Posted by: Kathy Temean | March 2, 2015

Meet The Editor Evenings

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In New York City The Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency is hosting small groups of writers to meet one on one with an editor from a major New York publishing house. Join four to seven writers in a small conference room at the agency to hear your work individually critiqued by a top children’s book or adult fiction editor. Author/illustrators, children’s writers, tweens and teen writers, as well as women’s fiction writers, all have a rare chance to get their work in front of an editor.

These intimate evenings provide a venue to have ten pages of your work reviewed (five pages from two manuscripts or ten pages from one), after which you have a chance to make suggested revisions and then submit your manuscript to the editor for a complete review. Although there’s no guarantee that an editor will accept your final manuscript, you will learn something about the way editors approach an author’s work and what it takes to move your book from your desk to an editor’s office. You’ll also see your work from the editor’s point of view and gain insight into improving your writing. Because each evening features a different editor from a wide variety of houses, you’ll have many opportunities to choose the editor and publishing house that could be a good fit for your book. You can attend more than one evening, which is a great way to hear different views of your work.

The cost for one Meet The Editor Evening is $125. Meet The Editor Evenings are kept to no more than seven writers at a time to ensure that every attendee gets personal attention. For a list of upcoming evenings and to sign up for a Meet The Editor Evening, please email Jennifer at jenndec@aol.com. We hope to see you and your manuscript soon!

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

Posted by: Kathy Temean | March 1, 2015

Diverse Books Contest

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If you write MG and have a diverse background, including (but not limited to) LGBTQIA, people of color, gender diversity, people with disabilities, and ethnic, cultural, and religious minorities, you may be interested in submitting a short story to We Need Diverse Books. They are putting together an anthology of children’s literature to be published in January 2107.

Phoebe Yeh, VP/Publisher of Crown Books for Young Readers/Random House, has acquired publication rights to this Middle Grade WNDB Anthology, working title “Stories For All Of Us.”

The anthology will be in memory of Walter Dean Myers and it will be inspired by his quote: “Once I began to read, I began to exist.” Every new story contribution to this anthology will be by a diverse author.

WNDB is proud to announce that the anthology will have one story reserved for a previously unpublished diverse author. WNDB will fill that slot via a short story contest. The winner will be included in the anthology and will receive a payment of $1000 US.

MARK YOUR CALENDAR: The submission window is narrow, so if you want to submit you should start writing and polishing, but you can not send it in until April 27th 2015 when they start accepting submissions. The window for submissions is only open for 12 days (until 5:00PM EST on May 8th, 2015).

Short Story Rules

  • All submissions (short story or illustrated story) must be in English and never before published in any medium, print or digital.
  • Submissions must be no longer than 5000 words.
  • All submissions must be electronic and sent to the following email address: contest@diversebooks.org
  • All submissions must also be appropriate for a middle grade audience, ages 8 to 12.
  • If your submission is illustrated, it must be in a graphic novel format, but no longer than 10 pages.
  • Illustrations must be submitted electronically. Do NOT mail hard copy submissions to WNDB. They will not be reviewed, nor will they be returned.

Prizes

  • First prize winner will receive an award of $1000 plus their entry will be published as part of the WNDB Anthology to be released by Crown Books for Young Readers/Random House Children’s Books in January 2017.
  • Two runner-up winners will receive honorable mentions and awards of $250 each.

PLEASE NOTE:

Any submissions sent in before the entry period will be deleted, the email address flagged, and the author automatically disqualified.

Click this link to read FAQ’s: http://weneeddiversebooks.org/short-story-contest/

You can email questions to contest@diversebooks.org. While we can’t answer every email personally, we will post any new and relevant questions directly to this FAQ.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

Posted by: Kathy Temean | February 28, 2015

Illustrator Saturday – Justin Wong

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01_bwJustin Wahkwai Wong is an illustrator situated in San Francisco, California. Like most kids, he grew up watching cartoons, playing video games, and drawing for fun. In his adult life, he still watches cartoons, plays video games, and draws for work. Justin still has alot of growing up to do.

He graduated from the Academy of Art University with a BFA in Traditional Illustration. He enjoys working on illustrations for children’s books and anything else where fun and humor exist. He is most comfortable working with watercolors and digital painting and is always looking to expand his repertoire.

Justin is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and is currently represented by Wendy Lynn & Co.

Here is Justin explaining his process:

I was asked to create an iconic scene of San Francisco to be animated for the film.
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Clients always ask for thumbs first so I explore different views and compositions in my sketchbook.

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I’m asked to do a composite of some of the thumbs so I rework the sketch again.  This time slightly larger.

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I get the ‘ok’ and move onto the larger drawing below…except I need to scrap this and start over as I find errors in the drawing and scale.  I shed a tear ;(

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I find a larger pad (18×24″) and start over. I rework the perspective and think of interesting characters to fit into the scene.

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I take a photo. Run it through Photoshop. Set the drawing to a multiply layer and start blocking in rough colors.

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I continue to paint over the drawing blocking in forms with color. I render some parts more than others to help me visualize the direction of the piece. I start thinking about the direction the light source is coming from.

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I will often flip the canvas horizontally to get a fresh perspective on my piece and to help spot any errors. Since it will be animated, I have to make sure every part of the background behind the characters is painted as well. I find an error with the scale of the foreground character and enlarge him.

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Somehow I’m still bothered by him. I try setting the foreground in shadow for clearer visual separation from the middle ground.

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I run out of time and hope the piece works out for the client.

 

How long have you been illustrating?

It has been about two years now since I graduated.  I have been freelancing ever since.

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

I was given my first commission while I was still a student at AAU.  I created the story and illustrations for a children’s book for a small startup company.

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Have you always lived in CA?

Yes.  I was born in Orange and call Stockton my hometown.  I currently reside in San Francisco.

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What made you choose Academy of Art University to get your BFA in Traditional Illustration?

It was a serendipitous event.  At that time, I had dropped out of a Pre-med program in Napa as I was unhappy with how my life was going.  It was a rough time.  I had no direction.  I had no drive to do anything.  I was lost.  I was attending a local community college in my hometown when an old high school buddy invited me to see some kind of student art show at some art school in San Francisco.  He was thinking about joining for the architecture program.

It was the Academy of Art University Spring Show.  That event really sparked something in me.  Growing up with an education focused around math and science made the notion of art as a career seem like such a far-fetched idea.  I mean, I wasn’t naturally gifted or anything.  I was just some dude that liked to draw sometimes.  There’s been so few things that I ever truly wanted in my life.  This was one of them.  I’m grateful to have such awesome and supportive parents for letting me pursue such a dream.

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What classes helped you the most to develop as an illustrator?

Even though I hated it and did awful work in the class, Advanced Perspective set in motion alot of questions I had to ask myself.  Up until that point, I only knew watercolor.  In the beginning, I was hand drawing and inking all the assignments, but the pacing and workload made it impossible for me to keep up.  Everyone else was doing digital.  This forced me to learn Corel Painter and then eventually Photoshop.  Being a watercolorist was fine…but I felt in order to survive later on in my career I needed to adapt and branch out.  It was rough as I was confronted with alot weaknesses I needed to address.

