Posted by: Kathy Temean | April 20, 2014

Happy Easter!

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Ana Ochoa sent in this cute Happy Easter illustration to help me wish all of you a Happy Easter. Ana’s illustrations have been exhibited in many countries around the world. Her art is represented by Chris Tugeau and she was featured on January 11th 2014 on Illustrator Saturday. Click here to see her feature.

Easter Parade

This Easter Parade illustration was sent in by Joanne Friar. She has been creating art for children’s books for over 18 years, researching history and nature from ancient civilizations to the Great Depression, from wetlands conservation to endangered species. Her books have won awards such as the CBC Notable Social Studies Book, the CBC Outstanding Science Book, and John Burroughs Nature Books for Young Readers. Joanne is represented by Christina Tugeau and was featured on Illustrator Saturday on March 10th, 2012 - Click here for the link.

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You never know what is in those Easter Eggs, but Lisa Falkenstern used her imagination to show us in this illustration. Lisa has been a professional illustrator for more than thirty years. She’s illustrated The Busy Tree, published by Marshall Cavendish, and My VeryOwn Pirate Story, published by I See Me, written and illustrated A Dragon Moves. You can read about her new book, “Professor Whiskerton Presents Steampunk ABC”. Here is the link to Thursday’s Post about the book, which includes illustrations. Lisa was also featured on Illustrator Saturday on October 2, 2010. Here is the link to visit her feature.

 

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This cute Bird in bunny pajamas was sent in by Jennifer Geldard from one of her series illustrations in watercolor, black fine-tip marker and white gel pen. She is a glass artist by trade, and new to the world of illustration. I’m still getting my bearings, and learning the business end of things, but she says, “painting is pure joy for me, and I’m enjoying every minute of my education.” Her website is www.glassgirl.com

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Susan Detwiler is the Illustrator Coordinator MD/DE/WV SCBWI illustrator of several picture books including On The Move and One Wolf Howls. She is the author/illustrator of Fine Life For A Country Mouse, which will be published by Penguin in September. Susan was featured on Illustrator Saturday March 9, 2013. www.susandetwiler.com

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Katia Bulbenko has been drawing ever since she can remember. After studying printmaking andpainting at Tyler School of Art, she pursued her interests in sculpture and silk painting, then worked as a freelance textile designer for many years, her specialty being “conversationals”—paintings of things like coffee cups and hats, mostly for pajamas ortable linens. In addition to spending her time teaching art to grades pre-k through 8 and creating beaded fiber pieces, Katia is an aspiring children’s book illustrator. Her favorite mediums are watercolor, colored pencil, and gouache. 

I want to thank everyone who sent in an illustration. I loved them all and will be using the rest with my posts in the next few weeks. Please keep sending me your illustrations. They add so much interest to this blog. 

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

Posted by: Kathy Temean | April 19, 2014

Illustrator Saturday – Dana Martin

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Dana Martin is an illustrator and designer who was born in New Mexico and has been roaming ever since. A recent graduate of Montserrat College of Art, her work has appeared in several local shows and was recently featured in CMYK’s Top New 100 Creatives.

Her clients include the Peabody Essex Museum, Hendrickson Publishers, Chrysler, ABDO, ArtThrob Magazine, and Ploughshares. The Johnstown Flood, scheduled for release this fall, will be her first illustrated chapter book.

Here is Dana showing and discussing her process:

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Once I’ve worked out my composition in thumbnails and sketches, I make a preliminary drawing.

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Then I transfer it to watercolor paper.

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I ink the drawing, but I keep it pretty light, sticking to a color I know will blend well with the paint and feathering my edges. Once it’s dry, I add masking fluid to any light areas I want to preserve.

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I wet the paper and paint my first coat, adding a little ink wherever I need the color to be bolder.  Once that’s dry I add more masking fluid to the flower stems.

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I do a second coat with darker red, and this time I really soak the paper to float the paint.

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After that, it’s just about adding detail and building up a tonal range.

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As a final step, I add a little splatter around the corners for texture.

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Above: The Cover of Dana’s First Illustrated Book. Below: A few back and white interior illustrations. 

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How long have you been illustrating?

3 years professionally.

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How did you decide to attend Montserrat College of Art?

Because I knew so little then about how to choose an art school, I started my search with two lists. One was of all the schools in the AICAD (Association of Independent Schools of Art and Design) and the other was of those in the NASAD (National Association of Schools of Art and Design). I wanted to go to a private college and I figured any school that made both the lists was probably pretty good (now that I know more about accreditation processes, this seems amazingly naïve). After that I just started investigating every school that was in both associations. Most of them didn’t offer illustration programs, so they were easy to cross off. Others I could tell just weren’t the right fit. I eventually applied to RISD, the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, and Montserrat, and was accepted into all three. At that point, the smart thing would have been to visit the campuses, but since I was in the middle of gen. ed. classes at a state university on the other side of the country, I couldn’t get away. I kept calling and emailing the admissions offices with more questions, and they all did their best to get me the info I needed. Montserrat was always the pleasantest to deal with, though, and I just started to get the sense that it was a place where I would really feel at home. This turned out to be true.

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Can you tell us a bit about that school?

Montserrat is a quirky little school slightly north of Boston. They offer all the standard art school concentrations, but the illustration department is particularly strong. There’s an emphasis on building foundational skills rather than chasing the latest trends, and the learning atmosphere is great because the students and instructors are serious about their work, but not their self-image. It’s a down-to-earth and unpretentious community, something that’s not always easy to find in the art world.

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What were you favorite classes?

That’s a hard choice, I had a lot of great ones. I really enjoyed the natural science illustration class, because we learned a lot about botany and insects, and there was a whole closet full of butterflies, dried flowers, stuffed birds, and other treasures that we were free to borrow for sketching. My thesis class was also amazing, because I got to plan my own assignments but was supported by everyone’s feedback. Even the classes I wasn’t enthusiastic about, though, such as typography and web design, have proven invaluable since graduation.

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Did the school help you get work?

No, not directly. If there is one downside to a small college, it’s that the career department is also small and just doesn’t have the resources to place students in jobs right after they graduate. But the school did give me the skills I needed to get work for myself, as well as a wealth of friends and colleagues to help me on the way.

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What did you do right after you graduated?

I continued with some of the things I’d already been doing in college – working at a library and helping with Montserrat’s summer program – but I did manage to get some small illustration jobs almost as soon as I graduated.

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

One thing I appreciated about my instructors was that they didn’t steer students toward one style or another, but instead worked to help each of us sort out the voices we already had. I’ve always had an eye for detail, but when I started school, it was out of hand. My compositions were cramped and everything in the picture was competing for elbow room, so nothing could flow. The instructors helped me recognize the problem and find ways to open up the page.

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

I did some architectural illustrations for an organization that taught adults with developmental disabilities. They were planning to renovate a veterans memorial park, with the idea that their students would maintain it once it was finished and the whole community could enjoy it. But first they needed to raise the money, so my illustrations of the future park were designed for the fundraising brochures. It was the kind of obscure job that you only find through the friend of a friend; I heard about it because the assistant director of the organization was friends with a Montserrat alum, who kindly posted the job on one of the school’s social network pages.

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What was the first illustration work you did for children?

It was for Clubhouse Magazine. I was nine years old. So actually, come to think of it, that was my first paid work. I got ten dollars.

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How did that come about?

