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1. Illustrator Saturday – Colleen Kosinski

 

colleen_baby_cropped_300x300Colleen Rowan Kosinski has always been involved in creative projects. She is an alumna of Moore College of Art and graduated from Rutgers University with a BA in Visual Arts. While in college, Colleen worked with The Robert Wood Johnson Hospital as part of her curriculum. She developed, designed and constructed step-by-step instruction booklets to be used by nursing staff. After graduation, Colleen worked as a jewelry designer. While working as a designer she won a scholarship to the Gemological Institute of America and earned a certificate in Colored Stones. Colleen, having a great interest in science, volunteered at the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia, PA. She worked with Dr. John Gelhaus in the entomology department rendering illustrations of insects for scientific publications. She also worked at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, PA, were she designed illustrations for a cookbook featuring Ben Franklin’s favorite dishes.

After the birth of her first child, Colleen opened her studio and virtual gallery. She has been working as a visual artist, with clients all over the United States, for the past eighteen years. You can visit her site at http://www.myartsite.com. She specializes in pet portraiture and still life. Her mediums of choice are oil or pastel.

Colleen resides in Cherry Hill, NJ with her husband, three sons, doberman pinscher, rottweiler, and miniature dachshund and volunteers at the local animal shelter. During the summer you can usually find her nursing a sick squirrel or robin back to health.

Here is Colleen explaining her process:

This painting example was created for the NJSCBWI 2014 Conference. I knew I wanted a dreamy, fairytale-ish feel. I wanted the viewer to wonder what would happen next. I also wanted to include the theme of the Jersey shore.

First I researched elements I needed for this particular piece of work, ex. I needed to research old-fashioned bathing suit attire, seagulls, and Victorian style homes in Cape May for this piece.

Next, I drew (in pencil) each element that was to be included in the artwork. I scanned in the early sketches and placed everything in the space to see if worked. I’d drawn a lifeguard chair and the Cape May lifeguard boat but they didn’t fit in the composition, so they were cut.

Then, I went back and shadowed each drawing in pencil.

I scanned each shadowed piece into the computer and placed them on the page.

All the shadowed pieces were built as their own layers. I then painted in colors, using varying opacities and brushes.

colleenstep_1_pencil_sketch_cape may girlOriginal pencil sketch

colleeenstep_2_scan_and_cut_cape may girl

Scanned image, cut out, cleaned up and contrast adjusted.

colleenstep_3_color_layers_cape may girl

Colored layers built up.

colleenstep_4_highlights_shadows_cape may girl

Shadows and highlights are added last.

colleenseagull_pencil_sketch

colleenseagull_full_colorI brought the colored drawings back into the original composition.

colleencapemayflag sketch

colleencape may flag_full_colorI adjusted scale and brightness.

colleencape may houses_pencil_sketch

I then layer in shadows into the final composition and sometimes I add various textures into the composition.

colleencape may girl 3_head_tilt

Finally, when the painting looks finished to me, I put a bump map of a watercolor texture over the entire painting. This makes the work look less “computer-like”. Copyright ©artshow colleenscbwi entry 2_6

After critiques by my trusted artist friends, I add my finished piece to my portfolio. For example, they suggested her head should be tilted toward the bird so I made the adjustment as seen here.

colleendiving girl comp5

How long have you been illustrating?

I’ve been drawing forever. I participated in my first “show” when I was thirteen (and won first place.) I’ve been seriously working on illustrating for children for the past three years.

What made you choose to get your degree in visual Arts at Rutgers University?

I was originally granted a full scholarship to Moore College of Art when I happened upon a portfolio day after a Saturday class at the Philadelphia College of Art. I attended my freshman year, but then transferred to Rutgers to follow my boyfriend. I know. I know. But we’ve been married now for 27 years. : )

colleenbeach girls14

What were you favorite classes?

I loved figure drawing, creative writing, and anthropology. I’d always try to convince my professors to hold class outside on beautiful days. All except figure drawing. Naked models posing outside in the middle of campus would have been frowned upon—but would probably have drawn quite a crowd.

Did the School help you get work?

Actually, Moore College of Art helped me get my first internship as a scientific illustrator for the entomology department of the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia.

colleenriver of wishes9hair lowered a smidge3tdep5_6_14_3NO-WORDS

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

In high school the teachers would commission me for artwork.

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

After college I worked in a jewelry store and did some jewelry design. I was fascinated with gemstones and won a scholarship to study colored stones with The Gemological Institute of America.

 

colleenmermaid comp 8Do you think the classes you took in college influenced your style?

The figure drawing classes may have helped a bit but my style has organically evolved over the years.

When did you do your first illustration for children?

I started working on children’s books illustrations about three years ago.

colleenswimming with the fish7

How did that come about?

I had worked as a fine artist for many years, but stopped drawing to seriously study writing. I’ve written screenplays, YA novels, and MG novels, along with picture books. NJSCBWI was holding their first illustrators showcase three years ago and I decided to participate and developed a character, which then became a story.

When did you decide you wanted to illustrate books?

After all the positive feedback at the NJSCBWI conference.

colleengoldilocks comp_v7

How did you get interested in writing novels and when did that happen?

I had a friend who worked in the SAG office in Philadelphia. I had an idea for a movie and asked her how I could try to sell my idea. She told me I’d need to write a screenplay. I bought books on the mechanics of writing screenplays and started networking with other screenwriters. I decided to try to convert one of my screenplays into a novel. Then I wrote bad novel after not as bad novel until I finally had one that I thought was good enough to submit. But it really wasn’t. So I kept writing more and more. I think my eighth book was the charm and is now being read by several editors.

Are you open to illustrating a picture book for a writer who would like to self-publish?

I think I’d rather work on my own books or be paired with an author from a traditional publisher.

colleenflying girl comp4

Have you worked on illustrating a book dummy to help market your illustrating skills?

Yes.

Since you already are writing novels, have you thought about writing and illustrating you own picture book?

I’ve written quite a few PBs and I have one finished dummy and one in process.

colleenbad luck boy new comp6

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

I’m presently not represented, but would love to work with an agent interested in an author/illustrator. I’m a hard worker and not afraid of revisions.

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

I show at conferences, tweet, network on FB, display my work on the SCBWI illustrator showcase, and I have a website—ColleenRowanKosinski.com

colleenjaquar11What is your favorite medium to use?

I’m currently working with a combination of pencil sketching and digital painting. I also love oils, and soft pastel.

Has that changed over time?

Many years ago I worked primarily in pen and ink and watercolor. I did a lot of hand-numbing stippling with a rapidograph pen. I transitioned to pastel. Sold quite a few, then fell in love with oil painting. Oil painting is a long process because of the practice of building layers of colors and the drying times involved. That’s why I love digital so much now. I approach color the same way I did in my oil painting but have zero drying time!

colleentweed_composition_v6

Do you have a studio in your house?

I don’t have a designated studio. Because of very bad back issues I have trouble sitting for long periods of time in a regular chair, but I’ve found a recliner takes the stress off of my lower back so you can usually find my there, either writing, sketching or working digitally. I do have an office with my supplies, a desk, computer, scanner, printer and bookshelves from floor to ceiling.

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

My laptop computer.

colleenHanging Around4

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

I work every day for at least eight hours or more. I try to attend at least one SCBWI conference a year and as many other workshops that I can fit into my budget and schedule.

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

Yes, I take pictures and research reference images online.

colleenskunk girl_portfolio3

Do you think the Internet has opened doors for you?

Definitely. I used to have to find reference photos by paging through books and magazines for hours. The Internet also helps me network with other writers, illustrators, agents, and editors.

What do you feel was your biggest success?

I don’t know if I’ve experienced a “big” success yet. I just keep doing what I’m doing while constantly trying to improve.

colleenfox running picture 16Do you use Photoshop with your illustrations?

I actually use GIMP, which is a free version of Photoshop. I did finally bite the bullet and start subscribing to Photoshop (you can’t buy it outright anymore, you must pay a monthly fee.) I’m experimenting with it but feel more comfortable with GIMP.

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

Yes, I use a Wacom pad when creating my artwork.

colleen02_2ps_mother_and_baby_all_the_layers4

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

I dream of finding an agent who knows the craft and market, and being traditionally published. I guess if I want to dream big, I’d love to win a Newberry or Caldecott.

What are you working on now?

I’m working on a story called Lydia Light Takes Flight. The character I created for the 2014 NJSCBWI Conference Art Competition inspired the story. The text is finished and I’m currently working on the dummy. It’s a lyrical story with a fairytale’ish feel. I also have a couple PB biographies ready to go, and two other lyrical PB texts. Editors are reading my older MG novel and I’m hoping one of them will make an offer soon.

colleen06_2ps_fire_all_the_layers4

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

I don’t know if I can really speak to being successful, but I can say that you have to be a fighter. Don’t wallow in rejection and keep moving forward. Be open to critique and learn from it. Lastly, be involved in the kidlit scene. It’s a wonderful, supportive community.

colleencozette and the black umbrella7

 

Thank you Colleen for taking the time to share your process and journey with us. We look forward to hearing about your future successes.

To see more of Colleen’s illustrations you can visit her at: www.ColleenRowanKosinski.com Twitter: @writergirlrowan 
Facebook: Colleen Rowan Kosinski

Please take a minute to leave a comment for Colleen, I know she would love to heard from you and I always appreciate it. Thanks!

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Filed under: authors and illustrators, demystify, How to, illustrating, Illustrator's Saturday, Interview, Process Tagged: Colleen Kosinski, Illustrator Saturday, Moore College of Art, Rutgers University

9 Comments on Illustrator Saturday – Colleen Kosinski, last added: 7/26/2014
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2. What Writers Can Learn From ‘Goodnight Moon’

here: http://nyti.ms/1not0iV

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3. It Was a Dark and Stormy Night ...

I recently finished reading the classic book "Wrinkle in Time" with my eight-year-old. It begins with the famous—and much maligned—line, "It was a dark and stormy night ..."

Writers look down on this opening phrase as being "obvious" and "too moody." It has been the butt of jokes from "Throw Momma from the Train" to Peanuts comics. But I'd like to write a brief defense of Madelaine L'Engle's linguistic choice as well as take a look at what makes descriptions work ... or not work.

