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After I launched TIGER BOY in the San Francisco Bay Area, I headed to the coast I used to call home for the New England Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators conference, several author visits, and a book launch party at Newtonville Books. What a joy to see old friends and meet new ones. Travel along with me.
|My NESCBWI workshop for fellow writers:|
"12 Questions to Help us See Race and Culture in our Stories"
|Signing with author friends: From L to R, Me, Debi Mishiko Florence (Japan: A Kaleidoscope Kids Book), Mike Jung (Geeks, Girls, and Secret Identities), Grace Lin (Starry River of the Sky), and Padma Venkatraman (A Time to Dance).|
|Delightful to see a bunch of brown faces at the conference (From L to R: Sona Charaipotra, Visi Tilak, Nandini Bajpai, me)|
|Book Launch Party at Newtonville Books!|
|Author (me), illustrator (Jamie Hogan), editor (Yo Scott), baby (belongs to Yo), tiger, book: what else do you need for a bookstore party?|
|"Buy this book, please."|
|Illustrator Jamie Hogan captivates the crowd with stories about research and technique.|
|Next came five school visits in three days, starting with writing workshops for fifth-graders at Willard School in Concord, Massachusetts.|
|Several of these fourth-graders at Zervas School in Newton started following me on Instagram after I visited. They are nine.|
|Haggerty School in Cambridge is full of mini-mes like this one.|
New England seemed shell-shocked from the winter, as though bracing for a next snow. But the daffodils and crocuses were in bloom and the lilacs were budding. Happy Spring, Boston! I miss you!
I spent yesterday at the New England Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators spring conference. A very good day for me. In the past when I've attended professional events, I've reported on the people I knew who I ran into. Well, I seem to know quite a few people now. Reading a list of them wouldn't be that fascinating. So I will go one to other things.
Workshops AttendedCrafting Short Stories
with Trisha Leaver
. I may spend a month later this year revising a number of my short stories because of this program. Show Me the Money
with Chris Eboch
. This workshop dealt with what I've heard called "income streams" for writers. There are a number of options, but they require so much work! I came up with some pitches for someone else I know while I was in the class. And this workshop was a good lead-in to the afternoon workshop I attended, which was on school visits. School visits, you see, are an income stream for writers.Bringing Books Alive During School and Library Visits
with Marcia Wells
and Kwame Alexander
. Interesting story here. When I signed up for this workshop, I'd never heard of either of these people. And then Kwame Alexander won the Newbery Medal
! Marcia and I have already become Twittermates. I'll be doing a separate post early next month on school visit workshops.
The New England SCBWI regional conference is huge in terms of attendance. Computer Guy went with me a few years ago
when we were preparing to republish Saving the Planet & Stuff
so he could take a workshop on making e-books from scratch. He was stunned by the crowd then, and amazed by the lunchtime picture to your left.
That is why it was terrific that Jill Daily, a member of my writers' group, somehow snagged a table for the nine of us. It was great not to have to negotiate a ballroom full of people on my own. I am afraid I was not a great lunch companion, however, because I was seated in such a way that I had to turn my back to everyone to see the lunch speakers. And I also was busy taking notes and pictures.
During lunch Deborah Freedman
received the Crystal Kite Award
for the New England region. This was for her book, The Story of Fish and Snail
Kwayme Alexander spoke during lunch, too. Extremely
charming and charismatic. I actually read a book of poetry
this year, and I think I'm going to ask for one of Kwayme's (I went to his workshop, so I can call him Kwayme, right?) adult books for my birthday.
The lunch panel discussion was a surprise for me. I wasn't looking forward to it, because it was on nontraditional publishing. I've spent a lot of time on my own nontraditional publishing effort, and this past month I've been promoting the living daylights out of it. I wasn't wildly enthusiastic about hearing more on this subject right now.
But I was totally taken with this discussion. I think what made it good was the variety of viewpoints of the panelists. There was a self-published writer who is very encouraging on the process, someone who runs an editing company that also helps authors self-publish who recognized that some people are going to need help, someone who had been involved in some kind of self-publishing company that wasn't successful, and a traditionally published author new to self-publishing. I appreciated that they didn't all speak with one voice.
The panelists: Chris Cheng
, Laura Pauling
, Erica Orloff
, and Steve Mooser
. J. L. Bell
, from the NESCBWI was the moderator. There is a reason for that. He's very good at it.
I'll be doing another couple of Conference-related posts later this week.
I am finishing today with a picture of lunch because Kwayme Alexander used a food slide in his lunch talk. It was terrific. People love looking at pictures of food. It is a universal truth.
By: Liz Goulet Dubois
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The time had come… after a pleasant drive through the backroads of RI through the snow drifts and pines…
…so began the 2015 edition of the Whispering Pines Writers Retreat at the Alton Jones campus! This was a special year, though- the 20th anniversary of it’s beginning. I have been coming since I was the illustrator mentor in 2007. Every year is full of inspiration, bonding, and renewed vigor for our writing careers. It is also full of cake. SO MUCH CAKE. And food that magically appears. It is another world, to be sure.
Lynda Mullaly Hunt and Mary Pierce have been the co-directors for many years, and have decided to step down this year. There’s no way they would go out without a bang, and it started right away! KidLit Jeopardy was a great way to kick it off andstart on that bonding I was talking about. It’s always a laugh fest. My team came in 3rd place (pretty decent)!
My favorite category is BUNNIES.
Hayley Barrett gives Lynda a going-away present…
…and it was fascinating! “Embrace the journey” was a good theme for the whole weekend.
Mary Pierce and Kristin Russo got mini trophies for being a driving force (literally) for the retreat.
