Friday, November 25, 2005

kids holiday shows

I thought I'd list some of my favorite and not so favorite kids specials for the holidays, but first, I'll tell you about the movie we saw this weekend:
Zathura is really fun and visually spectacular space game adventure. Just like Jumanji, the story revolves around a board game where what the kids are playing actually comes true, and they have to safely finish the game (without cheating) so they can go back home again.

A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving
This is my favorite of the Peanuts holiday specials - it's absolutely wonderful, and funny, and amazing. Snoopy takes the center stage in preparing a feast for Charlie Brown's uninvited guests. If you didn't get a chance to see this on Thursday, rent it, or better yet, buy it - you can watch it any time of the year. And if you're old enough, you'll remember the days when you could ride in the back of the stationwagon without seatbelts or car seats, just like they do at the end of the video.

A Charlie Brown Christmas
Poor Charlie Brown! Christmas is too commercial, his dog Snoopy won the decorating contest, and he's the director of the Christmas play (but nobody listens to him or likes the poor little Christmas tree that he got). Linus tells about the true meaning of Christmas, The Red Baron has an adventure, and the kids all help to make the little tree into a great Christmas tree. It's a great Christmas special!

The Muppet Christmas Carol
This is the first movie they did after Jim Henson died. Brian Henson isn't quite ready to do Kermit's voice yet, but he does a good job, and it's a really great (and wacky) version of the Christmas classic. Kermit plays the role of Bob Cratchit, and Miss Piggy is his wife. Also some good music by Paul Williams - especially "One More Sleep Till Christmas"

The Year Without A Santa Claus
Santa cancels Christmas, and it's up to the elves and Mrs. Claus to save it. There's big trouble when the Heat Miser and the Snow Miser get involved, but don't worry, their mother (Mother Nature) sets the misers straight. This is DH's favorite Christmas cartoon, and I like it too - even if the Heat Miser and the Snow Miser are a little scary.

Santa Claus is Coming to Town
This show has, IMO, the best song of any kids holiday TV special (rivaled only by the Heat Miser and Snow Miser songs in The Year Without A Santa Claus). "Put One Foot in Front of the Other" is a song worth taping the show for (I think they sing it twice too), but unfortunately the rest of the show is not all that great. The animation is done in the same way as many of the other specials, including Rudolph.

Nestor The Long-Eared Christmas Donkey
Another Paul Williams classic, except this one is not very good. Although it's nice to have a Christmas special that involves Bethlehem and the real story of Christmas (plus Nestor), this show is didactic and heavy handed. They should have taken a clue from Charlie Brown and the Grinch about how to balance entertainment with a message. Worth watching if you don't know why publishers cringe at the thought of receiving didactic manuscripts - how many times would you want to be hit over the head with a message?

Other Classics
The Grinch - Dr. Seuss meets Christmas - how can you go wrong? You can't!
Rudolph - the island of the misfit toys and the abominable snowman are great!
Frosty - I liked this better when I was a kid, but there's still some magic in Frosty's hat!

Monday, November 14, 2005

No More NaNo? (Because Good News!)

I'm not officially dropping NaNoWriMo...but I'm probably not going to finish my vampire novel by the end of the month. Why? Because I have GOOD NEWS!!! (x 2)

On Saturday, I found out that a story and an illustration had been accepted for WeeOnes in January - Yay! And they want me to do another illustration as well - Woo Hoo!

On Sunday, I went to my portfolio review, and an editor requested 2 of my picture book dummies based on illustrations in my portfolio - Yippee! One of the dummies has also been requested by another editor at a different house. Both of the dummies are not done yet.

So, given that I need to do an illustration for Wee Ones and 2 pb dummies, I think my vampire book will have to go on the back burner. I'm still going to work on it, but not as much as I would have if I wasn't doing an illustration and 2 pb dummies.

Who knows, I might still get a 50k novel done by the end of the month, but the art stuff comes first.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

the same story

the same story
"My story is just like another book and now I'll never get it published!" It can be hard to write your story or shop it around when you know that there's something else like it out there. People on discussion boards always try to be helpful when this subject comes up by saying things like, "there are no new story lines" or "you have to make it your story, which will be unique." But that's hard to do without a referece point.

