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1. Why is my Dummy still a Dummy?!

Writers and artists work so hard at conceiving, then executing wonderful stories and images for potential picture books, only to be left holding rejection letters and wondering “WHY NOT?”

I wish I had answers…it would make an agent’s job much easier!  But I do have some possible reasons to share with you today.  Number one, your manuscript (ms) and your images (dummy) need to be as ready for publication as possible.  Not just a ‘good idea.’  Those are everywhere.  Not just a few sketches, but a well thought out flow of visual story telling.  OK, now you are ready to be ‘snapped up.’

There are good market reasons that even the BEST stories might get missed or rejected by well meaning houses.  First of all keep in mind that picture books are VERY expensive to print!  When the economy is down or slow (!) it’s likely that houses might not do as many.  When the dollar is weak, as it is now, it’s more expensive to print even in China! Fewer books means more care in selection.

PREFERANCES also vary yearly and are very cyclical. “Spunky” over “quiet” etc.  What was ‘hot’ last year, might not be this year.  Your story might have been perfect for last year, but not this.  But remember it might be perfect 3 years from now again! This past year or two, more novels have been published than picture books.  They are all the rage, and without pictures, much cheaper to print. Yet picture book sales have held their own, proving that they ARE worth the expense in the long run.

Speaking of the long run, the Back List effects what they take on new.  Editors need to bring in books to ADD to the bottom line, and which promise to ADD to the strong Back List for the house.  Often they ‘borrow’ from that back list and redo books that are strong. This all means they won’t be able to publish all the new stories they might want to. I’ve noticed that this seems to be a trend these days (which is nice for illustrators!). They are constantly ‘balancing’ their lists as well as adding to the imprints list balance.  A Publisher may have 2-4 lists a year.  Each tries to add balance and income, minimize risk and loss.  The “P & L” (profit and loss) is ALL important these days! They project several years in advance! Your book might not pass that test. They want to add new writers and illustrators, but will they ‘last?’  Will they produce on-going to add value to the imprint? And of course, the bottom line: will they sell well?

Another trend I see is ‘in house’ ideas being developed, particularly for series ideas.  They go through the same scrutiny as other proposals, but that might make it harder for ‘outside’ ideas to be considered.  Often writers worry as well that their ‘ideas’ will be ‘borrowed.’  That is possible of course, but I find it rarely a problem in this honest, supportive industry. That does bring us to another LEGAL point that might mean they do NOT take on your dummy.  Many houses will not accept unsolicited  manuscripts.  One legal reason is that they might find themselves turning down an idea that is actually being developed in-house currently!  This can LOOK like a ‘stealing of ideas’, when it is pure coincidence.  If you look at new lists in stores, you will see how often this does happen even between houses!  Two ‘bird’ books, or three ‘princess’ books etc. that are too close in feel.  Trends happen and it’s like a wave at times!  So houses protect themselves by not taking on ‘outside’ ideas at all.  Therefore, your ‘perfect dummy’ won’t even be looked at by these publishers.

It’s a tight market these days, and the stakes are high. Do your best, understand it’s NOT personal, and keep trying! A good story, well done, will find a publisher at the right time.

and I had to share this ‘artist’s block’ image of my 21 month old granddaughter, Billie….. we all know the feeling! (thanks Christy!)

artist block


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2. Questions To Ask Potential Illustration Clients


In this video blog post, I talk about questions you should ask a potential client for book illustration jobs, whether they be working at a publishing house, or a self publishing author. It is important to have good communication to weed out potentially bad jobs, and to know exactly what the client is expecting.

Here is my affiliate link to the book I mention in the video, Business and Legal Forms for Illustrators by Tad Crawford.

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3. Blog Tour: Writing Process

Greetings Illustrator Amigos! Today I am part of a blog tour!


 I was invited by the super talented illustrator and banjo player, Russ Cox! Before I begin, let me introduce you to Russ! 

Russ Cox was raised by a pack of crazed hillbillies in the back woods of Tennessee. Without much in the way of modern conveniences, like a television set or running water, he spent his time drawing and whittling away the hours. All of that drawing paid off. He has illustrated the Freddy the Frogcaster series written by Janice Dean (Regnery Kids). Major Manner Nite Nite Soldier, by Beth and Mike Hofner (Outhouse Ink). A Merry Moosey Christmas by Lynn Plourde (Islandport Press Fall 2014) and his first book that he wrote and illustrated, Faraway Friends, will be released in April 2015 by Sky Pony. 

You can find out more about Russ and see his work at his website, www.smilingotis.com and his blog, www.smilingotis.blogspot.com.



Now on to the questions. This blog tour topic is Writing Process. Here is a little bit about my writing process! 


1. What am I working on? 

I am working on a new picture book- title to be revealed soon- that I have written and am now illustrating. The characters in the book are all sheep and goats set in an ancient (yet strangely modern) middle eastern style royal court. Right now I'm working on character design- it has been a struggle at times, but mostly a blast! Character design sketches to be posted here soon!


2. How does my work differ from others of this genre? 

I have always loved fairy tales and spoofs on fairy tales. My stories usually don't take place in the every day life of a child like many picture books do. I do like to write books that are character driven, but my stories often take place in fantasy or fairy tale- like settings. 

Also a lot of children's illustrations use very flat and stylized and local color , whereas in my illustrations, although stylized, I like to use light and shadow and atmosphere.


3. Why do I write what I do? 

For a long time, I tried to write and illustrate things I thought would work well in the market- what I thought everyone else would want to read. 

But I was not writing what really resonated with me and with who I was.

 So I decided to write and illustrate something that I would want to read, and that's when I really started feeling happy and successful about my work.


4. How does my writing process work? 

When I write my story, I am already thinking of where I can show things with pictures instead of words. I usually write a few drafts of my story before I take it to my critique groups, and then revise it again a few times.  

Then I design the characters and do some other visual development for the book. This takes a while, because I want to get the characters just right for the story. Some of this takes place later in my process- every thing is ongoing. 

Next, I make a pacing book which is 8 pieces of paper, folded in half and stapled together. I tape the words of my story into the book and then turn the pages, and rearrange them until I like the pacing.

After that, I make a storyboard and revise that a few times. At this point I will show the story to my agent and critique group, and do a few more revisions. 

Then I make my dummy book/ more polished sketches, which will also go through a few revisions. 

In other words, write, revise, write, revise, draw, revise, draw, revise, draw again, revise, rewrite, redraw....that's my process!



So now that you know a little bit about my process, I hope you will join my friends next week (July 3rd) to find out about their writing processes. Hopefully hearing from all these amazing talented artist illustrators will give you some good ideas about what you can do to improve your writing craft. 

So without further delay, I would like to introduce you to some of my writer/illustrator friends!



First up, we have Mr. John Nez! I will let him introduce himself. Take it away, John!