NESCBWI RA Sally Riley and incoming retreat director Julie Kingsley get commemorative staplers, for holding things together. Julie will be joined by Cameron Kelly Rosenblum as co-director of next year’s Whispering Pines retreat.
Co-director Mary receives a superhero cape for going up, up, and away above the usual requirements!
Some of the mentors: agents Erin Murphy and Ammi-Joan Paquette, and editors Sylvie Frank, Kendra Levin, and Mallory Kass.
Laurie Murphy and Linda Crotta Brennan were recognized as the originators of the retreat 20 years ago.
Greenhouse Literary agent John Cusick gave great tips on ignoring the nagging voice that tells you you can’t write, and how to carve out legit writing time in your life. As both a writer and an agent, he knows intimately what he’s talking about.
Lynda and Mary pulled off a pretty incredible surprise by bringing back SIX previous mentors just to be on a panel about “what I wished I knew when I was starting out”. She had asked me casually to weigh in on this subject, but I didn’t know it would become a full-out panel discussion with all these fantastic writers and illustrators. Color me humbled. It was a real high point of the event!
Mentors, past and present: Lynda Mullaly Hunt, Kim Newton Fusco, Leslie Connor, Jennifer Thermes, Kelly Murphy, Erin Dionne, Ammi-Joan Paquette, Carlyn Beccia, Me, Barbara O’Connor, and Brian Lies. Thanks Pam Vaughan for this photo!
Agents Ammi-Joan Paquette and Erin Murphy turned the tables asked each other questions. Erin looks for things she didn’t know she liked until she read them; it’s the exceptions to the rules that grab her. Ammi-Joan is open to any genre and concedes that there is no one-size-fits-all path in a career.
First pages in the cozy lodge. The mentors really went above and beyond this year is their discussions of the first pages, giving us meaty and useful critiques.
Mallory Kass, Sylvie Frank, Kendra Levin, Lynda Mullaly Hunt, Ammi-Joan Paquette, John Cusick, and Erin Murphy.
Carlyn, bringin’ the glamour and spreading it around. “Give me more zhush!”
Food. So much food. Food that we didn’t have to prepare, and dishes that magically disappeared after, only to be replaced by cake. Such is the way of Whispering Pines.
Writer girls Sandy Smith Budiansky and Brook Gideon. The smiles say it all.
Senior Editor Kendra Levin, from Viking, is not only a great editor, but a life coach. It was excellent to hear how she blends these ingredients to bring out the best in each book. I won’t think of elevators the same way again!
Jennifer O’Keefe has the uncanny ability to paint gorgeous watercolors during the retreat!
Editor Sylvie Frank from Simon and Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books gave a great inside look at the editorial process. I loved how she makes her own dummies of manuscripts just to become one with the flow of each story. That’s dedication!
Kristin Russo stepping up and sharing her writing exercise.
Mallory Kass from Scholastic looks for books that transport the reader, and immerse them in a new world. She seeks characters that have such a unique world view that it colors the reader’s view, too. She was quite a character herself, relating publishing to the dating world in a disturbingly accurate way!
Adieu, Whispering Pines, for another year. You never fail to bring out the best in everyone.
The past four days have been nonstop smiling, hugging, note-taking, speech-giving, workshop attending, bad-food binging, wine drinking, late night talking, friend-making, lack-of-sleeping awesomeness.
Usually I document absolutely everything with photos but somehow I got almost none! So I will have to try very hard to plant these memories firmly in my heart. I don't think it will be hard.
Thursday started with dinner in Stowe, VT (which I'd somehow never been to) at an amazing restaurant called The Phoenix with members of the DCF committee. I had the best veggie burger I've ever eaten and met some fascinating people. Great conversation about books and art and kids and nature. Wow.
I was also given the news that the keynote speaker for the conference had a flight cancellation so I would be the keynote speaker instead. *gulp* But I must admit it was the most uplifting, rewarding experience. I've never felt so truly connected to an audience as I did that morning. I talked about books that change us, books that save us, and the role teachers and librarians have in connecting that special book to that child in need. I was that child. And I am so grateful I had the opportunity to talk to a roomful of teachers and librarians who are the ones who bridge the reader and book. It was a real gift to be able to thank them, and encourage them.
Here is a photo of me with Grace Greene as the audience gave my first ever standing ovation. What a moment. I don't think our faces are reflecting the awe and gratitude I was feeling. But it may just be because my friend Cindy was trying to take the photo with my phone :-)
Thank you Grace, for inviting me to speak at this special conference. It was an honor.
Directly after that talk, I was in a break-out session to keep the discussion going and it was both intimate and eye-opening. There may have been some tears. What a wonderful audience.
After that, we had lunch and then it was time to listen to Gary Schmidt! I love his books so much and his talk was very powerful. I'm really glad I got to be there to hear it!
I signed lots and lots of books, which is always a thrill. One woman couldn't decide who to have me sign her book to. Martha finally won. :-)
Then, it was time to head to Springfield, MA for the NESCBWI conference. Cindy Faughnan and I drove through the mountains, coming upon rainbow after rainbow. It was the perfect way to close a magical day.
We met Tamra Smith and Sharon Darrow in Hartland, VT and continued our journey to Springfield. Sadly we were so late I missed the faculty dinner so we went out seeking a restaurant and it took so long to get back we missed the cocktail party, too! Boo! But it was lovely to have some quiet time together.
Saturday morning, I got to sit with long-time writing partners Cindy Faughnan and Debbi Michiko Florence. This was our first conference together, even though we have been working together for, oh, close to ten years? :-)
We listened to Peter Reynolds talk about the power of a single dot. But more importantly, the power of a teacher's encouragement to trust that you are just as special as anyone else. That your dot, your words, _you_ matter. It was a continuation of the theme that began back in Stowe, and it filled my heart with hope for those kids who need to hear that message most.