Clubhouse used to put out one issue a year that was exclusively written and illustrated by children. Amazingly, the process hardly varied from what I now do professionally. I sent them a sample of my work (a horse, because to my nine-year-old self, horses were the supreme challenge, so drawing one was proof that I was a master artist). Someone from Clubhouse wrote back to say they liked it and would I care to illustrate the story they’d enclosed? It was a mystery story written by another child about a ticking bomb and a school band (it wasn’t really a bomb, just a metronome, and this was before bombs in schools had become such a fraught issue). I did a top-notch job on the metronome, because I’d just started piano lessons and knew exactly what it looked like. I did a derivative job on the bomb, because the only ones I’d seen were in Bugs Bunny cartoons. They also wanted a drawing of a trumpet, and I did a really terrible job on that. I couldn’t figure out all the twists and turns in the brass tubing, let alone where the trumpet player’s hands were supposed to go. The big difference between this project and all the subsequent ones was that I had no contact with the art director and nobody looked at my sketches; I was just supposed to mail everything in when I was finished. I’m pretty sure, though, that the art director felt the same way about the pictures as I did, because the story, the metronome, and the bomb made the first page of the magazine and the trumpet picture disappeared quietly into the night. They never printed it and I never saw it again, thank God.

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How did you get to be featured in CMYK’s Top New 100 Creatives?

I did have to submit work to be considered, but unlike most competitions, the judging was based on the whole portfolio rather than any one piece.

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When did you decide you wanted to illustrate a children’s book?

I expect from the moment I first saw a children’s book. Even before I could read them I never went anywhere without one. Come to think of it, I still don’t.

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How did you get the contract to illustrate the chapter book titled The Johnstown Flood?

I had sent a black-and-white postcard to the publisher, ABDO, and one of their editors contacted me shortly after that because she had some black-and-white interior work. I’m thankful that she liked the card enough to comb through my blog, because the medium we went with was not at all what I’d sent her. She liked my preliminary drawings, which were all done in graphite. I’d never considered marketing them, because to me they seemed unfinished. I did push the drawings a bit for the book, using darker pencils and some Photoshop to get a wider tonal range, but the style was basically the same.

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How long did it take you to illustrate that book?

I did the whole thing in a month. I could tell the editor was anxious to get it done; I think because it was part of a new line, the Up2U adventures, she needed some artwork to show the rest of her team.

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I know Lisa Mullarkey, but I didn’t know that her husband was writing with her now. Have you met Lisa?

No, sadly I have not had the pleasure. It’s so cool that you know her, though! I hope she and Mr. Mullarkey like the illustrations.

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Do you have any other work planned with ABDO Publishing?

At the moment, no. As far as I can tell, the majority of the work they use is digital. The editor I worked with also left shortly after that book was finished.

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Do you plan on marketing your illustrations to other educational publishers?

I have, yes, and will continue to do so.

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What was your first illustration success?

I did a t-shirt project for Ploughshares, and I was happy both with how the project turned out and how it was conducted, so I guess that was my first big success. Technically it was a design contest, but I and the other two artists were paid for our participation, and we all got to work with the wonderful editor Andrea Martucci to come up with designs that fit the magazine. The contest entries got so many online votes that Ploughshares decided to produce all three designs. So everybody won. Later that year I ran into Andrea at the Boston Book Festival, and she was just as nice in person as she’d been in her emails.

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

Oh yes, I already have and will continue to write more. I just haven’t gotten them published yet.

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Have you done any illustrating for children’s magazines?

Yes, the main one has been Spellbound magazine. The editor and art director are both really great to work with and the magazine always has interesting, fantasy-related themes, so I always enjoy their assignments.

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Do you have an artist rep or an agent? If so, could you tell us how the two of you connected? If not, would you like to get representation?

No, I don’t have one. I’ve heard some agent horror stories that made me wary of pursuing the matter. Obviously there are some amazing agents out there, but you are giving them a lot of power over the direction of your career. I can’t say I’d never be interested, but I would need to be confident that we were on the same page about where my work was going and how it would be represented.

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

I send out a lot of postcards and emails, meet people at conferences and events, and try to maintain a strong internet presence.

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What is your favorite medium to use?

Watercolor

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Has that changed over time?

No, but I’ve upgraded from the Crayola set. Now I use Winsor & Newton and Daniel Smith watercolors.

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

A cup of tea.

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

I track the time I’m spending, but it’s usually not my goal to spend a specific number of hours. Instead, I review my time records now and then to help me evaluate things such as: how long did this project take and which part took longest, was the time well-spent, is there anything I’m repeatedly struggling over, when was I most productive, etc. This helps me figure out whether there’s anything I need to adjust in my routine.

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Are you open to working with self-published authors?

Yes, cautiously open. Self-publishing has come a long way in the last decade, and there are some interesting projects out there that are too specialized for traditional publishing but can be successful as self-published books. I have worked with self-published authors in the past, and sometimes it was a great experience. Other times it was anything but.

Sometimes when authors pitch their projects to me, they say something along the lines of, “I have the whole book pictured in my head, and I know you’ll be able to paint it the way I see it.” But that is exactly what I cannot do, as I was born without mind-reading powers. I almost always turn these authors down, because I know they’re going to be disappointed once they figure out I’m not telepathic. (I wish I was joking about this, but it’s all too true.) Another problem I’ve run into is that authors may not realize just how massive an undertaking a book is. I’ve had authors offer me a few hundred dollars to do all the art and design work on a picture book, with no royalties, and they wanted me to sign away all rights into the bargain. They actually seemed to think it was a fair price.

Of course, there are also lots of brilliant authors who have done their research and have more realistic expectations. All in all, though, I am generally more willing to take on smaller self-publishing projects, such as novel and chapter-book covers, than I am self-published picture books. It’s simply less of a risk.

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

Yes, I do lots of research; in fact, I’m particularly drawn to projects where research is required. Investigating historic fashion, rare plants, and obscure legends is all part of the fun.

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Do you think the Internet has opened doors for you?

Without a doubt. My whole business is conducted online.

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Do you use Photoshop with your illustrations?

I do use Photoshop, but just for minimal editing, such as adjusting for contrast or stitching a piece together if it was too large for the scanner bed.

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

I’ve used them, but so far I don’t need a tablet enough to invest in one.

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Do you find exhibiting your artwork gets you jobs?

No, because most of the shows I’ve been in have not been the sort that would attract editors and art directors.

Rather, the shows are their own experience. They’re an opportunity to interact with my audience and hear their thoughts on my work. I never know what to expect, but people have actually been extraordinarily positive and encouraging, and I always come back from a show energized to make more art.

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

Yes, so many! Bringing out my own picture book is the one I’m focused on at the moment.

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What are you working on now?

I have some small magazine assignments, but the projects I’m most excited about right now are actually personal ones. I’m working on a picture book manuscript set in Venice, and I’ve also started a new series of paintings. I’ve recently become fascinated with really limited palettes, so each of the paintings (which are based on some old stories) has a different dominant color. They’re also all set in different decades, because I wanted to explore some of the ways fashion has changed in the last hundred years.

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Do you have any material type tips you can share with us? Example: Paint or paper that you love – the best place to buy – a new product that you’ve tried – A how to tip, etc.

My painting methods can be hard on the paper, so I need something sturdy. Arches cold press is the paper for me. It stands up to washes, doesn’t tear from tape or masking fluid, has enough texture to get interesting effects with the paint, but not so much that it interferes with pen work.

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

Everyone knows they have to work hard, but I don’t think everyone realizes how long they’ll be working hard. This is a marathon, not a sprint. It’s easy to neglect everything else in the pursuit of your craft, but over time that undermines you. Art has to be about something. If you cut yourself off from your friends, your hobbies, and whatever else fuels you as a person, you eventually will have nothing to say artistically. In the words of Gore Vidal, the unfed mind devours itself.

So keep an eye out for all the wonderful and interesting things that are happening around you and cultivate an agile mind. That, rather than any technical skill, is an artist’s greatest asset.

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Thank you Dana for sharing your illustrations, journey, and process with us this week. We look forward to following your career, so please let us know of all your future successes. 

