Posted by: Kathy Temean | May 27, 2017

Illustrator Saturday – Chantelle and Burgen Thorne


Once upon a time, two (married) graphic designers working in advertising (Chantelle) and publishing (Burgen) in South Africa decided to follow their dreams and become illustrators – their shared passion. Then they had an even brighter idea – to collaborate on their artworks  together – and now it’s very difficult to say which illustration belongs to whom! Thanks to the liberating  powers of the internet and email, Chantelle and Burgen left the Big City in 2006 and headed to the green hills of
KwaZulu-Natal, where they now live in blissful country idyll, having a marvellous time creating illustrations that combine traditional media with the glorious flexibility of new technology. When meeting new people, they take turns at answering the question ‘so what do you do for a living?’ because they get a huge kick out of saying ‘we illustrate children’s books’!

Their work is lively and expressive, full of life and movement. A bit like them! Their most recent project spans over 2000 illustrations to date, with an original cast of quirky characters and detailed sets designed and developed by them for Pearson South Africa. Other clients include Macmillan, Heinemann, Hodder, Oxford University Press and Cambridge University Press to name a few.

HERE’S CHANTELLE AND BURGEN DISCUSSING THEIR PROCESS:

After reading the artbriefs, we storyboard the book together. In this process we discuss and develop a series of sketches, a visual feel for the story. This involves the character placement and action, reader viewpoint, flow, sequencing, visual hierarchy, layout, environment and settings. We treat it as a theatrical stage.

We then source reference and specific content for accuracy and authenticity.

For each artwork, we expand on the storyboard sketch and draw up the roughs, which we then review together and tweak as necessary. We used to draw roughs with pencil and then re-trace the line-work to ink on paper, scan, touch-up and place. Phew! Now (since last September) we draw directly with desk tablet and stylus, or drawing monitor and stylus, whichever is appropriate. The software we currently use is Photoshop.

Sets and backgrounds are drawn and simultaneously inked up digitally into their relevant pages, referring to the earlier sketches and references. We use specific custom pencil and colour presets. The backgrounds and sets are drawn in grey line, this lets the characters come forward (as they are black line).

Characters are now drawn and inked directly onto the sets or backgrounds, also using the presets. We add a thick outline to the main characters to get them to stand out from the action.

Sets and characters are prepped for rendering. The characters are given subtle form using a bevel and emboss style. We use a custom created texture to create the colour layer and then adjust it using hue/saturation – no boring, static, flat, repetitive, computer fill or pattern. Like a piece of paper that has been scanned, our specially created texture has noise, unpredictability.

Characters are rendered using specific pre-made colour actions. The character actions adjust the main texture for each of the character’s colours: skin, shirt pattern, splatters, eye colour etc.

We also colour the sets using pre-set actions to alter the colour to a Vuma green, red, blue etc.

Masks are applied to characters, set and page formats. When we draw the characters or sets we draw a full figure or set, even if it’s not seen eg the two boys standing in the waves. This is so that we can then move them around to get a better layout or re-use the set with other characters in a new book.

Detail is added last eg movement lines, shadows, highlights, text, transparencies, steam etc.

How long have you been illustrating?

BURGEN: In 1990, after qualifying as a graphic designer, I did a fourth year specializing in illustration and had the opportunity to work on content and cover illustrations for Centaur Publishing (now Shuter and Shooter). These stood me in good stead when I moved back up to Johannesburg and started my business, Crazy Cat Designs, in 1995. So that’s, uhhmmm, 22 years! Holy cow! I didn’t realize it had been that long!

CHANTELLE: I had a great career as a Creative Director in an ad agency in Durban (which was the fulfillment of my college dreams), but when I moved up to Johannesburg in 1999, I felt it was time to pursue another big dream of becoming an illustrator, specifically of children’s books. I put together a portfolio, knocked on some doors and was lucky enough to be offered my first commission in a matter of weeks. I’ve never looked back!

On the collaborative side, we ended up working through the night together to finish some watercolour illustrations for a Religious Education book going to the Sudan back in 2008, and we have slowly done more and more together since then. It’s maybe about 4 years now since we started working on every illustration together and we just found that it works for us. Two heads are better than one, and all that.

Out & About Circus

What and when was the first painting or illustration that you did where someone paid you for your artwork?

CHANTELLE: I did a wedding portrait for a friend of a friend when I first started working. That would early 1990’s I gues

BURGEN: Our GD (graphic design) HOD Brian Andrews was a great help to me when I was studying and he found me my first commission. I did a set of video game covers in second year and, to my (and my parents’) delight, I got paid!

Did either or both of you attend College to study art? If so, where did you go?

BOTH: We went to Durban Technikon and studied Graphic Design. That’s where we met. We sat together from the very first day in first year – how about that?

What do you think influenced your style?

BURGEN: I think we’re only really developing our specific style now that we are in a global arena. The South African publishing industry is quite small compared to others around the world, so we had to be able to handle a variety of different styles to match whatever the publisher required for their specific market.

CHANTELLE: We have been very lucky to be working on a large, far reaching  project (by SA standards) for the past few years – the Vuma books for Pearson SA. The initial brief required a style to be developed that could be imitated and reproduced by other illustrators as the number of books and volume of marketing material is staggering. This long range work has definitely helped us refine a style and a process that we’ve applied to over 2000 illustrations to date!

Deadline and tight timing is another major influencing factor in what style we can apply. I remember a lecturer telling us that ‘graphic design is solving a problem the best way you can in the time available’. So being as creative as we can within the constraints of a tight deadline is a biggie!

What type of jobs did you do right after you graduated?

CHANTELLE: One of our lecturers, Barry van Heerden, was also the Creative Director of a small agency in Durban and he offered me a position as a junior designer. It was a great start for me and I was there for several years.

BURGEN: I had those illustrating jobs I’ve already mentioned back in fourth year and then I worked on a lifestyle magazine called ‘Hello Johannesburg’ for about a year. I started looking for work in the publishing world and enjoyed quite a bit of success doing cover design and illustration, so I stated my own business (Crazy Cat Designs).

 

What made you move KwaZulu-Natal? What town is near you?

BURGEN: Wow! That’s an expansive question. I could talk for hours on this one! Gimme a minute to think of a nutshell version of the answer…

CHANTELLE: The nearest town to us is Mooi River – mooi means pretty in Afrikaans, so Pretty River. It’s about 14km away.

BURGEN: So the short version goes like this: as a kid, my favourite book was John Seymour’s ‘Self Suffiency’. It was the starting point for a whole lot of wannabe country people leaving the cities and starting their own smallholdings. I must say that the reality is far different to the pretty pictures in the book! For one thing, there’s a lot more MUD involved!

So growing our own veggies, raising a few farm animals, having our horses at home – all that wonderful stuff was something I had a burning passion to try out and live for myself. (cont.)