I've illustrated over 50 books of every sort, from toddler board books to historical non-fiction. I'm now also writing and illustrating my own picture books and interactive e-book apps, which is a lot of fun.

I draw mostly in a whimsical style with the goal of conveying lots of feeling in my pictures... happy, sad, sneaky, mad, hopeful, afraid... whatever. I'd guess that's about the main point of any illustration.

 I work in Photoshop and Illustrator, which greatly expand the illustrator's toolbox. The combination of traditional and digital mediums allows for amazing new possiblities... and lots of fun.


You can find more about John by visting his website at www.johnnez.com and his blog at johnnez.blogspot.com.




Next up is my food friend, Manelle Oliphant. Here's a little about Manelle:

Manelle Oliphant graduated from BYU-Idaho with her illustration degree. She loves illustrating historical stories and fairytales. She lives with her husband in Salt Lake City, Utah. 

You can see her work and download free coloring pages on her website awww.manelleoliphant.com





And last but not least is another great friend of mine, Sherry Meidell. Here's a little bit about Sherry:

Sherry Meidell loves to tell stories with paint. She is a signature member of the National Watercolor Society, Utah Watercolor Society, and  Western Federation of Watercolor Societies.  She has received numerous awards and is a member and illustrator coordinator for the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. She keeps her paint brushes busy painting watercolors and illustrating children’s picture books.
 You can find out more about her by visiting her web site www.sherrymeidell.com and blog sherrymeidell.wordpress.com.






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

Snippets of Wisdom from the NY SCBWI Conference



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

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



The influence of theater in Illustration.



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

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

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

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



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



Casting and Character Development


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

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

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



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



Staging


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

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

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



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


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

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

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

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

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


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



Self-Promotion


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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5. Pic Book Tips (borrowed but brilliant)….

I just read the end of the submission guidelines for an Australian/International Picture Book competition, and these TIPS were there.  Nothing new, but to read them all together is wonderful and possibly helpful to all.  Thank you Kathy Temean (Writing and Illustrating WordPress Blog- check out for contest guidelines).

and PRINT THESE….then place above your writing illustrating space… and remember!

PICTURE BOOK TIPS

Golden Rule: don’t use too much dialogue, text or description. Let the pictures do the talking—don’t say what the pictures can show. Cut and cull your text. Be ruthless! If your text is 400 words long, it should be vibrant and intensely edited.

Think carefully about rhythm and flow—this is one of the most common obstacles between a work-in-progress and a publisher-ready ms. Read the work out loud and listen to the way the words work together. ‘Hear’ the beat and flow as you read, and adjust words as necessary.

Don’t attempt rhyme. It is not popular with publishers but if you simply can’t resist, make sure it’s infallible. Two rhyming end-words do not a perfect rhyme make. Rhythm and beat is as important as word rhyme—in fact, even more so. Don’t create awkward sentences with odd word placement in order to make a rhyme; rewrite the entire stanza instead.

Look at your word usage and sentence structure. Is it dynamic and interesting? Does it pull the reader along and make them want to read more? or does the reader stumble or become confused? Does it delight? Does it sound good?

Never talk down to the reader. Use big words. Use unusual words. Use a unique voice. Don’t patronise and don’t explain. Never hammer readers with morals. If you simply must use them, thread them through the story in an imperceptible way.

Unless you want your book to appear like an information brochure, attempting to educate children on social, physical, emotional and mental issues and conditions needs to be done cryptically and cleverly. Add humour. Create an unexpected storyline that intimates things in a subtle way and you will have a winner with kids.

Think about the plot. A good story leads the reader through conflict to resolution in a Beginning Middle Ending way, or in a Cyclical way. Things HAPPEN. Showing someone going about their day and going to bed at night is not a story. It’s an account. Write a story, not an account.

Have a protagonist. Your protagonist, or main character, does not sit by and observe—they action, take part and instigate.

Think outside the square. Cover unusual topics, with untouched themes (avoid monsters, fairies, trucks, mud, grandma dying, rainbows, farmyard animals, dogs and other overdone topics). Use different writing voices and story structure. Do something DIFFERENT.

Think twice about supplying detailed illustration notes. Too many notes absolutely do hamper your text; rely on the reader’s ability to imagine what your words are showing. Only supply notes if the text is very cryptic and needs ‘explaining’, and even then—make notes extremely short.

Look objectively at your story. Is it clear and simple or cluttered and confused? Be wary of submitting something that is wrapped up in your own head and unable to be deciphered by someone else. This happens A LOT.

Have an ending. A PB ending needs to be shocking, surprising, funny, quirky or in some way resolving and/or related to the plot. Around sixty per cent of the ms endings we have seen are either non-existent, confusing or dull. Go out on a top note, not a kerplunk. A great ending demands a repeat reading—and that is exactly what you want.

Write your book for kids, not adults. If you hit the nail on the head for kids, most adults will love it, too.

Keep it simple.

REMEMBER WHO YOU ARE WRITING FOR!

picking books1

OK, this is my youngest granddaughter…a book lover already! Like my 8 year old granddaughter as well!


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6. REPETITIONS….an ‘I’ve noticed’ comment….

 

Last month I was visiting a son’s family in Cleveland OH and we visited our favorite place there The Cleveland Museum of Art. Even the 3 young grandkids love this fabulous building and their interactive kids room!  just for grandma’s too!  The show we went to see was Van Gogh “Repetitions.”  (it’s on till May 26th if you can get there)

I got thinking about how we learn from practice as I gazed at this versions and variations on one of his own compositions and subjects.  We see differently and deeper as we experience a thing, person or place repeatedly.  Studying the differences and similarities between several of his repeated works gives us a new window into the mind and eye of this ‘well known’ artist.

On returning home to Williamsburg I was lucky enough to catch the last day of a small Caravaggio show at our own Muscarelle Museum of Art here on the campus of Wm and Mary.  Caravaggio has always blown my mind’s eye anyway with his beyond realistic talents, but this too presented a repetition study of two similar paintings that might have been both by the artist himself…or not. Two unsigned versions of ‘Saint Francis in Meditation’.  The viewer, after following the studies and exercises they presented, was to come to their own conclusion!  The show also spotlighted the very fine and famous Caravaggio ‘The Capitoline Fortune Teller’ which was a true treat.

I couldn’t help but to notice the message I was to share with my artists and all of you readers! REPETITION = an intentional practice to learn and expand the opportunity to deeply know a subject.  Illustrators of course conceive, sketch and revise then paint and maybe revise again on a regular basis.  We forget perhaps that famous artists walked this same path over and over that we all walk. Dive in! Deeper! and again!  Get to REALLY know your subjects to bring them more fully to the world to view!

my artist son Jeremy Tugeau and grandkids at the Cleveland Museum of Art new atrium…

Cleveland Museum of ART!


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7. Dummy Books Part 2- Preparing the Dummy Book to Send to Publishers

Welcome to Part 2 of my series on Dummy Books!


