Posted by: Kathy Temean | July 15, 2017

Illustrator Saturday – Kim Kurki

Kim Kurki has been working as an illustrator since graduation from Kutztown University in May 1980, BFA, magna cum laude.

From 1980 to 1984, Ms. Kurki held full-time art department positions at a stationery/gift company and then a screenprinting company. Freelancing since 1985, her work has been published and distributed world-wide on fine art prints, decorative tins, greeting cards, packaging, and various paper products. A partial client list includes Schiftan, Inc., The Scafa/Modernart Group, Keller-Charles of Philadelphia, CLEO Inc., CR Gibson Co., Marcel Schurman Co., Paramount Cards, and Current Inc. Recent work includes commissioned fine art illustrations for Merck & Co. Inc. and illustrations for several publications produced by Yankee Publishing, including The Old Farmer’s Almanac. For over 8 years, she wrote and illustrated for National Wildlife Federation’s Your Big Backyard magazine creating a monthly column which features birds, animals and plants that children can find in “their own backyards”. Her first book, “National Wildlife Federation’s World of Birds: A Beginner’s Guide”, has evolved from that collection of work.

In recent years, Ms. Kurki has created artwork that expresses her personal vision: a “sense of wonder” about the natural world.These realistic watercolor impressions of nature depict botanical subjects, wild plants, and natural environments. Many of these paintings/drawings have been accepted in juried exhibitions.

In addition to her own work, Ms. Kurki designs stained glass panels for Bill Osler of Osler-Kurki Studio Stained Glass in Penns Park, PA. Their work can be seen in numerous public buildings and private residences. http://www.oslerkurki.artspan.com/

Here is Kim discussing her process:

The first book that I wrote and illustrated is “National Wildlife Federation’s World of Birds: A Beginner’s Guide.” It evolved from an 8-year gig writing and illustrating for NWF’s Your Big Backyard magazine. Each month, my page, called “Explore the Big Outdoors,” introduced children to the wonders of nature that they could find in the world around them. Topics included birds, mammals, insects, wildflowers, reptiles & amphibians, and other fascinating phenomena. Here is the process to complete a page; in this case, it’s the Pileated Woodpecker.

Using books, magazines, and other sources, I researched the bird, and took lots of notes. I looked for the most interesting facts I could find.

Once I digested all of that info, I made lists of keywords that might work in the poem and made quick sketches of concepts that I found particularly interesting. The magazine is for ages 3-6, so my 5-year-old brain came in handy to determine which cool facts to include.

The poem came next – 4 lines that I felt would describe the bird’s most interesting and obvious trait.

For the title, I searched through many fonts to find a typeface that expressed the woodpecker’s personality, appearance, or activities.

Using many reference photos, I made preliminary sketches to organize and map out the cool facts that I wanted to include. Using banners, arrows, vignettes, and decorative borders, I presented the unique and important characteristics of the bird. I like to think of this as my “antique advertising” style.


This is the pencil sketch with the desired layout. I taped the printed poem into the bottom banner, scanned the drawing.


I printed it out so I could choose my colors using markers.


The final art is ink & watercolor. I transferred the drawing to hot press watercolor board, tracing it down with homemade graphite paper. Using Rapidograph technical pens in 3 point/nib sizes, I inked the drawing first and then “colored in” with watercolor. I’m a pretty good “colorer.” I won a “Best Coloring” award in 2nd grade.

Here is the printed magazine page.

So after 8 years of creating “Explore the Big Outdoors,” the series had run its course, and I had 94 pages that I owned the rights to. Hoping to publish the whole collection as a book, my friend/agent found a publisher who thought it was best to separate the pages into categories (i.e. birds, mammals, insects, plants, etc.) and it was determined that a bird book would be the first in a series. Out of the 94 pages, only 17 depicted birds, so I had to research, write and create artwork for the remaining pages of an 80 page book. Each 2-page spread would consist of the “main bird” on the left page, and the right page would flesh out more info about that bird, plus feature info about similar species, whether found in North America or in other countries around the world. Here I am holding my book, National Wildlife Federation’s World of Birds: A Beginner’s Guide.

How long have you been illustrating?

I have been illustrating for almost 40 years, since graduating from college in 1980.

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

My 10th grade chemistry teacher, Ivan Kayser, hired me to paint a property sign as a gift for his landlord. He was living in a carriage house on an estate in Bucks County called Fox Briar Farm. I painted a whimsical fox and hand-lettered the name. I think this was during my college years or shortly thereafter. He also commissioned a “fantasy portrait” of him and his wife walking through a magical woodland. I remember there were teddy bears pictured that represented the happy couple. Ivan has been a cheerleader for my art career ever since I decorated our 10th grade chemistry classroom with a wall-sized, illustrated Periodic Table of Elements (in puns!).

What made you decide to become an illustrator and study at Kutztown University?

I always did well in elementary school art class, but I was usually still working on the “drawing part” of an assignment when the other kids were finished coloring theirs. I was asked to do bulletin boards, report covers and programs for events. I made lots of greeting cards for friends and family, so becoming an illustrator seemed like an appropriate career. I chose Kutztown, mostly, because of its rural and geographic location – far enough from home to live on campus and close enough to return home easily. KSU also had a curricula that included all the areas of study that I was interested in. I was an Advertising Art major, which was later renamed Communication Design. I completed all of the Illustration courses available and then was able to plan my own assignments for an Independent Study program, so I concentrated on more Illustration. Beginning with the graduating class of the year before me, 1979, KSU began to develop a great reputation for its art program. I witnessed this first hand when later working in the field, as I had the opportunity to review the portfolios of KSU grads who were applying for jobs where I was employed. The best ones came from KSU and Tyler School of Art, which, ironically, was my second choice for college if I had wanted to live in the “city.”

Do you think your job working in the art department at a stationery/gift company and a screen-printing company helped develop your style?

I think I had already developed a linear, stylized look that could be either whimsical or realistic, but having to adapt my ideas to the products in the stationery/gift market and the production parameters of screen-printing certainly stretched my capabilities as an illustrator and designer. The 4 years I spent as a full-time employee gave me enough professional samples of my work to put together a portfolio to show for freelance assignments.

How did you connect with Merck & Co., Inc. and have them commission your fine art?

A stained glass colleague, Mark Beard, had fabricated a piece for Merck’s Chemistry building at their facility in West Point, PA. He had been commissioned by a corporate art consultant, Mary Alice DeVirgilis, who had the responsibility of placing art in various buildings on that campus and other Merck locations. The head of the Chemistry department had an interest in alchemy, the medieval practice that lead to modern chemistry. Mark’s stained glass panel depicted some alchemy symbolism, but the chemistry head wanted some sort of chart that listed ancient elements. Mark recommended me to do a fine art illustration because he knew that I was good at hand-lettering. He put me in touch with Mary Alice, and I came up with an idea of a sort of antique map document to organize the names of the elements and other symbolism of alchemy.  (see images: Alchemy Chart) This was the start of a 5-year relationship with Mary Alice and Merck. I was commissioned to do artwork for several other buildings, including two illustrated 3-panel timelines for the Training division and the Research division, a series of botanical drawings depicting plant sources for some of their pharma products, a tile wall mosaic, and stained glass panels for the Research division.

Did you knowingly decide to illustrate books that would be interesting for kids?

I think I have always wanted to illustrate children’s books, having a great interest in fantasy and the magic of nature. My whimsical style seemed appropriate to illuminate my “sense of wonder.” I collect illustrated books and the ones for children can be so beautiful AND fun.

How did the National Wildlife Federation see your artwork and offer you illustration work?