You can visit Dana at www.dana-martin.com or find out what’s new with her on her blog at http://danamartinillustration.tumblr.com/

Please take a minute to leave Dana a comment. I am sure she would love to hear from you and I would appreciate it, too.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

Posted by: Kathy Temean | April 18, 2014

Free Fall Friday

CALL FOR ILLUSTRATIONS: Still need illustrations for the month of April/May. Would love to show off your illustrations during one of my daily posts. So please submit your illustrations: To kathy (dot) temean (at) gmail (dot) com. Illustrations must be at least 500 pixels wide and include a blurb about you that I can use. 

ANYONE HAVE AN EASTER ILLUSTRATION? Would love to use it for Easter.

GUEST CRITIQUER’S for APRIL 2014 – Jenna Pocius and Samantha Bremekamp

Jenna PociusJENNA POCIUS, Assistant Editor, Bloomsbury

Jenna Pocius is an Assistant Editor at Bloomsbury who works on everything from picture books to YA. Before joining Bloomsbury, she worked for Abrams BFYR. She has edited numerous books including Dragon’s Extraordinary Egg by Debi Gliori, A Soldier’s Secret by Marissa Moss, and the upcoming Mad Scientist Academy series by Matthew McElligott. She’s most interested in YA with strong voice and emotional depth, and she is particularly interested in contemporary realistic fiction, magic realism, and well-crafted fantasy and science fiction with a contemporary voice. She’s interested in middle grade that is quirky and character-driven, particularly girl-centered stories. And she loves picture books that are poignant and sweet or humorously clever. She is also a sucker for dog stories.

samanthafor litagency bioSamantha Bremekamp is starting out as an agent at Corvisiero Literary Agency. She started her career in publishing in 2008, and quickly realized that she preferred working directly with authors from the other side of the industry. She runs critique groups and writing groups for fun, as she also loves to write and help others to fulfill their writing ambitions. She is fully aware of how hard of an industry it really is in this day and age.

Her favorite writing is children’s, middle grade, young adult, and new adult. There is something so pure about each building block of life these book groups represent. Although there may be a difference between a three year old and a 33 year old, maybe, Samantha finds that all of life’s challenges in these age groups really show the potential for amazing growth in a character.

Samantha’s background is in English literature, communications, and Spanish. She really thinks that if a writer is confident and believes in their work, their work will show that without having to showboat to prove it via a pitch.

Follow Samantha on Twitter at @LiterallySmash

Samantha loves reading Children’s, MG, YA, and NA fiction. She is open to any genre within those age groups, but prefers speculative fiction, mystery, and quirky romance.

Below is the April picture prompt for anyone who would like to use it. 

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The above illustration was done by Elizabeth Alba. She works in watercolor and gouche. Elizabeth was featured on Illustrator Saturday in March. Here is the link: http://kathytemean.wordpress.com/2014/03/08/illustrator-saturday-elisabeth-alba/

Here are the submission guidelines for submitting a First Page in April: Please “April First Page Critique” or “April First Page Picture Prompt Critique” in the subject line. Please make sure you include your name, the title of the piece, and whether it is as picture book, middle grade, or young adult, etc. at the top.

Please attach your first page submission using one inch margins and 12 point font – double spaced, no more than 23 lines to an e-mail and send it to: kathy(dot)temean(at)gmail(dot)com. Also cut and paste it into the body of the e-mail and then also attach it in a Word document to the email.

DEADLINE: April 24th.

RESULTS: May 2nd.

Use inch margins – double space your text – 12 pt. New Times Roman font – no more than 23 lines – paste into body of the email

You can only send in one first page each month. It can be the same first page each month or a different one, but if you sent it to me last month and it didn’t get chosen, you need to send it again using the April’s directions. Of course, it doesn’t have to be the same submission. It can be a first page from a work in process or you can use the picture prompt above.

Talk tomorrow,

Posted by: Kathy Temean | April 17, 2014

Falkenstern & Heller Kudos Plus Book Signing

When Lisa Falkenstern emailed me letting me know about her new book and book signing (it hit the book shelves on Tax Day), I asked if she would tell me how it came about. She said, “This book started a few years ago, when I was showing my editor, Margery Cuyler at Marshall Cavendish (now Two Lions), an idea for a picture book done in steampunk style.

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Steampunk, often described as Victorian science fiction, is a genre I love. I had been collecting gears and clock parts for years with plans to use the pieces as still life props. The imagery of steampunk gears, metal machinery and steam engines is so rich and interesting to look at, I thought that the progression from still life to picture book would work well.

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“Margery liked my idea, however she suggested an alphabet book. I did a rough dummy, and after the idea was approved, I started work on how I would present a steampunk alphabet. I decided that the individual letters should also be illustrated as though built with steampunk parts. That way they would be part of the workshop setting I was playing with.

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Then my husband and I spent a large part of our vacation in the Outerbanks going through the dictionary, selecting which words to use. We had a long list and Margery helped make the final selections. Since the text of the book only featured a single sentence for each letter of the alphabet, I decided to illustrate a background plot in which the two mice are building something in their workshop. Each letter propels the story along until the mice reveal their masterpiece, with the letter ‘Z’, of course.

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Once I had the whole concept, I started all the illustrations. I draw and paint from reference materials. First, I collected an immense amount of photographs as well as buying parts of lamps and other objects that worked as steampunk. Then I made models of the mice characters and a model of the steam engine.  My husband posed for the mice, which is funny, considering he is six feet, four inches!

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I did the roughs of the letters first, and when finished, I added the mice and had them interact with the letters.  Then I did final drawings, and finished the book using oil paints.

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And that was it!

SAVE APRIL 26TH AND 27TH – LISA’S HAVING A BOOK SIGNING AND EVERYONE IS INVITED!

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Ginger HellerThe Huffington Post featured an interview yesterday on Ginger Heller and her new book, The Kid Who Beat Wall Street and Saved Africa.

Here is the link:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/heather-hummel/an-interview-with-ginger-heller_b_5070333.html

After I read the interview, I emailed Ginger to ask why she was calling her book a YA Novel. Here is her answer:

“I use the YA label only when it’s all that’s available. My book is really a “tween book” for ages 10-14. I have had some success with reluctant readers in 9th grade, (ages 14/15) if it’s presented right.”

gingerheller2014-04-07-KidWhoBeatWallStreetandSavedAfricaMy story, trading stocks and commodities on the internet, is a sophisticated one as are the issues with which I deal.

The fact that there is a “dictionary,” in the back of the book (I refer to it as my appendix A, 100 Words of Interest ) helps the reader easily look up some difficult words. The interesting part is that the definition of these words appear in the same grammatical form as they do in the book.

As for how did I get the interview, the writer knew of my book and thought it would be of interest.

Click here to take a look on Amazon. If you have a Kindle you can buy the book for $3.99 or if you are a Prime Member you can read the book for free.

Congratulations! Lisa and Ginger.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

Posted by: Kathy Temean | April 16, 2014

Mark Twain Humor Contest

mark twain imageThe Mark Twain House & Museum’s Inaugural “Royal Nonesuch” Humor Writing Contest for writers of all ages from all corners of the globe!

Recognizing that Samuel Clemens (aka: Mark Twain) began writing at an early age and to encourage other young authors, we welcome submissions for two categories:

  • Adult (age 18 and over at time of submission) at $22 per submission, and
  • Young Author (age 17 and under at time of submission) at $12 per submission.

Celebrity Judges for Adults are: Roy Blount, Jr., Colin McEnroe, and Lucy Ferris.

Celebrity Judges for Young Authors are: Tim Federle, author of Better Nate Than Ever, and Jessica Lawson, author of The Actual & Truthful Adventures of Becky Thatcher.

Submit your original humorous essays and stories for a chance at a cash prize, the opportunity to meet bestselling authors at our annual “Mark My Words” event, and best of all - bragging rights!