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Did you develop a portfolio of your illustrations while in college?

Yes.  A good portion of my current portfolio is student work.  Half is watercolor, half is digital.

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What job did you do after you graduated?

Since graduation, I have worked on commissions sent to me by Wendy Lynn & Co.  I’ve done a few other art projects as well that are not related to the children’s book market.  I have also tried my hand at a few restaurant jobs (not art related)…but they didn’t work out (haha…*sighs*).  I’m still figuring things out to say the least.

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Did the Academy help you find illustration work ?

Chuck Pyle, who heads the undergraduate Illustration department and was a former teacher of mine, helped me get my first commission and artist rep.  Chuck is awesome as a teacher and human being.  Other than that, I have received work either by someone taking notice of my work in the AAU Illustration building or AAU Spring Show.

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When did you decide that you wanted to illustrate for children?

My buddy Alfredo Christiansen (alfredochristiansen.com) got me to sign up for Children’s Book 1.  That was the first class where I started to feel more comfortable with my art.  I felt that the way I drew was akin to the children’s book market.  It was also a place where my watercolor fit in.  It gave me a great excuse to still watch cartoons and animated films and still call it research without getting weird looks from my peers.

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How did you and Wendy Lynn connect?

I was introduced to Wendy Lynn through Chuck Pyle.  I needed help getting my foot in the door, and Chuck offered to refer me.  Shortly after, Wendy Lynn emailed me.

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Have you tried your hand in licensing art?

No.  Someday maybe.  I have no business tact.

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Have you attended any conferences to help you show off your work?

I have attended some SCBWI functions but have never shown my work.  I guess it’s a confidence thing.  I do plan on going to the big summer conference and showing my stuff there.

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Do you use Photoshop in any of your work?

Most of my recent work is done in Photoshop.  For watercolor illustrations, I use Photoshop for touchups and tweaks to color and contrast.

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Would you like to write and illustrate your own book someday?

I’ve always looked up to artists like Jonny Duddle, Adam Rex, and Peter de Sève.  I would love to be able to create children’s books like theirs.  But that’s for the distant future.  Right now, I still need to fine tune my painting and design skills.  Art first.  Storytelling for later.  It seems like a huge undertaking, and I would like to have more experience under my belt before then.

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Do you think your style has evolved since you attended college?

My style is always evolving.  In school, the teachers always stressed how art isn’t created in a vacuum.  You can’t help but be influenced by the trends and what others are creating.  Earlier on, I was really aiming towards a more rendered look.  Then I started taking interest in developing a more stylized, graphic look.  I’m still finding my voice.

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Would you consider working with an author who wants to self publish?

Of course!  Work and getting paid is always welcome.

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Have you done any artwork for magazines or educational publishers?

Not yet.

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Do you do any types of promotion on your own to get your work seen by publishing professionals?

At the moment, I have portfolios posted on childrensillustrators.com, directoryofillustration.com, and of course the SCBWI website.  I still have yet to send out my own postcards to children’s book publishers.  I’m still learning the ropes.  Oh and I have a blogspot and personal website as well (jwongart.com).

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Have you gotten any work through networking or the Internet? 

Unfortunately, not really.  I did get some work with a local startup who saw my art on AAU’s Spring Show online gallery.  I created icons for their mobile sports app.

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Do you own a graphic tablet? If so, which one and how do you use it?

I have a 6×8″ Wacom Intuous 3.  It has served me well, but I really should upgrade to a newer, larger model or a Cintiq.  I currently draw on paper, scan it, and paint over digitally.  The process would probably be expedited if I worked on a Cintiq.  I just find it extremely difficult to be precise with my drawings while sketching on a Wacom.  There’s a large disconnect with what you see up at the screen with what you’re sketching down on the pad.  So for now, illustrations that require some line work are done on paper then painted digitally.  More rendered pieces are roughly sketched digitally, given some gray-scale work, and then painted over digitally in color.

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How much time do you spend illustrating?

Not enough!

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Do you have a studio set up in your house?

No.  Right now I live in a tiny room where I eat, sleep, play, and work.  Luckily my housemates are quiet and respectful.  I usually get a heavy dose of cabin fever though, so I usually work on preliminary drawings and study at my favorite coffee shop.  Illustration is a solitary endeavor, so it definitely helps my sanity to physically be out in the real world.

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Do you have a strong art community where you live?

Most of my friends in SF are fellow illustrators or fine artists.  It’s not unlikely for us to walk to a local gallery showing downtown or to attend a friend’s painting exhibit.  There have been occasions where I would still visit AAU to seek out advice from past teachers or other faculty.  I also started doing monthly meetups with a small group of SCBWI Illustrators in the East Bay.  We’re a small but dedicated group and are open to meeting other Illustrators.  SCBWI illustrators, feel free to contact me if you are in my neck of the woods.

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What are your career goals?

Children’s book Illustrator.  Concept artist.  And also at some point a teacher at AAU or some other art institution.  I had alot of great teachers at the academy that taught me about art and life.  It’d be nice if I could do the same some day.

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What are you working on now?

I’m trying to develop a portfolio for gaming companies.  It’s all very new and intimidating to me, but I’d like to experience working with and learning from a team of other talented artists.  It seems like challenging work, but I think alot of growth can be made working in that environment.  I also don’t want to ever feel complacent with my art.  I sort of need that push.  It seems like demanding work, and I find that there’s alot I need to still learn to keep up with the industry.  I’m trying to teach myself Zbrush right now.

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

I don’t have many tips, but I can share what materials I do use.  For watercolor, I use Aquarelle Arches Cold Press blocks, Winsor & Newton paints, and a few darker Prismacolor colored pencils for line work.  I create a line drawing and use transfer paper to transport the image to the watercolor block.  Then I paint.  As mentioned earlier, I work digitally with my Wacom Intuos 3 tablet and Photoshop CS6.  For sketching, I’ve always used blue pencils, brush pens, and Prismacolor Cool Grey markers.

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

Yikes.  Hah, ask me this again in 7 years!  Well, being an artist can be rough.  I haven’t had much success in my career, and often times my confidence takes a beating from the rejections I get.  I do think it helps to read interviews of other artists that you admire.  It helps to know many of them weren’t “supermen” right off the bat.  We often see their successes but have no idea of the obstacles they had to overcome.  I also keep folders of images of artists I admire on my desktop to keep me inspired.  I hope that helps.

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Thank you Justin for sharing your talent, process, and journey with us. Please make sure you keep in touch and share your future successes with us. Website: http://jwongart.com/

If you have a minute, please leave Julia a comment. I am sure she would love it and I enjoy reading them. Thanks!

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

Posted by: Kathy Temean | February 27, 2015

Free Fall Friday – Results

THE AWARD WINNING BOOK THAT KICKSTARTED LAUREN OLIVER’S WRITING CAREER - BEFORE I FALL is on SALE at AMAZON. You can get the Kindle version for $2.99 until March 9th.

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Agent Elena Giovvinazzo has read the four Lucky first pages winners and shared her thoughts below. She is interested in Young Adult, Middle Grade, Picture Books, etc. plus illustrators. 

She would like to see a historical novel with a contemporary feel or a heartbreaking gorgeous contemporary YA novel.