L'Engle's phrase, at its most basic, does, indeed, set a tone for the book. And it describes the intensity that the character Meg feels. It also foreshadows the "dark"/sinister beings the characters will encounter, as well as the darkness through which the characters travel during their cross-planetary adventure. So I think that mentioning a "dark night" is thematic and relevant to L'Engle's whole book; she writes it as a fight between love and "the dark."

So what about the complaint that to describe night as dark is too obvious? I would argue that there are all kinds of nights. There are nights that seem like a faint orange hue hangs between the greenness of piled snow and heavy-set clouds. There are purple nights. There are also cold bright nights when the sky is clear and the moon shines like a shadeless pendant bulb.

And yes, there are stormy nights when the darkness seems to swallow up every detail out of reach, as though a cocoon of black velvet envelopes you: a dark and stormy night.

But these days, readers want more than that. We expect writers to paint with words in a more extraordinary way.

On the other hand, overly long or beatific descriptions are considered passé: Flip to almost any page in the classic "Anne of Green Gables" series and you'll find paragraphs of detail like: "a veritable apple-bearing tree, here in the very midst of pines and beeches ... all white with blossom. It's loaded [with apples]—tawny as russets but with a dusky red cheek. Most wild seedlings are green and uninviting."

While most of us still appreciate (and even love) L.M. Montgomery's lengthy stylistic descriptions for its time, these days such florid language is considered "purple prose."

Needless to say, descriptions can make or break even the best concepts and plots. Writers need not only to be gifted storytellers, but word makers and image creators of a new bent.

One author who excels in this is Mark Zusack. Consider some of these images from "The Book Thief":

  • a short grin was smiled in Papa's spoon
  • one [book] was delivered by a soft, yellow-dressed afternoon
  • empty hat-stand trees
  • the gun clipped a hole in the night
  • the summer of '39 was in a hurry
  • the smell of friendship
  • [the] crackling sound ... was kinetic humans, flowing, charging up
Zusak has an uncanny ability to describe. A grin is offered up as if it is a picture from a film director's storyboard. A sound is described using imagery. A feeling is described as a scent. Ideas are personified and people are chemicals.

So think well when you are describing. Go over your story and take the time to find new ways to bring imagery to your reader. And keep it somewhere between "purple" and "dark and stormy."

Do you have a favorite metaphor or simile? Share it below!

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4. Study Guide – Darlene Beck-Jacobson

wheels

WHEELS OF CHANGE STUDY GUIDE

  1. Change is the overriding theme of this novel. Discuss good vs. bad change and how the characters accepted or rejected change. CCSS RL 4.9
  2. How did Emily’s ideas about change evolve throughout the story? CCSS RL 3.3
  3. What does the horseshoe symbolize? Do you think it really had power? Explain. CCSS RL 5.4
  4. Do you think Beatrice’s personality and behavior are her own or as result of trying to please her mother? CCSS RL 3.3
  5. What characteristics made Charlie a good friend for Emily? Vice versa. CCSS RL 3.3
  6. What do you think of Emily’s reaction to Mrs. Peabody’s comments at the tea? Was Emily justified in dumping tea in Mrs. Peabody’s lap?   Explain why or why not. What would you have done? CCSS RL 4.3
  7. 1908-09 was a time in history when segregation was common. Do you think Mr. Soper was courageous in employing an African-American? Explain. CCSS RL 3.3
  8. Was life easier or harder in 1909? What did you like about the time period?
  9. The roles of males and females were more sharply divided in the early 20th Century. Do you think Emily’s resistance to learning proper lady-like behavior was typical for girls her age? Why or why not? CCSS RL 4.3
  10. How did Emily’s relationship with Mama change? CCSS RL 5.2
  11. The story takes place when there were fewer luxuries in everyday life – especially regarding entertainment. What would you do if you had no radio, television, telephone, electricity or car, like most of the people in the story? CCSS RL 4.9
  12. Learning skills and being self-sufficient was important during this time in history. Why? Do you think these values are still important today? Explain.
  13. Emily and Charlie were expected to help the family by doing daily chores. If they weren’t completed, the household and family suffered. Does your family depend on you to do certain jobs? What would happen if you didn’t do them? CCSS RL 4.9
  14. What did Emily expect President Roosevelt to do for Papa? CCSS RL 4.3
  15. What did you think of Emily’s suggestions for changing Papa’s business? What might you have done to help? CCSS RL 4.9
  16. Do you think it was foolish or brave of Emily to stay in the barn during the fire? What would you have done? CCSS RL 3.3
  17. There were limited opportunities for women at the turn of the 20th Century. Single women who were not from wealthy families could teach, work long hours in a factory under awful conditions, or work as maids, governesses, or servants to wealthy families. Once married, they were expected to stay home and care for their husband and children. Do the opportunities enjoyed by women today make their lives easier or more difficult? Explain. CCSS RL 4.9
  18. When Mama first meets Mrs. Jackson, they seem ill as ease with one another. Why? CCSS RL 5.2
  19. Do you think it was unusual for Emily’s best friend to be a boy? Why or why not?
  20. If the story took place today, do you think it would be easy for a girl to become a blacksmith? Explain.

Hope this gives you some ideas of how proceed when you publish your book.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Filed under: demystify, How to, inspiration, marketing, Process, Writing Tips Tagged: Darlene Beck-Jacobson, Study Guide, Study Guide Example, Wheels of Change

3 Comments on Study Guide – Darlene Beck-Jacobson, last added: 6/1/2014
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5. Illustrator Saturday – Craig Cameron

Croc&flag

craigCraig Cameron is originally from Carrickfergus, Northern Ireland. He graduated from the University of Ulster, Belfast in 1995 with a First Class(hons) degree in Visual Communication.

After graduating, armed with paintbrushes and guitar, he travelled across to the north of England to pursue a career as an illustrator, working initially as a graphic designer in advertising and Children’s Book Publishing, and since 2002 as a freelance artist.

Over the last decade Craig worked on many exciting projects – with book publishers in the UK and US, also creating illustrations for licensed characters, magazines, greetings cards, and product packaging.

He currently lives in Manchester, UK, with my wife Annette and 3 children, Ellie, Lewis and Joe.

Here is Craig Explaining his process:

The steps I take in my process of creating an illustration

Client – NetJets – International Children’s Day Card / promotional item.

This brief was to create a colorful illustration to celebrate International Children’s Day, which would be handed out to passengers on 2nd June 2014.

I generally start with very small sketchy thumbnails in my sketchbook, thinking about the general concept, layout and composition. From this I then work up more detailed sketches in Photoshop using a Wacom tablet and pen. I enjoy both sketching with pencils and directly into Photoshop. The benefit of Photoshop is that you can rotate, enlarge and move items around easily.

I submitted 3 concept ideas to the client as sketches. I think my sketches tend to be fairly detailed, probably due to my personality and wanting to get them resolved in terms of tone and composition so I have a clear idea of how they will look when I go to final color artwork.

Netjets 1

Rough concept sketch

Netjets 2

Refining sketch

Netjets 3

First concept sketch sent to client.

Netjets 4

Second concept sketch for client.

Netjets 5

Third concept sketch for client. The client liked options one and three best but decided to go with option 1. There were pleased with the design and asked for a few small changes including adding the livery /stripes on the plane and NetJets branding.

Netjets 6a

Although I work digitally primarily, I often like to use painted textures and backgrounds. In a small messy corner of my office I like to create these textures, using canvas boards, acrylic paints, gesso and dry brushing techniques until I get a texture which looks suitable.

Netjets 6b

I’ve built up a library of these which can also be used with the photoshop brushes to give a more hand tooled effect. I scan the texture as a grayscale tiff file, using an Epson A3 scanner at a fairly hi-res (approx 400dpi).

Netjets 7

Once scanned I import into Photoshop and position the sketch on top as a positional guide.

Netjets8

I color the background, often using layer options and adjustment layers, allowing the texture of the canvas effect to show through.

Netjets9

Netjets10

I tend to use a lot of layers, grouping the various items into folders. I paint using the airbrush and lasso tools, blocking out the general shapes before adding shading, details and highlights.

Netjets11

 

Netjets11b

 

Netjets11c

 

Netjets12

 

Netjets13

The final stages often take the longest time – adding highlights and extra texture until I’m happy with the overall look and feel.

Netjets14_final

Recently I have enjoyed trying out new brushes in Photoshop which can give more natural, painted or hand tooled effect. The client was really pleased with the final artwork and asked for one small change which was to make the clouds on earth look less scribbly and more like soft swirls.

spaced out1The Rough Sketch

spaced out2The Final Sketch

spaced out3

Working on tones.

spaced out4

The final illustration.

BHJ

Backhoe Joe, written by Lori Alexander and Illustrated by Craig Cameron will be released on 16th September by Harper Collins US.

BJ_

Above is some interior art from Craig’s Debut Picture Book.

3 little pigs

When did you first know you wanted to make a living doing art?

I went to Art College after A Levels, knowing that drawing/art was definitely the direction I wanted to go as a career after school. I attended a place on a Foundation Studies course in Art & Design at Belfast. At that stage I hadn’t made up my mind that I wanted to be an illustrator but my interest has always been in picture books and children’s brighlty coloured artwork. I then went on to an Illustration HND course at NEWI (North Wales). It was during those 2 years that the idea of actually working as an illustrator became more of a reality.

Big-Train_cvr

How long have you been illustrating?

I was fortunate to get my first commercial illustration commissions when I was at University, so have been illustrating for just over 20 years. After leaving University I initially worked in a design agency for 3 years and then for another 3 years as a book designer for a UK publishing house before going freelance in 2002 as a full time illustrator.

Engine-color_p26-27

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

At school I had 2 brilliant art teachers. I can honestly say that if it weren’t for them I probably wouldn’t be an illustrator today. They were very supportive, inspiring and encouraging and I loved working in the environment of the art studio. They both commissioned me to paint their portraits!

My first commercial commission was for Alton Towers theme park here in the UK. It was for a promotional page in a national newspaper and came through an illustration agent who had seen my work as part of my graduate exhibition. I think this was the turning point where I realized that having a career as an illustrator could really happen!

City-Train_cvr

city_train-15

I see you graduated from the University of Ulster, Belfast in 1995 with a First Class(hons) degree in Visual Communication. What made you choose Ulster and Visual Communication?