“If Mark Twain were alive, he’d be happy about this contest, because he’d win it.” – Andy Borowitz

DEADLINE: June 30, 2014

FEE: $22.00 “Adult/18 and over” categories 

FEE: $12.00 “Young Author/17 and under”

Writing Contest: The Guidelines

•  Submit 10,000 words (or fewer) of any original work of humor writing. (Entries longer than 10,000 words will be disqualified.)
•  Submissions must be in English.

•  Submissions are not required to be in the style of Mark Twain or about Mark Twain. We want to hear your voice. And we want you to make us laugh!

•  Submissions will be judged by our award-winning Mark Twain House staff writers and scholars, Trinity College faculty, and celebrity judges: Roy Blount, Jr., Colin McEnroe, and Lucy Ferris. Celebrity judges for the 17 & under contest are Tim Federle and Jessica Lawson.

•  Submissions are due by June 30th, 2014.

•  Winners may be asked to provide age verification regarding submission category.

•  You may submit more than one entry; a separate fee is required for each entry.

•  Winners will be notified by September 5, 2014.

•  Winners will be presented to the public at the 4th Annual “Mark My Words” event at which bestselling authors appear onstage October 21, 2014 to benefit The Mark Twain House & Museum. (Past authors have included John Grisham, David Baldacci, and Sandra Brown.)

•  Winners will retain ownership of their work. The Mark Twain House & Museum reserves the right to publish winning pieces in a public forum with credit to the author. 

PRIZES (winners in both categories):

•      1st Prize: $1,000 (Adult & Young Author)

•      2nd Prize: $500 (Adult& Young Author)

•      3rd Prize: $250 (Adult& Young Author)

•      Three Honorable Mention Prizes: $100 Gift Certificate for the Mark Twain Museum Store (Adult & Young Author).

•  All 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Prize winners in both the “Young Author/17 and under” and “Adult/18 and over” categories will be invited to attend “Mark My Words” and go backstage to meet bestselling authors. (Winners are responsible for their travel and accommodations.)

•  Staff and immediate family members of the Mark Twain House are not eligible.

The mission of The Mark Twain House & Museum is to foster an appreciation of the legacy of Mark Twain as one of our nation’s defining cultural figures, and to demonstrate the continuing relevance of his work, life and times. The Mark Twain House & Museum operates as a non-profit 501(c)(3) foundation. Mark Twain built the house in 1874 and lived here with his wife and children until 1891. This is where he wrote such masterpieces as The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and is located at 351 Farmington Avenue in Hartford, CT. We appreciate your participation in this inaugural writing contest as it supports our preservation efforts.

By clicking ‘Submit’ you acknowledge that this is your original work and you agree to all contest rules and guidelines.

Here is the link to submit: https://twainhouse.submittable.com/submit/26632

Good luck!

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

Posted by: Kathy Temean | April 15, 2014

Tracking Submissions

HAVE A HAPPY PASSOVER HOLIDAY

erikaphoto-45Tracking Submissions

by Erika Wassell

Polished manuscript?

CHECK – one I’m proud of.

Research?

YUP – Found a few agents who are a perfect match.

Query Letter?

WRITTEN – Pitches my manuscript and myself.

There it is …

  • THE SEND BUTTON – 

My finger hovers on the mouse. Hesitation. I KNOW this is a worthy story but maybe I shou—– ACK! I’m doing it!

CLICK. Message sent.

So that’s it right? Wave goodbye and cross my fingers?  Not exactly.

While I definitely support leaning back and letting out that breath you may have been holding, you still have another important step… tracking your submissions.

First, the top three reasons WHY:

1) So you don’t query the same agent without realizing it: How long to wait before submitting to an agent again is another topic. But you certainly don’t want to do it by accident! Repeat submissions can look very unprofessional.

2) Follow Up: For many agents, no response, means it’s not for them. But in the research stage, you may find others that say at a certain point, it’s okay to reach out. Following up at the appropriate time shows that you’re dedicated and serious.

3) In case you get a yes! The best reason of all!! If an agent or publisher is interested in your work, you will want to inform everyone else it’s currently out to. (A) Because it’s professional courtesy. And (B), it can drum up additional interest and lead to the sort of “bidding war” that every author dreams of!!

Okay. So what exactly do I track?

Here’s the HOW:

My suggestion is use Excel. It’s easy to set up, and gives me data that is simple to keep track of, look back through and actually use – more so than the stack of scribbled on pieces of paper that form an ever-growing precarious tower next to my computer.

Here are the eight column titles that I use when tracking submissions:

First come the four most obvious: 

Who: The name of the actual person I addressed the query letter to.

Where: The name of the agency/publisher, including its website for easy reference.

What: What manuscript did I send them?

When: Exact date that I hit the all-powerful SEND BUTTON.

       These next four are not as obvious, but they’re JUST as important! 

Why: A few notes about why the agent is a good fit for my manuscript, what interviews I read or what specific things made me query them.

Wait time: What their estimated timeline is. Most places give you an idea of how long it may take them to look over your query and whether or not they will necessarily respond. I note things like “no means no, 6-8 months” or “will respond within 10 weeks”.

Follow up: Often times, no response means not interested. But if I know someone is open to follow up, I make a note as to when to do that, and where I got the information. This way, in my follow up, I can say something like, “As per your interview with ____, I’m following up on the query I sent you three months ago.” IMPORTANT: When following up, I make absolutely sure that I don’t come off irritated. These agents work hard, and receive thousands of queries. I love when I’m able to follow up, so I make sure they know I appreciate the opportunity.

Response: If I get a rejection, or any sort of response, I make a note of when I got it and what was said.

It’s really just eight little columns in a spreadsheet, but it allows me to treat my writing professionally. I know what I’ve done, why I did it, and what I’m waiting on. And that’s really the best way to prepare for what I’ll do next.

When I hit that at-times-OH-so-unnerving SEND BUTTON, I’m comforted in knowing that my manuscript still has a tie to me, right here in my tracked submissions and is not just disappearing into the world of Ethernet cables and fiber optics.

I know your manuscripts deserve the same professional attention.

Thanks Erika for the valuable post. Erika has agreed to be a regular Guest Blogger for Writing and Illustrating.

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

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

Posted by: Kathy Temean | April 14, 2014

Reference Links to Help With Query Letter Writing

CarolynSchlamPINKGLASSES

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

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

Queries Not Questions

by Leslie Zampettis at Rear in Gear.

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

AgentQuery

Chuck Sambuchino’s Guide to Literary Agents

Successful Queries (a subsection of the above guide)

Preditors and Editors

Publishers’ Submission Guidelines

JacketFlap

SCBWI BlueBoard

 8 Steps to Finding the Right Agent

 Critiquing First Pages and Queries

10 Questions to Ask an Agent

Kidlit.com – Queries

How to Write the Perfect Query Letter

Query Shark

Query Tracker

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

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

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

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

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

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

 

Posted by: Kathy Temean | April 13, 2014

Homework Help Tip – Additional First Page Critiquer for April

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This month everyone who submits a First Page for critique will have double the opportunity to get their page critiqued, since we have two Guest Critiquers for April.

I announced Agent SAMANTHA BREMEKAMP from the Corvisiero Literary Agency on Free Fall Friday’s post and today I want everyone to know that JENNA POCIUS from Bloomsbury has agreed to read four first pages, too.

Jenna’s information is below. Also, I have listed the Guest for May and June and a number of agents and editors who have been Guest Critiquers in the past. Why am I doing this? Well, here’s my tip:

All these editors and agents will be attending this years New Jersey SCBWI Conference at the end of June. I have provided the link to their critiques next to their name, so you can read about them and go over how they think. It might help you decide on whether you should register for the conference and it definitely will help you decide if you would like a critique with one of them if you go.

