I’ve had four commissions this month! Yippee!
However not all of them were children’s book related, actually most of them were NOT so I won’t post them on here. I will however post the ones that I do think might relate to children’s books.
This one unfortunately didn’t work out, but I did like working on the image.
This is a WIP and wasn’t intended for a PB, however it looks very middle grade I believe. Who knows! I could illustrate a middle grade one day.
Last month AND this month were both pretty busy! I should start writing reviews again, I did read just about fifty picture books last month haha. Plenty to write about!
I’m ending with the beginning. The Keynote Speaker Bruce Coville was fantastic despite the microphone issues. And besides, I don’t REALLY think he needed a microphone anyway as his presence, his CHARACTER, filled the room and got the audience’s attention immediately.
Speaking of character, that was the topic he chose to open the conference with. Character is ultimately what keeps the readers and listeners coming back for more. Even if you’ve read all the blogs with all the tips on how to make a good story, even if the concept is intriguing or the art phenomenal, a good main character is the key ingredient to the children’s book creation.
Below I will section off the notes in bullet points. Anything quoted is directly from him, or my attempt to quote the fabulous things this man says haha.
Take that character you love and give them trouble:
- Make a “scary” story. “What is a scary story? A scary story is when a character you love is in trouble.”
- “A perfect ending has both a surprise and the inevitable. It’s not a coincidence.”
- Coincidence can be used to get them into trouble, NOT OUT OF TROUBLE.
- Make the audience HA (laugh), WAH (sorrow, relief, personal connection) and YIP! (GASP! The “scary” situation.)
- Make your character face a tough choice.
- Throw in what the character doesn’t want.
- Make the character “need” as the need drives the action.
- Character MUST solve the problem.
Coville said something similar to “A great story is well told.”
- Female type of storytelling is the beauty of language and character.
- Male type of storytelling is the action and energy, the tension.
- A story needs BOTH types to become a great story.
- Character IS plot.
- Every payoff must be a set up, every set up must have a pay off.
- Tell the stories clear to get the attention it needs.
- Fold a piece of paper into 6 sections, or 12 sections if you’re writing for an older audience.
- Write 1-6/1-12 in the boxes.
- Write most potent memories in grades 1-6/1-12.
- Write opposite point of view/varying different point of views.
He said something like this, “The right story at the right moment is like an arrow to the heart” and that sentence itself sent an arrow to my heart.
And that’s it! That’s all the notes I’m typing up on this blog. I hope they were even a little helpful to whoever reads this post.
Take a gander at one of my note spreads…
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:
- Figure out where you want to go.
- 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)
- WHAT DOES SUCCESS MEAN TO YOU?
She then went on to listing the differences between the two types of presses.
- 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.
- Individualized attention.
- “Family” feel. Basically everyone knows you in that small company and you have like a sibling rival feel with the other published authors there.
- Innovative marketing. You’ll be pretty much marketing yourself.
- No agent required.
- Advance and royalties. Some have a higher royalty rate, some don’t even have them.
- 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.
- Expanded market, which is great for a wider distributer.
- Perceived status.
- “One of the gang” feel, like you are now with the “big kids.”
- Powerful marketing.
- Agent required.
- Advance and royalties.
- 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.”
From Dreaming to Doing.
You know, that’s a perfect theme for a children’s book writing and illustrating conference. Writing and illustrating DOES begin with a dream, a passion to create this piece of work that dives into the heart of the reader. To make them FEEL what you are feeling, understand and connect. The doing part is what makes the dream come alive.
Each panel reminded me that in order to make my dream a reality I must do the work and put myself and my work out there! I had so many notes from the panels that my notebook pages are currently kind of a mess.
Other than the panels, which I will post some of my notes in the near future, I had two extremely helpful and encouraging portfolio critiques from Calef Brown and Alyssa Nassner:
- Practice varying my line work throughout a piece. Almost all of my images had the same kind line thickness and the idea is to thicken the lines of the objects up close and thin them out further away. Also vary the types of line, like I do a lot of swooping motion and curves. Need to change it up a bit.
- DRAW DRAW DRAW! He wanted me to practice drawing the figure and told me to take night classes. Unfortunately I don’t have the money to take night classes, but maybe I could save up or apply for scholarships.
- He liked my more detailed pieces, the small intricate details I had with some pieces.
- He liked my color, but gave me the idea to try to work with brighter colors.
- One of the mixed media pieces he thought wasn’t working due to the two mediums fighting for attention.
this is the piece with the two fighting mediums.
- . He said in some pieces I seemed hesitant. Fix that.
- And last he told me to work on INDIVIDUAL pieces instead of stories. And focus only on illustrating instead of writing.
- I got the same advice on varying line work.
- Bring more narrative into my pieces, though she thought I was good with the narrative with my last three images.
- Liked my color.
- Suggested that I look into illustrating for middle grade too. She made this suggestion when she saw the black and white piece show above.
- Work on drawing.
- With the mixed media pieces, some were too muddy. Fix that.
- Told me to get a domain name and website (or URL) and basically said I was silly for not having one lol.
- She liked my digital pieces much more than the mixed media.
Both critiques told me I was not quite professional enough, however I was CLOSE. Both told me that my compositions are good, my light, color, and drawing are pretty good, I just need to get to that next level of professionalism and tighten up the craft. Both thought my style was consistent even with the two ways of working, which is GREAT.
Both liked the piece below the most.
It was a great idea to have two critiques. I plan on going to the next conference!
In the middle of reading mentor picture books and writing manuscripts, I come to appreciate mini critique group projects like the one below.
This comic is a little looser, but I enjoy working this way.
*sigh* I hope this isn’t another style change .-.
Does anyone ever have that problem where you have a lot of ideas but don’t know which ones are good or worthwhile?
I’ve been having that problem for about five months now…and it’s really slowed down my work! What to do?
So I wrote the ideas down on little pieces of paper, threw em in a hat, and picked. Yup, let fate decide!
Fate decided that The Hungry Witch Mabel was the one to work on. I already had character designs, a manuscript, and colored pieces as a separate portfolio builder project…I just need the dummy.
I probably should’ve been editing this one all along.
ReFoReMo or Reading for Research Month, is a challenge that I’ve been wanting to do for about a year now so it is my first crack at it!
Luckily I have some of the line up already, but most of these are from the library and others I’ll have to just plop my butt in a book store (yippee! don’t mind the adult sitting for hours in the children’s section reading picture books lol!)
I still want to continue my line up that I had before as well as covering the last of my big three, which is concept.
I’ll just say this next month is gonna be a doozy, and to add the MD/DE/WV conference with portfolio prep to it…oh boy. It’s gonna be great.