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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: SCBWI, Most Recent at Top [Help]
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1. Close to the Bone: KA

Hi, folks, I've been writing a series all about  a time in my twenties when I was part of religious cult. Last week I wrote a heart-breaking story from my past about G and his sad demise. This is my version of the Valley of Dry Bones from the Book of Ezekiel. I'm calling it Close to the Bone. This is the final in the series.

Toward the end of the dark days of the cult, I was failing around for purpose. A teacher from college, Dr. Van Riper, ran into me at the supermarket and demanded to know why I had three children instead of writing books for children. I had no answer. She'd told me what to do, and I'd ignored her.

 I was slowly waking up in these days. God's chosen people were now looking like a bunch of uneducated country folk, plus a bunch of kids that had choked on embracing the future after college. That's when I saw the ad in the newspaper about some group called SCBWI.

Fellow-shipping outside the church was forbidden in manipulative, oblique way, but this was business so I figured God would give me a pass. I remember heading to that first meeting and feeling so welcome. There were 8 or 9 women and they were so gracious and kind.  I remember the first conversation  in a long time without having to say praise the Lord or how God was directing me every third word.  I also remember KA. She was a real author and the leader of the SCBWI group. Her first picture book had come out but she talked to me like I was a colleague. Bam, I was in the inner circle.

I can not tell you  how much KA's leadership meant to me. I tried to keep secret from the church my fraternizing with the world.  KA was a Unitarian. That was something I was supposed to fear. Of course, by now, I understood that I was supposed to fear everything, and it was sort of ridiculous and tiring. KA believed in me as a creative person. She never let me feel like I was a little off with my long dresses and three kids in three years. She accepted me just as I was. It was the most Christian thing I'd ever experienced.

I remember being invited to another SCBWI member's house called DC. I had friends outside the church for the first time in almost eight years.  I was hanging out with a group of women, totally normal women with varied backgrounds. It was sort of dizzying. I was supposed to have left the world behind but now I sneaking back into it. Oh, and the big problem? I loved it.

SCBWI became an island of normal in my life. Like Phoenix, I was rising from my ashes. KA tried to convince me to go to Los Angeles for the annual conference. I chickened out but her encouragement planted a seed in me.  KA convinced me to volunteer for events, write letters to editors, and even submit my drawings to the SCBWI Bulletin.  My first credit was as an illustrator in the Bulletin.  I was so proud. I was engaged in the pursuit of liberty.  I had expressed myself.  I made $50.  It was mind-blowing.

When Tim and I decided to move away the place we had known such tragedy, KA continued to encourage me until I left town.  I have no idea if she had any idea of how lost I was, and how much I needed help to become a normal person again.  She never said anything when the sorry story of my entire life was reported in the local newspaper. KA encouraged me creatively, commenting on my work and giving me suggestions, and once she sent me a card stating there would be a day when she said she knew me when.  She bridged the way for me to absolutely normal. I turned into the funky person I had been before all the religious nonsense.  I came to my senses.

Well, this is end of these posts and also time for big news. My blog is moving over to Niume.com.  I hope you consider following me an my content there.  You will receive updates of posts if you follow me on Facebook, Twitter, or tumbler.

One of those early drawings. I sent to the Bulletin on a notepad paper, a big no-no. Sm bought them anyway.




A quote for your pocket:

My people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them; I will bring you back to the land of Israel.13 Then you, my people, will know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves and bring you up from them. 14 I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I the Lord have spoken, and I have done it, declares the Lord.

Ezekiel 37: 12b-14

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2. SCBWI British Isles - 20-year Celebration!

SCBWI British Isles is 20-years-old! To celebrate, our Southeast Scotland division had a picnic in the Princes Street Garden just below the statue of Wojtek the Bear.

Kelly and I were the first ones to arrive - here we are with the castle in the background.
We set out my blanket and it quickly expanded with fellow SCBWIers and more blankets all around. And the weather, which was supposed to be a little dicey, was perfect.
Something nice happened this day. It was the first time I participated in an SCBWI even where I really felt like I was getting to know people - where I was surrounded by (albeit new) friends.
SUCH a nice feeling. We all talked about books and art. Three of the 6 illustrators in the group found each other.
We made plans for a future get-together at Waterstones. Our Regional Advisor, Sheila Averbuch was thrilled with that and the high attendance to report back to the main British Isles folks. (She's on the left.)
I thought I'd have time to kill before the panel I was attending at the Book Festival. But no - we all chatted for hours!
Truly, that's what SCBWI is all about - finding your peeps, a place to feel at home, you tribe. I love that I can find that anywhere in the world!

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3. Writing with Emotion: A Review & a Giveaway of Ida, Always

Ida, Always is a gentle and honest picture book for helping young children deal with and talk about loss. It's also an excellent mentor text you can use in writing workshop.

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4. Classroom Takeaways from #NJSCBWI16

Sharing some highlights from the New Jersey Society for Children's Book Writers and Illustrators Annual Conference, which took place this past weekend.

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5. Ten Things That Taught Us To Be Better Writers

Hi, All! Stephanie here with my buddy, and fellow Pub-Crawler, Stacey Lee, with a post that we hope has a little something for everyone, regardless of which stage you’re at with your writing career.

  1. Watching Television Pilots. This is one of my favorite things to do in the fall.   Television pilots are similar to first chapters; they need to establish characters, tone, setting, time, and place, and most of all, they need to hook viewers. Analyzing how they do this is a great way to sharpen your craft. Favorite pilots include Alias, Lost, Chuck, Revenge, and the Blacklist (which has an amazing hook near the end).
  1. Saying Goodbye to Old Manuscripts. Writing a book is a huge accomplishment. It’s also a very time and soul-consuming task, so we understand how hard it is to trunk manuscripts, especially those that come close to landing agents, or getting sold. But sometimes old manuscripts can be like old relationships, it’s not always possible to make room for the ones unless you’ve let go of the old ones first.
  1. Judging Writing Contests. Not only is this a great way to give back to other writers, judging contests will sharpen your skills as a writer. It’s one thing to read blog posts by agents or other writers about what does or doesn’t work in manuscripts or query letters, but it’s a different thing to see it when going through contest slush piles. After reading hundreds of Pitch Wars entries as mentors, we saw first hand the importance of a strong first line, the danger of a weak first line, why it really is a bad idea to start with a character waking up, and just how powerful good comp titles can be. Not to mention contests are an excellent way to meet fellow writers (see number 9 for more on this one).
  2. Attending the Big Sur Children’s Writer’s Workshop. For California writers this workshop almost feels like a rite of passage. Held twice a year by the Andrea Brown Literary Agency, the Big Sur Children’s Writer’s Workshop is known for not only its gorgeous location, but for its intense and honest workshops. If you’re a writer who has not yet found an agent, we highly suggest this workshop because it’s a great way to find out from professionals just where you’re going wrong with your writing—it’s also an excellent place to meet other writers.
  1. Attend Bookish Events. This can be conferences, book signing, panels, festivals, or other things we’ve never heard of, as long as they involve books and people. If you read our conference post  last month you probably you know why we think conferences are so valuable, but they are not the only events we recommend. For example, if you are a debut author, attend as many launch parties and book signings as you can—not only is this an excellent way to support authors, but once the time comes to launch your book, you’ll have lots of ideas for what makes a great launch. And there is always something to be learned by hearing other authors speak about their work.
  1. Entering Contests. There are a ton of free contests that not only can help you improve your writing, but can be useful when it comes to querying. Stacey submitted the manuscript for UNDER A PAINTED SKY for a critique at her regional SCBWI conference, and not only did the amazing editor Sara Sargent provide valuable feedback, Arthur Levine chose it to receive the conference award. She’s certain that my mentioning this award in her query letter helped it stand out.
  1. Finding a Critique Partner. We can say with 100% certainty that our critique partners have improved our writing and we’re not just saying that because we are critique partners. A good CP can help you identify and strengthen your writing weak spots, help you brainstorm, and take you out for pearl milk teas when you need them. And on the flip side, when you critique another’s work, it improves your own writing in much the same way that spotting spinach in someone’s teeth makes you check your own teeth.
  1. Join SCBWI. The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators is an invaluable source of support for the kid lit community. In addition to amazing conferences and classes, they offer grants, awards, mentorships, and they foster connections with industry professionals. We encourage you to become a member, and to become active with your local regional chapter.
  1. Make Friends with Other Writers. The more supported you feel as a writer, the happier writer you will be, and the more productive you will become. Engaging with other writers not only helps you keep abreast of what’s happening in the publishing industry, it can lead you to discover critique partners, writing contests, agents, and more.
  1. Good books inspire. A good read reminds us of why we do what we do, and pushes us to do better.

Now we’d love to hear from you! This list could go on and on and we’d love to know what items you would like to add to it.

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6. Edinburgh City of Literature

How nice to find today's workshop featured on the Edinburgh City of Literature site! I'll be talking about creating Picture Book Dummies to a sold-out group of attendees at the Edinburgh Central Library on the George IV Bridge. Can't wait! (Click the image to read more.)

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7. 2016: SCBWI Bologna Illustrator Interview: Paul O. Zelinsky

By Elisabeth Norton
for SCBWI Bologna 2016
and Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations

Paul O. Zelinsky grew up in Wilmette, Illinois; the son of a mathematics professor father and a medical illustrator mother. He drew compulsively from an early age, but did not know until college that this would be his career. 

As a sophomore at Yale College, he enrolled in a course on the history and practice of the picture book, co-taught by an English professor and Maurice Sendak. This experience inspired Paul to point himself in the direction of children's books. His first book appeared in 1978, since which time he has become recognized as one of the most inventive and critically successful artists in the field. 

He now lives with his wife in Brooklyn, New York. They have two grown daughters.

Among many other awards and prizes, he received the 1998 Caldecott Medal for his illustrated retelling of Rapunzel, as well as Caldecott Honors for three of his books: Hansel and Gretel (1985), Rumpelstiltskin (1987), and Swamp Angel (1995).