As a freelance illustrator, I was constantly sending samples of my work to potential clients. I had/have a subscription to National Wildlife Federation’s Ranger Rick magazine (for ages 7-12) since the 1980s (I was in my 20s). I love the stories and the articles about nature, and the photos are great reference material. They also used illustration, so I sent a sample kit to the Art Director. She liked my work but felt it wasn’t quite appropriate for Ranger Rick. She did, however, feel that their magazine for younger kids (ages 3-6), National Wildlife Federation’s Your Big Backyard, might be a good match for me, so she gave my sample kit to that Art Director. That started an 8-year gig with Your Big Backyard, doing a monthly column called “Explore the Big Outdoors.”  National Wildlife Federation later endorsed my book, “World of Birds,” allowing me to put their name in a banner on the cover.

Were you always interested in wildlife creatures?

Most definitely, and not only creatures, but plants (wildflowers) and other things in nature. Most of my childhood was spent outdoors, exploring woods, fields, and wetlands around my home. Some of my favorite backyard buddies were frogs & toads, turtles, bunnies, lightning bugs & butterflies, and I enjoyed discovering wildflowers and mushrooms. Trees were fun to climb and offered peaceful sanctuary or a magical retreat.

What was the first book you illustrated?

The Old Farmer’s Almanac Garden-Fresh Cookbook. I did the cover and interior illustrations.

How did that come your way?

I had been sending sample kits on a fairly regular basis to the Art Director of The Old Farmer’s Almanac (Yankee Publishing). I really felt that my style was appropriate for their publications and I guess I was persistent enough to convince the AD, Margo Letourneau, to give me a try. My first project was the cover of their Every Day Cookbook, which later provided the format for the Garden-Fresh Cookbook. For about 10 years, I have had an ongoing relationship with Yankee Publishing, creating illustrations for a variety of their publications, including The Old Farmer’s Almanac (see images: OFA Astrologer’s Garden), the OFA Garden Guide, and the OF Almanac for Kids.

Have you won any award for your work?

Yes, I have won several awards over the years, the 2 most significant being for my work for Your Big Backyard magazine: 2009 Association of Educational Publishers (AEP) award for Best Department/Column in a Preschool Publication AND for my book, “World of Birds:” 2014 Moonbeam Children’s Book Award – Gold Medal for Best Nonfiction Publication – Animals/Pets.

What is your favorite medium to use?

Ink & watercolor (Winsor & Newton) on Crescent hot press watercolor board. I have used Rapidograph technical pens forever. I also like to use colored pencil to achieve subtle shading.

I’m definitely more of a drawer than a painter.

Has that changed over time?

Not so much, although sometimes I won’t ink the drawings and choose to delineate detail with just pencil for a softer look. Also, I’m trying to loosen up a bit with perhaps more expressive backgrounds and less detail.

Are you open to illustrating self-published picture books from writers you don’t know?

Yes, if I like the subject matter and feel that my style is appropriate for it. The potential author has to have “done their homework,” researched the market, and be familiar with the steps it takes to organize and produce a book. I have been approached by individuals who have an idea, but they haven’t even written the manuscript yet.

Have you illustrated any book covers?

Just the 2 cookbook covers for The Old Farmer’s Almanac, a math book cover for Continental Press, and my own cover for “World of Birds.”

Has your work appeared in any children’s magazines?

Besides the extensive work I did for Your Big Backyard magazine, I have illustrated Sunday school publications for Westminster Press and Presbyterian Church USA.

Would you like to write and illustrate a book for children?

I wrote and illustrated “National Wildlife Federation’s World of Birds: A Beginner’s Guide” for 7-12 year-olds. It’s the first in a series and I hope to follow up soon with World of Mammals, Plants, Insects, etc.

Do you have an Artist Rep. to represent you? How did you meet and how long have they represented you?

No. My “agent,” who arranged the publication of “World of Birds,” is a long-time acquaintance/friend with extensive experience in the publishing industry, having worked for Barnes & Noble and Sterling Publishing for the last 40-plus years. He doesn’t look for work for me, but he can present my proposals to those of his connections which may be appropriate.

I did have a licensing rep years ago, but she is deceased. She was able to license several of my images from my stationery/gift experience to be used on other products. I met her when she was the Art Director for the Franklin Mint. I had sent her sample kits which she kept on file, and when she left the Mint to become a licensing rep, I became one of the artists that she represented.

Has exhibiting your work ended up getting you commission work or book contracts.

No.

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

Besides all of the sample kits that I have mailed out over the years, I used to go to trade shows to get a look at what companies were producing and where I might fit in, and I would also peruse their catalogs online. To be honest, when I was writing and illustrating “World of Birds,” I didn’t have time for any other illustration projects, so I kind of stopped looking. Since its publication, I have been busy promoting the book at events for nature centers, environmental groups, libraries, adult groups, and schools. I still get assignments from Yankee Publishing and I also have stained glass commissions. If the opportunity arises, I refer potential clients to my website and my Facebook Author/Illustrator page. I also have a presence on LinkedIn, but probably not as comprehensive as it could be.

Do you visit schools to talk about wildlife and your artwork?

Yes, and that is where most of my energy is going these days. I have been doing assemblies in public and private schools. I have several Powerpoint slideshows that have the basic premise of “Exploring Nature is like a Treasure Hunt,” describing the wonders of nature that you can find in your own backyard. Obviously, since my book is about birds, I talk about our feathered friends, but also about nature in general, sharing fascinating facts and my collection of natural artifacts. I also have been tailoring my program to meet the needs of the students, whether they are studying something specific such as natural habitats or embryology, or using nature as inspiration for writing or visual arts. For older students, I can include a discussion of how my book happened and the importance of putting energy into whatever you are passionate about.

In the fall, I’ll be doing a family program at the Michener Art Museum which will focus on “Magic in Nature” and how the natural world has inspired my most creative work.

I did a couple of STEAM Expos (science fairs), a variation on the STEM curricula, including “A” for Arts, and I’m also expanding to adult groups, discussing native plants and how to attract wildlife to your backyard.

 

How did you get interested in doing stained glass?

I began dating a guy who had separated from his wife. They had started a stained glass studio together 13 years earlier. She was the designer and he was the fabricator. When it was determined that they would not continue to work together, I stepped in. I had never considered designing for stained glass, but my linear style seemed appropriate for the medium. After adjusting to the limitations of drawing for leaded panels, I had to learn a whole new palette based on the interplay of light and colored glass. I also learned to paint on glass to achieve detail (such as the petals in a flower or features of a face) using pigments that we fire in our kilns.

Do you have a studio set up in your home?

Yes, I have kind of taken over the house which is relatively small. An upstairs loft is my main studio with my drawing table, computer, and shelves of books. An adjacent room used to be a guest room, but now is home to my light table and shelves of more reference materials. The living room is part office and provided the extra space I needed to spread out my materials when working on the bird book. The stained glass studio is a separate building.

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

My craft at the moment is developing, scheduling, and doing presentations, so when I have an event coming up, that is my focus. In that category, things are slowing a bit for the summer, so when I’m not doing glass or professional gardening, I hope to concentrate on a few book ideas to “keep the ball rolling” in nature publishing. As a self-employed person, my work is my life and though I have myriad lists of creative projects and marketing responsibilities, the priorities change from week to week.

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

Always. For nonfiction topics, I love to do research and probably spend too much time collecting reference materials. Once I saturate my brain with information, the ideas kick in and take shape. I use my own photos as well as images I find in books, magazines, and online. For the bird book, I loved searching for the most fascinating facts that I could find.

For fiction/fantasy topics, I do take pictures of natural environments as a starting point and then my imagination fill in the blanks. I will also use references for accuracy in depicting natural phenomena that I want to include.

Do you think the Internet has opened doors for you?