Pippin Properties, Inc. is an agency devoted primarily to picture books, middle-grade, and young adult novels, but they also represent adult projects on occasion. Elena joined the Pippin team in June of 2009.

Here are the winners and Elena thoughts:

BABY EVIL GENIUS, Valerie Bodden, Picture Book

Baby Evil Genius had the perfect evil hair and the perfect evil smirk and the perfect evil laugh. He even had the perfect evil sidekick.

All day, Baby Evil Genius worked in his lair. He conjured lightning bolts and concocted secret potions. He invented sliming machines and make-the-bug-bigger devices.

But there was one thing Baby Evil Genius couldn’t make. It was the thing he wanted most of all: friends.

So he invented a friend zapper. He pointed it at a little girl on the swings. Instantly, the girl appeared in Baby Evil Genius’s lair. The girl screamed. Baby Evil Genius didn’t think that was a friendly sound. He sent her back.

Next he made a friend potion. He left some on a picnic table. But the results were not optimal. “Yuck!” “Eww.” “It tastes like pencil shavings!”

So Baby Evil Genius sent one of his creations to fetch a friend. Apparently, friends do not like spider drool. [illo: giant spider carrying a kid]

Maybe it was time to rethink his plan. He went to the park to make some scientific observations.

Here is what Elena had to say:

BABY EVIL GENIUS

This first page shows some great potential! I love that it provides just enough to keep the reader interested but leaves lots for the illustrator to tackle. I’m dying to see what or who this evil sidekick is. I’d ask the author to reconsider the title and the repetition of “Baby Evil Genius” – I think there’s room for something even funnier. Otherwise, I do think that this is off to a pretty great start.

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SAVING SARAH by James Boyce – Young Adult

The acrid smell from the damaged engine lingered in the cool evening air as sirens wailed in the distance. Sarah tried to gather her wits about her. She was in pain, significant pain. Her vision was blurry and she could feel blood oozing from a wound on the side of her face. Someone had been talking to her, but she wasn’t hearing it. That’s when things started to become clearer.

“Stay with me. You’re gonna be all right. The ambulance is almost here. Can you hear me? Hello?”

The surrounding sounds were fading in and out, almost as if she was floating in water. They seemed muffled one moment and then would clear up, only to sound muffled again.

As pain racked her eight-year-old body, Sarah turned her head to the right, and then blinked a few times to get her eyes to focus. When she looked through the shattered passenger seat window, she saw the face of a man, balding and overweight, with sweat running down his face. He looked petrified.

“Can you hear me? Are you okay? What’s your name?” the man asked with urgency.

Name. Sarah recognized that word. Name. She had a name. When she opened her mouth to respond, she only had the energy to say one word. “Sarah.” Her head bobbed and her eyelids became heavy. She could hear more sirens in the distance, different ones. Where was she?

“I’m Harvey. You’ve been in an accident. Help is almost here.”

Yes. An accident. Only now did she remember that she was with her parents; they had been on their way home from the library. With the pieces falling into place, Sarah turned her head to the left in a slow and deliberate manner.

Harvey shook his head so hard his cheeks rippled. “No, Sarah, keep your eyes on me—” he pleaded, but it was too late.

Sarah’s gaze met her father’s eyes, which were calm and lifeless.

Here is what Elena had to say: 

SAVING SARAH

Talk about diving right into the action. I know authors are often told to do this, but if not done perfectly right it can be a bit jarring and I often find myself feeling lost when I’ve only just begun. I’d suggest maybe even starting with “Stay with me. You’re gonna be alright.” I have to say, too, that I was actually stunned to find out that the protagonist was only 8 years old. This reads like a YA novel to me but 8 is far too young for the genre. If this is a flashback, perhaps there needs to be a way to signal that right off the bat so you’re not left with a reader thinking “why would I want to read about an 8-year-old.” That being said, this opening is very intriguing with a last line that is going to have the reader clamoring for the next page.

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IMA MOSQUITO by Wendy Greenley Picture Book

[Note: corresponding nonfiction for sidebars/back matter is in order at story end] 

Hi! It’s Ima Mosquito flying to find YOU. I’m on the move because—

I WANT TO TAKE OVER THE WORLD!

Or at least the neighborhood.

It should be diabolically easy. In a month’s time I will have more than SIX MILLION minions—I mean family members! Bwa-ha-ha!

To set my plan in motion, I’m leaving these beautiful flowers.

No more nectar. I need a deliciously disgusting special meal.

No rain. Low wind. Perfect flying conditions. Yes, today is the day!

It’s a human smorgasbord! Let’s get this party started!

First stop, the young humans’ game of hide and seek.

I don’t need to see them. I can follow their breath. Mwa-ha-ha!

Go ahead! Try to run away! Hot sweaty humans smell even more delicious.

Forget the cake. I’m hungry for blood!

Slap!

Careful! I had to dodge that last move!

Here is what Elena had to say: 

IMA MOSQUITO
This feels like the start of really kid-friendly non-fiction. I always cringe, however, when a character introduces himself directly to the reader. There has to be a more creative way to do it. Imagine every book started of with “Hi, I’m so and so.” Boring! This character has a great voice, but I wonder if there is a way to frame him apart from a villain – show what purpose mosquitos serve – they do serve a purpose, right???

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GREETINGS FROM MURDERVILLE – YA mystery by Matt Farley

My thumb hovered over Amy Decker’s name on my phone screen. I already had the remote control to the hot tub in my pocket and five Fuzzy Navel wine coolers stashed under the deck. It was shaping up to be a damn fine afternoon until Mom announced that it was time for a family outing.

“Jackson, this time next year, you’ll wish you could spend time with your little brother,” she told me when I tried to get out of it. “You’ll be getting ready to head off to UCLA all… by… yourself…”

She trailed off. It was Saturday, just after school let out. I had better things to do than visit the world’s most boring tourist trap. But Dad gave me a meaningful look and started tapping his highball glass on the wet bar.

I sighed and took my finger off the screen.

So there we were, me and Jaden and Mom and Dad, clomping down the Mystery Stop’s raggedy-ass boardwalk in the middle of the Santa Carla Mountains with all the tourists from over the hill. The closer we got to the wooden, summer camp-looking archway by the ticket booth, the more trouble Jaden had holding still. I was having the same problem, but probably for a different reason.

“We’re almost there, honey,” Mom said, steering Jaden back into line. “Are you excited?”

Jaden squeaked and nodded until I thought he’d fall down. He’s four. I’m 18. My parents have been married to each other the whole time. I did the math on that one a few years back and promised myself I’d never, ever do it again.

We made it to the ticket counter, which gave Dad an opportunity to grumble about how expensive things were these days. The girl behind the desk nodded like it was the first time she’d ever heard that, and then seemed to look around for something to slash her wrists with. I gave her a medium-wattage smile and she brightened, like maybe she’d give life another try after all.

Here is what Elena had to say:

GREETINGS FROM MURDERVILLE

We’ve been dropped into the middle of this story. Who is Amy Decker! More importantly, who is the narrator?! Try starting with “It was shaping up to be a damn fine afternoon.” THEN tell us why. THEN we actually care when it gets ruined by mom. Moving down the page, I think this actually moves a little too quickly overall. I feel as though I’m playing catch up with the action. We’re in one place then another then another in the span of one page. Ease into your story. Let the words have the opportunity to settle onto the page.

