Posted by: Kathy Temean | October 1, 2020

Book Giveaway: IT’S SHOWTIME! by Catherine Lazar Odell

Author/illustrator Catherine Lazar Odell has a new picture book titled, IT’S SHOWTIME! published by Page Street Kids. The book came out a few weeks ago. Besides sharing her book journey, Catherine has treated us by including her illustrating journey creating this book. Enjoy!

PSK has agreed to share a copy of the book with one lucky winner. 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 do to share the good news, so I can put in the right amount of tickets in my basket for you.

Sharing on Facebook, Twitter, reblogging really helps spread the word for a new book. Thanks for helping Catherine!

BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Frannie loves to have an audience. Pepper prefers to perform when no one is around. Pepper and Frannie are best friends, and they both love a good show.

When they decide to stage a performance themselves, Pepper is content to work behind the scenes as Frannie prepares an epic, extravagant spectacle: it will have lights, and action, and drama! She’s just forgetting one thing…to practice her song. When Frannie’s lack of preparation leaves her stuck in front of a crowd, can anything save her act? Luckily Pepper knows just how to help. The show must go on!

Utterly charming, energetic illustrations and simple, funny text highlight the power of celebrating each other’s strengths and working as a team in this return of the lovable pair.

BOOK JOURNEY:

This is the second book for Pepper and Frannie, so I supposed I’ll start with a quick recap of that journey. My second time attending an SCBWI conference in NY, I put my portfolio in the illustrator’s showcase. I also put my portfolio in the showcase the first conference I went to, but not a single person took my card. (Yes, I counted my cards before and after. Yes, it was a bummer.) But the second time I got an email from the (now former) editor at Page Street that very evening, asking if I had a story for one of my images. I did not! But I knew I could write one and said I would send her a couple ideas soon. We kept in touch until I finally managed to write a text she was excited about, and we signed my first contract as an author and illustrator about six months after that first email.

It was about a year later that I handed in final versions of the text and artwork for the first book. There was a lot of back and forth and I’ll even admit to a lot of hand holding in the process. I went astray a few times, unable to see a clear arc, and explored a lot of different directions before finally landing on a skate story. Looking back, I think it should have been obvious, not only because skating is one of my passions, but I already had images of bunnies skating and adventuring in the mountains. But hey, sometimes we have to go all the way around and back again to see what was already there.

Skipping ahead to the second book. There was an option clause in my first contract, so either way I was going to share my next story with them, and the same editor reached out to ask if I had another story idea for Pepper and Frannie. Because of the long exploration time in making the first book, I had a few ideas on the back burner. I put together a couple rough outlines and sketches and sent them over. They were most excited about the performance idea, and I was excited to show another form of creative collaboration between friends…so that was the seed for It’s Showtime! I knew I wanted it to be musical, and I already knew their personalities very well by this point, so it was mostly about asking questions. What would happen if there were a talent show? Frannie would be excited to perform. Pepper would not. Would Pepper help in any way? Probably, but only if Frannie needed and wanted her to help, and she would NOT want to be on stage.

You get the idea. Ask a question, answer it based on what you know, ask another question, then start to carve out a story. That’s how I tend to write stories now. I have an idea for a character first, then I put the character in a setting and start asking questions. Why are they there? What are they doing? How do they feel about this situation? What happens next?

The text and first draft thumbnails for the second book took one long weekend to write. So much fast than the first book! I went to a cabin for a couple days and spent 90% of the time under blankets on the couch with my laptop. There may have been a couple dog walks and meals, but I was determined to get it out before going back home. That approach worked really well, but I don’t think I could have done that without all the toiling and exploring that came with the previous book.

There was already a formula that was established in the first book and I just had to decide where I would mirror it and where it would deviate. It took another 3 months to revise the story and sketches, going back and forth with the editor and art director, and then another three months to make the final art.

