Posted by: Kathy Temean | October 1, 2016

Illustrator Saturday – Christopher Lyles

bio-pictureChristopher Lyles is a professional illustrator who spends much of his time working in a variety of media and exploring new fields. Since graduating with my MFA in Illustration, he has contributed to children’s publications, greeting cards, editorial illustrations, and gallery installations.

His illustrations have been recognized by The Society of Illustrators LA, 3×3 and American Illustration.

He also has exhibited his work on the East coast and in LA.

He lives in the small town of Simsbury, Connecticut with his wife, two wonderful children, and their loving dog, Riley. 

Here is Chris sharing his process:

My Process for creating my illustrations varies from project to project, but there are a few constants that remain the same.  The first and foremost would be reading the manuscript over and over if pertaining to a children’s picture book.  It is important for the story to sink in and this is where I will begin taking notes and doodling.  At first these scribbles may seem irrelevant, but I have found that my initial markings have always served me well when looking back.  I enjoy using different colored highlighters to outline setting, characters, and mood descriptions.  This allows me to stay organized and to help me weed out what is most significant on each page.

Step 1 : Thumbnails

First I will have to create dozens of thumbnail sketches (Fig.34).  This process was drilled into me in grad school and I have fully embraced the challenge of working out compositions on a small-scale basis.  Often times I will use ˆPost-It Notes to sketch out my initial ideas.  They are easy to move around and I feel less attachment to these drawings than if I was to work on good drawing paper.  Sometimes I can go through stacks of these sticky papers until arriving upon a single solution.  Later I will recycle these papers as part of a collage background or some other type of decorative element.  It is the best way to recycle!

Below is the first sketch I created of my penguin character.

penguin-sketch

Below are some of the thumbnail sketches I created while working on my wordless picture book.

black-and-white-thumbnails

Step 2: Experimentation

After exploring different thumbnails, I will apply gesso to some of the Post-it Notes and begin painting on top of them.  It is an exciting process and allows me to start thinking about color schemes.  Even though most of my finished pieces will be created in collage, I still value the process of painting and establishing a solid structure.

I feel that it is important to allow yourself time to experiment and play around in the beginning of any job.  It is a great way to get rid of the jitters and to work out the kinks!

postits-painted

Step 3: The Collage Papers

One of the things I enjoy most about collage is getting to work with a wide variety of patterned and textured papers.  I have collected these papers for several years and have organized by color, texture, and weight.  Some papers were store-bought, while others were hand-painted by me.  In addition, I collect ephemera and have a wide array of old letters, stamps, vintage photos and hand-written letters.  Illustrations begin by arranging collage fragments into an interesting composition before any paint is applied.  At this preliminary stage, messages, if any, are conveyed in abstract fashion. Throughout the painting process, I allow collage pieces to peek through to entice the viewer.  Often, sufficient text will remain visible to help communicate underlying theme or issue.

matisse

It is noteworthy that Henri Matisse (b.1869-1954) has been a great influence inspired by his cut paper collages.  In particular, Matisse’s Snail (Fig. 30) is an excellent example of the way in which he tore shapes from paper and arranged them to form beautiful compositions.  Matisse coined the term “drawing with scissors”.  I cannot think of a better way to describe the method I use to begin an illustration.  In fact, this go-with-the-flow approach is liberating.  Envisioning how a child would work helps to relieve unnecessary pressure or anxiety.   The images below illustrate the way I prepared my surfaces for An Arctic Journey (Fig. 31-32).

collage-1

Christopher Lyles, Abstract collage tile, 2014, various papers adhered to gessoboard, unpublished.

Fig. 32  Christopher Lyles, Collaged Gessobord with Thin Paint Application, 2014, collage and acrylic on gessobord, unpublished.

Final Preparations

gessoboard

I decided to use gessobord (Fig. 33) as the surface for my final illustrations.  Over the years, I have tried a variety of supports and none have been as strong or reliable.  The ready to paint boards have been coated with an acid-free acrylic gesso.

After my surfaces have been collaged, a final coat of matte medium was applied over the entire board to ensure proper adhesion.  At this stage, texture can be added by scraping the surface with various tools such as forks, palette knives and old brushes.  Marking was random to achieve a more spontaneous look to the finished art.  Finally, a thick layer of masking tape was applied around surfaces to prevent smudges and smears.

Once all of the surfaces were properly prepared, sketches were enlarged for transfer onto the supports.  However, the images were not simply traced onto the boards.  Printouts would be placed over the collage papers for cutout guides.  This practice allowed greater liberty with work and embraced all “happy accidents”.  The most important aspect of my work was the composition.  Once laid down, each new piece will determine the course of action.  Because of this flexible approach, I am always surprised with my final product (Fig. 40) and I look forward to working on the next.  In this vein, I approached my thesis working one illustration a time.  Although other illustrators may consider this wasted time, I wanted to learn as much as possible about every new piece before moving to the next.  Each finished painting set the bar higher for the subsequent one and I enjoyed the challenge of keeping that standard.  As a consequence, there are images more successful than others. A great deal, however, can be learned from this evolution.  To capture findings, a written journal is maintained to critique color mixtures, character designs and compositional issues.

The Squint Test

Mr. Murray Tinkelman (b.1933) once stated, “Squinting can replace art school.”  After spending the last two years under his guidance, I can fully appreciate this statement.  Ironically, squinting allows the illustrator to see their work with clearer vision.  This process breaks down an image into its essential components and allows you to see what is working and what is not.  Each of my illustrations for An Arctic Journey was put through the “squint test.”  After completing each illustration, I would step back and squint.  If the main subject of my illustration became lost or blurry, more contrast or value was required.  Despite its simplicity, squinting has changed my life.  I now encourage my elementary students to squint at their artwork before asking questions.  Often, they are able to resolve their own problems and as such gain more confidence in their ability.

Finally, I decided to share my thesis work with my students.  Being an elementary art schoolteacher provides me with the rare opportunity to interact with my target audience.  I explained to them that this was a wordless book and wanted them to tell me the story.  There was no right or wrong interpretation.  I was absolutely amazed by their enthusiasm and they were able to tell me so much more about my story than I ever could have imagined.  In fact, some students questioned why I made certain decisions.  With all of their responses and feedback, I was able to make adjustments necessary to make this story a success.  Children are the greatest teachers and I am fortunate to have a bunch!

finished-sample

Interview Questions for Christopher Lyles

How long have you been illustrating?

I have been illustrating professionally for over 15 years.  I received my first gig right after graduating art school.  I was very interested in designing and illustrating greeting cards, so I developed a portfolio of various samples and sent them out to dozens of stationary companies. I was fortunate enough to catch the attention of Recycled Paper Greetings/ American Greetings and I have been working with them ever since.

bird

Where do you live?

I live in Simsbury, Connecticut with my wife and two kids.  I am surrounded by wilderness and lots of ferns!!  I’m sure they will be appearing in my work soon.

artist

What was the first thing you painted where someone paid you for your work?

I’m pretty sure I spent a lot of time creating personalized greeting cards, stationary, and gifts for friends and colleagues.  This was before I graduated art school and the best part about it was that I was able to be my own art director!  I still enjoy creating personalized works of art for people when I have the opportunity.

beach

Where did you go for your MFA? What made you chose that school?

I attended the Low Residency in Illustration program at The University of Hartford.  I chose this school because it was the only Low Residency MFA in the country that was dedicated exclusively to Illustration.  Not to mention the celebrity cast of faculty which included names such as Betsy and Ted Lewin, Gary Kelley, C.F. Payne, and many more!!

peace

What did you study there?

Exclusively Illustration.

in-the-ocean

Did getting your MFA helped develop your style?

Absolutely. This program was akin to boot camp for illustrators. I was fortunate enough to hear and see well-known illustrators share their processes and offer great advice and insight. I was also pushed to develop a thesis based on a wordless book that I had developed while attending Betsy and Ted Lewin’s class on creating a picture book. It was a mind- blowing experience!

backyard

What type of work did you do after you got out of school?

After completing my undergrad program at Paier College of Art, I was mostly illustrating and writing creating cards for various companies. These were mostly royalty-based contracts (which I highly recommend) and I was able to learn a lot about meeting deadlines, making changes, and growing as an artist. I had a great art director named Gretchen who knew exactly how to push me to produce my best work.

big-bear

Did they help you get work after you graduated?

Not really.  It isn’t a criticism of the school. But rather I was already getting work by sending out my own promotional material.

bull

Have you seen your work change since you left school?

Most definitely!  I have kept countless sketchbooks over the years and all the evidence lies within them.  I think it is fascinating to see where you have come from and all the things that have influenced your personal vision and style.

bat

When did you decide you wanted to illustrate for children?

Probably since I was a child myself.  I was always telling stories with my work and entertaining my classmates.  I always thought I would become a Disney animator (typical) but it wasn’t until I attended art school that I had different thoughts.  Aside from illustrating, I also work as an elementary school art and gym instructor.  It is honestly the greatest experience in the world. I get to relive my childhood years and my target audience is staring at me everyday!

lucy-cover

Was Lucy and Lila your first book?

No. Since being represented by Tugeau 2 (for a long time), I have been fortunate enough to have illustrated many books.  However, Lucy and Lila holds a very special place in my heart.  This was the first book that was based on my own original character.

elephant

This is the watercolor sketch that caught the attention of Little Bee Books! Lucy and Lila was born.

How did that contract come about?

I had created a small watercolor sketch of an elephant for my niece and I sent it to Nicole just to acquire her feedback.  I had no idea that she would share it with the industry  and soon after I would be contacted by Little Bee Books to illustrate a story based on that character!!  However, I never had been challenged to create a picture book based off of a single sketch, but I accepted the challenge with excitement and I was very pleased with the finished book.

water-life

How many books have you illustrated?