THE CONFERENCE is 60% FULL in only one week. Here is the link: https://www.regonline.com/njscbwi2014conference

If you have already signed up for the conference, it will help you decide who you would like to make sure you meet while you are there.

Even if you can’t attend, this post will give you good information on whether any of the editor/agents are a good fit for your manuscript. Hope you find it helpful.

Jenna PociusJENNA POCIUS, Assistant Editor, Bloomsbury – GUEST CRITIQUER APRIL 2014

Jenna Pocius is an Assistant Editor at Bloomsbury who works on everything from picture books to YA. Before joining Bloomsbury, she worked for Abrams BFYR. She has edited numerous books including Dragon’s Extraordinary Egg by Debi Gliori, A Soldier’s Secret by Marissa Moss, and the upcoming Mad Scientist Academy series by Matthew McElligott. She’s most interested in YA with strong voice and emotional depth, and she is particularly interested in contemporary realistic fiction, magic realism, and well-crafted fantasy and science fiction with a contemporary voice. She’s interested in middle grade that is quirky and character-driven, particularly girl-centered stories. And she loves picture books that are poignant and sweet or humorously clever. She is also a sucker for dog stories.

samanthafor litagency bioSAMANTHA BREMEKAMP, Junior Agent, Corvisiero Literary Agency – GUEST CRITIQUER APRIL 2014

Samantha Bremekamp started her career in publishing in 2008, and quickly realized that she preferred working directly with authors from the other side of the industry. She runs critique groups and writing groups for fun, as she also loves to write and help others to fulfill their writing ambitions. She is fully aware of how hard of an industry it really is in this day and age. Her favorite writing is children’s, middle grade, young adult, and new adult. There is something so pure about each building block of life these book groups represent. Although there may be a difference between a three year old and a 33 year old, maybe, Samantha finds that all of life’s challenges in these age groups really show the potential for amazing growth in a character. Samantha’s background is in English literature, communications, and Spanish. She really thinks that if a writer is confident and believes in their work, their work will show that without having to showboat to prove it via a pitch. Samantha loves reading Children’s, MG, YA, and NA fiction. She is open to any genre within those age groups, but prefers speculative fiction, mystery, and quirky romance.

quinlanQUINLAN LEE, Agent, Adams LiteraryGUEST CRITIQUER MAY 2014

Quinlan Lee is an agent and a published author of numerous books that help young readers learn to read and love reading. She has been a part of the Adams Literary team since 2008, representing clients in all genres from picture books to YA. She enjoys meeting others who share her love of children’s literature and is an active member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) and a founding board member of the Charlotte Chapter of the Women’s National Book Association (WNBA). Quinlan graduated from Tulane University and has lived all over the United States—from the mountains of Western Colorado to the Garden District of New Orleans to downtown Chicago—and for the past 14 years she’s been happily settled in North Carolina.

Sarah-Bradford-Lit-photoSARAH LaPOLLA, Literary Agent, Bradford Literary GUEST CRITIQUER JUNE 2014

Sarah LaPolla joined Bradford Literary Agency in May 2013. Prior to joining the team, Sarah worked for five years in the foreign rights department at Curtis Brown, Ltd., and became an associate agent there in 2010. She received her MFA in Creative Writing (Nonfiction) from The New School in 2008 and has a B.A. in Creative Writing from Ithaca College. Sarah represents YA and adult fiction. On the adult side, she is looking for literary fiction, science fiction, magical realism, dark/psychological mystery, and upmarket commercial and/or women’s fiction. For YA, she is interested in contemporary/realistic fiction that doesn’t shy away from the darker side of adolescence. YA sci-fi, horror, mystery, and magical realism are also welcome; and she would love to find a modern Judy Blume for the MG market. No matter what genre,
Sarah is drawn to layered/strong characters, engaging narrators, and a story that’s impossible to put down.

susan-dobinickSUSAN DOBINICK, Assistant Editor, Farrar Straus Giroux – GUEST CRITIQUER MARCH

Susan Dobinick is an associate editor at Farrar Straus Giroux Books for Young Readers. Among other books, she has edited SPIRIT’S KEY, a middle grade magical realism novel about a girl who sees the ghost of her pet dog and solves a mystery on a small southern island, and DEAR YETI, a picture book about two little boy hikers who go searching for the mythical creature. She is looking for quirky but heartfelt picture books, design-centered picture books, heartfelt middle grade, sophisticated YA, and mysteries and ghost stories for all ages. In nonfiction, she likes books with feminist, social justice, and civil rights themes.

allisonmooreALLISON MOORE, Assistant Editor, Little, Brown & Co. – GUEST CRITIQUER FEBRUARY

Allison Moore is an assistant editor at Little, Brown Books for Young Readers. She works on a range of titles including picture books by Todd Parr, Marc Brown, Andrea and Brian Pinkney, Sujean Rim, Nancy Tafuri, Julie Andrews and Emma Walton Hamilton, and Bob Staake; leveled readers; novelty books by Sandra Magsamen and Matthew Reinhart; and novels by Jewell Parker Rhodes, Sherri Winston, and Karen Healey. Allison is particularly interested in smart picture books that can be appreciated by all ages; unique and memorable illustration styles; early readers with a strong voice; inventive novelty ideas; middle grade stories with interesting settings; and YA novels that encourage readers to consider new points of view. Before working at Little, Brown, she interned at Bloomsbury and Walker Books for Young Readers, Barefoot Books, the Kneerim & Williams literary agency, and Simon & Schuster UK; worked at a bookstore and at her hometown library; and attended the Columbia Publishing Course. Originally from Fair Lawn, NJ, Allison graduated from Boston University and now lives in Brooklyn. You can find her on Twitter @allisonm610.

mccarthysmall200SEAN McCARTHY, Literary Agent, Sean McCarthy Literary Agency – GUEST CRITIQUER JANUARY 2014

Sean McCarthy began his publishing career as an editorial intern at Overlook Press before moving to the Sheldon Fogelman Agency. He worked as the submissions coordinator and permissions manager before becoming a full-time literary agent. In 2013, he founded his own literary agency. He works on children’s books for all ages, and is actively looking to build his client list. His clients include Zachariah O’Hora, Hyewon Yum, Mark Fearing, Jamie Swenson, Andrea Offermann, Dasha Tolstikova, and Judith Robbins Rose. Sean graduated from Macalester College with a degree in English-Creative Writing, and is grateful that he no longer has to spend his winters in Minnesota. He is drawn to flawed, multifaceted characters with devastatingly concise writing in YA, and boy-friendly mysteries or adventures in MG. In picture books, he looks more for unforgettable characters, off-beat humor, and especially clever endings. He is not currently interested in high fantasy, message-driven stories, or query letters that pose too many questions.

meredith-mundy-headshotsmallMEREDITH MUNDY, Executive Editor, Sterling Publishing – GUEST CRITIQUER APRIL 2013

Meredith Mundy, Executive Editor at Sterling Children’s Books, is nuts about character-centered picture books (recent projects include BROWNIE GROUNDHOG AND THE WINTRY SURPRISE by Susan
Blackaby, RUFUS GOES TO SCHOOL by Kim Griswell, PUDDLE PUG by Kim Norman, and GOODNIGHT SONGS by Margaret Wise Brown), but she is also seeking everything from funny, original board books to unforgettable middle grade novels to gripping YA fiction. (No vampires, angels, werewolves, or dystopian plots, please.) While she enjoys editing lively nonfiction, she wouldn’t be the
right editor for poetry collections or a project geared primarily toward the school and library market.

rachel orr new_headshot1croppedRACHEL ORR, Literary Agent, Prospect Agency – GUEST CRITIQUER FEBRUARY 2013

RACHEL ORR is celebrating her seventh year at Prospect Agency. She previously worked for eight
rewarding years at HarperCollins Children’s Books, and now uses those editorial skills to help prepare her clients’ work for submission. Her clients include a wide-range of picture-book authors, illustrators, and middle-grade/YA novelists, including A.C.E. Bauer (GIL MARSH), Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen (DUCK, DUCK, MOOSE), Cori Doerrfeld (BARNYARD BABY) and Leeza Hernandez (NEVER PLAY MUSIC RIGHT NEXT TO THE ZOO). Rachel lives in Hoboken, New Jersey, with her husband and two young children. She has no spare time—-but, if she did, she would spend it dancing, running and reading, of course.

