Posted by: Kathy Temean | January 30, 2023

Picture Books Tips and How to Posts on Writing and Illustrating

I decided to look through the posts about writing picture books on Writing and Illustrating, since 2009. Thought you might like to have these for reference. Here they are:

PICTURE BOOK TIPS

Golden Rule: don’t use too much dialogue, text or description. Let the pictures do the talking—don’t say what the pictures can show. Cut and cull your text. Be ruthless! If your text is 400 words long, it should be vibrant and intensely edited.

Think carefully about rhythm and flow—this is one of the most common obstacles between a work-in-progress and a publisher-ready ms. Read the work out loud and listen to the way the words work together. ‘Hear’ the beat and flow as you read, and adjust words as necessary.

Don’t attempt rhyme. It is not popular with publishers but if you simply can’t resist, make sure it’s infallible. Two rhyming end-words do not a perfect rhyme make. Rhythm and beat is as important as word rhyme—in fact, even more so. Don’t create awkward sentences with odd word placement in order to make a rhyme; rewrite the entire stanza instead.

Look at your word usage and sentence structure. Is it dynamic and interesting? Does it pull the reader along and make them want to read more? or does the reader stumble or become confused? Does it delight? Does it sound good?

Never talk down to the reader. Use big words. Use unusual words. Use a unique voice. Don’t patronise and don’t explain. Never hammer readers with morals. If you simply must use them, thread them through the story in an imperceptible way.

Unless you want your book to appear like an information brochure, attempting to educate children on social, physical, emotional and mental issues and conditions needs to be done cryptically and cleverly. Add humour. Create an unexpected storyline that intimates things in a subtle way and you will have a winner with kids.

Think about the plot. A good story leads the reader through conflict to resolution in a Beginning Middle Ending way, or in a Cyclical way. Things HAPPEN. Showing someone going about their day and going to bed at night is not a story. It’s an account. Write a story, not an account.

Have a protagonist. Your protagonist, or main character, does not sit by and observe—they action, take part and instigate.

Think outside the square. Cover unusual topics, with untouched themes (avoid monsters, fairies, trucks, mud, grandma dying, rainbows, farmyard animals, dogs and other overdone topics). Use different writing voices and story structure. Do something DIFFERENT.

Think twice about supplying detailed illustration notes. Too many notes absolutely do hamper your text; rely on the reader’s ability to imagine what your words are showing. Only supply notes if the text is very cryptic and needs ‘explaining’, and even then—make notes extremely short.

Look objectively at your story. Is it clear and simple or cluttered and confused? Be wary of submitting something that is wrapped up in your own head and unable to be deciphered by someone else. This happens A LOT.

Have an ending. A PB ending needs to be shocking, surprising, funny, quirky or in some way resolving and/or related to the plot. Around sixty per cent of the ms endings we have seen are either non-existent, confusing or dull. Go out on a top note, not a kerplunk. A great ending demands a repeat reading—and that is exactly what you want.

Write your book for kids, not adults. If you hit the nail on the head for kids, most adults will love it, too.

ASK DIANNE: How to Books

Picture Books: Character Development in Every Word!

Picture Book Writing Tips

Writing Picture Books

Picture Book to Novel Checklist

Picture Book Layout

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

Posted by: Kathy Temean | January 29, 2023

Opportunity: Anthology Call for Submissions – Free Activity Book


Laura Lee Cascada’s The every animal Project is currently accepting submissions around the theme of courageous animals for our first anthology, debuting in December 2023, The Dog Who Wooed at the WorldStories should explain how an animal’s bravery inspired and moved you.

SUBMISSION DEADLINE: March 31st

  • One winning author will receive a $300 prize, and the second place author will receive $200. All other authors with stories chosen for the book will receive a $50 award, along with a free copy of the book upon its publication in 2023 a week before its release to the general public. Stories not chosen for the book will have the opportunity to be featured online on the blog, with a $20 award. These awards are being made possible by the late activist and my second mom, Sherrie Carter, who left her estate to advance work for animals, and will be issued after submissions close.
  • Stories should be between 500 and 3,000 words.
  • Do not submit previously published stories

Click here for more details about this anthology and to submit your story for consideration.

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Helen Wu at Yeehoo Press is offering a free Activity & Coloring Book.

Lunar New Year | Chinese New Year Activity Coloring Book Printable FREE

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Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

 

Posted by: Kathy Temean | January 28, 2023

Illustrator Saturday – Sophie Page

Sophie Page is an illustrator, designer, arts educator, and storyteller based in Brooklyn, NY. Attended the Rhode Island School of Design and received a BFA in Illustration. She specializes in 3D sculptural illustration, imaging, and book arts. Sophie uses a unique set of materials and techniques to create images, products, and designs.

She has illustrated SHE SANG FOR THJE MOUTAINS before working on the art for STORY QUILT by Shannon Hitchcock. She taught art grade 5 through 12 for three years. During that time she won two consecutive Nation Education Awards from Scholastic Art and Writing Competition.

HERE IS SOPHIE DISCUSSING HER PROCESS:

Note: May need to click the pictures below to enlarge and read the text.

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HERE IS SOPHIE’S INTERVIEW:

Did you have a doll house when you were little? Could that be what drove your interest in creating 3D characters and their surroundings?

I really loved miniatures as a kid, particularly little plastic animals. For a while I carried around a realistic looking model tortoise everywhere I went. That might have been the beginning of my interest in minis and dioramas.

How did you get interested in sculpting and 3D art?

Whether it was play doh or ceramics at my local studio offering classes for children, I always loved playing with clay. When I was in my teens I started making dioramas and never stopped.

Did you always want to attend RISD?

I always knew I wanted to go to art school! I was very lucky that RISD was an option for me. I loved my time there.

Were you focused on 3D art while studying there?

Yes, in a self directed way. In the illustration department most of the studio classes focused on drawing and painting.

Did you take any illustrating classes while at RISD?

I took mostly illustration classes as it was my major. I also studied photography and ceramics.

What do you think helped develop your style?

A very difficult question to answer! I think any artist’s individual style is developed from numerous inspirations, experiences, influences, and sensibilities, manifest through countless hours of studio work.

When did you first see the potential to illustrated picture book using your 3d art?

At school, especially during thesis projects senior year. I always knew I wanted to illustrate picture books, but this was the first time I had the ability to see what that could look like using photographed dioramas.

Was Saving Granddaddy’s Stories: Ray Hicks, the Voice of Appalachia by Shannon Hitchcock your first picture?

Yes! I was very excited to have the opportunity.

How did that contract come your way?

I was tabling/exhibiting at the New York Art Book Fair in 2018 where I met designer and art director Faride Mereb (check out her amazing work here: faridemereb.com) who suggested me for the book. In addition to picture books I self publish zines/art books – Faride saw those and thought I would be a good fit for the Appalachian Storyteller series at Reycraft.

Did you know Shannon before that book?

No. We didn’t meet (in person anyway) till after the publication of our first two books. One interesting coincidence is that I actually have a connection to the Western NC (where all of our books take place, and where Shannon is based.) My partner is from there and I ended up spending a lot of time down there during the pandemic.

Do you have an agent? If so who and how long have you been with them?

As of right now I do not. I’ve been fortunate enough to get a few book projects on my own, but hope to collaborate with an agent in the future.

In April of 2021 your next book, She Sang for the Mountains: The Story of Jean Ritchie Singer Songwriter, Activist by Shannon Hitchcock came out. Did you work with the same editor or art director for this book?