At least 10 books.

hearts

What was the title of your first book?

I know this sounds bad, but I can’t honestly remember.  It was a seasonal book that was published as an oversized book for young readers.  It was very early in my career.

parade
Do you have a favorite book that you illustrated?

Probably “Meg Goldberg on Parade”  (Kar-Ben Publishing, 2015).  It is a book which illustrates New York City’s Israel Day Parade.  It involves a sweet, young girl named Meg who has a wild imagination which leads her to experience this festival up close.  This book involved lots of illustrating famous landmarks in New York City and I had a lot of fun visiting the city for reference and inspiration.  The entire book was created with collage fragments, many which I found while visiting there.  I always love an opportunity to depict famous landmarks using a highly stylized approach.  The important part is to make sure that the locations being depicted are still accurate and recognizable.  That is a lot harder than it sounds.

dream

Do you have any desire to write and illustrate your own book?

Yes!  I am planning to work on a wordless book I illustrated for my thesis a few years back.  It’s based on a story of a little penguin who gets separated from his colony during the night and is taken on an adventure through the cold dark night.

fall

What do you think is your biggest success? 

Probably being able to balance a career as an illustrator, educator, father, and husband.  It is the most challenging thing in the world, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.  There are certainly times where I feel as if I’m hanging on by a thread!

hiking

Have you ever tried to do a wordless picture book?

Yes. I am very excited to be working on one now, but there are many challenges with creating a wordless picture book.  Each page has to communicate clearly and the story arc has to be dynamic.  I plan on sharing my sketches with my students to see what stories they can come up with.  It is so inspiring to see their eyes light up when they have an idea.  They are always happy to share and they have an abundance of creativity and imagination.

hot-air-baloon

I see you’re represented at Tugeau2. How did you connect with Nicole and when was that?

Nicole is the greatest agent in the world!  She has represented me for the past 13 years?  It’s been a long time now.  I can remember picking up a copy of “The Artist’s and Graphic Designer’s Market book during my last year of art school.  I read the entire book in a few days and highlighted the agencies that were seeking the kind of work that I was creating.  Soon after, I received a call from Tugeau 2 and the rest was history.  Over the years, she has helped me to develop a signature style and she has acquired me commissions from leading publishers in both the trade and educational markets.  I am very grateful for all the support she has provided me along the way.

house-soccer

Do you illustrate full time?

50/50.  I work as an educator from 9-3pm and as an illustrator from 5-??  It’s so hard to describe because I always feel that I am working as an illustrator no matter what I am doing.  I am making mental notes, dooddling in my sketchbook, and thinking of new stories and characters.  I am fortunate enough to work in a school who values having an artist –in-residence.  If it were not for the school, I would truly be lost.

waterfall

Do you have a favorite medium you use?

Yes.  It would have to be collage.  Scissors, crayons, glue, Xacto knife, and an assortment of papers.  I guess that isn’t one medium.

play-ball

Do you take research pictures before you start a project?

Sometimes.  There is always the risk of relying too heavily on reference, which can hinder imagination and working stylistically.  However, I know many illustrators who do incredible work and use many of their own reference pictures.  I suppose it is a personal preference that less is more.

penquin

Have you worked with any educational publishers? If yes, is there any difference working with them?

Yes.  Over the years I have worked with many educational publishers.  I would say that the biggest difference working with working with educational publishers is that you have to be crystal clear with content.  I spend a lot of time working stylistically, but sometimes it can be too much of a distraction for young readers who are relying on the picture to communicate clearly.  Also, deadlines tend to be a little more rushed, but it is good practice.  Because I work in a school and my wife is a school psychologist, it gives me great pleasure to see what a wonderful teaching tool these books can be for children.

caution

Do you use Photoshop with any of your work?

I do use Photoshop in my work.  Mostly for scanning collage pieces and cleaning up finished pieces.  I am very old-fashioned and I still prefer working traditionally.  I am still trying to combine the two methods seamlessly and this is an on-going process.  There is no greater feeling than cutting with scissors and gluing down pieces of paper with real glue.  This process is very time consuming and tedious, but I wouldn’t have it any other way!  The computer is just another tool for me.

zoo

Do you have and use a graphic tablet?

I have a Wacom tablet and use it on occasion for touching up elements of my work in Photoshop.  I still rely on a good old-fashioned 2b pencil to produce sketches in my sketchbook.

san-fran

Has any of your work appeared in magazines?

Not really (at least not traditional editorial illustration).  Occasionally I will take on editorial work for newspapers.  My work doesn’t really lend itself to the editorial market.  Having said that, I have illustrated for clients such as Cricket and Babybug magazine.  They have been great clients and I would love to collaborate more with them in the future.

signs

Do you studio a studio in your house?

Yes.  Recently I purchased a new home with a studio on the first floor.  I have two big windows looking out to rows of green ferns and many tall pine trees.  I love nature and I am so lucky to have this resource in such close proximity.  My studio is very simple and I have even made a section for my two sons to work alongside me (on special occasions).

street-band

Is there anything in your studio you couldn’t live without?

I would have to say it would be my xacto knife.

strolling

Do you follow any type of routine to attain your career goals?

I always follow my gut and make plenty of time to experiment and explore new ideas and techniques.  I have found that making time for my personal work has led to greater opportunities within the field of illustration.  I rely on many sticky notes to help keep me organized and to stay on track. I think it is important to set achievable goals for yourself too.  As an artist, my mind tends to get ahead of itself and I can become overwhelmed with the desire to do EVERYTHING.  I have learned over the years that patience is a virtue.  Hard work and dedication to your craft is key!

lion

Any exciting projects on the horizon?

Yes.  I am currently illustrating my second book for Magination Press (American Psychology Asociation) and I am having a blast!  I am working with some of the greatest art directors and editors and they have allowed me much freedom  and flexibility.  Many of the topics I am illustrating are focused on helping children understand their feelings and developing coping strategies.  These are critical isues and I am so happy to be involved with such a vital organization.

snow

Do you think the Internet has opened any doors for you?

Absolutley.  My work can reach a much broader audience and it has made deivering artwork ontime so much easier!  I also consider the internet a great vehicle for self-promotion.  However, it is very important to stay vigilant and to always copyright your work!  As great as the internet has become, there are also many drawbacks.

whale

What are your career goals?

I have so many.  I would say that my biggest career goal would be to create and publish a wordless book.  I feel that I am very close to achieving this goal and hopefully  it will come to fruition soon.  I’m also pursuing the liscensing industry and I have been developing a brand identity that I would like to  incorporate as wall décor, bedding, toys, etc..  Having children has made my desire for product design increase significantly.  It also allows me to test my designs in my children’s rooms to see what works and what doesn’t.

jungle

What are you working on now?

Currently, I am starting my second book for Magination Press and I am also working on redesigning my website.  My to-do lists are growing each day.

red-beard

Are there any painting tips (materials, paper, etc.) you can share that work well for you? Technique tips?

I have found a few tips that have served me well over the years.  Because I am a collage artist. I tend to collect lots of papers and materials.  I would invest in a good filing system so that it is easy to find what you are looking for when working on a particular project.  I have found Ikea to be a great place to fulfill my needs and budget.  I also like to pre-cut different shapes and textures of paper to be used at a later time.  I am obsesed with circles and triangles , so I have filled many bins with those. (cont.)

kissing-mice

Also, don’t waste your time on cheap supplies.  I have come to appreciate the value of a good pair of scissors, glue, and working surface surface.  Some of my favorite items are : PVA acid-free glue, Xacto blades in various sizes, a burnisher, Raphael Kolinsky Sable #2 brush, Turner Acryl Gouache, Golden Matte Medium, an ebony pencil, and stonehenge paper. (cont.)

bear-in-landscape

Some of the greatest supplies I have purchased have come from antique stores and flea markets.  I scour these places until the right item speaks to me.  For eample, if I am working on a book about gardening, I might search for vintage plant diagrams and handwritten ledgers.  I try to imagine the look and fele of the story and  seek out appropriate textures and surfaces.  I adore old schoolbooks and maps.  I have many conatiners filled with this stuff in my studio.

city

Any words of wisdom you can share with the illustrators who are trying to develop their career?

I can offer some of my own advice and that of others who have walked a mile in my shoes.

  1. Do what you love and love what you do. -everyone
  2. The personal work is where you learn everything. –Marshall Arisman
  3. If you truly follow your passion, others will pick up on it. – Joe Ciardello
  4. Don’t wait for a market to come to you. Create it. – Burt Silverman
  5. Draw everyday
  6. Paint your soul not your style.  If you deal with style or technique alone you cut yourself off. – Burt Silverman

Perhaps the greatest advice I can give would  be , “Be kind to yourself.”  This is a very competitive business and you will face a lot of rejection along the way. Instead of becoming discouraged, get excited about growing and creating new work!  Artists can steal your style, but they can never take your voice.

polar-bear

Thank you Chris for sharing your talent, process, journey, and expertise with us. Please make sure you keep in touch and share your future successes with us. To see more of Chris’ work, you can visit him at website at: http://www.christopherlyles.com

If you have a minute, please leave a comment for Chris. I am sure he’d love it and I enjoy reading them, too. Thanks!

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

Posted by: Kathy Temean | September 30, 2016

Free Fall Friday – First Page Results

AndreaCascardi72bwAndrea Cascardi agent with Transatlantic Literary Agency has held senior editorial positions at Random House and Disney Publishing, and was an agent with Transatlantic for ten years before returning to the Publisher role at Egmont USA.

Click here for Likes and Dislikes.

Here are the four first pages chosen this month:

Cloverleaf  by Carol Murray – MG Novel

“Hey, Gramps, look at this! I got my poem published in Horse Crazy.”