Stay tuned for part three next week, where I will talk about researching editors and agents and sending your Dummy Book out into the world.

In case you missed it, here is where you can find part 1, where I talked about making your dummy book- perfecting the story, making the story board, drawing the sketches and taking them to final paintings. Today I am going to talk about making your dummy book into a PDF, printing it and getting it ready to send to agents and publishers.

Making your dummy book into a PDF

It's simple to make a dummy book in Adobe Indesign.

Here is a few simple steps to get you started.

In Indesign from the "File" menu, choose "New" and then "Document."


Then you can decide on a size. Make the size of the document the same size as your book will be. So for instance, if you decided your book will be 11 inches by 9 inches, make it that size. You can make your own page size by clicking on "Custom."


Set your document up to have spreads.


Once you are in the document, use the hot keys Command + D (on the Mac) or in the "File" menu click on "Place." Find your illustration file and place it on the page you would like it to go on, and move it around to center it. Continue doing this until you have filled up your entire book.


After you have placed all the illustrations where you want them to go, type in all the words where you would like them to be placed. If you have planned things out right from your storyboard to your sketches, there should be places for your text to go in each spread (see Part 1).



You can then choose "File" and then "Export" and export your file to a PDF.  



Printing Your Dummy Book




There are many options for printing your dummy book. 

You can print your book on an online printing and publishing site such DiggyPod or Blurb, along with dozens of others. Just google "print my book online."

You could also get your book printed at your local print and copy store such as Alphagraphics or FedEx Office. 

I prefer to print my own books on my printer. It looks just as nice if I use card stock so the ink doesn't bleed through. I like this option, because I may want to send my book out to more than one publisher or agent at a time, and it's the cheapest option for printing multiple books. 

I don't print the book at 100%, I just print it at a good mailable size. Then I get my book spiral bound with clear plastic covers at the local copy and mailing store. The most important thing to remember is that your dummy book should look clean and professional!

Also remember to keep your digital dummy book handy because many publishers and agents like you to send them everything via email.


Stay tuned for next week's post, Dummy Books Part 3- Sending Your Book to Agents and Publisher, where I will discuss what to put in your packages/emails to editors and agents. I will also talk about waiting, rejections and celebrations.




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8. Dummy Books Part 3- Sending the Dummy Book to Agents and Publishers



Welcome to Part Three of my Dummy Book Series! 

If you missed it:



Today in Part 3, I will talk about what to submit to Editors and Agents, sending your dummy book out into the world, waiting, dealing with rejections and celebrating successes.


What to Put in Your Package for Editors and Agents

What to put in your package may vary from publisher to publisher. Many editors and agents want you to send everything via email, and others want you to send everything via snail mail. 

How will you know what each Publisher or Agency wants? 


Research Publishers and Agents

You can find a list of Publisher who are accepting unsolicited manuscripts, and Literary Agents in either the Children's Writer's and Illustrator's Market book or in The Book, a publication that is only available to SCBWI members. There are not very many publishers who are accepting unsolicited (unagented) manuscripts anymore, so if you plan to write and illustrate a lot of your own books, it may be better to find an literary agent first.

When looking for a publisher or agent, always go look at their website. Make sure your work will be a good fit with their agency.

 I found that many of the agents listed didn't even have a website. A good agency will have a nice website and be involved in social media. It is an essential part of being successful in this business nowadays.


Networking

In my own recent search for a literary agent, I sent my dummy book and illustration samples to several agents. I was rejected by a few, and others never answered my queries at all. It was not until I got a referral from another author-illustrator that I was successful in finding and landing my current agent. 

This also happened nine years ago when I was looking for my (former) art rep. I was able to connect with my art rep through another art rep's referral. Remember, this is not always the case, but if you are able to network with someone, there may be a better chance of an agent looking at your work.


An Important Reminder For All of Us

Let me pause for a moment to remind you of something very important to remember. The process and timing of finding an agent or a publisher is going to be different for each of us. It may be a matter of being in the right place at the right time.

The process of being successful as an illustrator may take years, or it might happen right away. But more often than not, it will take time.  I have been working in the industry for nine years and I have still never illustrated a trade book, whereas I know other artists who successfully jumped right away into the trade industry. But those cases are rare. It more often takes more time and perseverance to be successful. Remember to be patient.


Submission Guidelines

After finding a good list of Publishers or Agents, and you've checked their website to make sure your work is a good fit, find their submission guidelines. They are usually pretty easy to find on each website. Read the submission guidelines carefully. Everyone wants you to send slightly different things in the email, or include different things in your cover letter.


When Sending a Manuscript Package in the Mail


When I am sending a package in the mail, along with a letter and a printed dummy book, I like to include a business card and a couple of nicely printed post cards. I get my post cards printed at gotprint.com. They do a very nice job, and they come highly recommended!

Just make sure everything looks clean and professional. If you send extras, only send a couple. Don't overwhelm the editor!


Cover Letters

Research how to write a query or cover letter. There are many online resources available. Here is an article that I found helpful: Writing a Cover Letter

When you are submitting a picture book that is both written and illustrated by you, the story and pictures can do most of the talking. So in other words, keep your letter brief.

Remember to be courteous and professional. Make sure you proofread your query letter carefully.

Many publishers and agents like to know if you are submitting to other publisher or agencies at the same time, so make sure to tell them if it is a simultaneous submission.


Sending Your Work Out Into the World and Waiting...

Respect the publishers or agents space. Remember they get hundreds of submissions every month (or maybe even every week), so give them time and space, and don't bother them.

After you hand your package over to the post office worker, or click the send button on the email, you are going to be doing a lot of waiting.

In the mean time, start another personal project. Keep working on your craft and doing what you love to do instead of focusing on the waiting. Sometimes, it may take a long time to hear back from anyone. And sometimes you may never hear back at all. Just keep doing what you love to do and focus on things that are going well.


Dealing with Rejections

When you get a personal reject, remember that is a good sign that your work is getting close to being a success.

There may be a good reason for a rejection. For example, I got a few rejections from agents. In the rejections the agents said I had a good story, and my artwork was great, but the story wasn't right for them. I was happy for their rejections, because I didn't wanted to be agented by someone who wasn't absolutely thrilled by my story, style of writing and artwork.

Try to take time to do something fun to celebrate your rejections. There was one week where I got three rejections in one week. I got really down and depressed and started thinking destructive things about my artwork and career. A better thing for me to do would have been to go on a fun family outing to celebrate the fact that I am actually being brave and getting my work out there.
Rejections are just part of the process, so think of ways you can celebrate what you are doing instead of focusing on the negative.

Just remember that if you are working on your craft all the time- learning how to be a better illustrator and a better writer, taking good critiques to heart and improving, if you are persistent and you are working every day for that dream, you will be successful.

