Wednesday, October 27, 2010

30 Lessons Learned, #3: Kill Your Babies

I am a very independent person (at least I like to think so). In the past, I've been guilty of trying to write and illustrate in a vacuum. It just seems easier that way. But this past year, I've found my way into two critique groups. And now, I look forward to the groups and use them as deadlines to keep moving forward. The feedback and interaction has helped me to grow as a writer and illustrator.

A favorite piece of advice came from one of these groups. Probably lots of seasoned writers are familiar with this, but it was new to me: kill your babies. Any part of my writing that I love in a completely irrational way probably needs to go. It is hard. In fact, I had another name for a main character that I adored. It was perfect. It just HAD to be the name. But I couldn't figure out a way to spell it that would make it easily pronounceable. And thus, after a few weeks of mourning, I (sniff) let it go. I think this is important for illustration too. There are plenty of situations where I become attached to a sketch because of a cool perspective or fun detail and forget about the overall goal of the image. In the end, images (and words) need to tell the story first.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Illustration Friday: Racing

It's raining here which means lots of racing: adults racing indoors and kiddos racing out.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

30 Lessons Learned, #2: Inspiration Arrives at the Strangest Times

Over the years, I've tried to keep daily journals and sketchbooks. Unfortunately, I haven't been particularly faithful at either. I do, however, keep an idea book. I jot down phrases that catch my ear and/or strike my funny bone. Sometimes I do quick sketches. The entries are nothing more than that. However, I've found that the simple act of writing/sketching keeps the ideas brewing in my mind. They simmer away until they're cooked. A couple of years ago, I had written the phrase "messy sleeper" in my notebook. I was thinking about people who tear their beds apart every night vs. those whose beds are still perfectly made in the morning. There was something intriguing about that to me. It simmered for a few years.

Then, when I was a slightly delirious, sleep-deprived Mama with a newborn and feisty 3-year old, my friend asked me to take a writing workshop. I was too tired to say no. As I started to mull over story ideas, I was struck by the contrast between my swaddled newborn who slept so calmly, so neatly and my 3-year old who thrashed from one end of her bed to the other every night. I thought about the "messy sleeping" note in my notebook. I began to suspect that my 3-year old was having BIG dreams. And the story of Buglette was born.

Looking back, I suppose it’s not surprising that I wrote a book about sleep at the point in my life when I was getting the least. Now that my kids are (slightly) older, I'm finding inspiration in the piles of clothes all over their room. Hopefully this will be the upside to the loads of laundry I find myself doing lately.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Illustration Friday: Spooky

This is in honor of my 18-month old who is literally afraid of her own shadow (a new and hopefully short-lived phase).

After receiving an award from Leen Christens, I am excited to pass it on to some more Illustration Friday bloggers whose work I truly enjoy. The list could be much, much longer but I tried not to include folks who have already received the award. Thanks everyone for stopping by!

Yiannis Stilos
Sarah Bowie
Christine Grove
Nicola Killen

Kaitlin McCane
Brooke Boynton

Vera Lluch
Lesley Grainger

Wendy W. Lee

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

30 Lessons Learned, #1: Always Have Another Project

It was exactly a year ago today that I received a call from Nicole Geiger, the publisher at Tricycle Press (Random House Children's Books). That was the beginning of my journey to publication as an author and illustrator. So, on that anniversary, it seems fitting to begin sharing some of the process. I've decided to do weekly blogs—thirty lessons that I've learned along the way. Some lessons are frivolous and some deeply meaningful (to me, at least). I hope they will be enjoyable for all. I'm also happy to answer any and all general questions from folks about the process. Please feel free to leave them in the comments. I am currently working on new projects and can only hope that I will learn another 30 lessons from each. :)

So, back to the phone call. Nicole told me that they were interested in the dummy I had submitted, asked me a few questions about myself and then said that she would be in touch soon. Barring anything unforeseen, she expected that Tricycle would make an offer on the book in a few weeks. I was thrilled. Writing and illustrating a children's book has truly been a lifelong dream. However, I was a bundle of nerves. Would the offer really come through? What if something unforeseen DID happen. I mentioned to a writer friend of mine that I was jumping out of my skin and she gave me one of the best pieces of advice EVER. She said, "It's time to start on your next project." I have gone back to that advice again and again over the past year. It has served me well because there is plenty of waiting during the process of making a book: waiting for the offer, for revisions, for comments on art, etc. Waiting is the perfect time to dig into something other than a tub of ice cream (or in addition to a tub of ice cream, more on that later).

That friend, by the way, is the fabulous Amy Novesky, author of two stunning picture books (and more on the way). Her latest release, Me, Frida, is illustrated by Caldecott winner David Diaz and is a captivating read about Frida Kahlo's time in San Francisco.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Illustration Friday: Transportation

I've just returned from a mini-vacation to Safari West (only an hour from my house and a very special treat.) The family had a wonderful time and, in addition to all kinds of amazing big beasts, we watched newly hatched baby swans taking piggyback rides.

I have a couple of blog notes. First of all, I want to thank Leen Christens for giving me a very nice shout out. I'm looking forward to passing on the good will. Also, fellow writer Lynne Marie Pisano has a short writing prompt on her blog from yours truly. Her blog is full of interesting tidbits for writers and illustrators alike.

Friday, October 1, 2010