Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Tomie dePaola: The Courage to Fail

Author and illustrator Tomie dePaola talks about the courage to fail in an interview with author magazine. (Thanks to J.A. Palermo at The Paper Wait blog for the link.)

Update: The YouTube video isn't embedding on Blogger for some reason (help!). It worked on LJ. You can see Tomie talking about the courage to fail here.

There's a second part to the interview that you can watch here.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Art Day: Finding Inspiration

DH and I went to the Whitney museum this weekend. It got me thinking about inspiration and where we find it as artists. I'm not talking about reference materials, but real inspiration, the kind of thing that sparks the creative muse in you.

Where do you find your inspiration?

This weekend I found it in the works of Stuart Davis, Edward Hopper, Roy Lichtenstein, Jasper Johns, and many other artists. I used to work at MOMA, and while I don't miss my old job, I do miss seeing art every day.

Art isn't the only thing that inspires me. I can be inspired by a favorite song or a new melody, a book, movie, or TV show. Sunsets and beaches can be just as provocative as a wacky banana sticker, while comfort food and the smell of a rain-soaked lawn can jump-start pictures in my mind.

When we have big projects or deadlines, it seems like the best thing to do is lock ourselves in a room and work, work, work. However, a little inspiration here and there can make those projects better and get them finished faster. It also helps keep the evil inner editor at bay.

What are you waiting for? Go find some inspiration so you can get back to work :)

What inspires you?

Thursday, March 26, 2009

beginning excerpts - chapter books to MG

This post goes with week 3 of the 14 week novel. These are beginning paragraph excerpts for chapter books to older MG/ Tween novels to show voice. (The other post got too long.)

Araminta Spookie: My Haunted House by Angie Sage
(chapter book/young MG, engaging voice, pulls you in and promises wacky adventures, hopefully appeals to boys and girls. Learn more about Araminta here.)

It all began when I was in my Thursday bedroom doing my ghost practice. I have regular ghost practice, as I was sure it would be much easier to find a ghost if the ghost thought I was one too. I have always wanted to find a ghost, but you know, even though our house is called Spookie House, I have never, ever seen a single ghost, not even a very small one. I thought that Aunt Tabby had scared them off – she would scare me if I were a ghost.

Clementine by Sara Pennypacker
(chapter book/young MG, interesting voice/viewpoint, pulls us in to find out if she’s a reliable narrator or not, plus we want to know what really happened, Clementine isn’t perfect, but she’s still funny and loveable. Learn more about Clementine here.)

I have had not so good of a week.

Well, Monday was a pretty good day, if you don’t count Hamburger Surprise at lunch and Margaret’s mother coming to get her. Or the stuff that happened in the principal’s office when I got sent there to explain that Margaret’s hair was not my fault and besides she looks okay without it, but I couldn’t because Principal Rice was gone, trying to calm down Margaret’s mother.

Notes From a Liar and Her Dog by Gennifer Choldenko
(solid MG, you know from the title that the MC is a liar. Pulls us in through the voice and the feelings she’s keeping to herself. Learn more about the book and the character on Gennifer’s website.)

“I don’t even know what I did this time,” I say to my best friend Harrison Emerson. We watch my mother park her car in the school’s visitor parking slot.

“Could be she’s here because of Kate. Maybe Kate’s in trouble,” Harrison suggests. He is sitting on the asphalt in the shade of the backboard, drawing a chicken in his math book. He always draws during recess, until a noon aide makes him play.

Whispering to Witches by Anna Dale
(solid MG, pulls us in with the title, voice and opening, which all promise adventure. This is one of my favorite MG books. Read the first chapter here.)

Joe flopped on to the seat and loosened his school tie. His suitcase jutted over the edge of the luggage rack above his head and its label dangled in front of his eyes. It read:

Joseph Binks
c/o Mrs Merle Taverner
2 Cloister Walk
Canterbury
Kent

Joe ripped the label from its piece of string, scrunched it into a ball and threw it into the farther corner of the railway compartment. The woman sitting opposite him was too engrossed in her newspaper to raise an eyebrow. Joe slumped back into his seat and wished for the hundredth time that day that he was staying in London for Christmas.

Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer
(solid fantasy/adventure MG, interesting note, IMO, the book is as much about the other characters as it is about Artemis. Pulls us in with the promise of adventure and a smart character. Learn more about Artemis here.)

Note: There’s a prologue. This bit is from the start of chapter one.

Ho Chi Minh City in the summer. Sweltering by anyone’s standards. Needless to say, Artemis Fowl would not have been willing to put up with such discomfort if something extremely important had not been at stake.

Millicent Min, Girl Genius by Lisa Yee
(older MG, great quirky/funny voice, pulls us in by making us want to know who she is and what makes her tick. Read the full first chapter here.)

I have been accused of being anal retentive, an overachiever and a compulsive perfectionist, like those are bad things. My disposition probably has a lot to do with the fact that I am technically a genius. Unfortunately, this label seems to precede me wherever I go.

Lily’s Ghosts by Laura Ruby
(older MG / Tween, pulls you in with an intriguing story, great voice and a setting that is almost another character in the book. It’s one of my favorite ghost stories. Read chapter one here.)

Note: This book has alternating chapters. One set is the story and the other in about the ghosts. This is from the beginning of chapter one (of the story).

Just after six in the evening, with the January sky glowering through the windows like a new bruise, Lily decided to throw Uncle Max in the closet.

Breathe – a ghost story by Cliff McNish
(older MG / Tween, not your typical ghost story. It pulls you in with an imaginative ghost world and a great haunting voice. It’s my favorite recent ghost story. Read an excerpt here.)

Lonely, invisible, and still wearing the clothes they had died in: the ghosts of four children were in this house. Something had disturbed their spirits, and now they were rising slowly up from the cool darkness of the cellar.

the 14 week novel - week three: beginnings and voice 1

Are you ready to start writing? After the crisis this week, I realized I can’t force an outline (although it may work for me later in the process). Answering questions about my characters and figuring out where to begin the story did help, as well as thinking of a possible ending or two. How did the homework pan out for you?

Here is the assignment for week #3: Start writing! The goal for this week is 5000 words.

* 5000 words per week is based on a 50K novel in 10 weeks (the last 2 weeks are reserved for catching up if needed). If your novel is longer or shorter, adjust your weekly writing goals.

* Feel free to join in even if you’ve already started writing. Adjust the assignments to work for you. See Nora’s post for an example of how she made it work for her.

* Rewriting / editing as you go – some people like to do this, including me. My suggestion is to try to write the 5000 words for the week before you go back and edit, but only if it works for you.

* Backstory and world building can be used for your word count, as long as you realize that they might need to be cut later.

Excerpts for this week are all about voice. (Next week I’ll include links and quotes on voice.) Voice is what editors look for, but it’s really hard to nail down. The first paragraph can tell you a lot about the Main character and the story they have to tell you. The first paragraph (YA) excerpts below are from some of my favorite novels with strong voices. They show a range of successful voices for different ages. (There are a ton more I’d like to include. However, this post is already too long, although hopefully helpful. See chapter book to older MG/tween excerpts here.)

The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot
(young YA, pulls you in with an engaging teen girl voice and NYC as a character in the novel, not to mention the concept that an ordinary girl is really a princess. Read more about the book here.)

Tuesday, September 23
Sometimes it seems like all I ever do is lie.

My mom thinks I’m repressing my feelings about this. I say to her, “No, Mom, I’m not. I think it’s really neat. As long as you’re happy, I’m happy.”

Love Among the Walnuts by Jean Ferris
(young YA, pulls you in with a quirky title, voice and opening paragraph. It promises to be a funny and/or wacky story, and it is. Learn more about the book here.)

Once upon a time there was a very wealthy young man named Horatio Alger Huntington-Ackerman. When he was a little boy he liked the fact that his initials spelled HAHA, because he found that in spite of some problems with his family, there was a lot to laugh about. But as he grew up and made his vast fortune and dealt with the world, it seemed that there were fewer and fewer things to feel HAHA about.