Remember it takes time. Don't forget the many famous people in history who took years to be successful. Take hope from their stories, and don't give up!


Celebrating Successes

Don't forget to celebrate all your successes along the way- big or little, whether it be a break though in your writing or drawing, signing on with a new agent, or having your manuscript accepted by a publisher. Tell a friend, buy yourself an new art book, or go out for ice cream with your family!

Remember to look back at where you were 10 years ago, and see the progress you've made. 



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9. Summer coffee break with books!

Heidi at Ink and Bean, CA

This image just in from CA CAT artist Priscilla Burris…. it’s of ‘her’ HEIDI HECKELBECK sitting in front of a new Coffee/Book place near Disneyland apparently, called INK AND BEAN, and it’s all about books and coffee!  how perfect is THAT!  So as Priscilla said, Heidi had to go over and check it out. Wish I could join her!  The series about Heidi, written by Wanda Covens and published by Little Simon,  is now in it’s #13/14 book and growing… very popular young “witch” who everyone loves to read about apparently. And no wonder! …. lets ALL join her for coffee this summer at the Ink and Bean!    Or BOOKS OF WONDER, (NYC, 18th street) or any other coffee and book summer hang out!


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10. BROOKLYN BOOK STORE EVENT FUN!

I just had to share this information for those of you anywhere around Brooklyn NY next month.  I think this event and the BATTLE OF THE ARTISTS sounds SO fun and a great time for all. VERY clever of the bookstore…might be something to try in your area!  Sure there are LOADS of talented children’s book artists in Brooklyn which helps! (and my daughter’s family I might mention, which as NOTHING to do with this event!)

April 11, 2013

Greenlight Bookstore celebrates Children’s Book Week May 13-19

Week of school visits topped off with bookstore party with Brooklyn

authors & illustrators

Greenlight Bookstore is proud to participate in the nearly

100-year-old tradition of Children’s Book Week, May 13-19, with a

week-long celebration of the children’s authors and illustrators of

Brooklyn.  Five local elementary schools have partnered with

Greenlight to host authors presenting books to their students – one on

each day of the week – and the week will culminate with a multi-author

book party at Greenlight on May 18.

Established in 1919, Children&apos;s Book Week is the longest-running

national literacy initiative in the country. Every year, commemorative

events are held nationwide at schools, libraries, bookstores, homes —

wherever young readers and books connect.  Children&apos;s Book Week is

administered by the literacy organization Every Child A Reader, and

sponsored by The Children’s Book Council, the national nonprofit trade

association for children&apos;s book publishers.  Greenlight is

participating in Children’s Book Week for the first time this year.

“When we saw the incredible list of authors and illustrators who have

expressed willingness to participate in Children’s Book Week events in

our area, we just thought ‘We have to do something big!’” says

Greenlight Bookstore co-owner and events coordinator Jessica Stockton

Bagnulo. “There’s a tremendous amount of talent in Brooklyn, and we

got excited about bringing children’s book creators and readers

together. And this gives us a unique chance to partner with our local

schools, who bring books into students’ lives every day.”

The schools participating in Greenlight’s program of events include

both local Fort Greene schools and those in other Brooklyn

neighborhoods; some host author events regularly, while others rarely

have authors visit their students.  Greenlight worked with school

administrators to pair authors with the age groups and interests of

their students, and hopes the Children’s Book Week events will serve

as a model for bringing more authors to area schools in future.

For the Children’s Book Week Party on Saturday May 18, Greenlight will

offer 15% off on all children’s books all day long.  To highlight the

talents of multiple great children’s book illustrators, the store will

host two rounds of Artist Battles, at 11 AM and 3 PM.  Artists will

take turns creating drawings of subjects determined by the audience of

kids, showing off their different styles – the audience can pick their

favorites!  Afterward all illustrators will be available to sign books

and chat with young readers.  Greenlight will also offer bookmarks,

stickers, and other book-related giveaways to partygoers.

Participating authors include winners of the Ezra Jack Keats Award,

the New York Times Best Illustrated Award, ALA-ALSC Notables, the

Parents’ Choice Award, Newbery Honor Awards, Coretta Scott King Award

and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, as well as many New York Times

bestsellers.

Authors scheduled for school visits include Ambre Anderson

(Qualities), Michael Buckley (The Sisters Grimm, NERDS), Gilbert Ford

(12 Days of New York), Tad Hills (Duck & Goose, How Rocket Learned to

Read), Fiona Robinson (What Animals Really Like), Jacqueline Woodson

(Each Kindness), and Dan Yaccarino (Doug Unplugged).  Featured

illustrators for the bookstore party on May 18 include Selina Alko (B

is for Brooklyn), Sophie Blackall (Ivy & Bean, The Mighty Lalouche),

Melissa Guion (Baby Penguins Everywhere), Melissa Iwai (Hush, Little

Monster), Betsy Lewin (Click, Clack, Moo), George O’Connor (The

Olympians series), Sergio Ruzzier (Bear & Bee), and Paul O. Zelinsky

(Z is for Moose).

Greenlight Bookstore’s Children’s Book Week Schedule:

Monday May 13: Fiona Robinson and Jacqueline Woodson visit Arts and

Letters (Fort Greene)

Tuesday, May 14: Dan Yaccarino visits Greene Hill School (Fort Greene

/ Clinton Hill)

Wednesday, May 15: Michael Buckley and Ambre Anderson visit PS 11 /

Purvis J. Behan Elementary (Fort Greene)

Thursday, May 16: Tad Hills visits The Co-Op School’s Brevoort Place

Elementary School (Clinton Hill / Bedford Stuyvesant)

Friday, May 17: Gilbert Ford visits Leadership Prep Ocean Hill (East New York)

Saturday, May 18: Children’s Book Week party at Greenlight Bookstore!

11 AM Illustrator Art Battles:

Melissa Guion

Sergio Ruzzier

Sophie Blackall

Melissa Iwai **********husband Denis is wrote HUSH LITTLE MONSTER

3 PM Illustrator Art Battles:

Selina Alko

George O’Connor

Betsy Lewin

Paul O. Zelinsky

A book signing with all authors will follow each Battle.

For more information, contact:

Greenlight Bookstore

www.greenlightbookstore.com

Jessica Stockton Bagnulo, events coordinator / co-owner:

jessica@greenlightbookstore.com

(718) 246-0200

Children’s Book Week

www.bookweekonline.com/

Nicole Deming, communications manager:

nicole.deming@cbcbooks.org

cover (3)HUSH LITTLE MONSTER IWAI


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11. “SPARE AND FRESH!”

