Posted by: Kathy Temean | April 30, 2016

Illustrator Saturday – Sybil S. Cohen


Sybil Cohen grew up right outside of New York City, with a wild imagination that often whisked her off to whimsical, far off places. Combine that with a mischievous sense of humor, and her childhood was filled with endless adventures. When she wasn’t making trouble, she was always creating. From sewing and crocheting colorful clothes to gluing a whole town of “Heart People” to the walls of my bedroom. (Ya, her parents just loved that one!)  

That drive to create fueled her passion for art and led her to study illustration at FIT. Fast forward to today, She lives with my husband and their two energetic, creative, and yes, mischievous little girls (oh there’s Karma for you… sigh). She spends her days in a studio filled with fun art supplies creating visual whimsical stories and enjoying every minute of it!

Here’s Sybil Explaining her process:

I start off with small thumbnail sketches to explore different composition options. They are tiny in my sketchbook, I’m looking for readability and flow that best describes the action and emotion I’m trying to convey. I picked this one for this illustration😉


From the thumbnail I start to develop a more detailed line drawing of the image. After I’m happy with how it all looks and flows, I transfer it to pastel paper usually around 11X17 size (that’s the size of the scanner I have so it all must be able to fit in😉


I start blocking in the colors using Pan Pastels. I use a combination of the soft pastel brushes and my fingers😉 I work from the background to the foreground.


After I’ve blocked in the colors I start to add volume and vibrancy to all my objects. I mostly use my hands at this point, finger painting at its best! I love when my hands are covered in the pastels, it means I had a good day😉


Then I start to add the details and build on the lighting and shadows. At this point I’m using a mix of the pastels and colored pencils.


When I’ve gotten to a point that I’m happy, I scan my illustration. Here is when I add in some more of the highlights and deepen some of the shadows and play with color to make sure that it will reproduce correctly for web and for print. I will add in bubbles or any other white or fine detail that I can’t add on top of my pastels.


Here is the final illustration.

How long have you been illustrating?

I started illustrating ten years ago. Initially I did a lot of Educational work. Over the last year I’ve started working towards crossing over to the trade children’s book market.

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

Oh wow, I guess that would take me back to high school. I was always “the artist” and after painting my own notebooks, and some of my friends’ notebooks, it caught on and before I knew it I was in the painting notebooks business! Which was nice cash in high school😉 I was totally hooked and determined to find a career that would put my creativity to good use.


Did you go to school for art? If so where and why did you pick that school?

Yes, I went to FIT and studied Illustration. I love NY and wanted to be in the City. FIT’s illustration program is very well rounded.

What did you study there?



Do you feel College helped develop your style?

Yes, FIT definitely got me started and helped me develop skills, though I’ve certainly evolved since then. Being trained in the fundamentals; composition, perspective, color, value … gave me the type of foundation that every artist needs. Once you have that, style develops naturally. FIT exposed me to different mediums and gave me the opportunity to explore each of them which was great.

When did you decide you wanted to illustrate for children?

Since I was young, I was known to be the “artist” and the “creative one” amongst my family and friends. Always drawing, and painting since I could pick up a pencil. But when I truly think about this it brings me back to a moment in my childhood when we had a class trip to the library. They read to us The True Story of The Three Little Pigs by Jon Scieszka. I was mesmerized, I knew there was something different about this book. I just loved that he took something so familiar to us and flipped it. I remember thinking “wow, I want to do that.”


What steps have you taken to that end? 

There are a handful of things that I am doing.  First I joined SCBWI, it is a wealth of knowledge and support. I’ve been going to the conferences and event to meet other Illustrators and writers.

There are many great online resources available that I love using – SVS, Oatley Academy, Devianart, Podcast, Schoolism … to name a few.  I am obsessed with anything that has to do with visual storytelling and can’t get enough of it!

Over the past year, I’ve put together a portfolio focused on Children Book illustration and created a website to display my work.

How did you start making hats?

Haha, I am a creative soul that wears many hats (pun intended😉 I always need to be creating!  I loooove hats, so one day I made one for myself for a wedding … and before I knew it everyone wanted one. I put together an ETSY store and have been shipping them all over the world! It’s really amazing that people in Switzerland, Spain, and London are wearing my hats!


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

YES! I think of myself above all else, as a storyteller. Right now I use my art to visually tell other people’s story but I’ve really fallen in love with the art of storytelling in every form. Writing and illustrating children’s books is really a special craft. Both the words and the art need to play off and also with each other and I am really drawn to that poetic storytelling. I am currently working on two ideas I have for books.

Do you have an artist rep.? If so, who and how did the two of you connect? If not, would you like to try one?

I am not currently represented. I’m on the lookout for the right agent who shares the same vision and passion for children books.


Have you developed a portfolio of your work?

Yes. You can view at

How much time do you spend on your illustrating?

It’s my full time job! After getting my kids off to school, I have a full day of work, clear and focused. Until they get home and I get to continue my other full time job as Mommy😉


Do you have a favorite medium you use?

Yes, I love Pan Pastels! I’ve always been drawn to pastels because I love bright vibrant colors. They have so much pigment and they blend so beautifully together. Plus I’ve never really grown out of finger painting😉

Do you use Photoshop with any of your work?

Yes, in all of my work I combine mediums. I usually start sketching and working colors by hand. I then scan in the illustration and work on top of it in PhotoShop. It creates a very interesting effect.


Do you have and use a graphic tablet?

Yes, I love my Cintiq tablet!

