginning of Brooklyn, Toibin), Russia (Snowdrops, AD Miller), Africa (Poisonwood Bible, Kingsolver)

For fiction, we are currently seeking:

  • Commercial Mainstream
  • Literary (with a commercial angle)
  • World Literature
  • Women’s Fiction
  • Mystery (Cozy, Private Eye, Police Procedural, etc.)
  • Thriller (Legal, Medical, Political, etc.)
  • Romance (Suspense, Contemporary, Historical, etc.)
  • New Adult (early 20-something protagonists)
  • Young Adult (must be high-concept/commercial)
  • Middle Grade (must be high-concept/commercial)
  • Picture Books (must be high-concept/commercial)

Please limit your query to one page and include the following:

  • Paragraph One - Introduction: Include the title and category of your work (i.e. fiction or nonfiction and topic), an estimated word count and a brief, general introduction.
  • Paragraph Two - Brief overview: This should read similar to back-cover copy.
  • Paragraph Three - Writer’s bio: Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background      (awards and affiliations, etc.).


  • Do not send attachments. Please use text within the body of your e-mail.
  • Please do not submit a full-length manuscript/proposal unless requested.
  • Always let us know if your manuscript/proposal is currently under consideration by other      agents/publishers.
  • Address your query to the attention of the agent you feel is the best match for your work.
  • Please do not query multiple agents at the agency simultaneously – if you receive a query rejection from one agent it means a no from the agency.

They only accept submissions via e-mail.

Talk tomorrow,


Filed under: authors and illustrators, Editor & Agent Info, opportunity, Places to sumit, Publishers and Agencies Tagged: Agent Wish List, Carly Watters, Hans Wilhelm, Happy St. Patty's Day Wish, P.S. Literary Agency

1 Comments on Agent Wish List, last added: 3/17/2014
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10. No-Fee Non-Fiction Contest – Contract and Advance

Leila Nabih

Leila Nabih sent the above illustration to help wet our appetites for warm starry evenings. Leila graduated from London Art College with a Diploma in Illustrating Children’s Books and she has illustrated a short story available on itunes entitled “Imagine”. She is currently working on two other Children’s books to be published this year. Her prefered media in terms of art licensing is digital. For children’s Illustrations she tends to mix and match between watercolours and digital. Here her blog link: http://leilanabih.wordpress.com/ and facebook page : https://www.facebook.com/LeilaNabihIllustrations 

Hay House Publishing is reviewing full-length nonfiction manuscripts for this year’s Hay House Insights Nonfiction Writing Contest, which will award an author a publishing contract and a $5,000 advance under its self-help imprint Balboa Press.

This contest is open to any subject, topic, or theme, as long as it is nonfiction. Submit only unpublished, full-length works.

The judges will evaluate manuscripts on creativity, story structure, expertise of the subject, writing style, and obedience to the publisher’s editorial values.

Hay House Publishing, along with its imprint Balboa Press, specialize in self-help and inspirational books. The company also publishes a wide range of other subjects, including children’s books, cookbooks, fiction, and poetry.


You may enter the Hay House Insights Nonfiction Writing Contest by completing the steps listed below anytime during the submission period.  Only one manuscript submission is permitted per entrant.  Any entrant who submits multiple entries will be disqualified.

Submissions period begins on March 1, 2013. The deadline to submit an entry for the contest is 11:59 p.m. ET on May 1, 2013.  On June 3, 2013, the winners will be announced. All prize winners will be notified and posted on www.balboapress.com and the Hay House Facebook page, www.facebook.com/hayhouse.

There are no entry fees, no subsidy payments and no purchases of any kind required to enter and/or win the contest. Balboa Press and Hay House reserve the right to declare any entry ineligible if it is determined that the entry is not in accordance with the terms stated in Balboa Press’ Editorial Standards or in the Official Terms and Conditions.


  • All writers of full-length nonfiction books, of any subject are eligible to enter.
  • All entrants must have original and completed manuscripts.
  • Must be 18 years of age or older or with parental consent.
  • Employees of Balboa Press or Hay House are not eligible to enter the contest.


  • Minimum of 30,000 word count required.
  • All manuscripts entered must be contained in one single Word document.
  • All manuscripts must be submitted in English.


Entries are judged based on the context, originality, creative imagination, characterization, artistic quality, and the adherence to Balboa Press’ Editorial Standards.

One Grand Prize winner will receive:

  • Hay House Insights contract and $5,000 advance

First Place winner will receive:

  • FREE Discover publishing package with Balboa Press
    • Video Press release and distribution upon publication
    • Hay House Radio Interview

Second Place winner will receive:

  • FREE Connect publishing package with Balboa Press

The 30 Round Two finalists will receive:

  • 20 percent discount off any Balboa Press publishing package.


Step One: Complete the Entry Form

Enter by completing the registration form located here: http://www.balboapress.com/NFpublishingcontest

After entering the Hay House Insights Nonfiction Writing Contest, you will receive an email within the next two business days outlining the last steps you need to take in order to complete your contest entry. If you do not receive entry details within the allotted time, please contact us at contest@balboapress.com.

Step Two: Submit Your Entry

The next step is to email your manuscript entry to: contest@balboapress.com. Follow the entry details below and remember, only one manuscript submission is permitted per entrant; any entrant who submits multiple entries will be disqualified. (Please thoroughly review the Official Terms and Conditions to ensure that you are eligible and will not be disqualified.)

To complete your entry for the Hay House Insights Nonfiction Writing Contest, please carefully follow listed below:

  • All manuscripts entered must be in one single Microsoft Word document or Adobe PDF file (.doc, .docx or .pdf).
  • Clearly list your name as a header on each page of your submission.
  • In the subject line of the email, type “Balboa Press Publishing 2013 Writing Contest (YOUR FULL NAME).”
  • In the body of the email, include:
    • your full name
    • physical mailing address (no P.O. Box please)
    • phone number
    • email address
    • the title of your submission
  • Attach your manuscript submission to the email (do not paste it in the body of the email).
  • There is a 30,000 word count minimum.  Entrants that do not meet these content requirements will not be considered.

Once you’ve submitted your entry, you will receive a confirmation message verifying your manuscript was received and your contest submission is complete. Due to the volume of submissions, please be aware email confirmation may take up to two business days.

Terms and Conditions

Contest Sign Up | Official Contest Rules | Terms and Conditions


You may enter the Hay House Insights Nonfiction Writing Contest (the “Contest”) by completing the steps listed at http://www.balboapress.com/NFpublishingcontest anytime during the submission period.  Only one manuscript submission is permitted per entrant.  Any entrant who submits multiple entries will be disqualified.


Submissions period begins on March 1, 2013. The deadline to submit an entry for the contest is 11:59 p.m. ET on May 1, 2013.


There are no entry fees, no subsidy payments and no purchases of any kind required to enter and/or win the contest.


By submitting your entry, you hereby specifically represent and warrant that your contest entry:

  • Is original material written by the contestant and is the sole responsibility of the contestant;
  • Has not been copied, in whole or in part, from any other work (as written in any language or in any medium, whether now known or hereafter devised)
  • Has not been previously published, produced, or distributed in any audio or visual form, or otherwise exploited in any  medium (whether now known or hereafter devised, in whole or in part) where the author does not hold the copyright, self published manuscripts are eligible
  • Does not defame, and does not infringe or violate the right of privacy, right of publicity, copyright, trademark, service mark, trade secret, or any intellectual property, proprietary or other right(s) of, any third party;
  • Does not include the name or likeness of any actual person(s), without having obtained the express prior written consent of such person(s) (or of such person’s parent or legal guardian if such person is a minor) in each instance;
  • Entrants are entirely responsible for all content submitted;
  • Balboa Press and Hay House reserve the right to declare any entry ineligible if it is determined that the entry is not in accordance with the terms stated in Balboa Press’ Editorial Standards or in these Official Contest Rules; and
  • Meets each of the content requirements found in these Official Contest Rules.


