Posted by: Kathy Temean | September 9, 2017

Illustator Saturday – Laura Hughes

Laura Hughes is the illustrator of Daddy’s Sandwich, written by Pip Jones (Faber&Faber), and River Rose and The Magical Lullaby, written by Grammy award winner Kelly Clarkson (HarperCollins US).

In 2015 she received the runner up prize in The Sainsbury’s Children’s Book Awards for Daddy’s Sandwich. The book also earned a Kate Greenaway nomination in 2016.

As well as illustrating books for children, I have licensed over 200 designs for greetings cards, wrapping paper, product packaging, calendars and more.

When not drawing, she loves to curate art exhibitions and invite all my favourite artists to take part. My most recent shows include 100 Cats and Call of the Wild, both at Hackney Downs Studios in London. I’m a big music fan and currently play guitar in a punk band called Thee Dinner Ladies.

She studied illustration at Kingston University and graduated in 2005. She now lives and work in East London, UK and is represented by Arabella Stein at The Bright Agency.

Her client list includes: Bloomsbury Books (UK), Faber&Faber (UK), Harper Collins (USA), Quire Cards (Holland),  Waitrose (UK), Blue Rabbit Publishing (Korea) and American Greetings (USA).

HERE IS LAURA DISCUSSING HER PROCESS:

Here’s a bit about the process of illustrating a book. These images are all from Daddy’s Sandwich, written by Pip Jones and published by Faber & Faber.

When I get a text I usually start by sketching the main characters. I’ll really immerse myself in drawing them over and over again in a variety of poses and styles. This is the fun stage where I can try out new things and let loose before nailing down style and tone in the main roughs. I’ll often send a whole sheet of possible characters to the publisher such as the one shown here.

The art director will then pick one or two that they really like and give some feedback for further development.

These initial sketches are then worked up into colour, and I usually play around with different outfit and hair combinations at this stage too.

Credit must also go to the designer of the book Ness Wood, who gave me lots of brilliant feedback and really helped whittle down all my ideas into the final character that you can see here.

The next stage is thumbnails – which are very small and simple first sketches.  These are all done very quickly in pencil and aim to provide the publisher with an idea of the content and pace of the illustrations. Here is a thumbnail of the “Daddy loves biscuits” page,

which shows just how rough these first drawings can be! Ness provides me with a pdf of the text laid out on each page, which helps me to see how much space I need to leave for the words.

Once the client is happy with these initial thumbnail sketches I start on more detailed roughs.

You can see here how much the rough has developed from thumbnail stage! I often use black ink to try and make these look as much as possible like final colour art (I create my finals using coloured inks), as it gives the publisher a better idea of the vision in my head, and keeps revisions at final art stage to a minimum.

I create all my colour art traditionally, with just a tiny bit of Photoshop tweaking, and work at a slightly smaller scale than the size of the book, usually at 75%. This book had a few collage elements such as these biscuits (insert image 6)

that were added later, but pretty much everything else in the image was created as one image in ink wash and with a dip pen.

And here’s the finished colour art! (Insert image 7)

 

Interview Questions for Laura Hughes

How long have you been illustrating?

I graduated from University in 2005 and got my first illustration job a year later, so I’ve been working professionally for 11 years.  

 

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

My first paid for job was for a UK magazine called ‘Arthritis News’ and I had to illustrate comfortable sexual positions for people suffering from Arthritis. It was quite an odd first commission as you can imagine, but I think it’s good to take on unusual subject matter when you start your career – it gets you out of your comfort zone.

Do you feel playing guitar in your punk band, Thee Dinner Ladies is ever reflected in your artwork?

No, not at all! While my illustration work is very commercial and ‘child friendly’ I’ve always had a love for heavy music and horror films. I like those two contradictions: the cute side and the scary side of me!

Why did you choose to attend Kingston University?

I was desperate to study in London with all the excitement and opportunity it has to offer, so I went to look at a few universities in the city and liked the work being produced there the most. I come from the countryside so I didn’t realize that Kingston (upon Thames) was in the suburbs and technically not part of London – it all seemed so big!

 

What did you study there?

I studied a BA in Illustration, although there was some animation included in the course too. When creating characters I think it is important to consider how they might move, or be animated especially when creating children’s books, as you might be drawing the main character 20, 30 times in a variety of poses. Combined courses can be helpful in giving art students a wider perspective on their work and the industry.

Do you think art school influenced your style?

Definitely. At Kingston we did a lot of conceptual and editorial illustration which is something I initially focused on when I graduated. I was creating all sorts of odd, dark and political images, none of which really worked for me in terms of getting work. It took a while for me to shake off the influence of university and find my own approach and voice.

 

What type of job did you do right after you graduated?

I worked a succession of jobs, starting with bar work, then retail, before landing a role at The Bright Agency, a London-based illustration agency. It was 7 years before I could quit my ‘day job’ to do illustration full time.

When did you decide you wanted to illustrate for children?

I guess I never really decided I wanted to illustrate specifically for children. About 5 years ago I was creating a lot of animal based illustrations for greetings cards, so making the transition into character-led picture books seemed natural. Although I’d call myself a children’s illustrator I don’t really like the idea that my work is only for a certain group of people – I hope that everyone can enjoy it at any stage in their life.

 

How did you get the job to Daddy’s Sandwich?

Pip Jones’ text for Daddy’s Sandwich came to me via my agent, and I loved it straight away! Having a text that you’re passionate about definitely makes the job much easier. The publishers, Faber&Faber required me to do some character samples before I was confirmed as illustrator, but I find initial development work really helps flesh out the characters and makes things quicker when it comes to rough stage. Daddys Sandwich was one of the first picture books that I illustrated but it’s still among my favourites.

I see you runner up for The Sainsbury’s Children’s Book Awards. Can you tell us about that award?

Sainsbury’s is a large supermarket chain and a big player children’s book retailing in the UK. Daddy’s Sandwich was runner up in the picture book category in 2015, which was a huge honour, especially as they are so many amazing picture books out there.  

 

How did you get the job to illustrate River Rose and The Magical Lullaby, written by Grammy award winner Kelly Clarkson?

The editor at Harper Collins, got in touch with my agent to see if I’d be able to create some sample artwork and pitch for the project. They wanted to see character samples and a full colour spread before choosing the artist, so there was a fair bit of pressure to create something impressive for them. Luckily both Kelly and Harper Collins liked my samples and I was chosen as illustrator (hooray!).

 

How long did the publisher give you to illustrate the books?

If I remember correctly, they gave me about 4 months from starting roughs to finishing artwork, so it was needed fairly quickly but not impossibly so! I’m fairly firm with clients with regards to how long I need to complete a book and try to never over-promise when it comes to deadlines.

You earned a Kate Greenaway nomination in 2016 for Daddy’s Sandwich. Is that the award librarians in the UK pick?

