Wednesday, December 14, 2011

balloon animals – separated for IF

The prompt for Illustration Friday this week is, separated. My husband and I were out at a restaurant tonight, the kind that lets you draw on the paper tablecloth. I drew a picture of a crab, a chicken, and 3 chicks being carried away by balloons. They are all separated, but the crab is really separated (so much so that I couldn’t get them all in one picture). Here are the chickens:

There were four crayon colors to choose from, blue, green, orange, and red. That was enough for me! Here is the crabby (who is actually to the far left of the table from the chickens).

There’s a story here. It could be that Crabby is angry he got separated from the chickens, or because he got pulled out of the water, or because there’s a sea gull just out of the frame. What do you think?

Sunday, September 18, 2011

puppy note cards for the Read For Relief Auction to fund Hurricane Irene relief

My husband and I were very lucky to escape Hurricane Irene with no damage and our power intact, but a lot of people and communities weren’t that lucky. There’s an auction going on right now to help people that were affected. The Read for Relief Auction was organized by a group of East Coast writers and features auction items geared towards YA writers and readers and other members of the kidlit community.

Since I don’t have a book out right now, I donated a pack of note cards with my art on them:
Puppy Note Cards: This set of 24 note cards (4 each of 6 designs) features dogs galore! Puppies that want to say hello, happy birthday, or entice you to look for rainbows (or maybe Superman). These cards are great for sending notes, or to say thank you, or even to give as a gift. Printed on bright white linen paper with matching envelopes. All cards have a caption on the outside and are blank on the inside.

The captions are (left to right, top to bottom):
1. Puppy coming out of box: “Happy Birthday”
2. Sheepdog Puppy: “Hello!”
3. Four images of a dog and cat: “Hello There!”
4. Three puppies: “Woof arf ruff? (How are you?)”
5. Dogs with umbrellas: “You never know when you’re going to see a rainbow, or Superman.”
6. Kitty looking for her friend in a sea of lab puppies: “Hi : )”

The bidding for the note cards ends at 10 pm (EST) tonight, Sunday September 18th, so if you’re interested, bid today!

There are lots of other great items up for bid that are closing tonight too (all Day 5 items), like critiques from authors and editors, advance copies of books you can’t get yet, a picture book prize pack, and an author that will write a grisly death scene for you in his next book. So go check out the auction and bid if you are able to. The money will do a lot of good to help those affected by Hurricane Irene (all winning bidders donate directly to The Red Cross). Thanks!
p.s. My mom just bid on the cards. Seriously. She’s going to be away from her computer the rest of the day though, so you still have a chance!

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).

Friday, April 22, 2011

If Frankenstein was a cow in a steampunk inspired spaceship (for CBIG and IF)

The prompt for the CBIG blog this month is, “Earth,” and the prompt this week for Illustration Friday is, “Journey.” After the fun I had last week putting Frankenmoo in a bottle, I decided to create* another picture of him that would work with both of these prompts. I had tons of ideas, but decided to go with this one:

This image idea came from thinking about two really great titles: 1. Stop The World, I Want To Get Off (a play that I saw as a kid) 2. Around The World In Eighty Days (saw the movie when I was a kid and always loved the idea of sailing around the world in a balloon). I combined the two titles to show Franken Moo leaving the earth in a spaceship.

Some of the inspiration for the spaceship design comes from looking at steampunk flying machines (which are really cool looking). Some of them have wings, which I added to the spaceship. Some of them also have hot air balloon type things attached to the top of the flying machines. This spaceship originally had a hot air balloon looking object on top, helping it to fly, but it didn’t look right. I erased the balloon before erasing the strings. I liked having the strings there, but without anything on top, it looked a little weird … so I made them into antennas!

Now it looks like the spaceship is alive. That wasn’t my original plan, but I like it! Happy accidents in art are excellent, even if you can’t plan for them.

* Created by painting the black outline in ink and coloring digitally.

p.s. Happy Earth Day!