I am from Nothern Ireland and grew up in a town called Carrickfergus, 15 miles outside of Belfast. I had previously studied for 1 year on an Art&Design Foundation course and I liked the University and of course it was close to home, friends and family. The Visual Communication course offered lots of flexibility to try different disciplines, photography, graphic design, art history, film making etc, which appealed me me as I was trying to figure out my possible career direction. Other famous children’s picture book artists have graduated from the same course at Belfast, including the wonderful Oliver Jeffers and Alison Brown.

freight_train-7

What types of things do you study with Visual Communication? What makes it different from getting a BFA?

The course offered a grounding across a range of diciplines in Art & Design but then the opportunity to specialise in the final years, so it was ideal for students who were initially unsure of their specialist subject or who wanted a more general Art & design qualification which might be suited to education or similar.

BaM_colour

Did the School help you get work?

Prior to my degree at Belfast I did a 2 year illustration HND course in North Wales. (NEWI). This course was extremely practical and designed to help graduates find relevant commercial experience and contacts within the industry. During these years I was very fortunate to do a work placement with Penguin Books in London. Also, our final exhibition was moderated by an illustration agent based in Manchester, UK. She liked my work and asked me to meet her for an interview which lead subsequently to my first commercial commissions and having a artists rep whilst still at University.

BaM_front-cover

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

I’m not sure that the colleges really pushed my work in any particular direction, but certainly the working environment and seeing the work of other students helped to inspire and encourage me to constantly develop and improve my work. The biggest influence came through the illustration rep. The agency I joined was called The Art Collection and there was a studio with about 8-10 in house professional illustrators. I was completely blown away by their talent, humour and professionalism.

BTB_Tum-Xmas_col12

Was your after graduating trip with your guitar just for fun or were you on a quest to find a job?

After graduating I moved from N.Ireland over to Manchester, England to work with the Art Collection. I have always loved music and have played guitar in college bands, but never really considered following music as a career – maybe in the future, who knows…!

Bob4

How did you find your first job doing advertising graphic design?

Again I was quite fortunate. An illustrator friend of mine had been renting space from a design agency in Manchester. They were looking for a junior designer with good drawing skills as they did lots of work for local restaurants and businessess. She gave them my name and I went for interview. The position was really good in that I spent about 50% of my time on illustrations and the other 50% on graphic design, logos, concepts etc. I really enjoyed my time although it was a bit hectic at times and often long hours. I learnt an awful lot in terms of producing artwork for print and using commercial DTP software such as Photoshop, illustrator etc.

Bob2

What children’s book publisher did you work for and how did that come about?

I have always loved children’s picture books so when I saw an advert for a book designer in Manchester for Egmont Books, I jumped at the chance! I was fortunate to pass the interview and worked there for 3 years, prior to going freelance full time.

It was a small design team, friendly, fun and a great environment to work in, surrounded by toys and books. I worked mostly on educational, licensed character and novelty books.

cook

Was that job the reason you got into illustrating for children?

It certainly didn’t put me off, but I think my love of illustration and books has been there since I was a child. It was a really good platform to start from as I learnt a lot about the business of publishing. I developed valuable skills in layout, design, typography and in producing artwork for print. Also I made good friends, many of whom I still keep in contact with now.

Rocket-&-croc

What was the first illustration work you did for children? How did that come about?

In the early illustration agency days, I received a number of jobs aimed at the children’s market, including the work for Alton Towers and a promotional Children’s Book for Boots the chemist. I think my illustration style always tended to fit the chidren’s market best as the colours are bright and playful.

croc's-away

How did you get to do eight early readers books with Stone Arch Readers?

I have advertised my illustration work on the Children’s Illustrators website (www.ccillustration.com) and have received a number of really good commissions through this page over the last 4 years, particularly from the US. I was initially approached by Stone Arch Publishing, through this website in 2012 to do a series of 4 x Early Readers based on train characters. They followed this with a second set of 4 books in 2013.

bears1

Illustrating seven books in one year must have been a lot of work? How long did it take you to illustrate each book?

The work fell into 2 sets of 4 books. Each project took around 4-6 months from start to finish with each book taking around 6 weeks to complete.

mac_box1

Are you under contract to illustrate more?

No.

mac-box2

How did you land the contract with HarperCollins to do BACKHOE JOE?

Backhoe Joe came through my agent here in the UK, called Beehive Illustration. I think Harper had also seen my work on the children’s Illustrators website as I had a number of examples of diggers and construction vehicles on there which fitted the look they were going for.

JCB-wall-chart

Was this your first book with a US publisher?

This is my first children’s picture book which is very exciting. It’s due to be released in August 2014 so I’m really looking forward to seeing a printed copy! I have worked with a number of US publishers before on early readers, magnet and sticker books and educational illustration.

JCB_frankie

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

I am currently represented in the UK by Beehive Illustration and also a local agent in Manchester called Monkey Feet Illustration. Some really great projects have come through these in recent years, including a style guide for My First JCB and publishing projects.

jcb2

 

Do you think you will ever try to write and illustrate a picture book?

I would love to!… and have a number of ideas that I have been recently working on.

I’ve always particuarly loved children’s picture books and this is an area I would really love to develop and focus on in the future.

bob1

 

How did you get to illustrate Bob the Builder books?

I have worked on licensed character illustration since my days at Egmont Books as a designer. I worked on a set of Bob the Builder Story Library books and have illustrated Bob for BBC magazines on a monthly basis for almost 10 years.

kids

 

How many picture books have you illustrated?

Only one so far, although Harper collins have mentioned the possibility of a second follow up title to Backhoe Joe – to be confirmed.

height-chart

 

mouse skate

Do you sell a lot of your black and white illustrations?

I have been commissioned to create B&W illustrations for publishing editorial and for the my 1st JCB licensed character style guide. I was approached recently to work on a young fiction title with B&W interior illustrations, which is something I would enjoy doing more of.

icecream

Have you done any illustrating for children’s magazines?

Yes – lots! I have worked for a number of BBC magazines here in the UK, including Bob the Builder, Cbeebies , Thomas the Tank Engine and The Magic Key magazines. I have been commissioned also for a few editorials including Practical Parenting and Woman’s Weekly!

mermaids

What is your favorite medium to use?

I almost always work digitally now, mostly in photoshop or illustrator, although I love to include painted textures and patterns in the artwork if possible. Working digitally allows so much flexibilty in colouring, designing and making alterations when required – and it’s not as messy! Although I do still really enjoy sketching in my sketchbook.

monkey

Has that changed over time?

It used to be that all my work was drawn or hand painted – but over the last few years almost everything is done directly on my Apple Mac. I use a Wacom pen and tablet to draw with. I now also do the pencil roughs on the mac using a style/brush effect that has a sort of pencil look to it.

Over recent years I have intentionally tried to create artwork with a more painted, textured feel.

max

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

My Wacom drawing pen and tablet.

EDU_moose+canoe

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

I’m typically busy with commissioned work during the day. We have three children and I drop them off at school at 9am – I then have the remainder of the day to work on commissioned projects.

The challenge I find difficult is to find time to work on personal projects or sketchbook time. I tend to put client work first, especially if there’s an urgent deadline to work to. However, I do really want to focus on some personal projects and development over the next few years.

ringaround

Are you open to working with self-published authors?

I am contacted quite regularly through the Children’s Illustrators website by self-published authors. I tend to say no, as the work is speculative and I have personal projects I want to concentrate on. That said, I did agree to work with one unpublished author a few years ago, called Giles Paley Phillips, on a project called Balloon and Me. I really liked his writing and we went as far as to collaborate and complete a picture book dummy and colour cover and spreads, which we sent out to a number of publishers in the UK. We received an offer and some advance payments but unfortunately the project fell through shortly after. Giles went on to have a number of successful books published including The Fearsome Beastie, which won The People’s Book Prize 2012 and is currently being made into a CG Short Animation.

CM_Pop&PLay_OnMove_INS_Layout 1

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

Yes – I generally take reference photos and also spend a considerable amount of time online finding reference as the first stage in my process. I also often create a mood board, which might include colours and textures and reference which I find helps me to develop a clearer idea in my mind of the general feel and direction of the illustrations.

CM_Pop&PLay_OnMove_INS_Layout 1

Do you think the Internet has opened doors for you?

Absolutely! 10 years ago all my work was coming from UK clients, whereas in the last 5 years that has changed and I am receiving more interest and commissioned work from the US and Europe. Also It has become so much easier to network and publicise our work through personal websites, the internet and social media. It’s easier to source reference materials and there are fantastic resources available such as podcasts and online tutorials. It’s probably never been easier or cheaper to promote yourself, but with that is increased competition, Global competition! and the challenge of competing in an extremely competitive market.

undersea

Do you use Photoshop with your illustrations?

Yes – Photoshop is my preferred software for creating illustrations. If I’m putting a book together I would tend to use InDesign and sometimes use Illustrator for logos and flat colour or black and white illustrations.

teddies

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

Yes – I currently have a Wacom Intuos 3 tablet which I love, although I have been looking at the Cintiq’s and am considering splashing out on one of those – They look fantastic but are expensive!

walkinwoods

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

As I mentioned previously my first love is children’s picture books and I would really like to create my own. I have a few ideas – so watch this space!

forest

What are you working on now?

I’m currently working on a fairly large educational project for a UK publisher and also a set of editorial illustrations for Thomas the Tank engine magazine.

puppies

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 have really enjoyed working with painted textures in Photoshop. There are lots of really interesting brushes available or you can make your own. That’s an area I’m exploring and enjoying personally. Also listen to podcasts from other practicing illustrators. I tend to listen while I work and it can be very inspiring and encouraging to hear about the experiences of other professionals as they discuss their methods and share advice and expertise.

camp

balloon

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

Draw a lot!  When I was at college/university the tutors always stressed keeping a sketchbook and drawing constantly. I didn’t do it enough to be honest. But certainly I appreciate the value of drawing now… it will make life a lot easier!

