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Viewing Blog: Children's Books Blog for Illustrators, Most Recent at Top
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Written by illustrators, we recommend books and audiobooks, talk about art, share quotes, and talk about the business of illustration.
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1. Forum on Children's Literature 2009 Review

Once again, I had the opportunity to attend the Forum on Children's literature which takes place annually at Utah Valley University. This year was inspiring as usual, yet it seemed a little more quiet to me- maybe this was due to many less illustrators in the gallery of illustration. I took notes as usual, and will share a few of the great ones with you. The Editor who attended this year was Abby Ranger from Disney-Hyperion Books for Children. The key note speakers were illustrator Robert Neubecker, and (my favorite part) writer Shannon Hale.


When asked if she ever got writers block, Shannon Hale replied that she doesn't believe in writers block. "Do plummers get plummer's block?" she asked. She quoted Anna Quindlen- Writer's block is the fear of not writing elequently. I think we as illustrators get the same thing.

There was a reaccuring theme throughout the conference of "be humble!" Shannon Hale said it is easier to write before you are published. Publishing is a path, not a destination. Take the stance- no one will ever read or see my book and you will be okay. Plan that you'll never be a best seller or Newberry winner (or in an illustrators case, a Caldecott winner).

Robert Neubecker said "Leave your ego at home." He talked about the fact that picture books are a team effort, that you work as a team with the editors and art directors. You need to be open to hearing suggestions from editors and changes that need to be made.

Abby Ranger talked about a book being a conversation. Writers/ Illustrators should take ideas from editors and make things even beter.

Illustrator Maryn Roos, said it is important for a writer or illustrator to be easy going and happy to take corrections.

Shannon Hale gave some great quotes, such as "This isn't a job. This isn't a career. I don't know what it is. . . It's a mental illness." She also talked about making goals every day for writing.

Abby Ranger talked about some of the things she is looking for in a manuscript. Here are a few of them:

1. A narrative voice that captivates me from the first sentence and won't let go.
2. A main character who is compelling and whom we care about.
3. Command of craft (pacing, plotting, sensitivity to languate and detail)
4. A premise or subject I haven't seen before or a familyiar one approached in an entirely new way.
5. A clear and broad audience for this subject and this approach.
6. Story- a good conflict and having to deal with it.

So there are a few great quotes from this conference, and there will be more to come soon!

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2. The Sketchbook. Why didn't I remember that before?

Have you ever handed someone your sketchbook and watched them get bored looking at it? I recently had this experience and it wasn't fun. That same night I also saw some of the coolest sketchbooks ever, and it got me thinking.

For me sketchbooks have a couple of purposes: to keep with you so you can draw anytime--something I am a huge fan of doing-- to be always in practice, and to have a little fun, right? Right. Thinking about my experience with my boring book, helped me realize that my sketchbook was not being those things. So I've been changing how I work in my sketchbook lately. In doing so I have learned a little. Now I shall impart my wisdom to you. (Sounds fun eh?)


Here are a couple things I decided to put more thought into.
Composition.
I was often using my sketchbook to draw people and places around me, the pages often ended up being floating heads, landscapes, and various characters and objects scattered about. This of course isn't bad but I gave little or no thought to composition.

In the last couple of days I have still been drawing the same subjects but I decided to begin my drawings with some thought on how I would compose the page. And I tell you what, it has been so much fun. I also tend to be happier with the end product. I was using my sketchbook to practice drawing people, animals, and facial expressions but I had forgotten all about practicing composition.

Here are some things from my college professors that I recently remembered them saying about composing a picture.
1. There are already four lines on a page, the edges. Don't forget you are making the fifth line and plan accordingly.
2. Fill the space.
3. Just because it looks stupid doesn't mean you have to draw it that way.

I think I either temporarily forgot about these little lessons or I just didn't realize they could apply to my sketchbook as well as my more formal illustrations.

Value and color.
Much of my sketchbooks are just line drawings, which I love, but I also love value and color, Why not practice these as well.

A super good time!
Since I have been putting more time into each page/drawing in my sketchbook it has been so much more fun. Try it!