PAULA SADLER, Assistant Editor, Random House – GUEST CRITIQUER OCTOBER 2012

Paula Sadler is an Assistant Editor at Random House Books for Young Readers. She joined the group in 2012 after three wonderful years at Putnam Children’s. At Random House, Paula currently edits the Totally True Adventures nonfiction chapter book series and the Ballpark Mysteries, as well as the middle grade Oliver and the Seawigs by Philip Reeve and Sarah McIntyre. At the moment, Paula is looking for narrative nonfiction writers and chapter book series with a strong hook. In middle grade, humor—whether wry or madcap, nostalgic or plucky—is the key to Paula’s heart. Her wish list includes contemporary escapades with a nerdy twist (think Origami Yoda and The Wednesday Wars), mysteries with a spunky wit (like the Enola Holmes mysteries), and epic adventures with a big heart (like How to Train Your Dragon and The True Meaning of Smekday). In books and in real life, she’s a sucker for strong friendships, pesky siblings, scrappy underdogs, colorful sidekicks, a healthy serving of trouble, and a great big dollop of mischief.

SUSAN HAWK, Literary Agent, The Bent Agency – GUEST CRITIQUER JULY 2012

Susan Hawk is a Literary Agent at The Bent Agency, representing middle grade, YA, picture books, and non-fiction for kids. Projects she represents share powerful and original writing, strong story-telling and a distinctive, sometimes off-kilter voice. In middle-grade and YA, she’s looking for unforgettable characters, rich world-building, and she’s a sucker for bittersweet; bonus points for something that makes her laugh out loud. In picture books, she’s looking particularly for author-illustrators, succinct but expressive texts, and indelible characters. Her favorite projects live at the intersection of literary and commercial. Before
agenting, she spent fifteen years in children’s book marketing at Penguin, Henry Holt and North-South Books; she also worked in Editorial at Dutton Children’s Books, and as a children’s librarian and bookseller. http://www.thebentagency.com @susanhawk

LIZA FLEISSIG, Agent, Liza Royce Agency – GUEST CRITIQUER – AUGUST 2011

Liza Fleissig, with her partner Ginger Harris-Dontzin, opened the Liza Royce Agency (LRA) in early 2011. A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business with a BSE in Finance, and the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law with a JD, Liza brings 20 years of litigation and negotiating experience to the field. On the children’s side of publishing, being a mother to a preschooler girl and a pre-teen boy, she is interested in everything from picture books to middle grade and young adult.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

Posted by: Kathy Temean | April 12, 2014

Illustrator Saturday – Christopher Denise

Christopherbio_photo_bw_cropshort Christopher Denise is an award-winning children’s book illustrator and visual development artist. His first book, a retelling of the Russian folktale The Fool of the World and the Flying Ship, was pronounced “a stunning debut” by Publishers Weekly.

Since then, Chris has illustrated more than twenty books for children, including Alison McGhee’s upcoming Firefly Hollow, Rosemary Wells’ Following Grandfather, Phyllis Root’s Oliver Finds His Way, his wife Anika Denise’s Bella and Stella Come Home and some in Brian Jacques’ acclaimed Redwall series.

His books have appeared on the New York Times bestseller list and have been recognized by Bank Street College of Education, Parents’ Choice Foundation, and the Society of Illustrators Annual Exhibition.

Christopher Denise lives in Rhode Island with his family.

Christopher has two books coming out in the next few months. The first is SLEEPYTIME ME written by Edith Hope Fine coming out May 27th.

The second book, BAKING DAY at GRANDMA’S is written by his wife Anika and will be available in August.

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Christopher gives us a sneak peek of some of the interior shots below, with his process pictures on how he created a double page spread for the book.

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This little beauty is really just a placeholder. Sometimes I will read a passage from a manuscript and know right away what I need to do. A quick little thumbnail sketch and I am under way. Obviously that did not happen with this piece!

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Here I have expanded on the idea a bit. I knew that I wanted to have the three kid bears leaving their house and signing their song.

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I realized that the last sketch felt more like a goodbye as the little ones were heading off into the distance. It was also was a bit unclear at first glance if the adult in the foreground was mom or grandma. While the details would clear that up I don’t like to rely solely on details for communication. The quick read on a piece needs to be part of the communication. So I changed the point of view and focused on the kids signing their song.

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Sometimes I get a feeling for a pose and block it out in Photoshop-super quick.

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One of the many great things about Photoshop. Just drag those quick poses right into your document and scale them to fit.

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A quick check back to my character sheets for reference. In order to properly design the piece I need to remember the shapes of the pieces (in this case the little bears) that I am working with.

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Character sheets are so important for my process. At the onset of a project I will generate many. Once I get into blocking out the scenes and can see what a character might need to do I often go back and re-design or tweak the shapes.

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The lighting in this piece is not particularly dramatic nevertheless a quick value study helps me understand that I need to balance the snow areas and clouds.

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Zooming in, cropping trying to get a bit more immediacy with our little bears.

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Another part of the balancing process. There is so much sky that I wanted to make sure the composition would work.

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Starting in on some of the details even though the piece is still technically in sketch form. With Photoshop I see so little distinction between a sketch and the beginning of a painting. Love that! Some of the tree texture is from reference other parts are hand drawn.

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I knew that my bears were not quite right so back to the sketchbook.

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When I know I have a pose the way I want I will often drag that layer onto a separate document and begin to paint up the details. It helps with managing file size and encourages me to focus on the character and not to get distracted and loose a day messing around with the tree bark or something.

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While I am painting these parts I will periodically drag them over to the painting in progress to see how they are starting to look.

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Here I am starting to get a feeling for how the painting might develop.

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Staring to paint in the background and add some more values to the environment. I do not have a set way of working. Sometimes I jump into the background first; sometimes I focus on a lighting effect, sometimes the characters. Depending on how complicated the lighting might be in a piece I may or may not paint the sky on a seperate layer. It certainly gives you more options down the road.

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One of many lighting passes. Think of them as transparent glazes just as you would make with acrylic or watercolor.

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More clean up, more lighting. Probably working back into the characters along the way.

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Working in some of the texture details.

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Another lighting pass and probably some adjustment layers. Some purists say that is cheating but for me it’s no different than putting on a transparent layer of acrylic glaze or spraying a piece with fixative to deepen your values.

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I tend to work on a bunch of images at once. I divide each piece into a number of work units and put them in the production schedule. Then, if I am excited about working on a particular piece I can shift work units from one day to another. This piece was moving along to finish a bit faster than the other snow scene. I ended up making changes to the costumes mid way through so will need to go back to the other painting and make the change.

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Our little bears have gone back to wardrobe, had their makeup retouched, repositioned the lighting and we have the piece! Below they are getting ready to bake.

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When did you first get interested in art?

As a kid! All kids love art-I just never stopped. I never let anyone talk me out of it-it is too much fun.

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Why did your family move to Ireland from Massachusetts after you were born?

We moved to Ireland when I was six years old. My father had been working with General Electric and they offered him an opportunity to relocate and set up a headquarters in Shannon. He saw it not only as a great career opportunity but a chance to expose his kids to a very different way of life. This was in the early 70′s so Shannon was more like the States in the 50′s. It was an amazing place to spend some of my formative years.