Having a website as an online portfolio is much more convenient than mailing out sample kits. My FB Author/Illustrator page has provided a platform to share what I have been doing with those that are interested. E-mail is also a valuable tool for quick and direct communication, whether it means sending assignments and sketches back and forth to an Art Director or reaching out to a vast list of potential clients.

Do you use Photoshop or Painter with your illustrations?

No. I use Photoshop Elements to scan and size images and maybe adjust for darkness and lightness, but I do not manipulate my artwork digitally.

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

No. Everything is hand-drawn.

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

Now that I seem to have established some credibility by having a book published, paths are opening up which feel like a direction that I have been following all along. My creative vision has always been to encourage a “sense of wonder” in kids of all ages, whether it’s through more books, programs, or whatever develops. I hope I am remembered as the crazy nature lady who convinced kids to go outside to play & explore & learn to love nature, ultimately growing into adults who respect nature and have the means to protect it.

On the other hand, a career dream might be to doodle for a living…

What are you working on now?

My next book, whether I traditionally or self-publish. I’m not going to elaborate, but you know it will have something to do with nature.

Do you have any material type tips you can share with us? Example: Paint or paper that you love – the best place to buy – a new product that you’ve tried – A how to tip, etc.

Nothing that I haven’t already mentioned.

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

Develop your creative vision and let it guide whatever you do. Think about WHY you create art, not HOW. Where does your inspiration come from? Explore your passion. Your perspective of the world is unique. If you feel strongly about something, people will notice, and you will communicate. Work hard, accept necessary changes, follow through, and keep moving forward. Take walks, pet your cats and/or dogs, and every once in a while, eat your favorite snack.

(Can you say Cheetos?)

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

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

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

Posted by: Kathy Temean | July 14, 2017

July Featured Editor – Mira Reisberg

Dr Mira Reisberg editor at Clear Fork Publishing’s children’s imprint Spork has agreed to be our featured editor for the month of July and critique four first pages. Besides being an editor, she is a multi-published, award-winning children’s book illustrator and author whose books have sold over 600,000 copies. She also runs and continues to help children’s book writers and illustrators get published with the courses she conducts at the Children’s Book Academy. In a former life not too long ago, Mira was a literary agent and a children’s literature professor. She has a PhD in Education and Cultural Studies with a focus on kid lit.

Here is part one of my interview with Mira:

Will you also have the title of art director?

Yes. My expertise is in both.

Do you have a vision for where you want to take Spork?

Yes I have a very strong vision, working collaboratively with the publisher, Callie Metler-Smith, of making the quality of books indistinguishable from mainstream big publishers while also taking risks on books that may not be as commercially driven. I think the key is having wonderful stories with strong characters and plots, lovely language and themes that connect with children’s lives either by creating understanding, meaning, or delight. I want our books winning awards and doing good in the world. At the same time running a press costs money so we will also have to have books that do well commercially to stay in business and balance out those that may not have as wide an audience. In addition, I am passionately committed to high-quality diverse books from diverse authors and illustrators so that kids can see themselves reflected not just as characters but also as creators as well as books that either create meaning or joy or both.

Do You Plan to expand beyond picture books?

I love working on chapter books and middle grades as well but because I have to pace myself, right now I’m only working on picture books so I can keep running the children’s book Academy as well.

What can someone do to get you to ask to see more?

At the moment, I’m only looking at manuscripts from my upcoming course because I know the students will be well-trained and so that I don’t get overwhelmed. At some point I’ll be looking at stories from former students and conferences where I present. Things that float my boat are stories with memorable characters, stories that make me laugh or cry or that feel important in some way, stories that bring to light things from all aspects of life that I (or kids) may not have known about before or that have an innovative approach to something I (or kids) already knew about. I love clever or beautiful language and books that make me care.

Are you interested in new illustrators?

Yes I’m absolutely open to new illustrators. Once again my first choice will be students from our upcoming Illustration course that I’ll be co teaching with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt BFYR and Clarion Books associate art director Sharismar Rodriguez in September, as well as from former students and illustrators that I meet at conferences. I’m especially interested in illustrators of color, of which there is such a big shortage. This is why we will be giving away diversity scholarships at the Academy for September’s course. I’ve also set up a Facebook page for illustrators to submit one piece of art, their bios, and a link to their website right here https://www.facebook.com/groups/1341049895991189/

Stop back next Friday to read Part Two of the Interview I had with Mira. In the meantime you can start submitting your first pages using the guidelines below:

SUBMISSION GUIDELINES For FIRST PAGE CRITIQUES:

In the subject line, please write “July 2017  Critique” and paste the text in the email, plus attached it as a Word document to the email. Please make sure you include your name, the title of the piece, and whether it’s a picture book, middle grade, or young adult, etc. at the top on both the email and the Word document (Make sure you include your name with the title of your book, when you save the first page). REMEMBER: ATTACH THE WORD DOCUMENT AND NOT GET ELIMINATED!

Your First Page Word document should be formatted using one inch margins and 12 point New Times Roman font – double space – no more than 23 lines – only one page. Send to: kathy(dot)temean(at)gmail(dot)com.
PLEASE FOLLOW THE GUIDELINES: Your submission will be passed over if you do not follow the directions for both the pasted email and the attached Word doc. This is where most people mess up.

DEADLINE: July 20th.
RESULTS: July 28th.

Please only submit one first page a month, but do try again if your first page wasn’t one of the pages randomly picked. Thanks!

 

Still time to sign up for Mira’s picture book e-course starting July 24th. Every week – Monday through Friday, there are fresh lessons and exercises from the faculty released on their password protected website that also includes tons of resources that include lists of publishers and agents, worksheets, done-for you templates, and much more. There is an interact private Facebook group where questions are answered and small critique groups are set up for those who want to participate. There is a special webinar page for each week where students post responses to each webinars topic – e.g., thumbnails, quirky or memorable characters etc. Times are scheduled to accommodate folks in different countries as much as possible. These webinars are record for those who can’t make it live.

I took the Middle Grade Writing Course earlier this year and it was chuck full of information. Everyday there were new exercises and things to do. I couldn’t do everything, but Mira gives you access to all the files for six months – so you can work at your own pace. I certainly found the course made me focus on finishing the first draft of my new book.

An impressive fact: Over 140 Children’s Book Academy students have signed contracts for published books.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

Posted by: Kathy Temean | July 13, 2017

Industry News: Changes – Opportunity – Book Winners

tinksiescott10 won Liberty: THE SPY WHO (KIND OF) LIKED ME by Andrea Portes

Anita Nolan won BAND OF BABIES by Carole Gerber

Last week I announced WhiteFeatherFloating won OWL BAT, BAT OWL by Marie-Louise Fitzpatrick, but never received her address. If I do not hear anything by Saturday, I will have to pick another winner.

I wonder if these cute animals are Italian-American. Whatever, they are enjoying themselves, like you could at the Columbus Day Parade, if you are an Italian-American Author. This was illustrated by Kristin Varner. She was featured on Illustrator Saturday in 2013. Click here to see her work. 

Are you an Italian American author? If so, you might be interested in this:

NEW YORK, July 10, 2017 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — The Columbus Citizens Foundation announced today that Leonard Riggio, the Founder and Chairman of Barnes & Noble, the world’s largest bookseller, has been named Grand Marshal of the 73rd Columbus Day Parade. Mr. Riggio created the theme of this year’s parade, “A Celebration of Italian-American Authors,” and is inviting Italian-American authors from across the country to march up Fifth Avenue with him in the parade.

Event: Columbus Day Parade
Location: Fifth Ave. from 44th – 72nd Streets
Date: Monday, October 9, 2017
Hours: 11:30 AM – 3:00 p.m.
Broadcast: WABC-TV, 12 Noon – 3:00 p.m.