Also experiment and don’t bogged down too quickly with one particular style. It’s good to be versatile and to be able to work in different ways, mediums. Try some photography, graphic design and computer software too… When you’re working as an illustrator it’s very easy to get recognized for one particular style. That can be good but it can also be restricting. My feeling is that you should constantly be developing and pushing yourself to be the best you possibly can.

finish

Thank you Craig for sharing your process, journey, and expertise with us. I know you will have many more successes in the future and we’d love to hear about all of them, so please keep in touch.

To see more of Craig’s illustrations you can visit him at: http://www.craigcameronart.com/

Please take a minute to leave a comment for Craig, I know he would love to heard from you and I always appreciate it. Thanks!

Talk tomorrow,


Filed under: Advice, How to, illustrating, Illustrator's Saturday, inspiration, Interview, Picture Book, Process Tagged: Backhoe Joe, Craig Cameron, licensed characters

10 Comments on Illustrator Saturday – Craig Cameron, last added: 7/1/2014
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6. Pitch is Concept

artshow jasonSHORE sketch 6

This Team Sand Castle Contest was illustrated by Jason Kirschner and won Honorable Mention Unpublished Illustrator Award at the NJSCBWI Artist Showcase. http://www.jasonkirschner.com/jasonkirschner.com/Home.html

erikaphoto-45Hello all! Jersey Farm Scribe here. Last time we talked I was giving you my take away on how to Attack a Conference. I promised I’d tell you some of the specific, tangible things I learned at the NJ SCBWI.

So here is one of the biggest:

Pitch/Concept

It seems so simple. But I hadn’t thought of it like this before.

Pitch IS Concept.

I took Jill Corcoran’s workshop on concept and selling through to readers. I wasn’t sure what I expected, but I knew Jill is revered for her grasp of plot and revisions. I’ve been over her website A Path to Publishing, quite a few times, and gotten invaluable information from her blog, so I was ready to see what she had to say in person.

One of the first things that struck me was how interchangeably she seemed to use the words “pitch” and “concept.”

To me, pitch was what you practice saying over and over to be prepared to present my idea to one of the editors and agents walking around. It was what I put in the beginning of my query letter. That elevator, two or three sentence wrap of what my book was.

Concept was…. actually, to be honest I hadn’t really thought about it.

As Jill said in the workshop, and as she explains in the beginning of her free video on PlotWriMo (Revise your novel in a month), the CONCEPT is how you’d convince someone to read your book.

Okay, so that means it’s what’s the book about, right?

Well… yes and no.

If I want to go see a movie, and I have to convince other people to want to go see it, what would I say? What makes it special? What draws me to want to see it? Why should someone else want to see it?

That’s more than going over the plot. It’s more than what happens, or who the main characters are. It’s what gives the movie meaning, substance, interest and originality.

And that’s not easy to do in a few sentences!! As Kathy has said, write it all out first. go back to cut and condense.

But how do we know if we’re cutting the right things?

In the workshop, a few of us read our “pitch” to Jill. And a common theme in her response was, “You’re not really TELLING me anything. I know you think you are. But you’re not.”

A lot of it came down to specifics. The pitch has a reader. That reader needs to know what’s going on. It’s a book about heroism! Great. But how so? The kids are going to save the world? Excellent. But WHY? What’s wrong with the world in the first place? Shelby finds herself confused and alone. Okay. But why? And who isn’t? So what’s so special about her confusion?

So how to attack punching up the concept/pitch? I learned to do three things:

1) How will a publisher SELL the book? I hadn’t really thought about this before either. At all. It was especially meaningful for me, because I have a chapter book with a surprise ending. Sure, a surprise can be great. But TOO much surprise makes for a pretty weak back flap on the back of book! How do you sell that?

I don’t want a publisher sitting there thinking. “Yeah, it’s great. But I can’t TELL potential readers why it’s so great or else it’ll ruin the whole thing!”

You’re looking for a pretty serious commitment from someone, whether it’s an agent, editor, publisher, or even the final buyer of the book. Whatever is going to make them go: THIS IS IT! This is the next book I want to my devote time and money to! That’s your concept. That’s your pitch.

Then it’s time to examine it closer:

2) One line at a time:

I read each sentence of my pitch at a time. Then ask myself, WHY?

Four fearless friends save a town from despair.

Okay. There is some element of plot in there. But honestly, the fact is, there is probably millions of stories this could be describing. So let’s see… why? Why do they do it?

What drives them to do it? How much despair are we talking about? Can I express that level of despair in just a few more words?

3) One WORD at a time:

Once I have the sentences I want to say on paper and I’m confident with WHAT they say, it’s time to look at HOW they say it. Am I using the right words?

We only have so many words we get to use in a pitch. And let’s be honest, as someone brought up in the comments of my last pitch, being specific leads to a longer pitch. It’s just a fact. So every word is even more important. Let’s look at the beginning of that same line:

Four fearless friends…….

Four: Does it really matter that there are four of them? Probably not. Maybe I can replace it with something more meaningful.

Fearless: Really? I couldn’t have done better than that? How did I ever think that sounded good?

Etc….

Every single word gets analyzed, condensed, replaced, sometimes even re-envisioned entirely, which ends up leading me back to step one and starting all over again.

Pitch.

…….Sigh. It’s definitely not my favorite part of the process.

But Jill’s workshop really made me feel like now, I have a plan of attack, a process, specific, tangible things to look for, to look at and to strikethrough.

And again, you know I’m a big believer that, well…. our manuscripts are worth it!

Thank you Erika for another great article to help all of us improve our skills.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Filed under: Advice, article, demystify, How to, Process, Writing Tips Tagged: Erika Wassall, Jill Corcoran, Path to Publishing, Pitch is Concept

8 Comments on Pitch is Concept, last added: 7/18/2014
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7. Guest Post – Erika Wassall – Rivisions

Jersey Farm Scribe here on the Road to Revising! 

erikaphoto-45Pen down.

You’ve DONE IT!!! 

That’s right folks, you’ve written not only a beginning, but a middle and an end.

And it feels SooOOooO gooOooOood.

First… and please, don’t forget this step… give yourself credit. What you have done took talent and boatloads of commitment. You completed something most people only dream of even starting.

Get yourself a celebratory coffee/chocolate/wine/cupcake!

And then what?          

First things first:     DO NOTHING

WHAT? But I’m all giddy!! I want it to be perfect IMMEDIATELY!

Our manuscripts are worth the wait! Taking a step back for at least a week or two, sometimes as much as a month if I can stand it, gives a powerfully different perspective. Simone Kaplan Talks Revisions from RevIMo has some wonderful insight on this topic.

So it’s been a few weeks, and we’re ready to get started. 

Read the manuscript completely, OUT LOUD. 

While beneficial for any manuscript, this is especially important when writing for children. Forward Literary Agency has a thought provoking post by Pam van Hylckama Vlieg on its usefulness.

How does it feel rolling off the tongue? Is the dialogue natural? Are there inconsistencies or awkward spots?

Circle them, maybe jot down a note or two. But don’t linger! Come back later to play with them. For now, give it a cover-to-cover out-loud read.

And then, remind yourself, that’s YOUR BOOK you just read.

Whoo-hoo!  

The Nitty Gritty

Now it’s time to get dirty! I scour over my manuscript looking for whole sections, concepts, sometimes even characters that can lift out.   It’s amazing what I’ve found.

Darcy Pattison has an excellent post about her experience cutting down an already short picture book manuscript, when she realized she was telling the WRONG character’s story!

When in writing-mode, we allow the heartbeat of creativity to take us over; an important part of the process for sure.

But then it’s time to go back over every page, paragraph even word, and say, what happens if I remove this? Do I miss it? Do I really NEED it?

And that means… yup… we all knew it was coming: 

Killing Your Darlings

A well-known saying that is for some, (like me!) often feared.

While this could easily be an entire post, Lisa Spangenberg words it so simply by saying “Style should serve the purpose of the text, not the writer’s ego.”

Sometimes our Darlings are pinnacles of style and make our manuscripts absolutely SING.

Other times?   -   Not so much. 

The couple week step-back is helpful here.

Sometimes I’ll no longer understand why I was so attached in the first place! Or I’ll realize with that Darling, I was writing for ME, not my audience or the story itself. Then it’s time to break out the strikethrough!

Easier said than done of course 

But hey. We’re writers. We knew this wouldn’t be easy.

Which brings us to our next step:

Call in the Troops! 

Good critique partners/groups are undoubtedly worth their weight in GOLD.   No one is good at everything. It’s beneficial to have multiple people critiquing your work, some good at grammar, some at emotion, word count, consistency, etc.

Kid lit has a wonderful article on the tricky balance of What a Great Critique Partner or Group Means.

Keep in mind, being OPEN to anything is great. But you can’t, and shouldn’t take all the advice you are given.

Kathy Temean herself put it best when she critiqued one of my manuscripts and told me, “Always remember that it is your story and you should follow the vision that you have.”

Let people point out things to consider. DO consider them. But remember that they are critiques, NOT corrections.

The revision list is endless. But I’ll wrap up with this category:

Personalize Your Process

Maybe you’re good at word count, but struggle with getting to the conflict quickly, or excellent at character development, but overly descriptive.

Write down a physical list of your sticking points. It gives you something to refer to. AND you’ll find yourself increasingly aware of these concepts as you’re writing.

Here’s a few that might make it to your list: 

Keep age in mind: Josh Getzler, agent and founder of HSG, in Agent Q & A: Revisions by Operation Awesome says that it’s one of the most frequent revisions he suggests. He often has to give direction on matching the age of the reader, with character age, plot, tone, etc.

Check your opening: If someone only saw the first 100 or 300 words, would they be HOOKED? Like Erin Harris, agent at Folio, mentions in that same Q/A article, this is where you’re selling yourself and your manuscript the MOST. If you’re not immediately hooked, perhaps you started in the wrong place.

Put lists in your list: Bruce Coville, author of the Unicorn Chronicle series, talks about how he keeps a list of words he knows he overuses so he can search for them later, in Cuppa Jolie’s great Wednesday Whip Tip.

And again, never forget that what you’ve already accomplished is something to celebrate! 

As Erin Bartels discusses here, patience is really the name of the game.

Not easy. But worth it, because your manuscripts deserve to be treated right!

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

Thank you Erika for another great post.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

 


Filed under: Advice, article, How to, Process, Writing Tips Tagged: Darcy Pattison, Erika Wassall, Revisions

3 Comments on Guest Post – Erika Wassall – Rivisions, last added: 4/30/2014
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8. Putting Words on Paper

erikaphoto-45Jersey Farm Scribe here, on….

