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.

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

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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…

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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.”

 

 

 

Line Up Reads for Inspiration

This month is the month of STORYSTORM, a whirlwind of idea generating madness.

To try to gain some inspiration for the next month, I will be adding a list of favorite picture books  and reviewing them. Some old, some new, but all good stuff.

Writing reviews for my favorite picture books will give me a closer look into how they make me love them and will hopefully inspire new ideas. Unfortunately I’ve already reviewed Pete the Cat and Dragons Love Tacos, because they would totally be on my list, but I still have plenty to go!

Here is the lineup:

  1. A Sick Day for Amos McGee by Philip C. Stead, ill. by Erin E. Stead (2010)
  2. Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett, ill. by Jon Klassen (2012)
  3. Ramble of one of childhood favorite Author/illustrator Maurice Sendak, Where the Wild Things Are, because I have to. (I have the 50th anniversary copy 2013)
  4. The Noisy Paint Box: The Colors and Sounds of Kandinsky’s Abstract Art by Barb Rosenstock, ill. by Mary Grandpre (2014)
  5. The Bear Ate your Sandwich by Julia Sarcone-Roach (2015)
  6. Thank you, Octopus by Darren Farrell (2014)
  7. The Dark by Lemony Snicket, ill. by Jon Klassen (2013)
  8. Bloom by Doreen Cronin, ill. David Small (2016)
  9. One Cool Friend by Toni Buzzeo, ill. by David Small
  10. Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast by Josh Funk, ill. by Brendan Kearney
  11. How Do Dinosaurs Say Good Night? by Jane Yolen, ill. by Mark Teague (2000)
  12. Firefly Mountain by Patricia Thomas, ill. by Peter Sylvada (2007)
  13. Ramble about another childhood favorite The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs! by Jon Scieszka, ill. by Lane Smith and more (25th anniversary addition)
  14. Please, Louise by Toni Morrison and Slade Morrison, ill. by Shadra Strickland (2014)
  15. There Was an Old Dragon Who Swallowed a Knight by Penny Parker Klostermann, ill. by Ben Mantle (2015)
  16. Ramble about Wanda Gag’s Millions of Cats and why she inspired me to illustrate/write children’s books in the first place.
  17. Louise Loves Art by Kelly Light (2014)
  18. Rosie Revere Engineer by Andrea Beaty, ill. by David Roberts (2013)
  19. The Grudge Keeper  by Mara Rockliff, ill. by Eliza Wheeler
  20. I Don’t Want to be a Frog by Dev Petty, ill. by Mike Boldt (2015)
  21. Rules of Summer by Shaun Tan (but more just Shaun Tan work in general)

Okay! That’s a pretty big line up, but I’m ready to get to writing~

 

Hillary Rodham Clinton

In the 1950’s the world thought that only a man could gain a powerful position with his career. Only a man could have the strength, intelligence, and ambition to make his mark in history… or so the world thought.

 

And then, along came Hillary Rodham Clinton.

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Balzer & Bray/ Harper Collins Publishers, Ages 4 to 8, 2016,  $17.99($13.49 on amazon)

With her wit and love for public service, Clinton was pulled into politics at a young age. Throughout her years she fought for social justice and continues to do so today. With Pham’s charming and fairly accurate illustrations, Markel tells a story of an ambitious women to inspire girls everywhere with the message that some girls really are born to lead. A time line is included for more information on Clinton’s achievements  near the end for research material. Though Markel’s work could potentially be used as a research tool for a beginning look at important people in history, Clinton’s tale might be a little too long to keep the younger readers attentive. Markel’s work is labeled for ages 4 to 8, however with the political tone and length, the age range of 6 to 8 might be more accurate. If the reader wanted more early research picture books on Hillary Clinton, Hillary Rodham Clinton: Dreams Taking Flight by Kathleen Krull might be a good option.

The Good/Bad List!

  • Good: The illustrations seem fairly accurate and are charming enough to continue to the next page.
  • Good: The illustration in the back of the book of other powerful women makes this seem like it could potentially be apart of a series. However at this time I couldn’t find any other book related to this one.
  • Bad: Too long. 42 pages of text that I’m really not sure will keep the attention of a 4 or 5 year old.
  • Bad: Political tone close to propaganda. I wouldn’t go as far as saying that it is, but some reviews on amazon say it is. As you can see the reviews are clearly split between the 5 stars and the 1 stars haha. Some on there are saying they received this book as a political gag gift and I must admit that I did as well, along with a Make America Great Again hat.
  • Bad: The focus on this book being for girls is a negative. Boys need to learn about powerful women too without being excluded which I thought Markel unfortunately did. If the book was for both boys and girls I would recommend it.
  • Good: Can be a fairly good early research book.

And that’s all for today! Good night~

 

 

Merman!

Lately I haven’t been writing many reviews but I have been writing for NaNoWriMo…and again procrastinating! I only have 7,000 words so far!

But during my procrastination sessions I’ve been going over the ink drawings I did for October and realized that even if I don’t meet the goals of the challenges, I’m still being creative and working slowly but surly on my goals that I’ve set for the year.

Cheers for procrastination on one project and completing another haha!merman copy.jpg

 

 

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Shape Shift (Yes, More shapes, I Love Them)

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Just look! Shapes are all around you. You can just observe them or you can shift them, change them, rearrange them anyway you’d like! You could make a crescent and a trapezoid look like a fish. You could turn a rectangle and a circle into a car. You could even make a clown upside down, if you wanted, it just takes some looking and a bit of creativity. With Hesselberth’s fun, simple, and colorful illustrations, the reader will learn about the many shapes around them and how to see them differently. Each page provides questions that reach for answers and participation from the audience. This concept of participation and learning is great for school circle time or can simply be for fun. Hesselberth’s work is recommended for ages 4 to 7.