For more information, contact jwilson@columbuscitizens.org

CONTACT:
Jefferson Wilson
Director of Marketing & Communications
Columbus Citizens Foundation
Phone: (212) 249-9923 x242
Fax: (212) 737-4413
jwilson@columbuscitizens.org

Laura Biagi has left the Jean V. Naggar Agency, where she was an agent for nearly eight years, to pursue an MFA at the University of Houston. She can be reached at LauraJBiagi@gmail.com.

Carol Burrell has joined Workman Children’s as senior editor. Most recently, she was a freelancer, with prior experience as the editorial director for Graphic Universe, the graphic novel division of Lerner Publishing Group.

Abby Ranger, formerly senior editor for HarperCollins Children’s has left to launch editorial freelance business Abby Ranger Editorial.

Bridget Monroe Itkin has been promoted to editor at Artisan Books.

Danielle Springer has been promoted to assistant editor for Putnam.

Brandi Bowles has joined United Talent Agency as an agent. Previously, she was an agent for Foundry Literary + Media.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

PJ Library chooses 88 titles each year for its rapidly-growing North American program. Books must compete favorably with the best secular children’s literature; only the highest quality books will do. PJ seeks stories with Jewish content that children will want to read again and again. Each book must appeal to families across a wide range of Jewish knowledge and observance. We offer the following topics to inspire stories for our participants ages 4 through 8.

Here are their most current Content Ideas for Ages 4 through 8

MANUSCRIPTS SHOULD BE SUBMITTED TO SUBMISSIONS@PJLIBRARY.ORG

Biographies of the Famous and/or Interesting

Here is a small sampling of Jewish people whose stories could translate into fascinating biographies for children. PJ biographies (most of which would become part of our Jewish Heroes series) must be child-friendly and encourage the reader to learn more about the subject’s life, accomplishments, and Jewish spirit. Again, this list is only the beginning….

 Rabbi Akiva
 Leonard Bernstein
 Louis Brandeis
 Debbie Friedman
 Rube Goldberg
 Theodor Herzl
 Hillel
 Honi the Rainmaker/Circle-drawer
 Judith Kaplan
 Golda Meir
 Gracia Mendes Nasi
 Rambam
 Rashi
 Rashi’s daughters
 Naomi Shemer
 Isaac Bashevis Singer
 Steven Spielberg
 Levi Strauss
 Henrietta Szold

Israel
 Stories showing the rise/development of Israel as a Jewish country
 Stories of contemporary Israel that could include the following:
o merkaz klitah (absorption center)
o Yom HaAtzmaut celebrations
o Yom Kippur in Israel
o family vacation during Sukkot or Passover
o early elementary school setting
o stories occurring in Sephardic settings (i.e. Spain, Portugal, North Africa, etc.), featuring Sephardic customs
 Stories set in Israel focusing on contemporary, values–based, kid-focused issues (such as bullying, friendship, resolving interpersonal conflicts, adjusting to an unfamiliar culture).
 Stories showing how wildlife in Israel differs from the West; the Biblical Zoo
 Stories about digs, excavations in Israel
 Stories that takes place in the seaside city of Eilat
 Agriculture/Diversity and the greening of the Land
 Water and its unique importance in Israel
 Israeli Inventions/Inventors
 Medical Field; Hadassah Hospital

Jewish History / Jews in History:
 Jews in the Civil Rights movement
 Crypto-Jews in Spain
 Jewish education of girls in earlier times

Bible/Talmud/Midrash:

Note: Biblical stories of our heritage are of critical importance to the Jewish people. While these stories can be challenging to access, we hope authors will seek out Biblical subjects that can be crafted into stories for children through age 8. Here are some possible topics:

 Stories from Midrash and Aggadah about Kings:
o King David
o King Solomon (how David chose Solomon to be King, Solomon and the bag of flour, etc.)
 Modern Midrash — a contemporary elaboration on a Biblical or midrashic text in which, for example, the author develops a fictitious plot or event while staying true to some elements of the original text.
 Stories from Talmud and Aggadah about Rabbinic Sages:
o Akiva, who began studying when he was 40, at first learning side-by-side with his 3-year-old son
o Akiva’s wife Rachel, who sold her hair so her husband could study
o Rabbi Tarfon, who carried his mother when her sandals broke
o Joheved, Miriam and Rachel: Rashi’s daughters
o Deborah, the judge/prophet
 Stories about animals living with a Biblical character or a contemporary figure (Golda Meir, David Ben Gurion, King David, Joshua, etc.) — might be told from the animal’s point of view
 The relationship between King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba
 David and Jonathan: stories of great and lasting friendship
 David/Goliath story — young boy overcomes giant

Jewish Camp Stories:
 Great camp stories
 Camp books featuring boys

Environmental Stories:

 Books with a Jewish environmental message – related to Tu B’Shevat would be a bonus.
 Stories that encourage ecological and environmental awareness and action

Jewish Holidays:

 Books about
o Lag B’Omer
o Passover
o Purim
o Rosh Chodesh
o Rosh Hashanah
o Shabbat and/or Havdalah
o Shavuot
o Simchat Torah
o Sukkot
o Tu B’Shevat
o Hanukkah

Jewish Values:

 Tzedakah
 Tikkun Olam
 Stories in which children band together for community service
 Stories showing Jews helping other Jews (kol Yisroel aravim zeh l’zeh)

Jewish Folktales
 Modernization of previously-published Jewish stories
 Stories occurring in Sephardic settings (i.e. Spain, Portugal, North Africa, etc.), featuring Sephardic customs.

PJ Library is particularly interested in showcasing folktales from a variety of cultures and ethnicities.
Miscellaneous:

 Jews speaking up for others
 Experiencing an older sibling prepare for bar/bat mitzvah
 Stories that inspire activities, crafts, etc. with instructions included
 Stories in which children deal with life issues (divorce, being bullied, feeling excluded) or a physical/medical challenge
 Stories about a class and its beloved Jewish teacher
 Stories showing the value and importance of literacy
 Stories with multi-generational and/or multi-racial households
 Books in which Jews and non-Jews are shown as having differing beliefs, cultures, etc. and who live and work harmoniously
 Travel stories in which a family trip to visit relatives/friends for Jewish holidays is a great adventure
 Jewish stories that originate in a variety of locales – France, South America, Australia, etc.
 Humor — We can never have too many stories that evoke laughter!

For each topic above, PJ Library is interested in showing diversity and the multi-cultural nature of Judaism today. Based on parent feedback, we encourage books with a contemporary feel. Please know, also, that books considered by the PJ Book Selection Committee tend to have female main characters/protagonists. We encourage authors to consider writing stories in which the main character is a boy.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

 

Erica Rand Silverman Senior Agent

Erica’s primary interest is in books for and about children. She has worked with some of the most exciting new talent and treasured mainstays in the industry as well as the estates of our favorite classics. Erica represents picture books through young adult and the occasional adult nonfiction project in parenting, humor and wellness. She received her degree in Secondary English Education from the University of Wisconsin – Madison, and a Master of Arts degree in Theater from Hunter College. Before joining the studio in 2016, she was an English and Theater Teacher and Dean at a NYC public high school and a Senior Literary Agent at Sterling Lord Literistic. Erica is a tireless advocate for her clients and proud to be a part of an industry that is so thoughtfully shaping young minds.

Erica is mostly interested in finding new author-illustrators and is looking for a diverse array of voices, perspectives and styles. She occasionally falls in a love with a chapter book, middle grade or YA project that I cannot refuse. These usually tend to lean toward contemporary realistic, magical realism, romance or humor.