Spring is the season of the Bologna Children’s Book Fair, so I thought I would focus on the business side of illustration today. Can you tell us about how you as an illustrator are selected to work on a picture book project?

Other than through the occasional subliminal suggestion I plant in the illustrations of my published books (painting “HIRE ME!” upside down in the trees outside of Rapunzel’s tower and so on), I don’t know how I get chosen.

My work looks awfully different from book to book, but I imagine that an editor or art director who ends up contacting me is thinking of one look in particular, and they might mention that to me, though they may not end up getting it. Also, from my third book on, I have tended to keep working with people I’ve worked with before, so those publishers know more what they’re getting into. On my end, what happens is that I get a call or an email. 

Could you describe your involvement in the process, from the time you are contacted about a new project, through the creation of the illustrations, to the finished book?

I usually want to stick my nose into all stages of the creation and production processes, but as I try to do it in a nice way and, I hope, not out of a personal need for control but in the spirit of collaboration, I’ve rarely had trouble.

So it usually begins for me when I get a phone call or email from a publisher, either asking if I’m available or just sending a manuscript, and I can sometimes tell pretty quickly if I think it’s a good idea for me on or not. Sometimes I don’t know and I mull.

My first criterion (and I’m sorry if this seems pompous) is whether the story makes me think that our overcrowded world, with no shortage of books in it already, would be notably worse off without this new addition. (Which is sort of like saying how much do I like it, but not quite). Then I imagine what kind of art I’d like to see illustrating the manuscript and at that point I can usually tell whether I’d get excited by the prospect of trying to make that kind of art.

Then, if it’s a go, come all the stages you probably know about in the making of an illustrated book. If it’s a picture book, that means breaking the manuscript up into pieces that fit in a 32- or 40-page book (publisher tells me what’s possible)—not a simple job if you want to do it right.

At the same time, I try to imagine the best size and proportion for this book, long before having any idea of the content of its pictures. Then with text decided for each spread I’ll very, very crudely rough out an array of thumbnail sketches, trying to establish the dynamic of the storytelling through the pictures, the content and composition of each illustration.

After or during that time, I’ll be casting around for what the characters should look like, and I’ll be thinking about the style I want the drawings to display. This is intimately connected to the choice of medium, so I’m thinking about that, too, and probably doing a lot of testing on scratch paper.

If I get the thumbnail sketches working, I’ll go to a full-sized, or at least not-so-little dummy, in black pencil, with text placed on the pages.

The dummy can be very rough, too, and I am generally willing to risk showing it to the publisher even before, say, I have any idea of what the characters will look like.

I like feedback, and things like pacing can be judged without other important features yet in place. I might also put the pictures together with text in InDesign, at least as a preliminary version before the art director gets to work on it.

When the designer does join in, I’ll want to be part of her or his process, too. Then there is research, refining sketches, working out color, checking with editor and art director all along, and working and working and working on finished art.

How involved is the art director or author in determining the style of the artwork for a particular project?

The style of my artwork has to be determined by me, to the extent that I can control it. I think the author should have a role in choosing an illustrator, and if there’s a wish to have the book look a certain way, that could be part of the manuscript’s presentation to me at the outset. But in fact this rarely happens. I think publishers are interested in seeing what I come up with.

It has happened that after seeing what I come up with, they aren’t convinced. Then it becomes a conversation, or a discussion, or a debate, in which at the end everybody needs to be on the same side. And I can be convinced that I was wrong, at least if I was wrong.

Do you ever revise your illustrations based on feedback from the art director or for other reasons?

I make lots of changes based on suggestions. Art directors and editors I work with often have great ideas that I didn’t think of, or can point out features in my drawings that I then realize were not so great. I believe we are all devoted, at base, to creating the best possible book. So if I’m given a suggestion that I don’t feel good about, I will say why, and another conversation can begin.

I will try to convince the other parties that I have important and valid reasons for seeing things my way, or point out (if it’s the case) that their suggestions might have problems they may not be considering, and at the same time they’ll do the same to me.

In the end, with very few, minor exceptions, I don’t think any book I’ve worked on has left anybody feeling that the wrong path was taken.

What is the typical timeline, from receiving a commission, to submitting the completed artwork to the publisher?

I’ve rarely managed to finish illustrating a book in less than a year. That has been about the average, I think, but I’m usually not able to start work on a manuscript right when I receive it, so it’s hard to pin down the time it takes when I’ve got a couple of projects waiting to be begun for a couple of years, and I’m already thinking about all of them a little.

You have said in the past that you have created many of your picture book illustrations using oil paints. When that is the case, how is the final artwork submitted to the publisher?

Art that isn’t digital to begin with needs to be scanned, and it is still the case that publishers use scanners or cameras of a higher quality than almost any individual illustrator would have access to.

I’ve talked to some younger illustrators who scan their reflective art and deliver electronically, without even considering that they could or should deliver the actual art on paper. That is really the preferable way to go. Oil paints have the reputation of not drying, but my oils are usually dry within a day, or at least dry to the touch. There is an additive you can put in your painting medium to speed the drying, and if I’m running very late I will sometimes mix in a little more of this desiccant, or I will avoid painting with pigments I know are slow-drying and favor the faster ones, if possible.

Although I won’t scan my own oil paintings (my scanner picks up reflections on oil paint’s shiny surface for every little textury bump in the paper), I’m not above asking for the high resolution files that the publisher gets from their scanner, and sometimes even before first proofs, going in digitally to fix things I didn’t manage to do correctly in the art.

After a book is released, what kinds of promotional activities do you as the illustrator engage in to support its release?

The more the merrier, I say. I’m on Twitter (@paulozelinsky) and Instagram (paulozelinsky) anyway, and while I don’t like self-promotional posts, when a new book is coming out, there is plenty of interesting information to share. I go on Facebook, too, but only privately for my personal account. I would prefer that people I don’t know personally “Like” my Facebook author page.

Z Is For Moose fabric, suitable size for quilt
I’ve had some ideas for contests and a raffle for prints of the cover art of a book. Sometimes the publisher has given me great support and help. But I’ve also done a raffle or two on my own.

In general I do these things because they seem like cool things to do; I don’t know if they have in any way helped sales—in fact I doubt it. Also, I like to create a repeating design based on almost every new book, and have it printed on fabric (at spoonflower.com). People can purchase it on their own, by the yard (though they don’t), and I can have some of made into a shirt or a vest (which I do). Not so long ago I couldn’t decide on color choices in one of these patterns, so I conducted an online vote; that was fun.

An additional layer of attention has sometimes become available to me that would be harder for most illustrators to garner, in that a few of these larks I’ve gone on were interesting enough that Publishers Weekly has written about them, or the Horn Book. But only after a friend pushed me into asking these journals if they’d like to write about it.

I’ve made ties that go with my books, as well as shirts and a couple of vests, and I wear this special apparel (in moderation!) whenever there’s an appropriate event.

And yes, school visits are great. I love to do them with or without a new book. There is nothing better than to see groups of children appreciating the very things you spent so much time and effort on in the solitude of your studio, a year or more earlier.

When it comes to visiting schools I tend to be passive, waiting to be asked, but it’s not out of line to approach and let schools know you’re available if they’re interested. School visits not related to a book tour are a source of income; as part of a book tour, arranged by an independent bookseller, I’m happy to give one presentation to a school, but not the three or four I’d give if it were a paid arrangement.

Are there some new releases we should look out for?

Actually, no. It will be a long time before anything new comes out. After the recent Toys Meet Snow, it’s going to be quite a while until the next thing.

But one brand-new release that is partly mine is the 75th anniversary edition of Make Way for Ducklings. I was very honored and excited (you can imagine) to be asked to draw a pictorial map of Boston that would be included with the book and a CD recording in a boxed set. That edition is just out now, I think.

I had a wonderful time researching what Boston looked like in 1941 (if felt like detective work), and illustrating parts of the story in the appropriate parts of my map, which is really an aerial view as much as it is a map. My drawing didn’t reproduce every single building in and around Beacon Hill, and I had to squash some blocks down in size for the picture to fit the proportions of the paper, but it’s pretty faithful to reality, I’d say.

You’re going to be one of our dueling illustrators at the SCBWI booth at the 2016 Bologna Children’s Book Fair. How often have you visited BCBF?

Publishers always told me, when I asked about Bologna, that going there was not something I would want to do, or should. It was only for brusque, publisher-to-publisher deal-making and if I went I would be in the way.

I first came to Bologna anyway in 2006, because after planning a family trip to Venice, I decided to look up the Bologna fair and discovered that it started immediately after we were going to leave Venice, and Bologna was an easy train trip away. And then a friend told me that SCBWI was holding a full-scale pre-conference in Bologna on the weekend leading up to the fair. I was able to get a spot on a panel, and then when I asked publishers again, they told me I should go after all, and helped me find a hotel room (almost impossible just a month before the fair). And I enjoyed it tremendously!

So after that first wonderful time there, I’ve been going back almost every other year, and continuing to enjoy it tremendously. Where else can you see virtually every children’s book published in the world in the previous year? I see a lot of editors that I know, as well as the great SCBWI community, so it’s an occasion to hang out with friends, and I must say that eating is a large part of the pleasure.

I think the Bologna fair has been changing, and now you see a greater presence of book creators among the sub-rights sales force and the editors. Mostly these are just people coming on their own, but now very occasionally they are even being sent by their publishers.

SCBWI isn’t putting on Bologna pre-conferences any longer, but they have an active booth at Bolognafiere every other year. Of course my favorite activity is the dueling illustrators tradition, which is huge fun. And this year the booth is bigger than ever before.

How can visits to fairs such as BCBF benefit an illustrator’s career?

I haven’t used my trips to the fair in a practical or useful way from the point of view of career-helping. But I’ve seen illustrators come away with publishing deals: it can happen though I’m not positive how it’s done.