How to Ditch Your Fairy by Justine Larbalestier
(solid YA, great concept, unique voice, pulls you in on the first page. I didn’t realize how much I’d love this book, the voice of the MC, and the world that JL created. Get a better feel for the voice and story by reading an excerpt on the author’s website.)

Days walking: 60, Demerits: 4, Conversations with Steffi: 5

My spoffs looked funny in the top, which is odd because my spoffs are tiny. I pulled the top up and tried to push them back where they belonged. Didn’t work. Somehow the top was pushing my right spoff under my armpit and my left toward my neck.

Cracked Up To Be by Courtney Summers
(edgy YA, one of the strongest voices I’ve ever read, pulls you right in with universal emotions, even if you haven’t experienced what Parker has. Just in this short part from the beginning, you get the feel and emotion of the book. It’s definitely edgy YA. The dialog is even better, which you can read on Courtney’s website. She posted an excerpt of the first two chapters.)

Imagine four years.

Four years, two suicides, one death, one rape, two pregnancies (one abortion), three overdoses, countless drunken antics, pantsings, spilled food, theft, fights, broken
limbs, turf wars–every day, a turf war–six months until graduation and no one gets a medal when they get out. But everything you do here counts.

High school.

A Certain Slant of Light by Laura Whitcomb
(YA with adult crossover potential, serious, literary, pulls you in with curiosity. Read an excerpt from later in the book on her site to get a better feel for the voice and choices the MC makes.)

SOMEONE WAS LOOKING AT ME, a disturbing sensation if you’re dead. I was with my teacher, Mr. Brown. As usual, we were in our classroom, that safe and wooden-walled box – the windows opening onto the grassy field to the west, the fading flag standing in the chalk dust corner, the television mounted above the bulletin board like a sleeping eye, and Mr. Brown’s princely table keeping watch over a regiment of student desks. At that moment I was scribbling invisible comments in the margins of a paper left in Mr. Brown’s tray, though my words were never read by the students. Sometimes Mr. Brown quoted me, all the same, while writing his own comments. Perhaps I couldn’t tickle the inside of his ear, but I could reach the mysterious curves of his mind.

The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
(adult with YA crossover potential, literary, MC looking back on when she was younger, pulls you in by making you feel like you are there with the MC. Learn more about the novel on the author’s website.)

At night I would lie in bed and watch the show, how bees squeezed through the cracks of my bedroom wall and flew circles around the room, making that propeller sound, a high-pitched zzzzzz that hummed along my skin. I watched their wings shining like bits of chrome in the dark and felt the longing build in my chest. The way those bees flew, not even looking for a flower, just flying for the feel of the wind, split my heart down its seam.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Art AND Writing Day: A Visit From The Evil Inner Editor

Yesterday was supposed to be an Art Day post about portfolios. It was also the day that my Evil Inner Editor (EIE) decided to visit.

It started out innocently enough. EIE was commenting on my novel ideas. To be specific, he was commenting on my plots. EIE likes the premises for my novels, but tells me that my plots, “totally suck.” He says things like, “nobody will believe that; it’s not plausible,” or “you can’t pull that off, not even if you do research,” or “eh, that’s boring, zzzzzzzz.”

I was ignoring my EIE, trying to improve my plots, combining old plots, and working on new plots. You never know when something might work for the EIE.

Then I realized it was Monday. Monday is Art Day, yay! Then EIE decided to weigh in on my Art Day posts. So I didn’t post, because (according to my EIE) it didn’t make any sense and wasn’t helpful, “at all.”

I’m still planning on doing the portfolio post for a future Art Day. Until then, I suggest ignoring your EIE so you can make art and write stories. If you have to, put your fingers in your ears and say, “I can’t hear you! LA La lalalalalalaala!”

Tomorrow I’m expecting a knock down, drag out fight with my EIE. I need him to leave so I can pick a story to start writing on Thursday. One story. Hopefully with a plot. Help! There's also an Art Day post for next week to write.

