Wednesday, August 24, 2011

some owls just like to be alone: influence for IF

The prompt this week for Illustration Friday is, influence. In this picture, the little birdie is trying to influence his owl friend. He wants the owl to stay and party with the other birds. (There’s also a version of this picture in color.)



The little birdie isn’t very good at influencing anyone yet, or maybe some birds don’t like parties.



His owl friend flies off to be by himself again. Why do you think he didn’t stay?

Monday, August 15, 2011

witch girl flying with her puppy: Happy for CBIG

The prompt for this month on the CBIG blog is, Happy. I recently finished this piece for my new portfolio. It’s from a sketch I did last year of a witch girl and her puppy. They’re both happy because it’s the puppy’s first broom ride. Not only is he managing to hold on, he’s also loving every minute of the ride. It’s even better than being in the car because he doesn’t have to stick his head out a window to get air.



I also have a black and white version.



p.s. Halloween is only 77 days away :D

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Notes from the SCBWI conference in LA

The conference was wonderful! Seeing old friends, meeting new ones, and hearing Judy Blume speak!! OMG, Judy Blume! Oh, and at one point, I saw Judy Blume and Fonzie (Henry Winkler) together. Whoa! That was strange, but so cool!

There’s usually a theme emerges when I go to conferences. It’s not anything planned by the speakers, but arises from the sessions I attend and the advice I need at that moment. I’m not sure what the theme for this conference is, yet. But if I had to pick a theme, I might go with Heart (making sure your stories have it), or Embracing the Suck (of first drafts), or Specific=Universal. Here are the notes:

Bruce Coville: He started off the conference with a keynote that was both funny and serious. Some of his advice was:
“Marry rich.”
“Take your art seriously but also take yourself seriously as a business person.”
“Make your own rules.”
“Don’t be afraid to show your heart; put it on the page.”

Liesa Abrams: (Aladdin/S&S) She talked mostly about middle grade. Her list focuses on fantasy.
On Plot, Theme, and Voice: Think about what matters to a twelve-year-old, what they see and care about, and what’s at stake.
Sees too many subs where kids are really self aware (keep them believable, even when they do stuff out of their age range).
Hook is just as important in MG as it is in YA.
Young vs. Older MG is about tone and sophistication.

Libba Bray: keynote and breakout session
“Embrace the suck (of first drafts). Your book is there, buried under the one you hate.”
“You don’t have to make it perfect; you just have to make it better (one little bit at a time).”
“In the particular is contained the universal.”
“Mediocre fiction is usually where the character isn’t well developed.”
“It should cost you something (emotionally, to write the novel). You want to be a different person on the other side of the book than when you started writing it.”
“Be who you want to be/allow yourself to play/explore humanity.”
“Think of characters like nesting dolls with many layers.”
On revision: It’s like “standing on the edge of the plane waiting to jump, thinking, ‘this could all end badly, but it’s a good day to die.”

Lin Oliver and Henry Winkler: talking about writing with humor and heart – I missed the beginning of the session because of my critique, but the end was well worth going to. Lin’s voice was going out, so Henry did most of the talking. One of the highlights was when he talked about how he created the character of Fonzie. “Aaaaaaa.” But they both  talked a lot about writing and making things funny. The biggest take-aways:
general=not funny / specific=funny
“If you don’t laugh, cut it.”

Emma Dryden: talking about the digital landscape
“The story matters most.”
“Adults have to re-educate and re-tool to maneuver new landscapes. Children have nothing to unlearn about digital. It’s where they live.”

Judy Blume (talking with Lin Oliver): During her talk, it became clear that Judy Blume is a writer’s writer. She’s one of us.
“I’m so sucky at plot. That’s not how it comes to me.”
When she begins a book, she knows where it starts and thinks she knows where it’s going. She doesn’t know anything else and loves the surprises along the way.
“The stuff that’s going to matter, going to work, and touch the readers has to come from someplace deep, deep inside.”
“The first draft is finding the pieces to a puzzle; the second draft is putting them together.” <-my conference="" favorite="" from="" p="" quote="" the=""> On dialog: “It’s the only thing I like to write. I hate the rest of it.”

Jenne Abramowitz: (Scholastic) talking about chapter books – it was so great to have a session on chapter books!
“Chapter books tend to lean toward commercial books with a high concept.”
Figure out if you are writing a stand-alone or a series. Most chapter books are series, and whether it’s series or stand-alone determines how it’s published (series books come out more frequently – 2 at a time, every 3-6 months – and are usually paperback).
Only pitch a series if you can do a series (really fast writing and revising), and can see writing 50+ books. If you see it as a book with sequels, pitch it as a stand-alone.
Chapter books are usually 10-15k.

Gary Paulsen: He was an amazing speaker. He talked about the tough childhood he had and his life since then, and how what happened in Hatchet is all true. He wrote the book while running dogs and sleeping in the wilderness with them. His speech was hilarious and heartbreaking, and one of the highlights of the conference. My favorite quote from his keynote was when he talked about moose attacking people.
“Moose are just mean. They’re like the Charles Manson of animals.”

Martha Rago: (Harper Collins) she talked about picture book illustration
“The character has to be real on an emotional level.” (even if it’s a bunny or a bear, etc.)
How to make an easy folding dummy to see page turns (good for writers to use too): take eight pieces of copy paper and fold in half.
“It’s important to have a sense of place and context right away in the beginning of the book.”

Abigail McAden: (Scholastic – is Meg Cabot’s editor and purchased Princess Diaries when she was at Avon) talking about creating popular fiction
Commercial writing is: tight plotting, characters that jump off the page, and an ending that’s expected but still surprising.
“Being escapist is important in commercial books.”
“Hit the ground running; don’t take 50 pages to get there.”
Ask, “Are the stakes high enough?”
Remember the story arc. A lot of people have great set ups and great ideas, but then can’t deliver.
Does the plot/hook revolve around something the reader knows about?
Read the Feb. 2005 Entertainment Weekly review of the movie, Hitch. It’s a good review of why a romance doesn’t work.
Pink covers and chick lit not selling now.
Paranormal is still in demand, but they have to find new/fresh ways of selling it.

Friday, August 12, 2011

goldfish swimming with whales: swell for IF

The prompt for Illustration Friday this week is swell, which according to the dictionary, means to grow in size, or a rise in ocean waves, or stylish, fashionably dressed, or first-rate. It reminded me of this image from my new portfolio, and a story that could go with it:

The sea swell carried the bowl off the windowsill and out into the ocean, where the goldfish met face to face with a whale. “That’s just swell,” thought the goldfish. The whale thought, “Hooray! A new friend.”

Thursday, August 11, 2011

the cow jumps over the Earth: imperfect for IF

The topic for Illustration Friday this week is imperfect:



The cow looks worried because her jump is imperfect. She wasn’t able to get enough height on her jump and is too close to the Earth. (The Cow Jumpers are very strict with their guidelines.) Luckily, she will get a second chance. If she does better that time, she’ll start training to jump over the moon (they train on the moon before Earth, because it’s easier to jump in space).

The cow jumping the Earth is part of my new portfolio (that I took to the SCBWI LA conference last weekend).