At lunch, I had the honor to present Tamara Ellis Smith with the first of two Marguerite (Peggy) Davol scholarships. What a joy! Then, I accepted the Crystal Kite Award for SEE YOU AT HARRY'S. Also, obviously a big joy. A big honor. A huge moment. In my acceptance speech, I talked about how there were times when I thought Harry's was just too hard to write. And how it was friends (including Peggy) at an NESCBWI conference years ago who gave me the courage to keep trying. I also talked about how last year, a friend was having similar feelings about her own work, and how we also encouraged her to not give up. Well, she didn't, and she just got her first book deal! :-) I extend that message to all of you, feeling doubt about whether you can do this thing. You can. It will be hard. And it will probably require you to work extremely hard. But if you are willing, you can do it. You CAN!
Saturday night proved to all of us that this conference can feel just a wee bit too big and overwhelming, as we realized just how impossible it was to find each other and try to meet for dinner and then find those we couldn't earlier to meet to visit and chat at night. Yikes! There were so many people at this conference I meant to see and catch up with but I simply never did. Usually we at least spy each other walking through the halls but boy there were just so many people it became impossible. I love that this conference has grown, that so many people are pursuing their dreams of telling their stories. But I also wish I could have been in about ten places at the same time, so that I hadn't missed catching up with so many dear friends.
On Sunday morning, Laurel Snyder talked about who we write for, and how to filter out the voices and advice that stifle our creativity. My favorite quote: "You can't write for everybody because everybody isn't a person." I have been thinking about that a lot.
Then I got to give a workshop on "Brave Beginnings" and encourage people to rethink the beginnings of their works-in progress. I realize now this workshop could have easily been 2 hours long instead of 1. But I hope people were inspired by the blank page and could see how sometimes not looking at what's already there can be liberating and help them find the beginning that works just right.
Driving home with friends, it was awfully quiet. I think we all had our own thoughts swirling around in our hearts. The friends we reconnected with. The people we met for the first time. The advice we received. The food we regretted eating. But mostly, that question about who we write for, and who we want to reach, and why, and how we can, and what might happen if we do.
Thank you to all the volunteers who make this conference possible. There is a reason it keeps growing, and it's because you all make it so wonderful.
Think about what Laurel said about how you can't write for everybody because everybody isn't a person. Think about it really carefully. And now think about who we _DO_ write for? Think about who _YOU_ write for. Who do you imagine reader your words? Who do you want to, most specifically? Write a letter to that person and explain why. Why do you want him/her to hear your story? Why him/her most of all? What do you want this special reader to know? To hear? To feel? Then, if you're still feeling brave, share!
Last Saturday's NESCBWI's New Media Day
concluded with an interview with author illustrator Ruth Sanderson
conducted by Melissa Stewart
. Melissa opened with the observation that it is common for people who have been in children's publishing for a long time to do a number of things, a point that tied Ruth to the rest of the day's program, which was all about children's authors moving into something new, digital publishing. She began her career doing artwork for filmstrips (that was techie once) and two years ago she reformatted her version of Cinderella
In between those two career events, Ruth did textbook illustrations and the covers for book series, including the first Black Stallion paperbacks. She moved into writing with a series of fairy tale retellings that she also illustrated. In addition to what might be called traditional illustration work, Ruth creates licensed products such as cards, puzzles, and flags. She considers herself a commercial artist who shifts with the book and product markets.
She also teaches summers at Hollins University's children's literature program
and has applied to Vermont College's MFA program.
Ruth's description of her career made me think of Roxie Munro
, who spoke last year at UConn
. She also described a career in art and illustration that involved a lot of movement among different types of work and that progressed into new media.
What we may be seeing here is a work model, one that is becoming more visible because of the evolving digital landscape. Illustrators and writers don't do one thing over and over again but move along with market demands and take advantage of new technologies. This is probably nothing new, but the attention digital publishing is receiving is bringing new attention to the changes in how creative people like Ruth Sanderson work.
I know the wait for me to discuss last Saturday's NESCBWI event New Media Day: Making Sense of the Evolving Digital Landscape has been long and painful. Well, folks, it is over. I am ready to begin.
The overall feeling of the day was that the move to digital reading isn't something to fight and fear. For one thing, it's here. For another, it can work for you.
James McQuivey on Digital Disruptions James McQuivey
tracks how digital disruptions affect traditional businesses, like publishing. McQuivey describes a world of consumers who are so disrupted in the way that they receive products that any company that doesn't conform to this new method of obtaining product will become irrelevant. Companies must, as he said, follow the consumer. For publishing, what we're describing as a digital disruption is the move to, or at least the inclusion of, eBooks. The more rapidly publishers can embrace digital publication, the sooner they'll be able to give the millions of digital consumers already in existence what they want.
McQuivey made a really interesting historical point. We have experienced technical disruptions in the past. (Wasn't the entire Industrial Revolution a technical disruption?) But those disruptions were slow and expensive. It took a lot of time and money to build mills or develop jet engines. The digital disruption we're experiencing now is far cheaper and faster. More people can become involved, more people can bring ideas to the market.
This is a good thing.
Rubin Pfeffer On Specifics Of Digital Publishing In The Children's FieldRubin Pfeffer of East West Literary Agency
spoke about specifics both digitally and with self-publishing, since many self-published writers go the digital route. According to Pfeffer:
- The numbers of traditional vs. self-published titles are very close to being the same, near the 400,000 mark for each.
- In addition, eBook sales are expected to surpass print books at some point. (Keep in mind that many eBook sales figures include free books.)
