Posted by: Kathy Temean | April 11, 2018

Book Giveaway: Quincy by Barbara DiLorenzo

Author/illustrator Barbara DiLorenzo has a new picture book, QUINCY. Barbara has offered to do a book giveaway. Quincy hits bookshelves last week on April 3. All you have to do to get in the running is to leave a comment. Reblog, tweet, or talk about it on Facebook with a link and you will get additional chances to win. Just let me know the other things you did to share the good news, so I can put in the right amount of tickets in my basket for you.

BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Quincy the chameleon just can’t seem to blend in. Will he ever find a way to embrace his uniqueness?

Quincy wants to love chameleon school, but he’s not very good at blending in. No matter how hard he tries to stop it from happening, all of this thoughts keep popping up on his skin! In camouflage class, the leaves he’s supposed to blend in with remind him of rocket ships, so his skin changes to look like outer space. And when it’s Quincy’s turn to read his poem out loud, he realizes he has to pee-which the whole class realizes, too, when rolls of toilet paper appear on his skin!

The only thing Quincy loves about school is painting during art class with his favorite teacher, Mrs. Lin. But can painting help him find a way to blend in?

BOOK’S JOURNEY:

Quincy is a chameleon that has trouble blending in–which is a problem for his species and culture. Everything he thinks about pops up on his skin. While I cannot perform this cool trick myself, I tend to turn bright red when nervous–which only makes me more nervous. Quincy and I share the same struggle to blend into a community. Growing up, I was on the edge of the popular circle. I had close friends that constantly made me laugh. They were a lifeline in those early years. But when faced with the main group of popular kids, I always struggled with extreme shyness or the social awkwardness that probably made folks cringe. When I finally found my calling in the arts, I found other souls that understood me–and my tribe of people grew. When I discovered the kidlit community, I really had my niche! But that took years.

I wish I could say I wrote Quincy to help other kids overcome feeling bad about not fitting in. I partly did, but the main reason I wrote Quincy was to tell myself that it was ok. That I was ok. That all we need are a few people that love us as we are–we don’t need to win over everyone. Working on this book and sharing it during author visits (the F&Gs) has made me feel proud to tell people my story. 8-year-old me never would have thought all that awkwardness would be put to good use!

In terms of the timeline in making the book, the idea really came at the end of the keynote speech in the 2012 New York SCBWI Winter conference. I was drawing in my sketchbook while listening to a speech about writing the feelings that we know–more than the precise when and where and who. An image of a chameleon appeared in my drawings, and I realized as a kid I worked so hard to blend in–to no avail. My earliest versions were rough–a chameleon the size of a kid, going to a normal human school. All stories start somewhere, and though this early version doesn’t bear any resemblance to the book, the feelings of standing out were there. I remember finishing the drawings for this dummy, and showing them to some of my son’s friends on a field trip (wow, I was desperate to market-test this idea). They didn’t seem that impressed, nor did they have much to offer in terms of feedback. I knew I had to dig deeper.

I reworked the story into a bossy lizard named Farinella who dictated everything she and her friend Odin did together. Odin was a chameleon, and went along with everything Farinella said, until he couldn’t take it anymore, and got upset at her. While the illustrations were fun–it seemed too intense. I then focused on just Odin, who turned into Quincy. At first, it was about a chameleon who was quiet and non-confrontational. After several revisions, I did a small drawing of a chameleon reading a book on space, with planets and comets showing up on his skin. This was a turning point, as it seemed that would be more interesting.

Well into 2013 and 2014, I worked and reworked the plot. Shades of the earlier versions were there, but it was harder and harder for me to find the exact storyline. I produced a lot of fun art–many dummies and thumbnails, but also full-color oil paintings and watercolor paintings. I had fun with the one-off illustrations for my portfolio, but editing the story became a challenge. Even my critique partners were unclear on my concept. After so much work, I did cry when I realized people didn’t understand Quincy.

So I took a break. I focused on other work, and left Quincy alone. Maybe it was the elves that fix our stories in our absence, or it was just enough time to forget all the plot-wrangling I had been doing–but returning to Quincy was fun. I worked with editor Sarah Lyu at Boyds Mills Press. She would talk on the phone and explore the character and his motivations. Her nature is gentle, so she didn’t seem to want to force Quincy into any plot line that felt unnatural. We would bat an idea around, and I would draw it. We’d think about it and revise it. Sarah helped Quincy move from a big mess, into the book dummy that eventually caught the eye of little bee books.

When Sarah left publishing to pursue her own writing, I was sad to lose her help and companionship on the Quincy journey. But she quickly sold her first novel, TRUE ROMANTICS (out 2019 from Simon Pulse/S&S), so I was proud of her and happy she made that choice. Without a lead for Quincy, and Boyds Mills Press passing on it after several tries through acquisitions meetings–I again let Quincy sit in a drawer and worked on other projects.

In the spring of 2016, I attended the Prospect Agency Soiree, as my new agent was/is Rachel Orr. Rachel gave each one of us notes on who would be attending, and who to talk with. Her notes let us in on who was focused on YA versus picture books, and who was into nonfiction or unicorns, etc… I studied the list, but every time I approached an editor or art director, I couldn’t read their name tag until I was almost face-to-face with them. I didn’t want to be rude and turn away, so I spent a majority of the evening talking to all the wrong people (though the right people for someone else). At the end of the night, I gave up, and retreated to my easel next to the bar. There was a designer from little bee books ordering a drink, so we started talking. I was tired, and had no thought that a designer could have any pull in acquiring a book–mostly because Sarah as an editor in love with a book couldn’t get acquisitions on board. So we spoke honestly, and I shared my work with him. I had grabbed some old Quincy postcards that I had made up in more hopeful days, and those were on the top of the pile that David was looking through. He asked about Quincy, so I explained the character and the storyline. But I also told him, “I love the character, but the plot is all wrong.” He didn’t seem swayed, and asked to see the dummy. I said sure, but didn’t expect that would lead to anything. I told him again, “Some people love him, but a lot of people don’t get him. It’s really not a good story yet.” David listened politely, then after the party, built interest at little bee books until Jenna Pocius requested the dummy from Rachel. We were excited to send it over. But I wasn’t surprised at all when the notes we got back were that it wasn’t right yet. After all, that’s what I had been telling him!