  • All entrants must have completed manuscripts.
  • Entrants must have
  • Must be 18 years of age or older or with parental consent.
  • Employees of Balboa Press and Hay House are not eligible to enter the contest.


  • Minimum of 30,000 word count required.
  • All manuscripts entered must be contained in one single document.
  • Entrants that do not meet these content requirements will not be considered.
  • Entrant must retain a copy of the submitted entry either in either digital form or hard copy form.

All non-winning entries will be destroyed except for entries submitted by entrants who decide to purchase a book publishing package from Balboa Press.


All of the submitted entries will be reviewed by a panel of judges. Judges reserve the right to disqualify entrants that do not comply with these Official Contest Rules. Winners of the Contest will be selected during a two-round process:

Round One: Entry must be submitted by 11:59 p.m. ET on May 1, 2013, to qualify for judging. In the first round, a panel of judges will review all entries. They will select 30 entries to move on to round two.

Round Two: The 30 entries that make it into round two will be reviewed by a separate panel of judges.

Entries are judged based on the context, originality, creative imagination, characterization, artistic quality, and the adherence to Balboa Press’ Editorial Standards. The judges will select one Grand Prize winner, one First Place winner, and one Second Place winner. All decisions of the judges are final.

On June 3, 2013, the winners will be announced. All prize winners will be notified and posted on  www.balboapress.com and the Hay House Facebook page, www.facebook.com/hayhouse.


One Grand Prize winner will receive:

  • Hay House Insights contract and $5,000 advance

First Place winner will receive:

  • FREE Discover publishing package with Balboa Press
    • Video Press release and distribution upon publication
    • Hay House Radio Interview

Second Place winner will receive:

  • FREE Connect publishing package with Balboa Press

The 30 Round Two finalists will receive:

  • 20 percent discount off any Balboa Press publishing package.

No transfer or substitution of prizes permitted, and no more than the stated number of prizes will be awarded. Winners are solely responsible for all costs or expenses not specifically exempted herein, and any and all applicable federal, state or local taxes on the value of their prizes.

Winners must execute, notarize and return within 5 days of receipt by winner a liability release, a publicity release (where legal), and any other documentation that Sponsors require. By the act of accepting a prize, winners (or their legal guardian, if applicable) agree to the release of winner’s name, pen name, likeness and city and state of residence for potential publicity purposes and use on Balboa Press or Hay House web sites, except where prohibited by law without further compensation.

Entrants and winners are under no obligation whatsoever to purchase a publishing package but may be offered the opportunity by a Balboa Press Publishing Consultant.


  • Void where prohibited by law. Federal, state and local laws and regulations apply.
  • Balboa Press and Hay House are not responsible for any individual’s inability to enter this contest, including but not limited to: failed software or hardware transmissions; unavailable network, server, telephone or other connections; errors of any kind, whether human, electronic, or mechanical regarding lost, misdirected, late, incomplete or damaged entries; or for any damage to any computer, network, hardware or software related to or resulting from participation.
  • Balboa Press and Hay House reserves the right to end or modify the contest if fraud or technical failures compromise the integrity of the contest as determined by our sole discretion.
  • Entrants agree to the following:  The Sponsors, their respective promotional partners, affiliated companies, agencies and their employees are not liable for injury, losses, damages or costs of any kind resulting from participation in this contest, or in results of accepting or using the prize awarded. By entering the Contest, participants agree to be bound by these rules.
  • Balboa Press and Hay House respects the privacy of our members. By entering this contest, entrants opt into the use of their registration information in accordance with the Balboa Press and Hay House Privacy Policy and consent to receiving correspondence via telephone and/or email by Balboa Press and Hay House.
  • The Contest may be terminated without prior notice at any time after it begins.


  • Hay House, PO Box 5100, Carlsbad, CA 92018
  • Balboa Press a Division of Hay House, 1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403

Good Luck!

Talk tomorrow,


Filed under: authors and illustrators, Book, Contest, opportunity, Places to sumit Tagged: $5000 Advanced, Balboa Press, Book contract, Hay House Publishing, Non-fiction

0 Comments on No-Fee Non-Fiction Contest – Contract and Advance as of 3/18/2014 1:41:00 AM
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11. Illustrator Saturday – Melanie Hope Greenberg

melpic290Melanie Hope Greenberg has illustrated 16 trade published children’s picture books; six of them she wrote. Greenberg was recently an artist in residence for the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art’s National Endowment for the Arts grant. Her original picture book illustrations were exhibited in a solo show and as a part of the “Drawn in Brooklyn” group exhibition at Brooklyn Central Library-Grand Army Plaza.

Greenberg was also the selected artist for the Texas Library Association conference’s Disaster Relief Fund raffle. SCBWI NY Metro steering committee member. Keynoter, panelist, workshop presenter, picture book manuscript / dummy / portfolio critiques for SCBWI regional conferences.

Judge for the 2005 SCBWI Golden Kite Award, 2006 SCBWI Magazine Merit Award. Judge for the 2010 Cybils Awards.


Here is Melanie talking about her process:

Muriel Feldshuh was kind enough to invite me to participate, for a second time, in her traveling children’s picture book artist quilt project.  She sent a kit containing a lovely note, a blank square of muslin, packing, and a self addressed, stamped return envelope. How could I refuse?

The  first muslin square I painted is in the red quilt above. Feldshuh’s quilts exhibit in galleries throughout the United States.

For the new quilt, consisting of Brooklyn based illustrators, I chose an icon that both represents Brooklyn and my picture books. This is a sketch of a book cover test for MERMAIDS ON PARADE. The publisher thought it was “too old” for the age level of my book.

I still love this sketch and I’ve wanted to use it somewhere else. So, I did.

I work with a copy machine. I cut out extras and fixed some lines. Then copied again. There’s my outline.

I copy once more, and experiment with paint on the paper first. I discovered my glitter nail polish made a quick drying sparkle over the paint. Yippie, no glitter mess.

Using a lightbox, I trace the mermaid’s outline onto the muslin square with pencil. I lay down shapes of pure colors.

Now I add some details to the under layers of paint.

I add purple pen out line and carefully brush in the glitter. I do not want paint or glitter to spill onto the muslin outside the mermaid outline.

Remember to always ventilate while using the nail polish in large areas. I painted by an open window.

Finished art.

How long have you been illustrating?

Before kindergarten. I cannot remember not coloring or drawing. Here’s a painting from my teenage years living in Co-op City in the Bronx.


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

UNICEF greeting cards was my first professional illustration job. I also worked in a frame store and in graphic art studios.


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

When I met a picture book art agent. Finding her was random luck as I pounded the pavement with my portfolio and illustrating for the gift industry.


Greeting Card published by Michel & Co

Did you do freelance before you got into children’s books?

Yes. I still freelance. I’ve published hundreds of illustrated images on greeting cards, coffee mugs, posters, gift items and more.


What was your first book you had published? What year was that and who published it?

AT THE BEACH which I wrote and illustrated for Dutton Children’s Books 1989


How did you get that contract?

Through the agent. We worked for about 6 months crafting a dummy and writing. Then I got the job!


What spurred you to write your own book?

I always liked to write and my agent encouraged me to write a story.


How did you find a home for that book?

Through the agent. I was incredibly green.


Is there anything you can point that ratcheted up in your career to the next level?

Understanding the vast scope of our business and how it all connects. Marketing my art and books with an individual vision to a target audience.


What book was your first big success?

When I saw my illustration from AT THE BEACH in Publisher’s Weekly with a lovely review. I was on an interview at Publisher’s Weekly for a freelance graphic job. When the art director flipped through the magazine there was my painting! The review made me realize that books were more than a freelance gig which is what I thought about my first book deal. Had no idea about picture book reviews.

PS: I got the freelance job at Publisher’s Weekly, too!


Since then, which book do you feel is your biggest success? Which book is your personal favorite?