CHANTELLE: I was born and raised in Kwa-Zulu Natal and said to Burgen when I moved up to Jo’burg in ‘99 that there was no way I would spend more than 5 years in the big smoke! We were there for 7 years, but it was definitely time to up stakes and get out. Our holidays were always out in some rural heaven somewhere and that’s where we really wanted to be. Here in the green hills of the Midlands, we have the most magnificent life: the air is fresh, the views are spectacular, the walks are long and untroubled by traffic. I could go on and on…

BURGEN: Here’s another big part of living our dream – building our own house. We gathered inspiration of what we would build: we loved stone houses in Provence and Tuscany. We had a look at building ‘green’: stone means no painting, solar geysers, wooden window frames. We wanted a property with nothing at all on it – a blank canvas for us to paint in our vision, so that’s what we bought and that’s where we started.

CHANTELLE: We’ve been building for 10years now. My mom-in-law jokes that we are the South African version of ‘Grand Designs’! We started in a caravan and gathered sandstone from our own land to build our house – very, very eco-friendly. Every year we just think of more stuff we want to do and better ways to do it. This is an amazing adventure and even though we are a decade in, we feel like we’re just getting started!

When did you decide you wanted to illustrate for children?

CHANTELLE: I remember LadyBird books and GoldenBooks from my childhood. I used to be transported by the pictures and the details in those early stories and would spend hours ‘in’ the illustrations – actually feeling like I was IN there! I’m sure I never thought about career as a little kiddie, but this was always what I wanted to do – make pictures that children would love the way I loved those early books.

BURGEN: I started collecting children’s books in my second year of studies because I just loved the illustration. The idea grew in my mind until it became something I just HAD to do.

Have you ever illustrated a picture book?

BOTH: Loads!

BURGEN: Up until now we have been mostly involved in educational publishing and this involves lots and lots of readers and picture books at the Grade R to Grade 3 levels. Please excuse us showing off a bit here: we have done illustrations for upwards of 500 books (a conservative figure) and our favourites are the ones where the pictures tell the story.

CHANTELLE: Obviously.

Vuma literacy series

How do you work as a team? Does one of you come up with the idea and start working on it and the other finish the color?

CHANTELLE: This is something we are refining and re-defining as we go along. Often, I will do the initial sketches of the characters and take them through to ink and Burgen will do the background sketches and the finalizing of those. He always says my car wheels look like someone has driven over them several times! So rude.

BURGEN: We work together to plan out the book, what we’re gonna do on each page, which pages will have what backgrounds, where we want to ‘zoom in’ on character interaction etc. Then usually I will set up all the correct sizes and begin work on backgrounds which will then bounce back to Chantelle to sketch in characters. We’ll get together for a review and make whatever changes we think we need to at this stage. Then we’ll finish the inking and colouring together, dividing up who’s doing what depending on what each of us would actually like to do. (cont.)

CHANTELLE: For example, on a recent book, Burgen felt like he wanted to work on the colour and add detail to the landscapes in the background – which was perfect, because I wanted to colour the animals. Sometimes we each take a single character and work our way through the book just focusing on that particular character. This creates a good consistency of face and body shape, as well as making sure that all the special little quirks of that character are maintained (like splatters on their clothes, mismatched shoes, leaves in their hair etc)

BURGEN: This is all quite specific to Vuma. We are experimenting with blurring these roles more for our entries into competitions or on other work where we have a bit of time to play – ‘bouncing’ the idea and initial concept sketches back and forth a lot more as we slowly craft and shape the idea up  and then doing the same with the colour. We are introducing a ‘culling’ phase, where we ditch or simplify overly fiddled bits and also an ‘adding’ phase, where we may take to traditional media to create a watercolour or pastel shape/line/element to scan in and fill out our illustration. Naturally, this process sometimes leads to a little argument.

CHANTELLE: Negotiation.

BURGEN: Compromise.

Did you take classes to learn digital painting?

BOTH: No. The programs are just so cool that you can’t help fooling around with all the technology and finding tools and effects you love to use. The more you play with it, the more you learn. It’s not the basics that you need, it’s the stuff you have to dig around for and gyp just a bit to make it your own – that’s the fun part!

CHANTELLE: Having said all that, we love new tech and new ideas so a course in ‘how to’ on a new program would be a great ‘leg-up’!

You say your illustrations are a mix of traditional and digital. Could you explain how that works? Do you do textures using watercolors and then scan them in? (cont.)

BURGEN: In our earlier process (prior to September 2016), we used a lot of traditional pencil sketches and pen and ink to create characters and sketch pages, but backgrounds and colour were mostly done using a desktop tablet and Photoshop. We try to never use flat digital colour – it’s completely dead to the eye – we use textures and splatters that we create using whatever media appeals and bring those into our work, sometimes in the background, sometimes as a pattern, sometimes even as a focus.

CHANTELLE: I used to be put off using a desktop tablet because of the disconnect that happens between hand/eye and drawing (which I see as a sort of L-shaped warped detour), but last September, we invested in a miraculous little piece of technology that has literally changed our lives! We bought a drawing monitor so that I can draw directly onto/into the computer just as if I were drawing onto paper. So now we use almost no paper (save the planet!) and we save huge wads of time (mostly spent doing super-dull things like scanning, re-tracing pencil work into ink on the light box and other boring stuff).  This means we have gone a bit more digital lately, but in a weird sort of paradox, it allows us to use traditional media (such as a painted line or texture) in a far more creative way.

Has most of your illustrating been for Educational publishers?

BOTH: So far yes.

How did you get your work noticed by Pearson South Africa?

CHANTELLE: That’s kind of hard to say because we’ve been ‘out there’ in the SA publishing arena for a heckuva long time and we have done work for loads of people who have changed jobs or companies over the years, and who have (hopefully) also said nice things about us and our work wherever they have gone. Networking – if I were to sum it up I’d go with networking.

 

Did you do any book covers while getting started doing freelance illustrating?

BURGEN: Yes. Book cover design and illustration were the backbone of Crazy Cats, the business I started up in ’95.Do you have any desire to write and illustrate your own children’s book?

CHANTELLE: I’m so glad you asked that question (huge grin). Here at home in SA I am actually the published author of 6 books – all readers, all for the education market. Two are picture books for Grade R (‘Clip, Clop, Stop’ and ‘On My Way to School’ – published by Shuter and Shooter), one is a skit on the Survivor reality shows called ‘Survival’ (published by Cambridge University Press as part of their Rainbow Reading series) and takes the form of a comic book for a slightly older reader. The other three are chapter books in an adventure series that have been translated into Zulu, Xhosa and Afrikaans for Shuter and Shooter’s Zebra Reading Series. They are titled ‘Midnight Rescue’, ‘The Raging River’ and ‘Rustlers’.

We have lots of ideas about more books we’d like to write and illustrate. Burgen’s current hobby horse is a series called ‘Stories You Don’t Want Your Children To Hear’!