SCBWI itself can facilitate this, because you can arrange for a period of time when you sit in the booth and basically represent your books to passersby like all of the other publishers with booths there.

There’s also a wall at the fair for illustrators to put up their promotional cards, and publishers look through them (although there are so many cards by the end of the fair that it seems like an awfully long shot).

European publishers set up periods for open portfolio-viewing, and illustrators line up with their work in hand, to be seen by an art director in the flesh.

Do you have any advice for a first-time visitor to BCBF?

If you have published already, and are thinking of visiting Bologna, definitely ask for advice from your U,S, publisher. If you have ever had a book picked up by a foreign publisher, it would be a great thing to arrange to meet that publisher’s representatives in Bologna. This will make you more of a real person to that publisher rather than just a subsidiary right they purchased.

SCBWI offers various good opportunities to get your work seen, so definitely arrange your visit with SCBWI in mind. Even if you’re not trying to network or push your career forward, hanging out (and eating out!) with SCBWI folk is reason enough to make the visit a fun time. Many but by no means all of them are of US origin, but they live all around the world.

What’s your favorite thing to do in Bologna, apart from visiting the BCBF?

Did I mention eating? Well, other than that, Bologna has some fantastic museums. Besides the main art museum (the Pinatoteca) there is a fabulous Medieval museum.

On the other end of the spectrum, there is a museum devoted entirely to the generally under-appreciated painter Morandi, although I think it may be closed temporarily and its collection shifted to the Modern Art Museum. There is plenty more to do in Bologna, and don’t forget about the eating.

People say that Bolognese food is the best in Italy, and although that kind of claim is sort of meaningless, it is probably also true.

Thanks so much for taking the time to talk with me today. It was great to see you at the Book Fair. I really enjoyed watching your duel with Doug Cushman at the SCBWI booth during the fair!

Thank you! The pleasure is mine.

Cynsational Notes

Elisabeth Norton grew up in Alaska, lived for many years and Texas, and after a brief sojourn in England, now lives with her family between the Alps and the Jura in Switzerland.

She writes for middle grade readers and serves as the regional advisor for the Swiss chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.

When not writing, she can be found walking the dogs, playing board games, and spending time with family and friends. Find her on Twitter @fictionforge.

The Bologna 2016 Interview series is coordinated by Angela Cerrito, SCBWI’s Assistant International Advisor and a Cynsational Reporter in Europe and beyond.

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8. Poet Tree


Apparently, it's Poetry Month.

Only, I've been a little distracted.
I skipped off to the city
for my local SCBWI meeting -
an art show,
a lecture from book-wise and witty
editors Mary Kate Castellani and Caroline Abbey,
and then a consultation and workshop with
art director, professor, and story genius Joy Chu.

This is the same Joy who guided me over the last two winters
in visual storytelling classes through the UCSD online extension program.

I'm still reeling with inspiration.
I could have listened for days. Months. Years.

Now I'm home, all bright and hopeful,
waiting for my brain to shape so many beautiful tips
and ideas into working order.
Time to let the front thoughts simmer.  
Time to play with poetry.

We started with a poet-tree.

The wildebeests and I cut out branchy trees and labeled each branch with simple word:
sky, go, sea, etc.
 
Next, we cut out dozens of leaves - in all flutters of color,
because it just looks more exciting that way.

Each branch grew rhyming leaf words:
sky = cry, my, pie, etc.


Because we like to make life even more thrilling, and sometimes complicated,
I thought it might be fun for the older wildebeests to thread their leaves on yarn.


Winnie added a button.


Pip used gold pen. She's really into gel pens lately.

And their finished masterpieces.

I'd love to meet a tree like this someday, shimmering with colors, yarns, and words!
I think I'd move in.


I'll share more poetry play next time.

Until then, here are a few favorites:







A Kick in the Head, An Every Day Guide to Poetic Forms - compiled by Paul Janeczko, ill. by Chris Raschka
The Random House Book of Poetry - edited by Jack Prelutsky, ill. by Arnold Lobel
Switching on the Moon - collected by Jane Yolen and Andrew Peters, ill. by G. Brian Karas
Chicken Soup With Rice - by Maurice Sendak
When We Were Very Young by A. A. Milne, ill. by Ernest Shepard
Now We Are Six By A.A. Milne, ill. by Ernest Shepard






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9. Postcards and clever cows


Guess what came in the mail? 
Here's a hint: they rhyme with "host-guards" and "wizness-bards."

Don't they look exciting?

I'm pretty smitten with the packaging from Moo.
I think they know about the little party that happens whenever new cards come.
Happy dance. Confetti.
They even send encouraging little notes that say things like, "you're delightful."

And can you see the cutest little business card box ever?
Even the postcards come in their own box.
Genius.

My husband heard me squealing to the postcard boxes,
"You are so cute! You are so clever! I love you. You are fabulous!"
He thought I was talking to my art.
Nope, just the gorgeous packaging. 
And I do love the way my cards look and feel,
so I suppose I was cheering for me, too.

Well done, Moo.
But maybe I'll keep my crowing in until everyone's asleep.  






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10. 2016 SCBWI Bologna Illustrator Interview: Lisa Anchin

By Angela Cerrito
for SCBWI Bologna 2016
and Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations

Lisa Anchin has been drawing since she could hold a pencil and making up stories since she could speak. 

She grew up just outside of New York City, passing briefly through Massachusetts where she picked up a B.A. from Smith College, and then she returned to New York to work and to later pursue additional graduate degrees—an MA at Columbia and an MFA at the School of Visual Arts. 

Lisa now freelances full time as an illustrator and designer. She is the illustrator of A Penguin Named Patience by Suzanne Lewis (Sleeping Bear, 2015). Her second illustrated book, I Will Love You, by Alyssa Satin Capucilli will be released in spring 2017 (Scholastic). 

When not in her studio, she can be found haunting one of the many cafes of the five boroughs, sitting with a bucket of tea and scribbling in her sketchbook. She lives in Brooklyn with her partner in crime and a not-so-little black cat.

Congratulations on your work "Happy Birthday Fox," being selected as a finalist for SCBWI’s Bologna Illustrators’ Gallery. It's on display at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair. What was the inspiration behind Happy Birthday Fox?

I’ve been trying to expand my palette, so as an exercise, I’ve started picking colors that I don’t generally use then planning an illustration based on those colors.

"Happy Birthday Fox" was one of these painting exercises.

The mustard, aqua, orange, bright magenta, and lime green felt like party colors.

But rather than the moment of the party itself, I wanted to illustrate that contented, happy sigh moment that comes after the party has ended.

You are the illustrator of A Penguin Named Patience (Sleeping Bear, 2015). What was it like illustrating your first children’s book? Were there any unexpected developments?

A Penguin Named Patience was my first illustrated book and an interesting challenge.

Serendipitously, I actually received the offer only a few days before I left for a trip to New Orleans for an illustrator’s weekend. While I was there, my fellow illustrators generously agreed to accompany me on a visit the Audubon Aquarium, so I could take reference photos.

I was able to photograph the penguin enclosure and the South African penguins featured in in the book. That was a really luck coincidence, and then the publisher also sent additional images of Tom, the penguins’ keeper, and videos of the penguins’ triumphant return to New Orleans.

I had never made such a large body of work on a single subject before. That in and of itself was an experience. Before I began work on the final pieces, I did quite a few character studies and color tests. I wanted to make sure that everything would be consistent throughout the book.

Overall it was a really wonderful experience. Not to mention, drawing penguins is a pretty great way to spend your workday.

Tell us about your school visits? I imagine students are excited to learn about Patience and the other penguins who were rescued after hurricane Katrina.

My school visits have been really rewarding. The first one I did was actually at my old elementary school. The kids I’ve spoken with are always excited that the book is based on a true story, and that Patience was a real penguin living at the aquarium at the time of the storm.

After reading the story together and answering their questions about the reality of what happened and the making of the book, I like to draw with the kids. I usually start by talking about South African penguins before taking them through the basic steps to draw Patience.

With older kids, I can also talk about storytelling, character development, and how to visually emphasize your protagonist, especially when all of your characters are a single type of animal and all look very similar. I love watching the kids draw and seeing the characters they imagine and create.

What is a typical work day like for you?

On studio days—I also freelance at a publisher doing book design during the week—I’m usually at my desk by nine. I set aside some time in the morning to take care of business related things—emails, invoices, etc.—and then I begin with warm-up sketches.

Sometimes these are drawings of the characters for the project I’m currently working on, but usually I use it as free drawing time. Often these open, sketch-anything moments lead to nuggets of ideas for future stories.

After my warm-ups, I dive into work, which ranges from writing, thumbnailing images for a new dummy, sketching, working on color studies, or painting a final piece.

The actual work of the day depends on where I am in a project. I try to take small breaks as I work—for a new cup of tea, to play with my cat, or just to stand up and stretch—and I always take a long walk in the middle of the day, which inevitably includes a stop at the library three blocks from my apartment on my way home.

What are you working on now?

As of this week, I just finished the art for a new book called I Will Love You, written by Alyssa Satin Capucilli and being published by Scholastic in the spring of 2017. It’s a lovely story, told from a parent/care-giver to a child. The text uses beautiful, lyrical language, and is a non-linear narrative, which allowed me to stretch my imagination. It was a joy to illustrate.

I’m also working on a number of my own stories, and I often have a few in progress.

If I get stuck on one project, I can put it aside and work on another until I’m ready to return to the first.

Right now I’m juggling work on an entirely new manuscript with revisions on two book dummies—one is a story about a precocious little plant and her garden and the second features a character that I’ve been calling Little Viking.

Do you have advice for artists who are just getting started in the field of children’s illustration?

Childhood Painter
First and foremost, join SCBWI. Between the conferences, the technical and professional information, and the community, the organization provides an unparalleled wealth of resources for someone new to the field. I owe much of my career to SCBWI, and I specifically want to emphasize the importance of the community generated by SCBWI.