Submission Guidelines

  

Eclectic in tastes but not in standards, the Stimola Literary Studio, highly selective in representation, invites unsolicited queries on picture books, novels, and graphic novels, as well as select projects in nonfiction, most of the year. While we have always striven to provide the courtesy of response to all queries, the extraordinarily large number now received makes that no longer possible. We can only respond now to those we wish to pursue further and will not be responsible for manuscripts submitted without regard to this policy, which supersedes any information listed in writers’ guides or on other websites.

Please do not query multiple agents. If your project is better suited to another agent at the Studio, we are happy to share with each other.

If they wish to review your work, you will receive a response within two weeks. If they request material for review, They will provide feedback in 4-6 weeks.

At present, they are MOST interested in:
  • Author/ illustrators
  • Great Read Aloud texts and ones that put a new spin on evergreen topics
  • Humorous middle grade, especially for boys
  • Spare of language/illustrated picturebooks for the very young
  • Middle grade/young adult mysteries with a fun “puzzling” dimension
  • Young adult novels: contemporary, fantasy, fantasy with historical underpinnings, mystery/thrillers
  • Multi-cultural middle or teen fantasy (African, eastern, middle eastern)
  • Magical Realism
  • Graphic novels for early, middle and YA
  • Picture book biography
  • Nonfiction, with crossover appeal in adult markets
  • And, just to keep things interesting… we are also looking to add to our growing list of parenting and cookbook titles with unique concepts and niche market appeal!
We are NOT interested in:
  • Picture book texts of 1000 words or more
  • Fables, folklore or traditional fairytales
  • “Mood pieces”
  • Stories for “all ages”
  • Educational workbooks/activity books
  • Nonfiction for institutional markets

Use this link to submit: http://www.stimolaliterarystudio.com/#/Submissions

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

Posted by: Kathy Temean | July 10, 2017

Book Giveaway – It’s A Seashell Day

I asked Author Dianne Ochiltree if she would donate a copy of IT’S A SEASHELL DAY, since it seems like a terrific book to help celebrate summer.

If you would like to win a copy, please leave a comment, reblog, tweet, or talk about A BAND OF BABIES 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 the right amount of tickets in my basket for you. Check back to discover the winner.

DESCRIPTION:

Sunny-as-a-summer-sky rhymes chronicle a mother and son sharing a day of sand digging, seashell collecting, and seashore exploring. Kids will learn about a variety of shells and count along with the boy as he totals up his collection, puts his shells away, and then drifts off into a well-earned bedtime. A spread of seashell facts caps off the story.

This captivating, narrative nonfiction title featuring nature and counting is an ideal fit for home, preschool and kindergarten bookshelves. Pair it with the author’s beloved It’s a Firefly Night for a delightful day-to-night duo.

BOOKS JOURNEY:

This book was a follow up to It’s a Firefly Night, writing for Blue Apple Books alone…the editor wanted another summer title and one of the suggestions was a beach book.

I thought right away of seashells and collecting them with my mom, so it a Seashell Day was inspired by memories of nature walks with my mom when I was a kid. Whether it was the neighborhood park or a vacation spot like the beach, Mom taught me to notice the smallest details of the natural world around us and to respect nature. We collected fall leaves, interesting stones, and of course seashells. When we returned home, she taught me how to store and display my collections—sorting, counting, labeling—so that I could continue to enjoy those treasures. The seashells and other souvenirs of our nature walks together were not fancy or expensive, but they became priceless to me for the memories we made, my Mom and me, one step at a time.

One stanza from the original manuscript in the end was eliminated because the illustrations carried the narrative action.

DIANNE’S BIO:

Dianne Ochiltree has been writing stories and poems since she was a little girl. Today, she is a nationally recognized author of books for girls and boys, from toddlers to teens. Her picture book, LULL-A-BYE, LITTLE ONE has been a selection for the Dollywood Fourndation’s national literacy program for several years. Her picture book for grades 1-3, MOLLY BY GOLLY! The Legend of Molly Williams, America’s First Female Firefighter, received the Florida Book Awards Bronze Medal in the Children’s Literature category in 2012. It was also selected for the ALA Amelia Bloomer list for feminist literature for young readers in that year. IT’S A FIREFLY NIGHT, her not-just-for-bedtime book for kids 3-7, was awarded the Silver Medal in children’s literature in the 2013 Florida Book Awards. Her latest book, IT’S A SEASHELL DAY, was released in July 2015 from Blue Apple Books and has already received favorable reviews. Many of her earlier books have been translated into foreign language and Braille editions as well as audio and paperback versions.

For more information about Dianne and her books, go to http://www.dianneochiltree.com. Dianne lives in sunny Sarasota, Florida with her husband, Jim. Besides writing for kids, she loves to hike in the great outdoors, explore the local bay waters on a stand-up paddle board, and is a certified yoga instructor. She and with her chocolate Lab, Sally, are a Therapy Dog team, visiting local nursing homes and schools. 

Thank you Dianne for sharing your book and journey with us. I can’t wait to see who wins this gorgeous summer fun book.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

Posted by: Kathy Temean | July 9, 2017

Free Writing Humor for Kids Webinar

Join Julia Maguire, Random House/Knopf editor and Dr. Mira Reisberg, Clear Fork /Spork editor, Director of the Children’s Book Academy, and former literary agent, co-teachers of the extraordinary upcoming interactive e-course, The Craft and Business of Writing Children’s Picture Books for a fun, FREE, and super informative webinar with lots of insider information on…

“The Pleasures (& How To) of Writing Humor and Heartbreak for Kids”

In this webinar you’ll learn:

How humor works and how to infuse it into your stories.

Why humor and heartbreak (or tragedy) are valuable elements no matter what your genre.

Why editors and agents love humor or heartbreak in kidlit.

When and how to use humor or heartbreak in your stories.

What the different forms of humor and heartbreak do and which writers use which forms to develop their distinctive voice and story.

How humor and heartbreak show up in nonfiction and concept books.

Plus you’ll have a fabulous time and also get:

• A peek at some of the amazing things you’ll be getting in the upcoming groundbreaking Craft and Business of Writing Children’s Picture Books highly interactive e-course
• Have a chance at some sweet prizes
• Have the opportunity to ask questions
• And have a lot of free fun with cool prizes, too!

Don’t worry if you can’t make it, register now and they’ll send you the recording with a week’s extra access right after the webinar. Space is limited, so don’t miss out and sign up now!

Click here to Register.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

 

Posted by: Kathy Temean | July 8, 2017

Illustartor Saturday – Tina MacNaughton

Tina MacNaughton worked as a freelance illustrator for over 14 years and in that time illustrated more than 20 picture books, board books and early reader novels. Her books have been published in 37 different countries and so its great to hear from readers from far flung places. In addition she has created work for magazines, educational and greeting card publications.

Here’s Tina talking about her career:

After art college at John Moore’s University in Liverpool the internet was a far off dream and freelancing seemed like a total mystery. Combined with the pressure of earning a living, I fell into graphic design for a few years, working on products for children. This in the long run proved a useful training ground for a wannabe illustrator. In between utterly deathly boring changes to packaging designs I secretly scribbled in my notebook. I would amuse myself with my imagination let loose, my world started to unfold with images of pigeons, gorillas and daft fairies. It was either that or find myself snoring on the keyboard. As my passion for my alternative world developed, I formed a cunning plan to escape drudgery and vowing to never commuting on that hellish road the M25 ever again!

Then I plunged myself into creating a new portfolio of illustrations and research. After I had started contacting potential clients, it was a case of sit wait for that phone to ring. Then one day the call came from Little Tiger Press. I had met them at the London Book Fair, after a series of very happy accidents and a chance meeting on a tube train. Then began the process of convincing them I was worth a punt. So, after one small woodland’s worth of paper later, I had produced enough illustrations to convince them to give me a contract for one book deal.