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

BOTH: Absolutely! Some of our best friends are authors and we have done covers or content for several of their self-published works. Paddy Guilbride’s Skuddabuddy series, a cover for Nalini Sooknanan’s Storm and Skye series and several covers for Rob Preston-Whyte’s books on Kindle.

Have you ever tried to illustrate a wordless picture book?

CHANTELLE: Not quite a wordless book, but we’d love to! Any offers?

Some books we’ve illustrated have only a single word or a sentence of five words, but we have yet to tackle a just-pictures book.

 

Have you done any illustrating for children’s magazines?

CHANTELLE: Sadly, kids’ mags don’t seem to have really taken off in South Africa. I did an illustration for a proposed magazine called the ChatterBox to be launched in the Cape Town area, but it didn’t get much support.

 

How did you find representation with The Organisation? How long have you been with them?

BURGEN: I set out to find us an agent last year – made a list of all the top agencies in the UK and narrowed it down to about 24 favourites. We selected our best work and submitted our portfolio in February 2016. We had a great response – 5 replies out of 24 emails – but we loved the Organisation’s enthusiastic reply so we said a resounding YES to them! Both Lorraine and the team at The Organisation have been working hard at getting us known in the global market and have given us lots of pointers on what we could do to add to and improve our portfolio and increase our appeal to markets other than education (which is clearly our speciality). Also, thanks to The Org’s urging, we have finally taken the social media plunge and in April this year, we got up and out there! Hello, wide world!

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

CHANTELLE: The massive Vuma project has kept us very busy for the past three years and so we have been in the luxurious position of not actually having to go looking for work – very, very fabulous! However, all good things must come to an end – Vuma will be winding down within the next year, so it’s time for us to look for new adventures. There are quite a few Illustration competitions that are well supported by the industry, so we are working on a few ‘wow!’ pieces for those. We’re also very optimistic about our social media bringing our work to the notice of ‘the right people’. Let’s not forget our tireless agents, The Organisation, who are busy circulating our work and putting us forward for projects.

BURGEN: Over the years we have built relationships with many people in the SA publishing industry –artwork commissioners, editors, project managers, publishers etc – and we are often approached with new work from all those wonderful contacts. It takes time to build a network but it’s time very well spent!

What is your favorite medium to use?

BURGEN: Digital. If it’s not digital, it must be a huge big canvas, and those fat oil paint sticks. Love those!

CHANTELLE: Watercolour. Ink. They’re favourites because I know them so well – they’re like old friends.\

Has that changed over time?

BOTH: Not really. It’s strange, but no.

Do you have a studio set up in your home?

BOTH: Absolutely! With mattresses for our dogs under our desks. Our canine companions are with us all day, every day. We’re the lucky ones!

BURGEN: We are always reshuffling our studio. We built skylights into the roof (to be energy efficient) but we forgot that the sun shifts position through the year, so we jiggle our desks around to get the screens out of the glare as the seasons roll. We’re also planning to put in some heating this winter, so there’s another change ahead. We quite like it – it shakes things up!

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

CHANTELLE: Deadlines rule. They come first and foremost and have eaten up most of our time in our working days. BUT with our lovely new technology, we have freed up some precious time to play. ‘Play’ means doing expansive, more creative things – like competitions (which we have never had time to participate in up until now) and developing our style together.

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

BURGEN: Research is my thing! It’s amazing how much we have learned from researching material and pictures for our illustrations. For example, we researched dinosaurs in South Africa for a reader called Karoo Monsters, and what we found out just knocked our socks off! We always take care to research cultures and traditions for artwork that goes into other regions, like Sudan, the Caribbean, Kenya etc. In our own country, we have eleven official languages and very specific styles of traditional dress for different language groups, so we get reference and check facts before starting to draw.

Do you think the Internet has opened doors for you?

BOTH: We could not live where we do and work the way we do without it. The Internet is the key that has opened so many doors for us.

CHANTELLE: I remember spending hours in the car driving around to see clients. Now we work with people from all over the world who I may never even meet!

BURGEN: And we can access pictures and information about every place and culture that we illustrate right from our studio. Desktop travel – no jet lag! It’s great.

Do you use Photoshop or Painter with your illustrations?

BURGEN: We use Photoshop all the time. The other program I’m quite keen to try is Rebelle 2. It’s got some brilliant watercolour effects and really believable brushes.

 

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

BURGEN: I use a desk tablet and stylus and Chantelle uses a drawing monitor and stylus.

What would you say was your biggest success?

BOTH: Vuma – without a doubt! When we were invited to pitch for this work we were so excited. We fell in love with the characters and went all out to impress with our original pencil sketch of the treehouse and sample characters. We were over the moon when Pearson selected us as the chief illustrators on this series. We created all the main characters, pets, caregivers, teachers, bedrooms, houses, school and overview of the town of Vuma as well as a very comprehensive style guide. We have now illustrated 112 readers for levels 0-8 and are onto level 9. This brings us to a whopping total of 2 160 A3 full colour illustrations in the last 3 years. We are enormously grateful to Pearson SA for this amazing work. We’ve learned so much working on Vuma and it has been (and still is) an incredible experience.

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

BOTH: We’d love to go from being successful South African illustrators to successful illustrators globally. That would be BIG for us! Huge, actually.

What are you working on now?

CHANTELLE: You mean other than Vuma? (laughs)

BURGEN: Yes, mainly Vuma Level 9. We do have a few small projects on the go for Macmillan South Africa and for Tom Hardy Publishers in the UK and we are working on our entries for a competition. I won’t say what it is ‘cos if we don’t LOVE the art we create, we won’t enter it.

Salahaddin

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.

CHANTELLE: My biggie tip is never, ever go with a straight digital background. Always muss it up with uneven-ness. The eye hates uniformity. So scan in paper, paint up a watercolour wash, moosh some pastels around and scan that in. Have a little fun with it!

BURGEN: Technology rocks! Don’t be afraid to lose the pen and paper. Get a screen and try it out – you’ll never look back. You’ll be eco-friendly, save money on materials and save lots and lots of time that would otherwise be wasted (looking for your eraser, redrawing, tracing templates etc). Repetitive tasks (like final production) can be programmed as actions in Photoshop and that also is an excellent time-saver. This is another wonderful thing we learned on the Vuma project – actions. It’s amazing what you can get them to do!

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

BURGEN: Ask Kathy Temean to please, please interview you!!

CHANTELLE: Work on your portfolio. Look at what’s out there and practice doing styles you like. When you present your work to a potential client (or an agent, if you’re at that stage) make sure that it is only your very best pieces. Cull everything that is mediocre or weak (in your opinion). Be ruthless when you do this. Test your work on others (not your mom!). Listen to constructive criticism and learn from it but don’t take it personally – it’s meant to help not hinder. Realise that the work you did yesterday may be good, but we can always be better – so keep striving, keep practicing, keep learning. Stay curious about your craft and have fun – it’ll show in your work.