Yes, same team for the entire series.

Do you do one project at a time or are you able to work on other creative projects, too?

When I am working on a book, that’s my sole focus till it’s done. 

In between books I do a bunch of other stuff!

How long did it take you to illustrated Story Quilts: Appalachian Women Speak by Shannon Hitchcock that was published on Sep 30, 2022?

Each of the books took about 4 months.

Do you think you and Shannon will work on another book in the future?

We are working on a new book right now! I’m not sure what the status is for public release or I would provide more info.

Would you illustrate a book for an author who wants to self-publish?

No. I took on a project like that in my early 20s and regretted it. An individual writer rarely has the budget to properly compensate an illustrator or the network to promote+distribute a title.

Have you done any illustrating for children’s magazines? Which ones?

Not yet. But I would love to!

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

Yes! I hope to begin pitching my own books soon.

Do you have a studio in your house? 

Yup, in my current housing situation I have the luxury of a desk setup for computer work and sketching (my thinking studio) and a separate area for everything else (clay, paint, collage, epoxy. My messy studio.)

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

It’s not something I keep track of very well. I work on a piece until it’s done, but like everyone I’m constantly looking for ways to streamline the process. I have a habit of making things hard for myself and refuse to branch out much from traditional/analog art making techniques. 

Do you take pictures or research a project before you start?

Yes! Sometimes I’ll make a Pinterest board to have an easily accessible collection of reference images. For the Jean Ritchie book I read her biography “Singing Family of the Cumberlands” (which, fun fact, includes illustrations by Maurice Sendak!) and listened to her music a lot.

For Story Quilts I researched quilting techniques, patterns, and specific artists from the region. I felt that because I was referencing many specific quilts in the illustrations I ought to include a note with a list of quilters/artists who inspired me throughout.

Do you think the Internet has opened doors for you?

Yes and no. Social media seems like a blessing and a curse for artists these days. I love that the internet can allow artists who aren’t in the right place at the right time to gain exposure for their work. But we are also at the mercy of mysterious algorithms and ever changing platforms.

What do you think is your biggest success?

Story Quilts. I’m proud of that book.

Do you use Photoshop or Painter to touch up your illustrations?

For most of my book work I have to photograph different sections/details separately. So it’s really more of a collage. All of the forms + mark making in my work is analog, assembled and formatted digitally.

Do you own or use a graphic tablet?

My partner has one and I use it occasionally. Very convenient for sketches!

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

To publish my own stories as author+illustrator! And I would love to have a solo show at a gallery someday.

What are you working on now?

A fourth book with author Shannon Hitchcock!

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

For anyone photographing their work I would recommend natural light/sunlight. Even the fanciest artificial lighting setup just isn’t the same.

Sophie, thank you for taking the time to answer the interview questions and sharing your process. Please let me know about your future books and successes so I can share them with everyone.

You can visit Sophie using the following links:

WEBSITE: https://www.sophiegenevapage.com/

INSTAGRAM: https://www.instagram.com/ladle_gull/

TWITTER: https://twitter.com/pophiesage

LINKEDIN: https://www.linkedin.com/in/sophie-page

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

Posted by: Kathy Temean | January 27, 2023

January Agent of the Month: Leslie Zampetti – First Page Results


JANUARY 2023 AGENT OF THE MONTH – LESLIE ZAMPETTI

A former librarian with over 20 years’ experience in special, public, and school libraries, Leslie’s focus was on the reader, giving them the right book at the right time – which works for matching client work to editors too. Having negotiated with organizations from Lexis-Nexis to the elementary school PTA, she is able to come to terms that favor her clients while building satisfying relationships with publishers. And after cataloging rocket launch videos for NASA and model rocket ships for an elementary school, Leslie welcomes working with the unexpected challenges that pop up in publishing.

Leslie joined Odom Media Management in 2022. Previously, she was an intern for The Bent Agency and an agent with Dunham Literary.

A writer herself, Leslie is very familiar with querying from both sides of the desk.

LESLIE is looking for:

  • Fiction for middle grade and young adult readers. Leslie seeks middle grade and young adult novels, especially mysteries and contemporary fiction. Historical fiction with a specific hook to the time and place, novels in verse, and off-the-beaten-path romances are on her wish list.

  • Picture book authors and author-illustrators. Leslie prefers nonfiction that tells a story almost too good to be true, witty wordplay, and dry, sly humor, both fiction and nonfiction

  • Verse novels and novels-in-stories for both children and adults

  • Fiction for adults in the following genres: Leslie is interested in literary mysteries, upmarket romance with interfaith or marginalized couples, and historical fiction set in regions other than Europe and North America. Literary mystery | Upmarket romance and women’s fiction | Historical fiction

  • Nonfiction for adults in the following categories: Science | Memoir | Narrative | True crime. For nonfiction, Leslie finds narrative nonfiction that straddles the boundaries between crime, memoir, and literature especially appealing.

  • Leslie does not represent science fiction, fantasy, horror, political thrillers, collections of poetry or short stories, or Christian fiction & nonfiction. Though she reads widely, she’s not a fit for political thrillers, high fantasy, inspirational or Christian fiction, memoirs about violence against women, or hard sci-fi.

For both children’s and adult books, Leslie seeks work by under-represented creators, particularly disabled writers. She is most interested in stories that show everyday representation and the full experiences of life, especially joy.

How to Submit to Leslie

Leslie will be opening to queries at the end of February. OMM is still making changes to our website, etc., but folks should look for her submission guidelines to be updated soon. (I’ll be taking queries at https://QueryManager.com/Lzampetti.)

Please visit QueryManager.com/Lzampetti

Leslie requests a query letter and the first five pages of your manuscript within this form. Leslie reviews all queries within four to six weeks, and she will respond if interested in seeing more.

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Carol Baldwin – Half-Truths – Middle-Grade/Historical 

I shove my broom under the display case so hard the glass shelves rattle. [1]  Daddy gives me a stern look, but I send him what he calls a Katie-wraps-me-around-my-finger smile. He knows I’d rather be shag dancing at Reid’s Soda Shop than sweeping floors or refilling nail bins. [2] 

But by working each week, I’ll add a few dimes to Mama’s Mason jar hidden in the back of my closet. It’s going to take a lot of Saturdays helping Daddy close up Smith’s Hardware to fill that jar. Plopping it down in front of Mama and Daddy and telling them I’m ready to start a bank account is worth the wait. Maybe then they’ll believe I’m serious about heading to college in a few years.[3]

The shop bell jangles and I glance at the clock. Ten minutes to nine. Last-minute customers will push back closing time.

Earnestine Jackson, her mother, and her younger sister Ruth stand at the door. I swallow my irritation. Other stores in town won’t serve them, but somehow Daddy persuaded Mr. Smith that it was the right thing to do. I’m glad, but this late? Really?

Earnestine’s eyes dart around the store like she’s afraid something bad might happen. I know because I’ve seen that look on her before. We were little—maybe seven or so—making mud pies outside her house when two trucks drove up and four angry-looking men got out. Earnestine ran inside. I never found out what those men were doing at the Jackson place.[4]  When I told Daddy about it, his jaw clenched tight and he said people should mind their own business. I guess Earnestine is afraid they’ll get in trouble for shopping here.

“Hello, Odessa.” Daddy stands up from arranging some buckets by the garden tools. “What can I help you find?”