That first picture book was ‘One Snowy Night’, written by M Christina Butler, about a Little Hedgehog. It is still in print and has spawned a 10 book series and counting. It also kick started my freelance illustration career and further commissions so I am very thankful to that little prickly fellow.

After over 15 years freelancing and working in soft pastels it sometimes feel like I know what I am doing, nevertheless I am still learning. Pastel is a wonderfully easy yet very difficult medium and has so many options and potentials that one can never truly say they know it all. I am still learning new tricks and effects. Its greatest asset is that you can plan colour ways very very easily. You just line them up next to you and off you go. No endless mixing and remixing and waiting for paint to dry until you are sure of the finished colour. You can mix colours direct onto the paper.

For a slightly impatient person like me pastel is fantastic, as it is immediate, can be sketchy and a delightful combination between drawing and painting. Pastel can be super fast……sometimes, if the image is large and simple. Pastel is best done on the big side. Unfortunately for an illustrator ‘big’ is a problem. The postal service will only take packages so big, after which it gets so expensive I might as well not bother doing the work. So I do have to do my work smaller than I would like. Pastel is also fabulous for doing fur or snow where other mediums might struggle to achieve the same effect. Its softness make an image super soft and fuzzy.

Though this is also a massive disadvantage too, it smudges and will stay smudge-able forever, unless I fix it with fixative spray. This has a side affect of slightly darkening the image, so one must use lightly. I have to inform anyone handling my work to not touch the surface and issue out dire warnings. I have to put a layer of glassine paper over it to protect it despite fixing it. But still I have had work ruined by other idiotic people. So it has to be handled with great care. I feel its advantages vastly outweigh the downside so I remain a committed pastelist.

Here is Tina explaining her process:

The photo below is an example of preliminary colour experiments/samples. They are mini versions of the finished thing. So its a good time to try out how I want the image to look and make sure the colour balance works not just in one image but across the whole book. I also try out elements like flowers or insects. I also make notes on which pastel colour I used as its easy to forget. If it goes wrong at this stage you just try again and they are tiny.  No more than 4-5 inches wide. They are very rough too, I do not worry about getting anything perfect. Characters look like blobs. What is more important is the colour balance. It would be frustrating to experiment on the finished article only for it to go wrong and then start again. Wasting time and materials when deadlines are looming is far too stressful. Planning a picture is key to getting it right first time.

1) First I take the original pencil drawing and trace it onto pastel paper using a light box. Though I have stuck paper to windows and used the power of the sun when I did not have a lightbox. Once traced I use a putty rubber to soften down the line so it is more faint. I do not want strong pencil lines showing through.

2) Then using pastel pencils I roughly sketch in the the shape and colour of the tree. This acts as a useful guide where tones of colour go and make sure I get the shape of the tree correct at this stage. I also fill in the background colour with a pale yellow and smudge in with my fingers. The yellow will give a warm glow instead of showing sky or hills. Its simpler and hints at grass or bushes much much further in the distance with out actually showing it. Less is more as they say.

3) Then using 4 shades of green I do the same for the tree canopy and leaves. These are rough sketchy strokes. I am not bothered about detail at the moment. Its all about getting the colour balance and shading right.

4) Then I use pastel pencils to pick out the shape of badger. Getting tightly into all the nooks and crannies. Its and opportunity to refine his shape before I commit to using the soft pastel sticks. Errors can be more easily seen and adjusted at this stage.

5) Using the pastel sticks I follow the pastel pencil guide. There is not point to trying to be precise with pastel stick as it is a bit like drawing with a brick. You can tighten and smudge in with a rubber tipped brush instead. You can see one in the photo. I use my finger in larger area and for the very very last bit of fluffing up fur. Fingers are just best sometimes. Any gaps can filled in with pencil or dots of colour and work in with your rubber brush. The edge of this character is not hard but fuzzy, just like fur. A little bit of chaos is sometimes good.

6) Now working from the top left I fill in the tree canopy and smudge in as I go. The reason I do this is I need easy access to the characters without the fear of smudging with my hand. So being right handed I start on the left. If you are left handed you might want to do it from right to left. You can also use a piece of glassine paper to rest you hand on too.

Below you can see some of the pastel election I have used for the tree and grass, plus a piece of glassine paper.

7) The I fill in the tree trunk and the rest of the canopy. Working left to right I colour in the mice then rabbit and finally hedgehog. I cut in round the outside of each character with green pencil too so there are no unsightly gaps between the character and background grass. I also use a large flat wedge shape rubber brush to work into the tree canopy to create loose leafy marks. This is done quickly and loosely.

8) Once the characters are coloured then it is safe to colour in the rest of grass without fear of smudging. I draw in with vertical strokes or in the same direction as grass would be.

9) I use most of my fingers to smudge in. I follow the direction of the stroked to get the movement of the grass. To do it horizontally would remove the shape or structure that I had drawn in. Fingers are excellent for pushing in colour over a large area. I have also picked out other elements that need a bit more precision like some flowers and the bee. Otherwise everything runs the risk of becoming a total mess.

10) Once all the colour is laid down I work in the grass in the distance using pastel pencil as it is quite fine. Any heavy thick lines would bring it forward too much and ruin the concept of the further away the smaller and indistinct it should be. Then I work forward gradually making the lines longer and/or heavier. Leaves are dabs of colour and I like to vary to tones and shades. I also have to be careful not to put in too much grass or leaf detail or risk it looking over worked. I want an impression rather slavishly putting in every leaf. If there are areas where it is beginning to be over done it easy to smudge out. The idea is softness and to hold back. Smaller flowers I don’t bother with any real detail just dots of colour. Where they are in the distance I often dab once with my finger and it softens it just enough to push it back into the distance. Detail in the foreground should be crisp. I also finish off the characters with pastel pencils for example hedgehog’s prickles. They are just lines or flicks of the pencil and again just enough to emphasise the fur and any detail. Finally a tiny weeny dot of Guoache paint in the eyes to bring them to life. Paint is only thing accurate and clear enough to do the job of eye highlights.

Finished piece.

Some Book Covers

How long have you been illustrating?

I have been illustrating since I went freelance in 2002 so 15 years and counting.

Why did you choose to attend John Moore’s University in Liverpool to study art?

I liked that they did not have a set house style that I had to ‘fit’ into. The city has a long history of creativity and fantastic music scene and the course had a good balance if what I wanted to do. Plus they seemed to really like me which I have to say really helps.

What type of art did you study there?

I immediately chose to study illustration. The course was split 50/50 graphic design and illustration but there is lots of cross over between the two. Lots and lots drawing and experimenting. They very much encouraged us to find our own voice. Plus they sent us on day trips every week to Wales to paint with the fine artists and textile students.

What was the first thing you did where someone paid you for your artwork?

It was on those Wales trips that I accumulated lots of paintings for the Oil refinery Hamilton Oil (who had invited us to paint there). They held a exhibition at the end of the year and I sold about 6 paintings and had money stuffed into my pockets at the end of the evening. The fine artists were very annoyed as they sold nothing. I felt a bit smug as the only illustrator there. Illustrators though are much more practical breed of artist as I could see that my work was much smaller in size and easy to fit into a home. The fine artist had done vast and very ‘out there’ work which the locals really did not understand. They could recognize what I had painted, not that the fine art work was bad, it was actually excellent. I would have bought it if I could, but I guess I had a feeling for they what wanted which is exactly what an illustrator does.

For my first real commissions, argh I of course rang my parents and sister as happy as a lark. Probably cracked open a bottle of bubbly.

Do you think art school influenced your style?

Yes and no. My style has completely changed since art school, but the principles they taught there are really what stayed with me. Its a way of thinking that is their gift.

When did you decide you wanted to illustrate for children?