Would you be willing to work with an author who wants to self-publish a picture book?

Yes, I would. But the MS would really have to be the right fit for my style. My work is very whimsical so the story would need to fit that style.


Has any of your work appeared in magazines?

Not yet😉

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

Yes, creating a schedule has been so important. It can be very challenging to work from home. I go to life drawing classes once a week to keep my skills sharp. I’ve joined a critic group with likeminded children book enthusiasts.  I’m a member of SCBWI and attend their events and conferences. I listen to Podcasts and read blogs to keep an eye on the pulse of the industry.


Any exciting projects on the horizon?

I am very excited about the books that I am working on and can’t wait to finish the dummy books and start sending them for submission.

What are you working on now?

Always working on my craft, my portfolio and my own stories😉

There anything you have learned in your journey that might help someone else starting out?

Wow, Yes… I hope😉 I think that you’re always kind of on a journey. And the best thing you can do is keep at it. Stay on your path, take one step at a time. Be open minded to learn and take in from everyone, and keep working on your craft and your goals. Be passionate about what you’re doing and put that love for your craft into your work. Oh and join SCBWI😉


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

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

Talk tomorrow,


Posted by: Kathy Temean | April 29, 2016

Free Fall Friday – First Page Results


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Below are the four first page critiques by Stephanie Fretwell-Hill from Red Fox Literary.

Stephanie Fretwell-Hill represents both authors and illustrators of board books, picture books, middle grade, and young adult. She will consider stories in any genre, but looks for a strong voice, rich and multi-layered plots, and stylish, classic, or quirky illustrations. Most of all, she loves anything that really makes her laugh.

How to submit: Stephanie will be open to unsolicited submissions for six months (ending mid-July 2016). Please send art samples, complete picture book text, or first three chapters of a novel (and a query) to querystephanie [at]

BLUE SHADOW by Karen Konnerth – Picture Book 514 words

Nobody ever noticed that Isha had an extra shadow. It was blue.

It lived in her house even though she never fed it, following her everywhere, whispering in her ear.

“Are you sure you should try that? It looks hard.”

“Quiet, shadow!”

“She has lots of friends. She probably won’t talk to you.”

“Shadow, stop!”

“Maybe better to just watch. You might drop the ball.”

Isha stamped her foot. “Shoo, shadow. Leave me alone!”

But the blue shadow stayed.

The only one who understood about the blue shadow was Pepper. She told Pepper everything and he always listened.

Until one day there was a hole under the fence, and Pepper was gone.

She called and called but he did not come.

She drew posters. “Lost speckled dog. Please return to 43 Winter Street”.

Then it rained. (posters washed out)

The blue shadow grew to fill every corner of Isha’s room. It filled the backyard. It filled the sky.

Maybe the neighbors had seen Pepper.

“You can’t ask them,” the shadow whispered. “You don’t know them.”

Isha thought of Pepper’s waggy tail. She put her shoes on.

“Stop,” the shadow sighed. “You will bother them.”

Isha thought of Pepper’s brown eyes.

She stood up. The shadow hissed. (hands over ears)

She froze at the neighbor’s door then tapped very softly.

Here’s Stephanie’s Thoughts:


by Karen Konnerth

You have a really interesting concept here—the idea of personifying a character’s emotions in this way feels unique and intriguing. I think if you’re going to do this, though, every aspect of the metaphor needs to be consistent and carefully thought through.

Why doesn’t anyone else see Isha’s shadow? Is there really no one else in her life who recognizes her insecurities, besides her dog? By stating this fact as the first line in the story, you set it up to be of major importance.

Also, does Isha really not feed the shadow? If not, who does? How did it get into her house? Why does it stay? How does it grow or change? You seem to be setting up the shadow as something totally separate from Isha, something she has no control over. In the very beginning, Isha herself is a kind of passive victim. But I would argue that people do have some agency when it comes to their emotions; they are able to make choices to feed or wallow in or ignore the emotions they experience. I think that’s the conclusion you are probably headed toward, and if you are, I think you need to be careful that every piece of the metaphor you’re using lines up from beginning to end.

At the end of the page, we see Isha find the courage to knock on the door of the neighbor’s house—where does this courage come from? We haven’t seen the plot build to this moment—she’s just thought of her dog and suddenly decided to do it. It’s important to construct a convincing story arc that builds on itself. The stakes need to increase gradually until we reach the climactic moment. I think you could benefit from thinking more carefully about the plot’s structure and pace.

Overall, the heart of this story—the personification of Isha’s insecurities—is an interesting idea. Tighten your manuscript’s focus through metaphor and plot to make that heart really show through.


Carol Murray     Ricardo’s Surprise    Picture Book

Ricardo’s Surprise                          

Come one, Come all, to the Dinosaur Ball.

It’s a blast! And the food is Tex-Mex.

The burritos with cheese will undoubtedly please,

but beware of Ricardo T- Rex! (RSVP 1-800-DIN0)


The guests were excited, and all were delighted to come to the party at five.

With partners or single, they started to mingle and visit together and jive.

But the dark of the night held a bit of a fright for the King would be venturing out.

T- Rex, “Oh, my golly! It’s hard to be jolly when danger is lurking about.” 

He’d be ready to snatch anyone he could catch, but the Dinos invented a plan.

They would station a guard on a hill in a yard as a lookout to signal and scan.

If T- Rex should appear or be anywhere near, then the guard standing tall as a tree,

would bang on a bell, and its clanging would tell all the dinosaur guests they must flee.