Putting Words on Paper

Sounds simple, doesn’t it? I mean, we’re writers. That’s what we do.

But most of us have been there… struggling to get to that next thought.

I may know what I WANT to happen, but I don’t know HOW to get there. I may know the tone I need to create, but can’t grasp the words to create it.

Or with no explanation I’m just… stuck on being stuck.

When clearing my mind isn’t enough… 

It’s time for plan B…. 

Instead of letting my lazy-instincts take over and killing an hour or ten on Twitter or (insert your own social-media black hole here) I have a few things I do to break the cycle.

Review critique partners’ work: This keeps me in creative-mode, without focusing on whatever project is freezing me out.

Okay. Check.  

Hmm… still nothing? No problem! There’s no greater excuse to curl up on the couch and….

READ READ READ! Important for ALL writers, I find it even more key for writing for children.

Reading for the target age group for my manuscript, keeps my brain thinking in the right rhythm. There is undeniably a pace, meter and natural ebb and flow to the way children’s brain’s take in their world. Reading the genre I’m writing, puts me in the right frame of mind.

Okay. I don’t think I can avoid it anymore. I have to go back to “that spot”.

Sigh. Okay. Fine! (slooooowly reopens the manuscript)

If I’m still hesitant to jump back in the first thing I try is….

Retreat. Regroup. And RE-WRITE:

Maybe the reason I’m stuck is because somewhere along the line, I took a LEFT when I should have gone RIGHT. I re-write the last section and make as many changes as I can think of. (I can always change them back later!)

If Bradley had pancakes, now he has cereal. If he rode the bus, this time missed it and was late for school. If Katie was after school for detention, this time it was because she forgot her math book.

A new lead-in can smoothly take me in the direction I wanted to go in the first place.

And other times….   Ugh. I’m right back where I started.   

Okay…. deep breath.  

First, I remind myself that thunking my head on the table will most likely not actually help. 

Time to buck-up, straighten my shoulders and JUST WRITE!

Write anything.

Ignoring my next plot point, I’ll throw my character in a completely random situation. It can help with character development, and gets my pen on the paper!

I wrote an entire chapter about my character randomly being told the family was moving. It got pulled, but I learned more about how he reacts in stressful situations, and actually came up with some funny lines I worked into other places.

Does this break me out and spur an idea of what how to bring things together? 

Well…. Sometimes.

If not… and I’ve done everything I can think of and gotten NOwhere…

Well then, I’m back to thinking that thunking my head may just be my best bet!  

(Honestly just picturing it is frustrating!!)

AAAAAaarrgghh!!!!

This is incredibly discouraging, horribly painful, and unfortunately… just part of being a writer!!!

So what NOW???  

There’s really nothing left to do accept…. FORGE THROUGH!

Time to write badly!!!

I use this when I know WHAT I need to write next, I just can’t figure out HOW. I know where my plot line needs to take me and I’ve done all the free-writing I can. I pick up the pen, and I write horribly (and I mean HORRIBLY).

I don’t worry about voice, or style. I don’t think about flow or if the reader will be confused. The more awkward, out of place writing, the better!

I’m like a Super-Villain from a new line of DC Comics. (oh yeah… I said it)

She uses run-on sentences and self-indulgent language to laugh in the face of all that is good and professional writing! 

She’s — The Agent Repeller!   MwaaahahahahaHA! 

I KNOW that I can’t write well all the time. So sometimes, I just don’t even try!

I write through it. I put words on paper.

Eventually, often without me even realizing it, things have smoothed out and I’m back to my natural style and flow of words.

Everyone’s process for how to work through these situations is different. All that really matters is that we have SOME way to deal with it, and don’t let it get us down.

What we do is HARD. Whether it’s picture books or YA, we’re creating entire realities that children have to believe in and CHOSE to visit.

No easy feat for sure.

We have to trust ourselves. Know that the story is in there and we will find it.

If we don’t put words on paper… sometimes even ridiculous, embarrassing words that we’ll never show another soul… then there won’t be anything to work with.

Anything written, can be fixed. (Even if that means deleting 99 percent of it!)

It sounds so simple, but sometimes putting words on paper, is the toughest part of the job.

______________________________________________________________

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

Thank you Erika for another great post.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

 


Filed under: Advice, article, Author, How to, inspiration, Process, Writing Tips Tagged: Erika Wassall, Jersey Farm Scribe, Putting Words on Paper

3 Comments on Putting Words on Paper, last added: 5/6/2014
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9. For Those Of Us Who Think We Don’t Like Math

Math is on my mind lately as I wrap up the Parallelogram series. (Yes, Dear Readers, Book 4 is coming! There are just so many words.) I, like my main character Audie in the series, enjoy quantum physics but do not enjoy the math. Or, to put it less charitably, cannot do the math.

But I can’t help wondering if I would have had a completely different attitude toward math in school if I’d had a teacher like this. Or at least seen a demonstration like this. Because there’s no doubt Arthur Benjamin makes math FUN. (Although no matter how fun it is, I still think there’s no way mere mortals could do what he does.)

Enjoy!

7 Comments on For Those Of Us Who Think We Don’t Like Math, last added: 5/8/2014
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10. How To Psyche Yourself Up for Whatever Your Next Big Thing Might Be (Part 1)

Here are the categories I’m dealing with lately: planning a new backpacking adventure. Planning a new book series. Planning another new series in a whole new genre. Which right now equals about 15 new books. I’m not even kidding.

And this morning it was starting to feel a little . . . daunting. As in, Can’t do any of them, just have to sit here and think about what I want to do.

That kind of stupor that could easily go on for days.

But I’m going to approach it a different way this time. Because recently I heard a great talk from outdoor adventurer (and mother and wife and owner of my favorite outdoor store Summit Hut) Dana Davis.

Dana has hiked up Mount Rainier. That right there qualifies her as badass. But she’s accomplished many other physical feats, and is currently training for her first Ironman triathlon, even though as she tells it she has bad knees, bad ankles, can’t run, isn’t so hot at either biking or swimming (I can’t remember which)–clearly not ideal when you’re going to be doing all three for miles and miles in one day.

But somehow that sounds fun to Dana.

And that fun is infectious. While it’s possible that some of the people in the crowd the other night might have thought to themselves, “Dang! I’m going to Ironman it, too!” I have the feeling they reacted the same way I did, which was to take Dana’s lessons about training for something hard and think about how we might apply them to some of the upcoming challenges in our own lives.

I think my favorite piece of her advice was this: Embrace the suck. Recognize that somewhere along the way you’re going to have to deal with a certain amount of discomfort, pain, and unhappiness. But if you recognize that ahead of time, really reconcile yourself to it, then when it shows up you can calmly tell yourself, “Yep, here it is. I knew it was coming. Here’s the suck. Let’s keep going.”

What’s “the suck” for me? There are times in every single backpacking trip when it’s as if I turn to myself and ask, “Did you really think this was fun? Are you really doing this on purpose?” Because mountains are high, trails are long, lightning storms scare the crap out of me, mosquitos bite, dogs roll in human feces (don’t get me started on people not properly disposing of their turds), and things just plain go wrong. That is the nature of outdoor adventures. Of any adventure, really.

I see it with my book adventures, too. When I set out to write something new, I know the time will come when my hands will feel like claws from typing for so many hours at a time, my brain will feel completely exhausted and empty, and yet the drill sergeant in me will try to force me to keep going even though all I really want to do is take the day off and watch Pixar movies. There’s a reason why The Incredibles exists. It is there to restore the worn-out brains of adults all over the world.

In a few days I’ll be posting Dana’s full list for psyching yourself up and preparing for something big, but for now I just wanted to whet your appetite for the whole thing.

Until then, you might want to reread a few earlier posts (that’s right, to psyche yourself up for the next big post. See how it works?):

How To Know When It’s Time To Make a Change In Your Life

Becoming the Possible You

The 100 Things You Keep Meaning To Do

Deciding To Worry About That Tomorrow

Stay tuned!

0 Comments on How To Psyche Yourself Up for Whatever Your Next Big Thing Might Be (Part 1) as of 5/11/2014 10:46:00 AM
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11. Blankety Books

BlanketyBooksLogo

Play Blankety Books and WIN Books!

5pm every Friday on Twitter

Follow @boomerangbooks and #blanketybooks to be part of the action!

How do you play?

We will post on twitter a book title and author with all the letters missing.

eg

_ _ _ _ _ _ / _ _ _ _ _ by _ _ _ _ _ _ / _ _ _ _

Guess a letter by tweeting at us using the #blanketybooks hashtag

eg

“ @boomerangbooks I guess the letter A #blanketybooks ”

We will slowly reveal the book title and author as more letters are guessed (you can guess as many times as you like but only one letter per tweet)

eg

_ _ _ _ A _ / _ _ _ _ _ by _ A _ _ A _ / _ _ _ _ #blanketybooks

_ _ _ _ A _ / _ _ _ _ _ by H A _ _ A H / _ _ _ _ #blanketybooks

B _ _ _ A _ / _ _ _ _ _ by H A _ _ A H / _ _ _ _ #blanketybooks

B _ _ I A _ / _ I _ _ _ by H A _ _ A H / _ _ _ _ #blanketybooks

First correct answer wins the book!

eg BURIAL RITES by HANNAH KENT #blanketybooks

We will contact the winner to post out the prize!

(Australian residents only)

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12. Researching Agents – Erika Wassall

erikaphoto-45

Jersey Farm Scribe here on…

Researching Agents

A completed, polished and ready to be submitted manuscript is a beautiful thing. Now it just has to find a home! But not just ANY home. It has to be just right.

You want the world to see this manuscript! See it’s creativity, it’s uniqueness and the joy it will bring others!

You’ve written your query letter and you’re ready to track your submissions.

But who should you submit to?

If you’re like me, the first thing you think to yourself is…

ANYONE AND EVERYONE!!!!

Then I have sit back… rein in my crazy… and remind myself… absolutely nothing is for everyone.

Plus, agents want to know that I’m submitting to them for a reason specific to my manuscript and not feel like I’m just going down a list sending to everyone who popped up when I Googled “Picture Book Agent”.