Take the vampire books for instance. I have been reading lots of them to get in the mood for Halloween. They all have common characters (vampires) and common legends (Dracula) but each book looks at things in a different way. It made me realize that you can have a book with a similar character or problem that is vastly different from other books that are supposedly like it. Now you might be saying, "but I'm not writing a vampire book, so that doesn't apply to my story."

So here's what you do. Read every book that is like your idea. Why? Because you will probably see that although you are writing about a bully, or a selfish little brother, or problems at school, these books are different than your book. The characters have different goals and dreams, and unique ways of dealing with problems or boyfriends or little sisters.

Sometimes it's easier to see that we are unique when we have a reference point about what is different.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Witchie Book Reviews & Finishing Projects

My mom sent me some Halloween art that I did as a kid, and one of my pumpkins had a poem attached. It was about witchies (and it was spelled that way too). In honor of the Halloween witchies, I'll tell you about 2 witchie books I read recently.

Whispering to Witches by Anna Dale
I have a new favorite book! We meet Joe on the train to his mom's house for the Christmas holiday. He was supposed to spend the holiday with his dad, but ended up being shipped off to mom and stepdad's house instead. Of course, things go wrong and he gets off at the wrong train station. On his way home he hurtles into a coven of witches and that's when his holidays start to get interesting. We never learn how old Joe is, but it doesn't matter. He's old enough to get into trouble and try to help the witches out of trouble, and flirt with a witch his age named Twiggy. Whispering to Witches is a middle grade British import with all the British words like tyre and trainer included. It's one adventure after another, and once again, it's a book I will read more than once (wow, I never do that, and now I've found 2 books this month to read multiple times - the other book is Liliy's Ghosts - I reviewed it on 10-14).

The Witch's Portraits by Lisa Geurdes Mullarkey
The Witch's Portraits is a deliciously evil witch story, which is refreshing in this age of thinking that witches are great and everyone wants to be one. It goes back to the time when kids told scary stories and spied on their neighbors, and what happens when they get caught snooping. The only problem I had with this book is the voice of the mc. It took me a while to get into the story. Once I did, I got used to the mc's voice. Then it only bothered me when the voice took over and it took me out of the story. But it's still a fun creepy story about the bad kind of witch.

Finishing Projects
I'm done with my illustration assignment!!!! It took me longer than I thought it would, but I like the pictures and the magazine editor did too - yay!

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

dummy progress!

So far, I have ELEVEN pages of my picture book dummy sketched out - yippee!!!

I don't have a progress meter for my picturebook dummy (but maybe I'll make one for next time).

As usual, my pictures are changing the text, but only slightly. I'm hoping to get the dummy done and sent off to the editor who requested it by the beginning of November. If all goes well, I should be able to do that.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Saving the birds, one pigeon at a time

I saved a pigeon today. I know that some of you are wondering why anyone would want to save a pigeon. Well for one thing, it was a very small pigeon and it couldn't fend for itself. It was old enough to have jumped from the nest, but not old enough to fly back.

There were two boys (I'd say 8 or 10 years old) and one was walking behind the baby pigeon, following very close. The pigeon was trying to get away, but it couldn't fly. I passed the boys, then stopped and turned to see what would happen because it just didn't seem right. The boy who wasn't following the pigeon saw me stop and started to walk away, but the other boy kept following the bird until it was trapped in an alcove sort of thing.

When he picked up the rock, I started yelling, "HEY!" But the boy threw the rock anyway (I hope he had bad aim). Then the boy disappeared behind the wall, so I don't know if he was still trying to attack the pigeon. By that time, I was still yelling and running over there - it was only a couple of feet, but it seemed like he could have killed the bird by the time I got there.

"Don't throw rocks at the pigeon!" I yelled. "Leave it alone!"

The boy walked away without looking at me, as in 'I'm too cool and I don't care what you stupid stranger adult are saying to me.'

The pigeon looked the same as it had before the rock throwing, so I'm guessing the boy didn't hit it. I hope not anyway.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

office supplies!