A big success is DOWN IN THE SUBWAY which is still in print and has received several honors and became a New York Time Great Children’s Read. MERMAIDS ON PARADE is my personal favorite because it’s a personal story that came from real life. And the story in the book manifested in real life, too. We marched with a little girl who I met at my Eric Carle Museum program. She and her mom came all the way from Massachusetts to Brooklyn to march with my friends in the Coney Island Mermaid Parade. She won a medal for Best Little Mermaid. Just like my book!


Have you won any awards for your books?

Yes, notables, honors, a New York Times Great Children’s Read, and state awards.


Did you do the original cover of Lizzy Logan Wears Purple Sunglasses by Eileen Spinelli or the latest cover or both?

Great question! I illustrated the first cover in my folk art style and I have no skills to illustrate the new cover. LOVE that they used the same hair style, I’m honored!


I see you have done a number of books with Henry Holt. How did you make that happen?

Agent connection to editor, Nina Ignatowicz. I published THE WIND’S GARDEN and A CITY IS with Henry Holt.


How many picture books have you published?

16 trade picture books. Six of them I’ve written.


Do you plan to write and illustrate more books?

Always trying. I have polished projects which I submit and various new projects in different stages.


Are you open to working with self-published authors?

I’m not seeking it out, however if I am paid well I’d consider it as a freelance job. Because I am considered “hybrid” I might self-publish my own previously published books now out of print. These books have a track record with the public library system and with schools.


Do you feel your style has changed since when you started out?

Yes, from a decorative cartoon style to a painterly style. That evolution was challenging. In retrospect, it was breaking out of barriers (black lines) into a light filled open field (no black lines). The art mirrored my psychology at the time. Learning to expand interior spaces and how to illustrate with moods and symbols.


What materials do you use to paint your color illustrations?

Gouache, pens, pencils. Ballpoint rainbow colored gel pens rock my world for fine detail work.


Do you use Photoshop or Corel Painter with your illustrations?

No. Ten fingers are my digital age ;)


Have you done illustrations for any children’s magazines?

Yes. I had a monthly job with Scholastic’s Instructor Magazine for many years before their illustrations changed to photos. My first assignment with Scholastic was for poems edited by Lee Bennett Hopkins. He and I are currently Facebook Friends! Also, worked with Children’s Television Workshop, and teacher magazines.


Have you done any books with educational publishers?

Yes, A SCARY THING IN THE KITCHEN with McGraw-Hill. I AM with Scholastic. And many more black and white illustrations for textbooks.


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

Postcard mailings. Submitting proposals. Online presence. Networking.


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

I did have a 23 year year long good relationship with an agent who is not as active. I went on my own but would LOVE an energetic rep. It’s a lot of work to meet the art directors and editors, do the paperwork and contracts. Definitely worth the commissions.


Do you think the Internet has opened doors for you?

Totally! My platform has ballooned. I meet people at events who say they see my name everywhere.


How did you get your first school visit?

I cannot remember, almost 22 years ago. Probably local, I sent mailers to the schools.


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

Both. I have a booking agent now but I still must market on a consistent basis and do so with personal lists I’ve built up over time.


Do you have any tips on how to get invited to a school for a presentation?

Marketing to the target audience is always best.


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

Yes, and lots of paperwork! However, deadlines shape a timely art production. I paint better and more efficiently when I am eating.


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

My paints.


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

Yes, I LOVE to research! I have files of research before I sketch, write, etc. Especially if I am not clear on what info to convey in the art or story. If I can take photos I do, but I use my own visual files and the internet to search for images and other research.


Jay Asher, author of 13 REASONS WHY, on left standing next to Melanie and the Disco Mermaids from the SCBWI party was research for MERMAIDS ON PARADE. They appear inside the book as well as on the flap jacket. )

Have you ever thought of getting back the rights to your out-of-print books and self-publishing them?

Yes! At this point I am hybrid, books in and out of print. I sell my remainder copies. I’ve learned how to sell to bookstores and the public via experience, the events I do and through social networking. Again, because I am “hybrid” I can self-publish previously published books now out of print which have a track record with the public library system and with schools.

melaniehgQ35Do you have any career dreams that you want to fulfill?

Retire properly with financial security. melaniehgQ36

What are you working on now?

Submitting, submitting, submitting. I have a new Ebook being released with Random House. It’s the reincarnation of IT’S MY EARTH, TOO, originally published by Doubleday, released in 1992. It went out of print around 1995 when Doubleday merged with Random House.


Do you have any material type tips you can share with us?

Play with whatever excites your imagination and experiment.


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

Work your butt off. Stop waiting for others to do the heavy lifting. Keep trying. Present your creativity with an authentic individual voice.

Melanie thank you for sharing your journey, talent, expertise, and process with us. Please keep us informed of all your future successes. We’d love to hear about them.

For more of Melanie, you can find her at: http://www.melaniehopegreenberg.com/ or  http://mermaidsonparade.blogspot.com/

All art and photos are the copyright of Melanie Hope Greenberg.

Please take a minute to leave Melanie a comment. It is always nice to hear your thoughts and I am sure Melanie would appreciate it, too. Thanks!

Talk tomorrow,


Filed under: Advice, authors and illustrators, Illustrator's Saturday, inspiration, Interview, picture books, Process, Tips Tagged: Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art's, Melanie Hope Greenberg, SCBWI Magazine Merit Award

7 Comments on Illustrator Saturday – Melanie Hope Greenberg, last added: 3/25/2014
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12. Ask Kathy

Children’s book illustrator and writer Nata Romeo sent in this stylize iguana for today’s post. She says, “Art is my passion.” I recently completed illustrations for a book titled ‘Wildlife Animals A to Z’, which she intends to self publish. Her preferred medium is a combination of watercolor and pen and ink. www.artistadonna.blogspot.com/
www.ArtistaDonna.ebsqart.com  www.facebook.com/artistadonna.nata 

This coming weekend I will be meeting with Agent Sean McCarthy and Publishing Executive Director and Managing Editor, Steve Meltzer. Some of you have sent in questions for me to ask so I can relay the answers to you. Please email me if you would like to add to the list.

Here are the questions sent to me:

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

2.  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?

3.  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?

4.  What is the preferred word length for a book aimed at the upper middle grades/tween reader?

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

6.  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?

7.  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?

8.  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?

9.  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?

10. I have been told not to use any “ing” words in my manuscript. Is there a rule about this that I have missed?

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

12.  How hard is it to get your rights back on a book you that has gone out of print? Do you have any words of wisdom or steps an author could take to get the rights back?  

13.  What do you think about using the real name of a media or entertainer in your book? Is that okay or should you make up a similar name?

14.  I am an illustrator and writer. Is it okay to send in a picture book dummy?

15.  What is speculative fiction?

16.  If you want to write a book from two character’s POV, using alternating chapters, is it okay to scatter in a few chapter’s from a third character’s point-of-view?

17.  If you are writing a book using two character’s POV with alternating chapters, could the main character be in first person and the second character be in third person?

18. Do you have any thoughts on when to give up on a manuscript your have completed and has gotten rejected?

Talk tomorrow,



Filed under: Agent, authors and illustrators, Editors, list, opportunity Tagged: Agent Sean McCarthy, Ask Kathy, Publisher Steve Meltzer, Questions for Answers

10 Comments on Ask Kathy, last added: 3/24/2014
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13. Agents Wishlist

Brooks Sherman at The Bent Agency


Brooks Sherman represents picture books, fiction for young adult and middle-grade-readers, select literary and commercial adult fiction, and nonfiction in the areas of humor, pop culture, and narrative nonfiction.

Prior to joining The Bent Agency, he worked as a literary agent at FinePrint Literary Management and in the managing editorial department of Henry Holt and Company. He is a hands-on, editorial agent who delights in developing projects with his clients before bringing them to the attention of publishers.