And wouldn’t you?

Some agents receive 100s of queries a DAY! That’s a LOT to shift through. It’s important that they immediately know that you are submitting to them because there is something special about THEM that makes the manuscript a good fit.

Okay, okay. So I’ll only submit to agents who are a good fit. How do I find that out??

Research!! Research!! And more research!! 

Newsletters like Publishers Lunch and sites like Publishers Weekly contain valuable information about deals being made and what’s going on in the industry. This can keep you in the loop about what specific agencies are looking for, or where they think the industry is trending.

Websites like Writer’s Digest have all kinds of agent lists to give you a good starting point of who to look into.

Social media like Twitter or Facebook are excellent ways to learn a bit about the agent personally. You can learn a lot from reading through their posts. You may even find them talking about their MSWL (manuscript wish list)!!

Blogs like this one! Kathy frequently has wonderful posts about what an agent or publisher is looking for. You can also check out blogs like Guide to Literary Agent, and Literary Rambles.

GOOGLE THEM! (Did you know Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary officially listed “Google” as a verb in 2006? Crazy!!)  

Before submitting to ANY one, I do a THOROUGH Google stalk… I mean search. I read and re-read every interview I can find with them it. I look at what conferences they attend and what organizations they are a part of. I look up who their past and current clients are and read interviews of them.

And it’s worth it. Being able to say in my query letter that I was drawn to their definition of literary development in their 2007 interview with such-and-such is a great way to show that I’ve done my research!

Which leads me to my last…. And possibly most important point:

BE HONEST! Most of this is obvious. Don’t say you attended a conference they were at if you didn’t, don’t say you were referred to them by someone if you weren’t.

But it’s more than that.

You don’t want to portray yourself as someone you’re not. Don’t say you align with their thoughts on where MG novels were trending towards if you really don’t.

Oh why not? What’s the harm of buttering them up a bit? It doesn’t REALLY matter.

But it does.   In this relationship, trust and honestly MATTER.

While there is obviously no need to tell them you do NOT agree with a comment they made, or hated the last book deal they signed, it can be detrimental to the future relationship to say anything that is not an accurate representation of who you are, as both a writer a professional and a person.

The relationship with your future agent will be a give and take that will rely on trust and mutual respect. As innocent as it may seem, you do not want this connection to start off based on a bait and switch tactic.

When you DO land an agent, it will become an important relationship in your life.

Like other important relationships, not everyone is the perfect match and there is some vetting out that is done on both sides before coming together.

You and your agent will join forces and present your manuscript — your blood, sweat and tears, your creation — out into the world. You don’t want that to be a person you just picked off of a list!

It’s worth it, to do the footwork, see who’s out there, and truly find the place your work will be happiest to call home.

______________________________________________________________

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

Thank you Erika for another great post.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

 


Filed under: Advice, Art Exhibit, Author, How to, inspiration Tagged: Erika Wassall, Guest Blog Post, Jersey Farm Scribe, Researching Agents

4 Comments on Researching Agents – Erika Wassall, last added: 5/14/2014
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13. Join Us on BlogTalkRadio's World of Ink Network show Stories for Children

The Stories for Children show is on Mondays and hosted by Mom's Choice and Award-winning Author Virginia S Grenier, who is joined weekly by guest authors to talk about writing for children and/or their favorite children's/YA books. Grenier, with her guests, hope to not only share their love of the written word, but also what makes a good book for young readers and much more.


This week on Monday May 19, 2014 at 3pm Pacific - 4pm Mountain - 5pm Central - 6pm Eastern, Grenier will be joined by two members of the Utah Children's Writers blog team.

Our guests are: 
Scott Rhoades has enjoyed writing since he was about five years old, when he used to make his own books by tracing pictures and making up stories to go with them. He especially enjoys writing stories set in the Middle Ages. He was a technical writer for Novell, Inc. from 1992 to 2007, after starting his career at Atari in 1988. He currently runs his own company, Write Field Documentation Services, LLC. He is also on the Board of Directors of The Tiferet Center, a center for Jewish education, ritual, and community service based in Vermont. Learn more at http://www.scottrhoades.com/index.html

Julie Daines spent eighteen months in London where she studied and fell in love with English Literature, Sticky Toffee Pudding, and the fellow who ran the kebab store around the corner. After editing for other authors, she decided to take up writing again--this time in the young adult genre. Learn more at http://www.juliedaines.com/

Writers are invited to call-in during the show at (714) 242-5259 or join us in our chatroom located on the show page (http://www.blogtalkradio.com/worldofinknetwork/2014/05/19/utah-childrens-writers--the-stories-for-children-show)!

Learn more about our shows and network at our website http://worldofinknetwork.com
Find great books and articles on our blog or follow us on our Facebook Fanpage

You can also catch the show through Facebook, Twitter, itunes and many more!

Listen in Monday May 19th at 4pm Mountain at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/worldofinknetwork/2014/05/19/utah-childrens-writers--the-stories-for-children-show

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14. TYING YOUR NOVEL INTO THE CORE CURRICULUM

WoCCover01A few weeks ago I was out with Darlene Beck Jacobson and she started talking about the work she was doing to develop a curriculum and study guide for her debut book that is coming out in September.

I asked her to share what she was doing with all of you, since we can all learn from each other.  Here is part one of the three part series.

TYING YOUR NOVEL INTO THE CORE CURRICULUM By Darlene Beck Jacobson

Schools are changing. So are the curriculum requirements. With teachers being squeezed for time and tight budgets limiting purchases of “frivolous” things like fiction for the classroom, what can we writers do to give our books a fighting chance on classroom reading lists?

You can develop a CURRICULM GUIDE and STUDY QUESTIONS to tie into the Core Curriculum Content Standards. For my historical middle grade novel WHEELS OF CHANGE, which takes place in 1908 Washington DC, I developed a curriculum guide on the second wave of the Industrial Revolution. (see attached)

I also did a separate set of Study Questions that tie into Reading and Literature objectives. (see attached) You can do the same thing for your novel…even if it isn’t historical. Begin by generating questions that fit the Reading and Literature sections of the standards. Then look for the universal theme or ideas that would generate good classroom discussions on topics that cover important issues such as war, homelessness, divorce, illness, poverty, prejudice, etc. These topics can be part of Science, Health, and Social Studies units. Fellow writers have even tied their books into art and music areas as well.

You can also develop worksheets, puzzles, games or other reproducible activity sheets that teachers can use in the classroom. Everything you can do to make life easier for a teacher, will help make your book stand out from all the others that cry for attention in the curriculum.

To learn more about Common Core Standards visit: www.commoncorestandards.org

PART II: Curriculum Guide tomorrow

Darlene Beck Jacobson has loved writing since she was a girl. She also loves bringing the past to life in stories such as WHEELS OF CHANGE (Creston Books), her debut novel.    Her stories have appeared in CICADA, CRICKET, and other magazines. Her blog features recipes, activities, crafts and interviews with children’s book authors and illustrators. She still loves writing and getting letters. Check out her website at: http://www.darlenebeckjacobson.com

WHEELS OF CHANGE is due out on September 22, 2014.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

 


Filed under: article, How to, reference Tagged: Common core Guidelines, Curriculum Guide, Darlene Beck-Jacobson, Study Guide, Wheels of Change

6 Comments on TYING YOUR NOVEL INTO THE CORE CURRICULUM, last added: 5/27/2014
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15. Strategies for Pricing Your Illustrating Work

directoryofillustration

f+Jlogo

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.

Introduction

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/.

Post-Submittal

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,

Kathy


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

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16. The Surprising Magic of “Cookie”

Once again, crisis and injury averted thanks to a clever dog training technique I learned from master trainer April Bush.

A little background: Last fall while we were backpacking in the San Juan range of the Rocky Mountains, I heard some commotion one morning coming from the area where husband and dogs had gone off to retrieve our food bags from where we hung them in the trees overnight to keep them away from the bears.

Our younger Lab, Baby Moose, aka Baby Danger, was only about 10 months old. He’d already earned his nickname when he was 5 months old and jumped from a moving car just because that seemed interesting. He rolled several times, just a ball of whirling black fluff, while I watched in horror before catapulting out of the car myself, but by the time I reached him he’d already stood up and shaken it off like it was no big deal. “What are you looking at, Mom?”

Baby Danger.

So now fast-forward several months and I’m hearing his unusually deep, serious bark coming from that area where bear bags are hung. Then I hear my husband shout, “Moose!” and then even more loudly, “Robin!” And that’s never good, because it usually means there’s some sort of emergency calling for my wilderness medical skills.

Great.

So I start fumbling into my boots, but before I can get them on I hear my husband tell Moose very calmly, “Go show your mom.”

And here comes trotting toward me, very proud, Baby Danger with a face full of porcupine quills. Twelve of them. While our older dog had the sense to keep his distance from the porcupine they both found, Moose went right for it. Why not? Looks interesting. He didn’t even seem bothered by all the needles stuck in his snout–at least not until I started prying them out one at a time with the plier setting of the multi-tool I was happy we brought along.

So now here we are, six months later, and you’d think the dog had a sense of history or self-preservation or just some sense in general. Nope.

Baby Danger

Baby Danger

Yesterday while he and I were cross-country skiing in some beautiful woodlands, he suddenly veered off toward a tree. I kept skiing, not thinking anything of it, until I once again heard that deep, manly bark of his that only seems to come out when he’s found something particularly dangerous and worth chasing.

I quickly reversed course.

Moose stood at the base of a tree, barking his lungs out at a huge beach ball-sized porcupine perched on a low branch only about a foot above him. Well within quilling distance. The porcupine kept puffing himself larger and doing this cool trick where the spikes rolled in a wave across his back as if someone were running a hand over a fresh buzz cut. It was impressive, but also kind of awful. Because any second those quills were going to start shooting into my dog’s face.

I shouted, “Moose, leave it!” and “Come!” but as you can imagine, boring commands like that were nothing compared to the thrill of a treed beast.

But I had one more command in my arsenal. The magic one I’d learned from April.

“COOKIEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!”

Moose tore himself away from the porcupine and came racing toward me. Unbelievable. I opened up my treat bag and let the heavens rain treat. Because that’s what the special word “Cookie” has come to mean. It has to mean that every time.