Happy thought for the day: Back to school sales mean new fun toys for the office!
I have new pens and folders, and best of all, a calendar thingy with Post-it notes on both sides that I can use as storyboard pages when planning out my picturebook dummies! It is so cool, and way better than if I were actually using it as a calendar. (I feel like I'm channeling a valley girl. Like totally, for sure.)

Friday, August 19, 2005

mini golf

Mini Golf (a.k.a. Putt Putt)
Last weekend my husband and I played mini golf while we were out of town. It's one of those courses with a castle you go inside of to golf, and it has water falls, and dragons too. First let me say that DH is a really good mini golfer...and I'm not that good, well not as good as he is, so I almost never beat him (unless I pretend that high score wins, and we all know it doesn't). Well, guess what? I won last weekend!!!! I think it was the second time ever that I've beat him. And to top it all off, when we were done, I putted my yellow ball around a red one and into the middle of the mini castle to win a FREE game for next time. I was a double winner hee hee! It's scary how happy this makes me.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

LA Conference Notes

I finally got my notes all typed up, and as I suspected there were a lot of people talking about character (or maybe I just chose to write those things down). The notes I'm sharing are in two sections, characters and quotes.

If your character doesn’t come first, nurture it. Assume the character exists and try to find out who they are so that you can tell their story. - Kathleen Duey

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

(This one is not specifically about character, it’s about place and setting, but place can serve as a character in some stories)
Place / setting – it's good to be as specific as possible, if it’s done well, people will like it, whether they know about it or not. You shouldn’t make it too bland to please everyone, because then no one wins. - Megan McCafferty

Know your characters as people, each one should have a distinctive voice. - Julia DeVillers

Give us someone to root for, someone we can empathize with – human, genuine, makes mistakes. They must be flawed, they must have a strong desire they want to accomplish, and they must be active / take action instead of waiting for something to happen. If your character doesn’t care about the problem, it won’t carry through the book. – Bruce Hale

Build your character around one funny detail, a starter seed (funny details are gold). - Gennifer Choldenko

Gave yourself time for your subconscious to work...Make lists of every solution to 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

Brainstorm everything you can think of about that character that makes them unique. What does your character have hidden in their closet? - Julie Strauss-Gabel

You should be writing dialog that’s so distinct to the character that it’s clear who is talking without much, if any, he/she said. – Bruce Coville

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

Pay attention to your process, and whatever works, do that. And if you have a good day, notice why and try to do it again. - Kathleen Duey

(This one is about writing, but I think it applies to illustration too.)
Any kind of writing is writing, and you don’t know what it will lead to. - Christopher Paul Curtis

Don’t forget to thank your teenage self for living through those years. - Julia DeVillers

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 you JOB. - Christopher Paul Curtis and Gennifer Choldenko both said this about how they work.

New age groups: 9-11 = Tween, 12-16 = Teen, 17-25 = New YA (high YA / crossover) - Julie Strauss-Gabel

You can get a kid to listen to a book that they might not read. – Bruce Coville

(On reasons to do books for boys)
Boys should be able to see themselves in books. – Arthur Levine

Thursday, August 11, 2005

LA Themes?

I just got back from the SCBWI LA conference - I had such a blast!!! Hanging out with friends, dancing and partying at the beach bash, having a great portfolio review with Marla, watching Crossing Jordan being filmed by the pool, and learning as much as I could soak up.

I'm going to post more about the conference after I get all of my notes typed in, but right now I'm thinking the main theme for me was character. The take-away theme for everyone is different, depending on what sessions you go to (and maybe nobody else thinks about overall themes). This year I took a lot of novel sessions where they talked about character in everything from chick lit (OMG!) to edgy YA. I think a lot of the character stuff can be applied to my picture book writing too, even though it was intended for novels. All good books need good, strong characters.

I learned other stuff too, but there always seems to be a theme that runs through the many sessions that I take.