Before starting his career in publishing, he spent several years working in the entertainment industry (in both New York and Hollywood), and two years with the Peace Corps in West Africa. Having bounced around all over the world, he is delighted to be back in Brooklyn—although he looks forward to his next Transylvanian backpacking expedition with great anticipation!

He is seeking projects that balance strong voice with gripping plot lines. Stories that make me laugh earn extra points! My interest in adult fiction runs the gamut from literary to speculative (particularly contemporary fantasy rooted in realistic settings, horror, and magical realism), as well as historical and crime fiction. On the children’s side, He’s looking for middle grade fiction of all genres (but particularly fantasy adventure and contemporary), humorous projects from author-illustrators, and young adult fiction of all types except paranormal romance. He would love to get his hands on a creepy and/or funny contemporary young adult project. 

Here are a few more detailed things that Brooks says he is looking to read.

On the MG side, I’m still looking for someone to send me this generation’s THE WITCHES. Are you my Dahl?

On the YA side, I’d love to find some projects with realistic settings and a speculative twist. (See: NOGGIN; GRASSHOPPER JUNGLE)

Still looking for a historical project set in or around the WWI era to sink my fangs into. Speculative elements encouraged!

I would love to work on some alternate history projects — MG, YA, or adult. A fantasy element (a la BARTIMAEUS) would be just dandy.

“I desperately want to find the next JONATHAN STRANGE AND MR. NORRELL—eerily beautiful crossover fantasy”

And of course, I’d love to get my hands on a dark adult psychological thriller, or historical or speculative thriller (a la THE ROOK).

I’m also keeping an eye out for MG stories that are either funny/contemporary or fantasy/sci-fi adventure!

I’m looking for contemporary YA fiction, in the vein of ELEANOR & PARK or ARISTOTLE AND DANTE DISCOVER THE SECRETS OF THE UNIVERSE.

MG with sweetness and wit (not necessarily snarky).”

I’d love to see a twisted adult thriller like Gillian Flynn’s GONE GIRL or William Landay’s DEFENDING JACOB.


I will be talking about Query Letters this week, so you might want to read that to make sure you are doing that to the best of your ability. Brook will still be there, so their is no need to rush something out.

To query Brooks, please review The Bent Agency’s submissions guidelines
Then email brooks@thebentagency.com

Talk tomorrow,


Filed under: Agent, authors and illustrators, Editor & Agent Info, list, opportunity, Places to sumit, Publishers and Agencies Tagged: Agents Wishlist, Brooks Sherman, The Bent Agency

1 Comments on Agents Wishlist, last added: 3/29/2014
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14. Books Edited By…

Are you using all your SCBWI member benefits? I bet there are a lot of busy writers who are missing a lot of things that the SCBWI provides to help you sell your manuscripts. Did you know if you are a member and login to www.scbwi.org, you can find a list of editors and what books they edited? This is valuable information when trying to find the right home for something you have written. 

A smart writer or illustrator (they list picture books with the illustrators) would save this file and every time they read a book, they would look in the author credits to see if they mentioned who helped them make their book shine. If they are smart, they will mention the editors at the publishing company as a way to thank them for their expertise. We can use that information to hone our submissions and use that information in a query letter or when we run into an editor. This is called, “doing your homework” and makes you appear as someone who knows the industry.

Below is just part of one page to give you an idea of what it looks like.


Hope you take the time to check out all the benefits your SCBWI membership provides.

Talk tomorrow,


Filed under: Advice, authors and illustrators, Editors, list, need to know, opportunity, organizations, Publishing Industry, reference Tagged: Books by Editor, SCBWI Benefits

8 Comments on Books Edited By…, last added: 4/1/2014
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15. Example of Excellent Middle Grade Discussion Guide

This is an excellent discussion guide for Kate Applegate’s Newbery winning book, THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN. With this one piece Kate is showing not only helping teachers know how to use her book with their classes, but she is also, generating interest in her book, encouraging teachers to share it with her readers, and get invited to their school. Bottom Line: Increasing sales.

Are you putting out something this high end? Next, I will share a picture book Discussion Guide. I hope these will get you thinking about what you can do for your book.


If your publisher is not planning on creating something like this for you, don’t let that stop you from doing all the things you can to look professional and grab more sales.

Talk tomorrow,


Filed under: Advice, authors and illustrators, Marketing a book, Middle Grade Novels, Process Tagged: HarperCollins Childrens, Increase your sales, Newbery Winner, School Discussion Guide, The One and Only Ivan

2 Comments on Example of Excellent Middle Grade Discussion Guide, last added: 10/1/2013
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16. Illustrator Saturday – Mark Meyers

markbioportraitMark was born and raised in Northern Utah under the shadow of the Wasatch Mountains. He spent many childhood days climbing, exploring, and causing general mayhem on the mountainside. Running around with his brothers he learned early on the finer things in life like the sound of breaking glass, the freedom of running around in your underwear, and the feel of rushing wind on your face as you’re falling out of a tree.

Mark has always loved to doodle whatever silly thing popped into his head. He never took too seriously but always liked to make people laugh with his drawings. By a strange series of events he found himself in foggy San Francisco studying illustration at the Academy of Art University, where he earned a Bachelor degree in Illustration. Now his days are spent drawing and painting pictures filled with kids, escaping circus monkeys, and everything in between.

Here is Mark talking about his process:

Generally I start out with thumbnails to get an idea how I’m going to break up the space.


Once I get something I like I will blow it up and start working right over the top. I will do this either on paper or in Photoshop, for this one I did all the initial drawing in Photoshop (it was more of a matter of time frame than anything).  I will then scan it in if it was done on paper, and then start to flesh things out and figure some of the detail.  Once I am happy with that I will print it out very lightly and do a pencil drawing over it further working out the detail.


Once I am happy with the finished line drawing I will scan it back into Photoshop, and clean it up if it needs to be. Generally at this point I will also give the line work a little bit of color just so it’s not black.


Once in photoshop I will do what I would call an underpainting.  I will layout the basic color scheme and do some shadow lay in.  This stage gives me a chance to set my basic value pattern and color scheme, but everything
will have a least a layer of acrylic over the top of it.  Sometimes the colors will change quite a bit by the final if something isn’t working. Also this is a good stage to add a light overall layer of color.  For example if this is going to be a cool image a semi transparent layer of blue would work good.  On this painting it has a slightly warm tone over it.  Basically at this point all of the space is filled even though somewhat rough.


I print this out on epson watercolor paper. Then I spray it with a coat of Krylon workable fixative to help keep the ink on the paper. Next I get  the paper wet and stretch it like you would any watercolor paper. I highly doubt that epson suggests this but with a little trial and error it  works quite well. When wet you do have to be somewhat careful because the paper is a bit fragile. While it is still somewhat damp I coat the entire image in a layer of matte medium. This seals it all down and gives a nice tooth for painting. Then I let it dry completely. For the most part I paint with acrylic but will use watercolor, colored, pencil, and just about anything I think will work. When painting I generally work from furthest away to the front. That way you don’t have to worry about the
edges of stuff that has already been painted. I’ve also found doing the background first makes it easier to keep your values working. It also gives you a clear plan of attack of how to finish your painting. So working from back to front I go along adding details and finishing it off.


First, I sketch and once I’m happy I scan it into Photoshop. I adjust the color of the line to either a warm or cool color depending on the painting.  I basically do a quick color study under the line drawing in Photoshop.  I set the basic values and colors at this step.  For this painting everything has kind of purple cast to keep that cool feeling.  You could go a lot further at this point than I did, but I prefer to do most of the work in paint.


After I’m done in Photoshop I printed it out on some 13×19 Epson water color paper.  I gave a few quick coats of workable fixatif.  The ink in my printer is very waterproof or else you have to really coat it with workable fixatif.  Then I stretch it like you would any other type of watercolor paper.