Thank you Chantelle and Burgen 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 their work, you can visit: http://www.organisart.co.uk/Artist/116/Chantelle-and-Burgen-Thorne.html

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

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

Posted by: Kathy Temean | May 26, 2017

Featured Agent – Jennie Dunham Part Three Interview

Jennie Dunham owner of Dunham Literary Agency has agreed to be May’s Featured Agents and will critique four first pages from the submissions sent in this month. She has been a literary agent in New York, New York since May 1992. In August 2000 she founded Dunham Literary, Inc.

She represents authors of quality fiction and nonfiction books for adults and children and some illustrators of children’s books.

She has been a member of AAR (Association of Authors Representatives) since 1993 and is a member of the SCBWI. She served on the Program Committee and was Program Committee Director for several years. She was also a member of the Electronic Committee.

In 1996 she attended the US/China Joint Women in Business conference in Beijing where she gave a presentation about literary agents in the US. She also attended the NGO Forum at the International Women’s Conference.

She attended international meetings as the AAR representative to create the ISTC (International Standard Text Code) which is being created to ISO (International Standardization Organization) specifications. This business and tracking system will be based on titles not book formats (as is the case with ISBN) and will work in tandem with ISBN.

She started her career at John Brockman Associates and then Mildred Marmur Associates. She was employed by Russell & Volkening for 6 years before she left to found Dunham Literary, Inc.

PART THREE OF INTERVIEW WITH JENNIE DUNHAM:

What happens if you don’t sell this book? Do you keep trying? Do you go back to the drawing board? When do you tell the client to work on something else?

There is no single plan that fits all authors and books. Sometimes I keep trying. Sometimes I talk with a client about revisions if one or more editors have responded with comments that resonate with me as changes that would improve the manuscript.

Waiting for responses is one of the hardest parts of having a manuscript on submission, so I recommend that clients immerse themselves in writing the next project. I’ve also had the experience that the first project doesn’t sell, but then the second project does. Sometimes I can turn that deal into a two book offer. And if not, authors often go back to that first manuscript with fresh eyes and solid experience to revise the first manuscript.

How many editors do you go to before giving up?

There isn’t one answer to this. If I get consistent feedback from editors, I can pass that along to a client, and we can talk about a possible revision. I find that revisions during the submission process can be very helpful.

How long is your average client relationship?

I’ve represented some of my clients for over 20 years. It’s satisfying to see writers build like that. But it is equally exciting to find a new writer with a voice I’m passionate about.

Are you open to authors who write multiple genres? 

Yes, as long as I represent all those genres.

Do you enjoy attending writer’s conferences?

I love them! They are as inspirational to me as to the attendees. I’m at home on a stage and really enjoy public speaking from my days in the theater as a kid. While it takes some work to put together a new talk, making a new presentation allows me to reflect on my business and the creative process which is rewarding to me and I hope as well to the audience. I like reading manuscript samples and meeting with new writers to give critiques too. Meeting new writers and watching them develop is part of the fun of working in publishing.

SUBMISSION GUIDELINES For FIRST PAGE CRITIQUES:

In the subject line, please write “April 2017  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). REMEMBER: ATTACH THE WORD DOCUMENT AND NOT GET ELIMINATED!

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: May 25th.

RESULTS: June 2nd.

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 | May 25, 2017

Book Giveaway – Peep and Egg

Laura Gehl has agreed to participate in our book giveaways and offer one lucky person a copy of her book PEEP AND EGG:I’M NOT HATCHING. 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 to discover the winner.

BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Egg is not hatching.

No way. No how.

It is too scary out there.

Peep wants Egg to hatch so they can do fun things together, like watch the sunrise, splash in puddles, and play hide-and-seek.
But Egg is not cracking…

Joyce Wan’s bright and bold illustrations will have young chickies giggling at Laura Gehl’s reassuring tale that takes the not out of I’m not.

THE BOOK’S JOURNEY:

The Peep and Egg series all started with the line “I’M NOT HATCHING!”

That line hatched in my brain in the middle of the night, which is when I get many of my best ideas and also lots of terrible ideas (Last night the idea that popped into my head was…dancing pants.  Good idea or terrible idea? You decide!). Once I started imagining a little chick who refused to hatch, I knew the book would really be—at its heart—about a scared toddler.

With my own four kids, I’ve heard “I’m not” about seventy zillion times. “I’m not going to bed,” “I’m not going swimming,” “I’m not doing my homework.” At the time, these statements often lead to power struggles, where I am yelling “JUST GO TO BED SO I CAN GO TO BED MYSELF!” But with the benefit of hindsight, I can see that many times there is an element of fear or discomfort involved. “I’m not going to bed” may be a fear of the dark, “I’m not going to school” may indicate that there is a tricky friendship problem brewing, “I’m not putting on my shoes” may mean a need for new shoes (Just imagine my mom guilt when I realized I had been forcing my son’s feet into shoes two sizes too small).

From that first line “I’M NOT HATCHING,” which kids joyfully shout at the tops of their lungs when I read the book aloud at schools, working on the Peep and Egg series has been a wonderful adventure. Joyce and I have now created four Peep and Egg books together (the next will be Peep and Egg: I’m Not Taking a Bath, releasing in October). The original Peep and Egg: I’m Not Hatching is now available in board book format and will soon be available in Spanish.

LAURA’S BIO:

Laura Gehl’s picture books include One Big Pair of Underwear, illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld, and the Peep and Egg series, illustrated by Joyce Wan.  Her next two books, both releasing in October 2017, are Peep and Egg: I’m Not Taking a Bath and Koala Challah, illustrated by Maria Mola. Laura is also excited about other upcoming books, including My Pillow Keeps Moving, illustrated by Christopher Weyant, and I Got a Chicken for My Birthday, illustrated by Sarah Horne.  In addition to books, Laura loves eating chocolate, spending time outdoors, and eating chocolate while spending time outdoors. Visit Laura online at www.lauragehl.com.

Thank you Laura for sharing your book and journey with us. The whole series looks adorable.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

Posted by: Kathy Temean | May 24, 2017

Agent Looking for Clients – Roseanne Wells

Roseanne Wells

Associate Agent

Roseanne Wells joined The Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency as an associate agent in 2012. Previously with the Marianne Strong Literary Agency, she has also worked as a proofreader and a special sales/editorial assistant. She graduated from Sarah Lawrence College with degrees in Literature and Dance. An avid reader, Roseanne discovered her passion for book publishing during her internship at W. W. Norton, and she approaches agenting as a writer’s advocate, editor, and partner. She is a member of SCBWI and a volunteer for Housing Works Bookstore Cafe in Soho, NYC. You can find her on Twitter @RivetingRosie.

What I’m looking for:

In all categories, I’m eager to see diverse and underrepresented authors, marginalized stories, and crossing or blending genres.