Last year my take-away was emotion and how to get that into the story. Either everyone was talking about it, or it just jumped out at me whenever anyone mentioned emotion (which they did, a lot).

p.s. It's nice to be home, but I miss hanging out with all my friends!

p.p.s. I really do know how to draw a fact, I did some doodling in one of my sessions. Ok, I did lots of doodling in many sessions, and I've made a collage of the best ones for my sketch this week: sruble's home page

p.p.p.s. cool thing!! got back to an email from someone who had seen my cards on zazzle (sruble Card Store) and wanted an image on a T-shirt. I was able to send them to my cafepress store (sruble Shop) and they bought a bunch of stuff with other images too - yay!

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Cereal Killer

Do you ever get distracted by an idea when you are trying to do something else? A really, really bad idea, that either everyone else has thought of because it's so obvious, or nobody has (or won't admit they have) because it's jus so silly and dumb?

So I'm trying to work on my dummy...ok, I stopped to have lunch and watched The New Detectives on TV. It's one of those crime shows where they show how killers were caught in real cases - don't ask why I like to watch stuff like that while I eat. I have no idea. It's either that or the Food Network. I start to get this stupid idea about a cereal killer. And I couldn't get it out of my head, so I'm posting it here for all of you to enjoy (or not).

The Cereal Killer
He found his first victim in the cereal isle of the local grocery store. He hated grocery shopping, and she was much too happy, cheery even. She screamed "Oh!" as he yanked her from the shelf. When he got her to his house, he tried to drown her in milk, but she just kept floating, so he smashed her with a spoon. A big silver spoon which glittered in the light of the overhead lamp. It was so shiny in the beginning that the man could see his reflection in the spoon, like a fun house mirror. Then the spoon was shiny no more, but covered in milk, and bits of Ms. Cheery O.

His appetite for murder increased the next morning, so he went back to the grocery store to find yet another victim in the cereal isle. Mrs. Wheats was too tempting for him to take her all the way home, so he shredded her in the car and went back for another.

Tune in next time, when we find out just what makes Kay so special that our cereal killer can't resist her.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

picture books and pirates

picture books
Even though I've spent way too much time reading blogs today, I did manage to finish two major picture book rewrites. Yippee! Now all I have to do is work on the dummies. Which I wish was as easy as it sounds. The good news though is that I have 4 of the 5 major characters drawn already, and the other one just needs a little bit of work, since he looks too much like another one of my characters.

Only a few more picture book rewrites to go before I'm caught up with all the ones I want to finish up this summer. Then it's time for more dummies, and working on the picture book ideas that I haven't started yet.

BTW, if it sounds like picture book writing and revising is easy, it's not. I've been working on a lot of these stories in one form or another for a while. Some of them have been around for several years.

My portfolio is coming along (slowly). I finished up a series of 5 pictures yesterday - yay! Although, now I need to revise the story to fit the of my characters suddenly decided he was going to be a pirate! Most of my characters are either well behaved or I just happened to get them right, so I haven't had too many surprises like this. A few, but not many.

I've been working with the pirate since January of 2004 and I never once suspected that's what he was. I've done multiple pictures and sketches, so it's not like I didn't know what he looked like. Of course, in the beginning, the character was a girl. Not that there can't be girl pirates, but she was more of a circus girl than a pirate.

Thursday, July 7, 2005

Portfolio Review

I'm busy trying to get enough new images done to bring a portfolio to the CBIG (Children's Book Illustrator's Group) meeting on Sunday. An editor from Knopf will be there and I'm hoping my portfolio will get picked in the lottery for her to review. (Crossing fingers and getting back to work...wait, I can't work with my fingers crossed!)

p.s about the music I'm listening to, whenever I listen to the song Are We The Waiting off of Green Day's American Idiot CD, I think it's about writing and illustrating picture books (especially for those of us who are still unpublished). I know it's not actually about picture books, but it's a cool song, and a few of the lines resonate with me as a kid's book writer and illustrator:

Heads or tails and fairytales in my mind
Are we we are, are we we are the waiting unknown

Update  7-11-05:
My portfolio got reviewed at the CBIG meeting, and the editor liked my new work - yay!!!!

She even wants to see one of my stories when I get the dummy might be a while, but I'm hoping to get it done before I go to LA (I leave Aug. 4th for the SCBWI conference).