As illustrators and writers, our work is largely solitary, and it’s so important to find a group of like-minded folks. They can both provide moral support on those hard-to-work-through days of doubt, and also honest feedback on your work.

If you don’t yet have an agent, editor, or art director to turn to for creative feedback, it’s helpful to have critiques from peers. I still look to my illustration critique group for a first round of editing and feedback well before I pitch a new story or dummy to my agent.

Cynsational Notes

Angela Cerrito is a pediatric physical therapist by day and a writer by night. She thinks she has the two best jobs in the world.

Her latest novel, The Safest Lie (Holiday House), was named a finalist for the 2015 Jewish Book Award, a Sydney Taylor Notable Book for Older Readers and a Notable Social Studies Book for Young People.

Angela coordinates the SCBWI Bologna Interview series, volunteers as SCBWI’s Assistant International Advisor and is a Cynsational reporter in Europe and beyond.

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11. SCBWI Bologna 2016 Illustrator Interview: Rahele Jomepour

By Angela Cerrito
for SCBWI Bologna 2016
and Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations

Rahele Jomepour was born in Mashhad, Iran. She moved to the United States in 2011 and graduated with MFA in Visual Arts from Iowa State University in 2015. 

She is a professional children's picture book illustrator and painter, living and working in a tiny city of Ames in the state of Iowa. 

Rahele has illustrated seven children’s books, including Donkey in the Woods, The Great hunting, The Lion and the Rabbit, The Grape Garden. Follow her Instagram/blog.

I really enjoyed the detailed coffee cup illustrations on your website. What inspired this set of illustrations?

I started to draw on paper coffee cups right after I came back from the SCBWI conference in Los Angeles, summer 2013. I was overwhelmed with a lot of fabulous information I had received from the workshops and people who share the same love of picture books.

I actually went to the university’s coffee shop and ordered my regular coffee. While I was reviewing my notes from the conference, I started to just draw on my paper coffee cup as a mental break.

Suddenly I found the surface of the coffee cup very smooth and very friendly to work with in pencil. I looked around and imagined myself and other people as different type of animal characters - rabbits, dogs, cats, etc. Later, I started to think how cool it would be if I kept all of my coffee cups every day and instead of drawing in my flat sketchbook, use my coffee cups as my daily round sketchbook.

This unique dimension altered my understanding of composition, forgoing page borders in exchange for unending movement. I found this idea to be vital in illustrating a story - propel the viewer toward a world without borders and limitations imposed by the edge of a page.

All drawings include every simple joy we have in our routine life and sometimes we forget about them. The illustrations help my audience to take a look back into their inner child and invite it to come up and play the life and enjoy the freedom of uninhibited self-expression. This open-ended approach to storytelling helped me find a new style in illustration.

You categorize your children’s art in your website into two categories “fine & detailed” as well as “loose & simple.” Is this a decision you make before starting on a piece? Or is it something you decide after completion?

Mostly this is an afterthought. Some works are highly detailed images of simple ideas, other times they are sketches containing a great deal of meaning. These categories describe how I’m feeling at the time.

Some works I really focus on, and curate every detail. Other works I’m just not so patient with, and need to just get the basic point across and move on.

But the major differentiation is not always in terms of graphic detail. Sometimes I spend extra time on subtleties that illustrate complexities of life, whereas other times I just want to make something that is easy for people to relate to.

There are times in our lives when we look at every little detail, and focus on it intently, and other times in our lives where we just want to ‘take it easy’. I only make the distinction on my web site to aid the viewer, not necessarily to define my work.

What was the inspiration behind "Donkey in the Forest," your piece that was a finalist for the SCBWI Bologna Illustrators’ Gallery?

"Donkey in the Forest" was part of a series of images associated with a series of books I recently completed with a publisher in Iran. These books were part of a national curriculum that millions of young people took part in, as part of national testing.

I was honored to be included in this project, as it drew on stories and themes that have been part of Iranian culture for hundreds, even thousands of years. Stories are the conduit of human understanding through the ages. It is through metaphor that we grow and maintain a sense of who we are, our place in this world, and our duty to grow.

The donkey represents so many aspects of humanity. His reflection is our reflection, and through his life experience we evaluate our own. Have we grown? Have we been content with our own understanding of the world? Is it a fact that everything we believe is true?

Letting go, and connecting with the small animal that is ourselves is a step toward understanding these broader issues. The donkey is simply a trusted friend with whom we can travel, each on our own unique journey.

How has your art changed over the years?

Art for me over the years has changed with my life, as anyone else. As a teenager in Mashhad, Iran, I was interested in testing limits as any normal teenager would. I felt lost and alone, burying myself in books and culture well past the limits of my own neighborhood and city in an attempt to know that which is not widely known, or see that which is not readily available in a confusing and contradictory world. In my twenties, I was concerned with independence and growing past my preconceptions of those expectations upon me. There were a number of pieces of art that I produced that I was excited to publicize, but I knew better as it may have proven difficult for my family or detrimental to my career.

I grew past this impulsive and sometimes mischievous phase into my thirties as a master’s student at the University of Tehran. Unfortunately, I had not yet understood the boundaries and cultural limitations that my work tested, and I left before I was finished with my MFA.

Since coming the U.S., I have tempered my message, working to understand the deeper meanings of my roots, while also refining and broadening my messages to appeal to a wider variety of audiences, enabling people to think and question the world around them without fear of persecution.

The donkey relates to us that we are all put on this Earth to live, and breathe, and feel and love, right or wrong, and that it’s ok to relate to an image that may reflect our emotions at the time. The donkey also carries with him the test of human character over time, that all of our cultures have come from somewhere, and are worthy of patience and understanding.

What are you working on now?

I have several projects at the moment. Project Art at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics is part of the “Percent for Art”--an effort promoting education and cultural understanding within public spaces.

Two projects focus on public spaces and our relation to them. The BenchMarks project in Iowa City takes a simple public object, a bench, and creates a metaphor for public engagement, encouraging passers-by to relax and enjoy a peaceful moment that their community has provided.

The second project is through City Sounds, The Des Moines Public Piano Project. This project takes used pianos, subjects them to visual artistic interpretation, and places them throughout the greater Des Moines area in attempt to draw out and engage the public in well-mannered frivolity under the sun, with music and sound at their fingertips.

I have also begun collaboration with a New York agency working on a new and evolving project focusing on education-oriented work for school-age children.

What advice would you offer someone just starting out in the field of children’s book illustration?

The common adage in writing is “Write what you know.” Illustration is no different, in that one should illustrate what they see, both through their eyes and through their mind.

Likewise, this is not as easy as it sounds, so don’t be afraid to see things differently. Not every dimension is well-defined, and not every answer is questioned.

Cynsational Notes

Angela Cerrito is a pediatric physical therapist by day and a writer by night. She thinks she has the two best jobs in the world.

Her latest novel, The Safest Lie (Holiday House), was named a finalist for the 2015 Jewish Book Award, a Sydney Taylor Notable Book for Older Readers and a Notable Social Studies Book for Young People.

Angela Coordinates the SCBWI Bologna Interview series, volunteers as SCBWI’s Assistant International Advisor and is a Cynsational reporter in Europe and beyond.

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12. Lucky?

 SCBWI's drawing prompt for March is LUCKY.
I got to thinking about luck,
and what it means to me. 
With or without four-leaf clovers, book contracts, 
double-rainbows or pots of gold,
I am wishing-wells full of the best kind of luck.

I have beauty all around me -
in sky and earth, 
in people with all their glorious quirks,
in a roof over my head, clean water,
in laughter and forgiveness.

And I am free - 
free to write, to make art, to learn,
dream, wish, pray,
to hope.

I believe thankfulness and hope can fill the darkest sky with stars.
That's my kind of lucky.

Books:

The Wishing of Biddy Malone by Joy Cowley, illustrated by Christopher Denise
The Woman Who Flummoxed the Fairies by Heather Forest, illustrated by Susan Gaber
Green by Laura Vaccaro Seeger

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13. Rahele Jomepour Bell – Illustrator Interview

I encountered Rahele’s work through this year’s Tomie de Paola SCBW illustrator competition where the prompt was: to illustrate a moment from a passage from Philip Pullman’s version of “Little Red Riding Hood” from FAIRY TALES FROM THE BROTHERS GRIMM (Viking, … Continue reading

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14. SCBWI New York Highlights

I’m finally sifting through all my notes and experiences from my trip to New York. It was a cold weekend to be in the big apple, with temperatures outside hovering in the single digits. Despite the frigid weather we were warm and safe inside the hotel, surrounded by a star-studded faculty of kidlit experts. Here are just a few of the highlights:

Watercolor and pencil sketch of a street in New York from the sketchbook of Jessica Lanan

From the sketchbook

Two-time Newberry Honor winner Gary Schmidt made everyone cry about five different times during his moving keynote about the importance of writing for kids. He emphasized that writing should be an expression of empathy and compassion: we must “show up” instead of leaving the reader behind. I can’t do Mr. Schmidt justice, so I’ll just encourage you to read all of his heartrending books and leave you with a quote:

“Writing should be an act of empathy in a broken world. What ails you? That is the question we ask.” – Gary Schmidt, author

If you’ve ever submitted a manuscript exactly one time and, upon receiving a rejection letter, decided to give up: William Joyce, Oscar winner and acclaimed writer and illustrator of dozens of books, received over 250 rejection letters at the beginning of his career. So maybe it wouldn’t hurt to keep revising and try again. He also offered this advice to illustrators on finding your voice:

“Find the artists you love, find out what you love about them, and then… steal.” -William Joyce, author/illustrator and filmmaker

William Joyce speaking at SCBWI NY 2016

William Joyce speaking at SCBWI NY 2016

Newberry Honor and Coretta Scott King award-winner Rita Williams-Garcia made everyone laugh during her keynote about the “Dos and Don’ts” of writing. Her witty anecdotes shed light on the hard-earned successes and naive missteps along the road to publication.