So they gathered together in sunshiny weather in spite of Old Rex and his brood,

but as fun filled the air, they forgot to beware, and that rascal was up to no good!

Babette Brontosaurus, who sang in the chorus made eyes at Tom Triceratops,

who was playing trombone, in a sweet baritone, adding wiggles and jiggles and bops.

The kids all insisted on doing the twist while Pteranodon gobbled the peas,

and one little fellow grabbed Nachos and Jello and circled the floor on his knees.

The land-dwelling joggers, both tappers and cloggers, performed at a furious rate,

while the beasts of the sea scoffing, fiddle-dee-dee, chose a spot on the sundeck and ate.

Alas, they forgot! They did not give a thought to the King and his terrible plan,

but out in the valley, with no dilly-dally, he crashed and he splashed as he ran. 

The Dinos were dancing and feasting and prancing. In short, they were having a ball,

when the guard’s frantic yell split the clang of the bell, “Ricardo is charging the Hall!” 

He opened the door, and he trampled the floor, and he flaunted his choppers and claws,

and he wiggled his tail with a flippety flail. Then he stopped with a strange little pause. 

A shudder went through every guest for they knew he could swallow their bodies, un-chewed, but his eyes glittered bright as he roared with delight,Tex-Mex — that’s my favorite food!”

Then he crashed the buffet with his teeth for a plate, and he shouted, Carumba! This looks simply great.And he ate, and he ate, and he ate, and he ate:

Thirty-four tacos and mountains of beans, Chalupas with salsa, tostadas, and greens, Burritos with cheese and a large Enchilada. Was anything missing? No, No, Nada, Nada!

“Why, thank you!” he offered. There’s just one thing more.

I’ve a lovely surprise. Yes, I have it in store.

If you’ll all stand aside I’ll be needing the floor. ”

(And with that, he emitted a sly little roar.) 

Then Ricardo T-Rex did a Mexican Hat Dance, and quietly slipped out the door > > >>>.

Here’s Stephanie’s Thoughts:


by Carol Murray

This is a fun and energetic text, and you’ve left space for some wonderful illustrations.

Your rhyme is good, but not great. People say it all the time, and I’m going to repeat it here: rhyme is a very difficult thing to sell, both to agents and to editors. One reason is that rhyme forces writers to choose words or ideas that don’t necessarily fit the story.

I’m afraid you’ve done that in a few places here. For example: “T- Rex, “Oh, my golly! It’s hard to be jolly when danger is lurking about.” This line is unclear: who is the speaker? Be careful to keep your sentence structure and punctuation grammatically correct, even when you’re trying to fit your scheme. Later, you refer to “T-Rex and his brood.” Until this point, the reader is led to believe that Ricardo T-Rex is the problem, but now it sounds like he may have a whole posse?

I’d like to see you strengthen the story arc—the conflict and resolution are both a little weak. The attendees knew right from the invitation that T-Rex would be out—so where’s the danger? There’s no tension in this conflict, and the partygoers don’t take any action to solve or avoid it. It doesn’t build, or become progressively more complicated. And in the end, it was the expected solution for T-Rex to join the party.

But there are plenty of potential themes for you to develop here—for one thing, maybe T-Rex feels bad that he keeps getting left out of the fun? The invite is a little mean, specifically calling him out like that. How would you feel if you were poor T-Rex? Perhaps the partygoers would like him better, if they just gave him a chance. OR, maybe there’s something in here about fear and misunderstanding? People often lash out at others whose beliefs, practices, culture, etc they don’t understand.

I think this is a case where you can dig deeper—I hope I’ve given you some inspiration to develop your ideas further!


ALIENS IN SCHOOL By Karen L. Casale – Picture Book

An official report from the Galactic Alien Watch just came in confirming that aliens from Planet Up2NoGood have taken over this school! These aliens look just like human children, but act very differently. Your mission, if you choose to accept is to spot and capture these aliens.

Do you accept this mission? I can’t hear you. Do you accept this mission?

Raise your right foot and repeat after me. I promise to search high and low and middlish for aliens. I promise to help in the capture of misbehaving space creatures. Boop! Bleep! Blip! Tomato Head! And I promise to pat my head and scratch my belly at the same time anytime I say Tomato Head in this book. Now that you’re sworn in let’s get started.

Looks like that girl is climbing up a display in the hallway. Human or alien? No one should climb on displays, tables, or chairs. And never climb on the principal’s back.

Excellent work. Maybe the Intergalactic Alien Patrol should hire you.

Let’s check the library. There’s a kid drawing in a book. Now he’s ripped the page.

MY EYES!!!! Definitely alien.

Books should be treated like newborn babies. Do not draw on them or rip them. Hold them carefully. Hug them when carrying them up to checkout. And please don’t plop books or babies down on the checkout desk. Though I’m pretty sure you can’t borrow a baby from the library. But you can borrow a book about babies. Maybe even alien babies.

Do you know why books are way better than babies?

Books don’t drool on your shirt.

Here’s Stephanie’s Thoughts:


by Karen L. Casale

You have a good voice, and I love that you’ve chosen to tell this story in the most uncommon POV of all—2nd person! This is a tough POV to use, but you’ve made it work here. Well done!

This is a funny manuscript and I like the interactive quality. I wonder if it wouldn’t be stronger if you specified the rules or techniques for identifying aliens vs. children. That way, the reader can use the criteria you’ve specified to participate in the hunt.