Here’s what April taught me: Come up with some special word that you only use in the most dire circumstances when you really, really need your dog to come to you. Maybe it’s because he’s about to run out into traffic, or he’s chasing something he shouldn’t, or he’s a black dog who’s run off into the darkness at night and you have no hope of finding him otherwise.

“Cookie” is a good word to use because you can really draw out the sound. Anything ending in an “ee” sound is great.

To build the power of the special word, you start using it a few times a day at unexpected, random times. You’ll always want to have a good supply of your best treats on hand–the thing that makes this word so special is that the dog really hits the jackpot of treats once he responds.

The first time, stand close enough that your dog can see you. Then call out the word with as much enthusiasm and volume as you can. The dog won’t quite understand what you’re doing this first time, so open your hand and show the monster mound of treats. Yes, lad, you get every one of these if you come.

Do it again some time later that first day, standing just out of sight of your dog. See if he remembers what happened last time. He probably will. Again, huge jackpot of great treats, one after another for about 30 full seconds. You want this to be the most fabulously-rewarded command in your entire arsenal.

And a key part of the training is that it has to be a totally positive experience. You can’t use “Cookie” and then leash up the dog or put him in his crate or do anything he might not have come running for if he’d known. In a crisis situation you are going to hold on to him and probably leash him up, but he doesn’t need to know that right now.

Do it about 3 times a day for a week. Then just once a day for the following week. Then every other day, gradually tapering off until you do it once a week. The whole process should take only a few weeks, but it’s worth continuing to strengthen it weekly.

Because there will come a time, just like my experience yesterday, when you’re going to want your dog to remember how fantastic it is to drop everything and run for the Cookieeeeee!  I cannot tell you how happy and relieved I was that it worked.

Me sportin' the ever-trendy treat pouch.

Me sportin’ the ever-trendy treat pouch.

The down side, from a fashion standpoint, is that you’re going to end up wearing something like this hot-looking number whenever you go somewhere where you’ll have your dogs off-leash. I know, I know, you’re insanely jealous right now. I understand.

The alternative is to carry a bunch of great, smelly treats in your pocket, and maybe end up like Elaine in that Seinfeld episode where she’s running from a pack of dogs because she’s hidden mutton in the pockets of her coat. Don’t ask why. Just watch the episode.

So that’s my how-to for the day. If you have a dog like mine with a will of his own, you’re going to need some magic every now and then to keep him out of danger. I don’t know if this will work on Moose every time, but I’m grateful it worked yesterday.

Peace out!

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17. Body Language: Gestures

Gestures are not random. They have purpose. They illustrate. They convey the words we do not speak. They confirm, deny, or emphasize what we say. People "talk with their hands."


Gestures vary from person to person and culture to culture. People can have nervous ticks. They can have "tells" that indicate they are lying, anxious, or unhappy. Use gestures wisely.

If a gesture begins before the words, it is a sign of honesty.

If a gesture lags after the words, it's considered a sign of dishonesty.

A gesture can be involuntary but squelched by the character. This is especially true if he is angry with someone he cares about or fears.

Gestures include: 

air kisses 

averted gaze 

bared teeth 

biting cuticles, hair, lips, or nails 

blowing raspberries 

bowing 

chewing inside of lips or cheek 

crossing ankles 

crossing/uncrossing arms 

crossing/uncrossing legs 

curtsey 

cuticle picking 

elbow bump 

eye rolling (or eye-ball rotating) 

eyebrows lift 

eyebrows wrinkle 

finger curling 

finger pointing 

fist shaking 

fist swinging 

flapping hands 

flicking fingernails 

fingernail tapping 

genuflecting 

grasping elbows 

gripping hands 

hands behind back 

hands over face 

hands over heart 

hands together 

hands wide 

hat tip 

index finger raised 

kowtow 

lip curls or purses 

looking down 

looking up 

looking to the side 

lowering arms 

lowering hands 

middle finger raised 

mooning 

mouth purses 

mouth tightens 

nodding 

nose thumbing 

nose wrinkles 

pointing 

pouting 

raising arms in the air 

rubbing earlobe 

rubbing fingers 

rubbing hands 

scratching 

scratching chin, ear, nose, or throat 

shaking head 

shrugging 

sneering 

sticking out tongue 

swinging legs 

slash throat with hand 

smoothing hair 

tapping fingers or toes 

tucking legs under 

thumbs up 

thumbs down 

thumb to the side 

tightening fist 

tugging clothes 

tugging an ear 

tugging hair 

saluting 

sweeping hands 

waving 

Keep this list handy and add to it. 

When revising, cut repetition and make sure the gesture is used for a good reason at the right time.

Next week, we'll discuss eye contact.

All of the information on body language can be found in Story Building Blocks III: The Revision Layers.

http://www.amazon.com/Story-Building-Blocks-III-Revision/dp/1475011369

http://www.amazon.com/Story-Building-Blocks-III-Revision-ebook/dp/B007SPPL68

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18. 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:

gideonelliott3cover

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.

gideonCOVER_1_rough

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.

gideonCOVER_2_line

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.

gideonCOVER_3_line_tone

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.

gideonCOVER_4_color

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.

gideonCOVER_5_hilites_etc

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

gideonCOVER_6_pixglow

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.

gideonCOVER_7_FINAL

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.

gideonCOVER_alt_arms

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.

gideonCover_alt

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.

gideonCOVER_FINAL

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

gideon12

My favorite illustration in this book.

gideonELLIOT_2_05

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.

gideonelliott2cover

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

Yes. I have a BFA from Cooper.

gideonElliotPixiePlot_COVERrough

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.

gideonelliott2interior

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.

gideonELLIOT_11

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.

gideon18

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.

gideonelliott1

gideonCOVER_rev_small1

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.

gideonelliott1intervior1

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.

gideonELLIOT_23

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.

gideonELLIOT_eagle

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.

gideonELLIOT_2_09rev

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.

 

gideonELLIOT_2_22_rev

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.

gideon28

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.

gideonELLIOT_2_11

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.

gideon29

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.

gideonbats

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.

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

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

gideonwatertower

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.

gideon

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….

gideonseems

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.

gideonCover
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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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

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

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Have worked with any educational publishers?

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

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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.

gideondinopet

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.

gideonDPG2S_tall

Do you think the Internet has opened doors for you?

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

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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

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

gideonLordSterling

What do you feel was your greatest success?

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

gideonsky

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

GideonKendall_HolidayCard_sm

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.

gideonanim_bg1

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…

gideonSMARTEST_1

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

I do. I use an OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA.

gideonFunnyPharm

gideonjazz

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.

gideontree

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).

gideonanim_bg32

Do you use Photoshop or Corel Painter with your illustrations?

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

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

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

gideonBG_art

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

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

gideonanim_char1

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

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

gideon20011_FINAL

What are you working on now?

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

gideonsnackbar

 

gideonsteampunkkid

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.

gideonSEED_AI

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

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

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

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


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

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19. Because You’ve Secretly Wanted To Do Stunt Work

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

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

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20. 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,

Kathy


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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21. Beginning the Green Smoothie Phase of My Spring Cleaning

As you may have been able to tell from my recent photos and posts, I was skiing up until a few days ago. Just arrived home to the desert where it’s already 92 degrees. It’s a little . . . jarring. Dogs are looking at me like, “What the–?” and while they’re busy shedding as much of their fur as possible–I’ll be able to knit a new Labrador in about a week–I’m taking my own measures to adjust to the almost summer.

It’s a two-phase action plan: Clean my house, clean my body.

Believe it or not, the body part of it is much simpler. All I have to do is switch out of winter eating mode (soups, sandwiches, pastas, sweets, sweets, more sweets) and turn to my old friend the green smoothie.

Also known as Baby Poop.

Why Baby Poop? Because if you saw the way one of my green smoothies has traditionally looked–dark brown, sometimes brownish-red, with hints of green flakes–you’d say, “Yeah, good luck with that, think I’ll have a salad.” But for some reason, I’ve been out of the salad mood for about a year now. Can’t explain it. So I’m just going with it.

The thing that’s going to banish the baby-poopedness look of my smoothies from now on is that tomorrow I’ll be getting this nifty machine that actually has a proper motor. I discovered while skiing that that’s been the whole problem with my green smoothie life. I just haven’t had enough power.

I made that discovery by watching someone else make one for me. The things she put in there! (To be discussed below.) And by the time she poured it into a cup, the liquid was this beautiful, light green, and instead of tasting gritty and *good for me,* it tasted smooth and delicious, more like a dessert. Which, see above re: winter diet, sold me.

But even better, the smoothie fixed me.  Day after day I’d stumble into that place, start croaking out ingredients–”Dates! Cashews! Oh my gosh I’m about to pass out–coconut! More fat! Bring it!”–and the lovely proprietoress, Gretchen, would keep adding and adding (see below) and then give me basically a cup full of green medicine.

I have never recovered from a big physical effort more quickly and more deliciously. That’s what I’m saying. That’s why I’m trekking down the Green Smoothie Way.

I’ll be experimenting with new recipes as I go, and I’ll post some of the best ones here, but let’s start with the Skiing Kicked My Butt recipe that got me through:

  • Big handful of unsalted cashews
  • Normal handful of unsalted sunflower seeds
  • One heaping teaspoon peanut butter
  • Big handful of dates (about 5)
  • One banana, preferably frozen to give the drink some thickness
  • Big handful of strawberries, also preferably frozen
  • Normal handful of blueberries (optional–makes the color a little weirder, but tastes good)
  • Two heaping teaspoons cacao (unsweetened cocoa powder will do) (also optional, but wow)
  • One teaspoon coconut (optional, but yum)
  • Three huge leaves of kale or Swiss chard, stems and all, ripped into pieces and layered on top
  • About 1/2  to 1 cup of peach, pear, or apple juice
  • About 1 1/2 cups pure water–start with 1 cup, then add more as you assess the thickness. Some people like their smoothies thicker, some more liquidy. You’re the boss.

I tried this in my regular blender, but no. Baby poop. I’ll take a photo of the proper green smoothie once I try it with my new machine tomorrow. You’ll see. Fresh and spring-looking.

Onward, green smoothiers!

