Conference Notes

This weekend’s MD/DE/WV conference, “25 and Still We R(ev)use” was a success!

I’ll share the experience that I had as much as I can. I can’t share ALL my notes because, well, I encourage other writers/illustrators to go to these conferences and hear from agents, editors, speakers, other authors and illustrators for themselves.

At first I got lost in the building. I don’t really know why I got lost, the place wasn’t that big, but I still found myself wandering back and fourth to find the volunteer spot. Eventually I found it of course with the help from the staff and another lady who was ALSO lost and volunteering at the time, which I found out later that she will be the new illustrator coordinator for the MD/DE/WV SCBWI if I’m remembering correctly.

As kind of a side note I’ll say that volunteering is a great way to talk to people if you have social anxiety like I do. When you volunteer you act as a group working toward a similar, simple goal. Being put to use is also a plus.

Technical problems began the keynote speaker session. You know, mic and the slideshow clicker problems. Luckily James Ransome got past that pretty quickly and went on to tell a little about himself:

  • The quote he kept using was “I feel like a lucky so and so” when speaking about his journey to becoming a known illustrator. Quite the journey it was!
  • Has a drawing table from high school which was used a dining room table at some point. (My scribbled notes say “Damn! That must be a sturdy table to last this long!”)
  • He’s created all kinds of different artwork from sports illustrations to children’s books to christmas designs made into bags and cards to landscape paintings. Basically he just wants to create whatever he can in whatever medium he feels like it at the time, which is great in my opinion!
  • A lot of his art inspiration comes from fine artists like Degas, Matisse, Kerry James Marshall, Diebenkorn, and John Singer Sargent to name a few.
  • He loves football.

At this point I had my volunteering time as a walk in critique timer. I feel like this was one of those fated moments that could potentially further a career, but I’ll write about that later.

The “In the Trenches” talk was a good one, mostly for the quotes:

  • When dealing with an agent you don’t want anymore for whatever reason, “Don’t be afraid to leave” advice from Leah Henderson.
  • “Get agented with someone who matches your personality” and when dealing with rejection and stress “Drink wine, eat chocolate, and have a support group” from Courtney Pippi-Mathur.
  • Maria Gianferrari says to “Give yourself a day to wallow” after a rejection.
  • John Micklos Jr says to “develop thick skin” in this business.
  • From my personal notes I wrote that one needs to find an agent that’s more excited about your project than you are because you won’t be able to make a good relationship with your agent if they are not excited about your work (duh!)

I don’t want to spoil too much of Leah Henderson’s “What to Think About when Writing Cross Culturally” so I’ll just write the one thing that stood out to me. When asked about too much censorship, she said something along the lines of “it’s not about censorship. It’s about being aware of blind spots that make their way into the book.”

The best advice overall that the conference gave:

  • A good story brings out an emotional response, laughter, anger, sadness, hope.
  • A good story has STRONG CHARACTERS THE READER CAN RELATE TO.
  • When talking to an agent/editor/author/illustrator/basically anyone human with a different cultural background than you, please don’t “accidentally” be racist, like speaking Japanese or Chinese to an Asian American who doesn’t speak that language…
  • Write from the heart, don’t write fads. Fads go out of style.
  • Allow yourself to cry but don’t allow yourself to give up.

And that’s it folks! I think this conference was more successful to me personally than last years and I’ll soon write about that as well. Again, I suggest writer or illustrator to go out to conferences like this. ūüôā

 

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Jump In! 

 

 

 

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The Thing About Postcards 2

I’ve done it!

I mean it took me forever but yay I made a new postcard design!

There were a few more things that occurred to me while making this design:

  • BLACK AND WHITE BACK. While color on the front and back is tempting, creating a black and white design on the back is cheaper (awww yeah!) and it’s also a good opportunity to show your viewer a sample of your rendering or line work.
  • ILLUSTRATE YOUR OWN FONT. I mean you don’t have to, but if you can, why not? It shows another skill you could potentially use.
  • MAKE SOMETHING POSTCARD QUIRKY. What I mean is design something like the little square spot for the stamp to go in. I’ve also seen illustrators add lines for the address. Ultimately this is a good opportunity to show awareness of the space the image is in rather than just slapping on a pre made image on a postcard. I’m not saying that that’s bad, just perhaps a missed opportunity.
  • ORDER EARLY!!! I procrastinated because I didn’t know exactly what I wanted for a postcard. I was also designing a business card and working on portfolio images for my critique. Now I’ll have to pay extra for shipping to get here on time and it will be expensive. Luckily I’m getting taxes back…
  • MATCH BUSINESS CARD. Have a theme! This year’s theme is working on something with a tool. I know sounds kind of simple, but that’s what happened. I think the business card and postcard go with each other pretty well this year.
  • And last, BE AWARE OF THE CUT OFF SPACE AROUND THE CARD. I spent like a good hour getting the image below to the “safe” point so that nothing gets cut off to the point of awkwardness. I had to go back into photoshop multiple times for my business card so that the bee wouldn’t get cut off. Some of you will probably already be aware of this space but I’m just throwing it out there as a reminder.
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Front

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Back

 

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Business card

 

And that’s it! I’m *almost* ready for the conference next weekend!