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3. The Creative Habit


I picked up this book after reading an excerpt that my brother gave me. As a dancer and choreographer for major productions, Twyla Tharp offers in her book, "The Creative Habit - Learn it and Use it for Life" a practical guide to becoming consistent in our creativity.

One of my favorite excerpts comes from chapter 2 and her advice given about developing habits and rituals. I have noticed in my own painting world that I have a definite ritual when it comes to preparing to paint, or when I begin a new book. Twyla Tharp explains the importance of these rituals and how they spur and enlighten our creativity. Check it out! This is a great book if you are feeling in an artistic rut.

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4. Inside Children's Publishing Conference Notes

It's just about time we get this blog going again!

This weekend, I was very blessed to be able to go to an SCBWI conference. This was the first conference I have been to where they actually invited an art designer from a publishing company- Victoria Jameison from Greenwillow books. There was also a writing agent there, Ted Malawer from Firebrand Literary, and an editor, Jill Dembowski from Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.



Here are a few of my notes (things that people said- with a few of my own personal thoughts added):

Know the publishing house you are sending your work to. Know what kind of work they do. Do your research, but don't stalk the editors or art directors.

If you want to get noticed, have a good web presence- blogging, online communities, and networking. Have a good online portfolio. Editors/Art Directors look at these things.

If you want to be published, write well (or should we say draw well), don't be pushy, don't be a jerk, and be professional.

After you get revisions from an editor or art director, let it sink in for a while. Really think about it for a day or so and give yourself time to calm down. (I know from personal experience that this is very good advice).

Always remember to say "thanks" to your editor. Don't be afraid to ask questions.

Art Directors appreciate it when you do your art work on paper because it's easier and more cost effective to scan with a drum scanner.

The best ways to get noticed by an art director are one on one meetings, and sending postcards and mailers. When you send a postcard, it's important to have a website where the art director can go to find more of your work.

Illustrating a cover for a middle grade novel is a good way to get your foot in the door in the publishing world.

If you want to illustrate a picture book, send samples of work that looks like it could go into a picture book. Avoid art that looks to commercial or cartoon-networky (this varies from publisher to publisher). Subjects need to be appropriate for children's books, not for a business meeting (for example, a man in a suit). Your artwork should tell a story without words.

Things that are good for mailers include, children and animals in current settings, history or fairy tales illustrated in a funny way with a twist, and funny animals with personalities. When illustrating children and animals, showtender moments, emotions, relationships, and motion. It is also a good idea to draw things from a child's view point (draw things while kneeling down). It is also eye catching to illustrate scenes using interesting lighting and moods.

It's also a good idea to network with other artists and send postcards that show all your work together and give links to your websites.

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5. A Place for Info

The Purple Crayon is one of my favorite places on the web to find out more about children's publishing. Check it out!

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6. Preparing for a school presentation

Sorry, I seem to be hogging this blog lately! I was recently asked by my Aunt, who teaches elementary school, to do an illustrator school presentation for her first grade. It's not a paying job, but I wanted to take the opportunity to get some experience. . .because some day I will have a trade book (so far I've only done education and religious readers along with various other misceleanious assignments). So I've been doing some research on ways to make my school presentation better. Here are some tips I've found.

Here is some information I found on a site called write4kids.com. Read the full post entitled Planning a School Presentation. This post, which was adapted from the book How to Promote Your Children's Book on a Shoestring by Nancy Bentley and Donna Guthrie, gives information about 3 different kinds of school presentations and the different elements each type should include. The three kinds are A Personal History Presentation, A Performance Presentation, and a Teaching Presentation.

•A Personal History Presentation should include your personal history/background, information about your work- include showing samples, and time for questions. I think this type of presentation would work better in older age group situations.

•A Performance Presentation can include an overview of how you became an artist- you can show how your work has evolved. The presentation can also include videos or slides on how you work (process) and some of your samples. A drawing demonstration is always really fun for the kids- Many illustrators have the children help decide what the illustrator will draw. That always makes things fun and interesting! If you are also an author, include some story telling. When reading parts of your book, share it in a really animated way and maybe even have the kids somehow get involved either with sound effects or movements of some kind (suggestion from my friend Sherry Meidell). Leave time at the end for questions.