HERE’S LESLIE:

1. Great first line! We’re engaged right away.

2. Good sense of character. Nice hints as to time and place, but middle grade readers might not grasp those as easily as adults. Maybe add a header with year and location?

3. The promise of conflict! We have a good sense of what Katie wants.

4. Again, the reader is immediately engaged. Why is Earnestine afraid? What happened back then?

Overall comments:

This is a strong and engaging opening. I’d like some more context as to time and place for young readers – either through a chapter heading or a few specific details worked in. Chapter headings may seem like a crutch, but they’re an efficient and effective way to let your audience know the setting, especially for historical fiction.

The active verbs and distinct voice are positives, and the prose is robust, using sentence structure to create rhythm. The mix of dialogue, detail, and action is good, with each component adding to the story.

My impression is that racism will be part of the conflict, and Katie will have some hard choices. If this is true, perhaps adding a detail or two of Katie and Earnestine’s appearances will help ground the reader. Or that may come in the next pages…

Overall, a great first page. As an agent, I’d be looking to see that the execution of the rest of the story measures up to the promise.

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Cecile Mazzucco-Than – Six Brothers, Two Lions, and One Gigantic President: The Piccirillis Carve America –  PB nonfiction

In 1888 six brothers came to America from Italy. [1] 

In 1888, six brothers named Piccirilli came to America from Italy. They worked all day carving gravestones.”

Their last name was Piccirilli, and they worked all day carving gravestones. Names and dates, nomi e date,  little angels and fruit, putti i frutti, [2] every day over and over.

You could use the Italian only, with the translation as an illustration note. This is an opportunity for the illustrations to do some heavy lifting. 😉

The Italian gives rhythm to the prose. Will you have a pronunciation guide in the back matter?

every day over and over.

Ferruccio picked up his chisel and groaned.

Attilio measured a pomegranite with his calipers and cried. [3]

Furio shaped a bunch of grapes with his rasp and moaned.

Masaniello swirled the tiny tendrils on the grapevine with his riffler and sighed.

Orazio swept away crumbs of marble with his brush, and his tears wet the grape leaves.

Getullio polished the fruits with his sandpaper and smiled.

“Cheer up!” He said. “At least we’re working all together. Ogni Piccirilli per tutti!”

The Piccirilli brothers always worked together. Carving gravestones was their first job in America, and it was important. People needed to be remembered. [4]  But why did gravestones have to be so boring? In Italy, in their father’s studio, they carved something different every day. Marble faces that looked like they cried wet tears, or marble figures that looked like they could dance away in the moonlight.  On his lunch break, Attilio carved a scrap of marble to look like their little sister, Iole. Every curl in place and a smile on her lips.  [5]

Then, he had an idea.

Everywhere in America sculptors were busy shaping clay and plaster into lifelike faces and figures to remember brave people, tragic events, epic battles, and noble ideals in the history of the country. But the sculptors needed stone carvers to cut their creations into granite or marble that wouldn’t be harmed by the rain and snow, sun and wind.  Most of the stone carvers lived in Italy, and sculptors had to wait months, even years, for their creations to travel across the ocean and back, but the Piccirilli brothers lived in New York City.

“Let’s start our own business,” Attilio said to his  .

HERE’S LESLIE:

1. The first sentence could be stronger. Maybe combine this and the second sentence? “In 1888, six brothers named Piccirilli came to America from Italy. They worked all day carving gravestones.”

2. You could use the Italian only, with the translation as an illustration note. This is an opportunity for the illustrations to do some heavy lifting. 😉

The Italian gives rhythm to the prose. Will you have a pronunciation guide in the back matter?

3. pomegranate

4. Hmm, I wonder if this would make the opening lines stronger?

5. This block of text feels more appropriate to a magazine story than a picture book. Perhaps it was edited to fit the single page requirements of this critique?

Overall comments:

The brothers are appealing characters here, and there’s lots of opportunity for illustration, which is vital to a picture book.

The author may have already done this, but storyboarding or creating a very rough dummy to get a sense of pagination and the spreads (28 pages of text, 14 two page spreads.) is useful. No artistic talent required – stick figures or even just words will do – but this helps envision the opportunities for illustration and the page turns.

Picture book biographies are always needed, and the best ones are appealing to both parents and educators as well as children. As an agent, when I consider them, the first questions I ask myself are “Why this person or these people? Why should young children know about them? Does this story fit into curriculum, or would it be appealing to a specific organization or audience?”

Giving some sense of that in the query and/or back matter – if not the opening – is always helpful.

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Dedra Davis        CHASING A GHOST                       YA Contemporary Romance

I died a year ago today.[1] 

The four of us piled in his truck and left Benson’s field in a hurry. Cooper wasn’t too happy, but Mel seemed relieved. I remember staring at the moon’s thumbnail and laughing because my singing bumped as we flew through the pasture. Joe let me pick the music, and I chose Taylor’s version of Red. I never tired of it. I wanted our little party to continue and didn’t want to go home, but my curfew loomed. My parents warned me repeatedly about being late, but being with Joe was my life, so I gambled with time. And that time, I lost.[2]

We had ten minutes to get home, but we needed twenty. We were going way too fast, especially on that country road. Garrett Lane is a two-lane, tree-lined, bumpy road with many curves. The type of road where you rarely pass another car. The type of road you should take slowly.[3]

My favorite song on Red was blaring, and [3] Melanie and I belted out the words, feeling ALL TOO WELL. We rolled the windows down to feel the fall air. In the front seat, Joe and I spoke through our eyes [4]. He stared at me as if he were painting a picture. I wanted to get home so I could kiss my painter on my porch.

My left hand intertwined with his right. I loved Joe’s hands—long fingers, big enough to palm a ball but soft and gentle enough to make me feel loved. I rubbed his hand with my finger. I knew what this did to him; there was purpose in the motion. He looked at me with his wide blue-greyish[5] eyes and that smile that I loved, and I whispered to him, “Hurry, Joe.”

1. Very dramatic, but can feel gimmicky.

2. This paragraph is a stronger opening. I love the last line, perhaps even as a chapter ending? We have a nice sense of characters through small details and a hint as to coming conflict. Maybe draw out that suspense a bit?

3. These restate what the reader already knows. I’d delete and use the space for something more important.

4. With our eyes? Even then, awkward.

5. Better to pick a specific color. Slate, gunmetal, iceberg, bluebell, thundercloud, ocean.. you get the idea.

Overall comments:

The details of this opening are lovely: the music, the specifics of the narrator’s attraction to her boyfriend, the nuances of the road.

But though the voice feels authentic, it’s not quite individual enough, and I’m looking for conflict, tension, a reason to turn the page. Knowing that she died right from the first sentence steps on that tension.

I feel this isn’t adding much. I’m looking for hints of conflict, the promise of the story to come.

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Lou Ann Gurney  133.1 GHOSTS  Middle Grade [1].

Chapter 1 The Interview

“Ghost beware!” Barry Grant called into the emptiness like he visited haunted school libraries every Monday morning[2]

He wasn’t really that anxious to meet a ghost in person, so he took one small step inside and scanned the room[3]. The library with nobody in it felt stuffy. The stale smell of musty books hung in the air. At least it wasn’t all spooky dark in there. The bright Southern California sun shone in through the high windows, and bits of dust sparkled in the light.

Barry had the best school job ever: Chief of Sixth Grade Media Production. The librarian had invited him to interview her for the next broadcast of King Middle School News. Mrs. Taylor thought there was a ghost in the library, and she wanted to tell everyone not to worry[4]. Ghost rumors were flying around, and she thought the truth would put the brakes on any potential hysteria. Barry wasn’t so sure about that.