Adult Nonfiction: I’m looking for authors who have a unique story to tell, have built a strong platform, and are dedicated to reaching their audience. I like narrative nonfiction, select memoir, science (popular or trade, not academic), history, religion (not inspirational), travel, humor, food/cooking, pop culture, and similar subjects. I’m also interested in fresh, modern self-improvement that not only inspires but energizes readers to action in this rapidly evolving world.

Adult Fiction: I’m interested in strong literary fiction that emphasizes craft and style equally, and doesn’t sacrifice plot and character for beautiful sentences; science-fiction and fantasy; con/heist stories, especially featuring art, jewelry, or tech; and smart detective novels (more Sherlock Holmes than cozy mysteries).

Children’s: I’m eager to see diverse voices and marginalized stories, unique narrative structures that support the story, and unreliable narrators. I’m looking for young adult and middle grade of all genres that connect me to a strong main character and a singular voice. I’m also open to picture books, especially from author/illustrators. I love cranky, mischievous characters that grow throughout the narrative, and stories that are fun and hilarious for children (and the adults who will read them 500 times). Nonfiction picture books in STEM, science, arts, and biographies are a big plus for me. I’m not interested in rhyming picture books or overly sweet and sentimental stories. 

How to submit

Please email a one-page query letter to queryroseanne@gmail.com. Please include “Query” and your title in the subject line of the email, your contact information, and the first 20 pages pasted into the body of the email below the letter. Picture book authors should send one manuscript; I may request more if I’m interested. Illustrators should copy and paste artwork into the body of the email and send an expanded link (no bit.ly/vren23 type of links) to an online portfolio. No attachments will be opened. You will receive an automatic message once you submit. I only accept email queries, and any queries sent by regular mail will not be considered.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

Laurie Warchol is the winner of Cricket in the Thicket by Carol Murray
Please send address.

The submissions period for the second annual Louise Meriwether First Book Prize is now open! The prize was founded in 2016 to honor the legacy of author Louise Meriwether by publishing a debut work by a woman or nonbinary author of color. The prize is granted to a manuscript that follows in the tradition of Meriwether’s Daddy Was a Number Runner, one of the first contemporary American novels featuring a young black girl as the protagonist. Meriwether’s groundbreaking text inspired the careers of writers like Jacqueline Woodson and Bridgett M. Davis, among many others. The prize continues this legacy of telling much-needed stories that shift culture and inspire new writers.

The inaugural prize was awarded to writer YZ Chin for her short story collection, Though I Get Home. The Feminist Press will publish Chin’s collection in spring 2018.

First time authors, submit your complete manuscript, either fiction or nonfiction, of 30,000 to 80,000 words, and you could receive a $5,000 advance and publication by the Feminist Press.

Finalists will be notified in October. One winner will be announced in February 2018.

ELIGIBILITY:

The Louise Meriwether First Book Prize is open to women of color and nonbinary writers of color who are residents of the fifty (50) United States, the District of Columbia, and US territories and possessions; 18 years of age or older at time of entry; and who have not had a book published or have a book under contract at the time of submission. All federal, state, and local regulations apply. LIMIT ONE ENTRY PER PERSON. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED OR RESTRICTED. Candidates may not submit the same manuscript in subsequent years unless specifically invited by the Feminist Press. Employees of the Feminist Press and TAYO Literary Magazine and their immediate family members and persons living in their household are not eligible to enter.

JUDGING:

There will be two (2) rounds of judging, as follows:

Round 1: All entries will be reviewed by a group of judges made up of staff, board members, and allies of the Feminist Press and TAYO Literary Magazine. Finalists for the prize will be notified in October.

Round 2: The top five (5) submissions chosen in the first round will be reviewed by acclaimed authors Bridgett M. Davis and Ana Castillo, along with a Feminist Press representative and TAYO Literary Magazine editor-in-chief Melissa R. Sipin. The panel will choose one manuscript as the winning entry from that group. The winner will be announced in February 2018.

ENTRY PERIOD:

Contest entries will be accepted beginning at 12:01:01 AM (Eastern Time) on May 1, 2017, and all entries must be received no later than 11:59:59 PM (Eastern Time) on July 31, 2017. Entries submitted prior to or after the entry period will not be considered.

HOW TO ENTER:

All manuscripts should be sent to louisemeriwetherprize [at] gmail [dot] com with the subject line “First Book Prize” followed by your name and book title. Please send manuscript as a PDF, and also include a cover letter as a separate attachment with author statement, a brief bio, how your work fits with the Feminist Press, your manuscript’s word count, and a brief list of writers (up to three) you consider are part of your writing lineage.

The work submitted for consideration may not be under contract elsewhere.

PRIZE:

One winner will be awarded a $5,000 advance (half at the time of the initial award and half upon publication) and a contract to publish their book with the Feminist Press in print and digital editions in spring 2019. We expect to work closely with the winner and provide editorial guidance on their manuscript.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

Posted by: Kathy Temean | May 22, 2017

BOOK GIVEAWAY: THE LAST CHERRY BLOSSOM

Congratulations to author Kathleen Burkinshaw on her new book THE LAST CHERRY BLOSSOM. She has agreed to participate in our book giveaways. 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 to discover the winner.

BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Following the seventieth anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, this is a new, very personal story to join Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes.

Yuriko was happy growing up in Hiroshima when it was just her and Papa. But her aunt Kimiko and her cousin Genji are living with them now, and the family is only getting bigger with talk of a double marriage! And while things are changing at home, the world beyond their doors is even more unpredictable. World War II is coming to an end, and since the Japanese newspapers don’t report lost battles, the Japanese people are not entirely certain of where Japan stands. Yuriko is used to the sirens and the air-raid drills, but things start to feel more real when the neighbors who have left to fight stop coming home. When the bombs hit Hiroshima, it’s through Yuriko’s twelve-year-old eyes that we witness the devastation and horror.

This is a story that offers young readers insight into how children lived during the war, while also introducing them to Japanese culture. Based loosely on author Kathleen Burkinshaw’s mother’s firsthand experience surviving the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, The Last Cherry Blossom hopes to warn readers of the immense damage nuclear war can bring, while reminding them that the “enemy” in any war is often not so different from ourselves.

BOOK’S JOURNEY:

The Question That Began My Journey of The Last Cherry Blossom

I always enjoyed writing from the time I was old enough to write little poems for my home-made holiday cards. In school, I loved researching for reports, and blue book exams (Yes, I was one of those people).  But my college years and my career after college didn’t involve creative writing.

But, when my daughter was four-years-old I was diagnosed with Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy, a neurological, progressive, chronic pain disorder of the sympathetic nervous system. I had spent quite a bit of time in hospitals and my career as a health care executive ended. I returned to creative writing to write stories for my daughter and deal with this sudden life change.

However, The Last Cherry Blossom(TLCB) journey wouldn’t begin until nine years later when my daughter was in seventh grade.  She told me that her class would be ending their chapter on WWII that week, and she overheard some students saying they couldn’t wait to see that ‘cool picture of the mushroom cloud’. This is where the question came in- she asked me if I would talk to her class about the people under the famous mushroom cloud, people like her grandmother.