Once we start spotting aliens, I worry that the tone becomes a little too preachy. Though you’ve softened it with humor, lines like “No one should climb on displays, tables, or chairs” come across as too message-driven.

Another quality that may limit the marketability of ALIENS IN SCHOOL is that it is shaping up to be more of a list (don’t climb on stuff, take care of books, x, y, z) than a story with a narrative arc. Be aware that most editors are looking for stories with a beginning, middle, and end.

You have a funny concept—I hope you’ll look at the theme and plot structure to help make your appealing voice shine!


Anisa Smile.    Big Bully.       Middle-grade

I should have left the stupid soccer ball in the woods. I should have let it stay lost in all the roots and broken branches. Why did I have to pick it up for anyway, bring it over like some dumb puppy trying to get adopted or . . . make a friend?

I stare at the blood on my hands, on my pants, the boys head on my knee. Saleh’s head . . . our soccer champ neighbor. They’ll think I did it. They’ll know I did, threw the ball in the road so the kid would go after it and get run over . . . because I’m the bully. I’m always the bully. This is the kind of stuff I do.

The truck’s gone, but the dust on the dirt road is thick and stuffy in the sun. It stings my eyes, chokes my throat. I can see the man’s bony finger still in my face, his beer-breath hot. “You tell anyone anything – I swear if you speak a word, I’ll be back. I know where you live. I’ll take you out, wring your neck till you’re not breathing no more, kill your family, you hear?”

There’s a rustle in the long grass on the side of the empty road. Sabir’s standing there, his eyes wild, staring at his brother on the ground, not coming any closer . . . just staring.

“Jerry,” he croaks slowly. “Is he . . . is Saleh . . . dead?”

I look down at the closed eyes. They’re so still. Every bit of him so limp and still.

“I think so,” I say, afraid I’m going to cry.

Sabir makes a choking sound, and then runs off toward the trees. “Have to tell my mom.”

“No . . . wait!”

He doesn’t stop. I swear and stumble to my feet, dragging Saleh out of the road.

I catch Sabir just before his foot touches the edge of the lawn, grab his skinny arm and we both go crashing to the ground. “Don’t tell them it was me,” I say, out of breath. “Don’t say anything about me or . . . or you’re dead.”

Here’s Stephanie’s Thoughts:


by Anisa Smile

You have a chilling start! I like that you’ve chosen to begin during a dramatic scene, but I wish you hadn’t started after the accident and then flashed back to the cause of it. We haven’t had enough time to get our bearings in the present before we enter the flashback. Why not just start with the scene of the accident and show it in real time?

The opening is a little confusing, I think partly because of the flashback, but also because we’re trying to quickly understand what we’re seeing. The first line is about a soccer ball, then suddenly we’re dealing with blood and death. What is the setting? Who is who? What’s happening? It takes until the end of the section you’ve given me for me to understand that we are looking at a hit and run—middle grade readers (and editors and agents) won’t give you that long. They’ll read the first few lines or paragraphs, and when they find themselves working too hard, they’ll lose interest.

Remember to show rather than telling the reader what they need to know. I only know that the speaker is a bully because of the title and because he says “I’m the bully.” I’d rather see him make choices and take actions that reveal him to be a bully.

Please be sure to proofread your work very carefully. There are quite a few typos and errors in this, which I’m afraid will give agents and editors a negative impression.

Simplify your storytelling to hook readers in and pull them through. You’ve given us a nice cliffhanger at the end, which opens the possibilities for the story to drive forward.


Talk tomorrow,


Posted by: Kathy Temean | April 28, 2016

The Martha Weston Grant – Deadline May 1st


The Martha Weston Grant was established by the Hairston Family to remember author/illustrator Martha Weston.  Martha published over fifty picture books and her first middle grade novel shortly before her death.  This grant encourages authors and illustrators to nurture their creativity in a different genre of children’s books. SCBWI reserves the right not to confer this award in any given year.


Deadline: Applications must be emailed by May 1, 2016

Award: One Grant of $1,500 will be awarded to fund the expenses of attending the SCBWI Summer Conference in Los Angeles.


1. You must be a current SCBWI member and a PAL published author or illustrator trying another genre of children’s books. For example: a picture book illustrator might like to write a middle grade novel or a YA author might like to write a picture book.

2. In the body of the e-mail, please send a 500 to 1000 word letter telling us about your publishing history, how you are switching genres, concrete information about what you want to work on and why, and what you hope to gain from the conference.

The winner will be notified by June 1st and will be announced in the SCBWI Bulletin, at the Summer Conference, and on SCBWI social networks.

3. Only e-mail submissions (with no attachments) will be accepted. No snail mail.

E-mail submissions to:
Martha Weston Grant Coordinator Lissa Rovetch:

Good luck!

Talk tomorrow,


Posted by: Kathy Temean | April 27, 2016

Conflict Test

Example of what you can find on to help your writing.

Thought this one was fun.AutoCrit_Invert_RGB

Conflict Test

by Kathleen Oreilly

  1. Does one of the characters have to change in order for the conflict to be resolved?

_____ Yes, Score 1

_____ No, Score 0

_____ Both characters change, Score 2

  1. Can conflict be resolved with a good, honest heart-to-heart between your characters?

_____ Yes, Score 0

_____ No, Score 1

  1. Is it believable the one character (or both) would be leery of a relationship because of your conflict?

_____ Yes, Score 1

_____ No, Score 0

_____ Ask this question to someone else who’s read your story. If they say yes, add one bonus point.

  1. Is conflict resolved because of sacrifice on one character’s part?

_____ Yes, Score 1

_____ No, Score 0

_____ If BIG sacrifice, Score 2

  1. Must one character abandon their story goal?

_____ Yes, Score 1

_____ No, Score 0

  1. Does conflict occur ONLY because one character does not trust the other character enough to have a heart-two-heart talk?