“Do live with gratitude. Do live in the plan. Do what you’re doing.” – Rita Williams-Garcia

The delightful Sophie Blackall inspired everyone with the story of how her personal project to illustrate the Missed Connections column on Craigslist helped to jump-started her career. She also shared stories and photos from her travels working with Save the Children and other humanitarian organizations, and gave us a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at all the research and love that went into this year’s Caldecott winner, Finding Winnie. She signed my copy of book and even drew a little sketch in it!

“Do that thing that’s just for yourself, because it’s almost always your best work.” -Sophie Blackall, author and illustrator

Sophie Blackall signs a book at SCBWI New York 2016

Getting my book signed.

The conference also featured several panels representing editors, art directors, publishers and agents who offered a broad perspective on the state of the industry. There was a lot of encouraging news about the health of children’s literature and plenty of sage advice for aspiring authors and illustrators. Here are a few quotes that stood out:

“You’re only as good as the people you work with.” – David Saylor, Creative Director at Scholastic

“Don’t take shortcuts. If you put everything you have in [your work], you can’t fail.” – Holly McGhee, Agent at Pippin Properties

“You have something that no one else has, and your job is to figure out what that is.” -Cecilia Yung, VP and Art Director at Penguin Random House

“Know your competition. […] Your competition is everything kids are doing other than reading books.” – Andrea Pappenheimer, Director of Sales at HarperCollins

 

 

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15. 2016 SCBWI Bologna Author Interview: Christopher Cheng

By Patti Buff
for SCBWI Bologna 2016
and Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations

Christopher Cheng is the award-winning author of more than 40 children’s books in print and digital formats. The picture book New Year Surprise! is his latest publication. 

His other titles include the picture books One Child, Sounds Spooky and Water, the historical fiction titles New Gold Mountain and the Melting Pot as well as the nonfiction titles 30 Amazing Australian Animals and Australia’s Greatest Inventions and Innovations

His narrative nonfiction picture book Python, was shortlisted in the 2013 Children’s Book Council of the Year awards, and was listed as of “Outstanding Merit” in the 2014 edition of Best Books of the Year for Children and Young Adults, selected by the Bank Street College of Education Children’s Book Committee. 

In addition to his books, Christopher writes articles for online ezines and blogs, and he wrote the libretto for a children’s musical.

He is co-chair of the International Advisory Board for the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), an International Advisory Board Member for the Asian Festival of Children’s Content (AFCC) and a recipient of the Lady Cutler Award for Children’s Literature. 

He is also the director of the digital publishing company Sparklight. He presents in schools, conferences and festivals around the world and he established the international peer voted SCBWI Crystal Kite Awards. He dwells with his wife in an inner-city Sydney terrace and is often heard to say that he has the best job in the world!

Welcome to the blog, Chris! With much more focus on diversity in children's books than has been in the past, how important of a role do you think book fairs like Bologna play in introducing young readers to children from other countries and cultures?

They are critical - we move in a global sphere but we don’t all dress the same or say the same things or behave the same way thus it is important for today’s children, no matter where they are in the world, to be exposed to the authentic literature from other countries and cultures who tell ‘their’ stories with an authentic voice.

Any tips for new Bologna visitors?
 
• It’s big so enjoy the experience.
• Plan out what you want to see, make notes ahead of time and follow your nose.
• Make notes of what you see, how the books are displayed, how the different publishers publish their content, look at the types of books that the publishers and other organizations have on display - can you find a continual link between their titles?
Don't bug/hassle the publishers / agents / marketing folk etc. unless you have been invited.
Don't rush home (this is especially for those of the authorial persuasion) and write the book that you have decided is the ‘happening thing’ at Bologna. It will have already been done and dusted by the time you get down to it.
• There is a lot of ‘paper’ at Bologna - you can’t carry it all … but much of it will be digital!
Visit our SCBWI booth - we are your home away from home!
• And don’t forget to sample, no feast, on some of the amazing food that is available in Bologna.

Bellissimo!

You've had books published in markets all around the world. What do you think makes a book successful in all different types of markets?

Having a global theme, like peace/war/growing up, death, childhood, animals etc.

That said I know you can’t create a book that will fit all markets throughout the world. You have to create your own story!

I’ve read you do weeks and months of research for your historical fiction and that by the time you’re ready to write, the story has already been formulated in your head. Which I can imagine lends itself to easy drafting. 

But once the editing starts, have you had to ‘change facts’ for the story’s sake and if so, how hard has that been?

Easy drafting for sure … not so easy for editing though! There has always been too much in the story. I don’t think I have had to change the essential facts at all to ‘fit the story’ as my historical fiction has always been based on the facts themselves.

The facts themselves are often what make the riveting story!

You write for a wide range of ages and over a wide range of subjects and genres. What advice can you give authors who’d like to branch out and diversify their writing.

Know your audience. Know the genre. Know what you are writing. If it is factual - know the facts and that goes for authors and illustrators.

Write your story, and if it doesn’t work, then try it in a genre you are comfortable with.

And finally, what are you working on now? Any surprises you can share with us?

My newest title, birthed Feb. 5 is New Years Surprise! It was written to tie in with an exhibition of paper art and objects, that is being held at our National Library in Canberra (our national capital) on the Celestial Empire.

At this exhibition, visitors experience 300 years of Chinese culture and tradition from two of the world’s great libraries - the National Library in China and our National Library.

From life at court to life in the villages and fields, glimpse the world of China’s last imperial dynasty and its wealth of cultural tradition.

The exhibition (and thus, by association, my book) is being launched by the Prime Minister of Australia. Woo hoo--will have the glad rags on for that! There will be lots of twittering and facebooking going on!

That’s wonderful, congratulations! Not every author can say their book was launched into the public by the Prime Minister. 

Thank you so much for joining us, Chris. Have a great time in Bologna!
 
Cynsational Notes

Patti Buff
The tenth out of eleven children in a family that took in hundreds of foster kids, Patti Buff found solitude in reading at a young age and hasn’t stopped. She later turned to writing because none of her other siblings had and she needed to stand out in the crowd somehow.

Originally from Minnesota, Patti now lives in Germany with her husband and two teenagers where she’s also the regional advisor of SCBWI Germany & Austria.

She is currently putting the finishing touches on her YA novel, Requiem, featured in the SCBWI Undiscovered Voices 2016 anthology.

The Bologna 2016 Interview series is coordinated by Angela Cerrito, SCBWI’s Assistant International Advisor and a Cynsational Reporter in Europe and beyond.

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16. 2016 SCBWI Bologna Art Director-Author Interview: Laurent Linn

By Elisabeth Norton
for SCBWI Bologna 2016
and Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations

Laurent Linn, art director for Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, began his career as a puppet designer/builder in Jim Henson's Muppet Workshop, creating characters for various productions, including the "Muppet Christmas Carol" and "Muppet Treasure Island" films. 

With Henson for over a decade, he worked primarily on Sesame Street, becoming the creative director for the Sesame Street Muppets, winning an Emmy Award. 

Currently, at Simon & Schuster, Laurent art directs picture books, middle-grade, and teen novels, working with illustrators and authors such as Tomie dePaola, Patricia Polacco, Bryan Collier, E. B. Lewis, Raúl Colón, Debbie Ohi, and Taeeun Yoo

Laurent is on the board of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, and is the artistic advisor for the annual original art exhibit at the Society of Illustrators in New York. 
 
He is also an author: His debut illustrated teen novel, Draw the Line (Simon & Schuster), comes out in May. You can follow him on Twitter, Instagram, and facebook.

Laurent, thank you so much for taking the time to answer a few questions about the world of illustration in children's publishing, and about the SCBWI Bologna Illustration Gallery (BIG). 

As art director at Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, what is the importance of the Bologna Children's Book Fair to you and other publishing professionals?

The Bologna Fair has so much to offer everyone, and for a publisher like us, it serves more than one role. It’s a fantastic event to see what books are being published in other countries that we may want to acquire rights for to publish here in the U.S.

Also, we share certain books that we are publishing in the hopes international publishers will want to acquire, too.

In addition, we’re always on the look-out to discover illustrators from other countries that we’re not yet aware of — there is so much talent on display there!

What makes an Illustration Gallery such as the BIG at the SCBWI booth in Bologna interesting to publishing professionals?

In the U.S. and around the world, children’s book publishers know that SCBWI members are serious about their careers. So it’s understood that the illustrators on display at the SCBWI booth are both knowledgeable and professional — something very important to us when we consider hiring an illustrator who is new to us.

When an art director or publisher views an illustration showcase such SCBWI's BIG, is s/he looking primarily for illustrators for picture books, or are they also scouting talent for other illustration opportunities within the industry?

Speaking for myself, I always consider the strengths of each illustrator individually based on their work. For example, when I see someone whose strength is art that would be best suited for picture books, I may potentially keep them in mind for a future picture book. The same would be true of someone whose style is best for middle grade, etc.

Of course, many illustrators have different styles, which may be right for all types and genres of books, and I’d think about that as well.

Overall, I imagine that each art director and editor look for what he or she is publishing. Having said this, I do think the majority of art directors and editors at Bologna are looking at picture book illustration.

What makes an illustration stand out to you when you are serving as a judge for a showcase like BIG?

A few factors. Talent and skill as an artist is extremely important, of course. But I’m also looking for strong visual storytelling — children’s book illustration is all about a narrative. If a piece is more of a portrait or composed scene lacking story, that doesn’t show how an illustrator could visualize a key moment of a narrative.

Also, I’m always looking to see if an illustration has an emotional connection — readers need to be emotionally invested in a book’s characters.

I think many illustrators, when thinking of a career in children's publishing, think primarily of illustrating picture books. Yet there seem to be more and more illustrated middle grade series, graphic novels are very popular, and your own illustrated young adult novel, Draw the Line, is scheduled for release in the summer of 2016. Do you see a trend in the industry towards more illustration in books for older readers?