It is indeed! Librarians are the best, so I was delighted to have been nominated for the award.

How did you get the job as Artwork Manager for The Bright Agency – a London based illustration agency with a focus on children’s publishing?  

A few years ago I was really struggling with my illustration work and was not sure how to progress, so I applied to a few agencies asking for work experience in the hope I might gain some insights into the industry through being there. The Bright Agency responded and after I completed the internship they offered me a full-time job as artwork manager, which involved ov

erseeing the portfolios of the 200+ artists on their books and designing all promotional material, as well as scouting out and recruiting new talent. The position at Bright really helped me to understand what made an illustration ‘work’, and gave me a knowledge of what clients look for when commissioning.

Do they represent your work?

They do! When I commenced employment with Bright my illustration work really wasn’t ready for representation as it simply wasn’t commercial enough, so I spent a good few years revising my portfolio and developing my style in my spare time – just putting all the things I was learning on the job into practice. Eventually all the hard work and late nights paid off and they (very kindly) agreed to take me onto their books, and it’s been a fantastic journey ever since.

Do you feel the art exhibits do you bring in new jobs?

I think any kind of communal or public event is good for getting your name ‘out there’ as a professional illustrator. Being visible to the people that commission is really important, because you’ll only get work if art directors know you exist. Illustrators need to seek out creative and clever ways to expand their network and be seen, rather than just putting work up on Instagram and giving it a few hashtags! Exhibitions can be a fun and inclusive way of bringing both artists and clients together in a friendly environment. Everyone loves being invited to art shows!! If you are interested in reading more on this subject I wrote an article on ‘collective creativity’ and the power of taking part, which you can find here: https://www.writersandartists.co.uk/artists/advice/1071/an-artists-toolkit/finding-inspiration/

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

I would love to, yes. I’m just waiting for the right idea to come to me in the shower!

Have you illustrated a book for an author who wants to self-publish?

I haven’t illustrated a self-published book yet. In the publishing world illustrators are often commissioned based on their sales history, therefore it’s really important that our books sell in significant numbers. While there are some really great self-published works out there, individuals often don’t have the distribution and reach that an established publisher does, so it’s very hard to compete with them. Self publishing authors who approach illustrators need to be prepared to pay the going rate for an artist’s time and expertise – all too often I’m asked if I can create work on a royalty only basis, and sometimes even for free.

Do you still illustrate greeting cards?

Yes. I tend to do a few designs in between book projects which often helps plug the gap between payments.

 

Have you worked with educational publishers?

Yes, I occasionally work with educational publishers. I’m about to start a small job with Pearson in fact, but most of my work is with trade publishing houses.

What do consider is your biggest success?

I know it’s not an especially exciting thing to say, but making the transition from student to professional, and managing to maintain this as a full-time job has to be my biggest success. Illustration is so competitive and difficult to break into I feel so lucky each time I start a new commission.

What is your favorite medium to use?

I always use inks – mainly Daler Rowney acrylic and Dr Ph.Martin’s watercolour inks. Occasionally I’ll use some colouring pencils, or gouache for texture.

Has that changed over time?

I use paints less than I used to, especially oils. I love the colour and texture of oil paint, but they take so long to dry it isn’t feasible to use them for illustration projects as they’re usually quick turnaround jobs.

Do you have a studio set up in your home, plus belong to a co-op

I recently moved house, so I currently work from a spare room at home. Prior to that I was a part of ‘Mama Wolf Studio’, an illustration collective (@studiomamawolf on Instagram) with three other illustrators. Mama Wolf is a public facing studio with a fully functioning shop located in London that sells prints, cards and other goods, but also serves as a space where visitors can ask questions about illustration and talk through difficulties they might be having in their own practice. It’s quite odd to now be working alone but I think I could work anywhere if needs be.

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

I really should do because I believe decent preliminary research can really benefit a project, but I generally don’t get given enough time to make this a possibility. In addition, I’m often working on seasonal themes at the wrong time of year, for example: I’ve recently finished a Christmas book that features lots of snowy landscapes which I had to work on during the Spring and Summer months so there was no way I could have taken my own photos or sketches! The bulk of the scenes in the book are totally imagined, with a small amount of Google reference (but I never directly copy any photographs). The great thing about illustrating for a very young age is that you don’t need to be too detailed or accurate in what you draw, so there is a fair amount of leeway in that respect.

 

Do you think the Internet has opened doors for you?

When I was finishing university most artists didn’t have a website and one of the things that terrified me most about becoming a professional illustrator was the idea that I’d have to call a busy, stressed art director and beg them to look over my terrible graduate portfolio! The internet has been revolutionary for illustrators because for the first time we can build a following and show that there is a market for our work or style, before a client even commissions us. It’s still just as important for us to make contact with art directors but conversely a client, can also seek us out in ways they were not able to before.


Do you use Photoshop or Painter with your illustrations?

I use Photoshop for re-touching and those inevitable changes. A knowledge of photoshop gives you greater flexibility and makes small tweaks much easier and quicker.

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

I have a basic Wacom tablet that I use for all my computer work. It replaced my mouse, which I find totally unwieldy and impossibly slow to use now, plus I have repetitive strain injury so using the tablet and pen feels much more comfortable and natural.

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

Just to write a book as well as illustrate it. It would be nice to create something that was entirely my own vision.

What are you working on now?

I’m working on a book called ‘Quick Barney…Run!’ which is written by Pip Jones, the author of Daddy’s Sandwich. It will hopefully be out next March 2018 in the U.K, later in the U.S.

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.

I think art materials are incredibly subjective, and what works for one artist doesn’t work for others, so I always tell people to experiment. I have recently re-kindled my love of Parker Quink Ink – although it is essentially black ink it separates when added to water creating some interesting colour tones.

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

Don’t be afraid, take chances and be prepared to make mistakes. Also, treat each commission as if it’s your first: if you put the level of energy and enthusiasm into every job that you did your very first you’ll have a fantastic career ahead of you.

Thank you Laura 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 Laura’s work, you can visit her at her website: www.laurahughes-illustrator.co.uk/

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

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

Posted by: Kathy Temean | September 8, 2017

September Featured Agent – Thao Le – Part One Interview

THAO LE has agreed to be September Featured agent and critique four first pages submitted. She is a literary agent at the Dijkstra Agency where she also handles the agency’s financials and select contracts.

She is a graduate of the University of California, San Diego with a double major in Econ-Management Science and Chinese Studies. While interning at the agency during college, she realized where her true love lies — books — and joined the agency full-time in the spring of 2011.

Thao is looking for: Young Adult, Middle Grade, Picture Books by author/illustrators, Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy, and is selectively open to Romance.

In the Adult and YA Sci-fi/Fantasy realms, she enjoys stories rooted in mythology, fairytales, and legends with atmospheric settings and strong world building. Particularly stories that are inclusive and multicultural. She’s also a fan of magic realism.