ReFoReMo Time!

It’s that time of year again!

The time where everything seems to happen all at once and you make too many promises to too many projects and then explode.

This also happens to be the time for ReFoReMo!

If you don’t know what that is, click on that link above for a more detailed explanation than what I give here.

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ReFoReMo is a full month of picture book reading and reading about other people reading picture books haha. Each day a guest speaker is posted on the blog and talks about a theme for your set of books that day. Some books are repeated because each guest speaker has a something different to say. ReFoReMo is a great way to analyze picture books and talk about what makes each book WORK.

I didn’t quite get to ALL the books last year, (there was around 100 books I think?) but I certainly got to most of them and the blog posts are always good. Oh, they end with a prizes too.

So go sign up… if you and your local library is up for the challenge. ūüėČ

 

 

Review: Princesses Wear Pants

Sure, Princess Penelope Pineapple loves her closet full of tiaras and dazzling dresses but she has things to do! She can’t be bothered with beauty when planting her beats. Her lab coat suits her just fine for science fairs and she likes to unwind with comfy old jeans, the patched-up kind. And princesses certainly can’t save the day with frilly frills that get in the way! Guthrie and Oppenheim’s rhyming picture book for ages 4 to 8, along with Eva Bryne’s sparkling illustrations, says that girls can be fashionable and functional.¬†

Unfortunately this concept is pretty outdated. 

There are plenty of other “girl power” picture books out there. Ada Twist Scientist and Rosie Revere Engineer by Andrea Beaty, illustrated by David Roberts are just two books that immediately come to mind.¬†Here you can find more girl empowering picture books and with just a quick google search you’ll find even more.

Guthrie and Oppenheim’s book is NOT recommended and here is why with the good/bad list:

  • Bad. Obviously a little behind the times. I shouldn’t have to say more…except maybe if it was a book about how boys can wear dresses it would be better.
  • Bad. Everything in the book is layered with PINK, a popular gendered color, not to mention Penelope’s brother is in BLUE, another popular gendered color.IMG_4313.jpg
  • Bad. The illustrations fall short due to the bad anatomy. Here are some examples…Unknown.jpeg
  • Bad. The main character’s alliteration name makes me cringe, probably makes Ann Whitford Paul, the author of Writing Picture Books: A Hands-On Guide ¬†from Story Creation to Publication, cringe as well. ¬†
  • Only a little bad… Rhyming is only so-so.
  • Good. I like the styles of clothes in the book.

 

If your child likes sparkly glitter and fashionable clothes, then maybe Guthrie and Oppenheim’s work is for them. However I do not feel that this is an accurate “activistic” book that I think the authors are trying to go for. I didn’t buy Princesses Wears Pants personally, it was a gag gift.

And last, here is just a short list of picture books of mine and that I recommend over Princesses Wear pants:

  1. Ada Twist Scientist and Rosie Revere Engineer by Andrea Beaty, illustrated by David Roberts.
  2. Seeds of Change by Jen Johnson, illustrated by Sonia Sadler
  3. Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jon Klassen
  4. Ruby’s Wish by Shirin Yim,¬†illustrated by Sophie Blackwell
  5. I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark by Debbie Levy, illustrated by Elizabeth Baddelley
  6. Malala’s Magic Pencil by Malala Yousafzai, illustrated by Kerascoet

Passion Projects

As I continue to look through my notes from the conference I realize that… sheesh I have alotta notes.

That’s a good thing though!

These next set of notes are from a presentation titled “Passion Project”that was given by Alyssa Nassner, one of the people who critiqued my portfolio. Mostly for illustrators, but I think you can apply this to writing as well.

To start out, a passion project is a series of works that focus on a specific skill or topic, whatever the illustrator (or maybe writer!) is passionate about.

What makes a passion project? She listed:

  1.  Motivation (The will!)
  2. Inspiration (Idea)
  3. Creative Freedom (No one tells me what to do!)
  4. Time (Carve out time in you schedule!!!)

What does a passion project do?

  1. Improves work through practice.
  2. Increases online visibility.
  3. Demonstrates a consistent art style.
  4. Show cases interests (what inspires creativity?)
  5. Inspires others.

What should YOU do?

  1. Ask yourself what interests you?
  2. What skills would you like to improve?
  3. What type of industries interests you?
  4. Is there a grab in the market?
  5. What is fun and makes you happy?
  6. SET A REALISTIC GOAL!!! (This one is in all caps for me haha)

Nassner also goes into a bit about social media (side note, she pretty much scolded me for not having a URL or domain name, whoopsies, need to do that.) Pinterest and Instagram seem to be the big ones. Twitter, Facebook, and tumblr are others.

Basically, if you’re making a passion project share it! Everywhere!¬†

To end, my personal passion projects will be to work my on my line work with a weekly illustration, and to work on figure drawing/painting.