_____ Yes, Score 0

_____ No, Score 1

Score 9: Perfect SCORE!!!! Your conflict is right up there with Shakespeare or Lorraine Heath!

5-8: Good job! Thorough, consistent, believable. Character development is entwined with conflict. Grisham could learn from you!

0-4: You are too nice a person. Watch the evening news, go stand in line at the post office, or try to go through the express line at the grocery story with too many items. You must learn how to truly torment your characters properly.

Divasguidetosellingyou soulAbout Kathleen O’Reilly

Kathleen O’Reilly wrote her first romance at the age of eleven, which to her undying embarrassment was read aloud to her class. After taking over twenty years to recover from the profound distress, she is now proud to announce her new career – a romance author. Kathleen lives in New York with her husband and their two children who outwit her daily.

You can visit Kathleen at

Talk tomorrow,



Posted by: Kathy Temean | April 26, 2016

Whiting Creative Nonfiction Grant


Whiting Creative Nonfiction Grant

In recent years the literary industry has seen a boom in creative nonfiction from extraordinary writers who are perfecting and extending the form: Rebecca Skloot’s The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, John Jeremiah Sullivan’s Pulphead, Leslie Jamison’s The Empathy Exams, Isabel Wilkerson’s The Warmth of Other Suns, Claudia Rankine’s Citizen: A Lyric, and Katherine Boo’s Behind the Beautiful Forevers, to name just a few examples.

Recognizing that the creation of such exemplary works of literature—springing from the realm of the imagination as well as from diligent research and reporting—requires a wealth of time and resources, the Whiting Foundation ( is pleased to announce the formation of a new program, the Whiting Creative Nonfiction Grant, which will offer allocations of $35,000 to as many as three works in progress to enable authors to complete their books. Its chief objective is to foster original, ambitious projects that bring writing to the highest possible standard.

All creative nonfiction writers under contract with a publisher and at least two years into their contract are encouraged to apply by May 1, 2016. Whiting welcomes submissions for works of history, cultural or political reportage, biography, memoir, the sciences, philosophy, criticism, food or travel writing, and personal essays, among other categories.

Courtney Hodell, Director of Writers’ Programs, comments, “Support at the right moment can not only help an author complete a project, but can also make the difference between a well-conceived book and a brilliantly executed one. The goal, as is the case with the Whiting Awards, is to help superb writers produce important work. But we also hope the prize will focus attention on a vital form, encourage publishers to support their writers through sometimes lengthy, unpredictable writing processes, and alert other institutions to the need in the genre.”

To apply for the Whiting Creative Nonfiction Grant, writers should submit their original proposal that led to the contract, as many as three sample chapters, a budget, and a schedule for completion; a letter of support from their publisher or editor; and two other letters of support (not to come from their agent). Writers can submit their applications online at

Each project under submission will have two first-round readers who will evaluate for substance and execution. Fifteen finalists will be considered by a panel of five judges, who will evaluate for content and for need as they choose as many as three grantees. Readers and judges will consist of experts in the field, and will serve anonymously to shield them from any external pressures. The grantees will be announced in the fall.

The Whiting Foundation has supported literature and the humanities for more than forty years. Its program in literature include the Whiting Awards, which annually present ten emerging writers in fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and drama with $50,000. The new Whiting Creative Nonfiction Grant is part of the Foundation’s efforts to support the ecosystem in which writers do their work.

Link to grant application:

If you have any questions about the eligibility of your project, or the submission process, please contact the Whiting Foundation at

Talk tomorrow,


Posted by: Kathy Temean | April 25, 2016

Buzz Books


Navina Chhabria is a freelance Illustrator and Printmaker based in New Jersey. Originally from India, I love working with color and pattern. She loves to play with shapes to create fun and quirky characters, themes and stories. Her colorful and cheerful illustrations have been published in brochures, greeting cards, postcard, sticker, and stamps, etc. Here is the link to see more of her work:

Elizabeth Church’s The Atomic Weight of Love was the ABA’s Indie Next No. 1 pick for May. Below is the full list. It includes 6 books already featured in the spring/summer Buzz Books free ebook and available for you to start reading now:

The Mirror Thief, by Martin Seay
Everyone Brave Is Forgiven,* by Chris Cleave
Redemption Road, by John Hart
Everybody’s Fool, by Richard Russo
Britt-Marie Was Here, by Fredrik Backman
Mothering Sunday: A Romance, by Graham Swift
LaRose,* by Louise Erdrich
Julia Reed’s South: Spirited Entertaining and High-Style Fun All Year Long, by Julia Reed
Sleeping Giants, by Sylvain Neuvel
Eligible, by Curtis Sittenfeld
The Versions of Us,* by Laura Barnett
Imagine Me Gone, by Adam Haslett
Over the Plain Houses, by Julia Franks
Father’s Day, by Simon Van Booy
Heat & Light, by Jennifer Haigh
The Sport of Kings,* by C.E. Morgan
Maestra,* by L.S. Hilton
Life Without a Recipe: A Memoir of Food and Family, by Diana Abu-Jaber
Valiant Ambition: George Washington, Benedict Arnold, and the Fate of the American Revolution,* by Nathaniel Philbrick
Full list, with comments