“Well, congratulations, cowgirl, you’re getting pretty durn famous. First you win the

poetry contest in the Pretty Prairie Gazette, and now you’re getting published in a real honest-

to-goodness library book. Nice to get to know you, Miss Angela Pinkerton.”

“Same here, Gramps.”

“Did you get any cash this time?”

“Another hundred bucks,” Angie said, breaking into a smile as wide as the Kansas sky.

“I think I’ll get a new pair of chaps, or maybe I’ll buy you a Stetson so you’ll look jazzy at the

State Fair in September. Thanks, Gramps. Sometimes I forget to tell you.”

“Aw, Angie, everything I do for you makes me feel good. You’ve made my life complete,

my girl. I lost my heart when your grandma died, but you’re helpin’ me find it again. That’s a

humdinger of a poem! Read it for me will you, Hon?”

“Sure, Gramps. Here goes:

                         Just Wishin’

I’d find myself a pony if I could have my way,

Black or white or spotted, palomino, roan or gray.

With snip or blaze or socks of white,

a chestnut, sorrel, bay,

I wish I had a pony. I would love him every day.”

(by Angela Pinkerton, 4th grade)

“Well, you got your wish all right. That was almost two years ago, and after your poem

made the paper, Sticky Gumm and me went on a horse-hunting expedition.”

“And that’s when we got Lucky!”

”Yep, that was the big day. I’ll  never forget it.”

HERE’S ANDREA:

Cloverleaf by Carol Murray – MG

The warmth of this grandfather/granddaughter relationship emanates from this first page. But there seems to be a lot of backstory crammed in, and I wonder if there is a more exciting opening for the novel, something that perhaps happens after this. What I take away is that Angie and her grandfather share a love of horses and that since grandma’s death, their relationship has grown stronger. But what it doesn’t tell the reader is what is this story going to be about, and what kind of story it’s going to be.

This feels like a little info dump. Is there a more natural way for this information to be woven in without Gramps retelling something Angie already knows about? Using dialogue to tell much of the story is great but like any tool, it has its limitations. When dialogue is used to convey information for the reader, it can feel unnatural.

“And that’s when we got Lucky!”

”Yep, that was the big day. I’ll  never forget it.”

Angie seems like a cheerful, positive kid, but remember no one is cheerful and positive all the time. Obviously this is just a short piece from the novel but it makes me wonder. What will she struggle with? What does she want and what are the obstacles in her way? Those struggles and how she handles them will give her depth and make her someone readers will care about. The earlier you prepare the reader for the undercurrents the more compelling the read will become.

_______________________________________________________________________________________

Beela and Red Jump a Rope / Jennifer Reinharz / Picture Book

After the street was closed and banner strung, Beela and Red went outside to play.

“Look at all this jumping space,” Red announced. “Hey, where’s your rope?”

“It broke, remember?” Beela said. “Want to share?”

“Well, my Poppie bought this for me. Okay. But I go first.” {Red skips rope and sings}

“Today is the block party. Yippie Yippie Yee! Bouncy castles, hamburgers, cotton candy. Freeze dance, sprinklers, stay up late. Comes once a year-we can’t wait!”

“Songs over. My turn.” Beela grabbed for the rope.

“I just started.”

“Did not,” she grumbled.

“Stop!”

“Not fair!”

Yank. Tug. Pop. Red fell back. The handle flew off. The rope began to fray.

“Oh! You alright?” Beela helped her neighbor up.

Red dusted her derriere. “Ugh. We broke another one. Now what?”

Beela shrugged. “Practice handstands?”

“Too scary.”

“Mix mud pies?”

“Too messy. I still feel like jumping.”

“Me too,” Beela said. “Hmm…Wait here.”

She marched inside, climbed the stairs to her grandmother’s room and flung open the armoire. Arranged on hangers was a sea of head scarves.

Beela ran her fingers through the fabric like she did every morning while Citoo framed her own face in color, sparkle or pattern.

HERE’S ANDREA:

Beela and Red Jump a Rope / Jennifer Reinharz / Picture Book

A block party is such an interesting backdrop for a story, one that is ubiquitous to all kinds of neighborhoods yet not one I’ve seen in a picture

book. But we don’t know it’s a block party until 5 lines down, so I suggest moving right up to the opening.

After the street was closed and banner strung, Beela and Red went outside to play.

“Look at all this jumping space,” Red announced. “Hey, where’s your rope?”

“It broke, remember?” Beela said. “Want to share?”

“Well, my Poppie bought this for me. Okay. But I go first.” {Red skips rope and sings}

“Today is the block party. Yippie Yippie Yee! Bouncy castles, hamburgers, cotton candy. Freeze dance, sprinklers, stay up late. Comes once a year-we can’t wait!”

“Songs over. My turn.” Beela grabbed for the rope. It’s hard to write two main characters. We aren’t sure if we are to root for one of them. The

bickering doesn’t make either of them more appealing. I would suggest cutting it and getting to the heart of the story sooner.

“I just started.”

“Did not,” she grumbled.

“Stop!”

“Not fair!”

Yank. Tug. Pop. Red fell back. The handle flew off. The rope began to fray.

“Oh! You alright?” Beela helped her neighbor up.

Red dusted her derriere. “Ugh. We broke another one. Now what?”

Beela shrugged. “Practice handstands?”

“Too scary.”

“Mix mud pies?”

“Too messy. I still feel like jumping.”

“Me too,” Beela said. “Hmm…Wait here.”

She marched inside, climbed the stairs to her grandmother’s room and flung open the armoire. The language seems to get more sophisticated here. Sentences are longer, words are more difficult. It feels a bit jarring, and reads more like a novel than picture book. Arranged on hangers was a sea of head scarves. Beela ran her fingers through the fabric like she did every morning while Citoo framed her own face in color, sparkle or pattern. Very interesting! The story seems to be taking a new turn. Perhaps it’s not about a block party at all. My advice is to really hone in on what is the core of the story and rework it so that is always front and center for the reader. In a picture book, every word counts, so cut what isn’t necessary to move the action forward. You have some interesting threads that I hope will come together organically.

_________________________________________________________________________________________________

COULD I EVER FORGIVE?  Bebe Willoughby  by Young adult

            Could I ever forgive myself? I stood on the dune, the sea grass blowing around my knees, thinking of Leigh. It seemed impossible to forget what I’d done.

            Our beautiful New England town was once a whaling town, but now it was a resort. In the summer the gardens were filled with pink roses and sunflowers, and most of the Captain’s homes were owned by summer people. In various ways it was good, but in other ways it was ruined. I turned toward the road and saw a hummer coming down the street with New York plates. The warmth of summer had nearly left, and we’d headed  into fall.   I turned away from the ocean.

            It was just this year my senior year, that I met Leigh. She stood in a corner on the first day of school before the bell rang. She was an awesome creature with dark hair that went down her back. I used to be shy but boldness took hold of me when I became a cheerleader. I was drawn to Leigh, and when I stood in front of her I spoke. “Want to have lunch?”

She looked past me. Then she said: “I can’t.”

At lunch Valerie asked why I spoke to the new girl. “You must sit with the cheerleaders,” Valerie said. “You’re part of us.”

The good looking boys wearing leather jackets stared but didn’t talk to us.  Valerie and Amanda had boyfriends, and I did too up until June. Then Steve Collins broke up with me. They laughed and joked with me about who’d be my next boyfriend. But I knew it wouldn’t be like that. As I looked at the boys an ache began in my chest. It would be a long time before anyone appealed to me as much as Steve.

HERE IS ANDREA:

COULD I EVER FORGIVE?   by Bebe Willoughby  Young Adult

Could I ever forgive myself? I stood on the dune, the sea grass blowing around my knees, thinking of Leigh. It seemed impossible to forget what I’d done. Very compelling opening. Definitely caught my attention and made me want to read more.

Our beautiful New England town was once a whaling town, but now it was a resort. In the summer the gardens were filled with pink roses and sunflowers, and most of the Captain’s homes were owned by summer people. In various ways it was good, but in other ways it was ruined. I turned toward the road and saw a hummer coming down the street with New York plates. The warmth of summer had nearly left, and we’d headed  into fall.   I turned away from the ocean. The opening was so strong and I think developing those thoughts to keep the reader hooked rather than breaking to give us a physical description of the town would lead from strength to strength.

It was just this year my senior year, that I met Leigh. She stood in a corner on the first day of school before the bell rang. She was an awesome creature with dark hair that went down her back. I used to be shy but boldness took hold of me when I became a cheerleader. Whenever possible, show rather than tell. You show us she’s bold, and if she doesn’t consider herself to be shy any longer, this feels like an irrelevant “tell” that could be cut. I was drawn to Leigh, and when I stood in front of her I spoke. “Want to have lunch?”

She looked past me. Then she said: “I can’t.” It feels like a missed opportunity not to follow up Leigh’s rejection with some observation, feeling, or remark from the narrator. Is she surprised, embarrassed, more intrigued, angry? Show us with how she responds. Especially since we have a hint that this relationship goes bad eventually, their initial meeting should play into that.

At lunch Valerie asked why I spoke to the new girl. “You must sit with the cheerleaders,” Valerie said. “You’re part of us.”

The good looking boys wearing leather jackets stared but didn’t talk to us.  Valerie and Amanda had boyfriends, and I did too up until June. Then Steve Collins broke up with me. They laughed and joked with me about who’d be my next boyfriend. But I knew it wouldn’t be like that. As I looked at the boys an ache began in my chest. Strong emotion, very simply and effectively communicated. It would be a long time before anyone appealed to me as much as Steve.

There is clearly an undercurrent of strong emotion here. From the opening paragraph to the final one here, we see a picture of a girl in transition, and perhaps not on as solid ground as she wants to appear to her classmates. More details would flesh this out. She doesn’t give her name to Leigh so we don’t know it yet, either. Where are she and Valerie speaking? It feels like a vacuum but it’s more likely a hectic cafeteria—or maybe they don’t even eat lunch in school? If the reader has too many questions, it breaks the story’s spell. Set the scene for with a few simple, key details, but still keep us in the moment. Great start!