Maybe I should ask Sheila to chase my EIE away … but then I’d have to promise to write her story, and I’m not sure that’s the story I’m going to pick.

What do you do to get your EIE to go away so you can be creative?

Monday, March 23, 2009

Art Day postponed until tomorrow ...

Due to unforeseen circumstances, Art Day has been postponed until tomorrow.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

the 14 week novel - week two: plot, planning and organization

Do you have your novel idea (from last week’s assignment)? I have two. This week’s assignment will help me to see which one I’m ready to write. How about you? Are you ready for the next step?

Here is the assignment for week #2: Plot, plan and organize your novel.

A few questions to think on before we start writing next week:
Who is your main character (MC)?
What does your MC want, need, desire?
What do they try to help them achieve that?
Who or what thwarts their attempt?
What do they try next?
What stops them this time?
Will they get what they want in the end, or will they grow/change to not want it?
Does your character want more than one thing?
Do the things that the MC wants conflict with each other?
Is your MC struggling against another person, nature, or herself?
What is the MC’s secret? Does it cause inner or outer conflict?
Is the MC on the journey by themselves, or do they have a friend, boyfriend, group?
What role (if any) does the MC’s family play in your story?
Why does the MC need to tell this particular story about their life?
What is the emotional journey or tone of the story?

Keep asking yourself questions until you know where you need to start your story and have a general idea of where you are going to go.

To outline, or not to outline, that is the question: You don’t have to outline. However, if you’ve never outlined or are having trouble finishing a novel, consider trying it. You never know what will work for you until you try it. I’ve never been an outliner. After completing novels without plots and a bazillion false starts, I’m going to try outlining. It will be a very loose outline, with lots of room to have fun. ;)

Quotes for this week (from NY SCBWI 2007):
(There are) “no guarantees that you will be good. If you don’t dare failure or mediocrity, you will never be a writer!” – Katherine Patterson

“Writers are very private people who run around naked in public.” – Katherine Patterson

“What matters is turning the page.” – Brian Selznick (talking about FORTUNATELY by Remy Charlip)

“You write out of your subconscious hauntings.” – Susan Cooper

“One of your jobs is to persevere.” – Mac McCool

“Writing a novel is not like fixing the toilet. It’s more like falling in love, and nobody knows what they are doing.” – Ann Brashares

Links for this week:
* A most amazing video of Alley Carter’s Q&A at a book signing. She talks about the difference between premise and plot (in the middle of Part 1, when talking about Cross My Heart and Hope to Spy). This was hugely helpful for me to think about plot vs. premise. It may be one of the most helpful bits of writing info ever (for me - I hope it’s helpful to you too).

* Editor Cheryl Klein wrote a great post, “A Character-Based View of Plot,” which is good for people that find characters easier than plot (me!). Cheryl has also given talks about plot, which she’s posted on her website.

* Agent Nathan Bransford asks, “What Do Your Characters Want?” and follows up with a post On Conflict.

* And, because sometimes you just need a laugh, Justine Larbalestier wrote the post, “How to write a novel,” and a follow up, which I love, “How To Write A Novel (the true version).” Her first post was written in response to Maureen Johnson’s great post, “HOW TO WRITE A BOOK.” Enjoy!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Art Day: strengthen the weak spots in your portfolio

I’ve heard many art directors and editors say, “you’re only as good as the weakest piece in your portfolio.”

With that in mind, I’ve decided to work on some of the weak spots in my portfolio. I’m going to give myself assignments (like the 14 week novel writing project). You can do the same assignments or create your own assignments to address your needs.

The first thing I’m going to tackle is background. A strong or interesting background can add depth to picture book illustrations. It’s also a nice contrast to my simple character based images.

Portfolio Assignment #1: A one-month study of backgrounds and landscapes, broken up into 4 week-long categories.

The goal for the first three weeks is to do lots of quick sketches (at least one a day) of each subject, while paying attention to composition. Think about your portfolio goals while sketching. Gear the size, shape and composition of the sketches towards what you want to illustrate (picture books, novels, covers, graphic novels, etc.).