Talk tomorrow,


Posted by: Kathy Temean | April 24, 2016

Take A Look Sunday – J. E. (Julie) Ryder



Wilkinson Studios, Inc. is an international agency representing artists from around the world. We specialize in illustration for Publishing, Advertising, Editorial, and Corporate industries, creating artwork for Children’s and Adult Trade Books, Mass Market and Board Books, Graphic Novels, Educational Programs, Magazines, Print Ads, Packaging, Websites, and Apps. We also do Games, Puzzles, Toys, and Character Development, and have hundreds of images available for Licensing. Wilkinson Studios also represents their illustrator’s own authored works to the Publishing industry, and will be launching Wilkinson Studios Press through Ingram, a POD publishing venue designed to market and distribute their illustrator’s books both nationally and internationally.

Christine Wilkinson has been representing artists since 1985, and founded Wilkinson Studios, Inc. in 1998. Her business partner, Lisa O’Hara, has been with the company since the beginning, and is an integral part of their success. Both Chris and Lisa have graphic design and illustration backgrounds, bringing a broad understanding of the needs specific to publishers, editors, design, and art professionals. Wilkinson Studios also provides art management services, with a skilled staff of project management specialists involved in the important details of procurement, creation, quality control, and delivery of art for clients in almost every country.


There are few painting techniques and media that I admire as much as watercolor. My admiration comes from the complete and utter inability to work in watercolors myself.  All of my projects during college turned out to be Addams Family scenes – muddy, dark, creepy and clumsy.  I would cry tears of frustration at not being able to master the restraint and lightness of hand to bring the beautiful luminosity of a sunny fall day onto my paper.  Well done watercolor paintings can look so simple, but they are so deceiving – nothing is more difficult (well, at least to me!) than working backwards – thinking of what should be left alone, where the highlights will be, and then working into the shadows.  I wonder how many other type “A” personalities have trouble with watercolors!  It takes such patience, control, and planning, and it is not a forgiving medium.  Once an image is messed up, trying to correct your mistake often makes it worse.  So, ever since college, I’ve left watercolor painting to those brave souls with more persistence, fortitude, and serenity than me!

J.E. (Julie) Ryder must be one of those souls – her watercolor images submitted for this week’s Take A Look Sunday are finely done. She has taken care in her compositions, and has obviously planned her images, shooting reference photos and doing tight sketches beforehand.  Julie must be well practiced in watercolor – I don’t go to an artist’s website before my reviews, so I am basing this solely on the two images submitted.  Handling such a demanding medium takes many hours, much repetition, and a keen eye for what should be included, and what should be left out.

My review of Julie’s work takes all of this into consideration, an admiration for her proficiency as a watercolorist. Thus, I will not critique her work technically – she has that down.  I have only a few points to mention to help her tweak her images.

TKL JULIE RiderCharley and the Pumpkin Farm-confront-Final-3-logo

When illustrating realistically, anatomy and perspective are very important to get absolutely correct, or the viewer’s eyes will instantly go to the spots that are not quite right. Julie chose a very difficult perspective for her first image – a bird’s eye view of standing figures.  For the most part, she’s rendered their anatomy accurately – except for the faces and heads.  Every artist has parts of the body that they are uncomfortable with, even if they don’t know it – faces, hands, and feet are often the body parts that an artist hesitates on, consciously or unconsciously. In this image, it seems that the boy’s faces were the parts of the image that Julie was uncertain about.  Both boys are not really looking down at the pumpkin – maybe they’re talking to each other?  The head of the boy on the right is too elongated, his facial features would not actually be seen like that if you were looking down from above – too much of his face is shown.  The same for the boy on the left, though his head and features are more accurate.

Julie may also want to take out the feet of the other figures in this image – they are cut off little bits, that are more distracting than they are informative of what is going on. Having the other people’s shadows extend into the frame is enough to indicate that there are other people around.  The legs at the top especially – they are not very grounded, and look like they’re floating, sliding into the image from the top.  Your eye is sidetracked to this, when the focus should be on the main characters and their conflict over the pumpkin.

I don’t usually reference other illustrators in my reviews, but one watercolor artist who is a master of unusual figural perspectives is Denny Bond – I’m attaching one of his paintings that is a triple self-portrait, a la M.C. Escher – the anatomy is absolutely accurate, and thus, the image flows effortlessly.


Julie’s second image successfully conveys the effort that the boy is making trying to lift or move that big pumpkin. Again, she’s chosen a very challenging way to show this!  By illustrating a close-up of the boy and the pumpkin, all of the action needs to be shown with minimal visual ‘hints’ – she doesn’t have the whole body shown, so the effort of lifting that would be indicated in his body language needs to all be concentrated in his face and close-up pose.  And she certainly does that well!  I can feel the immobile weight of the pumpkin in this image!

There are only two things that I would comment on in this image: The eyes are too smushed – even with the great effort he is exerting, his eyes would still be seen a bit clearer.  The lower lids, or an indication of it, would help to keep him from looking blinded.  A bit more of an indication of eyebrows too, would define his eye area better.

TKLJulieChar and the pumpkin farm-1-final-brighter

The second is the overall palette of this image – it could be that the jpg I was sent was not color adjusted, or the scan of the original needs to be redone. The image looks dull, grayed-back, not having the bright infusion of color as the first image.  Brightening the digital file to match the first image will help and make sure that the artwork looks sequential.