In the end pretty much all of the digital painting won’t be visible, but it helps to speed up the process, and gives you some direction.  I use acrylics and usually start from the furthest point and work my way forward.  For me it helps me keep control of values, and you don’t have to worry about painting around things as much.  Also if I paint the funnest things first then I run out of motivation to paint everything else.


Here’s a detail where you can see that I’m not very concerned about over painting things in the foreground.


I keep moving forward.  The buildings are a good example of how in paint I refine things but the digital color still peeks through here and there.  Basically the same concept as toning a canvas.


The values are off in this picture, but at this point I’m starting to refine the main characters.


A few detailed shots


Once everything is painted I spend a little more time making all the small adjustments.  I could do this forever and would more than likely eventually end up ruining the painting.  So after a bit I usually stop myself and call it finished.


How long have you been illustrating?

I believe this year will be my fifth year of illustrating. I’m still learning, growing, and loving it.



I see you live in Utah and attended Academy of Art University. How did you decide to attend AAU?

I had been playing around with 3d animation programs and making little movies at a local college.  I thought maybe I would be interested in that. My sister that lived in San Francisco at the time suggested I come and tour the school.  Luckily for me they had a pretty open enrollment program because I did not have much of portfolio.  I had always loved to draw and make stuff but hadn’t taken it very seriously up to that point.  When I actually got to AAU they start all students in fundamental drawing classes.  I was honestly terrible at it but I loved it.  In that first semester I made up mind do go into illustration and never even took a single 3d animation class.


Can you tell us a little bit about that school?

For me it was a great school.  They put a huge focus on learning to be a good craftsman, a very classical approach to art.  As I mentioned above I didn’t have much training so it was good to start on the bottom.  I can’t really speak for the rest of the school but the Illustration department and its faculty were incredible.  Most of the teachers were very skilled illustrators and very willing to share their knowledge.  Another great thing about being there was the huge amount of artwork that I was exposed to.


What types of things did you study there?

Kind of hard to narrow it down but lots of live drawing and painting.  Then as I got further along the classes became more specific to what you wanted to do.  That way you are building a portfolio of the type of work you want to do.


What classes were your favorites?

There were probably three classes that were my favorite.  The first ones were the base illustration classes that were taught by the talented Robert Revels and Stephen Player.  Craig Nelson really taught me a lot about telling a story with pictures in narrative storytelling.  I had Leuyen Pham, who is a fantastic children’s book illustrator, as a teacher in a children’s illustration class which really pushed me in the direction that I have gone.


Did the School help you get work?

I don’t know that the school directly got me work.  However they do have good programs to help their students get work.  I just tend to be the type that goes out on there own.

marktake me out 1

marktake me out 2

Do you feel that the classes you took there have influenced you style?

Of course the classes I took influenced my style.  I think everything you see and draw does.  In fact I was so influenced by them that eventually I had to step away a bit and start pushing my own style.


What was the first thing you did where someone paid you for your artwork?

I think the first time I ever got paid for artwork was in the sixth grade when a drawing I did won as the cover for our yearbook.  I was pretty excited when they gave me a crisp twenty dollar bill.


Did you move back to Utah after you graduated?

We stayed in the bay area for a couple years after I graduated, and then moved back here in I believe about 2010 or so.


What was the first illustration work you did for children?

The first illustration work I did for children was an educational book that I did for Houghton Mifflin.


How did that come about?

I had just gotten an artist rep and that was the first job that they sent my way.  I believe it was in my last semester of college.


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

It was probably about half way through college that I really started pushing towards children’s books.  I was classically trained but my natural style tended to lean a bit to the cartoony side.  I really started reading a lot of picture books and loving how the words and artwork went together.  It’s still fascinating to me how the words and the pictures can simultaneously tell two stories at the same time.  I also realized I was a kid who never grew up and that children’s books very much matched my sense of humor.


What was your first picture book? Who was the publisher?

My first picture book was Victricia Malicia and published by Flashlight Press.  It’s the story of a little girl who is a book hound but is born into a pirate family.


Can you tell us the story behind you getting this job?

I had an art rep but I also like to be able to send out some of my own promotional material.  I had found their contact info and sent them my promo.  After a little while they contact me and said they had a book that they thought would match my style, and as they say the rest is history.


Did you do anything specific to get the contract to illustrate The Ballpark Mysteries published by Random House?

I don’t know that it was anything special.  It was from promotional material that either me or my rep sent out.



How did you get the opportunity to illustrate Take Me Out to the Ball Game?

Take me out to the Ball Game was a fun one to do and I had already illustrated a book for the publisher (read next question).


Is this the first book that you did with Ideal’s Candy Cane Press?

The first book that I did for Ideals was Counting Cows by Michelle Medlock Adams.  It’s a counting book about a boy who is tired of counting sheep and decides to give cows a try.  Though there are still a few sheep thrown in for fun.


How did that contract come about?

I can’t remember exactly on this one but I believe they had seen my artwork on my artist rep’s website.


Have you done any work for children’s magazines?

I have worked with Spider, Cricket, Houghton Mifflin, and Highlights for Children.  Probably my favorite of those was doing the Halloween cover for Spider Magazine.


Have you worked for educational publishers?

I have done a fair amount of work for educational publishers.


Do you have an artist rep or an agent? Could you tell us how the two of you connected?

I am represented by Wendy Lynn & Co.  I was still in college but I felt like I had a fairly strong and consistent portfolio.  So I started sending it out to various agents that I thought I would be a good fit with.  As most new illustrators will find the sticking point was my lack of actual published work.  After talking with WendyLynn for a while we decided to give it a try and I have been working with them ever since.


Would you ever like to write and illustrate your own book?

Absolutely! I have stories that I want to tell in both words and pictures.  In the last little while I have really been pushing myself on a couple of book ideas I have to get them ready for submission to publishers.  I’m still better a drawing than writing but I keep working away at it.



Are you open to illustrating for self-published authors?

I am, and have done several different project with self-publishers. I recently finished ‘Stories to Make you Dream’, by John Roozen.


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

My rep has my art featured on their site (http://www.wendylynn.com/artist.php?name=markmeyers) and on childrensillustrations.com. I also try to keep my website and blog updated (www.markmeyersart.com).  I haven’t been real great at that part but I just revamped my website.  In addition to WendyLynn sending out promotional material I try to get postcards sent out a couple times a year at least.


25. What is your favorite medium to use?

By far my favorite medium is acrylic. Though I like watercolors and oil too, but rarely use them for finished work.


26. Not counting your paint and brushes, what is the one thing in your studio that you could not live without?

Well anymore it would be hard to get by without the computer.  Also I recently picked up a 100 year old drafting table that I am in love with.


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

I usually spend a full work day in my studio working on art.  I guess that can range anywhere from 8-12 hours depending on deadlines and projects.  Most of the time is consumed by current projects, but if I’m lucky to have some spare time then I try working on my back log of personal projects.


28. Have you ever won an award for your writing or illustrating?

In my last year at school I was honored to have two pieces of mine in the Society of Illustrators student competition.


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

It kind of depends on the project but I usually do a fair amount of research.  For me personally I try not to use much direct reference.  I will study the reference and then put it away while I’m drawing and painting.  That way it forces me to make it my own.


30. Do you think the Internet has opened doors for you?

I think so.  The internet broadens the amount of people you can reach, and can get your work in front of a lot of people.



31. Do you use Photoshop with your illustrations?

I do a lot of my preliminary drawings and color studies in photoshop.  If time is short sometimes I will finish a piece in photoshop but still prefer the look of my painted work.


32. Do you own or have you ever tried a graphic Drawing Tablet?

Yes, I am currently using a Wacom Intuos 5.  I think I would be lost working digitally without one.


33. Do you think your style has changed over the years? Have your materials changed?

It is hard for me to say if my style has changed.  I think it gets refined with every illustration that I do so I guess it does.  I would say the same thing happens with the materials too.  You find new stuff that works and get rid of old stuff you no longer need.


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

I sure do.  If I had done everything I had wanted to do then it would be time to find a new career.