The line work will be a weekly project where the figure drawing/paintings will be a daily thing, starting next month when I clear my shed of the winterly spiders.

And this is where I begin my passion project.

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Hope you guys have fun with yours!

Small Press VS Large Press

Veronica Bartles, author of The Princess and the Frogs, gave an informative presentation Saturday at the From Dreaming to Doing 2017 MD/DE/WV conference about the differences between publishing your work at a small press vs a large press.

She began by listing a few things to the audience that I think every writer (and illustrator!) should think about:

  1. Figure out where you want to go.
  2. If you do not know where you want to go then it doesn’t matter what path you take (just think about the cheshire cat in Alice in Wonderland¬†when Alice asks what path she should take)
  3. WHAT DOES SUCCESS MEAN TO YOU?

She then went on to listing the differences between the two types of presses.

Small Press:

  1. Niche market or specific audience. This is good if you have a VERY specific type of book that may not work in a Large Press.
  2. Individualized attention.
  3. “Family” feel. Basically everyone knows you in that small company and you have like a sibling rival feel with the other published authors there.
  4. Innovative marketing. You’ll be pretty much marketing yourself.
  5. No agent required.
  6. Advance and royalties. Some have a higher royalty rate, some don’t even have them.
  7. Also, make sure to know your contract inside and out because the small press could own your rights one day and then they might go under the next day and STILL have the rights to your book despite not existing anymore.

Large Press:

  1. Expanded market, which is great for a wider distributer.
  2. Perceived status.
  3. “One of the gang” feel, like you are now with the “big kids.”
  4. Powerful marketing.
  5. Agent required.
  6. Advance and royalties.
  7. Again, pay attention to contracts. Every press is different!

As  for picture books, a bigger press would be a better option so for me I would not go with a small press.

Bartles ends on this note, “Whatever path you’re taking, make it YOUR path, not someone else’s.”

 

 

 

The Sound of a Picture Book

The noise, the sound. What do I mean by the sound of a picture book?

I think I’m more questioning myself.

But really, what do I mean? Is it the noise, the volume, tone, rhythm, or dialogue when reading a picture book?

Is the sound of a picture book the interaction between the reader, the listener, and the story? There seem to be many different ways to have some kind of lively interaction.

The first obvious sound of a picture would be rhyme. A good rhyming picture book has a way of guiding the reader through the tale with it’s rhythm.

The book that immediately pops up in my mind when I think of great rhyming is There Once Was an Old Dragon Who Swallowed a Knight¬†by Penny Parker Klostermann, illustrated by Ben Mantle. Through rhyme, Klostermann tells a story about a dragon who, yes, swallows a knight, and a steed, and a squire, and a few other things too. Try reading that picture book without a rhythm and a bob to your head! If you’re like me, it’s hard to do.

Hey prose can have a rhythm too! Just look at¬†Pete the Cat; I Love My White Shoes,¬†it has only one repeating sentence that rhymes throughout the entire book, but the rest of the story doesn’t rhyme at all. The big rhythm making sentence here is singing the song, “I love my white shoes, I love my white shoes, I love my white shoes” or whatever color shoes he happens to have at the time.

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While I’m thinking about non-ryhming rhythm, I can’t help but point out one page in particular of The Composer is Dead¬†by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Nathaniel Stookey.

 

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There is this lovely back and forth action between the names listed of the deceased composers and the word “dead,” and if you can pronounce all those names correctly, good for you because I can’t! I can still feel a rhythm here that I haven’t really seen anywhere else, and this particular page really brings out the peak of the story, the reveal of who killed the composer. Was it the strings, the brass, the woodwinds, or the percussion? You won’t know until you read!

Another sound of a picture book can be dialogue, or I’ve referred picture books written only in dialogue secretly as scripts.

Books like I Don’t Want To Be A Frog,¬†written by Dev Petty, illustrated by Mike Boldt, or Thank You, Octopus¬†, by Darren Farrell need some kind of acting involved because the reader is not just the narrator speaking for the character in the story. The reading IS the character speaking as the character. There is no narrator here that separates character and reader anymore. Now I’m not saying there is no “acting” involved in a normal picture reading during story time, it’s just when I read dialogue I think more in mind of the character.

Could just be me!

Perhaps I could go a little bit further and say that the sound of a picture book is a type of reader manipulation. A good picture book, or story in general,  seems to manipulate the reader into doing what the story wants them to do, either by feeling what the story wants the reader to feel, or make the reader read the story a certain way.

Manipulation from a picture book? Sounds kind of obscure.

It’s like when I’m reading Bully¬†by Laura Vaccaro Seeger. Every page shows the bull getting bigger and BIGGER and every page I’m reading louder and LOUDER¬†until¬†everything deflates and you return to normal speech, maybe even quieter as the bull main character is feeling the ashamed by how much of a bully he has been towards his friends.

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I wanted to focus of these stories because they made me realize what I enjoy about the interaction of reading a story aloud.

So, what is the sound of a picture book?

Eh I still don’t really know, but I think it’s the auditory interaction between story, reader, and listener.

And it was phrase I thought just sounded good at the time.