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Thank you Elena for sharing your expertise with us. Your involvement has help more than just the four writers who were chosen this month. It is very much appreciated.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

Posted by: Kathy Temean | February 26, 2015

Agent Looking For Clients

Heather_FlahertyHeather Flaherty is an agent at The Bent Agency. She represents authors who write children’s, middle grade, and young adult fiction and non-fiction, as well as select new adult fiction, and pop-culture or humorous non-fiction.

She is looking for YA fiction across-the-board, though her heart does sway towards issue-related YA with humor and heart – not depressing, or mopey. She also loves loves loves hard, punchy, contemporary YA that’s got no hesitations when it comes to crazy. She also is always up for seeing contemporary stories with Sci-Fi or Fantasy elements, as well as a clever respin of an old or classic tale. And then, lastly, really good horror and ghost stories… not gory-for-gory’s sake or overly disgusting, but cringing, dark, bloody twisted, and even lovely. That said, the one thing she loves above all else in a YA novel, regardless of sub-genre, is a strong and specific character voice. A real person, not another “everygirl.”

As for the Middle-Grade she is looking for, a stark, honest, and even dark; either contemporary or period, as long as it’s accessible. Coming-of-age stories, dealing-with-difficulty stories, witness stories (adult issues seen through the child’s p.o.v kinda thing), anything that makes you want to hold the narrator’s hand… for your own comfort, as well as their’s. It is okay for these stories to have a slight magical or fantasy elements as well – as long as they’re subtle.

In New Adult, she likes to see story… not just romance and/or erotica. For me, it should pretty much be a great YA novel for an older audience.

On the non-fiction side, she is looking for strong teen memoirs about overcoming crushing situations.

Heather grew up in Massachusetts and started working in New York City as a playwright during college. This pushed her towards English as a focus and wound up beginning her publishing career in editorial, specifically at Random House in the UK where she became a YA and children’s literary scout. This lead to her coming back to the states and NYC, consulting with foreign publishers and Hollywood regarding the next big book. Heather says, “Now as an agent, I’m thrilled to turn my focus on growing authors for that same success.”

How to submit: Please do not simultaneously query our agents; submit your work to only one of us. If she passes, feel free to contact another.

Email Heather and tell her briefly who you are, about your book, and why you’re the one to write it. Include the title of your project in the subject line of your email. Then paste the first ten pages of your book in the body of your email (not as an attachment, please).

If you’re submitting a picture book, please include the complete text; for illustrations, please also include a link to your website if available, or two or three PDFs or JPEGs of your work. For graphic novels, please paste the first ten pages of your script in the body of your email, as well as the first five pages of your dummy. The dummy doesn’t need to be entirely finished, but if it’s not, please include up to three samples of your finished work, or a link to your online portfolio.

Please do not send an exclusive query. Queries are meant to be shared with multiple agencies. The Bent Agency ONLY accepts email queries. If you send your query by postal mail, it will be recycled and not returned to you.

It is our goal to respond to every query. If you don’t receive a response within a month, please resend your query and indicate that you’re sending it again.

If the agent is interested in your work, she will respond with instructions for sending the rest of your material. If they request material from you, and you have another agency offering you representation, please check back with us before accepting representation elsewhere.

Here is Heather email: flahertyqueries [at] thebentagency.com.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

Posted by: Kathy Temean | February 25, 2015

Cultivating the Sources for Your Ideas

erikaphoto-45Erika Wassall, The Jersey Farm Scribe here, on

Cultivating the Sources for Your Ideas

Ideas are precious. Whether it’s the seed for a whole new story, an idea for how to express a character’s reaction or a way to solve a transition problem you’ve been struggling with, they’re an important part of any creative process.

But who am I telling? You knew that. You’re writers and artists after all!! You know that there is little that’s more important than keeping the fresh, provocative ideas flowing.

My question is this: what do we actually do to actively cultivate our sources for ideas?

What does that really mean?

As with everything creative, it’s different for everyone. But I can talk about what I do, and I’m sure some of you can show me some new ways as well!

As a writer, I often get ideas from books I read, movies I watch, interactions I see between people around me and even dreams that I have. So for each of those categories I have found ways to not just take advantage of when the opportunity arises, but to actually create a structure where I cultivate their existence and encourage the situations to present themselves on a more consistent and integrated manner.

Movies and Books

Some of you may have read my post about how much I love Alternate Ending Exercises and fan fiction. Who hasn’t complained about a horrible ending of a movie or a book conclusion that really left you feeling unsatisfied?

One of my regular practices is to fully write out my own, more interesting endings or scene. I often think to myself, how would this end if we cut out the boring love triangle? Or how would the story change if we take the same concept, but set it in a totally different demographic, like an inner city or the middle of Wisconsin.

It’s not just the ideas and the practice that this encourages, but it helps me extrapolate new ideas for whatever I’m working on, reminds me that looking at things with a new perspective can spark an entirely different world of possibilities.

Interactions Between Others

People watching!!!

Not only is this fun and a great way to study how people interact, but it helps me develop back-story and reminds me of the importance of the WHY in a plot.

Some of you know that sometimes one of my weaknesses is in laying out the proper motivation for the story. I talked about letting your readers in on the secrets of the world in my post on Why Does Your Story Happen?

I use people watching to remind myself of how important this is. If I see a couple fight, I create the setup that led up to this moment.   It acts as a great reminder of the power of the WHY. An argument is just an argument until you really understand the emotions each person is feeling and why those particular buttons were so sensitive.

Something that at first may have seemed to be nothing more than a sarcastic dig between a couple, can become a deep gutting comment that drives her wild if it has the right tweaks of history and build up.

Dreams

Did you ever wake up with this amazing idea on the tip of your brain, but moments later, it fades, the details become fuzzy and the dream itself, it seems to blur. It’s painfully close, but no matter how hard you try to pull it back into your line of sight, you know in your heart that it’s gone for good.

I can’t tell you how often this has happened to me!

So I started keeping a dream journal. And not only did I find myself remembering more of my dreams themselves, but my ideas would crystallize more easily as well.

Our subconscious is undoubtedly a part of our creativity. So why not use our sleeping hours to delve into that world. Dreams are freeing. No rules. No guidelines. It’s like the ultimate free-write, only in 3D!

My dream journal has become a major source of inspiration. Ideas I had been thinking about for days, that simply refused to come together, have become one fluid concept overnight.

Don’t get me wrong. Some of the ideas that seem so perfect and unique still fade away as I wake up. My heart still races as they slip out of reach and I still struggle to resurrect them even when I know it’s a lost cause. But many remain with me and grow into strong concepts that feed my manuscripts, my writing in general and ultimately myself as a person.

For me, I’ve learned to look at these concepts as more than practice, more than exercises. They are sources of strength for my writing and they are often a form of an end product all on their own.

Taking the time to look at where YOUR sources of creativity stem from and finding ways to cultivate them can be an ongoing resource that grows with you. Knowing your inspirations, knowing what gets your heart racing with the rush of a new concept, and keeping those motivations alive can become an important part of the process and give your writing the constant breath of life.