_____________________________________________________________________________________________

MY SOMETHING AMAZING by Karen Mullane, MG

The palomino horse appeared first. Creeping through the woods, I held my breath and tried not to make noise. Snow flurries swirled around me while I picked my way carefully over the cold ground. I stepped over a fallen tree and wound my way around a puddle that was just turning to ice.

As I got near the paddock fence, sticks crunched under my feet making him swing his head in my direction. I stopped in my tracks.

My face felt frozen, but sweat still broke out on my forehead. I rode horses in my dreams almost every night but this one was real. His ears tipped forward and he looked right at me, as though asking, “Who are you?”

I know he’s a palomino now, but at the time I just saw a golden horse with a white mane and tail. His color stood out so beautifully through the bare winter trees. He wandered over to the fence. I gently put my fingers out to touch his velvety nose and his warm breath hung over my hand.

With my heart pounding, I answered him, “I’m Evie, what’s your name?”

Ever since I spied the palomino, I begged my parents for a horse. For about a year, I had been obsessed with horses for whatever reason. I guess they just sparked a little corner of my mind. They seemed like they were left over from a time when things were more magical. Like if I had a horse, I could ride away into a more exciting story.

I didn’t really care about the practical side, but my parents did. My dad said that we didn’t really have the room. He started explaining zoning and stuff. Not much magic in that.

HERE’S ANDREA:

MY SOMETHING AMAZING by Karen Mullane, Middle Grade

The palomino horse appeared first. “First” implies other horses—or perhaps people—will follow. If that’s not the case, this gives the wrong impression of what is to come. Creeping through the woods, I held my breath and tried not to make noise. Snow flurries swirled around me while I picked my way carefully over the cold ground. I stepped over a fallen tree and wound my way around a puddle that was just turning to ice. Intriguing opening with just enough detail to ground the story but not so much that it bogs the story down. Very tactile, too.

As I got near the paddock fence, sticks crunched under my feet making him swing his head in my direction. I stopped in my tracks.

My face felt frozen, but sweat still broke out on my forehead. I rode horses in my dreams almost every night but this one was real. His ears tipped forward and he looked right at me, as though asking, “Who are you?”

I know he’s a palomino now, but at the time I just saw a golden horse with a white mane and tail. It’s disconcerting to belatedly discover that the opening scene is a flashback. It throws the reader’s assumption off, but not in a positive way. And since you continue on as if it’s still the present, it’s even more jarring. Maybe that info can come later, once the scene is finished. His color stood out so beautifully through the bare winter trees. He wandered over to the fence. I gently put my fingers out to touch his velvety nose and his warm breath hung over my hand.

With my heart pounding, I answered him, “I’m Evie, what’s your name?”

Ever since I spied the palomino, I begged my parents for a horse. For about a year, I had been obsessed with horses for whatever reason. Your job as an author is to convince us that Evie has a compelling desire for this horse. She sounds only vaguely interested. I guess they just sparked a little corner of my mind. They seemed like they were left over from a time when things were more magical. Like if I had a horse, I could ride away into a more exciting story.

I didn’t really care about the practical side, but my parents did. My dad said that we didn’t really have the room. He started explaining zoning and stuff. Not much magic in that.

Shifting time from the past moment to the present isn’t always easy, but find a way to let us know what’s going on so the reader doesn’t have to come out of the moment to figure it out. Evie’s desire for a horse sounds weak. Her “for whatever reason” isn’t enough to convince her parents or the reader. If Evie doesn’t care enough, we won’t care enough. This is an engaging start and can be even more compelling.

Thank you Andrea for sharing your time and expertise with us. Keep in touch.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

Posted by: Kathy Temean | September 29, 2016

Agent Looking for Clients – Tracy Marchini

tracymarchini-r-150x150TRACY MARCHINI AGENT AT BOOKENDS.

After four years as a Literary Agents Assistant at Curtis Brown, Tracy Marchini left to pursue her own editorial business and to earn her MFA in Writing for Children from Simmons College. Her editorial clients have gone on to secure representation, sell books to traditional publishers, win awards and become bestsellers in the UK. She’s looking forward to being able to work with her BookEnds clients throughout their careers and to (hopefully!) see them grow as authors in the same way.

Growing up, Tracy made it a personal goal to read every Nancy Drew Case Files in her school’s library and still has a soft spot for a good girl detective story. As an adult, she loves the sense of possibility in children’s and young adult literature – and can still empathize with the soul-crushing feeling that is mandatory gym class.

You can contact Tracy at: TMsubmissions@bookendsliterary.com or follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/TracyMarchini.

Tracy is looking for: Picture book, middle grade and young adult manuscripts across most genres, including contemporary, mysteries, thrillers, magical realism, historical fiction, and non-fiction.

For picture book fiction, she’s particularly interested in manuscripts that are laugh out loud funny or deliciously dark.

For middle grade and young adult, she’s interested in underdogs, strong female characters and/or unreliable narrators. She believes that it’s important for readers of all backgrounds to see themselves reflected in the media they consume, and is looking to bring that diversity to her list.

She is not a good fit for: YA horror, true crime, hard sci-fi, or high fantasy. At this time, she is not looking for board books or early chapter books.

BookEnds agents do reply to all submissions and queries and hope to do so in a timely manner. Our response time goals are 6 weeks for queries and 12 weeks on requested partials and fulls. Unfortunately, at times circumstances mean we fall behind in our responses. We do try to post status updates through Twitter and Facebook. For updates on where we are with queries and submissions, as well as what we’re most actively looking for, please check out our Facebook page:

facebook link facebook.com/BookEndsLlc

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

Posted by: Kathy Temean | September 28, 2016

Jane Yolen Mid-List Author Grant

JaneYolen-MidList-Author_logo1-1024x330Critically acclaimed children’s book author Jane Yolen created this grant to honor the contribution of mid-list authors.  The grant awards $3,000 to mid-list authors and aims to help raise awareness about their current works-in-progress.  Jane was the first SCBWI Regional Advisor and currently sits on the SCBWI Board of Advisors.


Deadline:

Applications are due November 1.

Guidelines:

1.    You must be a current member who has published at least two PAL books, but has not sold anything for at least five years.

2.    Two winners will share the $3,000 grant. (Winners and/or runners-up are given at the discretion of SCBWI.)

3.    Winners will be announced at the SCBWI New York Winter Conference and featured in the Bulletin, on the SCBWI website, and on SCBWI social networks.

4. Use this Jane Yolen Application E-MAIL APPLICATIONS ONLY. Include your CAREER STATEMENT in the body of the e-mail. Send application to kayla.heinen@scbwi.org. Deadline is November 1.

Questions? Grants and Awards Coordinator Kayla Heinen

PAST WINNERS:

2012: Mary Whittington, author of Carmina Come Dance, The Patchwork Lady, Troll Games, and Winter’s Child.

2013: Eve Feldman, author of Billy and Milly, Short and Silly, and Dog Crazy.

2014: Sanna Stanley, writer and illustrator of such works as Monkey for Sale and Monkey Sunday.

SCBWI reserves the right not to confer this award in any given year.

Posted by: Kathy Temean | September 27, 2016

Book Giveaway – Lucy’s Lovey Betsy Devany

Congratulations to Betsy Devany on her gorgeous debut book titled LUCY’S LOVEY. This picture book has everything you want in a picture book. It will make you smile and it will bring a tear to your eye. Parents will love to read this book over and over to their children and the little ones will relate to a story about a spunky girl who loves her stuffie doll.

All you have to do to get in the running is to leave a comment. Reblog, tweet, or talk about it on Facebook with a link and you will get additional chances to win. Just let me know the other things you did to share the good news, so I can put in the right amount of tickets in my basket for you. Check back on October 12th to discover the winner.

lucy-lovey

Book Description:

Lucy’s favorite lovey, Smelly Baby, is her most loyal companion. They are simply inseparable. Smelly Baby may be pretty rag-tag and, well, smelly, but her smell is very much a part of why Lucy loves her so much. Then disaster strikes as Smelly Baby accidentally flies out the car window and gets LOST! What will Lucy do without Smelly Baby in her life?

While Lucy still has 16 other doll babies at home, none of them are Smelly Baby. And when Lucy’s lovey does return, the doll is . . . different. This lovable cast of 25 characters is already inspiring kids (and adults) to share their special lovey stories. We hope you’ll join in the lovey celebration. #WhosYourLovey

With artwork by the award-winning, New York Times-bestselling illustrator Christopher Denise, this winning picture book debut celebrates the irreplaceable bond between a little girl and her favorite doll.

lucy-loveyfull

The Book’s Journey:

Lucy’s story was inspired by my own childhood, from watching a niece line up and call off the names of her beloved stuffies and dollies, and from in-depth, utterly charming conversations I’ve had with kids who visit the toy store with their loveys. But it wasn’t until Thanksgiving 2011, as I was poorly dicing potatoes (I admit to being clueless in the kitchen) that Lucy came to mind, a spunky girl with a large, beloved collection of doll babies, one of which was called Smelly Baby. I still smile at Christopher Denise’s opening illustration, because that image is similar to what I envisioned when Lucy first popped in my head, standing before her dollies, hands on hips. After nearly two years of revising and polishing, and revising again, the manuscript, originally entitled Smelly Baby, quickly found the right home (Henry Holt and Co, Christy Ottaviano Books), the perfect editor (doll-lover Christy Ottaviano), and a dream illustrator (Christopher Denise). I am indebted to all of them for loving Lucy and her baby dolls.

lucy-lovey-pg7

Betsy will soon be featuring lovey stories, shared by authors, illustrators, teachers, kids, editors, etc. If you’d like your lovey’s story included please contact Betsy. Want to Share Your Lovey Story? You can also post a picture of your lovey with the #WhosYourLovey hash tag.

lucy-lovey3

Here is my review on Goodreads:

Lucy’s Lovey is Betsy Devany’s debut book. She has written a wonderful story that will make you smile, laugh, and it will bring a tear to your eye. Lucy is a spunky little girl who loves her Smelly Baby doll. Lucy has seventeen other dolls, but Smelly Baby holds the top spot in her heart. Then one night Smelly Baby is ripped out of the car window and Lucy is heartbroken. Children will love Lucy and her stuffies and enjoy the happy ending. Parents will love reading this book over and over again. The illustrations by Christopher Denise are gorgeous and will rivet the readers every time they open the book. A story for all ages.