35. What are you working on now?

At this moment I am continuing to work on the Ballpark Mysteries series, book #2 in a series for a self-publisher, and a poster for a zoo.


36. 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 am a big fan of Epson water color paper.  It handles being stretched and is nice to paint back over.  Lascaux makes an acrylic paint called tint white that I have found to be very useful.  Though it’s not new I’ve been toying around with clear gesso and I’m really starting to like it.


markpenguinchristmas50037. Any words of wisdom on how to become a successful writer or illustrator?

Don’t stop trying!!! From my experience in the illustration world there will be lots of ups and downs.  You need to have passion for what you do and be always ready to learn.  A sketchbook should be your best friend.


Thank you Mark for sharing your eye-catching illustrating and process with us. Please keep us up-to-date with all your future successes. We’d love to hear about them. Here is the link to Mark’s website: http://markmeyersart.com/

If you have a minute, please leave Mark a comment. We love to hear from you.

Talk tomorrow,


Filed under: authors and illustrators, How to, illustrating, Illustrator's Saturday, inspiration, Interview, picture books, Process Tagged: Highlights for Children, Mark Meyers, Spider Magazine, Take Me Out to the Ball Game

2 Comments on Illustrator Saturday – Mark Meyers, last added: 10/5/2013
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17. 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

8 Comments on First Page Problems, last added: 3/1/2014
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18. Free Fall Friday – Allison Moore Critiques


This giraffe fashionista was sent in by Katia Bulbenko. Katia is an artist, illustrator and art teacher living and working near New York City, on the Jersey side of the Hudson. A member of the SCBWI, her work was recently selected for the New Jersey Library Association’s Books for Kids poster. Congratulations! Katia!

Big Red and Wolfie (PB) by Bev Baird Langill

“Look at those nice juicy pigs. Won’t granny be happy.”

Turning around, Red screeched when she saw Wolfie glaring at her.

“Why are you spying on me?”

“I’m not! I caught you spying on our new neighbours.”

“Just checking them out.”

“Not for a meal, I hope?”

“Of course not!”

Red left quickly and  ran home, arriving there, huffing and puffing.

“Granny, we’ve got new neighbours – three plump, juicy pigs.”

“Wonderful. What I wouldn’t give for a nice roast of pork.”


“We need to meet them. I want you to take over some nice treats. That will fatten them up even


“What a great idea Granny. I’ll go over now.”

Granny packed a basket with cakes and cookies, while Red put on her cloak. She had a bit of

trouble doing it up around her neck.

Here is what Allison had to say:

BIG RED AND WOLFIE by Bev Baird Langill

The idea of combining the “Little Red Riding Hood” and “Three Little Pigs tales here was interesting. That said, given the storyline wasn’t straightforward, I thought it could use a few more lines to set the scene, before jumping into the dialogue.  At times it wasn’t immediately clear who was talking, so I might also suggest using attribution, if even just selectively.  Or, if the story is meant to communicate some of its humor visually, I would suggest including art notes.  In some ways, this felt like the middle of a story.  I could make assumptions about Granny, Wolfie, and Red based on what they said, but I wasn’t feeling as invested as I could be.

There are a number of fairy tale-inspired picture books out in the market, so for us to consider one, it needs to be spot-on  – and stand out from the crowd in a really dynamic, specific way.  In this case, unfortunately, I would probably choose not to move forward.


Rule Breaker  – a Middle Grade Novella By Angela Larson and Zander Mowat

The book made this sound a lot easier. I’m in the hall that leads to the cafeteria, leaning on a bent knee and peering around the corner with a mirror in my hand.  This is surveillance, Chapter One of Detective Derk’s Spy Manual for the Disgruntled. I’ve been on surveillance all week. It’s Friday. My hand is going numb while I wait. I’m debating if it’s worth skipping lunch again, when my target, my jerk brother Roger Adams, turns the corner.

He strolls down the hall in his ‘too important to walk any faster’ mode and pulls a coin from his pocket.   By the time he gets to the vending machine my arm starts to shake. I’m concentrating hard to keep the mirror focused on him.

He puts a quarter in the machine, presses a button and I hear the candy fall to the door. This is crazy – I know he doesn’t have any money.  Then I see the trick.  I blink.  Is this for real?

He pulls a string – its tied to the quarter!

A second later, he’s pulled the quarter up and out, has the stolen snack in his hand, and he is about to walk away.

My body jolts to fast-forward as I turn the corner and launch at him. “That’s not very cool – Stealing from the school!”  Not waiting for an answer, I snatch the coin on the string out of his hand.

“Dude, take a chill pill, before your head explodes,” says Roger as he rolls his eyes.  This is part of Roger’s classic cosmic-cool act.  He goes around saying all these…

Here is what Allison had to say:

RULE BREAKER by Angela Larson and Zander Mowat

I thought this was a great first line.  It grabbed me immediately, and told me a lot about the situation and character in just a few words.  I didn’t mind jumping into the middle of a scene because each line told me something interesting and important – how the character looks, how he fits into his environment, and what his goal is.  I wanted to know why he was following “the target,” and what made him look to a book for advice.  I might even suggest extending his watch, and not revealing who the target is just yet, to maintain suspense for a few more paragraphs.  In any case, I would definitely keep reading.

That said, a few things in the following paragraphs struck me as outdated, in a way, and I found that a little distracting.  Are any vending machines still only a quarter?  Do kids still say “take a chill pill”?  These wouldn’t have stopped me from reading, because I was taken by the plot, but they took me out of the story momentarily, so I might suggest rethinking them.  On a similar note, the specific phrasing coming from the main character – especially his exclamation about stealing from the school (and the fact that that line rhymes, almost like a slogan), made him seem less like a cool spy and more like an annoying little brother.  And if he is, so be it!  But if that’s not one of his main traits as a character, I might similarly rework that line.

Overall, minor quibbles aside, I would be interested in seeing where this story was going.

(Side note – I wasn’t familiar with the category of “middle grade novella.”  There is certainly a range, from chapter books up to more complex MG, but I haven’t heard of something in MG being described as a novella, so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect.)


Sarah Phillips Pellet – THE KITCHEN TROLL – Middle Grade 

            Stephen didn’t brush his teeth in the morning. It was about all he could do to get out of bed, pull on his jeans and sweatshirt, eat breakfast, grab his backpack, and walk to school. Who had time to brush their teeth?

The problem was though, Stephen didn’t find the time to do other little things he should’ve been doing, too. Things like weeding the garden, taking out the trash, and sorting the recyclables, they got in the way of the time he liked to spend playing basketball with his friends or drawing in the garden shed where nobody would disturb him. Or find out that he liked to draw.

Stephen didn’t give these things too much thought in the morning. He didn’t think much of anything apart from moving his spoon to his mouth to take a bite of cereal. Th-wap! His father slammed his sketch pad onto the kitchen table. Little bits of dirt scuttled out from its pages and flew across the table as if they knew was what coming next and wanted to get out of the way. The pencil slid out of its spiral cage and rolled onto the floor. Two giant hands came crashing down onto the table with such force that Stephen’s spoon jumped out of his cereal bowl and catapulted soggy Cheerios onto his lap.

“What is this?” his father demanded, his lip curled in a snarl.

Stephen blinked several times. “I dunno,” he lied.

“Oh really?” said his father, flipping the sketch pad over to reveal a sign Stephen had penned which read, “NO TRESPASSING! Property of Stephen Dennison!!!” with each exclamation point drawn in 3-D:  one with diagonal stripes, another with polka dots, and the last one with lightning bolts.

Here is what Allison had to say:


I liked this opening – it tells you what kind of kid Stephen is, and that this isn’t a one-off situation.  That said, my first question was, why does Stephen eat cereal, instead of an even quicker breakfast?  Sitting at the table and pouring cereal and milk sounds like it takes more effort than, say, eating a granola bar on the way out the door.  Just something to consider.