His cameraman and best bud Breezebrain barged into the library right behind him with the media class camera rolling. “Show me the ghost,” he said. “Gimme some drama.”

“Quiet down,” Barry said. “You’ll scare it away.”

“So you believe there’s a ghost in here?”

“Mrs. Taylor says so. Maybe one’s hiding between those book cases. Or sitting at one of these computers.”

“Whoa! There’s one right now. It’s tap dancing on that study table.” Breezebrain danced on the carpet in his high tops. His super curly blond hair jiggled. “Hey ghostie, smile for the camera.”

He looked so funny. Barry could always depend on Breezebrain to make him laugh.

HERE’S LESLIE:

1. Always good to add the genre. Horror, mystery, contemporary?

2. This steps on your tension a bit.

3. Awkward

4. OK, now this is great! Might need to put this up earlier.

Overall comments:

Ghosts are always popular with middle grade readers – they love a spooky story!

There’s a good use of dialogue to show character. The prose could be more polished – I feel the elements are there, but maybe not in the most effective order? Opening with Barry peering in is good, but knowing that the librarian feels there’s a ghost? That’s unique and fun.

The voice feels authentic and commercial. Maybe a few more hints as to the conflict to come? IS the story about finding the ghost? Or about something else?

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Leslie, thank you for sharing your time and expertise with us. I am sure many writer’s will use your comments to improve their own writing. I’m so glad everyone got a chance to know you this month.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

Posted by: Kathy Temean | January 26, 2023

Book Giveaway: WOVEN OF THE WORLD by Katey Howes

Katey Howes has a new picture book, WOVEN OF THE WORLD, illustrated by Dinara Mirtalipova and published by Chronical Books on February 7th. They have agreed to send a copy to the one lucky winner in the US.

Just leave a comment. Reblog, tweet, or talk about it on Facebook with a link and you will get additional chances to win. Let me know other things you did to share the good news, so I can put the right amount of tickets in my basket for you. Sharing on Facebook, Twitter or reblogging really helps spread the word for a new book. So, thanks for helping Katey and Dinara.

If you have signed up to follow my blog and it is delivered to you everyday, please let me know when you leave a comment and I will give you an extra ticket. If you want to make sure you don’t miss seeing that you won, please click “Notify Me of Follow-Up Comments by Email” box. I will leave a comment in reply if you win the book. Thanks!

BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Told from the perspective of a young girl learning to weave, Woven of the World is a lyrical meditation on the ancient art of weaving and what this beautiful craft can teach us.

As rhythmic as the swish of a loom, and as vibrant as a skein of brightly dyed wool, this lyrical picture book shares the history and practice of weaving through the centuries and around the world, as imagined by a young weaver learning her craft. Her family’s weaving practice helps her feel connected to the past and hopeful for the future. It shows her that each of us is a tapestry: a unique, rich, and beautifully interwoven combination of traits and traditions, with a pattern that is still emerging.

At once a celebration of a time-honored art and a meditation on the ways we are interconnected, this artfully woven narrative gathers the threads of weaving as a technical skill, a cultural tradition, and as a metaphor for how our lives are knit together, into a radiantly intertwined whole.

WEAVING AROUND THE WORLD: The vignettes in this book give just a few glimpses into the world’s countless weaving traditions. They highlight milestone moments in history, as well as ongoing, contemporary artistry. From the nomadic Fulani of West Africa to the Coastal Salish of North America, and from Uzbekistan to Peru to Egypt, this lush picture book celebrates eight moments in weaving history around the world.

Perfect for:

    • Parents and grandparents
    • Teachers and librarians
    • Fans of weaving or folk arts


BOOK JOURNEY:

This book started in 2016, when I was having discussions with my kids about the ways people – especially our wonderful neighbors from many different cultures and backgrounds – brought traditions together and created new and beautiful ones. My kids asked for (ok, demanded) a description of this that fit better than the cliché  “melting pot” or “tossed salad.” And as we searched together, we came across a quote from the brilliant Maya Angelou:

““We all should know that diversity makes for a rich tapestry, and we must understand that all the threads of the tapestry are equal in value no matter what their color.

Angelou’s metaphor spoke to us as a strong description of our neighborhood – how unique and warm and beautiful it was because of the many threads that came together there. How valuable each thread was. How the picture they created together was more than the sum of their parts.

And as I thought about how accurate the image of a tapestry was to describe diversity, it also struck me that each person could be seen as a tapestry, woven of their ancestry, their influences, their learning and their loves. The metaphor would not let me go – so though I knew very little about tapestries or weaving, I started to research them.

Photos from my first visit to The Spinnery in Frenchtown, NJ, May 2017.

In May 2017, I made a phone call and headed to Frenchtown, New Jersey, to a little shop called The Spinnery, with a notebook and a list of questions a mile long. The wonderful owner, Betty, took time to answer my questions, loan me books, suggest references, and inspire my imagination.

From there, my pile of research grew. I learned that weaving is one of the most pervasive art forms in the world, and I went down quite a few rabbit holes, learning about weaving practices, patterns, and tools from different places and times. I collected A LOT of books.

Brain and heart full of ideas, I tried several formats and storylines. The book slowly evolved into a series of vignettes, showcasing a variety of weaving practices from around the world and throughout history.

I also built a message about the value of passing an art like weaving from generation to generation, centering the story in the voice of a child as she learns weaving from her elder.

When Ariel Richardson at Chronicle read the manuscript, she had an illustrator in mind right away. She knew Dinara Mirtalipova’s skill at and knowledge of folk art, her love of textiles and the value of passing their art between generations. She knew Dinara would be the perfect person to bring this celebration of weaving to life!

Dinara dug into research, as well, making sure to represent the different cultures and traditions in the book accurately, but respectfully. And because of her Uzbek heritage and strong connections to textile traditions handed down to her by family members, we swapped out a vignette in the manuscript for one focused on traditional Uzbek wedding clothing, woven in iconic ikat.

It took several years for all these pieces to come together, for us to revise the backmatter, for experts to review the words and art. But this January, 2023 – almost six years after my first visit to The Spinnery weaving shop – I dropped by unannounced with a gift.

Image of Betty, owner of the Spinnery, holding an advance copy of Woven of the World and Image of acknowledgements in the book.

The joy of sharing this book with Betty, who helped me get started on the journey, was incredible. I only hope that others who pick up this book and read it will find even a fraction of the excitement, wonder, and resonance in its words and art that she did.  Whether you’re familiar with weaving or not, I think it will speak to you.  Because, you know:

“We all are tapestries, woven of the world.

We are lifelines interlacing, yarn of many sources swirled.

 

In our patterns, there is purpose.

In our softness, strength abides.

Warmth and beauty still unfolding, growing,

As the shuttle glides.”

KATEY’S BIO:

Katey Howes is an award-winning picture book author and poet. She’s passionate about raising kids who love to read, and about helping kids recognize that they are makers, inventors, and creators! A former physical therapist, Katey is fascinated by physics and biology, reads everything from classic children’s lit to modern neuroscience, and has strong opinions about commas.

When not writing for children, Katey contributes to websites such as Nerdy BookClub, KidLit411, STEAM-powered Family, and Imagination Soup. She has presented at NCTE and several nErDcamps and taught picture book writing and revision at the SCBWI NJ Fall Craft Weekend.