In contemporary YA, she’s seeking witty, heartfelt writing with an authentic teen voice. Especially stories about family and friendships. Think Stephanie Perkins, Jenny Han, or Sarah Dessen.

In Middle Grade, she’s looking for fantastic adventures and clever protagonists the likes of Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, Neil Gaiman’s Coraline, and Soman Chainani’s School of Good and Evil.

In the picture book arena, she is only currently taking on author/illustrators, however she’s a fan of Jon Klassen, Kate Beaton, Cale Atkinson, and Liz Climo and would like to add projects in the same vein to her list.

In Romance, she’s drawn to heroes/heroines who turn stereotypes and tropes on their heads (such as heroines in typically male roles and sensitive heroes who aren’t necessarily alpha, but just as swoonworthy). She enjoys historical romance the likes of Julia Quinn, Courtney Milan, and Eloisa James, speculative romance similar to Gail Carrier’s Parasol Protectorate series, and contemporary romance that is as addictive as Sonali Dev’s Bollywood series.

In general, she loves beautiful literary writing with a commercial hook. She is most excited to add more writers of diversity (including, but not limited to, all ethnicity, sexual orientation, mental and physical health, and socioeconomic status) to her client list.
Check out her tumblr for more publishing related posts: http://agentthao.tumblr.com/

Submissions should be emailed to thao@dijkstraagency.com

Please check http://www.dijkstraagency.com/ for full submission guidelines and policies.

Fiction: Please send a query letter, a 1-page synopsis, a brief bio (including a description of your publishing history), and the first 10-15 pages of your manuscript. Please send all items in the body of the email, not as an attachment.
Author/Illustrators with dummy: Please send a query letter, a brief bio (including a description of your publishing history), full manuscript text pasted below your query letter, full dummy (in pdf format as an attachment) that includes 1-2 color samples, and link to online portfolio.

Please note that Thao does NOT represent: non-fiction, adult literary fiction, adult general fiction, mystery/thriller/suspense, memoirs, poetry, religious/spiritual books, screenplays, or short stories.


 
HERE IS PART ONE OF MY INTERVIEW WITH THAO:

What are your favorite genres?

Fantasy, light science fiction, magical realism, contemporary romance

Are there any story or themes you wished someone would submit?

I’m currently dying for a contemporary fairytale that’s basically a magical coffee shop AU. In general though, I am a sucker for the hate-to-love/enemies-to-lovers trope, mistaken identities, gender bent and/or contemporary retellings of classics. I’m actively looking to add more middle grade and contemporary YA to my list.

Do you represent New Adult manuscripts?

Not at the moment, no.

If you had a client that wrote YA and decided to write a New Adult Novel would you represent them with that?

Since they are an existing client I would discuss with them about the project and we would review its merits and marketability together.

What do you like to see in a submission?

In the query letter section: a clear hook, character motive and stakes, comp titles to show that they have a clear vision for their book and the market for it.

In the sample pages: an active opening (usually a scene, doesn’t have to be action-packed, but should show that the story is already moving and not a bunch of backstory and info-dumping), a compelling voice.

How important is the query letter?

The query letter is important in that it introduces me to the writer and their work. It helps me get an idea of the writer’s vision of the book. For instance, is this the first book of a planned trilogy or is it a standalone, who does the writer see as their audience, what books do they see as their comp titles? These are all things I will be asking going into a query letter. The query is also crucial in giving me stats about the manuscript, such as word count, genre, and most important of all writer’s contact info in case I want to request more!

Any tips on how an author can get you to ask to see more?

Have an amazing opening that grabs me from the very beginning and I will definitely be asking for more. Doesn’t mean that someone has to die or there is a big terrible twist right off the bat, but I need to feel drawn to the characters and the world and what is at stake. Voice is usually what grabs me and makes me want to read more even if I’m unsure of the plot/premise.

How far do you normally read before you reject a submission?

For queries, I ask that they send me the first 10-15 pages, but I usually know from page one if I am going to request more or not.
When I request a full, I can usually tell by the 50 page mark if I will be finishing the manuscript or not. If I finish it completely, that’s usually a very good sign.

CHECK BACK NEXT FRIDAY FOR PART TWO OF MY INTERVIEW WITH THAO:


 
SUBMISSION GUIDELINES For FIRST PAGE CRITIQUES:

In the subject line, please write “SEPTEMBER 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: September 21st.
RESULTS: September 29th.

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!

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

Posted by: Kathy Temean | September 7, 2017

Book Giveaway – Water In May

Author Ismee Williams debut novel WATER IN MAY is coming out on September 12th. You can pre-order on Amazon. She has agreed to give one lucky winner a copy. 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. Check back to discover the winner.

BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Fifteen-year-old Mari Pujols believes that the baby she’s carrying will finally mean she’ll have a family member who will love her deeply and won’t ever leave her—not like her mama, who took off when she was eight; or her papi, who’s in jail; or her abuela, who wants as little to do with her as possible. But when doctors discover a potentially fatal heart defect in the fetus, Mari faces choices she never could have imagined.

Surrounded by her loyal girl crew, her off-and-on boyfriend, and a dedicated doctor, Mari navigates a decision that could emotionally cripple the bravest of women. But both Mari and the broken-hearted baby inside her are fighters; and it doesn’t take long to discover that this sick baby has the strength to heal an entire family.

Inspired by true events, this gorgeous debut has been called “heartfelt, heartbreaking and—yes!—even a little heart-healing, too” by bestselling YA novelist Carolyn Mackler.

BOOK’S JOURNEY:

The journey of my debut novel, WATER IN MAY, starts with how I went from being a physician to being writer. It began in March of 2010 when I ended up on bedrest while pregnant with my third baby. I had been on bedrest with my prior two pregnancies (luckily all three children were born on time without complications), but with my first pregnancy, I was in the middle of getting my Masters in Biostatistics and continued my coursework from home. With my second, I was writing grants as well as manuscripts for my medical research. But in 2010, I had submitted a large grant and was waiting to hear back. The studies I had been running were closed to enrollment and the data had been processed. I had time on my hands. I picked up a YA novel. And my life changed.

The story affected me and made me want to write more than just for medical journals. I wanted to create fiction that would do for someone else what that book had done for me. During the three months before my daughter was born, I wrote a draft of a YA manuscript. I spent the next four years editing and shopping it, and learning as much as I could about the literary world. I took advice wherever I could get it. I submitted scenes from my manuscript to every contest imaginable and even agreed to judge for some of them. I remember sitting on my couch hooked up to the breast pump, a blue felt-tipped pen in one hand and stacks of paper entries in my lap as I painstakingly followed the scoring algorithm’s sent to me. I went to writers’ conferences when I wasn’t working at the hospital or with my kids. I even hired an independent editor as I was desperate for feedback and direction.