The goal for the final week is to put it all together and create sketches that you can use for portfolio pieces.

Week One – Cities and towns
Week Two – Country landscapes
Week Three – In the house (kitchen, living room, the MC’s bedroom, etc.)
Week Four – Add characters (Create a finished sketch in each category. Use your previous sketches as starting points if you want. Leave room for titles or PB text, pay attention to composition, and watch out for the gutter.)

Anyone else need to work on their backgrounds? Or maybe give yourself a different assignment?

Next month I’ll be working on expressions (because nobody is happy all the time, even if they were in my portfolio when I first started).

Thursday, March 12, 2009

the 14 week novel - week one: ideas

I’ve been trying for a while to write a new YA novel. It started last summer, got pushed to November for NaNoWriMo, and it’s still not written. I have several novel starts, but I don’t have a finished novel yet (probably because I’m trying to write multiple novels at once). It’s time to do something about that.

I will finish a novel in 14 weeks, even if it makes me crazy. Anyone want to join me?

Here's the plan: each week, I’m going to give myself an assignment, which I will also post on my blog, along with quotes and/or links to helpful articles. The first two weeks (starting today) will be the planning stages, and then I’ll be trying to write about 5000 words a week until I get to the end. If I have left over weeks at the end, they will be focused on polishing and planning for revision.

Here is the assignment for week #1:
Come up with an idea for a novel or an interesting character. How?

* Play “what if” with your idea or character: What if this happened? What happens next? What would be the best place to start the novel? What does my character want, need, fear? What happens if they get what they want? What happens if they don’t?

* Keep going until you don’t have any more questions, or set a timer and brainstorm for a set amount of time, like an hour.

* If you are like me and have multiple novel ideas you want to write, pick one. Or pick a main novel and don’t work on the other one(s) until you are done with your assignment for the main novel each week.

Quotes for this week (most from LA SCBWI 2005):
"There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are." – Somerset Maugham

“The difference between a good movie and a B movie is that the characters in good movies are believable. The ones in B movies are more likely to go to their attic in their nightgown in the middle of the night to investigate a noise, which nobody would really do.” - Kathleen Duey

“Give yourself time for your subconscious to work...Make lists of every solution to the problem that you can think of. Even if you don’t come up with a solution on your list, it’s a warm up for your head, and you might think of it later (while in the shower or on a walk, etc.).” - Gennifer Choldenko

“It’s what you do with the junk (ideas) that matters. Add light to junk in a cylinder and it becomes a rose window (kaleidoscope). Add light to ideas and they become a story.” - Rosemary Wells

“Everything in a teen’s life is about first experiences and emotional extremes…they are in a constant state of humiliation.” - Sonya Sones

“Write EVERY day, like it’s your JOB.” - Christopher Paul Curtis and Gennifer Choldenko both said this about how they work.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Art Day Interview: Illustrator Susan Dill Detwiler

Today’s Art Day Interview is with illustrator Susan Dill Detwiler. Read on to find out more about Susan and her art.

Q: How did you get started illustrating for children?
A: I have loved making art from early childhood, and was always attracted to books with great illustrations. By the time I was in high school I decided that being a professional illustrator was my goal. To prepare (and because I enjoyed it) I sought out ways to use art at school; I was active in the art program, volunteered to design and screen print all the posters for the theater productions and was the art editor of our school’s literary magazine. I went to the Maryland Institute College of Art and studied graphic design and illustration. While I was a student I worked part-time as a sign painter. After that I got a job in the art department of a printing company, where I learned about how artwork is reproduced. I was hired as a staff illustrator for an advertising agency and while I worked there I also began freelancing at night and on weekends. I liked freelance work so much that I decided to do it exclusively. My favorite assignments are for children’s publishing and so I seek them out, with help I have found from the SCBWI. I love a good story, whether in books, or movies, or on television. I think that pictures help to tell a more complete story, and I hope that my pictures touch people in the same way that I was affected by the illustrations I saw as a child.