Formerly a physical therapist, Katey now divides her time between writing, crafting, and raising three ravenous readers. You can hear Katey interviewed on podcasts such as Reading With Your Kids, Lu and Bean Read, and All the Wonders.

She lives in Bucks County with her husband, three children, and a pup named Samwise Gamgee. She and her family enjoy making everything from cupcakes to castles to catapults, exploring their wooded property, and traveling to new and exciting places. You can get to know her better at:

WEBSITE: http://www.kateyhowes.com

TWITTER: @Kateywrites

INSTAGRAM: @kidlitlove.

Katey is represented by Essie White of Storm Literary Agency. 

Dinara Mirtalipova is a self taught illustrator/designer. Born and raised in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, she eventually landed in snowy Ohio and works from her home studio in and lives in Sagamore Hills.  She uses a wide range of materials and tools, like carving lino blocks, gouache, acrylics and many others. She has been working with many great brands, publishing companies and ad agencies and she is continuously looking forward to making new friends.

 DINARA’S BIO:

Dinara studied Computer Science at the Tashkent State University of Economics, however her true passion was always patterns and illustration. Raised in Soviet Uzbek culture, she inhabited Uzbek/Russian folklore that still influences her work.

You can learn more about Dinara at http://www.mirdinara.com or follow her on Instagram @mirdinara.

Thank you Katey for sharing your book and journey. I love how you have used weaving a a metaphor for life. Just like there is an uncertainty in life, there is an uncertainty while weaving as to how the pattern will unfold. I love that you included content on the history of weaving, how weaving works at the back of the book. With your rhyming text and Dinara’s gorgeous illustrations the two of you have created a wonderful, lyrical picture book that children will love to have read aloud to them many times. Good luck with the book.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

Posted by: Kathy Temean | January 25, 2023

Book Winners – Opportunity – Kudos –

BOOK WINNERS

Ann Finkelstein won PIPPA’S PASSOVER PLATE – Board Book by Vivian Kirkfield

Penny Taub won SHE SANG FOR THE MOUNTAINS by Shannon Hitchcock

Jan Milusich won WHEN YOU OPEN A BOOK by Caroline Derlatka

Winners send your addresses to Kathy(dot)temean(at)hotmail(dot)com

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OPPORTUNITY: WRITING AND ILLUSTRATING’S SPRING VIRTUAL WRITER’S RETREAT – March 25-26th 2023

If you wanted to attend this years Spring Virtual Writer’s Retreat, but couldn’t afford it. I have three 25 page critiques available. Drop me a note you would like to have a critique for a lower price.

One Full Manuscript Critique and One 25 Page Critique plus First Page Session. Click here to read the details for the full retreat.

COVER REVEAL:

I am Delighted to show off the cover of Ellen L. Ramsey’s debut picture book, A BOOK FOR BEAR, illustrated by MacKenzie Haley. It will be published by Flamingo Books/Penguin Books for Young Readers in July 2023. It’s the story of a book-loving bear and a book-loving girl who search for the perfect book for them to read together. More information about A BOOK FOR BEAR, including preorder information, is on Ellen’s website: https://www.ellenlramsey.com/

Check back in July for A BOOK FOR BEAR book feature. 

 

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KUDO’S:

Congratulations to Laurie Wallmark. Her next non-fiction picture book HER EYES ON THE STARS: Maria Mitchell, Astronomer hits book stores on May 2nd. It is illustrated by Liz Wong and published by Creston Books.

Look for the book feature in April.

*******

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

Posted by: Kathy Temean | January 24, 2023

Book Givaway: EVEN SUPERHEROS GET SCARED by Shelly Becker

Shelly Becker has a new picture book, EVEN SUPERHEROS GET SCARED, illustrated by Eda Kaban and published today by Union Square Kids. They have agreed to send a copy to the one lucky winner in the US or Canada.

Just leave a comment. Reblog, tweet, or talk about it on Facebook with a link and you will get additional chances to win. Let me know other things you did to share the good news, so I can put the right amount of tickets in my basket for you. Sharing on Facebook, Twitter or reblogging really helps spread the word for a new book. So, thanks for helping Shelly and Eda.

If you have signed up to follow my blog and it is delivered to you everyday, please let me know when you leave a comment and I will give you an extra ticket. If you want to make sure you don’t miss seeing that you won, please click “Notify Me of Follow-Up Comments by Email” box. I will leave a comment in reply if you win the book. Thanks!

BOOK DESCRIPTION:

When Superheroes feel worried or scared,
When they fret, when they sweat, when they feel unprepared . . .

They could run off screeching, they could but they don’t.
Because real superheroes just wouldn’t, they won’t.

Even superheroes get scared sometimes. When that happens, do they run and hide? NO! They acknowledge the feeling, then choose to be brave! There are villains to fight and cities to save! Young readers can follow the superheroes’ examples and take deep breaths, ask for help, and face new challenges.

BOOK JOURNEY:

Even Superheroes Get Scared is the third book in the Superheroes Are Just Like Us series. In the first book (Even Superheroes Have Bad Days), I explored how superheroes might deal with difficult emotions like frustration or anger. The second book (Even Superheroes Make Mistakes) explored the idea that it’s ok to make mistakes and in fact, we can use mistakes to help us learn and grow.

Ever since Even Superheroes Have Bad Days was accepted for publication, I’ve been compiling a running list of ideas for potential sequels. I try to think of universal situations, problems, and emotions that kids (and adults!) can relate to which could be fun and valuable to explore in the Superheroes Are Just Like Us world.

After the second book was published, I perused my list of ideas and considered which of the topics I was most drawn to and most excited to dive into next. Being excited about a topic is crucial to motivate me to dedicate precious time and energy to writing a book. I also believe that my genuine enthusiasm will show up between the lines and somehow be transmitted to the reader.

Most (if not all) humans experience fear, worry, and anxiety, and I felt a strong pull to write about this topic after Even Superheroes Make Mistakes was published. So I jumped right in and Even Superheroes Get Scared is the result.

While working on this book, I was doing a lot of author visits, reading the previous two books to thousands of kids. During these events, I sometimes asked audiences questions along the lines of, “Can you imagine Superheroes having temper tantrums? What if they stomped their feet so hard that their super-strength knocked down the whole building? Would Superheroes ever do that?” These questions usually elicited gleeful giggles from young audiences imagining some pretty outlandish scenes. After the laughter subsided, they emphatically responded, “No, of course superheroes wouldn’t do that!”

I decided to incorporate this real-world experience into the text of Even Superheroes Get Scared. Rather than writing what superheroes hypothetically could do if they were to react to a difficult emotion in an unhelpful way (as in the previous books), I decided to use questions to invite readers to imagine these hypothetical situations and to evaluate whether superheroes would engage in these “negative” behaviors. It’s a subtle difference but I think it works well and I’m looking forward to sharing it with readers and seeing how they respond.

Along this book’s journey, I had to face an unexpected fear of my own—the fear that publication would be perpetually delayed due to unforeseen challenges that were completely out of my control, including changes at the publisher, Covid, the illustrator’s schedule, and supply-chain issues. The previous books in the series took approximately 2 years from acceptance to publication. This time around, it was twice as long—4 years!

Fortunately, with a diligent and determined publication team and much patience, the book overcame a series of obstacles and finally hits the market today (January 24, 2023)!

(Yes, it was worth the wait, but don’t be surprised if my next book is called Even Superheroes Need Patience or Even Superheroes Ultimately Accept What They Can’t Control.)