Just in time for a fresh Spring renewing!  When I was in NYC last, on the second day of Spring, I met with editorial director Jeannette Larson of HMH trade, among others.  She uttered a phrase that has just stayed with me ever since and I had to share it with you all here:  the look being sought for is generally “spare and fresh!”  And I totally got that concept!   I’ve noticed this with almost all my visits with clients…especially for the very young, and picture books.  Not only do they need strong characters, and a layered story that will be revisited many times, but they want a clean, new, approachable look in the style of art.  Less saturation of color often, less texture (though that can play an interesting part in even a’ spare’ approach.)    Negative space (or “white space”) plays an important role…and must be respected.  Buyers want to see energy and a more spontaneous line generally…but not messy or careless.  Control is there, but comfortably and with sense of movement that fits the story illustrated.

There is much interest now again in the non fiction market due to the Standard Core for schools moving in this direction for all ages.  Realistic, historic artists may again see more work possible….but also more unique, FUN styles, and those with humor, might see increased interest as the non-fiction is approached in a more ……     (continue below Patrice Barton’s spring ‘Spare and Fresh’ visual……)  GinnyBarton…..accessible manner. But again the “spare and fresh” approach is a good montra….it allow the viewer to get ‘into’ the art, gleam much from it, and bring their own understanding and interpretation into the work viewed.  Less busy, but with all the important details…clear and understandable.  Rather like Spring itself….a fresh look at a world we thought we knew!


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12. “I’ve Noticed !”…industry news

It’s finally spring and so much seems to suddenly happen! or need doing! or change in some way!  Love it and hate it.. but it’s never boring and slow like winter can be.

Bologna was sort of the big start of it all.  Word from clients is that it was as wonderful as always. (I went in ’04…how time flies!)  Some changes were seen generally around the world.  Middle grade and realistic fiction is “hot.”  Lightly illustrated middle grade…often stand-alones again, and more contemporary in feel… are wanted.  Some lessening in YA paranormal/dystopian stories and more “fang-free fiction.”  (love that expression! contributed to John Adams, of Adams Lit.)   Lots of interest in traditional, beautifully illustrated picture books it appears. Yipee!

In PW I keep reading about the changes in patterns for the public’s way of buying and finding books. Less the library or book store help this past year, and more Amazon and from word of mouth.  However, in general, over a third of parents seem to feel their kids actually have a “stong attachment to print books.” (Feb 25th)  I do hope this is true.  We need both to balance various needs and uses.

The Common Core State Standards, which has turned more ‘non-fiction,’  is always a big influence on publishers of course as they and schools find ways to incorporate the new mandate. Should bring more work to the ‘realistic’ artists I’d think, and those who love research and history of all styles.  Writers and artists can help by offering games,  crafts and such into their sites perhaps.  Working out ways the schools can get links to their free downloads…. to take the information and interactiveness further.

I read a quote somewhere recently (I DO notice….)  but can’t place who said it….want to share as it is SO true always.  Publishers want “writing that sings – art that expands on words – stories that inform developmentally.”   THAT is the ‘common core.’

Library Girl for ipad.jpgBURRISPriscilla Burris

 

 


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13. Spring BRAIN FOG?

Stay doubt - Burris
It’s spring! Time of renewal and creativity everywhere. Then WHY am I in a ‘brain fog?
Well there are lots of reasons probably…from lack of sleep (!?), to allergies, to ‘it’s still cold in VA!’ to …who knows! I just read a fun newsletter piece about just this from Simone Kaplan… check her out at simone@picturebookpeople.com . Loved her honesty in admitting she has ‘brain fog’ too, so here I am joining her honesty.

And it’s good to admit it when it hits. Use it! Take a break and step back from your projects…writing, illustrating, personal, whatever! If you are having trouble being clear, focused, concise and creatively fresh, don’t try so hard! Step away from the project if possible…maybe for a few weeks or more, and take a new look later. We only want to send out OUR BEST always. You only get one chance to make a good first impression. You can also ruin a good reputation by passing on unfinished or inferior work. Sometimes a deadline requires a ‘finish’…then you have to gut it out. But a step back of a few hours…take a walk, work out in gym or garden… might make all the difference in clearing the brain fog and letting the creativity break through! When are we and our work ‘finished?’ Well probably when the book is published! or the conference talk given! or time has run OUT! But we hope to feel that it’s THE BEST we can do with the situation… the plot is tight, the characters are real and credible and YOURS ALONE, and you’ve added something evocative and provocative to the world. Big order…not really. It’s just breaking through ‘the fog’ and seeing the day and its unique promise! enjoy the possibilities!…..

Image from Priscilla Burris who keeps clear always!


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14. classic..”TRUCK STOP” launch….

A wonderful truck book for boys and girls is being released this week…DO take a look and enjoy.  I’ve ‘borrowed’ the blurb from Melissa Iwai’s blog here…about the book and author and, for some, a surprising fact about the collaboration process.  Congratulations Melissa and Anne ….it’s a most fun result of a growing friendship!

Coming soon May 2013!

I’m thrilled to announce the release of TRUCK STOP, written by Anne Rockwell and illustrated by moi!!  The official Viking pub date is this Thursday, but we are kicking off our blog tour today.  TRUCK STOP is a fun picture book for young kids that celebrates all the different trucks and their drivers who gather for breakfast every day at the young narrator’s family’s truck stop diner.

When I first was offered the manuscript in 2011, I was so excited to see it was written by Anne.  I’ve been a big fan for a long time.  She`s written over 100 children’s books for all ages, on topics ranging from boats, history, mythology, to the first day of school, bugs, to the seasons.  Go check out her collection of books here!  Needless to say, I didn’t need much time to think it over and said “yes” to my editor immediately.

Most people don’t realize it, but usually the author and illustrator don’t meet or collaborate at all on the book.  Exceptions are made, of course, if they are married, related, or perhaps have worked together in the past.  So it was such a pleasure last week when I finally had the opportunity to meet Anne in person.  We had been corresponding via Facebook  for the past year after I turned the artwork in (yes, it takes a year for a book to be printed!)


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15. I’ve noticed…..

 

I was just catching up with my HORN BOOK reading…love that magazine…. and noticed that Melissa Iwai has a nice review in the Sept Oct edition for TRUCK STOP, written by Anne Rockwell from Viking.  It’s a lovely story about noticing and caring, but is a must for any young truck lover!   “Iwai’s mixed-media collage art uses texture, bright colors, and a variety of perspectives to draw readers in.” It’s an honor to get a review in Horn Book.  Book deserves it….. Hope you’ll check it out. truck stop cover _300 (3)IWAI

Melissa’s also been busy doing signings…one today at Books of Wonder in fact! (NYC…favorite book store!)  And these will include the new full length board book of B IS FOR BULLDOZER written by June Sobel from Houghtin Mifflin Harcourt.  It’s been a trade book since 2003 but this is new….lovely to see new editions keeping a good book in print longer.  Again, for the truck loving child it’s such fun!

And if you haven’t yet visited Melissa Iwai’s blog THE HUNGRY ARTIST you are missing good food and insider artist tips….yummmm…..


