When You Have To Have A Day Job

Every now and then I have to remind myself of all the ways that I can be creatively productive throughout the day, even when I have to have a day job.

Now I don’t mind my day job at all. It’s just… when I have several manuscripts, book dummies, illustration prompts, commissions, and blog posts to make, spending 40 + hours a week at a job that has nothing to do with any of this can seem like a complete waste of time.

IT’S NOT A WASTE OF TIME. I NEED MONEY ;_;

But there are also small ways to be creative with a piece of paper (or paper towel or tissue or cardboard piece or…) and a writing utensil.

Things I can do:

  • Write random ideas down on anything. Good sentences, concepts, character ideas. I got most of my PiBoIdMo and STORYSTORM ideas at my various day jobs.
  • Write whole first draft manuscripts. I wrote two manuscripts this year during lunch and one during a slow day. They were horrible but most first drafts are.
  • Draw quick thumbnail compositions without much thought. Actually I do better with first drafts and ideas when I work on something else. That’s why illustrating and writing go hand in hand for me. 
  • List blog ideas/begin writing blog posts. This is actually harder to do than manuscripts. 
  • Play out stories in my head while walking around. I do a lot of moving at work. They say that creativity works when you aren’t actively trying to be creative or something like thatthis article says so.

Things I shouldn’t do at the day job:

  • Edit manuscript. Writing firsts drafts is fine, editing them is not. I don’t know about anyone else, but I have to read my manuscripts out loud and that can get awkward.
  • Act out manuscript. I mean anyone could do this but…
  • Don’t get too invested. The whole point of creative thinking while doing other things is to not concentrate so hard. Hard concentration most likely leads to doubt and frustration and it’s incredibly difficult to get ideas with these two demons showing their ugly faces. This is why day jobs can be useful. 

Some days I just do my job because it gets pretty busy being Quality Control. This is why I need this reminder of the little things I can do to continue this journey to one day illustrating and writing children’s books.

Image below, always accurate!

  • selfportraitforwebsite.jpg
Advertisements

Commission Mission

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.

rosebutterfly copy.jpg

This one unfortunately didn’t work out, but I did like working on the image.

UGGGGG 34 copy.jpg

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!

Ending on the Opening Talk

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.”

Of storytelling:

  • 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.

Storytelling assignment:

  • 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…

IMG_1474.JPG

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.

thingsintherecolor1 copy.jpg

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.”

 

 

 

Query Letter Notes

I want to begin with the query letter intensive presented by Andrea Morrison because it was such a great intensive. I learned a lot and even wrote my first real query letter draft for a manuscript I’m calling  ValenTINA.

Here are some of the notes I took:

  • Personalize query letters, don’t just send them out! Basically, research who you are querying, indicate your research somewhere in your letter, and if you have met that person at a conference or something, MENTION THAT.
  • Look up the genres they publish.
  • Just remember that when you query an agent and you actually get them to represent you, that usually indicates a big career decision. You can consider this a for life kind of deal though things do happen and you can possibly get another agent.
  • Just send queries, don’t email and ask if you can!
  • 60 days is a safe check in time for response.
  • Comp titles are great but if you can’t compare then don’t worry about it.
  • If you want and you have them, state that your book is apart of a series.
  • Talk about your project, personalize query letter, tell about yourself (everything related to writing/illustrating career, SCBWI, conferences, critique groups if not published.)
  • Really make sure everything in your letter is relevant.
  • Link to your site, don’t add photos to your letter.
  • Paste your submission after your letter in email a couple spaces down. They really don’t like attachments!
  • CHECK SUBMISSION GUIDELINES!

And to my query letter that I wrote during the intensive, I had asked her if my query was too short and she said that short and sweet is totally fine as long as I covered each points mentioned above.

And that’s all folks! Great intensive and I’ll be adding more notes on here later tonight!

From Dreaming to Doing 2017

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:

Brown:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. He liked my more detailed pieces, the small intricate details I had with some pieces.
  4. He liked my color, but gave me the idea to try to work with brighter colors.
  5. One of the mixed media pieces he thought wasn’t working due to the two mediums fighting for attention.

    bwparents copy

     this is the piece with the two fighting mediums.

  6. . He said in some pieces I seemed hesitant. Fix that.
  7. And last he told me to work on INDIVIDUAL pieces instead of stories. And focus only on illustrating instead of writing.

Nassner:

  1. I got the same advice on varying line work.
  2. Bring more narrative into my pieces, though she thought I was good with the narrative with my last three images.
  3. Liked my color.
  4. Suggested that I look into illustrating for middle grade too. She made this suggestion when she saw the black and white piece show above.
  5. Work on drawing.
  6. With the mixed media pieces, some were too muddy. Fix that.
  7. Told me to get a domain name and website  (or URL) and basically said I was silly for not having one lol.
  8. 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.

 

crowcolor6-copy_1000.jpg

It was a great idea to have two critiques. I plan on going to the next conference!