I enjoyed the imagery of the third paragraph, especially the line “Little bits of dirt scuttled out from its pages and flew across the table as if they knew was what coming next and wanted to get out of the way.”  Since this is a clever line, I might suggest simplifying the other sentences in that paragraph – otherwise, it’s easy to get a bit caught on up things like “spiral cage” and “catapulted soggy Cheerios,” and lose track of the story.

The “No Trespassing” sign seemed to make the sketchpad more noticeable than if Stephen had written something misleading like “Biology Homework” on it, so I wondered what his thought process was there.  I also found that his father’s anger about the artwork felt familiar – it’s a storyline I’ve read before.  I wanted to know more about why, in Stephen’s particular situation, it would be bad if people knew he liked to draw – and how deep his passion for drawing is.  I might suggest having his dad discover a very particular piece of artwork that conveys more of the story (is this where the kitchen troll from the title comes in?).  There also seems to be a disconnect between this scene and the opening describing Stephen, so I would want to know how he caused this situation to happen (did he accidentally leave the sketchbook out?).

Overall, I would probably read a few more pages to find out if the questions above were answered, but would need another hook to keep me interested past that.


OUT ON A LIMB Susan Detwiler, picture book

James Johnson Junior was out on a limb

It seems that his father was looking for him.

Rotten luck followed James right out of bed

First he stubbed his big toe, and then bumped his head

James spilled juice on the rug, stepped on the cat

When practicing swings, broke a plant with his bat.

The dog chewed his shoe, ran off with his sock

Their chase through the kitchen made furniture rock –

Knocked over sugar and spilled all the tea!

James escaped from the house to hide in a tree…

He scrambled up fast which made his foot slip

He looked down and saw that his pants had a rip.

What would he do? Dad must surely be mad!

The messes and mayhem made James seem so bad.

Would Dad be angry and make a loud roar?

Banish James to his room and then lock the door?

Here is what Allison had to say:


Rhyming text in picture books is interesting – in the best cases, it can enhance the lyrical quality of the book, making it an incredibly fun read-aloud.  But in other cases, it can feel a little forced.  Unfortunately, the second one happens much more often when I’m reading submissions, so I always approach rhyming stories with a bit of apprehension.   Add to that the difficulty of translating text that rhymes, and you can see how we might have especially high standards when we consider acquiring this type of book!

In this case, I thought the rhyme was fun, but a few of the lines felt like a bit of a stretch – like they were rearranged to support the end rhyme, rather than the plot.  I also wondered in the emphasis was on the right words – in following the story (and picturing it illustrated), I wanted to highlight certain words or beats that were the most visual or meaningful – and those didn’t always match with the natural beat of the end rhyme.

I also found the plot to be a little bit quiet.  The story of a klutzy child – or one who can’t please his dad – isn’t new, so I was looking for other ways this story would stand out.  I found that I was remembering the sing-song quality more than certain aspects of the story, so wondered if this would be better served written without the rhyme.  I would need to read the rest to see if this could turn into a stand-out story, but I predict it might be a pass.

Thank you Allison for taking the time out of your busy schedule to share your expertise with us. If you sign up for the NJSCBWI Conference at the end of June you will get to meet Allison in person. Please leave a little note for Allison if you enjoyed the post and her comments. Thanks!

Talk tomorrow,


Filed under: authors and illustrators, Contest, Editors, revisions, writing Tagged: Allison Moore, First Page Critiques, Free Fall Friday - Results, Katia Bulbenko, Little Brown & Co

11 Comments on Free Fall Friday – Allison Moore Critiques, last added: 2/28/2014
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19. 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?


wendy bw1379564_575550622497969_1818389240_n

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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20. New Jersey SCBWI Social & Tip


We are all hoping this little girl who is bundled up for the snow, will be able to shed those heavy clothes in a few weeks. Well, spring really is just around the corner, said by someone who is waiting for the next snow storm that is about to bear down on New Jersey.  Michelle Munger is the illustrator of this cute painting. She is a realistic painter and has been painting for the last ten years. She also dabbles in painting whimsical and fantasy as well as attempting to write that next big YA breakout novel. You can find her at: http://michellemunger.moonfruit.com and http://michellesportraits.com

When Leeza Hernandez took over for me as New Jersey’s SCBWI Regional Advisor, she started doing some smaller meetings and has resurrected an idea that David Caruba used to do in the summer at people’s homes over  decade ago, but now the New Jersey Chapter has added SCBWI Socials in various locations around the state. Last Wednesday we had our first social in this area at Dubh Linn Square in Cherry Hill. I was asked to be host, which I gladly did. We had 12 members show up and had a great time. It was nice to socialize with members I knew and it was great to see and meet new members who recently have joined. I think we have developed as a chapter to the point where it is nice to just meet without having and editor or agent join us. It give us the freedom to focus on each other, talk, and answers questions that might not be asked with an industry professional present. If you get a chance to attend one, do so. Everyone left an hour after the scheduled end and we all said, “We have to do this again.”

I was the only one who took pictures and that’s because Mieke or Ann reminded me – easy to forget when you are busy talking and enjoying yourself. So I’m not in the pictures, but you can meet everyone else below.

Here’s the  simple tip I shared with everyone: Lately I have seen a lot of manuscripts with this mistake:  Text with double spaces at the end of each sentence. Do not leave two spaces at the end of your sentences. I used to do this, too, because I was taught to type this way. It looked better to me. If you read agents blogs or posts, you will see them mention that leaving two spaces at an end of a sentence is one of their pet peeves, so why not try to break the habit? It makes you look old and stuck in your ways if you don’t. When you kick the habit and stop double clicking at the end of a sentence, you will see how annoying it is to read a manuscript that way. It sticks out like a sore thumb for me now. Get with it and break the habit. Why take a chance of irritating someone who reads your work?
Lt toRt-Colleen Kosinski,her husband, and Amy Hollinger

Left to Right: Colleen Kosinski, her husband, and Amy Hollinger.

Lt to Rt - Mieke Zamora-MacKay and Jody Staton

Left to Right:  Mieke Zamora-Mackay and Jody Staton

Lt to Rt - Mieke Zamora-MacKay, Jody Staton, Ferida Wolff, Ericka Wassall

Left to Right: Mieke Zamora-Mackay, Jody Staton, Ferida Wolff, and Erika Wassall.

Ann Magee

The Lovely Ann Magee who was sitting next to me and didn’t have enough room to take a good picture. She is even better looking when she isn’t blurred.

In foreground - Angela De Groot and behind her Nicki Saltarelli

In foreground is Angela De Groot and behind her is Nikki Saltarelli.

Lt foreground- Erika Wassall - end of table Amy Hollinger

Left: Erica Wassall and at end of table is Amy Hollinger.

Talk tomorrow,


Filed under: Advice, authors and illustrators, Events, Tips Tagged: Colleen Kosinski, Ferida Wolff, Fun Time Talking about Writing and Illustrating, kathy temean, Michelle Munger, NJSCBWI Social

10 Comments on New Jersey SCBWI Social & Tip, last added: 3/2/2014
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21. 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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22. Kudo’s – Awards and Promotions

ameawardpicAme Dyckman’s newest book, “Tea Party Rules,” illustrated by K.G. Campbell, was selected as the winner of the 28th annual Ezra Jack Keats Book Award.

The award is presented to a new writer and new illustrator each year, and Dyckman will be on hand at the 2014 awards ceremony set for April 10, during the Fay B. Kaigler Children’s Book Festival at the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg.

Dyckman will receive a gold medallion as well as an honorarium of $1,000 at the ceremony. Kathi Appelt, award-winning author of numerous books for children and young adults, will be a guest presenter.

Dyckman said it is an honor to be selected for the award, which includes a prestigious seal on the sleeve of her book. She said she is a fan of Keats’ most famous work, “The Snowy Day.”