Q: Tell us a little bit about the recent book you illustrated, ONE WOLF HOWLS, by Scotti Cohn.
A: One Wolf Howls is a picture book written in verse, which counts from one to twelve, following wolf activity through the months of the year. It is beautifully written and as I read the manuscript for the very first time, I got images in my mind’s eye that I was eventually able to reproduce as paintings.



Q: What are you working on right now? Do you have any other books or art projects you’d like to talk about?
A: Right now I am completing a humorous holiday card design for a company that cleans and repairs microscopes. Using caricature, I depicted the staff of the company as elves doing the work of the regular staff. It was loads of fun! I have also started work on a Hidden Picture for Highlights for Children, and I have written and illustrated a picture book based on Aesop’s The City Mouse & The Country Mouse, for which I am seeking a publisher.



I have illustrated two picture books previously; The First Teddy Bear by Helen Kay, and The Wonderful Bicycle Parade by Susan Borges. I did the pictures for two 12-book series of readers entitled Reading Roots: Shared Stories, and I have illustrated magazine stories and poems in Ladybug and Highlighs for Children.



Q: Do you do non-children’s book art (licensing, fine art, etc.) or art just for fun? Is that art similar or different from your children’s book art?
A: I have an agent at Creative Connection Incorporated, who licenses my images for use on greeting cards, paper products, jigsaw puzzles, etc., and I take freelance assignments from advertising agencies. Each assignment calls for a different approach. The variety of styles and subjects I am asked to produce make my job more interesting, I think. Just for fun, I enjoy making ragdolls and stuffed animals for children I know, and when I am at the beach I make large sand sculptures of animals and figures.



Q: When someone else has written the text for a picture book or novel, how do you decide what scenes and details to draw?
A: I consider the pacing of the story and, although showing the most important scenes is usually the way to go, the best illustrations add to the text rather than just depicting exactly what is written. The preliminary work of choosing scenes and establishing the pace of the narrative can be difficult and time consuming, but it is crucial. My work tends to be very detailed because that’s what I liked as a child; the details help create a believable world.

Q: When illustrating picture books do you include a visual storyline that’s not in the text or include animals or people you know?
A: There is a little bit of my German Shepherd, Molly, in every wolf I painted for One Wolf Howls. She was a very helpful model! My Country Mouse has a pet ladybug which I’ve included in the illustrations but not in the text. Also, the boy holding a teddy bear on the title page of The First Teddy Bear looks remarkably like my younger son, although I had no children at the time I painted it.



Q: Can you explain your art process?
A: Clients contact me, either by phone or email, and describe an assignment; if I am interested and available we negotiate the schedule and the payment, and then I gather reference material and produce a pencil sketch, sometimes with color added. Some assignments require a contract and several sketches, and in the case of a book, a dummy. I make thumbnail sketches first, so that the composition of the entire page can be depicted quickly and changed easily, and when I’m working on a picture book those thumbnails are all on one sheet of paper so that the book can be seen as a whole. The sketching process is the real work, for me, and it may take many tries to get to the point where I am satisfied enough to show it for approval. Once the sketch is approved, I proceed to completion of the final art. I transfer the image to Strathmore 500 series illustration board using my overhead projector, and then I apply the color.

Q: What is your favorite color?
A: I cannot honestly say that I have a favorite; colors work for me when they work together. If I was forced to choose only one, it would probably be something neutral like gray or black because I like drawings so very much. There are, however, colors I prefer in my wardrobe, such as rose.

Q: What is your favorite medium to work in?
A: Nothing beats pencil, but I like watercolor and gouache for painting, and I enjoy drawing in ink, either with a pen or a brush.

Q: What childhood art supply brings back happy memories?
A: Oh, Play-Doh! I made animals and figures and little plates of tiny food for my dolls; I even saved my baby teeth and embedded them in a purple Play-Doh dinosaur’s mouth (complete with silver fillings). I learned color theory from the top of the Play-Doh box (red + yellow = orange).

Q: Do you have a favorite childhood picture that you remember making?
A: I drew this picture several times: a cut-away view of a house several stories high, showing all the family members and pets within engaged in various activities.