When I was younger, my mother told me about losing her family and home in Hiroshima.  But she had not given me any specific details of this event, because the memories were still too painful for her to discuss.

After my daughter’s request, my mother bravely decided she was ready to tell me more of what happened on the most horrific day of her life.  She hoped by sharing her experience with students who were around the same age she was at the time (12-years-old), they might relate to her story. As future voters, they’d realize that the use of nuclear weapons against any country or people, for any reason, is unacceptable.

The following year I was invited back and began presenting to other schools. Teachers began to include my presentation in their history curriculum and asked if there would be a book.

I had begun writing about the life of a 12-year-old girl in Hiroshima during the last year of WWII, based on events in my mother’s life.  I began what would turn into many, many hours researching what life was like in Hiroshima during WWII, as well as interviewing my mother. I wanted to give readers new insight into how the Japanese children lived during the war, the culture, and mindset.

I attended Society of Children Book Writers and Illustrators annual conferences since they were in the same city I lived in. In 2012, I submitted 20 pages for a critique with agent Anna Olswanger.  I wasn’t offered representation, but she gave me meticulous advice and suggestions.  Four months later I asked if she might read my revised version. We did many revisions over the next 7 months. But in September 2013, she offered me representation. Three months later she began submitting my manuscript. In November of 2014 I was offered a contract from Sky Pony Press!

It was bittersweet because my mother passed away two months later. However, she did get to see the contract and knew the book would be published. I’m grateful that she also had a chance to read one of the drafts of The Last Cherry Blossom.

That summer of 2015, my family visited Hiroshima to honor my mother at the Hiroshima National Peace Memorial Hall for Atomic Bomb Victims. Standing on the same ground where she experienced so much loss and destruction when she was only twelve-years-old, broke my heart.

I then had to throw myself into the first round of revisions with my editor. Throughout this process, I had to deal not only with grief, but with pain flare ups.  If it wasn’t for my husband, daughter, and friends’ help and encouragement I could not have made this journey.

There were many days when I felt that I couldn’t write a tweet, let alone a novel. But the thought of my mother’s strength to endure all she had lost on August 6th, and still have so much love in her heart for my daughter and me; then I could create through my pain and write her story.

I hope that TLCB not only conveys the message that nuclear weapons should never be used again; but also reveals that the children in Japan had the same love for family, fear of what could happen to them, and hopes for peace as the Allied children had. I want the students to walk away knowing that the ones we may think are our “enemy” are not always so different from ourselves. A message that needs to be heard now more than ever.

KATHLEEN’S BIO:

Kathleen Burkinshaw is a Japanese American author residing in Charlotte, NC. She’s a wife, mom to a daughter in college, and owns a dog who is a kitchen ninja.  Kathleen enjoyed a 10+ year career in HealthCare Management unfortunately cut short by the onset of Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD). Writing gives her an outlet for her daily struggle with chronic pain. She has presented her mother’s experience in Hiroshima to middle schools for the past 6 years. She has carried her mother’s story in her heart and feels privileged to now share it with the world. Writing historical fiction also satisfies her obsessive love of researching anything and everything. The Last Cherry Blossom, is a SCBWI Crystal Kite Award Finalist (southeast region) and 2016 Scholastic WNDB Reading Club selection.

Thank you Kathleen for sharing your book and journey with us. It looks like a “must read” book.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

Posted by: Kathy Temean | May 21, 2017

Preparing Your Synopsis: Questions – Format – Checklist

This illustration was created by Katherine Tillotson for NICE TRY TOOTH FAIRY. She was featured on Illustrator Saturday. Here’s the link: https://kathytemean.wordpress.com/2017/03/04/illustrator-saturday-katerine-tillotson/

QUESTIONS TO ASK YOURSELF BEFORE YOU START YOUR SYNOPSIS:

1. Who is my main character. Do I have more than one Main Character? Is my main character a heroine/ hero. Do I have both a heroine and a hero?

 

2. What do they want? What do they need?

 

3. What brings the hero and heroine or the two main characters together?

 

4. What problem do they encounter at their first meeting or shortly thereafter?

 

5. How do they overcome their initial problems and achieve some measure of success?

 

6. What happens to spoil the initial success?

 

7. Where does this new problem lead?

 

8. What risk do they take to deal with this new challenge?

 

9. What is their ‘dark moment?’

 

10. How do they overcome this last obstacle?’

Asking these questions should help you structure your synopsis. Remember, standard format is 3rd person present tense.

How to format your synopsis.

Use a one inch margins on the top, bottom and sides. Justify text at the left margin only. Use Times New Roman 12 pt. font. Type your name, address, phone number, fax number and e-mail address, each on a separate line single-spaced at the top left margin on the first page of your synopsis.

If you can fit your synopsis on one page, then you can single space the text with a space between paragraphs . If it goes over one page, then double space your text. Editors generally want one or two pages, but if you must go longer than you must – just keep it tight. You should always check a publisher’s submission guidelines, just to make sure you are following their rules before submitting.

Here are some things to help guide you through the synopsis writing process:

• You want to briefly tell what happens. This is one place you can ignore Show, Don’t Tell.

• Your goal should be to give an escalating series of turning points, a strong central crisis, a dramatic climax and a satisfying resolution.

• Introduce your main character first. Type a character’s name in all CAPS the first time you use it in the synopsis. Why? It helps the editor remember or find your character names.

• Remember your synopsis should showcase your unique voice.

• The synopsis should reflect your story. If it is humorous, be funny, etc.

• Start with a hook.

• Use present tense. This gives the story immediacy.

• Write the high points of your story in chronological order. Keep these paragraphs tight.

• Always answer basic who, what, where, when, why–early in the synopsis.

• Don’t waste words or time describing settings, unless crucial. Sometimes it’s enough just to put the date and place at the top, then start your synopsis.

• Omit unimportant details.

• Only include backstory if it is necessary to give the editor the information they need about the character’s motives.

• Always resolve the external plot question before you resolve the internal and/or relationship question.

• If it’s not a turning point, it doesn’t belong in the synopsis.

• Don’t use secondary characters in your synopsis, unless they are absolutely critical to the emotional turning points of the relationship. Even then, try to get by with the using the secondary’s relationship to the major characters (sister, teacher, boss.) They are too hard to keep up with and only add clutter. Only name them when necessary.

• Clearly convey the central question of the story, and what the resolution looks like. And resolve it at the end — don’t leave the editor guessing. They hate that, so spell out the story, including the ending.

• Rewrite your synopsis until each sentence is polished to the point of perfection. Use strong adjectives and verbs. Make every word count.

Synopsis Checklist:

1.   Is your synopsis between one and three pages?  Double spaced if more than one page?

2.   Does the opening paragraph have a hook to keep the editor or agent reading?

3.   Did you use capital letters the first time you introduced a character?

4.   Did you show your characters goal, motivation, conflict, and growth?

Your synopsis should give a clear idea as to what your book is about, what characters we will care about (or dislike), what is at stake for your heroes, what they stand to lose, and how it all turns out.