It’s such an exciting time for illustration in children’s literature! Picture books are being published with art using all kinds of media and in varied styles. More and more middle grade uses interior black-and-white illustrations within the pages, for all ages from young to pre-teen. And more and more art is even being used YA (young adult) fiction.

As you mention, my own debut YA novel, Draw the Line, has illustrations — 90 pages of art, in fact! It’s not a graphic novel at all, but is a traditional text novel that also has illustrations in it.

In my book’s case, the art is “drawn by” the main character, Adrian, but is of course really drawn by me. It’s a way to tell the story on a visual level to enhance the storytelling in the text. My YA is unusual in the amount of art in it, but we’re seeing more boundaries being broken down.

We have talented author-illustrators like Brian Selznick to thank in many ways. His illustrated novel The Invention of Hugo Cabret (Scholastic, 2007) really broke ground.

And then, of course, there are true graphic novels for all ages. A graphic novel differs from an illustrated YA or middle grade in that the format is like a comic book: The entire story is told through art panels with speech balloons and narrative text boxes.

However, now we’re seeing hybrid books that are mixing up all preconceptions, so who knows what comes next?

I love the idea of the illustrations in Draw the Line being “drawn by” the character! I look forward to seeing it when it releases. How important do you think it is for an illustrator to be an author as well? 

Every creative person is unique — many illustrators have no interest in writing or are not good writers, and many are extremely talented writers with a passion for it.

If you look at the most successful top illustrators in children’s literature, you’ll find those that also write their books as well as those who only illustrate books written by others.

For me and my colleagues, whether an artist is also a writer or not has no bearing on if we will work with them or not.

What qualities do you think are important for an artist to have in order to be successful as an illustrator in the children's publishing industry?

Certainly those creative elements I mention above: alent, a unique style and vision, good visual storytelling skills, and ability to bring an emotional connection to the art. But you must also be professional — children’s literature is a collaborative process.

In addition to being realistic and professional about deadlines, you have to keep in mind that art direction and editing are not personal judgments, but useful and necessary ways of communication.

Everyone in the process has her or his expertise, and we all want your book to be the best book possible. It’s a balance of creating a work of art yet being sure it sells and gets into the hands of readers who want and need it.

Another part of being a professional is making connections, getting your work out into the world to be seen, and being engaged in the children’s book world. For example, showing your art in the SCBWI Bologna Illustration Gallery!

Is there something that you think every illustrator should know, that I haven't asked?

This may seem obvious, but it can be easy to lose sight of: always be yourself! Don’t imitate others or create art that you may think art directors “want to see.” There certainly are artistic rules to follow, but within those parameters, find your own vision and dazzle us with it. Yes, use influences and inspirations in your work, but only as tools to enhance your singular style and vision.

Cynsational Notes

Elisabeth Norton grew up in Alaska, lived for many years and Texas, and after a brief sojourn in England, now lives with her family between the Alps and the Jura in Switzerland.

She writes for middle grade readers and serves as the regional advisor for the Swiss chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.

When not writing, she can be found walking the dogs, playing board games, and spending time with family and friends. Find her on Twitter @fictionforge.

The Bologna 2016 Interview series is coordinated by Angela Cerrito, SCBWI’s Assistant International Advisor and a Cynsational Reporter in Europe and beyond.

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17. Off to New York

Watercolor illustration of a carrier pigeon wearing a red vest on a rooftop in New York, by Jessica Lanan

Well, the bags are packed, the portfolio is printed, and soon I’ll be on my way to the Big Apple to schmooze with a bunch of introverted, book-loving nerds. At this time tomorrow I’ll probably be hurtling through the streets on an ill-advised taxi ride or something. I’ll let you know how it all goes (if I survive.)

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18. SCBWI Bologna 2016 Author-Illustrator Interview: Doug Cushman

Doug Cushman
By Elisabeth Norton
for SCBWI Bologna 2016
and Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations

Since 1978, Doug Cushman has illustrated over 130 children's books, 30 or so of which he wrote as well. 

Among his many honors, he has gained a place on the New York Times Children’s Best Sellers list and on the 2003 Children’s Literature Choice list.

The first book of his popular beginning reader series featuring Aunt Eater (HarperCollins, 1987) was a Reading Rainbow Book. 

He has received a National Cartoonist’s Society Reuben Award for Book Illustration, the 2004 Christopher Award for his book illustrations, a 2007 and 2010 Maryland Blue Crab Award and the 2009 California Young Readers Medal.

He illustrated the best-selling “Can’t Do” series, including What Dads Can’t Do (2000) and What Moms Can’t Do (2001) for Simon and Schuster. 


His recent titles include Pumpkin Time! by Erzsi Deak (Sourcebooks, 2014), Halloween Good Night (Square Fish, 2015) and Christmas Eve Good Night (Henry Holt, 2011), which received a starred review from Kirkus. His first book of original poems, Pigmares (Charlesbridge, 2012), was published in 2012. 

He has displayed his original art in France, Romania and the USA, including the prestigious Original Art, the annual children’s book art show at the Society of Illustrators in New York City. 

He is fan of mystery novels and plays slide guitar horribly. He enjoys cooking, traveling, eating and absorbing French culture and good wine—even designing wine labels for a Burgundy wine maker—in his new home in St. Malo on the Brittany coast in France.

Welcome Doug! Thank you for taking the time to answer a few questions about illustration and the SCBWI Bologna Illustration Gallery (BIG) at the Bologna Children's Book Fair.

You have had a long career in the children's publishing industry, illustrating both your own stories, as well as the stories of other writers. Do you have a favorite medium for illustrating children's books?

I love watercolor with pen and ink. There is so much expression one can have using ink line with the occasional “happy accidents” in watercolor. Pretty much all my books have been rendered in those two mediums.

It was more controlled in the beginning, but I’m trying to loosen up now. For a couple books I did everything: writing, watercolor illustration and hand-lettering the display type and entire text including the copyright. I even simulated aged, yellowing, lined notepad paper with watercolor, hand drawing each blue line on every page of the book.

My philosophy is: do whatever it takes to make the book work.

Has that changed over the years?

Moving to Paris loosened me up a bit. A few years ago, I rendered three books in acrylic, something I’d wanted to do. I love the bright colors and thick brushstrokes. I even added some collaged elements as well.

But, for me, the medium I use depends on the story. The technique I use to illustrate a book must complement the heart and soul of the story. An illustrator should never force his style on a text.

I’ve discovered digital painting recently. There’s a lot one can do with it. I’m having a grand time playing with my Wacom tablet, but I believe my training as a traditional artist has held me in good stead. Knowing the craft of drawing and painting has always helped me out with a multitude of problems! Yet, the story always dictates how I approach the way I draw my pictures.

So it varies from project to project. What influences your choice of style and medium for a given project?

Rackham
Shepard
The story is always the first thing that defines my approach to a project, even when I’m the author. An illustrator must read what’s between the lines as well as what’s on the page. The author is telling a certain story, the illustrations must work in harmony with the text.

A good example is The Wind In the Willows by Kenneth Grahame (1908). The master draftsman Arthur Rackham illustrated one (1940) edition.

He's a brilliant illustrator, one of my favorites. But his style was so wrong for the atmospheric and slightly goofy story (Toad driving a car!). He was perfect for Grimm but not for the animal denizens living along side an easy, flowing river. E.H. Shepard’s illustrations are spot on.

What qualities do you think are important for an artist to have in order to be successful as children's book illustrator?

Patience! Flexibility and a thick skin are paramount as well. This is a tough business. So many books are being published every year. But there’s always room for someone with a different voice, a unique way to look at the world.

Be aware of the trends but never be a slave to them. Follow what interests you. It may take longer but in the long run your work will be more sincere and that will catch the attention of editors and art directors. Honesty always shines through.

As writers, we talk a lot about voice, both the voice of the character, as well as our own authorial voice. Do illustrators have a voice as well? What about individual projects, or even characters?

Absolutely, illustrators have a voice. Like writers, it’s the way we see life.

In my case, I see the silliness, the zaniness in the world and through my characters, both human and animal. I’ve been told that one of the qualities people like about my work is the expression on my characters.

That’s part of my voice, my way of interpreting a text and the world in general, that internal struggle, waiting to get out. It’s like being an actor; artists must get inside the skin of the characters they’re illustrating, feeling what they feel. But, as I said earlier, the voice of the illustrator shouldn’t interfere with the voice of the author. They need to play off of each other, work in tandem together.

As a judge for the BIG, what makes an illustration stand out to you?

The BIG is a show of illustration, not just an exhibition of pretty pictures. I’m looking for art that is not only drawn and painted well, wonderfully composed and executed, but also tells a story.

I confess that much of what I see in the grand Bologna Book Fair judged art shows are marvelous paintings but they don’t tell any stories. We’re talking about book illustration here, art that serves a purpose. In many ways it’s harder and a much higher calling than easel painting.

I want to see something that dives deep into a story and tells me something in a way I haven’t seen or thought of before.

Why do you think participation in illustration showcases such as BIG is important for illustrators?

Exposure is one factor. Getting noticed. Working for a specific purpose is important as well. I’ve submitted illustrations to many judged shows with very specific criteria; size restrictions, medium, subject matter, etc. I haven’t always been accepted, but in the process of working on these pieces, I’ve learned something and expanded my working methods.

In almost every, case these pieces have always been the most popular and the most “Wow!” paintings in my portfolio. Picasso said a studio should be a laboratory.

I think shows like BIG can be a way to experiment with new ideas and techniques. Who knows? You may stumble across a way of working that may change your artistic career.

You have been to the Bologna fair on several occasions. How has your experience of the fair changed over the years?

I’m not sure that my experience has changed that much. But that’s not to say I’m bored!