Betsy’s Bio:

Betsy Devany has been writing for all ages of kids for over twenty years. Aside from being a first-time author, she loves reading, photography, birding, acting silly with her grandkids, and working at an old-fashioned toy store in Mystic, where she delights in meeting rag-tag (sometimes smelly) loveys. You can visit Betsy at www.betsydevany.com or follow her on Twitter @BetsyDevany or Facebook.  https://www.facebook.com/BetsyDevany/

lucy-lovey4

Thank you Betsy for sharing your journey with us and offering Lucy’s Lovey to one lucky winner.

lucyslovey-babies

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

Posted by: Kathy Temean | September 26, 2016

Why Kids Love Horror

dawn K And The Trees Crept In

Why kids love horror by Dawn Kurtagich

The horror genre, by its very nature, tends to deal with the Unknown. Much of what we find scary is only scary because we can’t understand it or rationalize it. For kids, even the convict escaped from prison coming at you wielding an axe, or the psychopath stalking you is far beyond the realms of possibility (I am talking about the kind of childhood we hope all children have–the Lind where everything feels safe and serial killers are no more than a concept on TV).

I am a firm believer that children and young people are the best self-sensors out there. If a kid picks up a book and is scared by it, they will put it down without qualms. Without the guilt of money or a self-invented idea about finishing the thing because you started it hindering their decision. If a kid hates it, or finds it tough going, they will drop it and never look back.

So, we know that they have the ability (a rather ruthless one) to decide upon the genres and topics they read about;adults being the worrisome being they are, are the ones to worry about that particular aspect of the “should”. Should kids read horror.

My answer: heck yeah! For a number of reasons: horror is education, horror is excite,met, horror fulfils a basic need.

And that is precisely why kids love it. Flirting its danger is a human necessity. It won’t simply go away because we have the rational mind not to. We need the excite, met of knowing what’s behind that door, what is in that box, and could I jump that far… And live to tell the tale?

Horror and thriller novels give kids the rush of exploring danger in a safe place. Unlike scary films in the cinema, a child can close a book and step away. They can pause when things get too intense. And they can keep going if another child needs to put the breaks on. Children can learn things that the author has already learned, absorb some knowledge, or simply enjoy the ride. There’s a reason roller coasters still attract kids far and wide.

But another beautiful thing happens when kids read horror. They bond. Passing around the scary book that the teachers don’t want them to read, or telling each other tales in the dark. Inventing new storylines of their own or playa ting particular chapters–all of this leads to intense bonding and friendships. Like a subculture with their lives, kids can have something of their own to enjoy and talk about in secret. And that is healthy.

I will always root for kids to read horror. They’ll sure let me know if it gets too dark, but most of the time their letters read: darker please!

And I do as commanded (but only for kids)😉

dawnk3-1

Dawn Kurtagich is a writer of creepy, spooky and psychologically sinister YA fiction, where girls may descend into madness, boys may see monsters in men, and grown-ups may have something to hide.

By the time she was eighteen, she had been to fifteen schools across two continents. The daughter of a British globe-trotter and single mother, she grew up all over the place, but her formative years were spent in Africa—on a mission, in the bush, in the city and in the desert.

She has been lucky enough to see an elephant stampede at close range, a giraffe tongue at very close range, and she once witnessed the stealing of her (and her friends’) underwear by very large, angry baboons. (This will most definitely end up in a book . . .) While she has quite a few tales to tell about the jumping African baboon spider, she tends to save these for Halloween!

When she was sixteen, she thought she’d be an astronomer and writer at the same time, and did a month-long internship at Cambridge’s prestigious Cavendish Laboratories.

She is a BookTuber over on WritaholicDK and is a member of the YA Scream Queens. Her novels include: THE DEAD HOUSE and AND THE TREES CREPT IN.

Her life reads like a YA novel.

Posted by: Kathy Temean | September 25, 2016

Take A Look Sunday – Kris Tsang

Tugeau2

T2_web_banners_4

T2 Children’s Illustrators is a diverse group of dedicated, timely, and enthusiastic illustrators and writers from across the United States and several countries abroad. Our focus is on children’s picture book and juvenile educational publishing. But our expertise does not stop there. T2 Illustrators have collaborated on advertising campaigns, editorial features, toys, games, gifts, children’s apps, and e-books. We’re a well-versed group ready to meet your needs.

Nicole and Jeremy Tugeau are the agent/owners behind the T2 Team. They are ecstatic about their ever-growing agency, and they are committed to working hard for the network of illustrators who surround them. Nicole heads up the agency on a day-to-day basis.

What she enjoys most about being an Agent is the partnership-making, the relationships and of course the success stories. Jeremy is a long-time children’s illustrator, and he continues to work as an artist in this field while maintaining some involvement with T2 Illustrators as a creative resource and promotional guru.

HERE’S NICOLE:

Kris Tsang has put forth three lively, illustrated spreads from a work in progress.

The character, Prince Bunny, is something of a single-minded, stubborn little fellow!  In the first spread, consisting of three illustrated vignettes, Prince Bunny is given a red toy bus he doesn’t want.  He wants an airplane!  The expressions on these characters are really hilarious.  I particularly like Prince Bunny in the act of throwing a full on wheelie as Grandpa Bunny passes out.  If only  I had the power to do this (pass out) when any one of my kids threw a fit!  Love it.  The colors are engaging and impactful as well.
kris-tsangimage002
While I’m able to sequence together the events in this first spread, I think it’s imperative that the pictures tell an accurate and specific story. Kids have a tendency to be very literal. So it occurs to me that the gift box that the bus came in should be to size.  And to further and deepen the story perhaps we should see the torn wrapping of the blue gift in the picture where Prince Bunny is throwing the bus and wailing. The little picture of Prince Bunny tearing out of the room/space (bottom right) is very cute.  It’s not to size, but maybe it acts as a page turning gaff if it’s used on every page.
kris-tsangimage004
In the second spread, I enjoy the repetition of Prince Bunny at left and center. It works effectively to show his trek. I suggest watching placement of the middle Prince Bunny because he appears to be yelling into the gutter of the book  The repeated speech bubble with the airplane coming from Prince Bunny is also very effective. He looks positively unreasonable, so we can understand why the animals rebuff him!  The animals here are fun and imaginative. I enjoy the textures and the sheep, particularly. My advice is to pay attention the application of the colored pencil. In some areas, like the sheep’s nose (it looks better in spread 3), the application is uneven and distracting in that it works to pull us out of the encounter which is quite entertaining!
kris-tsangimage005
I think that the airplane, now removed form the speech bubble and x’d out is spread three, can stand to be reworked. The black lines pull me out of what is important in the spread, the interaction of the characters. It’s also not clear whether the symbol represents what the wild animals are saying or what Prince Bunny is interpreting they are saying (or gesturing as the case may be). It’s ‘up in the air’ quite literally! I encourage the author to imagine a tactic that is more integrated and consistent with the previous spreads. Again, watch Prince Bunny in the gutter.  The expressions in this piece are priceless!
Overall, this is a wonderful start to an entertaining journey.  More details, consistency, and clarity will add depth and dimension to the project.  Thank you for this opportunity to review your work, Kris!
Thank you Nicole for sharing your thoughts and expertise with us. I look forward to next Sunday.

Kris Tsang’s Bio

Kris Tsang is a self-taught freelance cartoonist, illustrator and painter.  Her naive style is unmistakable.  Simply drawn yet widely humorous, her perfectly expressive animals (and some humans) combining childlike sweetness with adult humor easily cheer little ones and big ones up.  Kris was born and lives in Hong Kong.

Kris’s artwork can be found at www.kristsang.com, www.facebook.com/kristsangart, or www.instagram.com/kristsangart.

HOW TO PARTICIPATE:

If you do not have an agent and would like to be featured and hear what is working or how it could be tweaked to help you sell your work, then please send Two or Three SEQUENTIAL illustrations (Two/three with the SAME “story/characters‎”) to:

Kathy.temean (at) gmail.com. Illustrations should be at least 500 pixels wide and your name should be in the .jpg title. Please put ILLUSTRATOR PORTFOLIO in the subject area and include a blurb about yourself that I can use to introduce you to everyone.

Each Sunday one illustrator will be featured.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

Posted by: Kathy Temean | September 24, 2016

Illustrator Saturday – Susan Gal

After completing her BFA at Art Center College of Design, Susan Gal began her illustration career as a poster and calendar artist. The call of animation beckoned her to Florida where she became an “actor with a pencil” for Disney Animation. But the lure of the silver screen was not to last. Returning to her native California, Susan continues to create fun and whimsical illustrations while attempting to live a caffeine and nuclear-free life in Berkeley.