5.   Have you hit on the major scenes, the major plot points of your book, and include the ending?

6.   How you gotten to the who, what, where, when and why in your synopsis?

7.   Do you keep the interest level up throughout the synopsis?

8.   Is there good flow between  paragraphs.

9.   Have you avoided all grammar, spelling, and punctuation mistakes?

10. Do you think you captured the flavor of your manuscript?

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

 

 

Posted by: Kathy Temean | May 20, 2017

Illustrator Saturday: Xindi Yan

Xindi left behind a small city in China to realize her dream of being a published artist. She has travelled thousands of miles to study, live and work in New York. Xindi received her BFA in Illustration from Pratt Institute in 2013 and has since worked as an illustrator for the gaming industry and children’s media. Having always wanted to illustrate children’s books, she buried herself in countless books and drawings, collecting them even today. Her ambition keeps her painting day and night. Xindi currently lives in Brooklyn with her husband and dreams about having a puppy in the near future.

Here is Xindi discussing her process:

I started by exploring some ideas in rough sketches. The one on the left was drawn on the iPad Pro. The one on the right was on my Cintiq.

I liked my initial idea. So I imported the image from iPad to my computer, and drew a final sketch before coloring. I sometimes also do a black and white sketch and color sketch before coloring. But since this piece is small and simple I skipped that step.

I had a color palette in mind already, so I went ahead and filled in all the bigger shapes. There were some adjustments and experiments at this point. A lot of times I would use Hue/Saturation or Color Balance menus to help me explore and adjust the colors to the palette I wanted. I was using Kyle Webster Gouache Brush Set.

Now I started filling in the details before going into shading. I like to use line work in adding details.

During this process I experimented with some different lighting directions and shadow intensity and finally settled on this one. I mainly used Hue/Saturation and Color Balance adjustment layers because they were easy to edit and fast to apply to multiple layers. There were also some painted in shadows and lights, some with overlay or multiply effect.

I added in the crows at the back because they are companions for Sailor Mars. I also gave the background a bit of color variation so it doesn’t look too flat.

For the final touch, I added the flame shapes because commanding fire is Sailor Mars’ super power. This detail from the story allowed me to bring pops of color into the image. I used lasso tool and set the layer to “Overlay”. I also did a final value and color adjustment with Curves and
Color Balance adjustment layers.

Finally, I found a paper texture image from online and applied it in “Overlay” to the whole image. There were some value and color adjustment to the texture layer as well. Then I put in the signature and it’s all done! 

You can find more process videos of my work at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCurfyn-xmZKvpKieKx4E1eg

How old were you when you moved from China to the United States?

I came to the US in 2009 to attend Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. I studied illustration and received my bachelors degree in 2013.

How long have you been illustrating?

I’ve been drawing as long as I can remember. My dad is and architect and my mom is an art lover. They’ve always encouraged me drawing, painting everyday. I was trained traditionally with lots of life drawing and painting, and didn’t start “illustrating” stories until 2008/2009 when I was preparing my portfolio for college application.

What and when was the first painting or illustration that you did where someone paid you for your artwork?

I think it might be a portrait commission from a girl after I graduated college. It was drawing of her and her sister for $20. Hehe.

Did you know you were going to attend Pratt Institute for art when you lived in China?

Yes. I actually got accepted into China Academy of Art in 2008 after high school. It’s one of the best art schools in China. But after one year, I realized that I didn’t learn anything new. I have also attended the summer school in 2008 at the University of Arts London. It was my first time abroad and I was shocked by the inspiring way art education was in the western countries. So I knew China Academy of Art was not going to be enough for me.

What made you choose Pratt?

I received acceptance letters from both Pratt and SVA. But Pratt offered me scholarship. Also for my mom Pratt has the advantage of a closed campus, which offers much better security for her 19-year-old daughter, going alone to the new strange country.

Did Pratt help you connect with Art Directors before you graduated?

Pratt held a lot of career fairs, which is where I got my first couple internships in college. Pat Cummings was my professor. She is the most wonderful woman who’s never shy to share her connections in the industry. I also got my first 2 full time jobs from the Pratt show at graduation.

Do you think the art school influenced your style?

Professors at Pratt are very careful with not influencing the students too much with style. I definitely got to develop my own style freely while in school.

What type of job did you do right after you graduated?

I got a full time freelance job at Center Stage Productions in New Jersey. I designed kids soft play parks. It’s the kind of play area in malls and airports, where you would see slides in the shape of a butterfly, or animals for kids to climb on. It was a very long commute. I left there after 2 months and worked at High 5 Games for two and a half years.

When did you decide you wanted to illustrate for children?

When I was in High School. I bought this book written by faculty at University of Cambridge children’s literature program. It’s my first book about illustration and I instantly fell in love with the narrative aspect of it. I’ve always liked children’s products. They are just so much fun and with so much imagination. Children’s book illustration definitely satisfied my love for narrative and lovely whimsical images.

How did you meet and connect with Chrisy Tugeau? How long has she represented you?

I got in touch with Christy from the SCBWI Conference in 2016. I think Priscilla Burris saw my portfolio at the showcase and sent it over to Christy. We talked on the phone a couple times before we signed contract. She’s been representing me for about 9 months now.

Since you live in the NYC area, do you try to set up appointments with art directors to show off your work?

I actually have never done that myself. I’ve worked full time jobs before I signed with an agent, so I never went out to look for freelance before. But I did attend some portfolio reviews with Pat Cummings. And I’ve been going to SCBWI Conferences almost every year.

Have you made a book dummy of a children’s book story?

Yes. My story was written when I was in college. I’ve been working on editing and re-drawing every since. It’s a personal story about my grandma and I drawing together when I was little. And the setting is Chinese New Year, so I can introduce the Chinese culture as well. I’m currently working on a new story idea.

Have you illustrated any book covers?

No I haven’t yet.

Would you like to write and illustrate a children’s picture book?

Of course! I don’t consider myself the best writer, but I would love an opportunity to work with editors and art directors to polish up my own story and see it published.

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

It really depends, unfortunately mostly on the budget. I’m a freelancer living in NYC. As much as I would love to help with a good story, I have to be able to make my rent. But if the story is really capturing and the budget is not a problem, of course I would not hesitate to work on it.

Have you ever tried to illustrate a wordless picture book?

I have done some small wordless comics in school. It’s a very interesting idea I would love to explore.

Have you worked with any educational publishers?

No I haven’t.

Have you ever illustrated anything for a children’s magazine?

No I haven’t.

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

I don’t go out that much to find work directly. My agent sends out postcards and email blasts to art directors every couple of months. I personally try to maintain active social media channels. Behance is a very good resource. Most of my freelance work, other than the books from my agent, came from Behance. The employers I’ve worked for before always would look for freelance illustrators on Behance as well. Instagram is also good for advertising yourself.