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What made you move back to the states?

He had completed much of what he set out to do and my oldest brother was preparing to enter high school and my parents thought it best to return to the states.

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Do you feel Ireland influences your illustrations?

Absolutely. In Ireland we kids had an amazing amount of autonomy and unstructured time. Broadcast television began after 6pm and there was very little programing geared at children so we spent our days outside exploring the countryside and creating our own adventures. I look at the art I created for The Redwall picture books and I see so much of those childhood days.

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Do you still have an Irish brogue?

Only after a very long dinner party with old friends!

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How did you decide to go to Rhode Island School of Design to study art?

After high school I was studying Art History and Archeology at St. Lawrence University. I was also spending a lot of time in art studio classes. It was fantastic and I was doing very well but I felt I needed more direction. My brother was studying architecture at RISD and after my first visit I knew that I needed to be there. While RISD students were dancing on the tables listening to The Talking Heads (very appealing to me) they were also having serious conversations about art and their own work.

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What was the first piece of art that you sold?

I started freelancing for the Providence Journal in my Junior year at RISD. I created a series of black and white illustrations for a re-printing of A Child’s Christmas in Wales by Dylan Thomas.

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I read that you started illustrating books for educational publishers while you were still attending RISD. How did you make those connections?

I did and internship at Silver Burdett and Ginn, an educational publisher just outside of Boston. I was in charge of opening the submissions from artists and filing their promotional materials. It was not long before I realized that I wanted to be on the mailing end of the equation. When the internship finished I created my own mailers, asked the art directors to look at the work and for recommendations about where I might send them.

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Were you continue doing freelance work when you graduated? Or did you take a job illustrating?

Since that day it has been all freelance work.

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How did you connect with Philomel to illustrate your first picture book?

That was a friend of a friend situation. I heard that this person, whom I had met a few times socially, worked as an assistant editor at Philomel Books. She was incredibly generous and offered to look at my work. I don’t think she expected much but she actually liked my art and offered to take it down to the Art department. The Art Director promptly rejected it and told me to come back in a few years. Luckily she hung one of my mailers on her wall where it caught the attention of the esteemed editor Patti Gauch (Owl Moon, Lon Po Po). Patti called me up right there and asked when I could be in New York. I borrowed the cash for the train and within a week I was sitting in her office talking about books.

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Your name is the only name for THE FOOL OF THE WORLD AND THE FLYING SHIP. Did you do the writing of the retold Russian tale?

Patti suggested that I consider illustrating the story of the fool and sent me on my way. The first edition I found was the Caldecott award winning version illustrated and retold by Uri Schulevitz. Lets not forget, that this is the guy who had literally written THE book on writing and illustrating picture books, Writing With Pictures. After being paralyzed with fear and then realizing there was no way out of this I started my research. I came across a wonderful version of the text by Petr Nikolaevich Polevoi published by St. Petersberg in 1874. Patti and I loved the language and just made a few minor edits. There is a note about the text on the last page of my edition.

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What was the next book that you illustrated and how did you get that assignment?

My next book was The Great Redwall Feast by Brian Jaques. Patti was Brian’s stateside editor and had been hounding him to write a picture book. Brian saw The Fool and wrote The Feast for me to illustrate. We quickly became close friends and I had the pleasure of working with him for many years. He is missed and I think of him often.

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Did anyone hire you just to illustrate a cover for a book?

Yes, I created the artwork for Brian’s Castaways of the Flying Dutchman. I created two paintings for the cover but ultimately they were never used.

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Did anyone hire you just to illustrate a cover for a book?

Yes, I created the artwork for Brian’s Castaways of the Flying Dutchman. I created two paintings for the cover but ultimately they were never used.

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I see that your wife Anika is an author. How many books have you illustrated for her?

We have a really fun wintertime read-aloud book due out this August called Baking Day at Grandma’s (Philomel Books). That will be our third. Before that we collaborated on Pigs Love Potatoes (Philomel Books 2007) and Bella and Stella Come Home (Philomel, 2010). Both are still in print and seem to be popular!

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ChristopherifIcould

Do you have any desire to write and illustrate a picture book?

Desire-yes but I have not felt like I have had the chops to pull it off until recently. Writing a solid picture book, as many of your readers know, is incredibly difficult. I have a few things on my desk that are showing some promise and with the help of my incredible agent and friend, Emily vanBeek at Folio Jr., I am sure that a few of them will come to fruition at some point. Recently, I came up with the initial concept and art for a book that I tried writing but it was terrible! Thankfully, Alison McGhee (Someday, Bink & Gollie, Shadow Baby) came to my rescue and penned a gorgeous novel called Firefly Hollow that I am working on right now.

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Christophercollector

How and when did you get involved in visual development work for animated feature films?

A RISD alumni who knew my work called me to work on a project that was in development with Blue Sky Studios ( Ice age, Rio, Epic). I was part of a very small team of artists all outside the film studio creating images for what the film might look like. I ended up staying with the project for nearly a year. Its a beautiful story that I hope they make into a film someday!

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christopherbella and stella

Which animated films did you work on?

Left Tern (Blue Sky studios), Beasts of Burden (ReelFx), a bit of work on Rio (Blue Sky studios) after it was already in production, and a few others that have not yet been made and I am not supposed to talk about!

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What is involved in visual development in animation?

Visual Development artists are called in to work with a director and/or production designer to help envision the look and feel of a film. You need to check your ego at the door, stay flexible, and work very, very quickly. I would turn out 20-30 paintings a week. Many loose, some more finished. Sometimes your paintings would be sent off to another artist to paint over and then sent back to you for work again. Often there is not a solid script and you are flying by the seat of your pants with a story summary and a few story beats (moments in a film) that you need to nail down. I love the collaborative aspect of the work and the idea that it is all about the story-not just making one or two pretty pictures.

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I noticed that you used pastels on one of your illustrations. Is that your favorite medium?

I love pastel work but really I love whatever is working for that particular book. Its always about the book on my desk and what it needs from me. I do enjoy the flexibility and speed of photoshop. I am impatient with my work and want to get to the good stuff as soon as possible. I need to get in there and start painting and changing things. Acting and re-acting. Photoshop is a wonderful tool for that type of work.

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Has your style changed over the years?

Sure, with every book and the demands of each manuscript. Writing is hard and I think it would be a great disservice to the author and the story for me to impose a particular style on a book.

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How did you connect with the lovely agent, Emily van Beek?

How long have the two of you been together? Emily and I met when I signed on with Pippin about 5 years ago. I was thrilled to re-connect with her later on when she started Folio Junior.

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What do you think has been your greatest career accomplishment?

Wow. Tough question. Ask me again in about twenty years! A Redwall Winters Tale and Oliver Finds His Way would both rank pretty high up there for different reasons but I always think that I am only as good as my last book. I feel pretty good about the last year. I completed two books that I am VERY proud of. Sleepytime Me by Edith Fine (Random House, May 2014) and Baking Day at Grandma’s (Philomel, August 2014)

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How many children books have you illustrated?

About twenty two I think. A few of the titles were created for educational publishers then re-published for the regular trade market.

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How did you get involved in illustrating the Redwall series of books?

Patti Gauch was responsible for showing Brian Jacques my work. Thanks, Patti!

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How many of those books have you illustrated?

I illustrated three books for the the Redwall picture-book series. The Great Redwall Feast (Philomel 1996), A Redwall Winters Tale (Philomel 2001), and The Redwall Cookbook (Philomel 2005)

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It looks like you have done a lot of books with Philomel. How many books have you illustrated for them?

Nine books with Philomel so far.

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OLIVER FINDS HIS WAY was published by Candlewick. How did that contract come about?