The responses I received for my first work in progress were encouraging. But no one wanted it. I had heard countless times that many authors’ first works rarely get published. But I didn’t want to believe it. Yet as I left my fourth SCBWI winter conference with the information that what I had written wasn’t selling anymore, I knew I had to make a change.

The idea for WATER IN MAY had come to me years before I actually sat down and wrote it. I was so invested in my first work at that time I wasn’t ready to abandon it. But once I decided to try something new, I finished a draft in a little over three months. It helped that I had received great instruction from SCBWI’s Lin Oliver on how to outline (something I didn’t do with my first attempt). And I had been thinking of my main character for a long time. I had a firm grasp of her temperament, flaws and goals. I knew exactly how she would act in any given scenario. Mari is strong. Stronger than me. She didn’t let me get away with anything.

Another factor that influenced my journey was my writing group. Just before I started my draft of what was to become WATER IN MAY, I underwent a transition in my day job. The flexibility allowed me to commit to something I had always wanted to do. I logged onto the SCBWI members’ site and located critique partners in my area. Being part of such a warm and supportive group of writers, half published and half pre-published, was instrumental. In addition to offering valuable advice regarding the manuscript itself, my group helped with query letter edits and suggested agents and other conferences to attend. I benefited greatly from their collective experience. One of my concerns was whether I would be able to query the same agent for a different work in progress. The answer was a resounding YES! I still ended up reaching out to over fifty agents before receiving an offer of representation from the amazing Jim McCarthy. I signed with him in October and by February we had a book deal!

ISMEE’S BIO:

Ismee Williams is a pediatric cardiologist who trained and practiced at Columbia University Medical Center in New York City for 15 years. She is the daughter of a Cuban immigrant and was partially raised by her abuelos (grandparents in Spanish). Her background helped her understand the many Maris she met along the way. Water in May is her first novel.

She lives in New York with her husband and three daughters as well as a dog who is commonly mistaken for a muppet. You can read more at www.ismeewilliams.com and can be found on Instagram and Twitter at @IsmeeWilliams

Thank you Ismee for sharing your book, its journey with us, and participating in the book giveaway. Wishing you much success with the book.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

Posted by: Kathy Temean | September 6, 2017

Tom Howard/Margaret Reid Poetry Contest & Book Winners

Wendy Greenley is the winner of IT’S A SEASHELL DAY by Dianne Ochiltree

Carol Gerber is the winner of AT WAVES END by Patricia Donovan

Please send addresses.

KUDOS to Carole Gerber for BAND OF BABIES making Amazon’s Best Baby Books list in June, July and August.

Tom Howard/Margaret Reid Poetry Contest

Don’t miss the 15th annual Tom Howard/Margaret Reid Poetry Contest.

Submit published or unpublished work.

$4,000 in prizes.

DEADLINE: September 30, 2017.

FEE: $12 per poem

AWARD:

The Tom Howard Prize of $1,500 for a poem in any style or genre

The Margaret Reid Prize of $1,500 for a poem that rhymes or has a traditional style.

Ten Honorable Mentions will receive $100 each (any style).

The top 12 entries will be published online.

Length limit: 250 lines per poem. No restrictions on age or country.

Please click here to submit.

The results of the 15th contest will be announced on April 15, 2018.

Judges: Soma Mei Sheng Frazier & Jim DuBois

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

Posted by: Kathy Temean | September 5, 2017

Free Webinar – Using Cultural References

Steal this! Using Cultural References For Writers & Illustrators is a big-win jam-packed FREE workshop for anyone wanting to write or illustrate contemporary children’s books that engage editors, art directors, and agents.

IT’S ALL HAPPENING SATURDAY SEPTEMBER 9TH AT 11AM Pacific Daylight Time/2PM Eastern

We will be exploring the ways that writers and illustrators can and have learned from classic literature, fine art, current events, and pop culture. Bring paper and pen and pencil to both write and draw in this unconventional but inspiring online workshop that will also be recorded.

There will be prizes!
There will be fun!
There will be learning!
You may amaze yourself!

Come Play – Super Helpful Wondrous FREE Workshop/Webinar:

You must register to access the webinar. Click Here to Register.

Here is the link for the Children’s Book Academy to check out all the details. Also they give a 100% money back guarantee

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

Posted by: Kathy Temean | September 4, 2017

Happy Labor Day & Book Winners

Sherri Kasek Ashburner has won CHICKEN WANTS A NAP by Tracy Marchini
Nancy Furstinger has won PUG & PIG TRICK OR TREAT by Sue Lowell Gallion
Kim Pfennigwerth has won SIENNA THE COWGIRL FAIRY by Alayne Kay Christian

Please send me your addresses.

Labor Day became an official federal holiday in 1894.
Here are some ideas of things to do today:

Get out the bikes and pedal.

Elisa Chavarri was featured on Illustrator Saturday

Play some music and dance.

Rachel Dougherty was featured on Illustrator Saturday.

Blow some bubbles.

Christine Kornacki was featured on Illustrator Saturday.

Put the top down and go for a drive.

David Salzay was featured on Illustrator Saturday.

Get in another day at the beach.

Andy Leimontas being featured on September 23rd.

Let someone serenade you as you mosey down a river.

Kim Gatto was featured on Illustrator Saturday.

Relax and have a drink.

Kelsey Garrity-Riley was featured on Illustrator Saturday.

Watch birds build a nest.

Gile Laroche was featured on Illustrator Saturday.

Fly a kite!

Mike Ciccotello was featured on Illustrator Saturday.

Frolic in the country.

Tina MacNaughton was featured on Illustrator Saturday

Have a party.

Nicole Wong was featured on Illustrator Saturday.

Go for a hike and bird watch, but don’t forget to check your back.

Colleen Rowen-Kosinski was featured on Illustrator Saturday.

Go to an amusement park.

Chantelle and Burgen Thorne were featured on Illustrator Saturday

Go Shopping.

Xindi Yan was featured on Illustrator Saturday.

How about a tea party?

Hanna McAfferty was featured on Illustrator Saturday.

Lay amongst the flowers.

Louise-Marie Fitzpatrick was featured on Illustrator Saturday

Chase Frogs – Laura Bifano from In The Red Canoe.

One last dune buggy ride?

Teresa Wiles was featured on Illustrator Saturday

Hot air balloon ride anyone?

Pat Archilles was featured on Illustrator Saturday.

Top off your day with a little ice cream.

Rashin Kheiriyeh was featured on Illustrator Saturday.

Enjoy your day with whatever you do!

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

 

Posted by: Kathy Temean | September 3, 2017

Illustrator Sunday – Sharismar Rodiguez Part One – Interview

Sharismar Rodriguez is an Associate Art Director for Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers and their imprint Clarion Books, where she designs and art directs children’s books for all ages, from Picture Books to Middle Grade and YA novels and Non-Fiction volumes. She started her career in children’s publishing right after obtaining her BFA in Visual Communications from Parsons School of Design.