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Christy Ottaviano Books/Henry Hold and Company, Ages 4 to 7, $16.99

 

The Good/Bad List (and a story!):

  • Good: Love abstract, simple, colorful, and textured illustrations. Love the layout/design of the book. The illustrations made me (and the parents I showed Hesselberth’s work to) want to turn the page and see what the shapes created.
  • Good: There are many questions, sounds, and little bits that call for participation.
  • Bad: In the manuscript, there were certain parts that vaguely rhymed (or at least had a rhythm) that I enjoyed a lot, but it wasn’t consistent enough for me personally (though the parents didn’t seem to be affected in anyway, I’m probably just picky)
  • Bad: Story time! So one lady who has a grandchild  with a speech impediment says he has a problem pronouncing S and F. She told me that the first thing she thought about Shape Shift was how her grandchild would not be able to pronounce that correctly… meaning that he would accidentally say a curse word instead of the word “shift.” I did not think of this AT ALL when I saw this book, but when that was mentioned, the two other parents nodded in agreement. O_O this is probably not that bad, but it is worth mentioning.
  • Good: It think this has some re-readability. I don’t think this has the ability like Pete the Cat does or Dragons Love Tacos but for a shape learning book, I think it’s fun enough to read again.

That’s all Folks! If you would like to look at Hesselberth’s work, go here.

 

 

 

 

Colors are Friends

imageRight now, I’m editing my life away.

Well, not really, but it sure does feel like it. Does anyone out there have a good editing tool that they use?

My editing tool at this time is color, though I feel like color finds its meaning in my life multiple ways, like personality,  represents certain concepts (I think of a character color before I think of what they look like) so this also helps me edit.

Red: take out silly! I’m actually very salty with you.

Blue: I like this, perhaps think this over.

Orange: you need to decide what you want to do with this…I can’t for you.

yellow: icky buuuuuut there’s something important to say here.

I know there are many ways to edit, but highlighting a manuscript in different colors seems to suit me. Anyone else?

Also, just edited myself right now XD

So, Let’s Go!

Lately I’ve been stumped on the many projects I’ve buried myself under (what else is new, eh?) and created what is known as a “writer’s block” or “creative block.” Some authors and creatives debate on wether this “creative block” exists. In these SCBWI conference notes, one author, Pam Muñoz Ryan, says there is no such thing as a writers block. On the other hand, Neal Shusterman on the same note page says writers block is very real. 


Is this creative block real? How does one overcome this wall blocking the way to the land of creativity and success? 


Well I for sure don’t know… BUT…


Here’s what I’ve been up to to help me through it, even if I’m doing everything to procrastinate:

  • Read some topic related books to get my mind reeling. Favorites at the moment: Pete the Cat series, Where the Wild Things Are, Millions of Cats, How do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight, and Dragons Love Tacos. 
  • Yeah, I read articles about Picture books too… Tara Lazar always has some good stuff. 
  • Jot down ideas even if they’re lame. This can also apply to the PiBoIdMo challenge as well as NaNoWriMo.
  • Work on something other than my stories, like this postcard contest piece!
  • Work on one Picture book at a time. WORK ON ONE PICTURE BOOK AT A TIME. Should I say it again. ONE PB A TIME. ❤ This is probably the most important one of all haha.
  • And, since I’m working on Nightlander continuously, I’ve decided to focus on character building until November for NaNoWriMo. ONE CHARACTER AT A TIME.

And that’s it! Personally, I don’t believe in a creative block necessarily. I do however believe in a creative meltdown, consisting of a list of procrastinations/reasons why the creative force should pause because of “real life worries” (day job, bills, health, dealing with the “real world”) Indecisiveness can also pause the creative force (what project will be more successful? Which project won’t waste my time?)

The only way is to power through. So, let’s go!

How Many PB Drafts Does it Take…

…To make a polished enough manuscript to begin sending it to editors and agents?

Also, enjoy this giraffe I made awhile back:

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It’s related I promise! (kinda)

I just finished the second draft of Stitching Butterflies (well, the second book dummy, this is probably draft fifteen as far as manuscript goes…) and I’m now moving on to Lou’s and Sue’s, a drastic change from a manuscript I wrote two years ago when I was just starting to realize I wanted to write children’s books. That giraffe up there was in this story known as Lou’s Place.

Lou is actually an elephant that is too big to fit anywhere. The giraffe in an air balloon has nothing to do with the story, I just wanted it in there because it was cute.

WRONG.

Adding random cute things to a story that is unrelated doesn’t make a good picture book! I had made a cool book dummy with cute things and a sad, grumpy elephant looking for a place to fit in society and everything about it was WRONG.

I sent that book dummy to Peach Tree Publishers. I got it back of course with a little rejection letter that they probably send to all failures and vaguely wondered if it was even glanced at because of the HORROR of a thing it was.

 Oh, the horror continues.

Before the Lou’s Place disaster, there was the Everything Girl disaster.  I sent TWO you guys, TWO stories, TWO book dummies, with hardly any editing, no agent, and probably typos. I’m surprised I even got responses back! Boyds Mills Press was even nice enough to email me because I didn’t send the package correctly so they could send the dummy back. AGH.

Point is, how polished does a manuscript have to be? I read this article today that I wished I had read two years ago when I sent both Lou’s Place and Everything Girl. Now I’m looking at Stitching Butterflies and thinking, is it ready?

No, it’s not. It needs to go on the back burner for a little while, but I’d like to believe it’s close, closer than the other two were.

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