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16. Wonderful Books…….

I wanted to share this review of the BOOKS OF WONDER presentation/panel that our Melissa Iwai participated in last weekend…big names and such a cool place.  When you get to NYC DO go and visit.  They have original copies of Oz and other wonderful old books. (so do I actually which I cherish!)  anyway….enjoy Melissa’s tale of Wonder….

Sunday was an amazing event at Books of Wonder on 18th Street in Manhattan.  If you have never been there before, it is a fantastic independent bookstore devoted solely to children’s books.  They do not carry any licensing products — you will not find any Disney or Nickeloden books here!  All the picture books are arranged alphabetically by illustrator, rather than author.  It’s the only bookstore I know of that does this!

>We love it there and go often for events of which there are many.  It’s been a wonderful opportunity to meet legendary book people, like the late Tomi Ungerer or Chris Van Allsberg as well as newer, well-known authors and illustrators.  One of our favorite events was listening to Nortan Juster and Jules Feiffer talk about creating The Phantom Tollbooth last year in celebration of its 50th anniversary.

This Sunday, though, I was on a panel there!  My panel mates are all exceptional picture book creators.  I was honored to be included in the group.

With Brian Floca, Anne Rockwell, Robie Harris, Chris Raschka, Deborah Heiligman.  Not pictured are Leyuen Pham, Doreen Cronin, and Betsy Lewin.

With Brian Floca, Anne Rockwell, Robie Harris, Chris Raschka, Deborah Heiligman. Not pictured are Leyuen Pham, Doreen Cronin, and Betsy Lewin.

I was totally nervous before the event – I am not so comfortable speaking in public anyway, but my anxiety was heightened by the stellar company I was keeping.  Anne Rockwell, who is the most sweetest, generous, warmest person ever, put me at ease.  I was so thankful she was able to make it.  She is a “living legend” as Peter Glassman, owner of Books of Wonder, said in his introduction of her.  She has written over 100 books, many of which she herself illustrated.  You can imagine my immense relief when she told me she love the illustrations for her warm story, Truck Stop!

Anne and I both spoke a bit about how the book came to be and our process of creating it.  Brian Floca spoke about his amazing book, Locamotive.   He actually got to drive an old fashioned locamotive for an afternoon as part of his research.   Robie Harris and Chris Racshka discussed writing and illustrating a book about child fears, When Lions Roar.  The challenge was creating something that wasn’t too scary, but scary enough, and what a delicate line that is.  Deborah Heiligman and Leuyen Pham talked about their book on the life and work of Paul Erdos (The Boy Who Loved Math)  as well as the esoteric system of Erdos numbers.  The wonderful Doreen Cronin and Betsy Lewin of Click, Clack, Moo! fame have been collaborating for 18 years.  Their newest is Click, Clack, Boo! They spoke about their collaboration and how much trust and respect they have for each other — also how they both share the same sense of humor (obvious if you’ve ever read their hilarious books about duck and Farmer Brown).

Everyone had such an interesting perspective on the work of picture book creating. It was really fascinating and inspirational.  I was so happy to meet finally Chris Raschka and Betsy Lewin  whose illustrations I adore and whose books Jamie grew up with (along with many of Anne’s).

Anne Rockwell and me outside of Books of Wonder after the event.  Do I look relieved?

Anne Rockwell and me outside of Books of Wonder after the event. Do I look relieved?

It really is such a gift for kids to be able to meet authors and illustrators of the books they love.  If you ever have the opportunity, please do so!  Not every place is like  NYC where there are book events all the time, but in cities across the country, especially at independent book stores, there are events taking place often — and they are free!


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17. Why Children’s Books Matter….

While in NYC recently I made a point to visit between the Lions = the New York Public Library on Fifth Ave. to see the new wonderful show THE ABC of IT: Why Children’s Books Matter, curated by Leonard S. Marcus.  DO GO! It’ll run till March 23, 2014.

library ABC

abc of it

Traveling around and through the various clever labyrinths of experiences in books is truly a journey back to your childhood.  I felt in awe to be honest.  I think we do form true bonds to our favorite stories and illustrations as children ourselves, and several of those bonds were there for me … in the original!

alice

oz

I loved the visual look into how children’s books impacted our culture through the ages as well.  Many stories have become and “inspired films, plays and fashions.”  The reminder of this is itself inspiring.  We see this more and more today I think.  Story telling has always been so very important in society, and maybe never more today when they come at us in so many forms.  Children learn who they and we are through these stories. A journey back and forward, like Alice Big and Small, is a kick of a trip.  ENJOY!

goodnight moon  Carle color

monster hole

 

 


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18. Teaching and learning….

This past weekend I had the privilege of being on the faculty for the Mid Atlantic SCBWI Fall conference and Intensive. What a wonderful time of teaching, sharing and as always, learning.  A most creative time for all.  And boy did they treat us well!  Wonderful time.

My Friday afternoon title was DOWN AND DIRTY: The basics and beyond.  Hopefully we hit on lots of the topics artists, new and older in this industry, wonder about.  I shared words from the buyers mouths… many fortunately are very good about sharing.  Over all I’d say buyers (AD, editors, designers who assign) want PROFESSIONALS (ask questions, honest, team players, meet deadlines), consistent style, great characters, samples sent on big POST cards so they can KEEP them on walls and attach to ms as they think about ways to go with the art etc.  (some hints for all!)

Then I did a fast “first look” for all those participating artists who dared!  It’s a great tool to see and understand how a buyer might VIEW your art given the “10 second rule.” Truly, those of us who see SO much art for the industry can determine if we can use your style in generally 10 seconds.  We’ll want to see more or move on.  I tried to share some of the intuitive thoughts that go through our head when we view art…instantaneously.  I was kind, but honest.  OH course you can tell given this ‘rule’ that you need to show ONLY your very very best art, and a sample that shows a lot of what you are capable of for THIS industry’s needs.

Sat. was the more general conference and other than some portfolio reviews, I was on a AGENTS PANEL with three other reps, all more Lit Agents. (Brooks Sherman from FinePrint, John Cusick, Greenhouse Lit, and Susan Hawk from Bent Agency ) We have different hooks but look for very much the same sort of unique talent and ‘voice’… this and talking during the weekend was my learning point.  Love that.  Frances Gilbert from Doubleday/Random was a speaker and on the Editors Panel too.  Loved seeing her as we hope to be working on a two book project very soon together. (with one of our CAT artists obviously…more on that) . We might look a little fuzzy…that happens at these conferences! lol

Frances Gilbert and me

I got to chat a bit with Annie Stone from Harlequin Teen, Emillia Zamani from Scholastic, and Melissa Miller from Katherine Tegan (HC) Books as well.  I also enjoyed the author speakers, Keynote Cynthia Lord and Mary Quattlebaum… and other talents attending.

me and authorshere I am with Joan Waites, Mary and Cynthia  quite the two day adventure! Thank you Mid Atlantic…lovely time and region!!!