And your manuscripts are worth it!

Thank you Erika for another great post. We all enjoy your posts.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

Posted by: Kathy Temean | February 24, 2015

First Second

first_second_books_logoLast week we talked about graphic novels and how you didn’t have to be an illustrator to try your hand in this arena. Well it appears that some of you do not know that your can have a non-fiction graphic novel or even a picture book done in the same style, which technically is done in a comic book style.

FIRST SECOND an imprint of Macmillan Children’s has been tearing up the graphic novel scene, but they are starting to do a few picture books. Like Anna Banana and the Chocolate Explosion that came out this month.

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Here is a look at a double page spread from inside the book.

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Another view of the interior artwork.

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Looks to me like this might be a place to put on your Places to Submit To List. Here are this Guidelines. They handle things a little differently.

SUBMIT SOMETHING REPRESENTATIVE OF THE BOOK YOU WANT US TO PUBLISH

Of course this is the vaguest guideline to ever exist!  So let me break it down for you a little.

If you are an established writer/artist who is submitting a project to us in a similar vein to your previous work, send us:

- A pitch letter explaining who you are and what your proposed book is about
– A book summary
– Some character and setting sketches
– Copies of your previous work that is in the same vein as this project is

So if you were Hypothetical Ted Naifeh, author of the Courtney Crumrin books, and you wanted to pitch us a middle-grade mad science adventure with a boy protagonist, you might send us a letter like this:

Dear First Second Editor Whose Name I Know Because I Took A Look At Your Website,

My name is Hypothetical Ted Naifeh, and I’m the author of the Courtney Crumrin series, published by Oni Press.  I’ve enclosed a copy of these books; they’re middle-grade spooky fantasy stories with a girl protagonist.

I have a new project I’m working on that I wanted to send you; it’s the same age as Courtney Crumrin, and the art has a similar sensibility, but instead of the fantasy and the girl protagonist, it’s full of mad science with a boy protagonist.

HERE IS WHAT THE STORY WILL BE ABOUT IN THREE SENTENCES.

A further plot summary and some sketches of the characters and their middle school science lab are on the next few pages. If you’d like to see more sketches or hear about the story in more detail, just let me know.

I’m excited about this new project; I hope you like what you see!

— Hypothetical Ted Naifeh

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A picture of one of their graphic novel covers.

This is not to say that established writer/artists cannot submit to us full scripts or complete thumbnail drafts.  In fact, this happens with some frequency!  But if you are Sara Varon and you are like, ‘First Second, I wish to write another adorable book with animal protagonists,’ probably thumbnailing out the entire 200 pages it not necessary before we’re like, ‘Oh, Sara Varon and animal protagonists!  And there’s a plot!  I bet this book will be something we have some interest in, who would have thought?’

If you are an established writer/artist who is submitting a project to us that’s very different from your previous work, send us:

- A pitch letter explaining who you are and what your proposed book is about.  This letter should include an explanation of how this book is different from your previous books, why you’re creating something different, and why you feel that this new direction can be successful for you creatively.
– A book summary
– Some explanation of any specific credentials you have for this new direction
– Some character and setting sketches
– A chapter or two of sample script or thumbnails
– Copies of your previous work

So if you were Hypothetical R. Kikuo Johnson, author of The Night Fisher and The Shark King, and you wanted to pitch us an adult non-fiction project about Alexander the Great, you might send us a letter like this:

Dear First Second Editor Whose Name I Know Because I Took A Look At Your Website (And We’ve Met Before),

I’d like to submit a project to you; it’s a complete 180 degree change from The Night Fisher and The Shark King — it’s non-fiction, adult, and historical; a graphic novel biography of Alexander the Great.

Alexander the Great has long been my favorite historical figure; I think I’ve read every prose biography of him written at this point!  And I’ve been doing research on him at the New York Public Library for the past year — [more explanation of research background on Alex; I don’t know anything about him, so I’m just going to stop here].  And I really do believe that his empire-building provides a mirror for the United States in our own time — it’s a fascinating cultural reflection.

This biography would cover X, Y, Z things about Alexander the Great, focusing on A, B, and C.  Rather than ending at his death, I’m planning to include a final chapter on the collapse of his empire.  [MORE PLOT SUMMARY IN THREE SENTENCES.]

A further outline of this biography and sketches of Alexander and historical Macedon follow in the next few pages.  I’ve based my art for this project on historical friezes of the time, but done in [Style X] because of [Reasons].  I’ve also included the first chapter of my script, so you can get a feel for how I’d be telling this story.

I hope my enthusiasm for Alexander the Great is contagious; he’s someone who everyone learns about in grade school, but his life and influence is so much more far-reaching and intriguing than what we’re taught in textbooks!  I think this book will show readers the man behind the history — and show that one man has the power to change the world.

— Hypothetical R. Kikuo Johnson

If you’re starting to do something very different from what you’ve done previously — even if it’s not as complicated as researching ancient Macedon — it’s always a good idea to discuss in your pitch letter why you’re making this change and what you’ve done for this new age category/format/genre.  Even if it’s just, ‘Here’s a proposal for a young adult book.  I know I’ve never written young adult before, but two years ago I read The Hunger Games and got obsessed; since then, I’ve been reading through the teen section of the library.  I love what authors are writing for this age category, and I thought, “I want to do that too.”‘

So that’s if you’re an established writer/artist.  But what if you’ve never done any professional work before?  Well, that’s a little more difficult, because we don’t have anything to look at and say, ‘this person can finish a project, and it looks like this.’  Here are some things to think about doing before submitting to us:

- Start a website that has some of your art on it in an easily accessible way.
– Start a blog or a tumblr that has sketches/what you’re doing now on it.  Share your work with the internet!
– Take some classes.  CCS even has short summer programs!
– Make some mini-comics and apply to exhibit at a local small press show like the MoCCA Festival, TCAF, APE, SPX, Stumptown, etc.  Then sell or give your mini-comics to as many people as possible.
– Contribute to anthologies.  Doing short pieces that are included in a larger book is a great way to get on peoples’ radar.

None of these are requirements, of course — you can perfectly reasonably get a book deal without having gone to art school, without ever having made a mini-comic or having been part of Flight.  But: doing all these things does show an editor that you’re making an effort to be a professional in this industry, and it does help you make connections.  Also, seriously: if you’re a writer or artist and you’re trying to get published, have a website.

A submission letter from a new writer/artist might look something like this:

Dear First Second Editor Whose Name I Know Because I Looked It Up; Also We Met at NYCC When I Stopped By Your Booth,

Hi!  I wanted to follow-up after we met briefly at New York Comic-Con.

My name is NewPerson and I graduated from SCAD last year.  I’m working on a graphic novel I think might be a match for First Second.  I think you guys publish great books, and I think that my project has a sensibility similar to The Unsinkable Walker Bean — one of my favorite books that you’ve published.

SUMMARY GOES HERE.

I’m enclosing some sample finished art, a script, and a thumbnail draft of the book.  I’m also putting my last two mini-comics and the anthology I contributed to last year in the envelope, so you can see some of my previous comics.

You can take a look at more of my art on my website here: http://www.newperson.com.