- YA is the dominant children's genre in self-publishing and is significant with eBooks since younger children are less likely to have e-readers, the visual components of picture books can be more difficult to create digitally, and e-readers give adults who read YA and don't want anyone to know it some privacy.
- We are witnessing the rise of independent eBook publishers
- Technology creates new content, eBooks, enhanced eBooks, and apps all being cases in point
Begin, Boon, and Gauthier On Bringing Books Back To Life
Author-illustrators Mary Jane Begin
, Emilie Boon
, and I took part in a panel discussion moderated by NESCBWI Assistant Regional Advisor and author/editor/historian J. L. Bell
. We got even more specific on the subject of digital publishing by answering questions about how we republished out-of-print work as eBooks. We all covered how we determined which of our books to take digital, where we went for technical assistance, and the general difficulties we experienced.
Both Mary Jane and Emilie used eBook publishers for their work, which, since they are illustrators, would have been heavy with artwork. Hearing this coming so soon after hearing Rubin Pfeffer's presentation, which included a list of independent eBook publishers and a description of services they offer, made me decide to refer to my eBook edition of Saving the Planet & Stuff
as an artisan book, because my computer guy and I did it ourselves, not realizing until we were well into the project that we had any other option.
When we got to the point of discussing sales, my co-panelists and I had to be the bearers of the most difficult news of the day. We were in agreement that sales have been modest to dreadful. And we were also in agreement as to why that was the case--searchability, or, the term I prefer, discoverability. In a literary world in which nearly 800,000 books are published a year, it's extremely difficult for any one book to be noticed. There's pretty much a pile on and most titles will be buried.
We managed to bring things back up, though, by pointing out that that sales situation could change. Any one of us on the panel could publish something in the future that would make our back list more valuable, and then our eBooks will be available because they don't go out of print. In addition, self-publishing is an exciting, artistic project. Even though it was Mary Jane who said that, not me, I agree that the two years of publishing and marketing my eBook have been a mental kick.
Our Conclusion Is Still To Come
The day ended with an interview with author-illustrator Ruth Sanderson
. I'll be giving that its own post later this week.
Thanks to Facebook friend Hazel Mitchell
for the panel picture. The final group photo was taken by Joanie Druris of the NESCBWI.
I haven't been able to finish posting about Wednesday night's UConn event Gendered Publishing, and I've already been over-stimulated by another terrific program, the NESCBWI's New Media Day: Making Sense of the Evolving Digital Landscape. And I'm not just saying that because I was on the afternoon's panel with Mary Jane Begin and Emilie Boon.
This was another of the NESCBWI programs run by children's science writer Melissa Stewart for the Published and Listed Program. The Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators has a large membership of prepublished writers that it serves very well. In recent years it's been making an effort to provide programs for members who have been traditionally published. Melissa has been in charge of the New England divisions PAL programs and has creating creative short-term experiences like today's.
When I've had a chance to finish my account of last week's UConn panel, rest assured that I will give you a rundown on everything that happened today. In the meantime, enjoy this photo of my panel mates and our moderator having lunch. Hey, folks, this is the kind of insider, backroom information you don't get at just any blog.
And, yes, it's proof that I was in the insider backroom.
What a weekend! This is the first moment I've had to properly collect a few of my thoughts about the NESCBWI conference held this past Friday, Saturday and Sunday in Springfield, MA. It was a great experience, filled with kind people, informative workshops, and new friends. Thanks go out to NESCBWI for putting it all together!
Here are my personal take-aways:
1. I know more than I think I know.
Generally, during and after each workshop, I found myself thinking...gee...I already know most of what was said. That doesn't mean the workshops and information weren't valuable---it just serves as a reminder that over the past seven years, I've done a lot of researching and gained a lot of experience on my own that I've either been using or have filed away for future use. Bottom line: I'm not a newb. That much is clear.
2. I still need to work on self-confidence issues.
While I do take pride and feel good about my overall craft and presentation, when it comes to the content of the work itself I'm always pretty self-conscious. I do work hard and try hard to make smart decisions, but I still feel like I'm pretending to be an illustrator. I doubt my own drawing/painting abilities, I doubt my compositions, I doubt my own imagination/creativity (or lack thereof). I compare myself too much to those I admire. If this weekend has shown me anything, it's that I should believe in myself a little more. My work is polished. My portfolio varied. Throughout this weekend I felt a lot of support and encouragement from strangers who offer a more objective view of my work. It left me feeling like I will get to where I want to go if I just stick with it. I'm already headed in the right direction and I have experience to back me up. I have the tools I need, I just have to figure out what I want to do with them.
3. I depend on external validation more than I'd like to.
That doesn't mean that I only want compliments--in fact the opposite is true. I sincerely appreciate constructive feedback that guides me to ways to keep improving. Throughout the weekend I had generous, positive interactions with fellow illustrators about my work. Yet that positive reinforcement did very little to elevate my self-worth. Instead, I allowed the disappointingly dispassionate two minute critique from the small panel of industry reps to make me feel rather lousy about my work. It left me second guessing deliberate decisions and confused about how to fix what they didn't like. But I'm smarter than that--I should be able to take it by now! I ought be able to swallow criticism and not get overly dejected that easily. Not everybody has to completely embrace my work. I can't please everyone. I can only take all the feedback in and trust myself to know what I want to do with it moving forward.
4. KidLit can be a very friendly industry.
I met a lot of very kind, very awesome, very talented people this weekend. It was wonderful to make new connections with strangers who share a common love and respect for children's literature. It really is all about networking and establishing a supportive community. We're all in this together, pulling for each of us to succeed, or at the very least, to keep pursuing our passion. Whether it's connecting with those just beginning their journeys, sharing common experiences with a fellow published illustrator, or getting the chance to meet the author of the book I illustrated, everyone was so darn nice and generous with their time. It makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.