It kinda crept up behind me, I knew I loved art though did not realize it was possible to make a living out of it. Like most people I had the impression that artists lived in pigeon infested lofts eating toast while going slightly mad. Reading the books illustrated by Quentin Blake and all the other classics is probably where it began. It was the magic they created that appealed to the eternal child in me. At a career’s evening at school my eyes were opened by an art school lecturer. Lets say I saw the light and there was no turning back after that.

Did you know your first book ONE SNOWY NIGHT would be a 10 book series when you illustrated it?

I had absolutely no idea that ‘One Snowy Night’, would be a ten book series, (now working number 12!). I was just thankful to be given a chance. It was my very very first book and first major commission. To be published at all was a major achievement, to expect anything else was fairyland thinking. I seriously thought maybe after a few years I ‘might’ get a series of 2 or 3 if I was lucky.

Were you illustrating Greeting cards when you decided to try your hand at freelancing?

No I was not illustrating anything at all when I decided to freelance. I was working as a graphic designer. So I took a massive risk. Though I was utterly sick of my job and commuting nearly 2 hours each way to work. So I had a big incentive. I knew I would regret it if I never tired.

What is your record for the amount of picture books illustrated in one year?

Oooh I think three is probably as many as I could cope with. I usually do two and I can plug in some smaller books like board books or a young readers novel. Picture books are intense and suck up huge amounts of prep work. Plus everyone wants their books ready for the same book shows. All publishers are locked into that book show schedule and therefore so are we illustrators. Which means two book offers quite often means they want the same deadline which means doing two books at the same time. That would seriously compromise quality and my sanity. So i try not to do that and delay one of them if I can, but that does not always work out.

Do you ever feel like you messed up and agreed to take on too many projects?

Yes definitely juggling too much alongside family life is a recipe for disaster. I have always managed to somehow get away with it but I do not enjoy the experience. Keeping your client updated and talking to them all the time helps. Never ever go silent on them, if I am going to be late I let them know as soon as possible.

Do you have an agent? If so who, how long have you been with them and how did you connect?

I did have an agent until recently but I am going to have to change as they were specialising too much in educational work. I was also getting no work from them so no longer a good fit. So I am soon going to be on the hunt for a new agent. My old agent I contacted by letter and then visited at the London book fair. I did have a second agent (whom I met at my publishers party) for a while but I did not like their attitude of not fighting for fair fee for fair work. Agents are supposed to fighting for us. I do not want to fight my agent or be the one to be the hard nosed bulldog, that is their job. So I gave them the boot.

How many books have you illustrated for Little Tiger Press?

I honestly don’t know how many books I have done for Little Tiger Press. It must be in the order of 20-25.

Have you illustrated any books for a publisher in the United States?

Yes I did one for I think it was Penguin and another which I can’t remember It was rather a long time ago now.

14) I noticed that you have illustrated a number of books written by Christina Butler. Did she ask the publisher for you? How did that happen?

It has always been the publisher that has paired me with Christina Butler. We are now so established as a pairing that of course we can discuss that with our publisher. We also regularly chat between ourselves too so we know what the other is working on.

Have you started to add digital art to your portfolio?

I have historically worked digitally, both photoshop and illustrator. I did some character design that was wholly digitally created which was then optioned by a tv production company with the potential to be made into an animation. Its is already an iPad app, the brand is called Mimi and Bibi. As a designer I had to be very proficient with design programmes so I can easily switch to it if I wanted to. My work when I first went freelance originally had digital work, but I changed to traditional. Its much harder for other artists to copy traditional work and also you can hang it on a wall. Digital work can only ever be a print.

Do you do art exhibits to help people see your work?

I have not done any exhibitions since college. I would not know where to begin plus I just don’t have the time to organise it.

Have you illustrated any book covers?

Yes, pretty much every book I have ever illustrated which must in the order of 30 plus book covers. Book covers alone with no internal work as yet not on their own. Its usually accompanied with the internals too.

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

Yes I would love to write a children’s book and have started to do just that. As yet nothing has been published but hopefully in time that will come.

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

I would never consider illustrating for a self published author. There are too many reason not to do it to list it here. Its risky, takes up too much of my time for too little money. Upshot illustrators are too expensive and the legal stuff urrghh it would be a real headache.

Have you ever tried to illustrate a wordless picture book?

Hmmm a wordless picture book, never done one but hey there is always a first time for everything.

Have you worked with any educational publishers?

Yes but not recently. Shrinking budgets usually make it totally uneconomical as my work is too time consuming for high volume, high speed low value budgets. Would not rule it out as I need to develop a quicker simpler style to full fill their needs.

How did you get the illustrating jobs for children’s magazines?

I got magazine work through my agent, its really that simple.

Do you still illustrate greeting cards?

Not done a greeting card for a while but I am open to anything that is offered.

Do you have studio in your house?

One of our bedrooms is my studio.

Do you try and spend a certain amount of hours every day working on your art?

Yes I try to stick to working normal hours as much as possible. Though I am currently part time because of childcare. Occasionally I work weekends to catch up. With busy family life that is not always doable.

What is your favorite medium to use?

The medium I use most is soft pastel and pastel pencils on pastel paper. Easy to plan colour as they are already premixed but I need to have hundreds of colours.

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

The research I mainly do is using the internet, books, magazines and any pictures I may have taken myself. I have books on animals and plants among others as its sometimes it is necessary to look things up. Actually making a visit to a zoo or farm or going out into the country side to sit and draw or paint takes up too much time when deadlines are looming. Ideally that is what you would do if you had the luxury of time and a project with a vast budget.

Do you think the Internet has opened doors for you?

The internet is a brilliant tool for research whether its looking up what an exotic animal to finding out more about a publisher etc. Its great to making connections, people finding you and allow fans to follow your work, sending digital files etc. So as much as it makes it easier for illustrators it also makes it harder. It is easier now than ever for hobbyists to try their hand at an art career but it can muddy the waters. A commissioning editor might have to wade through infinitely more submissions or websites, there is an element of white noise effect. Not only that commissioning editors now have access to illustrators in places that were historically inaccessible before. That reduces fees because of global competition. A person living in a low cost are can afford to accept low fees. If you live in a high cost place like Britain or America etc, it is getting progressively harder to maintain an income that one can live off. In a way its made competition extremely fierce.

Do you use Photoshop with your illustrations?

I don’t really use Photoshop much apart from cleaning up scans and retouching if the client has asked me to scan the work.

Do you own or have you ever tried a graphic Drawing Tablet?

I have only tried a tablet briefly when I visited a client. I don’t own one as at the moment I have no need. Though maybe if the need arises I might get one.

Do you think your style has changed over the years? Have your material changed?

Yes my style has changed, but not so much recently as it has reached a kind of maturity. Though one should never stand still. I always like to try new things and it is important to move with the times.

What do you consider is your biggest success?

My biggest success has to be the Little Hedgehog series of books. I am currently working on book number 12 so if it keeps selling they will keep on asking for more. Though ultimately it will come to an end but hopefully not for a long time.

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

I would love to write and illustrate my own stories. If they turned into big hits then that really would be a dream come true, but you can never predict that you can only do your best and enjoy the ride.

What are you working on now?

I am currently working on a Little Hedgehog book number 12, specifically a scene where Hedgehog and friends are chasing after some ducklings through a wood.

Do you have any material tips you can share with us? Example: Paint or paper that you love – the best place to buy – a new product that you’ve tired – A how to tip, etc.