•In a Teaching Presentation, you should introduce one aspect of illustrating, show samples of your work and other illustrators, allow time for students to practice the concept, share and evaluate, and leave time for questions. It seems to me that this type of presentation might work better in a classroom type situation.

Now you are wondering how much you should charge for a school visit. According to this Houghton Mifflin website, you can charge $300-$2000 per day. The more celebrated an author/illustrator, the higher the fee will be. The Houghton Mifflin site is more for schools who want to hire Houghton Mifflin authors and illustrators, but it has some good information that may help you get a better idea of what to expect for school visits.

Here is another site that is for schools wanting to hire authors and illustrators- AuthorsInSchools.com, that has some good information.

That's about all I could find, folks. Does anyone else know of any good resources? Please share!


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7. The Princess and the White Bear King



The Princess and the White Bear King is a version of the fairy tale, East of the Sun, West of the Moon. I checked this book out from the library and just finished reading it to my kids. The story is very long, but I really love the pictures. The style, color and compositions are fabulous! I know I keep saying this about books, but why else would I recommend them to you!? I just want to keep looking and looking at this book. The story was retold by Tanya Robyn Batt, and the illustrations are by Nicoletta Ceccoli, an award winning Italian illustrator who has done many other children's books.

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8. Orphaned Works Bill 2008

Just so you are aware, the article entitled Calling for help from ALL ARTISTS!!, has been changed from the original post. In my panic to pass the word on about The Orphaned Works Bill as quickly as possible, I passed on a few incorrect things. Hopefully all you illustrators are doing your best to be informed and updated. If you haven't yet, please join the email list for the Illustrator Partnership by emailing [email protected], and asking to be part of the email list. You will get additional information from theses emails on how you will be able to fight against this bill.

The orphaned Works bill 2008 has now come out. Both House and Senate versions of the Orphan Works Act of 2008 can be downloaded from the IPA homepage:
http://illustratorspartnership.org. For additional background on Orphan Works, go to the IPA Orphan Works Resource Page for Artists.

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9. Art Reps Part I

I have been asked a lot of questions from other illustrators about having an Art Rep (my art rep is Janet at Story Book Arts). The first question I am usually asked is, "How did you find your agent?" Here in Part one about Art Reps, I will answer some questions about finding your art rep. Stay tuned, in part two I'll talk about working with an art rep including the advantages and disadvantages.


Finding an Art Rep

1• Research: Look at the different Agent’s websites and ads in Picture Book. You can find these agencies with the help of search engines and the book Children’s Writer’s and Illustrator’s Market (see below). Find Art Reps who represent artists with similar styles to your own.

2• Sending out your work: Send your work in packages of post cards, or flyers. Make sure and advertise your personal website. Keep sending and sending, unfortunately sometimes it takes a while, so don't give up.

3• Finding a match: You may get a few different agents who are interested in your work. Like I said, it may take a while, so be patient. Many times agents will say they like your style but they would like to see more of a certain kind of work in your portfolio (i.e. more children, etc.). If you really like the agency, it is a good idea to work up some new samples and send them as soon as you can. It may take a while to find an agent that is a match for you- finding an agent is kind of like choosing a mate. You have to both be happy with each other because you are going to work together a lot. . .for a long time if all goes well. So it is good to find someone that you can have a good professional relationship with.

Some things to look out for when looking for an agent. Never pay for services from an agent in advance. A good art agent will take a 25% cut from your paycheck. Good literary agents take 15%. People who ask you for money in advance or a larger percentage are probably trying to take advantage of you. The sad reality is that there are predators out there who will prey on the vulnerability of new illustrators who are not familiar with how the game is played. Many end up paying too much and not getting anything in return.

A good agent will probably give you some advertising options such as Picture Book, Directory of Illustration or maybe a portfolio website in which you will have a choice as to whether you want to participate or not. The agent will help in the cost of advertising, and the other artists in your group will of course help pay also. Good agents are always sending out samples and making appointments with publishers to try and get work for you.