5. I want to succeed in this industry.
I want to illustrate. I want to write. I want to make books that express who I am and how I see the world. And I want to be able to share these books with the children for whom they are intended. Sharon Creech and Grace Lin's uplifting key notes in particular reminded me of that. Life and art are intermingling at all times, and it's up to us to open our hearts and minds and allow those moments to flow into our creativity. It's not about making pretty pictures or telling pretty stories. It's about creating an idea, capturing and contributing a very human part of ourselves.
Sometimes when I'm in the trenches pulling my hair out over an educational project I don't want to be doing, I question whether I want to be doing this at all. But so many times this weekend my heart panged with overwhelming hope, skipped with a jolt of inspiration, and beat with a constant sense of purpose that I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that this is the place I want to be.
So I'm going to keep at it, and start listening to what's on the inside, waiting for a chance to come out.
So---did you attend the conference, too? What were your take-aways?
Here are the only two shots I snapped this whole weekend. I guess I was too busy making friends to spend time behind the camera!
And here is my entry for the poster contest for Jane Yolen's poem
In these last few days before next weekend's NESCBWI conference, I've been putting the finishing touches on my portfolio book and trying to decide whether I have any dummies in good enough shape to include. I certainly don't want to put sub-par work out just for the heck of it, but I also don't want to miss an opportunity like the conference can provide. Hmmm... probably not enough time left to get everything I hoped to finished. Ho hum.
In other news, I had a booth at Sunday's Craftopia event in Pawtucket. 9 hours of work and I just barely made back the cost of the booth. I gave out a lot of cards, and like every other time it was nice to interact with people directly, but when the highlight of my day was a very old lady randomly telling me about another vendor's painting of a beach that she loved but didn't to buy want because it turned out it wasn't of a Rhode Island beach...well, that's when you know it was a pretty dull day. At least my superstar husband was there to people watch with me.
Actually, the most redeeming part of the day was selling some prints to a mother and her two children. That's always a really nice feeling. Sometimes I should just think of my booth as a tiny travelling museum, free to the public, hoping a handful of people enjoy what they see.
The NESCBWI conference
is approaching quickly. My new postcards arrived just this afternoon. (250 is a larger number than I anticipated!) I'm hoping to give some out at the conference and maybe do a small mailing of my own a little later. Overall, very pleased with these cards. I used Modern Postcard
and so far the color accuracy is the best out of any tried thus far. Well worth it, especially for the oversized card --these are 8.5 by 6 inches.
It feels good to have created a piece that I feel plays to my strengths--I really want to get more work with older characters. I also want to illustrate animals and anything NOT set in the here and now. Give me fantasy, sci-fi, historical fiction, or animal stories. I don't think I'm particularly suited to the kind of picture books that are trending right now, but I feel like there may be a place for me in classic story collections, chapter books, or middle grade novels. I'm just not a simple, scribbly, gestural illustrator and I'm tired of fighting against that fact. I just want to be me.
Personally, I am so glad there are illustrators out there for those types of very young picture books. (You know, super fun, colorful, strong shapes, scribbly line, looks-like-a-child-could-draw-it kind of artwork.) And I don't mean this to sound snarky, because I'm sincere. I think simple, gestural imagery is integral to children's visual literacy. I think it's important that there be artwork that directly relates to children because it captures a child-like essence. But I've never been that kind of artist. And though I find it amazingly fun to look at, it just isn't fun for me to create. So I'm just going to try to get better at doing what I do...and being who I am...
I had the pleasure and luck to attend the New England SCBWI’s most excellent Whispering Pines Writer’s Retreat again this year (I believe this is my 5th year). It takes place in paradise (also known as URI’s Alton Jones Campus in W. Greenwich, RI). Lucky for me, this isn’t so far to travel; yet it is like being a world away!
We started with a first night first pages panel…
…followed by a pleasant Kid Lit Jeopardy deathmatch.
Valkyrie Lynda fields the questions while Julia Boyce writes upside down and backwards to keep score.
Events take place in and around the campus, but mainly here in the Lodge…
Retreat Directors Lynda Mullaly Hunt and Mary Pierce got the day rolling on Friday with some shout-outs to the volunteers who make it all work.
Accolades and to Laurie Murphy and Linda Crotta Brennan for their assistance!
The mentors this year were stellar!
Erin Dionne, Shauna Rossano, Mary, Sara Crowe, Lynda, Bethany Strout, and Kelly Murphy up front. Missing from this shot: Leslie Connor!
First up was my amazing illustrator friend Kelly Murphy, who was very up front and realistic about what it’s like to work with authors and publishers. Her work is dynamic and recognizably hers, no matter the subject. She takes a lot of care to do manuscripts justice in her art.
Some of Kelly’s originals were on display while she signed books.
Erin Dionne is the author of several books that are huge hits in our house. Her talk was about marketing, and it was fun to hear how she makes connections and cultivates community in the real word and online.
Author Leslie Connor had some great insight into tapping into the truth when writing. Having that element of truth allows readers to invest in your characters and care about what happens to them. Such a good point.
Food! The food is incredible at Whispering Pines. And it just keeps coming. And then the plates disappear. It’s a magical way to live for a few days!
Every meal comes with excellent conversation as well!
First pages, second night…
…followed by FIRE!
Cameron Kelly Rosenblum stokes the fire and the silly conversation, all with the same stick.
Now pretend that you have stayed up WAY past your bedtime talking, laughing, and having a great time. Good!
Shauna Rossano, Associate Editor at G.P. Putnam’s Sons, got the last morning started with some great tips on catching an editor’s eye right away by making those important first impressions.