ILLUSTRATING JOURNEY:

This story was my first experience writing the second book of a series. The stories are not a progression or sequential in any way, but the characters were already established, and so there are already certain rules or at least personalities that need to be consistent. I knew I was only able to show a slice of their lives in the first book, and this was a chance to expand. Very exciting. So I decided to make their adventures take a different form. No longer skating in the woods, but expressing their creativity in a new way. It also gave me the chance to show that supporting roles can change within a friendship. It all depends on the situation.

I played with different ideas for scenarios and how each character would react to the situation. I sketched ideas, looking for moments that made me laugh or interactions that felt meaningful. I drew from my own experiences as a touring musician and childhood memories of putting on shows with my cousins while the adults did boring adult things.

When I am working on a new story, it comes out as a combination of drawing and writing. It’s messy, like working on a puzzle or solving a mystery in your back garage. There’s a lot of scribbling, and jotting, and scratching out, and moving things around.

Because I’ve drawn these characters so many times now, I can make them do almost anything. Sometimes they come out in a few simple lines, sometimes in a mess of lines, but either way, I don’t fuss with it too much at this stage. As long as the gesture and emotion are there, the rest can be dialed in before painting.

The drawings and text go back and forth between me and the editors until everyone is happy, and then it’s time for the final art. It feels like a time to celebrate but really it’s when the work work begins. Usually there are a few months that look like more than enough time, but when you break it down by the number of days and number of pages, it can all go quite quickly. I make a big calendar and rough out a schedule, estimating days per spread. I have a system of colored dots I use to track if a drawing is painted, scanned, arranged, and colored. It becomes my master chart to make sure I hit the deadline.

I paint with sumi ink, and don’t use any color. I use the animation concept of cells, where I paint the characters and critical objects separate from the background. Then I scan them in and color everything in Photoshop using a combination of different filters and masks. It can be a little tedious, but it gives me the softness and textures of something hand painted, as well as a lot of control when it comes to editing and adjusting.

This book came out this summer, during COVID, so I haven’t had the chance to visit any classrooms or bookstores yet to share it, and I’m really excited to do so next year. My next challenge is to work on my live internet show. 😉 Hopefully Pepper and Frannie will lend me a hand.

CATHERINE’S BIO:

Catherine’s childhood spanned the globe, and helped her to develop an appreciation for all the different lives a person can live.  She has been to all 50 states in the US, lived in six, and has called Portland home for 14 years. She earned a Bachelor of Industrial Design at Syracuse University, and continued to develop her observational and problem solving skills while working as a product designer at Ziba Design. The call of the open road pulled her from that desk and into the life of a touring musician. She played cello for Sea Wolf and Horse Feathers, making multiple laps around the country and a few stints in Europe, until her sketchbook started to complain and eventually demanded a more stable surface. Happily back at the drawing table, she began developing her personal style as an illustrator, while freelancing and selling her art at local street fairs. In that time, some of her doodles became recurring characters, single images became short sequences, and some of those have evolved into stories.

Thank you, Catherine, for sharing your book and journey with us. I have a copy of this book and it is so charming. I love that the text highlights the power of celebrating each other strengths and working together as a team. The characters wonderful and all the illustrations are gorgeous and rich. Good luck with the book! 

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Responses

  1. Pepper and Frannie are adorable! This sounds like an enchanting read! Congrats! Thanks for sharing with us. 🙂

    Sharing on Twitter, Kathy.

    Like

  2. So cute! Congrats!

    Like

  3. Adorable! Thanks for an interesting post.

    Like

  4. This looks adorable! Congrats, Catherine. (I RTed on Twitter.)

    Like

  5. What a nice story, and such pretty illustrations too. Thanks for the chance to win a copy.
    I’ve tweeted a link to this post: https://twitter.com/carlrscott/status/1311761007455289344, and shared an image on Pinterest as well: https://www.pinterest.com.mx/pin/336573772156724042/
    Thanks again, have a safe day everyone!

    Like

  6. I loved reading about Catherine’s process creating this book. I will include a link to this post in tomorrow’s Creative Juice on ARHtistic License.

    Like

  7. How adorable are these two bunnies? LOVE the art and the whole story looks adorable. NICE, Catherine! ❤

    Like

  8. I want them to open that curtain; I’m anxious for their show!

    Like


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