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10. Ollie Johnston: 1912-2008 Disney's Finest


I read in the paper today that Ollie Johnston-the last of Disney's 9 old men & Frank-and-Ollie fame- had died this last Wednesday. I cried.

He remains one of the most influential animator/illustrators of all time producing touching and engaging characters for pictures such as Snow White, Pinocchio, Rescuers, Peter Pan, Lady and the Tramp, Jungle Book...yeah, the good stuff that defined my childhood.

Frank Thomas and Ollie were like Brangelina,one being composed of two people. They searched for characters internal motivations and sought to express that on paper for views, bringing true-to-life gestures into ink lines on acetate. For creating meaningful illustrations that communicate effectively with people on a one-to-one level, there are few better than Ollie. Please check out the website Frank and Ollie established as an educational tool for animators and illustrators.

A moment of silence for one of the Great Ones; he left a very big pair of shoes to fill.

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11. Style, What the heck is it?

Some thoughts on the Matter.

Style is a combination of how an artists makes a mark (with whatever medium) and how he thinks. It is comparable to it to a writer's handwriting and how he uses words. I don't think we, as artists, can create style. It is a part of who we are. We can, however, become more effective at communicating regardless of style.


In the end it doesn't matter what your style is as long as your picture says what you need to say.

Milton Glaser said: "Picasso's always been my model for the idea that style was irrelevant and you just worked what ever way you wanted to work to express an idea, what ever idea that was. When the idea changed the style could change. I always disliked that loyalty to the idea of style so very much...it is absurd to be loyal to a style. It does not deserve you loyality."

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12. Printing Your Samples



Greetings all you CBBFI readers out there (I know you're out there somewhere)! If you're like me (poor), in the past you may have just printed out your samples and business cards on your own printer. Well, we're about to let you in on a secret. There's a place to get professional looking postcards, business cards and flyers for knock out great prices. The website is www.gotprint.com. They do a great job at printing your illustrations with the same colors as your file. All of their printed work looks very professional and nicely finished, printed on glossy professional papers with UV coating. I highly recommend this place!

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13. Calling for help from ALL ARTISTS!!

A Bill is about to come out called The Orphaned works Bill 2008. We do not yet know exactly what this bill will say, but word is that it will be very similar to the 2006 bill which you can view here.

This is very important. Every artist needs to know about this and educate themselves. Please pass this on to any artist or anyone who works in a creative field. When it comes out, we will need help from every single artist to fight against this. Please help artists protect their livelihood! To stay updated, email [email protected], and ask to be part of the email list. There will be updates about the bill on www.illustratorspartnership.org website.


I Highly recommend you listen to an interview with Illustrator Brad Holland.

Or read an article on this bill.

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14. Children's Book Recommendation Time!

Here are some great children's books recommendations for the in between time, since after all this blog is for illustrators who love children's books! As children's book illustrators, we should always be looking at children's books and seeing what works and what doesn't work. Here are some that I think really work... More to come later!


Here's a book I recently discovered: Puff the Magic Dragon by Petter Yarrow and Lenny Lipton with paintings by Eric Puybaret. The thing I really like about the illustrations in this book are the compositions. The illustrations have a quiet feel to them from the subdued tones Puybaret uses and also he doesn't use a lot of textures. I think this brings a beautiful peaceful feeling to the book. The compositions are very interesting and fun and keep you turning the pages.


While Mama had a Quick Little Chat by Amy Reichert, Illustrated by Alexandra Boiger. Very fun watercolor style- characters, compositions, and colors. Plus the story is pretty funny and it rhymes.


Milly and the Macy's Parade by Shana Corey, Illustrated by Brett Helquist. Brett is one of my favorite illustrators. His compositions facinate me! Love his color schemes and characters. The story isn't as fun on this one, but the illustrations are fabulous. I am especially impressed at how Brett was able to compose on such a long format book.

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15. Inspiring Quotes

Recently, we attended a two day Forum on Children's Literature. As always, it was very inpiring and motivating. Here are a few great quotes I wrote down in my notes.

Sorry if I mis-quote anyone or don't have the name of the person I am quoting. If you know who made the quote, feel free to write a little note in the comments!