Friday, April 8, 2011

If Frankenstein was a cow stuck in a bottle (bottled for IF)

The prompt for Illustration Friday this week is “bottled.” For some reason, I immediately thought of my character, Frankenmoo, stuck in a bottle. I considered just drawing the bottle around him to finish quickly, like this (original Frankenmoo / Frankenmoo Bottled):

That wasn’t much fun or very creative though. Plus, I really wanted to paint something, so I got out my brushes and ink to make a new image* of Frankenmoo in a bottle:

I’m much happier with this image of Frankenmoo looking scared and smooshed in his bottle.
Which version do you like better?
* I drew this image freehand with a brush, painting Frankenmoo first, then painting the bottle around him. (This was my third attempt. It didn’t work to paint the bottle first and then try to fit him in it.) After the ink dried, I scanned it in and colored it digitally. I wanted to paint it with either watercolors or acrylics, but my scanner doesn’t scan these colors well and I wanted them to match the original colors.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

World Read Aloud Day, March 9, 2011

LitWorld Presents: World Read Aloud Day, March 9, 2011

People around the world are reading aloud today to support the 774 million people worldwide who cannot read or write, by reading for a collective 774 million minutes. What would you miss most if you could not read or write?

The global rally shows the world that the right to read and write belongs to all people and we lend all our voices to the Global Literacy Movement. Let the children of the world know we believe in the power of words and stories to change their lives.
“I know the day is coming when global literacy isn’t fiction. I don’t know how long it will take, but I know that day will come.” – 10 year-old World Read Aloud Day Participant

Visit to participate in World Read Aloud Day and to “Read it Forward” and donate to LitWorld’s mission to change the world with the power of words.
If you’re in the NYC area, please join in at any time midnight to midnight March 9 to read and listen! You can visit with Clifford, The Big Red Dog at 8am or 10am and look for LitWorld’s poem exclusively in the New York Daily News.
If you’re in the US, you can tune in to Good Morning America on ABC to see LitWorld live at 8:30am EST!

Read aloud today and connect with LitWorld online any time on their website, or on Facebook, and Twitter.

Friday, February 18, 2011

zombie snowmen and waves – layer for IF

All the snow this winter has turned the snowmen into zombies!

The remaining snowmen are running for their lives!

The prompt this week for Illustration Friday is “Layer.” Whenever I watch waves, I think of them as having layers of colors. The colors of the waves crash into the colors of the water, blending the layers into one, until the next wave rolls in.

I wish I were at the beach right now! At least the sun is shining today :)

Monday, February 7, 2011

reading, writing, and illustrating picture books

I still read PBs like I did when I was a kid (the first time through, I only look at the illustrations, then I go back and read the text). For a long time I thought it was something I probably shouldn’t admit in public, especially to other writers and illustrators in the kidlit world. I was embarrassed. Who wants to admit that they don’t read picture books like an adult?

Then I realized that the way I read picture books is the way that most kids read picture books. Since I’m creating PBs for children, it’s good to remember how to read them like a child. As a kid, I didn’t read the text because I couldn’t read, and because someone else was supposed to read the book to me. It wasn’t my job to read the text. (I realize some kids read at a very young age, but picture books are often read to children at home, at the library, or at school.)

Realizing why I was reading PBs the way I was has made a HUGE impact on the way that I think about writing and illustrating picture books.

So what did I learn?

Writing Picture Books: The text is for the adults to read. I’ve read many articles about the type of language needed for picture books and how every word has to count (all of which is true). It helps me to also remember that adults will be reading the text. They are your audience for the words you choose. You can make them funny, lyrical, concise, emotional, descriptive, thoughtful, or all of the above. Think about what you would want to read to a room full of kids at a library, a child home sick, or two rambunctious four-year-olds that don’t want to go to sleep. Then start writing. Write an adventure that the parents will want to go on with their children (over, and over, and over again, because PBs are repeat reads).

Illustrating Picture Books: The art is for the child to read. If you’ve ever sat with a child and read them a picture book, you know that they really examine the pictures. They’re the first ones to find hidden clues. They’ll flip the pages back and forth to look at a favorite character again and again, without caring that the story isn’t finished yet. This is the audience for the pictures you create. Make the characters interesting, give them emotions that the child can read and relate to, even if they can’t read the words. Make the art colorful, detailed and specific so that a child will fall in love with it, look at it over and over again, and not mistake it for any of the other picture books she reads.
That is why I’m no longer embarrassed to say that I read picture books the same way I did when I was little. Long live childhood; long live picture books :)

How do you read picture books? I’d love it if you weighed in here or on my Facebook page about how you read PBs becausxe I’m curious to know if I’m the only one that still “reads the art” before reading the text.