Sara Crowe, Agent at Harvey Klinger, Inc. gave us some valuable insight into her process of reviewing books for representation. Submissions to her must not only ring true to her, but imply a way she can market it to editors.
Here’s Bethany Strout, Assistant Editor, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers. I had met her at the Blueberry Fields retreat in Maine last year, and she was just as smart and approachable here. She draws from both her knowledge and instincts to choose manuscripts for her publisher.
Alas, all too soon, it comes to a close. I love reconnecting with many of my writer and artist friends in the region here; it really is a charmed event.
Just a few of the lovely folks as seen at WP… Jennifer Thermes, Janet Costa Bates, Cameron Kelly Rosenblum, and Kim Savage.
A few parting shots, until next time…!
I thought I'd share the finished illustration from my last 'What I'm Working On' post
back in July. I've been a busy bee: updating my website
, physical portfolio, and twitter
page; mailing off a special little promotional
; getting ready for the Illustrator's Symposium at NHIA
It's always such a treat to spend time with fellow illustrator friends (in real life!) and be re-inspired to keep me moving forward. It's also a treat that I'm not putting any last minute work together AND I have new business cards to share - woot!
P.S.: I was feeling too much like that big blue guy yesterday. Today I'm channeling the orange guy, leaping over toys to get to my desk while little ones oblige.
By: Hazel Mitchell,
Blog: Hazel Mitchell
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, children's illustration
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This week I was asked to create a banner for New England's SCBWI Facebook page. This was an honour and a lot of fun to do. What better than lobster and water on a day that was over 90F .. phew, Maine!
Here is the banner.
View it on Facebook at NESCBWI page
I wanted to keep it fun and lively, so it's one of my digital drawings straight into Photoshop, no sketching. It stops me overthinking and it's a style that is appealing to younger eyes. And older ones too I hope!
Right now I am packing to go to ALA (American Library Conference) in Anaheim, CA. This is my first time at a big library conference and it's exciting. I have two book signings, so if you are going, catch me at Kane Miller (with Anastasia Suen, author of 'All Star Cheerleaders') at 11am Saturday and at Charlesbridge's booth Saturday 2-3pm signing 'Hidden New Jersey'.
I am looking forward to meeting LIBRARIANS and catching up with some industry friends. So please come and say HELLO!
There will be photos ...
Right, back to packing.
On the bedside table:
A slew of Emily Gravett picture books
'Picture This' and 'What it is' by Lynda Barry - recommend highly.
By: Hazel Mitchell,
Blog: Hazel Mitchell
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, Eric Carle Museum
, Hazel Mitchell
, jennifer marsh morris
, Harold Underdown
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What a great conference! SCBWI New England really pulled it out of the bag this time.
3 great days at Springfield, MA. Over 500 attended and the faculty line up was amazing! Highlights included Harry Bliss, Dan Yaccarino, Harold Underdown, Kate Messner, Jane Yolen, Cynthia Lord, Brian Lies, Heidi Stemple, Jo Knowles ... on and on ... you can check out just what the line up was at http://www.nescbwi.org/.
If you are hoping to write or illustrate for children - you can't do better than attend an SCBWI conference and New England is one of the best. In the three years I have been a member it's given me invaluable information, education, contacts and networking opportunities. And best of all - friends who relate to my goals and frustrations. So I say thank you to the organizers and volunteers!
I travelled with Russ Cox (friend and fellow illustrator) from Maine on Friday and it was straight into the deep end with a great 'meet and greet' with top-hole artists and writers at the Eric Carle Museum in Amherst. (My first visit and a beautiful venue.)
Before we knew it Sunday rolled around ... and it was time to say goodbye. Russ and I returned to Maine in triumph ... Russ swept the board with two first prizes and the emerging artist award read his take ont he conference and his success here ... and not to be left out I won second prize in the People's Choice category!! Yippee for 'Boy and World '.
SO A BIG SMACKEROONEY TO ALL THOSE WHO VOTED FOR ME.
Right now my drawing board is overflowing with projects so I had better get my *** in gear.
I'll leave you with a few photos from the weekend and hope to meet you at a conference soon!
Back in the studio today.
With a great group of illustrators.
Signing Casey Girard's Sketchbook Project
At the Eric Carle Museum
Don't forget, registration opens today for the New England Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators conference begin held in Fitchburg, MA on May 13, 14 and 15th.
I'll be there all weekend. And on Sunday, I have the privilege of giving a two hour presentation with my friend, and very talented illustrator Carlyn Beccia entitled, "Digital Painting Duels." If you are familiar with Carlyn and her work, you know that she loves Corel Painter. I, on the other hand, am a Photoshop kind of gal.
If you know anything about New England, you know New Englanders are extremely loyal to their teams. So of course, we could spend the two hours fighting over which which is best, Team Painter or Team Photoshop. Which would be silly, because we all know Photoshop is wicked bettah!
But seriously, both software packages have there own strengths and weaknesses, which is what we will be exploring during the course of our talk. Hopefully the audience will walk away with a better appreciation for both tools, as well as a few new tips and techniques they can take back to the studio with them. By the way, does anyone know where I can get a Photoshop t-shirt to wear?
This week I got a lovely package in the post - a whole heap of goodies that accompany the children's motivational book 'Why Am I Here?'. I illustrated and did the layout for the book in 2009 for Simon and Schuster bestselling author Matthew Kelly.
Author of several NY Times bestselling motivational books for adults and top class motivational speaker, this is Matthew's first book for children, published by his own publishing company: Beacon Publishing. Matthew is head of a phenomenal organization and the book itself has sold thousands already. To go along with the book his foundation has developed a whole teaching pack, including dolls, lesson plans, posters ... and I worked on the design and layout of everything you see in the photo ... including the packing boxes and hang tags on Max the doll. It was great fun, and even more fun to see it all together like this ... I feel quite proud!