— Hypothetical NewPerson

What goes in the envelope from a new writer/artist is obviously more variable than from an established creator, but if you have stuff published (even if it’s only a mini-comic that you self-published), do send it!  Anything that will help us see what your work is like is a good thing for us to have.  And we’re more likely to want something more detailed than just the outline we’d ask of people whose work we know.  I know that sucks for new writers and artists — and you might be just as awesome as Gene Luen Yang is, but how will be know that unless you show us?  We don’t just need to see that you have a good idea — we also need to see that you have consistently good narration, dialogue, art, and page layouts.

If we don’t know you from Adam, it’s also a good idea for you to tell us why you think that this book specifically will work for our publishing company.  Not just, ‘IT’S THE BEST BOOK EVER!’ but let us know that you’ve read books we’ve published before, and tell us it’s like something we’ve done — or even that it’s absolutely different from what we’ve done, and how that should be interesting to us.

- See more at: http://www.firstsecondbooks.com/uncategorized/the-submission-process-what-to-submit/#sthash.l0t7fAZR.dpuf

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

 

Posted by: Kathy Temean | February 23, 2015

Harborlight Books

Harbourlight_logo_150THarborlight Books is own by the Pelican Book Group. They accept a wide range of Christian Stories. You should check out their website. Most of their books are a 100% off this month. Nice covers, nice titles, nice stories, nice price. If you think you might like to write for them, you should download a few of their free books to help you decide on what they like.

Right now they are having their Christmas Holiday Extravaganza.

Extravaganza titles are novelette to novella length stories (between 15,000 and 25,000 words) to fill twenty-four special slots each Christmas season. Stories may fit either the White Rose Publishing (romance) or the Harbourlight Books (general fiction) imprint, but must have a Christmas theme. Submissions must be received on or before 1 May of each year in order to be considered for that year’s Extravaganza.

Stories must be Christian fiction, may be contemporary or historical, and may fall under any subgenre (e.g. romantic suspense, sci-fi,) To submit, please use the submission form found on our website. Be sure to note: CHRISTMAS SUBMISSION on the form.

Below are their general submission guidelines.

Harbourlight Books Guidelines

Please read our guidelines and submission process carefully. Do not submit queries that fall outside our guidelines, and do not submit your work in some fashion other than that outlined here.

What we are seeking:

  • All stories must be Christian fiction between 25,000 and 80,000 words.
  • Action-adventure
  • Mystery, (cozy or other)
  • Suspense, crime drama, police procedural
  • Family saga
  • Westerns
  • Women’s Fiction

The focus of a Harbourlight story should be conflict experienced by the main characters. These stories encompass protagonists who may, or may not, be spiritual at the onset, but come to realize through the progression of the plot that faith is a necessity. Protagonists should be layered, three-dimensional, people who struggle with decisions on a regular basis, using their existent or burgeoning faith to augment their growth both as individuals in the world and as Christians. Remember, Christians are emboldened by their faith, not burdened by it. Protagonists’ backgrounds do not have to be exemplary, but in the current story line, protagonists must have already come to terms with those issues which do not live up to Christian morality and virtue; their past immorality should not be overtly displayed on the page, but should be the catalyst for their internal conflict and growth.

Harbourlight books should convey life as it is lived, or can be lived, by people of faith. Because life can be humorous, mysterious, hazardous, and even a bit otherworldly, with angels popping in at times, Harbourlight books can encompass a variety of elements. The setting for Harbourlight books can be contemporary, historical or futuristic. They may even feature supernatural elements; however, an element of faith must be present in all Harbourlight stories without becoming overbearing or preachy. (Please take note that supernatural themes are not the same as paranormal themes. Supernatural themes must be limited to Christian elements [e.g. Angels would be acceptable; a talking witch’s familiar would not.])

Harbourlight books should be character-driven stories that have an emotional rise and fall. Even a police procedural should be conveyed through the observations and emotions of the protagonists. Feel free to delve into sensitive topics (e.g. infertility, terminal illness, infidelity), subjects that affect real people, but without profanity or nudity. Although Harbourlight does not publish romance novels, romantic tension between characters is encouraged as long as it does not overtake the story.

Protagonists should be Christian, or should be discovering Christianity. Elements of non-Christian faiths may be present in the story, but issues which deny the essence of mainline Christianity must not be conveyed as acceptable. (e.g. Denying the Trinity [One God in Three Persons] or denying the divinity of Christ, etc. would not work if conveyed as acceptable; however, showing someone struggling with these beliefs, and then coming to realize the truth of Christianity, might work.) Please specify in your query if your story includes elements of non-Christian religious beliefs, and briefly describe how they are handled within the story, and why they are essential to the plot.

We may publish what some would call edgy, i.e. stories that fall outside current CBA guidelines, however, please note that edgy doesn’t mean profane. It means gently colouring outside the lines because the story demands it.


If you are ready to submit, please use the submission form.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

Posted by: Kathy Temean | February 22, 2015

Chicken Soup Opportunity

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Do you have a Christmas story?

Then you will be happy to know that CHICKEN SOUP is looking for MERRY CHRISTMAS stories that share your holiday memories and traditions. The rituals of the holiday season give a rhythm to the years and create a foundation for our lives, as we gather with family, with our communities at church, at school, and even at the mall, to share the special spirit of the season, brightening those long winter days.

Please share your special stories about the holiday season with us. Be sure that they are “Santa safe” so that we don’t spoil the magic for precocious readers!

Limit 1,200 words.

Pays $200 and 10 copies.

Deadline March 31, 2015.

http://www.chickensoup.com/story-submissions/submit-your-story

GOOD LUCK!

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

Posted by: Kathy Temean | February 21, 2015

Illustrator Saturday – Julia Shahin Collard

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Julia Shahin CollardAs you can see Julia Shahin Collard wears a lot of hats. When not illustrating or writing for kids, Julia can be found herding cats, telling puntastic “jokes,” or beating kale. (Yes, beating, not eating. Kale is a Collard’s natural enemy.) She may or may not be part narwhal.

Julia Shahin Collard’s art has been published in the Los Angeles Times, as well as exhibited in the Venice Art Walk and other shows. She was honored to have a solo art show at Villa Musica in San Diego in 2013. In February 2014, she was selected as SCBWI’s Featured Illustrator, and was the OC Illustrators’ Featured Artist in May 2014.

ACRONYMS:

- BFA in Film & TV Production from NYU = screenwriting, storyboarding & visual storytelling experience.
- MBA in Art Management & Finance from UCLA = professional attitude; will meet deadlines.
- Member of SCBWI: Lifelong desire to write and illustrate books = drive and internal motivation.

Here is Julia explaining her process:

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I draw the scene in its final size with a more refined line, but it’s still pencil on paper. I scan it, and clean it up in Photoshop. I lock the transparency of the sketch so I can change the color of the pencil lines if I want to, but I usually like to keep a dark outline.

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I start with a thumbnail sketch. I keep a whole list of images I have in my mind that I’m interested in drawing, and whenever I get a chance, I start working my way through them. If one of them looks like it would be interesting to flesh out, I take it to the next step.

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I begin to add in color. First I add an overall “wash” and place it underneath the pencil layer.