One of my favorite aspects of writing picture books is seeing how the illustrator brings my words to life with their artistic talents. Since Eda Kaban has fabulously illustrated all the books in the Superheroes Are Just Like Us series, I wasn’t surprised to see how she brought these characters and this text to life with more amazing illustrations. Each page comes alive with vibrant colors and exciting action. Eda completely outdid herself with the stunning cover illustration. (You can judge this book by its cover!) THANK YOU, EDA!

Although it is gratifying that Even Superheroes Get Scared has finally made it to Publication Day, and I am definitely celebrating the milestone, the journey is still not over. The next step is sharing the book with readers and seeing how it is received in the world. I hope it will be enjoyed and embraced, as the previous books were!

It is also time to consult my list of ideas again. The next idea is calling…

SHELLY’S BIO:

Shelly Becker is the author of more than twenty children’s books, including Even Superheroes Get Scared, Even Superheroes Make Mistakes, Even Superheroes Have Bad Days (a 2018 Blue Spruce Award Nomineed that Kirkus called “an action-packed romp”), and One, Two, Grandma Loves You, and the forthcoming sequel, One, Two, Grandpa Loves You. 

She lives in Toronto, Canada and has 4 SUPER children and 4 SUPER grandchildren. Although she does not have a cape or laser-vision, she knows how it feels to have bad days, make mistakes, and get scared. She says, “I try to use my inner super-powers to respond to life’s challenges in a positive way. I hope my books will encourage readers of all ages to do the same.”

EDA’S BIO:

Eda Kaban was born and raised in Turkey with a great passion for drawing, reading, and monkey bars. She has traveled the globe wearing a backpack slightly larger than herself. Her travels brought her to the States where she studied illustration.

Her work can be seen in a variety of publications. She has worked with clients such as Penguin Random House, Disney, HarperCollins, Marvel, LucasFilm, Simon & Schuster, Scholastic, Chronicle Books, Lufthansa Airlines, Wall Street Journal and Boston Globe among others. Her illustrations have been recognized by Society of Illustrators, Creative Quarterly and 3X3.

When she is not drawing, you can find her climbing some rocks, or biking the hills of the Bay Area. She currently resides in San Francisco happily with her husband, their son and Siamese cats, where they continually water their plants too much.

Shelly, thank you for sharing your book and journey with us. I love how you’ve shared a number of coping strategies techniques to help children to calm down and face their fears. It’s good for children to learn that even superheroes can get scared. I am sure the techniques in this book will benefit many children and make their lives better. Eda did a great job creating the illustrations. They are sure to keep everyone turning every page each time they read the book. Good luck!

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

THIS IS A UK PUBLISHER, so you will need to pay £20 to submit, which is around $23.74 dollars. That is why they point you towards PayPal, since you can send it through them and they will convert it so Chicken House receives the correct amount. You do not have to be from the UK to submit, but you will also need to submit your manuscript online, using the link in the pink box.

Chicken House doesn’t accept unsolicited manuscripts, but they do offer unpublished and unagented writers of children’s fiction the chance to submit their work to the annual Times/Chicken House Children’s Fiction Competition. They’re looking for original ideas, a fresh voices, a diverse range of entries and stories that children will love! They’d particularly like to encourage entry from writers from underrepresented backgrounds.

First prize is a worldwide publishing contract with Chicken House with a royalty advance of £10,000, plus an offer of representation by this year’s agent judge, Davinia Andrew-Lynch of Andlyn literary agency.

The second prize, the Lime Pictures New Storyteller Award, is a publishing contract with a royalty advance of £7,500 plus an offer of representation by Davinia Andrew-Lynch. The prize will be awarded to a manuscript that shows great potential for film and TV development.

To enter, you must have written a completed full-length novel suitable for children/young adults aged somewhere between 7 and 18 years. By full-length we suggest a minimum of 30,000 words and a maximum of 80,000 words.

Entry to the 2023 competition is now open!

Are you an unpublished and unagented writer with an original and exciting story for 7-to-18-year-olds? If so, why not enter our competition? We’re offering not one but TWO fantastic prizes:

The Overall Winner
The main prize is a worldwide publishing contract with Chicken House with a £10,000 advance (subject to contract). Our esteemed panel of judges will select the overall winner, who will also receive an offer of representation from a top literary agent, Davinia Andrew-Lynch. The winner will be the entrant whose story, in the opinion of the judges, demonstrates the greatest entertainment value, quality, originality and suitability for children.

The Lime Pictures New Storyteller Award
Our bonus prize, sponsored by Lime Pictures, will be awarded by Barry Cunningham (Chicken House MD and Chairman of the Panel) and Tim Compton (Co-Head of Kids & Family at Lime Pictures) to a complete fiction manuscript for children aged 7 up to Young Adult that in their view shows great potential for film and TV development.

Lime also has a ‘first look deal’ for the shortlist and winning submissions, meaning the exclusive right to consider all shortlisted entries for film/TV development for a defined period of 45 days after the winners’ announcement. Any subsequent offer from Lime for TV/film rights is not part of the Lime Pictures New Storyteller Award, nor is the author or their agent required to accept any such offer. Please see the terms and conditions for more details.

Shortlisted entrants who don’t win will receive a letter summarising their reader’s, the Chicken House editorial team’s and the judges’ comments on their submission. All longlisted entrants will receive a reader’s report of their work.

Submission Dates and Fees
Our annual competition opens on 1 December 2022. The deadline for entries will be at 23:59 UK time on 1 June 2023. Any entries received after the deadline will be disqualified, unless you have experienced technical difficulties which prevented you from submitting successfully before the deadline. Please ensure you enter in good time!

The standard submission fee has risen to £20 – however, if you are in financial hardship, please email competitions@chickenhousebooks.com by midday (UK time) on 29 May to request a reduced fee of £15. You do not need to provide proof or justification when requesting the reduced fee.

How to enter

There are two ways to enter the competition, online OR (for UK entrants only) by post. Please choose one of these options and follow the instructions below.

1. Enter online

You will need to create a single Word document containing the following submission materials:

  • A page-long covering letter explaining why you believe your novel would appeal to children and telling us a bit about yourself.
  • A page-long synopsis of your story. Please include all the main points of your plot in your synopsis, including ‘spoilers’ – we need to know what happens at the end!
  • The full manuscript.

Please note that all materials submitted online will be read digitally on e-readers so exact formatting will not be retained.

If you have any questions regarding entry to the competition, please see our Competition FAQs or, if you can’t find your answer, email hello@chickenhousebooks.com.

2. Postal entry

This method of submission is for UK entrants only. If you would prefer to enter a hard copy of your manuscript, please print out the submission materials outlined above. The covering letter and synopsis should be single spaced, but please double space the full manuscript and print on both sides. Secure the submission with an elastic band and place it inside a cardboard wallet/folder. Please enclose a cheque payable to Chicken House Ltd for £20, and write your name, address, phone number and email address on the reverse of the cheque. Post your submission and cheque to:

Chicken House
2 Palmer Street, Frome
Somerset, BA11 1DS

Please send one copy only and mark your envelope CHILDREN’S FICTION COMPETITION. If you wish us to acknowledge receipt of your entry, you must enclose a self-addressed postcard with sufficient postage attached.

If you have any questions regarding entry to the competition, please see our Competition FAQs or, if you can’t find your answer, email competitions@chickenhousebooks.com.

Good Luck!