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22. Creating Your Own Flourish List

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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23. Reference Links to Help With Query Letter Writing

CarolynSchlamPINKGLASSES

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

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

Queries Not Questions

by Leslie Zampettis at Rear in Gear.

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

AgentQuery

Chuck Sambuchino’s Guide to Literary Agents

Successful Queries (a subsection of the above guide)

Preditors and Editors

Publishers’ Submission Guidelines

JacketFlap

SCBWI BlueBoard

 8 Steps to Finding the Right Agent

 Critiquing First Pages and Queries

10 Questions to Ask an Agent

Kidlit.com – Queries

How to Write the Perfect Query Letter

Query Shark

Query Tracker

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

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

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

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

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

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

 


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

3 Comments on Reference Links to Help With Query Letter Writing, last added: 4/15/2014
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24. Becoming the Possible You

I’m reading two great books right now by Jean Houston: The Possible Human : A Course in Enhancing Your Physical, Mental, and Creative Abilities and A Passion for the Possible: A Guide to Realizing Your True Potential.

The premise of both is this: We’ve heard all our lives that we’re only using a tiny fraction of our brains, but then . . . we just accept that and move on. Why not instead retrain ourselves to use more of the hidden brain? Why not make the effort to access more of our potential in thought and behavior?

The thing I love about her books is she doesn’t make it hard. You don’t have to go to some boot camp of personality reconditioning where you sort out all your problems and your flaws and then sweat your way through getting rid of them.

Jean Houston’s books are relaxing. Her mental and visualization exercises are some of the best I’ve ever read and tried. I’ve turned other people onto her books, and they agree: it’s all so easy. And fun and (here’s that word again) relaxing. I’m into any self-improvement that makes me feel like I’ve been at a mental spa for half an hour, or even for five minutes. And some of her exercises take that little time.

One of my favorite visualization exercises of hers is walking up to a giant oak door that has a sign above it saying Room of the Skill. Deciding what skill you’d like to learn in there, then entering and feeling it in the air all around you. Maybe you’d like to learn to play the violin. You enter and violinness is already sealed into that room, and it starts seeping into your pores and you breathe it in and it sticks to your hair and it soaks into your bones.

There are other parts of the visualization that are important to gaining the skill–and I urge you to read the books to really get the full power of them–but I really love just that opening image of It’s already here. You’re already getting it. You don’t have to wait.

I’ve mentioned before my experiments in getting over my fears by just postponing when I want to feel them. The Jean Houston books open up another way of becoming what she calls The Possible Human. And what we’ll call The Possible You.

Let’s say you believe you have certain personality and physical traits: you’re shy. You’re not good at sports. You get angry easily. You’re a slob. You overeat. Whatever it is, I’m sure you could make up a list of four or five things right now with no effort.

What if you just decided Not anymore? And what if you also decided that there didn’t have to be any steps in between now and that next thing. You could just stop what you were doing before and start doing the new thing right now, right away, just decide.

Years ago I read a story in some Norman Vincent Peale book about a salesman who was having a really hard time. He couldn’t meet his sales goals, he felt awkward and ineffective around people–he was, in short, a failure.

And he got tired of that. Got tired of constantly having to stress over his paycheck and his bills, got tired of feeling so inadequate at a job where he actually meant to do well.

So one night he came home from another unsuccessful day on the road and decided That’s it. Enough. He peeled off his unsuccessful suit and took a bath. And decided during that bath that when he stepped out, he was a new man.

He threw away the old suit. Went out and bought a new, successful one (not expensive, just new. Different). And without waiting to go through some 9-step program of becoming a successful salesman, he just was one. He decided. He started behaving the way a successful salesman already does. No explanation to people who saw the change, no need to announce it to the world, just Do. Go. Be him.

By the end of the year he was the top salesman in the region. It looked like magic, but it was really just change. Deciding and then changing–right away.

I’ve done that, too. There was a time in my life when I got really tired of feeling shy. It was making me feel bad in social situations and even just stepping out my door into the world. I didn’t like it. It was a bad habit I’d picked up somewhere in my childhood, and I’d acted like it was just the way things were for the next however many years.

But one day I just told myself, “I’m not shy anymore.” And then in every single situation from then on, I made all my decisions based on that new law. I’d smile at people. Be friendly. Laugh when I felt like it. Little moments all day long, every day, when I let myself be different than I had been for years and years.

And what was key to pulling that off was I didn’t feel the need to explain the change to anyone. I got to skip all the steps of changing a little bit one day, a little bit more the next. I was like that salesman taking a bath and coming out a new person.

If anyone did ask me about the difference, I’d just say, “I’m not shy anymore” and move on. People don’t really need more explanation than that. They’re usually too busy thinking about their own lives.

I’ve also done the experiment with physical skills like athletic pursuits. Instead of telling myself “This is hard! It’s going to take a long time to learn this,” I’ve practiced just already being good at it. Letting it come easily instead of going through the performance of pretending to myself it’s difficult.

So much of what we do when we hold ourselves back really is performance. It’s theater. We’re so comfortable in our role of being shy, awkward, bad at math, a bad cook, bad at sports, ugly, scared (fill in your own blank) we just keep playing that part without ever realizing it’s only a part.

But if instead you start picturing The Possible You, the one who looks a certain way, is confident, has awesome skills, is friendly and happy (fill in your own blank), and then you just go ahead and begin being that version of you, right now, no middle steps, no announcements to the world–isn’t that a much better way of evolving into the next stage of you right now? Isn’t it time? Why do you have to wait?

In a way, it’s reverse-engineering your life. You think about how you’d like to be when you’re 80 or 60 or 19 or even a week from now, and rather than just hope you’ll turn out that way, you go ahead and become that right now. Skip all the time and skip all the steps.

The only steps you really do need to take are behaving the way that version of you behaves. Every moment of every day. And that includes reading the books that person reads, spending time with the people that person loves to be around, maybe taking the classes that person takes to learn the skills he or she loves to have.

And it means changing the things you hear yourself say. Because your ears are hearing it and your brain is taking it in. When you make a new choice and hear yourself say, even if it’s in a whisper just to you, “That’s right, because I’m not shy anymore,” it solidifies that new Possible You that you’ve become. Not “are” becoming, but “have become.” Because you already did that the moment you decided.

Why have I written this entire essay? For a couple of reasons: I’m not shy anymore. I love sharing my experiments and experiences with others. I’m completely confident writing in public and letting other people see my work.

I wasn’t always that way. But then I decided.

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25. The 100 Things You Keep Meaning To Do

You never know when you might “accidentally” be inspired in a very large way by a stranger you meet at the dentist’s office.

We were both early, waiting for our cleanings, I was reading a book and she pulled out her knitting. I said, “Oh, isn’t that so relaxing? I used to love knitting.”

“It’s like a meditation,” she agreed.

“I only know how to knit,” I said. “I never learned how to purl.”

“You could take a class,” she suggested. She asked what part of town I live in, and told me about a knitting store nearby.

And that’s when it got interesting.

Because she told me that for the past few years, she’s made a point of taking classes in all the things she’s ever wanted to learn: ballroom dancing, horseback riding, knitting, etc. But here’s the key: she fully commits to learning whatever it is, but only for one month. And at the end of that month, she moves on to something else.

Back up for a second. I’m familiar with Life Lists. I made one for myself about fifteen years ago, listing all the places I wanted to go, the new skills I wanted to learn, the other changes I wanted to make. It’s why I finally ended up writing my first novel. And also seeing a real Broadway show, learning martial arts, going on a Jane Austen tour in England, and all sorts of other interesting things.

But this woman, Danetta, took the Life List concept and made it better. Simply by putting a time limit on the things she was going to try.

She started the way a lot of us do, making an exhaustive list of absolutely everything she’s ever wanted to do and to learn and all the different trips she wanted to take. After that “brain dump,” she had a list of about 100 items. Big things from exotic travels to little things like getting a pedicure. Anything that sounded interesting or fun made it onto the list.

Next she organized her list into several categories: Health & Fitness; Travel; Friends & Family; Home; and Personal Growth/Learning Adventures. (I love that term learning adventures!) Then she made herself a schedule.

She knew if she wanted to try as many things as possible during the year and still give herself sufficient time to enjoy each activity, she could commit one full month to whatever she wanted to do. Twelve new activities every year, and they could be from any of her categories.

So one month she might tackle some home project she’d been meaning to do, and the next month she might take Czech lessons or hike as many miles as she could.

In the Friends & Family category, she made a list of all the friends and members of her extended family that she wanted to see more often, and made a rotating schedule of lunches, holiday gatherings, and other ways she could guarantee she kept in touch with all of them throughout the year.

In the Travel category, maybe she couldn’t take a big trip that particular month, but she could do all the research for it: look up airline prices, look for hotels, study a little of the language if she were going abroad.

And if it turned out at the end of the month that she had had her fill of a particular activity–like reading the Classics (because face it, a little of The Iliad and The Odyssey goes a long way)–she could move on knowing she had done it, tried it, and could check it off her list.

But if it turned out to be an activity she loved, like writing a novel, she could add it to her life more permanently.

It reminds me a little bit of Gretchen Rubin’s book The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun. The difference is that Gretchen picked themes for every month, like working on her marriage, being a better parent, learning to have more fun in her life, and then worked on the whole category. I prefer Danetta’s strategy of choosing just one item on her list and really devoting herself to that. It seems easier and more doable.

And you just gotta love that whole short-term commitment thing. Get in there, try something in an intense, concentrated way, then move on. Yes, please.

I’ve done something similar by pretending every summer I’m sending myself to summer camp. I pick a few skills or crafts I want to try–like learning archery or how to make fire from scratch, or taking a beginning drawing class–and that’s something to look forward to when the temperatures here reach 117. At least I can go play at something for a while. Preferably somewhere that has air conditioning.

This summer I’m going to learn how to make lotion from scratch. I’ve already found a bunch of instructional videos on YouTube, and that will be my project for July. I might also take a sewing class. Who knows? I haven’t exactly decided on my themes for camp this year.

So there’s some inspiration that I’m happy to pass along to you. And it comes at a great time, since we’re about to enter a brand new month. What do you want to do with the remaining 8 months of this year? If you create your own list of everything you’ve ever wanted to do and try and learn, which 8 things could you start giving yourself right away?

And as always, if not now, when?

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