Some of her work includes award winning and note worthy titles such as New York Times bestseller Greenglass House by Kate Milford, illustrated by Jaime Zollars; Society of Illustrators Los Angeles Illustration 50 West winner 10 Rules You Absolutely Must Not Break If You Want to Survive the School Bus by John Grandits, illustrated by Micheal Allen Austin; Maybe Something Beautiful, an ALA Notable Children’s Book recipient, by F. Isabel Campoy and Theresa Howell, illustrated by Rafael Lopez; among other books.

When she’s not busy collaborating with amazing illustrators, writers and editors, she’s a secret art crafter, a compulsive Pinterest “pinner”, and a notebook-under-the-mattress writer.

Sharismar enjoys a wide-range of illustration styles to match the wide range of stories that she publishes.

You saw her first Illustrator Sunday critique last week. This week is Part One on my interview with her. Part Two will be posted on October 1st. The Sunday’s in-between will feature more illustrator critiques.

Here is Sharismar answering my questions:

What type of things you do as Associate Art Director for Houghton Mifflin Harcourt BFYR?

I’ve always seen myself as the children’s book version of a surrogate mother where the parents’—if I may—seeds (the text and the art) are handed to me for a short period of time, to nourish and develop that child until it’s ready to be released into the world. It’s a weird metaphor, I know, but as with children, I’ll always love and feel proud of each and everyy one of the books I’ve help bring to life.

Now, more technically, what I do as an art director is work closely with editors, artists and authors overseeing the book making process, we review the art together in different stages; I design the cover and interior layouts; I work with my colleagues in the production department on color correcting the printer’s proofs and the books’ specs (paper stock, inks, finishes, etc.); among many other tasks I won’t bore you with. 

2. Are you open to working with unpublished illustrators?

Yes, of course. We are always looking for fresh talent and new ideas. I think the challenge is to find the right match for the right project at the right time.

3. Do illustrator email you with a sample and links to their portfolio?

Yes, illustrators are encouraged to reach out with their samples. A link to their portfolio is the best; most of my colleagues and I bookmark portfolios of artists that we are interested in working with and share links all the time.

4. In this digital world, do you feel there is still a place for marketing post cards?

Personally, I still love getting postcards in the mail. If something grabs my eyes, holding this piece in my hands will most likely prompt me to lookup the artist online and see more of their work. It’s a great tool for discovering new people. However, I understand that it could become a financial and even an environmental burden (we have to save the trees!). Like with everything in life, I believe in moderation and balance, sending seasonal mailers and follow up with online updates seems to be a good combination.

5. Do illustrators need an artist rep or agent to go forward at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt BFYR?

No, they do not. We work with many authors and artists that are not represented by agents. For the most part, agents and artists’ reps bring years of experience to the table, which can help facilitate things, but it’s not required for an artist or author to have one.

6. What type of illustrations catch your eye? Do you lean more toward the colorful? The comic strip look? Etc.

I like to believe that I’m very eclectic when it comes to the arts. I can love an illustration that has all the colors of the rainbow as much as I can love a black and white one. For me is all about how the art enhances the concept of the story, how it brings the text to life and then some. I can’t resist a picture book where the art fills-in the gaps that you didn’t even know existed in the story.

7. What is the best path an illustrator can take to get your attention?

As I mentioned before, I like receiving mailers because emails can sometimes get lost in cyberspace. Some of the artists I’ve worked with have electronic newsletters that you can opt-in and they will send out seasonal/monthly updates, those are great too.

CHECK BACK ON OCTOBER 1ST FOR PART TWO OF MY INTERVIEW WITH SHARISMAR.


Remember: Sharismar will be working with illustrators during the industry’s leading online children’s book illustration course – Craft and Business of Illustrating Children’s Books Course – starting September 25th. Click Here for Details. $100.00 discount goes to September 5th.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

Posted by: Kathy Temean | September 2, 2017

Illustrator Saturday – David Szalay

After 20 successful years in visual communications my career opportunities offered a new chapter and I began teaching design courses. This was the ideal time to revisit my first passion, illustration. With an MA in Communications in hand I continued on for an MFA in Illustration. This was an investment in me. It was to reignite that old flame, one that I ignored for far too long. I’ve since immersed myself into teaching and illustrating, with a side order of occasional graphic design.

My wife and my two adult sons lovingly support my crazy ambitions. I am inspired by many things such as life experiences, observation, the outdoors, animals, kids, and the tradition of storytelling. I’m contributing and participating in the most authentic way I can. I’m having fun and I think I’m starting to get the hang of this thing!

I work out of my home studio located on a few acres along a steam that runs through the nearby Cuyahoga Valley National Park. We, along with our two cats, enjoy the tranquility and all the wildlife that roam near our little house in the woods.

HERE IS DAVID DISCUSSING HIS PROCESS:

We live in near the Cuyahoga National Park. Frequent wildlife sightings inspire me.

My wife saw this fox one cool October morning crossing the neighbors driveway. She sent me a text of it and I’d finished this paitning before she was home from work.

In 2015, a mother fox built a den under our shed. I documented them for two months.

I began interpreting scenes of the foxes in hopes of discovering a story.

There is a large rock out on our property that all types of animals climb on. We call it Fox Rock. I couldn’t wait to get back and paint from this scene.

My photo reference is only a starting point. I often reinterpret my experience as I paint.


Sometimes I begin sketching from memory. This is especially true of fiction-based subjects. I use a small sketch pad and ink most of the time.

I begin with a loose sketch before I create flat shapes to block in form. I’ll build texture and value while I explore color. I usually do figures and characters on a separate document.

Trees and other living elements are treated similarly to my characters. I build up from a flat shape and then add detail and texture. Working digitally allow for quick change and experimentation.

I enjoy creating whimsy through hand-lettering. My background as a graphic designer helps inform my approach.

Decorative details in the building are an amalgamation of scene I recall during a trip to London combined with some reference and my imagination. Atmospheric perspective and depth is created with softer, hazy shapes of the city off in the distance.

The final is assembled and enhanced with decorative framing and sprinklings of texture and imperfection. It is most important for me to keep my digital process and appearance as organic as possible.

This is a quick exploratory sketch that serves to establish composition and a hint at lighting.


The result is a bird’s eye view of the little neighborhood with the blimp flying over. This is inpired by some of my childhood experiences growing up in Akron, Ohio where Goodyear builds the blimps.

Interview Questions for David Szalay

Did you always live in Ohio?

Yes, I was born and raised in Akron, Ohio.

How long have you been illustrating?

I’ve been illustrating for most of my life. I worked on murals and cartooning all the way back in grade school. Professionally, I’ve done some illustrating since the mid-1980’s.