Thank you, Julie, for your submission – it was a pleasure to view your artwork! I look forward to seeing your books in print!

Thank you Chris for taking the time to share your expertise with us. It helps so many illustrators and is very much appreciated. Here is the Wilkinson Studios website link:

Here is a little bit about Julie:

J.E. Ryder is an author/illustrator working on her first story to be published in 2016 by Mother’s House Publishing.  Although, she is recent to the field of authoring/illustrating she has been an artist for most of her life working in watercolor, photography, and website design.  Her love of children’s stories began with her career as a Children’s Librarian in the public school system and now many years later, and a few careers-in-between, she works full-time as an author/illustrator.  You can view her art at:


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

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

Each Sunday one illustrator will be chosen.

CALL FOR ILLUSTRATORS: Remember I’m always looking for illustrations I can use with articles I post. Send to: Kathy.temean (at) Put ILLUSTRATION FOR BLOG in the subject area. Remember all illustration need to be 500 pixels wide. Include a blurb about yourself, too.

Talk tomorrow,


Posted by: Kathy Temean | April 23, 2016

Illustrator Saturday – Ester Garcia Cortes

PICTURE ESTERThe town of Caceres saw Ester grow up, come and go…

As long as she can remember, she always loved coloured pencils, acrylics and pastels.

After graduating in Fine arts at the University of Salamanca, Spain, she moved to Madrid, and started working in publishing houses there dedicating herself totally to her vocation.

Ester works in pencil, watercolors, acrylics and digitally.
She is always searching for a way to express her own dreams, and see inside and outside of things…

She has lived and worked in Madrid as an illustrator since 2008.

Here is Ester discussing her process on Illustration for The Wind in the willows. Ladybird Books.

(a) 1_The River Bank_01

This is the sketch or the first approximation to the composition. I usually do several point of view, and finally the last sketch was the good one with more foreground and air.

(b) 1_The River Bank_01 III

After the sketch I pass the image to watercolor paper, Canson Montval in this case, with pencil. And I start to work with a layer of watercolor over the pencil.

(c) Ester Garcia Step by step

I continue defining details like lights, or fur, and shadows with Caran d´Ache color pencils. Layer over layer and working with the color I cover the watercolor. I leave some areas of the foreground without pencil color. The smallest details are made with mechanical pencil. And the final details of shadows are made by photoshop.

(d) Ester Garcia Willows_01 Colour

Here’s the final illustration!


Some Book Covers above and below.


1 Ester Garcia Mar chalada

winter train

How long have you been illustrating?

Since I was a kid…:) But I have been illustrating as a professional since 2008, more or less.

Ester Garcia Winter Train (6)

Ester Garcia (9)

Have you always lived in Spain?

Yes, I have lived in different cities of Spain: Cáceres, Salamanca and Madrid. I love to travel as much as I can.

Ester Garcia Winter Train (5)

Ester Garcia Winter Train (4)

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

It was a big painting of a forest, made with oil paint while I was a student of Fine arts.

02 EsterGarcia

How did you decide to attend the Fine arts at the University of Salamanca in Spain?

Because I always loved to draw and paint, so I decided to follow this passion. Since I can remember I lived surrounded by children´s books. My mother is a school teacher so I learned a lot from illustrations and books. Finally, I linked both worlds, drawing and books. Studing Arts was the natural path for me.


What did you study there?

Painting, History of Art, Design and Engraving mostly.


Do you feel College helped develop your style?

At Fine Arts I was able to explore a lot of different things, and College helped to learn techniques, but style was something that comes after that.


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

I started to work as an illustrator after got out of school.


Did art school help you get work when you graduated?

Not really.


Have you seen your work change since you left school?

Yes, definitely. I can see an evolution in these 8 years of work, I am happy about that.


When did you decide you wanted to illustrate for children?

I think I always loved children´s books. My parents’ house was full of them when I was young, so maybe since then I was thinking about that.

FelicesFiestas blog Ester Garcia

What was your first book you illustrated?

It was in 2009, a book of young readers of Anaya Publisher: “Los tres cerditos y el inspector”.


How did that contract come about?

After the College I built up my first portfolio (small but solid) and I moved to Madrid. There I started to send my portfolio to several publishing houses, and Anaya liked my work and wanted to contract me for one book. I was really excited.


Did you do other types of illustrating before you got that book contract?

I made some illustrations for educational books before that contract.


How many picture books have you illustrated?

17 books. Working on 18 and 19. But I do other thigs as well, related with Design. I love to work for wine branding, for example, or packaging. As illustrators we can develope our work in a lot of stuff.

Ester Garcia (8)

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

Yes, I would love to do that in the near future. I have some ideas, and all I feel I need is the time to make them real.

Ester Garcia (4)

What book do you think was your biggest success?

I specially like the book “Why cats do not wear hats”, written by Victoria Pérez Escrivá and published in English by Epigram books.

Ester Garcia_ 00 Why cats do not wear hats

Ester Garcia_ 05 Why cats do not wear hats

Have you ever tried to do a wordless picture book?

Not yet.

Ester Garcia (10)

How did you connect with Good Illustration to represent you?

They found my page in internet and got in touch with me. I was lucky.



Do you illustrate full time?

Yes, full time, every day.



Do you have a favorite medium you use?

I specially love watercolor, graphite and color pencils for work. I really enjoy these techniques.