"We read to know we are not alone." -C.S. Lewis

"There is nothing more important than reading to children." -Kirby Larsen

"The moment of inspiration is not a gift, it is worked for." -Madeline L'Engle

"You've got to take those daring leaps or you're nowhere." -Russell Hoban

"Great picture books are an art form." -Sarah Stewart

"Believe in your imagination." -Brandon Mull

"Sometimes you have to throw away your best pictures if they don't help the story." -David Small

"Believe that you are a writer. Believe that you have many stories to tell." -Alexandra Penfold

"I know I have said a lot when I say, 'you can do anything you want to do,' and mean it." -unknown

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16. 10 Questions to Ask Yourself Before you Submit Your Book to an Editor

For any of you illustrators out there, like me, that hope to write and illustrate your own book, here is some good advice about writing for children from Alexandra Penfold, a children's book editor at Simon & Schuster.

1. Who is the readership, or to whom is your book going to be marketed?

2. Does the story surprise me, take me to a place I didn't expect?



3. Is the main character a character I care about?

4. Am I personally moved by the story or situation?

5. Is the theme of the story something a lot of kids will relate to?

6. Has this been done a million times before?

7. Will I want to read this manuscript over and over, and over, and over?

8. Is the voice of the character authentic and real? Does is sound like a child speaking?

9. Will the story be visually interesting for 32 pages?

10. Does the action of the story move at a good pace and keep my interest?

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17. Art and Business

Shawna recently wrote a post about professionalism in our art, titled, My Art is Not a Hobby. This post will help us understand a little more about professionalism and business as an artist.

Business is about creating value. If a business is successful at creating value then it will be successful at making money. Businesses that stay in business are constantly creating value for their customers. Art is a business, so it is extremely important we know and understand this concept.


We pay money for stuff we value. For example, I value being able to see more than I value the $8.00-10.00 is cost to buy contact solution, so I repeatedly exchange my dollars for that product. But the big question is where do I spend my dollars on that product? It is the place that can give me the most value for my money, so it could be the store that is cheaper, or closer, or sent me a cupon, or has the best product. Every time we spend money the product we buy is more valuable to us then our money. Children's Book Publishers are the same way, they are going to spend money on artists over and over but where are they going to spend the money?

As an artist our goal is to create value for our customers so that they will buy from us in the first place, and come back for more. There are many areas where we can create value for our customers. If we want to make a profit in the art world then we must be competitive in these areas. (oddly enough, these areas are pretty much the same for all business)
Some of the areas are:

Product- You must be able to create great art to make it in any art industry. Can you draw? Do you have a style that says something unique? Do your pictures communicate what they need to? Your art is your product. Is it good enough to create value in the art world?

Second, Marketing- How are people going to learn about your product? Are you marketing it to the right places? If you enjoy drawing dragons, and your portfolio is full of them, do you market to Tor Books, or Readers Digest? To be successful at marketing you must market to people who will find the most value in your product.

Third, Costumer Service- All of us know what good customer service can do. I am sure we all have had many examples of good and bad customer service. As an artist customer service can include: delivering the product we say we will, meeting our deadlines, working well with our art directors and editors, and returning e-mails and phone calls.

Keep in mind that while you are in your little drawing studio you are competing against other artists all over the world in their little drawing studios. Be professional, provide the best value possible, and you can't go wrong.

If you are interested in finding out more about business, art, or the business of art here is some stuff to check out.
Rich Dad, Poor Dad- The only book to really teach you how money works. It explains clearly and easily (with visuals for us artists and non-math folks) how money works. It is easy to read, and it's amazing!

The Free Capitalist Radio Show- I have learned more about business by listening to this talk radio show than almost anywhere else. Check it out at freecapitalist.com.

Freelance Switch- A blog with great ideas for freelancers in the art industry.

Seth Godin's Blog- A blog with short and exciting thoughts about business and other random stuff.

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18. Drawing People: How to Portray the Clothed Figure



I highly recommend this book to all you illustrators: Drawing People, How to Portray the Clothed Figure. This book helps you understand the anatomy of each kind of fold in cloth. It helps you understand the way cloth acts when draped on a figure. It also covers other topics like drawing anatomy of the body and proportions correctly. This book has helped me a ton- an excellent drawing book!