So here's how you can win a goodie bag ... please be a follower of my blog and leave a comment on this post and you will be in the draw to win one of three packs including the book. Max the doll, pencils, badge, fridge magnet and a couple of other goodies! Good luck.
Other goings on in the life of The Wacky Brit ... next weekend on my way to the NE SCBWI conference in Fitchburg. Going to be entering the poster showcase again (last year I won 2 places, I am not expecting to replicate that though!). Here's my entry (this year we had to recreate a landmark children's book cover)
If your going, come say hello :-)
Meanwhile, working my way through the finals for the 'Hidden New Jersey' book for Charlesbridge Publishing. I love it when I get to the colouring stage, that's the most fun. The deadline is mid June so It's coming up shortly.
And in between I am putting together the school project for the local elementary school 4th grade that they have illustrated and written (it's about The Seasons in Maine).
So - heck it's been busy. Trying to stick to a good routine of bed early and up early. A bit like being a long distance runner .. pacing oneself.
Right I'm off - hope you will enter the competition!
aka The Wacky Brit
Lot's of book on the bedside table ... too many to mention right now.
1. Don't forget that the NYC SCBWI conference registration starts on Monday, 10 am PDT. Hopefully you got your postcard in the mail. If not, click here for more information.
2. My husband came home on surprise visit. He's away with the Navy and hasn't been home for a month. The whole family is very happy and I can't believe how relaxing it is to just write, plan my next lesson, do SCBWI stuff, and exercise without having to shuttle children, take care of the dog, make dinner, do laundry, clean the car, and vacuum the stairs. (The last two I just don't do when he's not here.) We'll see him again next weekend at the Mid-Atlantic SCBWI conference in Dulles, VA.
3. My WIP is moving forward fabulously. A huge thank you and shout out to the entire jonowrimo community for their cheering and support as I tackle daily word count. Another huge thank you to my fellow Cheese Sandwiches who check in with me during the week to make sure we are all on track. It takes a village to write a book.
4. Speaking of a village. Another shout out goes to Lynn Conway, a librarian at Georgetown University who helped me this week by answering silly questions about Riggs Library such as: Do the stairs in the library cling or clang when you ascend? What stained glass is in the round windows? Are the book cases painted gold or do they just shine in the pictures because of the flash? Once again I'm reminded of the awesome and selfless nature of the librarian.
5. Casey Girard, NESCBWI Illustrator Coordinator has been working hard to put together an Illustrator Day Event for the region. Here's what we know. It will be on November 19th from 1 pm - 6 pm at the New Hampshire Institute of Art in Manchester, NH. (Yes. In a month.) It will include an award-winning book designer, Carol Goldenberg, and a reprise of the "Dueling Digital Painters" Workshop with Carlyn Beccia, and Jennifer Morris from the spring NESCBWI conference. Keynote speaker to be announced! Watch this space and www.nescbwi.org for more information.
Did someone say prizes? Well, yes I did. You could win a sketchbook,
OR drawing materials,
OR Illustrator Day Keynote Speaker, Salley Mavor's Golden Kite Winning Book
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How? You might ask...how could I win one of these great prizes?
You can help me publicize NESCBWI's Illustrator Day event.
1. Share this blog post on facebook and tag me so I know you did it.
2. Tweet or retweet this blog post and other info about the event with the hashtag #illustratorday.
I'll put all of your names and tweet handles in a box and pick out names until the prizes are gone- from now until:
When: Saturday, November 19, 2011
Where: Emma Blood French Auditorium (The French Building) on the New Hampshire Institute of Art campus in Manchester, NH.
The schedule for Illustrator Day 2011 will be as follows:
1:15-2:15 Keynote: Salley Mavor, Golden Kite Winner 2011
15 min break
2:30-3:30 Carol Goldenberg, Award Winning Book Designer
30 min set up break
4:00-4:45 Repeat of Carlyn Beccia and Jennifer Morris' Digital Painting Duels from NESCBWI Spring 2011 Conference
15 min break
5:00-6:00 continued Digital Painting Duels
Registration Fees for SCBWI Members and Students: $50 all day
As I write this, the registration for New England’s annual SCBWI conference has been open for twelve hours. This means that I registered twelve hours ago. Yes, Ladies and Gentlemen, I set my alarm for midnight, awoke from a deep sleep, and flipped open my laptop to register for this conference. You might ask, “Why?” I'm glad you asked...
Ten reasons to register for the NESCBWI Annual Spring Conference:
- The New England Conference gives you access to tons of industry professionals in the form of Quick Queries, Critiques, and Workshops. There are plenty of editors and agents but the authors and illustrators are amazing too! Just take a look at the faculty. This is an award winning group and they will be in Springfield, MA for one weekend to teach you.
- The workshops focus on craft. Now New York is fun because that’s where the editors and agents are. It’s fun because it’s big and Headquarters can get big names for their keynote speakers. But New England is amazing because there is discussion of craft for all levels of writers and illustrators.
- Look at OUR Keynoters!!! Sara Zarr, Harry Bliss (after you read the blogpost, follow Harry's link just to get a giggle) and Kate Messner. Wow!
- New England tries to provide something for everyone. Specialized conversations are organized into SIG’s, Special Interest Group meetings, and less formal meetings that happen all over the hotel at all hours of the day and night. So if you want to talk about hot, zombie boyfriends, there’s probably a group for that. The workshops cover an amazing range of topics too. Kathryn Hulick, Joyce Johnson and the workshop selection committee have a lovely balance of non-fiction, picturebook, YA, MG, poetry, and illustration workshops!