What and when was the first painting or illustration that you did where someone paid you for your artwork? It was around 1985 for The Canal Fulton Historic Society. It was an image of a pig running as fast as he could though a big puddle of mud. It was used at The Old Canal Days Festival on shirts and banners.

Where did you get your degree in visual communication?

I have a BFA in Graphic Design from The University of Akron and an MFA in Illustration from the University of Hartford. I also have an MA in Communications from The University of Akron.

What types of things does that type of degree prepare you to do?

My illustration degree helped me retool my career towards a focus on illustration and develop my unique visual voice. I essentially reversed the ratio from doing 75% design and 25% illustration to about 80% illustration and 20% design. Previously, I used my design degree mostly to work with typography and imagery to generate advertising campaigns, package design, trade show exhibits, and print material such as corporate brochures and logo identities. In later years I was a creative director. I often included illustrative solutions as part of my concepts. I’m currently a full-time Associate Professor and also maintain my illustration practice full-time.

Did you teach while you were studying for your MFA?

Yes, I taught as an adjunct beginning in 2005. I acquired a tenure track position in 2009 with an MA in Communications. I began my MFA studies in 2010. I taught throughout the time I pursued back-to-back master’s degrees.

Where did you go for your MFA?

The University of Hartford. Did your family and job influence your choice of school? No, I selected Hartford’s unique Low Residency MFA because it allowed me to work around my teaching schedule and I met the director, Murray Tinkelman about 25 years prior at a lecture he gave at my college.

Did you do illustration jobs while you were studying for your MFA?

Yes I did, however, nothing in the children’s literature market. It was mostly advertising or editorial.

Do you think college influenced your style?

I had most of my influences in mind before entering college but I feel it allowed me to improve my execution.

When did you decide you wanted to illustrate for children?

This has been on my mind since I was little. I had a wonderful librarian in grade school who read to us weekly. I struggled learning to read and my grandmother, who worked at a book store provided me with many of the great, classic picture books.

Have you illustrated a picture book?

No, I’m what SCBWI calls pre-published in that market except for the educational market. I have a few complete dummies that my agent is busy presenting. We’ve had some good interest.

Is Catsy Batsy a book dummy?

Not yet, but very soon. I have a draft. Halloween season will certainly get him back on my desk. It was a bit of a visual taste test to see if the idea drummed up positive interest. It has.

Do you have an Artist Rep. to represent you? If so, and how did you connect and how long have you been with them?

I’m represented by Christy Ewers at CATugeau Agency. We connected through the 2017 SCBWI Winter Conference in New York through the portfolio showcase. You can see more of my work at http://www.catugeau.com

How many picture books have you illustrated?

I haven’t completed any picture books yet but I have illustrated for the children’s education market. I’m available-contact me!

Have you done any book covers?

Not yet, I’d love to though. Especially given my design and typography background. It would be great to work as the illustrator to a good art director.

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

Yes, that is the ultimate goal. I’ve never been so close as I am now.

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

I think I’m more interested in working with an established publisher, however, I might weigh each opportunity out individually. It depends on the big picture.

Have you ever tried to illustrate a wordless picture book?

No I haven’t. It has occurred to me but the idea isn’t there yet. I love the thought of the narrative being universally understood. I’m in awe of the wordless stories by both Shaun Tan and Guy Billout for example.

Have you worked with educational publishers?

Yes.

Have you done any illustrating for children’s magazines?

Not yet, again, it’s on my list. I’d love to work with Highlights, or Cricket to name a couple.

How do you market yourself and art?

I market thought several channels, CATugeau’s direct contact with publishers and my through social media and postcards.

What do you feel is your biggest success so far?

In illustration, I feel really good about signing on with my agent. Collaborating and having my work on the radar of some big players in the children’s book market has been exhilarating. It seems to have unlocked so much great energy.

What is your favorite medium to use?

I have really fallen in love with drawing and painting although I didn’t feel it was legitimate at first. Since I began this journey later than usual in life the immediacy of digital has been very useful to me. I was quite good at concept art and layouts comps using felt tip when I first graduated in design. Working digitally reminds me of that in a way.

Has that changed over time?

Yes, I was pretty comfortable with pastels, colored pencil, ink and watercolor before I moved to digital.

Do you have a studio set up in your home?

Yes.

What the most important thing in your personal studio?

Probably coffee.

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

Yes, if I don’t have an assignment, I create one. I usually have several at a time.

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

Yes, I constantly harvest pictures outside of landscape, lighting, wildlife and architecture.

Do you think the Internet has opened doors for you?

I was working before the internet and I sense that the internet has allowed me to to accelerate the two processes of research and promotion.

Do you use Photoshop or Painter with your illustrations?

I use Photoshop.

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

Yes, I use a Cintiq digital pen display in my studio and an iPad Pro with Apple Pencil when I’m away.

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

I feel like I’m doing just that. If you asked me a few years ago, I would’ve said I’d rather work in the children’s literary market than advertising.

What are you working on now?

I’m in the middle of several educational assignments. I have three books including Catsy Batsy on the top of my list as well as preparing to teach three university classes this fall.

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.

I suggest drawing on paper with ink for ideas. Try to doodle often, it’s a way of opening up possibilities. Try digital tools only when you’ve become proficient with traditional media. My digital process has to include the same steps I would take with ink or paint and paper, beginning with sketches and studies. Pay close attention to details and craftsmanship and don’t settle too early. I’ve redrawn and repainted an entire scene more times than not. Gather great reference when possible and create your own as much as you can.

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

This is a difficult field. One of the hardest I’ve faced in over 30 years. You can’t do it alone in a vacuum. I suggest being active in the community and market you want to work in. Connect with others through workshops and conferences and dig in deep if you’re serious about this. You have your work cut out for you but don’t give up. Keep working on becoming the best at what you want to do. It’s a lifelong journey if you chose to take it. It could be one of the best decisions you’ll ever make.

Thank you David 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 David’s work, you can visit him at his website:  www.daveszalay.com or follow him on Twitter: @davidszalay or Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/DaveSzalayIllustration/

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

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

Posted by: Kathy Temean | September 1, 2017

Literary Agent Thao Le – Dijkstra Agency

In case you missed, yesterday I posted the August’s four first pages critiqued by Larissa Helena. Scroll down or Click Here to read.

THAO LE has agreed to be September Featured agent and critique four first pages submitted. She is a literary agent at the Dijkstra Agency where she also handles the agency’s financials and select contracts.

She is a graduate of the University of California, San Diego with a double major in Econ-Management Science and Chinese Studies. While interning at the agency during college, she realized where her true love lies — books — and joined the agency full-time in the spring of 2011.

Thao is looking for: Young Adult, Middle Grade, Picture Books by author/illustrators, Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy, and is selectively open to Romance.