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19. Roxaboxen



Today's book recommendation is Roxaboxen by Alice McLerran, illustrated by Barbara Cooney. Here's a book that's close to my heart from my childhood. If you were one of those kids who loved making forts and huts as a child, this book will bring back memories for you. It's the story of a group of childrens' adventures in a make-believe town they built in the desert. The detailed illustrations bring the story to life. You can get this book in paperback which is always good for those of us on a budget.

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20. Character Design Blog

I often find myself designing characters for my books or illustrations. Being able to create a character and draw him again and again has been a fun skill to develop. Lately I have enjoyed learning a ton about the process of character design from different sources such as DVD,s, and books. But one of my favorite places to go for inspiration and education about character design is the Character Design Blog.

It is a place where character designers are interviewed and their work is showcased. The designers featured on the site tell about their process, recent work, favorite jobs and all kinds of things.
So if you are ever in need of some character design inspiration check it out. It features awesome artists and has tons of great drawings.

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21. About CBBFI

This blog is dedicated to Illustrators who love children's books. We hope this blog will provide value to every illustrator who illustrates children's books, wants to illustrate children's books, or any one who just loves to read children's books.

As an illustrator working in the children's book market or breaking into the children's book market you may have questions. We have tons, and we figured when we find the answers why not let everybody in on them.

So keep your eye out for posts about how the children's book market works. What its like to work in the market. Great books to read, illustrator, author, and editor interviews, places you can go as an artist to find inspiration for your work and all kinds of other good stuff.

In a nut shell CBBFI is here to help any illustrator working in or wishing they worked work in the children's industry do it better. Have the knowledge they need to be successful, and have tons of fun in the process.

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22. Plot line of a Picture Book

If you are an illustrator like me, one of your ultimate goals is to write your own story to illustrate. Being trained in illustration and not children's writing, I love getting any helpful hints I can get. Here is a great one I learned from a writer at a critique group.


Start by folding a regular 8 1/2 x 11 sheet of paper in half.

Fold it in half again.

And again.

And one more time.

Now unfold your piece of paper. You now have 16 squares.
Number each square 1-16 as seen above.

As you probably may know, most trade picture books have 32 pages, or 16 spreads. So this will be a visual way (for us visual people) to figure out what will happen in the story. As you have probably guessed, each square represents a spread (two pages). The following guidelines are what many good children's books go by. Write these things in the boxes as follows:

In box #1 write: character and setting. This is where the characters and setting are introduced to us. This is also developed in box 2 and 3.

In box #4 write: Problem shows up. This is where we start to see our conflict.

In box #5 write: Action- characters make 2 attempts to solve problem and fail. This part of the story is developed from spread 5-11.

In box #12 write: Crisis happens and everything falls apart.

In box #13 write: Feelings and reaction to crisis.

In box #14-15 write: Third attempt to solve problem.

And then finally in box #16 write: character's reaction to success.

I have also been told that in almost all children's picture books, there is a happy ending, or at least a hope for things to go better. So keep that in mind.

Hopefully this is a good help to you visual learners out there who would like to write your own stories.
,


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23. SCBWI

What is SCBWI? I'll tell you. It is The Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, and a pretty darn amazing organization. They are all about helping people learn more about publishing in the children's book world. Here are a couple of things I love about SCBWI.

1. Conferences: Conferences are the coolest. They have SCBWI conferences all over the place plus two huge ones every year. One in New York and on in LA. I went to the NY conf. once. It was great fun.
I have attended the annual SCBWI conference here in Utah for the last 4 years. It is coming up again in March. I am so excited. At conferences you can meet your heroes. I have personally met Richard Peck, Shannon Hale, Brett Helquist, Mark Brown, Jenifer Holm, and so many more. They always have cool stuff to say and they sign your books too. At conferences you also get to Talk to other people in your field of work, in your area. Meet editors and agents. Ask all kinds of questions about publishing, and so much more.

2. The SCBWI newsletter. It comes every other month and has all kinds of good information in it from illustrator tips, to legal advice for the publishing world.