It’s always exciting to see what’s being published around the world. I expect to see new things and I’m rarely disappointed. Of course digital publishing has grown since I started going to the book fair so it’s much more influential.

Through the years I’ve met more editors, art directors and illustrators so I know more people and it’s always fun to renew old friendships. And, of course there are the restaurants that I go to on a regular basis.

Over the years I’ve become friends with one of the owners. Now, that's really exciting!

What are your "must-do's" when you are there?

It can be overwhelming for a first timer. My suggestion is to wander around and “absorb” what you see, not seeking out anything specific. Take notes, jot down what strikes you.

If you open yourself to everything, you’re guaranteed to see something you would have missed if you were focused on a certain goal. I love wandering the “foreign” stands (foreign to this American, at least). There is so much creativity happening all over the world. I confess, working mainly in the American market, it’s easy to become too provincial in my thinking.

Any first time fair attendee should see as many books in as many stands that are not her market. It’s a real inspiration.

Also, as a “must-do”, I try to make a trip to Florence, only 40 minutes away by train. It’s every artist’s heritage, birthplace of who we are. It’s a lovely town chockablock with history and art (with some nice markets and restaurants!) It’s well worth a day off from the fair or staying the extra day.

Celebrating the 25th Anniversary!
Will you be in Bologna in April?

Definitely plan to go. I missed it last year and feel the need to return.

Will you be participating in the ever-popular Dueling Illustrators event at the SCBWI booth?

Yes and it’s always great fun. In past years I was teamed up with Paul O. Zelinsky, which is always a great thrill, and honor.

Thank you Doug! I look forward to seeing you in Bologna in April.

Cynsational Notes

Elisabeth Norton grew up in Alaska, lived for many years and Texas, and after a brief sojourn in England, now lives with her family between the Alps and the Jura in Switzerland.

She writes for middle grade readers and serves as the Regional Advisor for the Swiss chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.

When not writing, she can be found walking the dogs, playing board games, and spending time with family and friends. Twitter: @fictionforge

The Bologna 2016 Interview series is coordinated by Angela Cerrito, SCBWI’s Assistant International Advisor and a Cynsational Reporter in Europe and beyond.

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19. SCBWI Tomie dePaolo entry

A Big Congratulations to the winners of the 2016 SCBWI Tomie dePaolo contest.....Now I can show you my submission, which I had a great time working on, even if it did not make the list!
Check out the winners!
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Check out the winners of the SCBWI Tomie dePaolo Contest



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20. Little Red Riding Hood

Baird_Roberta_tomie72 little red roberta_72Every year I seem to do several versions  of my entry for the SCBWI Tomie Depaola award Contest. this year was no exception. I did two completely different settings for Little Red Riding Hood prompt. The passage I used was “Her grandmother lived in the woods, about half an hour’s walk away. When Little Red Riding Hood had only been walking a few minutes, a wolf came up to her. She didn’t know what a wicked animal he was, so she wasn’t afraid of him.”

In the end I sent the Central Park Little Red Riding Hood, but I always wonder if I should’ve sent the other one/ones. Which one?

 

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21. Picture Book Study: Meg Goldberg on Parade by Andria Warmflash Rosenbaum and Christopher Lyles

This is a children’s picture book structure break down for Meg Goldberg on Parade by Andria Warmflash Rosenbaum and Christopher Lyles. This breakdown will contain…

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22. SCBWI Bologna Book Fair

I just got the exciting news that my piece "Rainy Day Friends" has been chosen for the SCBWI Bologna Book Fair 2016 Illustrator Showcase!  Thank you so much to the SCBWI judges!  This is an incredible honor! 


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23. 2016 SCBWI Bologna Author Interview: Kathleen Ahrens

By Patti Buff
for SCBWI Bologna 2016
and Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations

Kathleen Ahrens was born in the suburbs of New York City and aspired to be an astronaut and to live in a skyscraper. Poor eyesight led her to forgo the first dream, but her move to Hong Kong allowed her to finally fulfill the second.

As a child, she read constantly — often in very dim lighting — leading to her poor eyesight, and she could often be found with a book in one hand and a dictionary in another, now clear precursors of her love of both literature and language.

Her favorite subject in high school was Latin, but her aptitude in math led her to enter the University of Massachusetts Amherst as a computer science major, later switching to a degree in Oriental Languages after she grew bored writing computer programs that mimicked war scenarios.

Currently a professor at Hong Kong Baptist University, where she is the director of the International Writers’ Workshop, she is also a fellow in the Hong Kong Academy of Humanities, and the international regional advisor chairperson for the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators

Hi Kathleen! Thanks for stopping by the blog to discuss the upcoming Bologna Book Fair

With much more focus on diversity in children's books than has been in the past, how important of a role do you think book fairs like Bologna play in introducing young readers to children from other countries and cultures?

The fact that buyers can walk from one hall to another and see and acquire books from all over the world is very important — without Bologna it would be much harder to know of and gain rights for books from outside one’s own geo-political boundaries.

In addition, while most everything is available on the internet nowadays, it’s still people who connect their friends to books they find at the fair and introduce people who buy and sell rights to each other. These connections happen quite naturally in Bologna, which make it that much more likely that the books from one country may make it to the shelves of another country.

One thing that I’ve noticed as I’ve traveled is that so many publishers in countries outside of the U.S. bring in (and translate) books from all over the world. I’ve yet to see that kind of cross-cultural diversity in U.S. bookstores, even in independent ones, mainly because the U.S. publishers are simply not buying (and translating) that many books from other countries.

Part of that has to do with the fact that US has its own rich publishing environment, but part of it seems to stem from the assumption that U.S. children will not read translated books. This assumption needs to be tested by regularly putting the very best of literature translated from other languages into the hands of readers in the U.S.

Any tips for new Bologna visitors?

I highly recommend the museums in Bologna, including the Archaeological Museum of Bologna and Museo d'Arte Moderna di Bologna (Mambo). My favorite is the Museo Civico Medievale because it contains artifacts that show medieval life in Bologna, including funerary monuments and tombs for professors, some of which have engravings that show teachers lecturing to students. Perhaps because I am a university professor myself, I find these representations fascinating, especially as the scene is still a familiar one in universities today.

One tip if you visit the museums: there are audio recordings are very well done and worth the cost of renting if available.

Great tips. I’ll be sure to check them out. Your picture books (Ears Hear and Numbers Do, both co-authored by Chu-Ren Huang, illustrated by Marjorie Van Heerden) are bilingual in English and Chinese and feature an Asian setting. How hard was it to cross both cultures in one project?

The challenges for these two picture books was in the language. I like to say I “co-argued” these books with my co-author, who also happens to be my husband.

We were adamant about having the text read naturally in both languages and yet still be clear translations of the other language. So sometimes my husband would come up with a line that sounded great in Chinese, but awkward in English, and vice versa.

Another challenge was that the editor wanted the text and illustrations explained, as she was afraid that the minimal text and illustrations with fantastical elements might be confusing.

This is not something that is usually done in picture books published in the United States, as the reader is free to interpret the text and illustrations as he or she wishes.

We compromised by providing commentary and questions in the back of the books to assist the adult reader in interpreting the text and illustrations. I think it worked out well in the end because it helps parents see that it’s okay to stop and discuss a text during a reading, and that there is no single correct interpretation. For parents who are unfamiliar with reading to young children, or who feel that a book should have a particular overt message, it’s important to let them know that multiple interpretations are fine.

‘Multiple interpretations’, which in themselves are another form of diversity. Very cool. Your other writing projects, including the one that won the Sue Alexander Most Promising New Work Award are more western based. What are some of the challenges of writing for children in your adopted country and writing for your homeland audience? And how do you keep up to date with teens from the other side of the world?

The biggest challenge is the same for any audience — namely, getting what is in my head down on paper. I can sit at the computer and see the scene perfectly in my head. I can hear the dialogue and smell the freshly-shampooed hair of a character. But all that needs to be translated to the page and that’s part of the challenge and excitement of writing.

In terms of keeping up with teens in the U.S, I know enough to know that I could never keep up. But I also know that, as Doreathea Brande said, “If a situation has caught your attention…[if] it has meaning for you, and if you can find what that meaning is, you have the basis for a story.”

That’s what I’m doing when I write — I’m finding that meaning. And when someone reads what I’ve written, they’re creating their own meaning based on what is going on in their lives at that particular point in time. So to my mind, it’s not so much keeping up-to-date as being curious and open to meanings in everyday situations and figuring out how they might intersect with universal themes and current issues that are of interest to readers.

You are extensively published in the academic world, which requires a fair amount of research. Do you apply the same research techniques to your fiction? If not, how do they differ?

Hong Kong at night
In my linguistic research, I set up a hypothesis and then test my hypothesis by gathering linguistic data through experiments or through analysis of linguistic patterns in that corpus.

When I write creatively, I utilize the internet, the public and university library, newspapers, published diaries, etc. in order to get background information for my story — the details that make a scene come alive for reader.

In the former, I’m testing hypotheses; in the latter, I’m gathering information. However, they share a similarity in that I also need to gather information before I test a hypothesis — I need to see what other conclusions researchers have before I start my own research. So I’m pretty good at locating and sifting through information — I used to do this on 3 x 5 inch note cards. Now I use Scrivener and Mendeley to stay organized.

And finally, what are you working on now? Any surprises you can share with us?

I’m working on a YA novel about two sixteen-year old half-sisters meeting up at a summer camp for the first time in ten years — one has been waiting for this summer for ages, while the other has been doing everything possible to avoid it.

What’s at stake is not only the relationship between the two of them, but also the main character’s relationship to her mother, who left her at an early age and later died while serving in Iraq.

That sounds amazing – and powerful. Hope to be able to read it soon. Thank you so much for stopping by, Kathleen. I wish you a lovely time in Bologna.

Cynsational Notes

Patti Buff
The tenth out of eleven children in a family that took in hundreds of foster kids, Patti Buff found solitude in reading at a young age and hasn’t stopped. She later turned to writing because none of her other siblings had and she needed to stand out in the crowd somehow.