Q: Did you always want to be an artist when you grew up?
A: I always wanted to make things when I grew up, but the idea of earning a living from drawing and painting didn’t really dawn on me until I was in high school. I still marvel at the concept of getting paid for doing what I love to do.

Q: Do you use models / source pictures or do you draw from your memory/imagination?
A: It depends on the assignment. For One Wolf Howls, I did lots of research and collected many photos of wolves and landscapes to use a sources, because I needed to be accurate in my depictions. I have a four-drawer file cabinet filled with reference photos clipped from magazines and other printed material, and I even more frequently use the internet to find images. However, there are some times when I draw only from my imagination; creation of a character, for example.

Q: If you could be anything other than an artist, what would you be?
A: I think I would like to run a bakery and make wonderful breads and pies and cookies.

Q: What gets you through an illustration you’re having trouble with?
A: Simply taking a break and doing something else (like baking!) for a while can give a fresh perspective on a challenging aspect of an illustration. I often find that when tired I’ll have trouble with something that works out much more easily the next morning. If a drawing stumps me---just looks awkward somehow, and I don’t know why---I’ll reverse it in a mirror or in Photoshop, and the solution is often apparent.

Q: What was your favorite toy, stuffed animal or doll when you were growing up?
A: I had Barbie dolls, a whole family of them, including Ken and Francie and Skipper and others, and my sister and I would play with them for hours on end! I made furniture and sewed clothing for my dolls, and my sister and I would sometimes empty a bookcase to create a house or apartment building for our little families. I still look at objects in terms of Barbie-scale, bottle caps become tumblers, Cheerios become donuts, etc.

Q: What illustrated book(s) do you remember from when you were a child?
A: I had my mother’s original Raggedy Ann Stories, books by Johnny Gruelle, and I was a fan of the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder, and illustrated by Garth Williams. In fact, anything illustrated by Garth Williams attracted me; Charlotte’s Web, Stewart Little, and A Cricket In Times Square are a few of those titles. Harriet The Spy, written and illustrated by Louise Fitzhugh was hugely influential in my life.

Q: Is there a children’s book illustrator whose work you gravitate towards in the bookstore now? (You can list more than one.)
A: I greatly admire the work of Paul O. Zelinski, David Shannon, Ashley Wolfe, and Helen Ward.

Q: Did you like to tell jokes or stories as a child?
A: There are games I made up that I can fondly remember playing over and over again with my siblings and friends. Sometimes I told stories with pictures; I would cut heads from magazine photos, glue them to paper, and add bodies and speech bubbles. Great fun!

Q: If you could be a kid again for just one day, what would you do?
A: I would spend the day at an old-fashioned amusement park, and go on all the kiddie rides and eat sweet, sticky treats and laugh and scream with joy... but only if I could do it with a friend!

Bio: Susan Dill Detwiler is the illustrator of several books for children. Her artwork has also been used in advertising, on apparel and decorative tins, for games and puzzles and many greeting cards, and has appeared in children’s magazines. She and her husband, also an artist, have two sons. They live in Baltimore where Susan works from her home studio. For more information and to see additional artwork, please visit Susan's website, Sylvan Dell Publishing (publisher of One Wolf Howls), or her licensing agent, Creative Connection, Inc.

Thanks for the interview Susan!
All images in this post © Susan Dill Detwiler.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Art Day: Snow Day

Today's Art Day was supposed to be all about Spring, because I am ready for Winter to be over. The weather, however, had different thoughts. So today is a snow day. Make snowflakes. Write a poem or a story about snow. Draw a blizzard (or an egg in a blizzard).

You don't have to like snow to participate. Whether you like snow or you don't like snow, make your snow day project reflect your real feelings about the fluffy white coldness outside. And if you're in a warm place, make a picture or a poem about a snow cone ;)

I made snowflakes today. They're bright colors instead of white so they'd show up on my blog, and because I wanted to use Spring colors to make me feel better. I'm not a big fan of snow.



Enjoy the snow day, whether it's in honor of the snow or in spite of it.