By husband had driven me to Sterling for this and then nicely ‘low profiled’ it so I could work and visit. He rode the bike trail both days along the Potomac River from DC to Alexandria and south to Mt. Vernon…in wind and cool temps!  On our way home we visited both George Washington’s birth place at Pope’s Creek (his mothers maiden name) and then Robert E. Lee’s family estate just down river… the Big House and Gris Mill and more.  Both are on the Potomac and so very peaceful and special to just walk around. Do visit if you are in area (Northern Neck of VA south of DC)  Enjoy some peace…..

Pope's Creek Washington's birthplacethis is one garden and view of Washington’s home…he lived there only till 3 or so, but lovely place. these barns and horses and oxen (back) were part of the extended grounds there too.

barns at Lee's

the big house LEES     Lee's gris mill

this first is the BIG HOUSE at the Lee estate…3 generations of outstanding VA family…and the Gris Mill down closer to the beach area.   ALL in all quite the weekend of adventures…both educational and teaching moments…both I love and cherish.

 


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19. COMMON CORE COMMON SENSE

I’ve enjoyed all the talk and articles lately about the adoption of the Current Educational Common Core with its emphasis on critical thinking and non-fiction facts by using trade books in our school classrooms.  I thought that was what good teachers were doing all along? and parents too.  It’s common sense.  We are trying to educate kids to the world around them….history and human interaction so they can understand people better as they grow.  Information about other lands so their eyes will be open to not only the differences but the ‘sameness’ of kids and adults, and animals all over our small earth. Good story telling has always been the draw with fiction and non fiction.  Learning comes in between the lines, if you will.

The advantage of this being ‘official’ now is that publishers are searching their backlists and bringing back good non-fiction as well as fiction, and grabbing up informational but fun new stories. And of course my agency artists are thrilled to have such a need for story telling pictures for these books…for all ages. Picture books are often a child’s first introduction to people and life outside their own family and neighborhood. They have always been vital to early learning, mental growth, thinking skills and maturity.  Ever more so today in preparation for school and during the so important early school years.

What IS new is that Publishers and marketing departments are writing up guidelines that will help teachers use these books they might not have recognized as appropriate for the standards set by this Common Core. Several publishers have new sites where teachers and parents can keep knowledgeable about books on” technology, writing, math, and early literacy” (PW).  Some books have had ‘back of book’ questions added to encourage the conversations that lead to exploration and learning.  Several houses have launched new lines of books based on the Core Concepts.

Some examples of current books from our agency that are perfect for this Core are: Nicole Tadgell illustrated “FRIENDS FOR FREEDOM: The Story of Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass” (Susanne Slade from Charlesbridge Fall 14).  KarBen Lerner will bring “Goldie Takes a Stand” about Goulda Meir, illustrated by Kelsey Garrity Riley also Fall 14.  Patrice Barton illustrated “I Pledge Allegiance” by Pat Mora and Elizabeth Martinez for Knopf/Random.(14), and Larry Day’s illustrations for “Voices From Oregon Trail” from Dial and Kay Winters, tell the story! (summer 14) But even the newly launched “Isabelle and Isabella’s Little Book of Rules” from Little Simon and illustrated by our Priscilla Burris is a lovely, observant, non fiction from the mouths of the very children we’re trying to start the conversation with!  Pick these up and see! Use your common sense and enjoy the Common Core!             

SF_causes TADGELLpledge in courthouse BARTONfrom “Pledge”

from “Friends for Freedom”


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20. I’ve noticed…..Balance Finding!

With the country in what feels like such IMbalance these days, it was actually a treat to read in PW this week (Nov 18)  about the slowdown in the sales of e-books!  Earlier they’d reported a decline of sales with established publishers the last 5 months!  E-books had seen only growth up till now.  The slowdown is good because it feels like a balance is being found… better predictability (thus better publishing plans) for publishers, bookstores, and e-book sellers.  Most who didn’t panic felt this would happen. It’s a matter of time and finding the balance of different formats, and what that will mean to all in the industry when sales in all formats stabilize.  It’s a hybrid market and healthy for all I’m sure. Reminds me of TV and movies back when. Some books sell better with e-book, and others are always going to be better in print.  Pricing continues to be challenging, but that too will find it’s balance point eventually. It’s really still all about getting CONTENT in all formats available to the readers who want it.  And doing it in a way that all can stay in business! That sounds like good news to me.


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21. SLJ BEST OF THE BEST!

THE INVISIBLE BOY…..

Invisible boy (3)BARTON

School Library Journal THE 20 BEST OF THE BEST….top picture books of 2103…and our Patrice Barton illustrated one of them!!!  congratulations Patty!!!

You will help many ‘invisible’ kids become visible…..

“LUDWIG, Trudy. The Invisible Boy . illus. by Patrice Barton. Knopf. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781582464503.

K-Gr 2 –Ignored and excluded by his classmates, Brian feels invisible, but when he welcomes a new student by writing a friendly note–and Justin responds in kind–everyone begins to see Brian with fresh eyes. Told with kid-savvy perception and emotion-tinged artwork, this quiet story shows how small acts of kindness can have big results. (Sept.)”


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22. OH the vision…and inspiration for ALL artists!

This borrowed from PW Bookshelf :  I found myself smiling at her, and his, views so many years ago… and the encouragement she could give to a YOUNG up and coming Sendak. 50 years ago he began…not knowing where he was going.  Do any of us?  Does it matter?  Just putting another stroke (step, word, etc) down and continuing the fun and torment and LIFE.   There is always more in us….and better!  onward….

and to illustrate this…from Michelle Henninger….

The story behind it is that Sendak, illustrating a children’s book by Tolstoy, began to doubt himself and wrote a letter to Nordstrom detailing all his self-doubts. Here is part of what she wrote back:

You reminded me that you are 33. I always think 29, but OK. Anyhow, aren’t the thirties wonderful? And 33 is still young for an artist with your potentialities. I mean, you may not do your deepest, fullest, richest work until you are in your forties. You are growing and getting better all the time. I hope it was good for you to write me the thoughts that came to you. It was very good for me to read what you wrote, and to think about your letter. I’m sorry you have writers cramp as you put it but glad that you’re putting down “pure Sendakian vaguery” (I think you invented that good word). The more you put down the better and I’ll be glad to see anything you want to show me. You referred to your “atoms worth of talent.” You may not be Tolstoy, but Tolstoy wasn’t Sendak, either. You have a vast and beautiful genius. You wrote “It would be wonderful to want to believe in God. The aimlessness of living is too insane.” That is the creative artist—a penalty of the creative artist—wanting to make order out of chaos. The rest of us plain people just accept disorder (if we even recognize it) and get a bang out of our five beautiful senses, if we’re lucky. Well, not making any sense but will send this anyhow.