Originally from Minnesota, Patti now lives in Germany with her husband and two teenagers where she’s also the regional advisor of SCBWI Germany & Austria. She is currently putting the finishing touches on her YA novel Requiem, featured in the SCBWI Undiscovered Voices 2016 anthology.

The Bologna 2016 Interview series is coordinated by Angela Cerrito, SCBWI’s Assistant International Advisor and a Cynsational Reporter in Europe and beyond.

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24. 2016 SCBWI Bologna Author-Illustrator Interview: Susan Eaddy

Photo by Peter Nash
By Patti Buff
for SCBWI Bologna 2016
and Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations

Susan Eaddy works in her attic studio writing picture books and playing with clay. She was an art director for fifteen years, during which time she won international 3D illustration awards and a Grammy nomination. 

She lives in Nashville, Tenn.; and is the regional advisor for the Midsouth chapter of SCBWI and a co-organizer of the SCBWI Bologna Book Fair

Her illustrated books include Papa Fish’s Lullaby by Patricia Hubbell (Cooper Square, 2007) and My Love for You is the Sun by Julie Hedlund (Little Bahalia, 2014). Her latest picture book, Poppy’s Best Paper, was released by Charlesbridge in July 2015.

She loves to travel and has used the opportunity to do school visits anywhere in the world from Taiwan to Alabama to Hong Kong and Brazil.

Hi Susan! Thanks for participating in the 2016 SCBWI Bologna Book Fair interview series.

With much more focus on diversity in children's books than has been in the past, how important of a role do you think book fairs like Bologna play in introducing young readers to children from other countries and cultures?

I think that book fairs like Bologna offer hope and understanding for our future. It creates the opportunity to come together from all over the world and find common ground in stories.

Children can only benefit from books translated into their native language to both learn about new cultures or to find that other cultures are very much like their own. With this experience, they see that kids from all over have similar feelings and experiences.

Any tips for new visitors to the Bologna Children’s Book Fair?

First of all, the SCBWI booth is your hub, and home away from home. You’ll be surrounded by friends you’ve never met before. To maximize your opportunities:

  • Apply for a personal or regional showcase with Chris Cheng.
  • Schedule portfolio reviews.
  • Bring promo materials.
  • Read the program.
  • Attend the talks.
  • Network!

Getting Around: Being the worrier that I am…I like to figure out where I am going via Google Maps the day before I need to be somewhere.

Since wi-fi is not always available on the streets, I take a screen shot of the map I need when I am connected, and can then access it through my phone or iPad photos whether I am connected or not.

Get city and bus maps at Tourist Info in the Neptune Fountain Piazza. Buy bus tickets there or at the Tabachi (the little kiosk).

Budget Tips: Have breakfast bars with you at all times. There are food stands at the Fair, but they are pricey and packed, and often a breakfast bar will get you though the day. Then you can splurge a bit on the dinner meal.

Some lodging comes with a modest breakfast, but if you have the option of declining breakfast for a price break, do so. You can generally get a cappuccino for much less and chomp on your breakfast bar.

If you have an apartment, buy groceries and make lunches, even some dinners.

But do eat out when you can. This is Italy! Home of spectacular food. Share a room, a taxi, a bottle of wine.

Do keep all receipts, again, remember this is a business trip.

Those are some great tips. You really are a pro. You’ve done a lot of traveling over the years, China, Italy, and Brazil. As an illustrator, how does seeing different cultures influence you?

I love getting a peek at different cultures when I travel, and specifically I love visiting the schools. One of the things that strikes me most, is how universal kids reactions and questions are.

I have had the same questions from kids in Hong Kong as I've had in Brazil. ("How long does it take you? Why clay? How much money do you make?")

Kids' artwork and enthusiasm are so similar in every culture I have seen. And since so much of my presentations are visual, language does not impose a huge barrier.

In 2015, you officially stepped onto the writing side of picture books with the release of Poppy’s Best Paper. First off, congratulations! And secondly, what particular challenge surprised you when you took off your illustrator’s hat and switched it for an author’s hat?

Thank you! I have lots of memories and ideas from my childhood.

I began writing because most art directors told me that my clay artwork was a tough fit for other people's manuscripts and that I should come up with my own stories.

As I began to write, the stories that unfolded were more complex than suited my illustration style, and the irony is that my own manuscript of Poppy's Best Paper was not a good fit for the clay!

I tried to illustrate Poppy in clay many times, until finally my agent intervened with the suggestion of using another illustrator.

Brilliant! Rosalinde Bonnet's illustrations made all the difference in the world.


Sometimes a fresh perspective is exactly what the project needs. So glad that worked out. 

I’m just fascinated by your illustration method of first drawing an outline then filling it in with clay. Do you see the image with color before you begin or is that something that changes as the page progresses?

I start with a color palette that interests me, then I explore it further in the computer or with colored pencil, working on top of copies of my original sketch. Often colors are changed a bit in the clay stage, but I try to have the colors worked out before I mix them in clay.




I can imagine mistakes can be costly. After your artwork has been published in a book, how do you preserve it and are you allowed to sell it?
 
I save my artwork in pizza boxes and other flat boxes and have my studio knee wall space filled with them. The sad thing is that if I am using plasticine, it is not a permanent medium and they can never displayed in any way but on a tabletop under glass.

I do have some framed and saved that way, but I don't sell them. I also use some polymer clay which is more permanent, but I don't sell those either. Since the end product is ultimately a photograph of my clay, I do sell large prints of the work.



Pizza boxes. I love it! What question have you never been asked on an interview or school visit, but wish to be?

Hmmmm.... How old do you feel, or rather, what is your mental age?

I think ten years old is the age I identify with most. I still think like a ten year old. I'm forever trying to figure the world out and gain experiences by feeling my way through while keeping that sense of wonder. I rarely feel like an expert, but in a way that feeds the creativity.

That's actually why I enjoy clay so much, because I don't know how to do it! Every illustration becomes a discovery process. With lots of skills, ten year olds are still trying to do things in their own way with exuberance and angst, and most are not yet jaded.

Ten is my favorite age, too. And finally, what are you working on now? Any surprises you can share with us?

I am thrilled to say that my editor and I are working on a new Poppy book! In this second book, Poppy faces sibling rivalry with not one but two adorable additions to the family.

We'll see if Poppy can learn to share the limelight!

Congratulations! Can’t wait to find out. Thank you so much for stopping by, Susan. I wish you a lovely time at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair.

Cynsational Notes

Patti Buff
The tenth out of eleven children in a family that took in hundreds of foster kids, Patti Buff found solitude in reading at a young age and hasn’t stopped. She later turned to writing because none of her other siblings had and she needed to stand out in the crowd somehow.

Originally from Minnesota, Patti now lives in Germany with her husband and two teenagers where she’s also the regional advisor of SCBWI Germany & Austria. She is currently putting the finishing touches on her YA novel Requiem, featured in the SCBWI Undiscovered Voices 2016 anthology.

The Bologna 2016 Interview series is coordinated by Angela Cerrito, SCBWI’s Assistant International Advisor and a Cynsational Reporter in Europe and beyond.

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25. The Introvert’s Guide to Surviving a Conference

The truth is, I’m kind of a fake introvert. On those ubiquitous personality tests I hover right on the line between the two extremes. Nonetheless, a big social event like a SCBWI national conference can be overwhelming, and all the networking can push a pseudo-introvert like me to the point of social burnout. I’ve collected some tips below that have helped me have the best possible experience at one of these events. (If you want to learn more about what a SCBWI conference is, click here.)

Photograph of promotional postcards and portfolio for use at SCBWI NY Conference

Promo postcards and portfolio page, ready to go.

1. Homework

The seeds of a great experience are sown long before you get to the conference.

  • Try to read at least one book by every speaker. It makes their keynote more illuminating.
  • To be a real overachiever, come up with a question or two you’d want to ask each faculty member. If you ever end up sharing a table with them or in a Q&A session, you’ll be ready to participate.
  • If you’ve been to prior conferences, go through the contacts you made back then and refresh your memory. For extra credit, check out their websites to see what new stuff they’ve been up to. There’s nothing worse than introducing yourself to someone only to hear “um, we met last year.” (Sorry about that, Rodolfo.)
  • If you’re attending sessions with assignments, make sure to do your homework ahead of time.

2. Stuff you should probably bring with you

In addition to your underwear and toothbrush and so forth, don’t forget the following:

  • Your portfolio/dummy books/whatever.
  • Postcards and/or business cards.
  • A sketchbook/notebook and something to write with.
  • A copy of any of your recently published books that you want to show to your friends.
  • Copies of other people’s books that you want to get signed.
  • Warm things (it’s ALWAYS cold in the hotel. Plus it’s New York in February.)
  • Earplugs for sleeping if you’re sharing a room with friends.
  • Sleep mask (ditto to above.)

3. Networking tips for introverts, or something

I probably shouldn’t be giving advice at all in this area.

  • Try to avoid looking at your feet while talking to people.
  • Resist the urge to apologize for your work.
  • Be genuinely interested in other people.
  • Don’t be afraid to introduce yourself.
  • Don’t be one of those annoying, pushy people who stalk the faculty members.
  • Sit in the front. You can see so much better. Actually, never mind. DON’T sit in the front, because I want to sit there.

4. Chilling Out

For an introvert, a big conference in New York City is remarkably taxing. While the whole point of the conference is to network and go to keynotes blah blah blah, it’s okay to take some time to get away from it all in order to survive.

  • Use the gym or pool if there is one to get away from people for a little while.
  • Have your own room if you can afford it. This helps a ton, but it’s like $400 a night so I get it.
  • Skip a keynote if you have to. Or two.
  • Leave the hotel and go somewhere else. Cafes are good.

Have you been a national conference or book fair? What tips would you suggest? Feel free to share in the comments!

 

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