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Then I add in the principal bits of color, using a “Multiply” layer.

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If I’m lasso-ing sections and filling in with color, I’ll sometimes do that on a separate layer for ease of use. Ultimately, I have colored in everything that needs color, added some depth of color on top of previous layers of color, and now the painting bit comes more into play in the next step.

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Here I’ve added lights using a “Screen” layer. What’s great about Photoshop is that you can do this at any time, and layer it in wherever you want to achieve the desired effect.

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And now I work with the value – I make sure my darks are dark enough all over the painting. Also, since this is a moody night scene, I painted in a vignette effect to help set the scene and focus the viewer’s eye on the boy.

After all this is done, I will sometimes tweak the exposure or other overall elements of the piece so that the image “pops” more. I really want my darks to be dark and my lights to be light – I think my shift to treating my illustrations as paintings – and focusing on value and depth of field – is what has made my work cross the tipping point over to unique and ultimately, worthy of publishing.

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How long have you been illustrating?

I’ve been drawing for as long as I can remember, but I finally made the leap to make it a career in 2009, when I attended my first SCBWI conference.

– Writing since eight years old

– Illustrating since 10 (won some contests, submitted to Cricket Magazine, etc…)

– Wrote and illustrated first ‘Children’s Book’ at 11 years old, “The Foot That Crunched LA”

– Wrote my first full-length book at 21. (And, oh, I thought I was so clever! Adverb this, and adjective that, blah, blah)

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

This is a hoot, but it was a painted leather drum, created for some sort of hippie cleansing festival. It must have been in 2008, because it’s not on my blog.

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Did you live in NYC when you decided to attend Film & TV Production from NYU?

I lived in NYC for four years while attending NYU for my BFA, arriving when I was just 17, and boy, did I have culture shock! Living in the city was exciting, but it was also hard. Ultimately, it was the weather that did not agree with me. As a SoCal native, I just couldn’t get used to the weather extremes, and I missed having green trees all around me at all times.

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Do you think getting your BFA helped you develop as an illustrator?

While at film school, I endlessly wrote screenplays and storyboarded scenes in preparation for production. Even though it wasn’t for children’s books, the process definitely helped me craft my storytelling voice and develop scene pacing. Storyboarding also helped me determine which bits of action in each scene were the most important to show – something that directly translates to crafting images for children’s picture books.

I didn’t really think that I could pursue children’s book writing and illustration – art was never something that was really supported by my family. I was lucky enough to have a father who was willing to pay my college tuition, but he refused to let me major in the arts…until I managed to convince him that the film business wasn’t just about art, it was about making deals and so on. But this fear of art had already been instilled in me – I never took a painting or drawing class after I won an award in art class in 8th grade. My father was very uncomfortable with what was obviously my passion, and I guess I was hungry for his approval. So from the age of 13 to 21, I didn’t take a single drawing or painting class, even though I absolutely could have.

It was around the age of 18 that I realized that I wasn’t over my bugaboo about making books. So in between films and class commitments, I would write, paint, and bind my own little books. They are all terribly self-important and just plain terrible. I was truly convinced I was good enough without formal training. I look at what I made almost 20 years ago, and I cringe. I didn’t know a thing.

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What types of classes did you take that really helped you to develop as an illustrator?

Before and after Business School at UCLA, I signed up for their summer programs – they offer an Advanced Painting class that anyone can take with instructor consent, even people who aren’t matriculated at UCLA. I had 24-hour access to a studio for the whole summer. I ended up taking the class three times, each time with a different instructor. I think it was there that I really learned to tell stories in my imagery. It wasn’t from any particular instruction – since it was Advanced Painting, they didn’t actually teach us any fundamentals, they would just prod us to move in certain directions.

But I still didn’t have the basic training – drawing nudes and still lifes. I had put it off long enough. So I signed up for a long succession of fundamental classes in drawing and painting at UCLA Extension.

In 2008, I signed up for my first children’s book writing and illustration class. It was taught by Barney Salzberg at UCLA Extension. I went in thinking I was going to own this thing. Of course, I look now at the stuff I was making then, and it’s horrible. My style seemed based on 1980s picture books, which are NOT what sell now.

Other than that class, there weren’t any at UCLA that focused on illustration in a studio setting – I did manage to take a graphic novel class at SMC, and a couple classes at Art Center (one on graphic novels, and another on composition), but I pretty much used up all the available resources LA’s colleges had to offer. That’s when I joined SCBWI.

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What inspired you to move to California and get your MBA in Art Management & Finance from UCLA?

As soon as I graduated college, I was selected to go to France to do an internship through Kodak at the Cannes Film Festival, and from there, I traveled around the world for six months. The stipulation from my dad (I know, him again) was that for him to fund this trip extension, I needed to agree to move back to LA. So I did.

Back in LA, I worked a bunch of grunt jobs in the film industry out here for a while, until one day, after coming home from a long brain-festering day of answering phones, Xeroxing scripts, and writing coverage, I decided I was meant to do more with my life than wait in line at the bottom of the heap with a million other people desperate to work for beans. I learned while in film school that I wasn’t a fan of production, but preproduction didn’t seem to be doing it for me either. At least not the bottom rungs. I didn’t get to create anything, and I wasn’t even able to use my mind. I needed to find a different way “in.” I saw how many people on the business side of the film industry just transitioned into production after working in marketing and strategy for however many years. It seemed like it would at least be more interesting than Xeroxing and at most be my shortcut to the top of the ladder, and gave me a Plan B – something to do with my life in case it wasn’t in the cards for me to become the head of a major studio. (Remember, I was fresh out of college, so I really thought I could do these things, and still be able to quit it all to work on kid’s books at the age of 35)

But first I needed some real job experience. So I took some classes in statistics and accounting, got a job in finance, and learned to love Excel and accounting for a year. And voila, I got into my top choice school. Why was UCLA’s Business School my top choice? Because they had an Art & Entertainment Management track, unlike any of the other schools I looked at. You see how hard I was contorting myself to get to a place where I could be creative.

While I was at UCLA, I learned the ins and outs of starting my own company. Something that has been invaluable in my tax planning and long-term financial strategy in my illustration career. Granted, it has taken longer than I had initially projected (To be honest, I gave myself two years – HA! Wishful thinking.)

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Did you want to be an illustrator when you attend UCLA?

As I told my husband when we first started dating (we met at UCLA), “I’m going to work now, and build up something to make compound interest on, but by the time I am 35, I want to be writing and illustrating children’s books as my job.”

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What did you do right after you graduated?

Post-B-School, I found myself back working in finance, unable to snag the dream job I had worked so hard to get. I came close in interview rounds multiple times, but something just wasn’t getting me the job. Maybe it’s that they knew my heart wasn’t in it. I just wanted to create. Enter the SEISMIC SHIFT.

One of my dad’s good friends took me aside one day at dinner and asked me while I wasn’t pursuing art. He knew me when I was young, and how passionate I was about making art. What had happened? And I told him all the things I had been indoctrinated with – how I needed to make a living, how artists leech off of other people, and how I was too smart for it all (I was fed these lines)

The next week, I was randomly going through an art supply catalogue (I’d been taking those painting classes at UCLA and UCLA Extension on the side, after all), and on the phone with my sister. She told me to make a wishlist of art supplies, so that she could get me something for my birthday. But to just circle everything that I could ever want.