Here’s how Susan created the artwork for Bella’s Fall Coat…

I began visualizing Bella’s personality as I read the manuscript. Because the author carefully selected such words as “whizz” and “zoom”, “flapped” and “flew”, I knew that Miss Bella had to be a vibrant, energetic little girl. I visualized her with unkempt hair and a ruddy complexion from spending alot of time playing outdoors. Although she could be considered a tomboy she also had a soft, sensitive side to her. Bella would like wearing dresses and her beloved coat. I began playing around with her body language and the look of her clothing. At this stage I’m working with charcoal pencil and a brush pen on newsprint and doing a lot of loose gesture drawing out of my head. This may sound silly, but as I work, the drawings start to “talk” to me and take on their own personality. Perhaps its my animation training, but the characters must feel real to me before I can bring them to life. I like the look and feel of a hand-drawn line on paper and draw much more intuitively with traditional materials.

1-screen%20shot%202016-09-20%20at%209-10-45%20am

I researched clothing to help inspire me, that was fun to illustrate, and reflected Bella’s exuberant style. I’m still working in black and white because I don’t yet want to be burdened with color.

2-screen%20shot%202016-08-24%20at%209-09-03%20am

As Bella began taking shape it was time to design Grandma. I imagined Bella to a young version of her Grandmother so I tried to make Grandma somewhat modern and vibrant–not a traditional white-haired elderly woman with glasses. Grandma felt like a cat person so I sketched her a kitty too. Bella’s author lives in Maine so a Maine coon cat felt like a fun choice. This is an example of the characters starting to come to life!

3-screen%20shot%202016-09-20%20at%209-26-50%20am

4-screen%20shot%202016-08-24%20at%209-03-26%20am

Once I’ve decided on the look of the characters I scan my sketches and place them in a layout in Photoshop. Working digitally allows me the freedom to move the sketches around and play with the composition. Working with scans of my original sketches helps me to keep the artwork fresh. This is the stage where I really try to push the limits of my imagination and experiment with composition. I also make sure to include the text in my composition and be thoughtful of the gutter. The spreads are still loose enough so I can rework them if necessary.

5-screen%20shot%202016-09-20%20at%209-42-42%20am

Bella and her coat needed to stand out among the fall palette and so I went with a blue coat. I digitally collage texture and pattern into the painting too.

6-screen%20shot%202016-09-20%20at%2012-56-51%20pm

Once approved, then I begin to draw and paint in layers in Photoshop. I approach each spread as if it were a painting, adding layers of color like paint on canvas.

7-screen%20shot%202016-09-20%20at%209-49-13%20am

8-screen%20shot%202016-09-20%20at%209-50-30%20am

Bella and her coat needed to stand out among the fall palette and so I went with a blue coat. I digitally collage texture and pattern into the painting too.

9-screen%20shot%202016-08-24%20at%209-11-01%20am1011-screen%20shot%202016-08-24%20at%2010-02-57%20am

The art director and I agreed that the endpaper art should be rich and lush with fall color too.

12-screen%20shot%202016-09-20%20at%2010-41-57%20am

Bella’s Book Cover – Stop Back on October 11th for Book Giveaway.

bellas-cover

More Book Covers

ais_5_jacketBook Covers

hpif_5_jacket

Interview Questions for Susan Gal

How long have you been illustrating?

Yikes! I’ve been illustrating professionally for 30 years, drawing since I could hold a pencil.

New template

Have you always lived in California?

Yes, except for the year and a half that I lived in Orlando, Florida while working for Disney Animation. I was born and raised in San Diego and currently live in the Bay Area.

New template

What was the first thing you painted where someone paid you for your work?

Ah, that’s a good question! When I was growing up people frequently asked me to draw or design something for them. No one thought to pay me because making art is “fun”. At the time I assumed being chosen to create a logo, or t-shirt design, painting, etc., was an honor. I won a lot of art contests in school but usually there was no compensation. The work was either displayed or printed and that was supposed to be the reward. Sadly, I honestly can’t remember being paid for my work until I graduated from art school.

sg-out-of-nest

What made you choose to attend Art Center College of Design?

While I was enrolled in an AP Studio Art class in high school I told my teacher that I wanted to become a professional illustrator and attend the best art school in the country. He said that in his opinion ArtCenter was the best school.  I told my parents that I wanted to apply to ArtCenter and my father sent away for the catalog and application information and helped me put together my portfolio. My parents were very supportive and encouraged me to become a professional artist.

rosies

What did you study there?

I majored in illustration and graduated in 1986 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree.

sg-02

Do you feel College helped develop your style?

I don’t feel as though I developed a set style as a student. We were encouraged to explore, experiment, and to conceptualize by thinking outside the box. My teachers believed, as do I, that a style develops with time and dedication to the work. When I’m asked by students how to develop a style I tell them to be patient and with time and practice they will develop their own style. To this day I still use the skills taught to me at ArtCenter. With each assignment I strive to not think literally and to explore the most interesting ways to problem solve.

junglebook

Did art school help you get work when you graduated?

ArtCenter prepared me to hit the ground running with the confidence and portfolio to start working professionally. At that time there was no internet and the only way to show your work was to make appointments with art directors and hope for an interview. It was grueling work driving around Southern California, meeting with art directors, chatting with them as they flipped through my portfolio, and then be told they might give me a call for a job if something came along that suited my style. ArtCenter’s well-earned reputation enabled me to obtain those interviews so I could show my work and start building my career.  My first professional job was a full-color illustration for the San Diego Union Tribune.

sg-0191-huckleberryfinn-768x1024

How did you end up going to Florida and doing animation for Disney?

That’s a good story. I was freelancing and working part-time in-house in Los Angeles for a poster company designing and illustrating posters and calendars. That company spun-off into a smaller studio and my new boss was a horrible guy that liked to hire talent fresh out of art school and not pay them! The company also was busted for printing fake pink slips for stolen cars but that’s another story. Anyway, when I notified ArtCenter to blacklist this unscrupulous employer, the woman in the placement office remembered me and told me that Disney was looking for new talent to train and send to Florida to open the new Disney MGM Studio in Orlando. I was excited to have the opportunity to live in another part of the country and submitted a portfolio to Disney. I was stunned and thrilled to be one of 20 people selected from across the country to intern and work for Disney Animation Florida. It was even more of a surprise to learn that I was the only woman selected in the group.

leafpeepers

What made you decide to give that up and head back to California? Did you have another job waiting?

I loved my experience working at Disney and still cherish the people that I was fortunate enough to work with at the Florida Studio. I had the honor of meeting the surviving Nine Old Men that had worked with Walt Disney and truly enjoyed working with the best and the brightest in animation. I still believe to this day that the most talented artists work for Disney and I’m humbled to have had the opportunity to work with them. (cont.)

catinthepiano

In my personal life I met my husband-to-be soon after I was selected by Disney and we dated cross-country from California to Florida for over a year. As much as I enjoyed working in animation, I missed working for myself as an illustrator. I realized that my dream was illustration, especially illustration for children, and working in animation was not as fulfilling for me. I also missed living in California and each time I visited my future husband it was becoming more difficult to return to Orlando. I terminated my contract with Disney in good standing with the promise of not working in animation for the remainder of my contract. That was fair to me; after all, Disney had trained me and it would not have been ethical to work for another animation studio. At that time there was a renaissance in animation and a lot of work was available. I did not have another job waiting for me in California, but I had a new fiancé, a burning desire to freelance, and I was very excited and eager to begin a new chapter in my life.

sg-16

When did you decide you wanted to illustrate for children?

In second grade the author Al Perkins visited my school. I remember watching his presentation and realizing that writing and illustrating picture books was a real job. As a child I spent all of my free time either reading, drawing, or painting. Any allowance or money I received from gifts was spent on books. My parents read to me every night before I learned to read on my own and encouraged me to make art. My favorite way to spend the day was to copy the drawings from my picture books and create my own illustrations for stories. My favorite books were the Little House on the Prairie series and any book illustrated by Garth Williams. I dreamed of being able to draw as beautifully as he drew.

snailer_flat

Did you use any of your connections from Disney to get the contract to illustrate Lynn Plourde’s book, Bella’s Fall Coat with Disney-Hyperion? If not, how did that job come your way?

No, an editor at Disney-Hyperion contacted my agent for the job. I was asked to create a couple of samples from the manuscript and then secured the contract.

hitw_5_jacket

Have you seen your work change since you left school?

Yes, very much. My time with Disney really helped hone my drawing skills. Along with drawing every day we were fortunate enough to study with the late animator Walt Stanchfield. He was a gifted artist that passionately taught his students how to see and bring a drawing to life.

sg-chanukah-1024x514

I think I’m a painter at heart and bring that passion to each job. I approach each project with the desire to push the limits of my imagination and pay special attention to the use of color, light, and composition. I’m constantly looking at all types of art for inspiration so I can continue to grow as an artist.

sg-hitw_4-5-1024x512

You wrote and illustrated Night Lights and Knopf published it in 2009. Was that your first book?

Yes, Night Lights was my first published picture book. Actually, at the same time I wrote Night Lights I created a dummy for Please Take Me for a Walk. I did not have my illustration agent at the time so I sent the Please Take Me for a Walk dummy to a couple of publishers. A few weeks after mailing it, one publisher expressed an interest in it. I was elated to think I was going to be published! Sadly, although the dummy made its way up the chain it was eventually turned down. Another publisher was interested in my dummy if I made some changes to it. I did, then that publisher turned it down as well. When I signed with my agent she presented both the Night Lights and Please Take Me for a Walk dummies to Nancy Siscoe at Knopf and Nancy offered me a two-book contract.  (cont.)

ptmfaw_5_jacket

While I was creating the dummies I was working very hard to update and refresh my illustration portfolio. Our young daughter had started school and I wanted to work with an agent to reinvigorate my career. I was thrilled when my first choice of an agent contacted me to sign with them. Although it was difficult, I’m glad that I had started my career without representation because it taught me how to promote myself, secure and deliver a job on my own, and collect payment for it. It made me a stronger and more confident professional artist. However, I wanted to devote more time to making art. I knew that a good agent that believed in my work would work hard to find great jobs, and secure the best contracts, freeing me up for more time in my studio.

nl_5_jacket

How did that story idea come to you? Were you inspired by a real dog?