But Jenna ended up working her magic on the manuscript, and nudged and tweaked the text, in what felt like a chiropractor aligning a spine. Suddenly things that had felt so off, made sense. Normally, I’d rip everything apart and tell a different story. But she nimbly worked with the text I had, and brought the best out in it. At that point, they bought it, and David and I got to work on the illustrations!

I have to say I am immensely proud to have Quincy become a book after so many years of hard work. I’m hoping other books gel faster–but this experience has taught me that 1. You can’t make a book without help and 2. Even the most challenging books can be tamed into something worthwhile. Now that I know this, I will have more faith that the exploratory phase will eventually lead to a polished book in the end.

And just like Quincy and his mural, I find myself pleasantly immersed in a world I love: art and books!

BARBARA’S BIO:

Barbara DiLorenzo is the author and illustrator of RENATO AND THE LION (Viking, 6/20/17) and QUINCY (Little Bee Books, 2/8/18). She earned her BFA in illustration at the Rhode Island School of Design, and spent a year painting with Mary Beth McKenzie at the Art Students League of New York. In 2014 she received the Dorothy Markinko Scholarship Award from the Rutgers University Council on Children’s Literature. She is a signature member in the New England Watercolor Society as well as the Society of Illustrators. Currently she teaches at the Arts Council of Princeton, and is co-president of the Children’s Book Illustrators Group of New York. Barbara lives in Hopewell, New Jersey with her wonderful family–who constantly inspire new stories.

Barbara is represented by Rachel Orr of the Prospect Agency. Visit her portfolio at http://www.barbaradilorenzo.com.

Barbara, thank you for sharing your book and journey with us. I can’t wait to read it. If it is anywhere close to your wonderful illustrations and you, I know I will love it and I’m sure the winner will love to read it, too.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Responses

  1. This looks like a delightful story with beautiful illustrations and a hopeful journey. Thank you for sharing!

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  2. What a lovely story and the illustrations are beautiful.

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  3. Barbara I like how you got here…it’s way out there….like so many kids feel. Also, my grandparents had a farm…animals also feel left out.

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  4. What an amazing post from the brightest star in the sky!

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  5. Barbara, Thanks for sharing your story. This book looks and sounds amazing. I already love Quincy!

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  6. The title is so great. I love this premise. https://twitter.com/JohnellDeWitt/status/984093891237498880

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  7. I loved the rendering of lion and boy, the feel of being in Italy, and all the emotions that come through Barbara’s art/illustrations in “Renato and the Lion”.
    To see her work with a different style and story that evokes a different set of emotions in “Quincy” tells me how much I would love to have this book to share with others.
    Kudos Barbara!
    Thank you Kathy for bringing this to your blog.

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  8. Barbara, hearing how this all went was amazing and moving. Wow. And I love Jenna 🙂 SO glad this came together for you AND that you found our tribe 😀 oxox
    (tweeting, of course!)

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  9. Barbara, thanks for sharing such an honest story of evolution in yourself and your character and story. Very inspiring! Quincy’s story sounds like one many kids will really connect with.

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  10. What a great idea for a book! Wonderful illustrations too.

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  11. Thank you for sharing Quincy’s story with us, Barbara, and congratulations on book 2!

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  12. What a delightful book! I am sharing on twitter and FB and re-blogging. Congratulations, Barbara.

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  13. Reblogged this on Darlene Beck-Jacobson and commented:
    Couldn’t resist sharing Barbara Dilorenzo’s latest PB.

    Like

  14. As a teacher, I can totally relate to this story! Wonderful illustrations too. Can’t wait to read it. =)

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  15. Looks wonderful! Congratulations, Barbara! 🙂

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  16. Great looking book, love the illustrations. Thanks for the chance to win a copy.
    I’ve tweeted a link to this post: https://twitter.com/carlrscott/status/984172462798651392 and pinned an image on Pinterest with a link: https://www.pinterest.com.mx/pin/336573772145612190/
    Thanks again, have a great week!

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  17. I loved reading your journey, Barbara and now I can’t wait to get your book. Congratulations!

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  18. Such a brilliant idea! Quincy definitely goes on my to-read list. Thanks for sharing him and congratulations!

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  19. So cute and I’ve loved your previous books. Wishing you all the best!

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  20. Super cute! I’m so happy to have found your blog on the recommended reading list!

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  21. We need more books with chameleons. I love the illustrations.

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  22. This looks adorable and I enjoyed reading about the journey. Congratulations!

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  23. Beautiful story and Quincy is absolutely adorable! I love the process and not giving up on a story. Makes me think of the Ira Glass quote about beginning creatives: “it’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game is still killer…” Huzzah for not giving up on your story and being open to evolution.

    Like

  24. Congratulations Barbara! I’m so happy for Quincy to be out in the world! I really enjoyed hearing more about your book’s journey. Way to persevere! Wishing you and Quincy all the best!

    Like

  25. Also shared on Twitter!

    Like


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