A few weeks later, a small truckload of boxes arrived at my apartment. My dad’s friend had purchased ALL of the supplies I’d put on my wishlist. EVERY LAST ITEM. Even a super-ridiculous easel. He said if my dad wasn’t going to support me, he would. He knew that I had innate talent and I was wasting myself. All I needed were the supplies – the motivation was more than there. And like that, he was gone – I didn’t see him for a couple of years.

God. Do I KNOW how lucky I am to have had this man sweep into my life like that. Talk about fairy godparent. I didn’t go back to finance. I told my boyfriend (now-husband) that I NEEDED to try. Just give me two years, I asked. If I don’t make it, I’ll go back to finance. I had savings. Being a starving artist didn’t cost much.

It took him a while to warm up to the idea. After all, why did I even go to business school if I was just going to throw in the towel like that? It was something that nagged at me for the first five years, when I was still pretty bad at illustrating, and was still piecing ramen money together by painting people’s pets – because after all, I’d basically had no art training. But I felt ALIVE. That familiar FLOW STATE came flooding back to me, and I made and made and made and made…like a dam had burst.

And yes, it was amateur work. But I had to start somewhere. And I had no doubt that I could improve. If I put my mind to something, I could do it. After all, I was a BFA who managed to get into a Top 20 Business School. They all thought I was an outsider there too. So at least I was used to the feeling of “other” when I walked into art classrooms and was conspicuously older than everyone else.

And so, to finally answer the question: I endeavored to build fine art portfolio before undertaking the writing/illustrating.

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When did you decide that you wanted to illustrate for children?

I’d been making my own children’s books since the age of 11, and I was 18 when I decided that it was eventually what I wanted to end up doing for the bulk of my life.

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How did you get to do the LA Times artwork?

In May of 2011, I emailed the editor of the Kid’s Reading Room section of the Los Angeles Times (I had received her information from a colleague), with a link to my portfolio, asking if she would consider me for a piece. The editor emailed back with interest, and from there, it was just a waiting game for the right project. Three months later, I got a call from her asking if I’d be interested in illustrating a Halloween story. I had a month to come up with rough sketches, go to final sketch, and then final art. A month after that, the story ran! Woo-hoo!

Unfortunately, the Kids’ Reading Room was cut by Corporate in March of 2012, so I didn’t get a chance to try again.

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Have you tried your hand in licensing art?

It’s not something that I have actively pursued. On occasion, I’ve been asked a price to license a certain image, but usually they shy away when I tell them the price (which is directly from the Graphic Artist’s Guild price guidelines, so I’m not being out of line or anything).

I do sell my work on print-on-demand websites like Zazzle and Fine Art America, but that’s not licensing.

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Since I know you attend the SCBWI conferences, do you show off your portfolio at the conference?

Whenever I attend a conference, I always make a point of entering my work in the portfolio showcase. Other than that, I don’t typically take it out unless people ask to see it. Even then, I find it a lot easier to pass around my picture book dummies, since they are smaller, and writers seem to understand what they’re looking at better.

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How did you connect with Lara at Andrea Brown Literary Agency?

I have a whole blog post with the details, but long story short, Steven Malk recommended that I talk to one of the agents at Andrea Brown, so I met Kelly Sonnack and queried her, and she replied saying she was about to have a baby but she sent my book dummy to her colleague Lara Perkins, and Lara loved it and wanted to talk on the phone. Lucky, lucky, lucky. I am so lucky that Lara was brought into the picture – she is the perfect fit for me.

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

Yes, I tend to think of myself as an author/illustrator primarily, but I am happy to work on other people’s stories if the opportunity arises.

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Do you think your style has evolved since you attended college?

Well, haha, considering the fact that I didn’t really HAVE a style in college, I’m gonna have to say yes. ;)

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Do you use Photoshop in any of your work?

All the time. My current working method is heavily computer-based – I draw with pencil on paper, scan it into the computer, and fully paint it in Photoshop.

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Would you consider working with an author who wants to self publish?

I would ask them to contact my agent and she would work out the details.

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Have you worked with educational publishers? If so, which one’s?

No, I would prefer to work for a royalty rather than a flat rate, if at all possible.

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Have you done any artwork for magazines?

Just Kite Tales Magazine, the SoCal Triregion magazine for SCBWI.

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Do you do any types of promotion on your own to get your work seen by publishing professionals?

Once a quarter, I send out a postcard mailing to the art directors at publishing houses, as well as select editors.

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Have you gotten any work through networking or the Internet?

Definitely networking. Most of the people who find me through the internet contact me about books they want to self-publish, and they never want to pay the Graphic Artist’s Guild rate.

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Do you use software for painting like Photoshop or Painter?

I use Photoshop. I’d love to be able to use Adobe Illustrator too, but the last time I took a class on it was in 2000, and I didn’t keep up with it. I tried using it a couple years ago, and it’s a whole different beast now. I’m sure if I hadn’t been using Photoshop continuously through the software upgrades, I would have been unable to use it as well. I’ve tried using other programs as well, but nothing has felt as comfortable as Photoshop.

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Do you own a graphic tablet? If so, how do you use it?

I have a 24-inch Wacom Cintiq, and it has become indespensible in my artwork. I do an initial pencil sketch, scan it in, clean up the black and white image, and then GO – I paint everything on the computer.

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How much time do you spend illustrating?

It depends on what I’m working on. If I’m painting, then I’m doing it all day long. I just get lost in it. Total flow state. If I’m doing initial compositions or storyboarding, that’s a lot more frontal lobe work, and I need to take lots of breaks.

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Do you have a studio set up in your house?

I had a separate art studio up until the end of last year, when my art style almost 100% moved onto the computer, and I was spending most of my days with my 70 lb Wacom at home. I have a spare bedroom set up as my “laboratory” where I am surrounded by books and piles of papers and inspirational objects.

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Do you have a strong art community where you live?

With LA being so spread out, most of my friends near me are writers. The illustrators tend to congregate further east. I see at least one of my writer friends every week, it seems, but it’s usually a special event that brings the illustrators together. Today, for example, we got together to celebrate Dan Santat’s Caldecott win. Lots of people came in from all around to congratulate him, and we all talked about how we should be getting together more often.

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What are your career goals?

I always believe in reaching far for things that don’t seem possible in the here and now, so I’m going to be honest and say that my career goal is to win a Caldecott.

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What are you working on now?

I’m working on another picture book dummy, but I’m supposed to be pretty tight-lipped about it, so I’m zippin’ it!

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

Layers, layers, and more layers in Photoshop – tweak the transparancy and try using “multiply” – treat it like a painting, because…it is a painting! That’s how I managed to make things look less digital, anyway.

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

Be patient. If you stick with it long enough, your ship will arrive.

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Thank you Julia for sharing your talent, process, and journey with us. Please make sure you keep in touch and share your future successes with us. Website: http://nomadicconcepts.madewithcolor.com/

If you have a minute, please leave Julia a comment. I am sure she would love it and I enjoy reading them. Thanks!

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

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