In the Adult and YA Sci-fi/Fantasy realms, she enjoys stories rooted in mythology, fairytales, and legends with atmospheric settings and strong world building. Particularly stories that are inclusive and multicultural. She’s also a fan of magic realism.

In contemporary YA, she’s seeking witty, heartfelt writing with an authentic teen voice. Especially stories about family and friendships. Think Stephanie Perkins, Jenny Han, or Sarah Dessen.

In Middle Grade, she’s looking for fantastic adventures and clever protagonists the likes of Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, Neil Gaiman’s Coraline, and Soman Chainani’s School of Good and Evil.

In the picture book arena, she is only currently taking on author/illustrators, however she’s a fan of Jon Klassen, Kate Beaton, Cale Atkinson, and Liz Climo and would like to add projects in the same vein to her list.

In Romance, she’s drawn to heroes/heroines who turn stereotypes and tropes on their heads (such as heroines in typically male roles and sensitive heroes who aren’t necessarily alpha, but just as swoonworthy). She enjoys historical romance the likes of Julia Quinn, Courtney Milan, and Eloisa James, speculative romance similar to Gail Carrier’s Parasol Protectorate series, and contemporary romance that is as addictive as Sonali Dev’s Bollywood series.

In general, she loves beautiful literary writing with a commercial hook. She is most excited to add more writers of diversity (including, but not limited to, all ethnicity, sexual orientation, mental and physical health, and socioeconomic status) to her client list.
Check out her tumblr for more publishing related posts: http://agentthao.tumblr.com/

Submissions should be emailed to thao@dijkstraagency.com

Please check http://www.dijkstraagency.com/ for full submission guidelines and policies.

Fiction: Please send a query letter, a 1-page synopsis, a brief bio (including a description of your publishing history), and the first 10-15 pages of your manuscript. Please send all items in the body of the email, not as an attachment.
Author/Illustrators with dummy: Please send a query letter, a brief bio (including a description of your publishing history), full manuscript text pasted below your query letter, full dummy (in pdf format as an attachment) that includes 1-2 color samples, and link to online portfolio.

Please note that Thao does NOT represent: non-fiction, adult literary fiction, adult general fiction, mystery/thriller/suspense, memoirs, poetry, religious/spiritual books, screenplays, or short stories.


CHECK BACK NEXT FRIDAY FOR PART ONE OF MY INTERVIEW WITH THAO:


SUBMISSION GUIDELINES For FIRST PAGE CRITIQUES:

In the subject line, please write “SEPTEMBER 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: September 21st.
RESULTS: September 29th.

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!

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

Posted by: Kathy Temean | August 31, 2017

August Featured Agent – First Page Results

When Larissa Helena finally announced her decision to major in Literature, her family and friends were too polite to reply “duh”. But everyone already knew, even then, she had no choice but to keep exploring the magic of words. A few diplomas, translations and years working as an editor later, she packed her suitcases and ended up in a city so nice they named it twice. Larissa found her new literary home at Pippin, where she is now Associate Literary Agent & Manager of Subsidiary Rights, and feels lucky to be surrounded by words and people who understand and share her passion.

Larissa Helena, Agent, Pippin Properties. Larissa Helena’s passion is fiction: between Brazil, France and the United States, her only certainty is that she wants to be around books. Larissa has been an Executive Editor, a Translator, a Researcher, a Foreign Rights Manager and an Agent. She’s open to books for all ages, and wants diverse narratives of all kinds. Voices rarely seen in literature, unconventional stories, quirky characters. Her favorite kind of book doesn’t try to follow a pattern or play by the rules. Favorite genre? Genre bending.

For submissions, e-mail your first chapter along with a synopsis and query letter to lhelena@pippinproperties.com. Twitter: @larilena


 
UNEASY GRACE by Susan T. Paxton  – YA contemporary

A siren shrieked in the distance. Shaken from her trance, Taylor turned away from the silent river. She twisted her hair into a messy knot and hurried down the steps of the wide veranda. She’d thrown on the same jeans she’d worn yesterday and a wrinkled sweatshirt. No way she’d wow with her beauty today, but it wasn’t as if this day would be any different from any other at Wayne County High. Same old, same old.

After almost six weeks, she was still New Girl Nobody. Being new was a familiar fate, but unlike her brother Mason, Taylor didn’t relish the frequent relocation her dad’s job as a roving real estate consultant required. For Mason, a new town meant slipping into a new personality he could stitch together like pieces of a quilt. For Taylor, unspooling the complicated threads of a new school, a new soccer team, and a new set of teachers had started to fray three towns ago.

Grace, North Carolina was proving to be the worst of all. At least those other towns had malls with multiplex theaters, public transit to nearby larger cities, and amusements other than standing in line at Grace Creamery waiting for a cone. Most of all, in those other towns, she hadn’t been a senior with no one to talk to.

She hurried down the steps turning her headphones on full blast. Even though she hated the local broadcast called “The Mouth of the South,” she tuned in every morning. It amazed her that a hokey DJ with a fake accent had become an instant celebrity in town. Each morning she felt a sick fascination, wondering what trash talk the DJ would be spewing to a half-awake world.

If only something would change.

HERE IS LARISSA:
 
Uneasy Grace

The first important thing to note here is why this is a wonderful title (and the importance of one): being greeted by smart wordplay suggests the reader will find some good writing here! And the opening lines did not disappoint – I like the careful choice of words, how well the alliterations sit, without being too obvious or obliterating the story flow. The cliffhanger at the end of this excerpt is a good idea; once again, the reader is left to wonder and ask for more.

Looking more closely at the text, good work, in the first paragraph, with reflecting in your narrator’s voice that we’re now inside the protagonist’s head – it’s sounds “teenagey” enough, without at any point impoverishing the text. On the second sentence of your first paragraph, there’s a bit too much information that perhaps would be more effective if these ideas (being new/ disliking it/ her brother finds it easy/ they have to move around a lot/ because of the dad’s job) were separated into two different sentences (the part about the dad’s job could come later in the text). Finally, I love how the amount of cities Taylor has lived in is used to count the passage of time at the end of this paragraph – another sign of great writing!

The theme “being the new girl” is one everyone is familiar with, but the particular seasonings of this story – the celebrity DJ that makes this particular universe sound so real, as well as the contrast of how easily the brother seems to fit in – in conjunction with the writing, give it a special flavor that really made me want to read more.


 
HOMEWORK by Amalia Hoffman – PB

A steep staircase led to Anna’s apartment at the tippy top of the tenement on the Lower East Side.

Up there, the sky disappeared behind knickers, petticoats and shawls, dangling from laundry lines. The fire escape ladder snaked its way from the tiny window down, down, down to a narrow alley where cats scurried around garbage pails.

Mama sewed clothes for fancy ladies from the Upper West Side and Anna helped thread the needles and pick up the tiniest pins off the wooden floor.