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

Posted by: Kathy Temean | January 22, 2023

SCBWI Book Launch Award

The Book Launch Award provides authors or illustrators with $2,000 in funds to help the promotion of their newly published work and take the marketing strategy into their own creative hands. One to two grants of up to $2,000 each will be awarded annually.

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

SUBMISSIONS OPEN ON FEBRUARY 1st through FEBRUARY 28th 2023

Open February 1 through February 28, 2023.

SUBMISSION GUIDELINES 

Eligibility: You must be a current SCBWI member. PAL members are eligible and must have a book with a publication date of 2022 or 2023.

  • Money from the grant may be used to promote your book including (but not limited to):
    • Launch events
    • Speaking engagements and book tours
    • Curriculum materials
    • Advertising, posters, postcards, and other promotional marketing materials
    • Book trailers
    • Website development
    • Book donations to local schools and libraries
    • School visits
  • Grants will be awarded based on:
    • Strong marketing and implementation plan
    • Demonstrated need (e.g. your publishing house is not dedicating a lot of marketing money for your book)
    • Quality and professionalism of your synopsis
  • Winners must use the money in the first calendar year and provide SCBWI with documentation of grant money use.

TO APPLY

  • Submit one PDF document which includes the following:
    • A cover letter with the name of your book, the publication date, and a short summary of the book.
    • A short artist statement explaining why you are applying for this grant
    • Your marketing plan. Include details of how the money would be used.
  • Link to online submission portal HERE

FAQ 

Q. Are self-published authors eligible?

A. Yes. PAL members may apply.

Q. Can I apply for a book that has been published prior to the current year?

A. No, the award is to provide a big marketing push in the year when the book is launched.

Questions? Please email Sarah Diamond at sarahdiamond@scbwi.org.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

Posted by: Kathy Temean | January 21, 2023

Illustrator Saturday – Airin O’Callaghan

Airin O’Callaghan completed her bachelor’s degree in Fine Art Photography at the Gerrit Rietveld Academy in Amsterdam and completed her first MFA degree in fine art specializing in cyanotypes, an old photographic printing process. Her work was nominated for The Netherlands’ prestigious illustration award, the Fiep Westendorp Stimuleringsprijs.

She worked for the national newspaper De Volkskrant, as a photographer, photo editor and art director, producing imagery of all kinds. She developed cyanotype workshops to children at the museum for contemporary art in Amsterdam (Stedelijk Museum).

Airin enrolled in the online MFA Illustration program at the Academy of Art University, to strengthen her illustration skills. She traveled to Macau Chins and  she taught at The School of The Nations children ranging from age 4 to 18 years old: History of Photography, Photography as a Visual Language, and Photography as a Medium of Expression.

She continued her MFA in Illustration on campus in San Francisco. After a great first semester as a student at The Academy of Art University, she taught three different photography classes and worked as a part-time professor while studying illustration at AAU.

Two years ago Airin decided to focus 100% on developing as a professional artist. Years of combining photography and drawing development of her cyanotype technique has resulted in the continuing and finding my own unique illustration style.

She I lives in Berkeley now specializes in creating playful and engaging illustrations for children’s books. Her work is a mix of traditional and digital media with contemporary color palettes. She is represented by Astound Publishing.

Here is Airin showing her process for her latest book, Some Bodies:

This is the first sketch for the cover. It’s very rough. Just to give the idea and composition away.

Here is a first worked out sketch that I sent to my art director for review.

As you can see it needed quite some revisions.

 

This is the final approved cover sketch after incorporating the changes.

I pick my color palette.

Finished Cover

INTERVIEW With AIRIN:

 

Why were your parents living in Boston. Did they move to the US for their jobs?

My parents were living in Boston because my father was doing a PHD at the time.

What make your family move from Spain to the Netherlands?

My first mother sadly passed away when I was a baby, my father remarried a few years later and my second mother was from Belgium. He got a job in the Netherlands, which was one hour away from where my second mother was from.

Since you were only 7-year-old, do you remember any of your time in Spain?

Yes, a lot. Mostly the summers in the country side in a small town called Castell-ter-Col. Which means Castle of the Sun.

How did you decide to attend the University in Amsterdam?

I wish I could give you a more graceful answer, but I was 18 years old and not very conscious of how important it is to follow your heart and gut, and so I made the decision to attend the Gerrit Rietveld Academy, not because they had illustration classes, but because it was the most prestigious art Institution in the small country (The Netherlands). They had a difficult entry exam/ audition and I thought if I passed I would be “special” for doing so. Only after I passed and when I was in my first year I actually paid attention to the kind of classes they offered after my bachelors and Photography was the thing that came closest to illustration in that particular school at the time.

What inspired you to get your bachelor’s degree in Fine Art Photography at the Gerrit Rietveld Academy in Amsterdam?

I partly answered this question above. Even though it was somewhat a coincidence/ mistake to chose photography, I did enjoy taking photographs a lot and I was always carrying a photo camera. Until this day I have a fascination with light and how light hits every object.

Did you continue to earn a MFA degree in fine art specializing in cyanotypes, an old photographic printing process at the University of Amsterdam as soon as your finished your BA?

Yes, I continued to get an MFA and during that MFA is when I started to combine photography with drawing. I essentially wanted to draw with light in a more literal way.

Can you share what cyanotype is for us?

A cyanotype is world’s oldest photographic printing technique. The cyanotype emulsion helped develop the light sensitive negatives that we later knew as film. It’s an emulsion consisting two chemicals that together become sensitive to light. When you coat a paper with that emulsion, you let it dry in a darm room, then, whatever shadow you cast on that paper and expose to the sun it will become white and what was exposed becomes dark dark deep cyan blue. It is beautiful. It still intrigues me. The first book done with cyanotypes was an encyclopedia of ocean flora by Ana Atkins.

 

Were you interested in editorial illustrating when you went to work at the national newspaper De Volkskrantllustrating?

Yes and also photography. I ended up doing all sorts of imagery. Whatever they needed. If you have ever worked at a newspaper you know what a crazy jungle it can be. It was during my internship at The Volkskrant that I, through trial and error, learned what my limits were and what I was good at. I think it was the start of me accepting who I was and trusting that if I gave in to what came natural to me things would turn out okay for me. Ongoing learning process!

 

Were you attending University of Amsterdam during this time when you submitted your work to Fiep Westendorp Stimuleringsprijs, Holland’s most prestigious illustration
award?

Yes, or I had just graduated a couple months before that. Because I submitted my graduation work.

 

What did you submit to get nominated for the award?

My graduation work consisted of 7 large original cyanotypes. 18×24” if I believe.

What inspired you to travel to Macau Chins to teach children history of Photography, Photography as a Visual Language, and Photography as a Medium of Expression at the School of The Nations in China?

After somewhat burning out at the The Volkskrant and breaking up my first relationship you could say I was somewhat lost. I was 23 and looking for experiences that would make me grow. My dad had a colleague who’s daughter had been working in Macau for over 10 years and I wrote her asking if I could come volunteer.

My graduation project at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco consisted of 7 images inspired on the book ‘Madeline’. I produced them all with cyanotypes. Then colored parts of them in with Procreate on my iPad. My agent at the time said that this work was beautiful but not commercial enough to promote on their website, so I had to change my style in order to get illustration work.

Here are some of the cyanotype images from my thesis and from my own archive: 

Did you have to learn Chinese?

No, because it was an international school and everybody spoke English.

How did you decide to move to San Francisco to continue your MFA?