This was SENT in a letter….no emails then.  No blogs to share, no quick anything…just slow mail or phone.  Thank the Lord…words are saved…. messages shared.  again….enjoy!

The story behind it is that Sendak, illustrating a children’s book by Tolstoy, began to doubt himself and wrote a letter to Nordstrom detailing all his self-doubts. Here is part of what she wrote back:

You reminded me that you are 33. I always think 29, but OK. Anyhow, aren’t the thirties wonderful? And 33 is still young for an artist with your potentialities. I mean, you may not do your deepest, fullest, richest work until you are in your forties. You are growing and getting better all the time. I hope it was good for you to write me the thoughts that came to you. It was very good for me to read what you wrote, and to think about your letter. I’m sorry you have writers cramp as you put it but glad that you’re putting down “pure Sendakian vaguery” (I think you invented that good word). The more you put down the better and I’ll be glad to see anything you want to show me. You referred to your “atoms worth of talent.” You may not be Tolstoy, but Tolstoy wasn’t Sendak, either. You have a vast and beautiful genius. You wrote “It would be wonderful to want to believe in God. The aimlessness of living is too insane.” That is the creative artist—a penalty of the creative artist—wanting to make order out of chaos. The rest of us plain people just accept disorder (if we even recognize it) and get a bang out of our five beautiful senses, if we’re lucky. Well, not making any sense but will send this anyhow.


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23. SCBWI WINTER CONFERENCE!

I am most honored to be part of the Friday Feb. 1st Artist Intensive for the SCBWI Winter Conference (Grand Hyatt 42nd) this coming weekend!  Our panel discussion is “WHEN DO I QUITE MY DAY JOB?” and I’m looking forward to the subject and opportunity to share the basics (and not so basic) to the business of being an Illustrator.  Brenda Bowen (editor, now Lit Agent, and writer) and Jan Constantine (general counsel for The Authors Guild) and I (20 year artist agent) will be moderated by David Diaz.

The SCBWI conferences are always so very inspirational and done so professionally and with such care for the market and those who participate in it, that it’s always a joy to be part of and/or attend.  I’ll also be one of the judges for the Art Show which is a wonderful part of these events.  Sat. and Sun are full of other talks and sessions for writers and illustrators (or both) and an almost overwhelming opportunity to get an ‘insiders’ look at the children’s book industry. And you meet and chat with so many interesting people!

If you are planning to be there, please make yourself known to me.  And if not this year, do try to attend in LA,CA (Aug.) or NYC (Feb) at some point…invaluable!  See you there!

(“CAT”artist Melissa Iwai’s got the right idea about books!)

One more start IWAI


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24. Treasures from the mouths of talent!…..

Happily going over some notes I made while listening to the speakers at the conference… and want to share.  Didn’t make every speaker of course, but I’ll try to hit the ideas and quotes that spoke to me and I hope will speak to you! Highlights….

I’ll start with the most WONDERFUL opening talk from artist SHAUN TAN. at 8:35 Friday morning of the Artist Intensive.  What a way to wake up….truly the ‘WAY TUGEAU!”  It was about “Developing a Personal Style.”  His overall point was that your personal style needs to be free and encouraged to just ‘emerge.’  He talked about how drawing and painting at a very young gave him his ‘source of power,’  and how it was wonderful to work and not worry about how it was ‘received.’  He reminded all that ART is a distortion of reality…it’s NOT literal but more theatrical and manipulated.  How you do this grows into your style. It’s often good to let the viewer SEE this manipulation…be aware of the painting. The Deep Style that is or will become you is not so much how you draw or paint, but how you THINK.  That approach will change as the story and image changes, and your personal style can be ‘found’ at the intersection of where all the work meets.  (love that!)

You don’t choose a personality for yourself or a style really.  They evolve and happen from the interests of the day-to-day realities.  One way to teach yourself to know and appreciate others styles however is the age-old practice of copying master artists to LEARN from the effort…HOW and WHY it was done a certain way.  He likes to divide work into two parts…the ‘public’, known part, and the ‘private’ exploring, developing part.  Good to “think of yourself as a train station that ideas pass through.” (!)  Allow the dream to ‘bubble up’. The deep style just comes… it’s a conversation with yourself. “Swing with the current.”  Style often turns out to be ”what you do in an emergency” which he quoted from someone else…and isn’t that a truth!

Well that’s a touch of one talk I just HAD to share…wonderful.  Check out Shaun Tan’s work up…interesting talent and personality.

More tomorrow from others there at the WINTER SCBWI CONFERENCE 2013!


3 Comments on Treasures from the mouths of talent!….., last added: 2/6/2013
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25. When can I quit my day job?

OH the question!  and topic of the panel I was part of at the Winter SCBWI Art Intensive on Feb. 1.  David Diaz moderated Jan Constantine, Author’s Guild, Brenda Bowen, now Lit (and art) rep at Sanford Greenburger Associates and myself in a series of questions about the reality of the biz we all love.  Of course being PART of the panel….I have no memory of what we actually said!!!!…so maybe you all who were there can write crits about us in ‘comments!’  LOL.

“Though a living cannot be made at art, art makes life worth living…. it brings LIFE to life.”  this is a quote from fine artist and illustrator John Sloan that I used in the panel.  He was actually talking about FINE ART here as he DID make most of his living with illustration, and so can you…it IS commercial.  But as we talked about it is quite hard in the children’s publishing market itself.  Possible…but hard, even when you are repped.  The assignments come oddly timed…one year you are turning down work, and the next twiddling your thumbs! (hopefully actually practicing practicing and growing.)  One really must diversify into various areas of the arts, and maybe have a ‘day job.’  Try to find one that is involved with art of course so it FEEDS you.  But financial insecurity can work actively against the ‘expression’ and good choices you DO need to make to make a career in this industry, like most industries!  It IS a business was an all over theme.

A couple of points that were mentioned was about Your First Impression… you only get one of those with publishers.  It’s a small market – long memories.  Another was that too high advances CAN actually hurt your career if the sales records aren’t good for the books…. not earning out.  Do consider this when negotiating.  Ask questions when reading contracts! Team playing is ever so important if you want to be part of an agency…what YOU do professionally does reflect on every other artist/writer in the group! Staying Fresh and updated with your samples is very important…work to make new and promote them often to AD’s and editors. Consistency of style is also VERY important. Be Brutally Honest with yourself when considering giving up your day job…have a five-year business plan of action.

I do hope we get some ‘comments’ as I’m curious about what ‘spoke’ to you all there too!  REMINDER:  order your THE BOOK from SCBWI….the guide to it ALL!  and I wrote/revised the Artist Guide part of it again.  Hope you find it helpful!

this visual of the ‘rep me’ is from my son and artist Jeremy Tugeau, and husband to rep Nicole Tugeau of Tugeau2….check her agency out as well!

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