The pastels I use are Unison soft pastels which beautiful earthy and real colours, Sennelier which also have a gorgeous range along with some more zany colours, even metallics, Daler Rowney are also excellent. Pencils I use are Stabilo, Derwent, Faber Castel and Daler Rowney, they all have a different take on colours so worth getting all of them. Paper I use Canson pastel paper. Its also worth investing rubber tipped brushes to do the tiny weeny smudging your finger simply can’t do. A good fixative spray to prevent smudging. Glacine paper overlaid to the protect the finished art from smudging. Worth trying out papers and card that have a very fine sand finish or ground as they hold more pigment. You also buy it and pots to paint on paper yourself. You can also tint it yourself too. Jump on the internet as it is really the best way to find the best prices.

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

Any hopeful illustrator I would advise going to art college first. A good sound training though not essential. Think about what kind of illustrator you want to be. Always be true to your personality, trying to be something you are not will always fall flat. Try to be unique and individual so that your style is easily recognisable. Avoid too many styles and your portfolio jumping from one style to another too much as any client or agent will get confused or doubtful what they will get. Be persistent and do something productive every day. Create a website, FB page, print promotional material that you can post and an editor/art director can keep etc. Research agents/publishers and find out which one would fit you best. Never take on work your are doubtful you will be able to finish, try and delay the deadline if possible. Be professional, helpful and flexible. Think about the fee and if it really is a fair one, work out how long it will take versus the fee. Ask around to see what others think. Do Not Sell Yourself Cheap!! Read all your contracts carefully and beware of contracts that steal your copyright. Do not sell you copyright unless for a vast sum.

Finally freelancing you must have a tight reign on your money. It is feast or famine most of the time so having debts is fatal. You may have to top your income with part time work unless you are lucky enough to have a spouse that can support you or supportive family. I was lucky enough to have savings (from full time work) and a room I could rent out to top up my income. You may have to consider that after college freelance may have to wait till you can afford it. Some are lucky to hit the ground running but life has a way of taking you on detours. You can do it at anytime of life.

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

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

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

Posted by: Kathy Temean | July 7, 2017

Editor of the Month – Mira Reisberg

Dr Mira Reisberg editor at Clear Fork Publishing’s children’s imprint Spork has agreed to be our featured editor for the month of July and critique four first pages. Besides being an editor, she is a multi-published, award-winning children’s book illustrator and author whose books have sold over 600,000 copies. She also runs and continues to help children’s book writers and illustrators get published with the courses she conducts at the Children’s Book Academy. In a former life not too long ago, Mira was a literary agent and a children’s literature professor. She has a PhD in Education and Cultural Studies with a focus on kid lit.

Stop back next Friday to read Part One of the Interview I had with Mira. In the meantime you can start submitting your first pages using the guidelines below:

SUBMISSION GUIDELINES For FIRST PAGE CRITIQUES:

In the subject line, please write “June 2017  Critique” and paste the text in the email, plus attached it as a Word document to the email. Please make sure you include your name, the title of the piece, and whether it’s a picture book, middle grade, or young adult, etc. at the top on both the email and the Word document (Make sure you include your name with the title of your book, when you save the first page). REMEMBER: ATTACH THE WORD DOCUMENT AND NOT GET ELIMINATED!

Your First Page Word document should be formatted using one inch margins and 12 point New Times Roman font – double space – no more than 23 lines – only one page. Send to: kathy(dot)temean(at)gmail(dot)com.
PLEASE FOLLOW THE GUIDELINES: Your submission will be passed over if you do not follow the directions for both the pasted email and the attached Word doc. This is where most people mess up.

DEADLINE: July 20th.
RESULTS: July 28th.

Please only submit one first page a month, but do try again if your first page wasn’t one of the pages randomly picked. Thanks!

 

Still time to sign up for Mira’s picture book e-course starting July 24th. Every week – Monday through Friday, there are fresh lessons and exercises from the faculty released on their password protected website that also includes tons of resources that include lists of publishers and agents, worksheets, done-for you templates, and much more. There is an interact private Facebook group where questions are answered and small critique groups are set up for those who want to participate. There is a special webinar page for each week where students post responses to each webinars topic – e.g., thumbnails, quirky or memorable characters etc. Times are scheduled to accommodate folks in different countries as much as possible. These webinars are record for those who can’t make it live.

I took the Middle Grade Writing Course earlier this year and it was chuck full of information. Everyday there were new exercises and things to do. I couldn’t do everything, but Mira gives you access to all the files for six months – so you can work at your own pace. I certainly found the course made me focus on finishing the first draft of my new book.

An impressive fact: Over 140 Children’s Book Academy students have signed contracts for published books.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

TIMES THEY ARE A-CHANGIN’, BUT COMPELLING STORYTELLING STILL RULES

When Alyssa Eisner Henkin became an editorial assistant in 1999 she was just happy to have coworkers who loved Anne of Green Gables as much as she did. Little did she know, over the next decade children’s publishing would become the fastest-growing genre in reading and entertainment.

Alyssa candidly admits that she did not foresee the magnitude of this when she became an agent. “I joined Trident because I wanted to be an entrepreneur, to have a more direct impact on authors’ careers, and to use both my creative and business acumen”. While at Trident, Alyssa has been able to take advantage of changing formats and venues for her clients. “Most companies consider the international market to be secondary,” says Alyssa, “but at Trident, we view foreign as a ‘must’ market, and my clients are pleased to find their books selling around the world.”
“Through all of the growth and change”, Alyssa emphasizes, “there is no doubt that the key elements of storytelling have remained the same. The book that cannot be put down will continue to hold value, whether as a groundbreaking app, or as a beloved and tattered paperback that still reigns your bookshelf.” Alyssa considers it a great privilege to represent books that readers cannot put down.

Alyssa is actively seeking middle grade and young adult novels, innovative nonfiction projects, and a very select number of picture books, both illustrated dummies and standalone texts.

She is actively seeking new clients and represents all forms of literature for young people. Query letters should be submitted via email to ahenkin@tridentmediagroup.com. The first five pages of text for a longer work, or the full manuscript for a picture book text should be submitted below the query letter in the text body of the email, not as an attachment. Art samples or dummy texts should be inserted as links in the body of the query letter.

On the YA side, Alyssa would love to see more lyrical period pieces in the tradition of Ruta Sepetys and Julie Berry, whom Alyssa proudly represents, and more haunting contemporary page-turners like E. Lockhart’s We Were Liars. Bonus points if they are set in the South or offer a diverse spin on a classic tale.

In middle grade and young adult fiction and memoir, Alyssa craves tight plotting, lyrical prose, rich regional flavors, and unexpected conclusions. She especially enjoys mysteries, period pieces, contemporary school-settings, issues of social justice, family sagas, eerie magical realism, and retellings of classics. She’d loved to find more heartfelt stories presenting characters who muster courage in the face of adversity in the vein of R.J. Palacio’s Wonder, which Alyssa proudly represents. She’d also love to see more magical realism or books in which things outside the contemporary ordinary are possible, in the vein of Shakespeare’s Secret and From The Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. If there’s a foodie-twist, all the better!

On the picture book front, Alyssa is considering texts alone as well as fully-illustrated dummies. She adores rhyming stories when they gracefully roll off the tongue. She’s also drawn to biographies, fresh spins on seasonal themes, and inventive premises that make one stop, think and laugh. Picture books that feel both obvious and incredibly fresh, like The Day The Crayons Quit and The Scrambled States of America are in high demand. And biographies on little known yet fascinating figures are always intriguing to Alyssa’s (not so) inner history nerd!

In nonfiction, history and STEM/STEAM themes are always intriguing. Alyssa would also love to find a series with the interactive spirit of a trivia game.

Above all, Alyssa digs deep when she sees potential, from editing, to title brainstorming, to securing the best publisher, to devising new marketing ideas and making ancillary sales across all forms of media. “There’s no greater professional joy than championing a book that you believe in and watching the world delight in it.”

Submissions should be emailed to ahenkin@tridentmediagroup.com

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

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