- Intensive Academies. In 2008 I launched the first illustrator academy at NESCBWI. For 2012, the roster of academies this year is mind-blowing. There is a beginner AND advanced illustration academies. An academy for non-fiction. A novel writing academy. A picture book writing academy. Need I say more?
- The new location is in Springfield, Massachusettes and while it means extra driving for me, it also means that I’ll get to go to the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, and see the Doctor Seuss National Memorial.
- Community. If you haven’t read Lynda Mullaly Hunt’s recent blog A Letter of Thanks to SCBWI -- do it. Then go register for the conference
- If you don't register for the conference today, this week, soon, you may not get to go at all. This conference gets sold out fast and the special events get filled up even faster. When it gets sold out, don't say I didn't warn you.
- If you register for Friday and Saturday you are able to apply for a critique. You won't be able to pay for the critique when you register. You must send in your pages, your check and the critique application.
- You'll get to meet the amazing team of volunteers who put together a writing and illustrating university for a weekend. They are amazing people who have taken their time to bring you the very best. If you've registered, please leave a comment below. I'll see you there.
My portfolio is currently disassembled and chaotic. Pages are getting yanked. Art is getting printed. After doing this process for many years, it gets easier to pull art out. Less is more when you know first-hand how fast pages get flipped.
I went bonkers yesterday looking for those black pages to slip in with the new art - I ordered some online, but found a decent (albeit not 'archival') substitute at Staples in their 'stationary' section for just $2.95. I'd rather use those than wait any longer to get this book ready.
I'm waiting for art to be photographed. My postcards are lined up. My website is getting a quick freshening-up. My wardrobe got a nice boost from a mad-dash shopping trip this morning.
I'm feeling a little frazzled about the NESCBWI conference next week - can you tell?
Not the least of which is due to leaving my children behind for 2 days and nights. I've never physically gone this far from them, and never left my 11 month old daughter overnight at all. They are in good hands with Daddy. But it's a lot to absorb. I wish everyone who is attending luck in getting their last minute projects assembled, homework finished, and households in order. I hope to see you there. And hope to be less frazzled once it all gets underway.
I'm going to the New England SCBWI conference this weekend and trying to finish up my homework for the Advanced Illustrator Academy. Gee, it's been a while since I've had to do homework, I'm finding it a little stressful. Part of the assignment was to design characters and create a finished piece of art for a story that was provided. Here's a peek at my final art.
One of my favorite parts of picture book work is designing the characters. It's fun to see who shows up for the casting call so to speak. I've grown kind of attached to this little bear character, I think he might have to come live in another stories at some point.
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I love the Monday after a conference. Reading through Twitter, Facebook and my blog feed this morning, I've seen update after update by attendees saying how inspired, excited, pleasantly exhausted, motivated, and READY they are after a weekend of workshops and visits with old friends and new. I feel the same.
My writing partner of eight years and I gave our first ever workshop together at the New England SCBWI conference this weekend! Cindy Faughnan and I led a 2-hour workshop based on the writing camp Cindy started several years ago. What I loved most about sharing some of our favorite writing exercises was how enthusiastic the participants were. And talented! Wow.
Part of giving a workshop at the event means you get to attend the fancy dinner for "faculty" on Friday night. Here are Cindy and Sarah Darer Littman, my other co-presenter for a workshop the next day. :-)
On Saturday, Sara Zarr gave a beautiful keynote speech, incorporating Frog And Toad into the writing life. It was brilliant.
Then I attended a workshop with Mark Peter Hughes on voice. He read several examples of books with strong voice at the beginning, including The THE SECRET DIARY OF ADRIAN MOLE, AGED 13 3/4! Oh, how I loved that book when I was a teen. Have any of you read it?? Mark also inadvertently solved a HUGE problem for me by saying just the right thing at just the right time. I felt the light bulb blink on over my head. :-) Amazing! Thanks Mark!!
After the workshop, I decided to go to my room and try to get my nerves under control before my presentation with Sarah. Our presentation was on Harnessing The Truth and the examples I was sharing were a bit painful for me to read, so I wanted to do some breathing and get into the right frame of mind. Unfortunately, on my way back to the conference, the elevator was taking forever! After waiting over 10 minutes, I asked a staff member if I could use the stairs. She walked me to a door which needed a key-card to open it. That's odd, I thought. The door clicked behind me and I was alone in a dark stairwell. I headed down. These stairs, by the way, were scary! And on some floors, I had to walk down a strange hallway to find the next set. It was dirty and smelly and kind of "scene from a murder mystery"-ish. When I finally got to the floor I wanted, I tried the door out. It was locked. OK, I thought. I'll just try the next floor down. Locked. Next floor. Locked. Oh. My. God. I went to the very lowest level, which came to a door that led outside. There was a big sign on it: DO NOT OPEN. ALARM WILL SOUND. At this point, I'm already breathing heavy because I have been going down several flights of stairs in a scary place. Now, my heart is racing. I was trapped! I went back up, jiggled the door. Looked for signs on how the heck I was supposed to get out. Started having images flash in my mind: HEADLINE: Author Trapped in Hotel Stairwell, Dies of Starvation. I went up flight after flight until finally, FINALLY a door with a push bar. I prayed. I pushed. I was free!!! And sweaty.
My misadventure meant I was very late for an agent/client panel with Jenn Laughran and Kate Messner and two other agent/client pairs. It was really interesting to hear how other agents/clients work together and how the agents think about building their clients' careers. I wish everyone searching for an agent could have heard Jenn's wise advice about the importance of finding an agent that is right for YOU, not just signing with the first person who makes an offer because you're worried it's your only shot. Believe in yoursel