3. Discussion boards. If you are wondering about anything related to children's book publishing, (if you can't find it on CBBFI) just ask the other discussers on the SCBWI discussion boards.

4. Other resources such as agent contact info and publisher lists and submission guidelines.

5. And one thing I find really valuable is the local chapter. In our local chapter We have a small SCBWI meeting once a month. It is a fun place to make fiends and learn about the industry. We also receive a newsletter with all the local news about events and local authors and illustrators. It's great.
So check it out!

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24. Molly Moon's Incredible Book of Hypnotism

By Georgia Byng
Time to tell you all about another great recorded book. Actually it is a series of books that I have really enjoyed listening to while I am working.


Molly Moon lives in an orphanage and only has one friend. All the other kids make fun of her and the caretakers are horrible too. Then she finds the book of hypnotism, and everything begins to go her way. It's not long before she is flying to New York City and performing on Broadway. But how long can it last?

After Molly has a great adventure in New York you can read about her other adventures in Molly Moon stops the World, Molly Moon's Hypnotic Time Travel Adventure, and more.

Order the books from Amazon or you can check out your local library for the recorded versions. They are tons of fun to listen to, so check them out.

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25. My Art is not a Hobby!

Many people look at our art as a hobby instead of a profession. Here's my take on the issue!

On a number of occasions, I have had old friends (from the neighborhood where I grew up) ask me if I would be able to do illustrations for them. On these occasions, the people asking for the work of course said they would pay me, but were thinking more along the lines of a babysitting fee. I tried to make these jobs as professional as I could- I even wrote up contracts. The problem was, I soon found, that these friends thought of my art talent as just a hobby; something I would just be willing to give away. They still viewed me as the budding artist who drew a castle and won first place in the reflections contest.

One lady wanted me to do a realistic drawing of a girl with an authentic looking costume from Dutch history. I realized to make the drawing look as realistic as she wanted it, I would need reference of an actual costume. When I asked her if she would provide a costume or to reimburse me for renting one, she decided to not use me as an illustrator because of the cost. On another occasion, I spent hours painting a very nice realistic looking oil painting for a friend, for which she was only able to pay my $100 which is generous for a neighbor, but very low for an original oil painting which I just handed over to her. On top of that, when she used it for her Christmas booklet, she Photoshoped in her own details, for which I got the credit. The painting was done not it my style of choice, but in a style of my friend’s choosing. I have discovered that these situations were not only bad for me as an artist, but also a strain on friendships.

Although I was warned against such situations, I guess I had to learn for myself. If you are seriously trying to become a professional illustrator, even if you haven’t been published yet, it’s important to remember that you are a professional. If you were a dentist, your friends wouldn’t just pay you any small amount of money they felt like they could afford (or no money at all for that matter) for your professional services. Why is it that so many people think of art as just a hobby? Maybe it is because it is a hobby for so many people. But if it is your profession, treat it like a profession, and make others realize that if you are going to spend hours of your professional time doing a job for them, the should pay you your professional fees that you deserve. On occasion, it may a good for your portfolio to do jobs for a lower cost or on spec when starting out to get exposure and experience, but remember to choose wisely.

We as illustrators need to learn how to tell the sweet little old granny who lives down the street and your dear mom “No.” It is still okay to give people art gifts every once in a while, but if this is going to be your profession, you need to treat it as such. I get quite a few emails from people who are wondering what my fees are. Usually this kind of person has no idea what illustrators really charge, and they are looking for the person who will charge the least. My advice is to tell them a good industry standard price, and if it’s too high for them, then the job probably isn’t worth doing anyway. This isn’t always the case, but like I said, choose wisely. Here is an excellent guide to industry standard pricing: The Graphic Artists Guild Handbook on Pricing and Ethical Guidelines. This book not only has industry standard pricing, but also many other resources to protect you as an illustrator like contracts and other legal matters. Just remember, don’t be a pushover.



While we’re on the subject here is an excellent blog article about SPEC work (working for no fee)and particularly about a new website called Pixish.

Hey, tell us your thoughts on this subject!

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