“You’re my extra pair of eyes,” Mama often joked. “Eyeglasses are way too expensive.”

One day, a new customer arrived to be fitted for an evening gown and she brought her daughter along.

“What’s your name?” asked Anna.

“Juliet,” answered the little girl.

“Wanna play?”

“I like to play house,” answered Juliet. “Where are your dolls?”

“I don’t have any.” Anna said quietly.

Mama cut the dress pattern out of tissue paper. Then she pinned the pieces together to make them fit perfectly.

“Thank you,” said the lady as she left the apartment with Juliet. “I’ll be back next week.”

That night, while Anna lay on the mattress, among her sisters and brothers, she wondered if Juliet would ever come back.

“Why would a girl from the Upper West Side want to play with me? I don’t even have toys,” she thought.

HERE IS LARISSA:

HOMEWORK

Once again, this is a great opening: straight to the point, it does a fantastic job of situating the reader – followed by a more specific image, a focus on the laundry lines to show (instead of explaining or describing) a little better which kind of neighborhood and social-economic situation will be the backdrop of the story.

Picture books are in the hardest end of the spectrum of word economy, so my greatest advice for a picture book author is: the more impact you can squeeze into a few sentences or lines, the better. You have such few words to work with; none of them should go to waste. Here are a few ideas on how to incorporate that idea here: for greater impact, it would perhaps be interesting to put Mama’s joke ahead of the explanation of what she does; it would create a tiny suspense in the story, making the reader wonder what she is talking about before the narrator explains Anna picks up pins while Mama sews. The dialogue between the girls could easily be replaced by a couple of lines from the narrator. That can’t happen! Make sure every phrase is unforgettable and irreplaceable – if you’ll give your main character a voice, it has to be uniquely their own, and can’t be confused with that of other characters.


 
THE ANNOTATED ANNALS of the AMAZING KINGDOM OF ARDANIA – MG – Satirical Fantasy

Chapter 1 – The Royal Birth

The King’s top advisers and councilmen paced the floor and wrung their hands. Others sat at the room-long table fidgeting or doodling. Pages scurried around the great hall offering beverages of various potencies. The King sat at the head of the table drumming his fingers on the arms of his chair while his head valet placed cool towel after cool towel on his forehead. Frazzled nerves stretched to their utmost limits. Surreptitious glances towards the great doors at the far end of the hall became more frequent as day changed to dusk. Finally, the massive doors burst open.

“It’s a girl!” the Chief Cauldron Pot in Waiting proclaimed.

“Ring the bells! Sound the trumpets!” King Bungle said upon this announcement of his daughter’s birth. “I’ll be stewed like a fat goose if that isn’t the most wondrous news I’ve ever heard. Pass out the cigars – the ones with the pink bands – and open the champagne! Tonight, we celebrate!”

Of course, the State Secretary of the Archives immediately wrote down the King’s comments. In fact, the Secretary recorded everything the King said so future generations could marvel at how King Bungle managed the affairs of Ardania, not always with the aplomb we might hope for.

The castle towers’ bells joined with those in all the towns’ steeples to celebrate the birth. Soon their peals were the only sounds heard in Ardania. Everyone was delighted at the birth of the princess and knew countless jobs would be created by this great occasion.

HERE IS LARISSA:

ANNOTATED ANNALS

This first paragraph is a fabulous example of “show, don’t tell”, for anyone looking for inspiration on how to do that. We understand from the very start that something is happening at the great hall by how the king and servants are acting, which is a great way to start a story. The end of the first paragraph is a mini-cliffhanger, which does wonders to ensure the reader will keep on reading!

However, the narrator soon falls into the trap of over-explaining: “upon the announcement of his daughter’s birth” repeats what your reader has hopefully already inferred by then. If you need to make sure your reader gets it, perhaps insert the idea briefly in the king’s next words: “Tonight, we celebrate my daughter”.

You mentioned this is a satirical fantasy – but that’s hard to tell from your first page (there might be a hint of it in the idea of the birth of a princess generating new jobs; a very intriguing one that I hope will be further developed). There are so many works of fantasy out there, but satirical fantasy could catch an editor’s eye! It would do wonders for your manuscript to bring that aspect to the forefront!

Also, reading your story out loud can be a good strategy to avoid too much repetition (too many births on the 5th paragraph), or confusing sentences (second phrase of the fourth paragraph).


 
JUSTIN WISELY AND THE GUARDIAN OF LIGHT by Robert Carey – MG

By the time Justin discovered the magic, it was too late.

The library door thumped open and he looked up from an article on quantum physics. He peered through the small slots between the shelves, the hint of ink and paper tickling his nose. Earl “the giant” Jones, the biggest jock at Misty View Junior High School trudged in. He carried a fistful of crumpled homework. Justin slapped the magazine shut, a chill racing up his back. He’ll never stop.

Earl looked around the room and then strode towards the book stacks. Mrs. Edmonds, the librarian, glared at him as she eased a cart of books from behind a counter decorated with orange paper pumpkins and a tall witch holding a broom.

Justin crept down the aisle and kept an eye on Earl. A large tome rattled outward and Justin stopped. The burning that had appeared several weeks ago flickered in his chest. The book, A Complete History of Brightville and its Legends, bounced in place as if dancing, and then hopped off the shelf into his hands. What in the world? The book flipped open, the sheets of paper flapping as if a windstorm raged. When they stopped, words leapt off a page and shimmered as if on fire.

Beware and weep, ye inhabitants of Earth, for in the latter-day the daughter of light will break oath and set the darkness free.

Justin slammed the book shut and it thumped to the floor, his heart pounding. It’s only my imagination. It’s only my imagination. A laugh he knew better than he wanted to pierced the quiet of the library. He turned. Standing at the end of the aisle stood Earl, a hand grasping the metal shelf. A smile spread across the boy’s face. “Add weak to short nerd.”

HERE IS LARISSA:

JUSTIN WISELY AND THE GUARDIAN OF LIGHT

What a great day for impactful openings! This is a remarkable first sentence, that at the same time tells us what the book is about, introduces the main character, and adds an element of suspense. Well done!

This first page does a good job of showing us who the main character is – a bookworm, interested in complicated subjects such as astrophysics, your familiar nobody h(a)unted by the school bully… and chosen for greatness. The archetype of the hero, the one marked as special, but still struggling to understand what that even means.

What’s hard to tell from it, though, is what is different about this story. What, in the universal idea of the magical hero, is particular to Justin Wisely? Bring that to the spotlight before your reader can get a chance to think of that character as an archetype, and you’ll strike gold!


 
Larissa, thank you for taking your valuable time to share your expertise with everyone here at Writing and Illustrating. We really appreciate it.

Everyone remember to stop back tomorrow to meet September’s Featured Agent.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

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