Chris Paul at Candlewick called me up out of the blue one day and said she had a project that she would like me to consider. They are just up in Somerville so I drove up for lunch and met with Chris and the wonderful Mary Lee Donovan. I knew right away that I wanted to work with them. Candlewick is a fantastic house, beautiful books, super nice people.

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I think Jane Yolen lives near you. Did you know her before you illustrated THE SEA MAN? Was that the only Merman you have illustrated?

I did not know Jane before I illustrated The Sea Man, but of course I knew Jane’s work. We just saw each other at Kindling Words in January and since then have talked about the possibility of working together again. Yes-that was the very first Merman I was asked to illustrate.

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Do they have a studio in your house?

My studio is about 15′ from my back door in a separate building that I re-built just three years ago. For years I had studios in Providence. Downtown is only about twelve miles away from the little beach-side community where we live but the drive home, late at night if I was working on deadline or a film project, was not fun. It was convenient when I was teaching at RISD but I was also missing my wife and the kids. I like to be able to quit at 4:00, spend some time with my family, have a glass of wine, dinner, read to the kids, and put them to bed. After that I walk back out to the studio for another session. Making books is hard work but my family life and walks on the beach keep me anchored and very happy.

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I was able to see some of your wonderful black and white interior drawings that did you do for Rosemary Well’s book, FOLLOWING GRANDFATHER. How many did you do for the 64 page book?

Gosh, I don’t remember-quite a few! I loved working with Rosemary and since then we have become good friends.

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Have you done illustrations for any children’s magazines?

Yes, I think I did work for Ladybug magazine. I may have done work for Cricket.

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Your new book coming out in May titled, SLEEPYTIME ME is beautiful. How did you get that contract with Random House?

I was working with Elena Mechlin at Pippin and she brought the manuscript to me. Edith’s (Fine) writing is so wonderful. That was another fantastic project. Random House gave me lots of support and complete freedom.

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How long did you have to illustrate that whole book?

I created that suite of images in about six months. They were long days but I loved the work.

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

Not so many things personally. Emily, my agent, makes sure that I have plenty on my plate. I work closely with her making sure that we have a plan and chart out the production schedule. Our biggest challenge is leaving some blocks of time off-especially in the summer.

christopherchef

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

My sketchbook-no doubt. christophersite_rwcb_5

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

I do try to take some time in the summer to go landscape painting. But in truth I work on my craft every single day. I try to start each session as a novice.

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

I do take some pictures. I browse books ( fine art, photography, other picture books) from my own shelves and the library-seeing what comes to me. The internet, of course, is amazing.

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christopherchefs

I notice that you are doing the illustrations for Betsy Devany’s debut picture book, SMELLY BABY. Both of you are represented by Emily van Beek. I can’t wait to see the illustrations. Great match-up! How was Emily able to get you two together?

This is one of the great things about Emily. We were talking about what I wanted to work on, scheduling and such and she was already thinking way ahead of me about what would serve us (because we are most definately a team) professionally but also allow me to stretch artistically. She called me up a few days later and asked how I felt about working on something funny and emailed Betsy’s manuscript for Smelly Baby. I read it through and forced my self to wait for ten minutes before I said YES!

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Have you won any awards that you are particularly proud of?

Yes but it has nothing to do with publishing! I was nominated for the Frazier award in teaching at RISD. That nomination was particularly meaningful to me because it is the students who vote for the few nominees that make the cut. That was such an honor because I loved working with such wonderfully talented young artists and I put my heart in soul into teaching those classes. Of course I am grateful and honored when any of my books receive recognition.

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Out of all the books you have illustrated, do you have a favorite?

Another tough question. The books are like my girls, they are all my favorites for different reasons. If I had to choose I would choose four. Pigs Love Potatoes (Anika Denise) Oliver Finds His Way (Phyllis Root), Sleepytime Me (Edith Fine), and Baking Day at Grandma’s (Anika Denise).

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Do you use Photoshop or a graphic tablet when illustrating?

I paint and draw in Photoshop using a medium size wacom intuos tablet and pen.

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

I am in the process of doing just that! I spend my days drawing pictures and coming up with stories. How great is that?!

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What are you working on now?

Firefly Hollow ( Simon & Schuster) an illustrated novel by Alison McGhee, and Betsy Devany’s picture book Smelly Baby (Henry Holt & Company)

christopherRabturt_cart Do you have any material type tips or software type tips you can share with us? Example: A new product that you’ve tried – A how to tip, etc.

I think my breakthrough with digital tools came when I stopped trying to “learn” the software and started to think of using photoshop to replicate my traditional process. To use the program in the same way as I used my traditional tools. Same layering process, same ways of applying color. Make the digital tools work for you-mistakes and all. In the end you have more flexibility and can change things. Also-be brave and create your own brushes to get the effects that you want.

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

Trust your instincts. Do what you need to do to get by but after that point do not be afraid to say no to something if your heart is not in it.

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Thank you Christopher for sharing your talent, process, expertise, and journey with us. Please keep in touch and let us know all of your future successes. We would love to hear about them. You can visit Christopher at: http://www.christopherdenise.com

You can link over to his blog and his Etsy shop where he sell original artwork.

facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Christopher-Denise-Illustrator/385062757194

I really appreciate it when you leave a comment, so please take a minute to leave Christopher a comment. Thanks!

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

Posted by: Kathy Temean | April 11, 2014

Free Fall Friday – Guest Critiquer

samanthafor litagency bioSamantha Bremekamp started her career in publishing in 2008, and quickly realized that she preferred working directly with authors from the other side of the industry. She runs critique groups and writing groups for fun, as she also loves to write and help others to fulfill their writing ambitions. She is fully aware of how hard of an industry it really is in this day and age.

Her favorite writing is children’s, middle grade, young adult, and new adult. There is something so pure about each building block of life these book groups represent. Although there may be a difference between a three year old and a 33 year old, maybe, Samantha finds that all of life’s challenges in these age groups really show the potential for amazing growth in a character.

Samantha’s background is in English literature, communications, and Spanish. She really thinks that if a writer is confident and believes in their work, their work will show that without having to showboat to prove it via a pitch.

Follow Samantha on Twitter at @LiterallySmash

Samantha loves reading Children’s, MG, YA, and NA fiction. She is open to any genre within those age groups, but prefers speculative fiction, mystery, and quirky romance.

CALL FOR ILLUSTRATIONS: Still need illustrations for the month of April. Would love to show off your illustrations during one of my daily posts. So please submit your illustrations: To kathy (dot) temean (at) gmail (dot) com. Illustrations must be at least 500 pixels wide and include a blurb about you that I can use. Thanks!

Below is the April picture prompt for anyone who would like to use it. Guest Critiquer will be announced next week.

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The above illustration was done by Elizabeth Alba. She works in watercolor and gouche. Elizabeth was featured on Illustrator Saturday in March. Here is the link: http://kathytemean.wordpress.com/2014/03/08/illustrator-saturday-elisabeth-alba/

Here are the submission guidelines for submitting a First Page in April: Please “April First Page Critique” or “April First Page Picture Prompt Critique” in the subject line. Please make sure you include your name, the title of the piece, and whether it is as picture book, middle grade, or young adult, etc. at the top.

Please attach your first page submission using one inch margins and 12 point font – double spaced, no more than 23 lines to an e-mail and send it to: kathy(dot)temean(at)gmail(dot)com. Also cut and paste it into the body of the e-mail and then also attach it in a Word document to the email.

DEADLINE: April 24th.

RESULTS: May 2nd.

Use inch margins – double space your text – 12 pt. New Times Roman font – no more than 23 lines – paste into body of the email

You can only send in one first page each month. It can be the same first page each month or a different one, but if you sent it to me last month and it didn’t get chosen, you need to send it again using the April’s directions. Of course, it doesn’t have to be the same submission. It can be a first page from a work in process or you can use the picture prompt above.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

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