What is your favorite medium to use?

Digital.

Has that changed over time?

Definitely. Like I said I was trained traditionally. And for a long time in college I painted mainly with watercolor and gouache. But digital is just so convenient for editing. And I believe good art is not about medium. A good painting would be good no matter it was done traditionally or digitally. There are a lot to learn on both sides.

Do you have a studio set up in your home?

Yes. I have my iMac and Cintiq on the work table. I also collected a lot of figurings that I keep around my workspace as well. My husband is also a freelancer, so we have our tables next to each other in the studio.

 

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

My computer! Haha. But other than art supplies, a cup of hot tea for sure.

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

I do when I don’t have tight deadlines. I spend the first hour or so in the morning warming up with figure drawing or color studies.

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

Yes. It’s religious for me. No artist can or should draw without references. All my professors and artists I’ve met told me that over and over. Our brains have limited informations. I would be researching, or taking reference pictures as I’m doing thumbnails. So many times researches have inspired me to new ideas or compositions I haven’t considered before. So I have all the information that’s need to proceed to the finals.

Do you think the Internet has opened doors for you?

Ohh definitely! So many things became easier. Research for information, photograph, art style, influences. I love that I can connect with artists all over the world, seeing their newest work and keeping up with the news from the industries. And there are so many ways for artists to reach out to employers, connect with fellow artists. Not to mention all the unlimited amount of classes and tutorials you can find. It can become very overwhelming some times, but it’s definitely a huge pro for me.

 

Do you use Photoshop or Painter with your illustrations?

I mainly use Photoshop, sometimes Adobe Illustrator.

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

I use a 22inch Cintiq. Sometimes I also use my iPad pro.

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

Yes. I just recently fulfilled my dream of illustrating a picture book. My next big dream is to be able to work at a major animation studio, like Pixar, Disney, Dreamworks, Bluesky, etc.

What are you working on now?

I’m working on a picture book with Tilbury House and a chapter book series with Little Simon. There are also some small illustration projects coming in every now and then.

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.

I am a sucker for online classes. I don’t ever want to stop learning. Schoolism, The Oately Academy and Skillshare are some great online art schools that I’ve learned SO MUCH from. Graduating art school was just the beginning of my learning journey. I can’t be the artist I am today without these online resources.

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

Always be humble and learn from everything around you. And always LOVE what you do. Believe in yourself and work HARD, no matter how far you are from your goal. I know it sounds cheesy, but the passion and love you put into your work is what makes you unique from others.

Thank you Xindi 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 Xindi’s work, you can visit her at her website: http://xindiyanart.com/

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

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

Posted by: Kathy Temean | May 19, 2017

May’s Featured Agent – Jennie Dunham Interview Part Two

Jennie Dunham owner of Dunham Literary Agency has agreed to be May’s Featured Agents and will critique four first pages from the submissions sent in this month. She has been a literary agent in New York, New York since May 1992. In August 2000 she founded Dunham Literary, Inc.

She represents authors of quality fiction and nonfiction books for adults and children and some illustrators of children’s books.

She has been a member of AAR (Association of Authors Representatives) since 1993 and is a member of the SCBWI. She served on the Program Committee and was Program Committee Director for several years. She was also a member of the Electronic Committee.

In 1996 she attended the US/China Joint Women in Business conference in Beijing where she gave a presentation about literary agents in the US. She also attended the NGO Forum at the International Women’s Conference.

She attended international meetings as the AAR representative to create the ISTC (International Standard Text Code) which is being created to ISO (International Standardization Organization) specifications. This business and tracking system will be based on titles not book formats (as is the case with ISBN) and will work in tandem with ISBN.

She started her career at John Brockman Associates and then Mildred Marmur Associates. She was employed by Russell & Volkening for 6 years before she left to found Dunham Literary, Inc.

PART TWO OF INTERVIEW WITH JENNIE DUNHAM:

Any pet peeves?

If someone calls me on the phone to pitch a manuscript, I get turned off.

I also don’t like when someone pretends to know me and doesn’t.

If I don’t know the person who is referring you, then it is not much of a referral.

My name is Jennie, not Jenny. I’ve been saying “IE not Y” all my life.

Do you give editorial feedback to your clients?

Yes, I give a lot of editorial feedback even to the experienced authors of many books. My role is to help the author get the manuscript in shape to sell.

Does an unpublished writer have any chance with landing you as their agent?

Absolutely! One of the great joys of working as an agent is helping a writer’s dream of becoming published come true. Every sale is exciting, but a debut author’s first sale is a special thrill.

Do your other agents discuss submissions they receive with you before offering representation?

Yes. We have a good team feeling in the office. We talk about what is going on with each other and have a collegial atmosphere. If a submission isn’t right for one of us but might be right for someone else, we share the submission.

What is your typical response time to email or call your clients back?

It depends if I need to find out something before responding. If I need to get information from someone else, then it might take me longer. I try to keep my email managed efficiently.

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

I like phone, email, video chat, and meeting in person. Email is good for setting up phone conversations. I communicate when I have news to share. News can range from sending out submissions to follow ups to responses from editors.

SUBMISSION GUIDELINES For FIRST PAGE CRITIQUES:

In the subject line, please write “April 2017  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). REMEMBER: ATTACH THE WORD DOCUMENT AND NOT GET ELIMINATED!

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: May 25th.

RESULTS: June 2nd.

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 | May 18, 2017

Agent Looking for Clients

Since graduating from Wesleyan University with a focus on literature and theory, Blair Wilson has fallen in love with the voices of new and emerging authors. She is actively seeking middle grade and young adult fiction, as well as MG, YA, and adult nonfiction at Park Literary. In nonfiction, Blair is interested in narrative nonfiction, crafting/instructional, true crime, pop culture, lifestyle, sexuality & identity, design, and STEM topics.

A contract master, Blair works alongside our co-agents to negotiate publishing agreements outside of the United States with a focus on Eastern Europe, South Korea and the Baltic states. After a day of executing foreign taxes for authors or assisting with submissions, you might just find this North Carolina native teaching textile arts classes at the American Folk Art Museum and Textile Arts Center in New York City. This creative studied Victorian Literature but has truly fallen in love with the voices of new and emerging authors, making PLM a perfect fit for her. She is actively building her own list of clients in the areas of middle grade and young adult fiction and adult non-fiction with a focus on D.I.Y., lifestyle, pop culture, pets, and books dealing with issues of sexuality, identity and culture.

How to Submit: Send your query and accompanying materials to queries@parkliterary.com. Put “Blair Wilson” as well as the category and genre of your book (Example: “Blair Wilson – YA Fantasy”) in the subject line of the email. All materials must be in the body of the email. For all fiction submissions, include a query letter and the first chapter or approximately the first ten pages of your work. For non-fiction submission, send a query letter, proposal, and one sample chapter or approximately ten pages.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

 

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