“We’re over the moon,” she said of her team, which includes Campbell and her publishing team at Viking Children’s Books. “I’m honored, thrilled and astounded.”

“Tea Party Rules,” Dyckman’s second book, follows the adventures of a bear attending a tea party. But before he can participate, the hostess lays down the rules. The two become friends and learn about how to compromise and enjoy playtime together.

That book, along with her first published work, “Boy + Bot,” illustrated by Dan Yaccarino, earned sterling reviews on Amazon and from book critics. “Tea Party Rules” also was selected by Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library as a book that will be distributed to children in need.

You can read the full article that was written by Michele Angermiller for The Times by clicking this sentence.

kat yehThe news is finally out:

THE TRUTH ABOUT TWINKIE PIE by Kat Yeh has been selected as a Buzz Book at Book Expo America this year! Kat is quite excited and I am excited for her debut middle grade novel.

T.S. Ferguson, Associate Editor at Harlequin Teen is super excited because one of his books, Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley made the YA Buzz Books List. Because of that he gets to sit on a panel with four other editors , including Alvina Ling and talk about it to a packed crowd of book buyers, librarians, and other industry professionals. He says, “I’m SO excited that this amazing book is getting attention, and so excited that I get to be the one to talk about it.” It is the first time a Harlequin TEEN book has been selected!

Here are the Buzz Books that made the list:


Editors Buzz Thursday, May 29 10:00am – 10:50am Room 1E10/1E11

BEA Editors Buzz YA Books – Author Stage Friday, May 30 10:00am – 10:30am Uptown Stage

Lies We Tell Ourselves
by Robin Talley
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Publication Date: 9/30/14

The Jewel
by Amy Ewing
Publisher: Harper Teen
Publication Date: 9/2/14

The Walled City
by Ryan Graudin
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: 11/4/14

I’m Glad I Did
by Cynthia Weil
Publisher: Soho Teen
Publication Date: 1/27/15

King Dork Approximately
by Frank Portman
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Publication Date: 9/9/14


BEA Middle Grade Editors Buzz
Friday, May 30
11:00am – 11:50am
Room 1E12/1E13

BEA Editors Buzz Middle Grade Books – Author Stage
Friday, May 30
1:00pm – 1:30pm
Uptown Stage

The Truth About Twinkle Pie
by Kat Yeh
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: 1/27/15

Zoo at the Edge of the World
by Eric Kahn Gale
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Publication Date: 8/26/14

Pennyroyal Academy
by M.A. Larson
Publisher: Putnam Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: 10/7/14

The Witch’s Boy
by Kelly Barnhill
Publisher: Algonquin Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: 9/16/14

Life of Zarf
by Rob Harrell
Publisher: Dial Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: 8/28/14


In December Phaidon, a publisher best known for its lavishly produced art books, has hired Judith Regan as the CEO of a new division at the company called Regan Arts. Phaidon said the division will include a book imprint, but will also function as a “multimedia enterprise.” Now Ron Hogan has joined Judith Regan’s new company Regan Arts as an editor, acquiring both fiction and non-fiction.

Grand Central Publishing (part of the Hachette Book Group) promoted Emily Griffin, Michele Bidelspach, and Alex Logan to senior editors. Megha Parekh has been promoted to associate editor, while Libby Burton and Lindsey Rose move up to assistant editor.

Reka Simonsen will join Atheneum as executive editor, effective March 10. Previously she was executive editor at HMH Children’s.

Sarah Shumway will join Bloomsbury Children’s Books as senior editor on March 3. Previously she was senior editor at Harper Children’s Katherine Tegen Books imprint.

Cara Bedick has joined Harlequin as senior editor, Harlequin Nonfiction.

Caitlin Kirkpatrick has been promoted to assistant editor at Chronicle.

Consortium will distribute Blue Apple Books, the Maplewood, NJ-based children’s book publisher, as of June 1, 2014.

Talk tomorrow,


Filed under: authors and illustrators, Editors, Kudos, Publishing Industry, success Tagged: 2014 BEA BUZZ BOOKS, Ame Dyckman, Erza John Keats Award, Kat Yeh, Sarah Shumway

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23. Free Fall Friday – March First Pages and Call for Illustrations

BELOW IS THE MARCH FIRST PAGE PICTURE PROMPT for anyone who would like a little inspiration to spark their first page.


Always thought there was a story with this picture illustrated by Mark Meyers. Mark spends his days drawing and painting pictures filled with kids, escaping circus monkeys, and everything in between. He was featured on Illustrator Saturday. Here is the link: http://kathytemean.wordpress.com/2013/10/05/illustrator-saturday-mark-meyers/

I was not able to confirm our guest critiquer for March in time for this post.

Here are the submission guidelines for Sending in a First Page.
To send in a First Page: Please attach your double spaced, 12 point font, 23 line first page to an e-mail and send it to: kathy(dot)temean(at)gmail(dot)com. Also cut and paste it into the body of the e-mail.

Put “February First Page Critique” or “March First Page Picture Prompt Critique” in the subject line. Make sure you have your name on the submission, a title, and indicate the genre.

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

Please include your name, the title of the piece, and whether it is as picture book, middle grade, or young adult, etc. at the top.

CALL FOR ILLUSTRATIONS: Thank you to everyone would sent in an illustration last month. I still have a few in the folder that I plan to use, just looking for the right post, but I am running low, so please look to see if you have anything that you would like me to show off. I am looking for illustrations that would go well with the month or any illustration that might go with a writing or illustrating post. Same as always: At least 500 pixels wide, sent to kathy (dot) temean (at) gmail (dot) com, and include a blurb about you. Thanks!

Talk Tomorrow,


Filed under: authors and illustrators, inspiration, opportunity, Places to sumit, submissions, Tips, Writer's Prompt Tagged: March First Page Critique, Mark Meyers, Picture writing prompt

0 Comments on Free Fall Friday – March First Pages and Call for Illustrations as of 3/7/2014 2:04:00 AM
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24. 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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25. SCBWI Golden Kite Award Winners

The winners of the annual prestigious Golden Kite and Sid Fleishman Awards, given to children’s books published in the preceding year to recognize excellence in children’s literature by an SCBWI member in four categories: Fiction, Nonfiction, Picture Book Text, and Picture Book Illustration have been announced.

Named for the late Newbery-winner Sid Fleischman, the SCBWI offers this eponymous award to authors whose work exemplifies excellence in the genre of humor, a category so often overlooked by other award committees in children’s literature.

The Golden Kite Awards and the Sid Fleischman Award for Humor will be presented to the winners at the Golen Kite Luncheon during SCBWI’s 42nd Annual Conference on Writing and Illustrating for Children, taking place in Los Angeles, California from August 2-5, 2013.  An Honor Book plaque is also awarded in each category.

Here are the winners:

Picture Book Text Winner:
Pat Zietlow Miller
(Random House)


Picture Book Text Honor Book:
Amy Ludwig VanDerwater
(Clarion Books)


Picture Book Illustration Winner:
Peter Brown
(Little, Brown)


Picture Book Illustration Honor:
Yuyi Morales
(Roaring Book Press)


Fiction Winner:
Tim Federle
(Simon and Schuster)


Fiction Honor:
Elizabeth Wein


Nonfiction Winner:
David Meissner
(Boyd Mills Press)


Nonfiction Honor:
dolphins of shark bay_hres
Pamela Turner
(Houghton Mifflin)


Sid Fleischman Humor Award:

Openly Straight
Bill Konigsberg
(Arthur A. Levine Books)

Congratulations to everyone. I have only read one picture book. Has anyone read any of these books? What did you think?

Talk tomorrow,


Filed under: authors and illustrators, Competition, Kudos, News Tagged: Better Nate Than Ever, Call of the Klondike, Mr. Tiger Goes Wild, Peter Brown, SCBWI Golden Kite Awards, Sid Fleishman Award

1 Comments on SCBWI Golden Kite Award Winners, last added: 3/10/2014
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