Well, Macau was only a three month position. I knew I wanted to study illustration after my internship at The Volkskrant. All arrows just pointed into that direction.
I had actually enrolled before going to Macau but I knew that Macau was a once in a lifetime experience and I didn’t want to let that slip through my fingers. So, I did my first semester at the Academy of Art university off campus while I was teaching in Macau. As far as why I picked the Academy of Art. Since I was born in Boston I always have had an
American passport. I could teach and study at the same time, which international students on a visa cannot. I had also visited California for the first time and just really loved the illustration department. At the there was no school in The Netherlands where you could in depth learn about
the fundamentals of drawing and major in Children’s Book’s illustration.

Did you know anyone in San Francisco when you arrived in the USA?

Not really. I had some family living in Reno. Which now in the meantime I have gotten to know very well.

How and when did you get started doing Murals?

I love this question, because it was a turning point for me. I had actually been teaching photography at The Academy of Art University while studying illustration at the same time. But what I was noticing was that even though I loved both, I really couldn’t go wide and deep at the same time. After two years my brain really asked me to choose one if I wanted to get good at drawing or grow as a professor. I was scared to lose my job as a teacher for financial reasons. But in the end I said to myself “Airin, don’t let fear make this decision. Jump for once and go in to become the artist that you want to be and commit to it.”. Doing murals was the solution to the financial problem. I needed a side gig that would still be related to drawing and would help me grow as an artist instead of pulling me into a different direction. During my last year of my MFA
in Children’s Books Illustration I had done about 5 murals and I had a lot of momentum and clients lined up. So, when I graduated I wasn’t totally terrified of being empty handed as far as having a job. Little did I know that Covid was around the corner and would completely kill my momentum. That’s when I got an agent and started to focus more on Children’s book. But quitting my teaching job and doing murals was the committing to becoming a professional artist.

What sparked your interest in illustrating children’s books?

When I was little I was always drawing and writing my own stories. I actually wrote a lot of poems too. I did that first I think, when I was really young. Like 8 or 9 years or so.

In May of 2021 you illustrated a board book titled When I Hold You by Ashley Huffstutler. Was this your first illustrated children’s book?

Yes.

How did B&H Kids find you for the illustration job?

They contacted my agent Astound.

 

Were you working on your second board book God’s Always Loving You, while finishing When I Hold You?

Yes!

Was Love You, Little Lady your first Illustrated picture book?

Yes :).

How hard was it to juggle illustrating three books in such close dates?

Haha. It was pretty tough. But looking back pretty essential to grow as a professional. COVID was in my favor. Because all my distractions disappeared and I was at home all day focused on getting it done.

How and when did you connect with your agency, Astound?

Right after I graduated and COVID hit. March 2020 I believe. I just sent them an email.

Last year I found your illustrations when I featured Some Bodies by Sophie Kennen. How long did it take you to illustrated that book?

Ehm.. The process was about 6 months I think. But not full-time hours.

I see that The Mermaid with No Tail in coming out this year in September. How far are you in the illustration

I would say I am half way through rendering the final art. So over half-way done.

What do you feel influenced your illustrating style?

Well, in the beginning my cyanotypes really influenced my style. But since working with bigger publishers and tighter deadlines, there is just no time for traditional media and I just don’t seem to find the space and time to work with cyanotypes. Further, I look at a lot of artist and if I like their work I try to study it and incorporate whatever it is that I like about it in my own work. But honestly I struggle a lot, because I often feel that I am trying to make things perfect instead of having more fun while doing it. See, when I was doing cyanotypes I didn’t have that problem. But, unfortunately it is also part of the job to give publishers a little bit of what they want, and dot eyes don’t sell. Muted colors also don’t sell. And like this there is more. So, I think that working in the professional field has shaped my work because I have to work with the time limitations. It’s a loaded question for me at the moment. But as far as what influences or inspires my work in general, let’s say something I draw for pleasure, for myself, then what always drives me is just the place within myself that makes me feel warm and safe. My happy place sounds cliche, but I think that’s what it is.

Would you consider illustrating a book for an author who wants to self-publish?

If the project holds enough value for me, yes.

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

I don’t really count because I am always drawing when I am working. I would say I try to be mindful about how much I work. To stay healthy.

Do you take pictures or research a project before you start?

I do style and color research, yes. I tune in to what I would like the final book to feel like when I hold it in my hands once published and that’s what I try to hold onto for the duration of the production process.

Do you think the Internet has opened doors for you?

Yes and no. As far as getting an agent and communicating remotely with art directors and publishers, yes. I also get a lot of emails from people wanting to publish their first children’s book looking for an illustrator. As well as commissions. Instagram is great for doing commissioned work. The downside of the internet is dat so much information is available, and it is still sometimes hard for me to not get intimidated by seeing so many great artists out there. The algorithms know how to bombard me with the stuff that I really love, not just illustration, and sometimes I feel that because I see so much great stuff it is hard to really still be impressed or moved by something anymore. I have to desensitize first before I take in new information, or before I judge my own work within the framework of myself – if that makes sense. From what I remember from before the internet I was never comparing myself to other artists in a way that would make me feel bad about myself. I compared myself to myself and that was always a positive curve upwards. And if I saw other people’s work, which was not that often and never while in the middle of my own project, it was an inspiration and something that would motivate me to become even better. Now everything has changed and it gets hard sometimes.

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

I work on my iPad Pro with Procreate. The very first sketches are often on small pieces of paper.

Do you use Photoshop or Painter or Procreate with your illustrations?

Procreate.

Do you have any career dreams you want to fulfill?

I would really love to make enough money from my business as an artist. I have another hobby and that’s making animal dolls and bears, I just love my sewing machine. It’s a different way for me to bring characters to life. I love fabric. If I could somehow bring it all together, in a shop, or a YouTube channel… or who knows. That would be great. But one step at the time. If I could first bring back my cyanotypes or some other way of working non digitally back to my work flow, that would be amazing. I just don’t know how yet!

What are you working on now?

I am working on Mermaid With No Tail a picture book with Sounds True Press, I am also working on another book with Little Simon, I have a couple murals and two family portraits
lined up. And I have an 8 month old baby to take care of!!!!

Do you have any material type tips you can share with us?

Paint or paper Just do whatever feels good to you, that you love – the best place to feel better is in nature first!

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

Well, when I was younger I used to do great work in an impuls. However it was never sustainable because I couldn’t repeat it on a consistent basis. So, essentially I never really learned a lot. This might sounds a bit abstract, but what I am trying to say is that I learned over time that when you put hard work in, you will grow in a deep way. Not just on the surface. But you really can make your skills your own. And even when you get tired of something, just take a break. But don’t quit.

For some people this is basic, but the basic wasn’t obvious for me for a long time. So if I can help someone else out there who feels like they are going in circles, I just want to say: even when it is really boring, or it hurts, or you don’t see the point, maybe you need to go take a breath, go for a walk and don’t make any decisions from a disregulated state.

Airin, thank you for taking the time to answer the interview questions and sharing your process. Please let me know about your future books and successes so I can share them with everyone.

You can visit Airin using the following links:

WEBSITE: https://www.airinocallaghan.com/

INSTAGRAM: https://www.instagram.com/airinocallaghan/

LINKEDIN: https://www.linkedin.com/in/irene-o-callaghan

ETSY: https://www.etsy.com/shop/airinsworld

FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/airin.ocallaghan

AGENCY: https://astound.us/publishing/Irene-o-callaghan

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

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