Jungle book_low res (4) Ester Garcia

Do you take research pictures before you start a project?

Yes, I use to look for information before I start a new project, to develop a new world in each book.


Have you work with any publishers in the United States?

Yes, mostly in schoolbooks projects. The last one for a National Geographic Spanish poetry big book.

Jungle book_low res Ester Garcia monkeys

Have you worked with any educational publishers?




Ester Garcia ilustracion 5

Do you use Photoshop with any of your work?

I use Photoshop to detail and finish some artworks once I have scanned them. The final touch.

Lo+2011 fgsr_ Ester Garcia

Do you have and use a graphic tablet?

Yes, I use a Wacom.


Do you do exhibits to show off your art?

I often take part in collective exhibitions here and there, in Spain or abroad.

04 EsterGarcia

Would you be willing to work with an author who wants to self-publish a picture book?

It depends on the story. If I see myself illustrating the text. At the end, it depends if that project touches me.


Has any of your work appeared in magazines?

Yes, in Spanish magazines like MIA magazine.


Are you happy with the studio in your house?

I am happy, I have a space with light where I can concentrate very easily. Especially by night, I am a like little owl.


Is there anything in your studio, other than paint and brushes that you couldn’t live without?

I can´t live without music, a nice light trough the window and my plants.


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

I believe more in the daily work than in good luck. So a normal day for me means working a lot! You have to be really disciplinated. But I also enjoy going out for a walk, reading a good book or being in contact with nature and friends. I think being an illustrator is not a part time job… it is more a full time way of thinking and seeing things. So you keep working or thinking even when you go out for a walk.

Ester Garcia Jungle book_low res (3)

Ester Garcia Jungle book_low res (5)

Any exciting projects on the horizon?

Totally! I am illustrating “On the origin of species” of Charles Darwin. I am loving this project. Since I was little I always loved drawing animals, the different families and species… so this project is a gift to me.

Pajaro de fuego Ester Garcia

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

Yes. It is amazing how creatives and artists can reach and contact each other from any corner of the world! Today a lot of clients can find you via internet.


What are your career goals?

Enjoying every project, keeping the excitement of the first day. That is the challenge for me.


What are you working on now?

In Darwin, in a poetry book and in another children´s book for young readers.

Black cat7

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

Technique tips? I love to work with different hardnesses of graphite in watercolor paper (especially Canson papers) and it works good for me. I also love the quality of Caran d´Ache color pencils, they are supreme.

Ester Garcia Vino Muguet

Adobe Photoshop PDF

Ester Garcia (5)

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

Be patient and love what you do.


Some Black and Whites (Above and Below).


Thank you Ester 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 Ester’s work, you can visit her at website at:

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

Talk tomorrow,


blog red fox sfh

Check back next week for the four first page critiques by Stephanie Fretwell-Hill from Red Fox Literary.

Stephanie Fretwell-Hill represents both authors and illustrators of board books, picture books, middle grade, and young adult. She will consider stories in any genre, but looks for a strong voice, rich and multi-layered plots, and stylish, classic, or quirky illustrations. Most of all, she loves anything that really makes her laugh.

How to submit: Stephanie will be open to unsolicited submissions for six months (ending mid-July 2016). Please send art samples, complete picture book text, or first three chapters of a novel (and a query) to querystephanie [at]


Go to and login to your home page. You will find the link at the bottom of the left sidebar.




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

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

PLEASE FOLLOW THE GUIDELINES: Your submission will be skipped 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: April 21st.

RESULTS: April 29th.

Please only submit one first page a month. Thanks!

Talk tomorrow,


Posted by: Kathy Temean | April 21, 2016

Publishing Industry News: Kudos – New Imprtint


Tracey Baptiste’s sequel to THE JUMBIES, which again blends Caribbean island lore, adventure, and touches of horror, and introduces mermaids with a special tie to past slaves, to Elise Howard at Algonquin Young Readers, by Marie Lamba at The Jennifer DeChiara Literary Agency (World English).

Lisa Wheeler‘s PEOPLE DON’T BITE PEOPLE, a humorously subversive book that gives concrete examples of what we should and shouldn’t sink our teeth into, to be illustrated by Molly Idle, to Emma Ledbetter at Atheneum, for publication in Spring 2018, by Steven Malk at Writers House (World).


The award-winning publisher of over 700 books for children, Kids Can Press is launching KCP Loft, publishing YA fiction and nonfiction, led by editor at large Kate Egan. The line will start with four novels in 2017.

Geared to readers 14 and up with crossover appeal to adult readers, KCP Loft explores the first loves and deep friendships, the heartbreak and life-altering crossroads on the road to adulthood. Engrossing, shareable, contemporary and smart, these are the must-haves for readers hungry for the next world to get lost in.

The imprint will be expertly curated by Kate Egan. The President of Kids Can Press said, “One of the genre’s most highly regarded editors, Kate has a 20-year publishing track record and is notable for her YA experience, including her work on the phenomenal Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins. Kate has already brought her considerable knowledge, talent and energy to Loft, and we look forward to the fresh voices she’ll discover.”


At Sourcebooks, Grace Menary-Winefield moves up to associate editor.

Krishan Trotman has joined Hachette Books as senior editor. Previously she was a senior editor at Skyhorse.


Founder of Clarion Books (and then publisher of Houghton Mifflin Children’s after they bought Clarion in the late 1970s) and author of nonfiction for young readers Jim Giblin died on April 10th after a long illness.

Talk tomorrow,


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