The inspiration for Night Lights came while lying in bed at night and noticing the different lights outside my window. I began to wonder about the other types of lights that could be seen at night. I’ve always been fascinated with light and shadow and strive to capture it in my work.

nl_2

Please Take Me for a Walk was inspired by my beloved Boston Terrier Wanda. She has recently passed and was my devoted studio companion for 15 years. I miss her terribly and am thankful she lives on in her book.

sg-hitw_36-37-1024x511

What did you do to get that book in the right publishing hands?

I had been working on a few book dummies when I got an agent. She presented it to Nancy Siscoe at Knopf and Nancy offered me a two-book contract.

ito_5_jacket

Did you do other types of illustrating other than the animation, before you got that first book contract?

Yes, for several years I’ve illustrated for newspapers, magazines, posters, greeting cards, brochures, logo design, etc.

bfc_1

Lynn Plourde mentions that Bella’s Fall Coat uses collage. How did you get involved using collage in your illustrations?

As my work has evolved over the years I started adding cut paper, bits of epherma, fabric—anything with an interesting texture or pattern. Prior to working digitally I had tried collaging with my gouache paintings and found it difficult to keep the work flat enough to scan for reproduction. Artwork can be photographed and then reproduced but it was yet another generation away from my original art. (cont.)

bellasnore

While on a trip to New York City I visited a show at the Society of Illustrators and was blown away by artwork that was beautifully rendered and created digitally. That changed the way I worked. I had never liked art that looked like it was done on a computer and I shied away from using a computer.  That show opened my eyes to the possibilities of using a computer as a tool to make art. I began experimenting and taught myself how to use Photoshop. Instead of cutting and pasting by hand I began to collage elements in my artwork digitally.

New template

It looks like you have two books published with Harry N Abrams this year – Abracadabra, It’s Spring! Hocus Pocus, It’s Fall! So it has been a busy year for you illustrating these books and Bella’s Fall Coat with Disney-Hyperion. Did you have time to eat this year?

Good question! I’m thrilled to have projects that I truly love and inspire me. I’ve worked a lot of years in this business and am very thankful to have such great work at this point in my career. Some years it can be exhausting having to work six, sometimes seven days a week but I will never complain. Illustration can be a tough business and I know I’m blessed to be able to make a living doing what I love to do. My husband is also self-employed so he understands the commitment it takes to succeed. Our daughter is away in college so I consider this period of my life to be a time to relish in my career.

cone

Do you think you will write and illustrate more books?

I will continue to write and illustrate books until I’m unable to do so. I wake up every morning excited to enter my studio and make art!

sg-sunkissed-tan-summer

How many picture books have you illustrated?

I’ve currently written and illustrated four books and illustrated another four books by other authors.

girlcrab

Have your books won any awards?

I’ve been very fortunate that some of my books have been selected for several ‘best of’ lists: a School Library Journal Best Books of the Year, a Texas 2×2 Reading List, an Outstanding Merit star for Banks Street School, a Banks Street College of Education Best Books of the Year, a Kirkus Reviews Best of Children’s Books, and a Northern California Book Award nomination.

Three of my books were also selected for the Society of Illustrators Original Art Show.

her-magazine-december-issue

What do you think is your biggest success? 

Raising our daughter to be a good and thoughtful young woman is the first thing that comes to mind. As for my career—being able to make a living with a career that I dreamed of as a young girl—it doesn’t get much better that that. School visits also bring me joy. I love seeing the faces of young students when I tell them that, with lots of hard work and little bit of luck, they can grow up and live their dreams. I show them a photo of my 2nd grade classmates and I in the local newspaper with the late author Al Perkins and let them know that if that little girl can grow up and live her dreams, they can too.

sg-0202-stormy_weather-1024x1024

I see you are represented by Morgan Gaynin Inc. How did you two connect?

How long have you been with her. As I mentioned earlier, I took some time to streamline my portfolio and then began the search for a good agent. I narrowed my choices down to five agents. Morgan Gaynin was my first choice and I sent a letter along with some samples and a link to my website. They called me, liking what they saw in my work, and I’ve been with them for several successful years.

little-shirley

Do you illustrate full time?

Yes, thankfully!

gbspread2

Do you have a favorite medium you use?

No, not really. I love experimenting with all different mediums. I do a lot of work on newsprint because its inexpensive and I don’t have to worry about making mistakes or messing up. I can still recall the days of being a frugal art student and being too intimidated to paint on an expensive sheet of rag paper. Newsprint allows me to let loose and have fun. With each new book I try to challenge myself and experiment with something new. I try to keep my work fun and fresh.

mrs-newman

Do you take research pictures before you start a project?

I don’t shoot reference photos to work from. Instead, I photograph and collect things that I find interesting and might be of use in my work. For example, a photograph that I took of some rust on a car became a great texture for the fall leaves in Bella’s Fall Coat and Hocus Pocus, It’s Fall! I do a lot of research when I begin a project and tape up images around my studio to inspire me. Design inspiration for Bella came from some vintage photos I found of immigrant children in old coats and used them along with old photos of my great-aunt and grandmothers to trigger my memories of the relationship I had with these loving women from my childhood. I wanted to capture that delightful bond between a grandparent and child and express it in my work.

luminarias

Have you worked with any educational publishers? If yes, is there any difference working with them?

Before creating picture books I did several jobs for educational publishers. I liked the challenge of solving problems within the parameters of educational text but I really enjoy the freedom of writing and illustrating my own work. It’s way more difficult creating my own books but when it works its very satisfying. Then it’s on to the next challenge—trying to make it happen again.

sg-0181-mistletoetubtime_card_crop-735x1024

Do you use Photoshop with any of your work?

Yes, I scan my drawings, design the page, then color and collage the image in Photoshop. I like the freedom that the digital medium gives me, allowing me to change and refine my work. My greatest challenge is to make my work look and feel like it was done traditionally.

sheltie

Do you have and use a graphic tablet?

Yes, I use a very out-of-date Wacom tablet. I really need to upgrade, so I’m told.

cricket-magazine-front

Has any of your work appeared in magazines?

Yes, several over the years.

cricketmagazineback

Do you have a studio in your house?

My studio is a cheerful room in our home with high ceilings and lots of northern light. I delight in entering my studio in the morning, mug of coffee in hand, and begin my work day with the studio filling with morning sunlight.

mermaidfriend

Is there anything in your studio you couldn’t live without?

Music and podcasts! When I’m writing a book I like to work in silence, but once the story is written and its time to lay out the illustrations, then music gets my creativity flowing. As I’m rendering final artwork podcasts help keep me engaged and energized as I work.

bunnies

Do you follow any type of routine to attain your career goals?

Sometimes it’s a struggle to maintain a balance between life and work when I have back-to-back deadlines. I make sure to spend time outside everyday for exercise and to take a break. Walking my dog Wanda was the perfect way for me step away from my work but now that she has passed I have to make it a point to walk on my own. Walking outside helps inspire me and where most of my ideas originate. Its also important for me to stay in shape to be able to do my favorite activities—hiking and backpacking.

softball_icon

Do you think the Internet has opened any doors for you?

Absolutely, especially when it comes to research for an assignment. Before the internet, I would have to travel to the library and spend countless hours researching reference for an assignment. It still amazes me that I can search for anything, at any time, while sitting at my keyboard in my studio. Working digitally also allows me to upload my work and not have to manically rush to the nearest Fed Ex location in time to ship my artwork to a client!

sg-0201-knittting_grandma-755x1024

What are your career goals?

I would love to continue doing what I’m currently doing—writing and illustrating picture books and working on other assignments from my agent. I’m very grateful to be doing what I’ve always wanted to do.

fathers-day

What are you working on now?

I’m finishing up illustrations for a 48 page picture book about Santa Claus and Christmas cookies.

sg-moms-final-1024x895

Are there any painting tips (materials, paper, etc.) you can share that work well for you? Technique tips?

Never be afraid to experiment. If a blank piece of paper intimidates you, then make a mark on it. Voilà! Now its no longer a blank piece of paper. As a teacher once told me, it takes hundreds of bad drawings to make a good drawing. If you make a bad drawing then you are one drawing closer to making a good one. I like drawing on newsprint paper. It can be recycled, and if you should create something wonderful worth saving, then scan it and archive it. I use technology as a tool and not let it dictate the way I work. I have yet to discover a keyboard with a magic key or a tablet with a magic stylus that allows you to click and make a great piece of art.

sg-14

Any words of wisdom you can share with the illustrators who are trying to develop their career?

My favorite painting teacher at ArtCenter, Dan McCaw, told us students that “the beauty is in the journey”. As a student I didn’t know what the heck that meant, and I thought it was a silly comment. At that time my ‘journey’ was to make a great pieces of art, of course! Now I understand what he meant by that remark; revel in the process and the exploration. Be open to new ideas and experiences and learn to take the time to really look and listen. Stay true to yourself and your own unique stlye will blossum. Believe in your work, work hard, if something isn’t working be willing to find another solution– and you will succeed.

bff

Thank you Susan for sharing your talent, process, journey, and expertise with us. Please make sure you keep in touch and share your future successes with us. To see more of Susan’s work, you can visit her at website at: http://www.galgirlstudio.com

If you have a minute, please leave a comment for Susan. I am sure she’d love it and I enjoy reading them, too. Thanks!

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

Posted by: Kathy Temean | September 23, 2016

Free Fall Friday – Agent Interview

AndreaCascardi72bwAndrea Cascardi agent with Transatlantic Literary Agency has held senior editorial positions at Random House and Disney Publishing, and was an agent with Transatlantic for ten years before returning to the Publisher role at Egmont USA. As an editor she acquired and edited Caldecott Honor and Coretta Scott King winner Tar Beach by Faith Ringgold, the Raffi Songs to Read series, and Pura Belpre winner Before We Were Free by Julia Alvarez among many other award-winning books. As an agent she represented many bestselling and award-winning titles including Clare Vanderpool’s Newbery winner MOON OVER MANIFEST and Printz Honor winner NAVIGATING EARLY, e.E. Charlton-Truillo’s Stonewall winner FAT ANGIE, New York Times Bestseller NUBS: A MUTT, A MARINE, AND A MIRACLE, and Texas Bluebonnet winner TEN RULES YOU ABSOLUTELY MUST NOT BREAK IF YOU WANT TO SURVIVE THE SCHOOLBUS by John Grandits.

HERE IS PART THREE OF MY INTERVIEW WITH ANDREA:

How do you like to communicate (email vs. phone)? And how often do you communicate during the submission process?

I usually communicate via email because of time differences and schedules, and during the submission process I always let my clients know when something has gone out and who it’s gone out to.

What happens if you don’t sell this book?

We discuss it—whether or not it needs revamping, or if the author needs time away from it, or if the author wants to pursue a nontraditional method of publishing it.

How many editors do you go to before giving up?

There are no rules for this aspect of the process.

How long is your average client relationship?

I always hope my client relationships are long-term. I don’t represent writers on a book-by-book basis.

Do you handle your own foreign/film rights contracts or does your firm have someone else who handles those contracts?

Transatlantic Agency handles our own foreign rights and works with film rights specialists for those rights. We negotiate our own contracts.

Are you open to authors who write multiple genres? 

Yes, definitely! Many of my clients write multiple genres.

Are you interested in being invited to writer’s conferences?

Yes, I’d love to come to writers conferences. I love connecting directly with authors and illustrators.

WHAT ANDREA IS LOOKING FOR:

Young Adult and Middle Grade Fiction. I have eclectic taste, so my submissions wish-list is broad-ranging, but any fiction submission must, first and foremost, have a compelling voice driving the story. Beyond that, I look for smart writing, and amped-up emotions: for example, if you’re writing a warm, heartfelt story, I want it to leave me emotionally spent at the end. Ditto for romance: I want to feel the heat! I’m hoping to discover funny books that literally make me snort with laughter throughout. And books that take unexpected turns that surprise or shock me in a good way. I look for unique yet relatable characters, and I want those characters to come from a full range of diverse backgrounds and time periods. I’d also love to see boundary-pushing stories (in subject, or in how the story is told), cuspy MG/YA, magical realism, dark humor (emphasis on the humor), literary, and clever commercial fiction.

I am open to nonfiction for young readers of all ages, and I’m keen to find innovative presentations and compelling, creative nonfiction that illuminates a broader topic by viewing it through a smaller lens. I’d like to see some “out there” nonfiction ideas that dazzle with their brilliance yet connect immediately with kids.

Author-illustrators: I’m excited to bring new storytelling talent into the field, as well as to work with artists who have experience in other fields such as animation or editorial work and are ready to send their own projects into the world. Also Illustrators: I am looking to add illustrators to my client list. Please query with a link to your website or online portfolio.

Picture books: As of August 3rd I will be closed to picture book text-only submissions. I will revisit reopening to picture book text writers once I am up to date on current queries. I do represent picture books, but please note that I represent authors, not individual texts. I especially love books that put a fresh new twist on evergreen situations and that have an immediacy for the child. Great hooks with exceptional writing will get my attention, as will truly lyrical writing applied to a seminal moment in a child’s life. I am open to being surprised. Please query me before sending a text or attaching it to an email.

Adult fiction. I’m a voracious reader, and I’m looking to represent what I’d love to read, which for lack of a better term I will call commercial women’s fiction. As with children’s fiction, it must be superlative in one or more ways: smart, fierce, emotionally-hooking, funny, clever, diverse…the bar is high but I’m eager to discover exciting new voices. Please note that I do not represent adult science fiction, crime, erotica, or horror. I do not represent adult nonfiction.

Andrea is reviewing queries only. Please do not send complete manuscripts unless requested. Here is Andrea’s website: www.andreacascardi.com.

Twitter: @aecbks

SUBMISSION GUIDELINES For FIRST PAGE CRITIQUES:

In the subject line, please write “September critique” and paste the text in the email, plus attached it as a Word document to the email. Please make sure you include your name, the title of the piece, and whether it’s a picture book, middle grade, or young adult, etc. at the top on both the email and the Word document (Make sure you include your name with the title of your book, when you save the first page).

Your First Page Word document should be formatted using one inch margins and 12 point New Times Roman font – double space – no more than 23 lines – only one page. Send to: kathy(dot)temean(at)gmail(dot)com.

PLEASE FOLLOW THE GUIDELINES: Your submission will be passed over if you do not follow the directions for both the pasted email and the attached Word doc. This is where most people mess up.

DEADLINE: September 22nd

RESULTS: September 30th

Please only submit one first page a month, but do try again if your first page wasn’t one of the pages randomly picked. Thanks!

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

Posted by: Kathy Temean | September 22, 2016

Book Giveaway: Aim by Joyce Hostetter

Author Joyce Hostetter has agreed to give one lucky winner a signed copy of her new book AIM, published by Calkins Creek Books, a Highlights Company is coming out on October 4th.

Joyce was nice enough to send me a copy of her book and I was very impressed. AIM is an extremely well-written, interesting story. I felt like I was living with the character in the early nineteen forties, but it is the voice that really makes this book shine. If you enjoy middle grade historical fiction, you will definitely be delighted reading AIM.

All you have to do to get in the running is to leave a comment. Reblog, tweet, or talk about it on facebook with a link and you will get additional chances to win. Just let me know the other things you did to share the good news, so I can put in the right amount of tickets in my basket for you. Check back on October 3rd to discover the winner.

Aim Final Final

Rather than summarize the story- because that’s available at other online sites, I’ll share the prologue.    

PROLOGUE

It was Pop, who taught me to shoot.
He showed me how to aim and
hold that gun real steady.

But when it came to life
aiming wasn’t so easy for him.
Seemed like he mostly stumbled around
looking for something to make him happy.

Maybe I can see why,
after getting stuck with Granddaddy
and hearing the stories of how
back during The Great War
he turned my father into his own personal enemy.
Pop was just a boy, then.

The way I figure it,
what I learned from the two of them
and from my own dumb mistakes
is enough to fill a book.

And so, Junior Bledsoe proceeds to tell a story of a nation moving into war and of family dysfunction and the community of neighbors who help him through the most confusing year of his life.

AIM – A Historical Novel’s Journey to Publication

Like every writer I’ve had my share of rejections. In fact my latest book grew out of a phone call that involved a “no, thank you” to a manuscript I’d submitted.

Maybe my editor, Carolyn Yoder, was tired of saying no to me.  Or perhaps the editorial committee realized I needed an assignment to set me in the right direction. At any rate, they gave me something to aim for. The committee suggested I submit a proposal for a prequel to my books BLUE and COMFORT.  The marketing director envisioned an A book so we’d have A, B, C.

The titles, BLUE and COMFORT coming in alphabetical order, as they did, were purely random.  I’d never considered a prequel and I certainly wouldn’t have thought of choosing the title’s initial letter before knowing my story.

blueandcomfort

However, after spending nearly eight years on books that hadn’t found a publishing home, I decided if my publisher was asking for a book starting with the letter A, I would write it.

I had no idea what the title would be but I knew immediately who the story would be about—Junior Bledsoe, neighbor to protagonist Ann Fay from BLUE and COMFORT. Junior is one of my favorite characters and my readers seem to be fond of him also.

So, working from a line in Blue in which Ann Fay, says of Junior, ”He’s the man of his house too, ever since his daddy’s heart gave out a few years ago”, I began to imagine a story.  I pondered the health problems Junior’s father would have had and why. And I considered Junior’s relationship with his father.  I honestly had no idea what Junior’s pop had been like. I’m not one of those writers who knows the back stories of all her characters.  I discover a lot of things as I write.

So I began to write a few chapters, hoping to see if a story would evolve. Then, just when I was getting the lay of my story’s landscape, my editor sent an email saying she wanted to take a proposal to committee in two weeks.  And oh, wow!  Suddenly there was no lollygagging around with discovering plot. I took what had evolved so far and did some serious outlining. I had a brainstorming session with an author friend, Carol Baldwin. (I like to blame Carol for Junior’s slip into illegal behavior.)

I wrote an outline and a synopsis and submitted those with five chapters.

And wouldn’t you know, after eight years of wandering around in my own personal writing wilderness, I received another email from Carolyn Yoder.  The committee loved my proposal and a contract offer was forthcoming.

That was late June of 2015 and I asked if the prequel could publish in 2016 – the year of BLUE’s tenth anniversary. I proceeded to write.  Fast!

By mid-September I submitted a complete manuscript and after two rounds of edits from Carolyn, AIM moved into production.

Several times along the way, I’d opened a dictionary and perused the A words for title possibilities. But of course, I mostly listened to the story. Aim emerged as the obvious choice.

author-joycephoto

Here’s Joyce’s BIO:

Joyce Moyer Hostetter lives right where many of her characters do –in rural North Carolina. She’s always on the lookout—hoping to bump into them. In the absence of a time machine that would take her to the 1940’s she immerses herself in research to discover what their world was like.  Her book, BLUE won the International Reading Association Award, The NC Juvenile Literature Award, and Parent’s Choice Silver Honor.  It is used widely in North Carolina schools. AIM is a prequel to BLUE.  COMFORT is a sequel.

HEALING WATER, set in Hawaii’s leprosy settlement is available via E-book.

Thank you Joyce for sharing your journey with us and offering a book to one lucky winner.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

Older Posts »

Categories

%d bloggers like this: