Author Archives: annacrowleyredding

Show Yourself in Your Work: An Illustrator’s Story

It’s launch week! It’s launch week! Hold onto your summer floppy hats, we have a book…well, actually two to launch into the world this week. A little bit from the publisher about our first book baby!

Jasmine Toguchi: Mochi Queen

by Debbi Michiko Florence (illus. by Elizabet Vukovic)

Eight-year-old Jasmine Toguchi is a flamingo fan, tree climber, and top-notch mess-maker!

She’s also tired of her big sister, Sophie, always getting to do things first. For once, Jasmine wishes SHE could do something before Sophie—something special, something different. The New Year approaches, and as the Toguchi family gathers in Los Angeles to celebrate, Jasmine is jealous that her sister gets to help roll mochi balls by hand with the women. Her mom says that Jasmine is still too young to join in, so she hatches a plan to help the men pound the mochi rice instead. Surely her sister has never done THAT before.

But pounding mochi is traditionally reserved for boys. And the mochi hammer is heavier than it looks. Can Jasmine build her case and her mochi-making muscles in time for New Year’s Day?

Ages 6 – 9

Available July 11, 2017 (Farrar, Straus and Giroux BYR)

And even better? This is the first book in a series. The second book is also available this week! At the end of this post, you can enter to wind a copy!

To kick off a week of Jasmine Toguchi celebrations, I sat down with illustrator Elizabet Vukovic. Ok, technically, she was in the Netherlands and I was in Maine… but laughing all the way through our video chat, it was as if we were sitting at the same table. Elizabet is not only talented and brilliant, but she’s bubbly, fun, spunky, and there are some big surprises in her journey.  You are going to love her as much as I do. Let’s get to it.

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Elizabet knows exactly what it’s like to have a big sister who gets everything first! Reading the pages of Jasmine Toguchi: Mochi Queen, Elizabet related to Jasmine immediately. She laughed heartily as we talked about her own childhood and the misery of hand-me downs.

Growing up in the Netherlands, Elizabet lived around the corner from a bicycle store. Every summer, she looked through the shop window at the new bikes. So shiny! So new! And every summer, she watched her older sister pick out a new bike… while Elizabet got her sister’s old bike to ride. (Eventually Elizabet would get a new bike, but not until high school!)

Elizabet wore her sister’s hand-me-down clothes and played with hand-me-down toys––until one day Elizabet had enough. It happened in the toy store. The girls had begged their father to walk into the toy store, promising only to look at the toys. Finally, their father agreed. The three of them walked into the store and that’s when Elizabet saw it: a microphone. Not just any microphone, but one that echoed. Elizabet was always singing and this microphone would be the perfect accessory. She had to have it.

She asked her dad to buy it. He said no.

So Elizabet refused to leave the store––without that microphone. That’s when her father and big sister left her there and went home.

But Elizabet did not budge.

Finally, her father returned to the store. And he bought Elizabet that microphone!

As we talked about this story, Elizabet’s eyes sparkled and her grin grew wide. Tapping into these experiences, brought Jasmine to life for Elizabet. She says the illustration on page 37 of the book put in a fine point on what both girls dealt with. (And no sneak previews. The only way to see this emotional scene is to buy the book or request it at the library or win it in our book give away! Also, it’s totally worth it.) But, it’s that illustration in particular that captured both Elizabet’s experience and Jasmine’s: complete frustration and irritation. The contrast of Jasmine’s level of anger juxtaposed to the oblivious prancing around of her older sister really nails the dynamic.

Elizabet says that level of personal connection is critical to her work. You can learn anatomy, she explains, but you have to put yourself in those characters. “Show yourself in your work,” Elizabet said.

But Elizabet’s path to accomplishing that, to creating the space where that’s even possible is interesting. She is the child of immigrants from Croatia. Her parents are hard workers and always expected that of their kids. Because they had to overcome so much and accomplish so much to establish their new lives in the Netherlands, they are also very practical and pragmatic.

Elizabet was interested in drawing as a very small child. Her kindergarten teacher used to say to her parents, “You have a real Picasso on your hands.” Even in high school, a teacher mentioned that Elizabet should go into drawing.

But as a profession? That was hard for Elizabet’s parents to accept or encourage. After all, they wanted Elizabet to have a paying job, security. .. all of the things they had immigrated to the Netherlands to build.

But as effervescent and charming as Elizabet is, she also has steely determination and an unyielding drive to prove herself.

So, what could she do in that situation? First, Elizabet got a degree in optometry. That’s right, optometry. She worked full time in the field to save money for art school. She worked during the day and studied illustration at night through online coursework until she graduated from the San Francisco Art Academy.

Then, she rode her bike 45 minutes to work every day, put in her hours, rode her bike home––which was another 45 minutes, climbed into her studio chair and began working on her illustration portfolio. Every night.

But Elizabet swears that something magical happened in those late hours. It was like her illustration time was protected. Because she had a full time job, she could really give herself permission to go for it at night. Permission to take risks, to enjoy her passion. Her artwork was not burdened with the responsibility of having to make money.

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Once her portfolio was ready, Elizabet prepared herself mentally for the process. She was ready for the rejections, the long, hard, and difficult path to an agent and publication.

She started by picking her top three agencies. Then one morning, she submitted her work by e-mail. She had an offer by that afternoon. She ran around her room screaming. Elizabet doesn’t remember much of her call with her agent Justin Rucker, just that he said he loved her work. “I was so high on emotion and he talked a lot and I kept thinking is this real? Oh my God!” she remembers.

And Elizabet brings all of that to these illustrations. You’ll see it immediately, the joy and spunk…. the struggle and conflict. They flow out of her pen onto the page. These masterful illustrations are a treasure for readers and an invitation to all of us to show ourselves in our work.

Enjoy!

Anna Crowley Redding

P.S. Elizabet and her older sister are close friends today !

P.P.S. Keep reading, there’s a book give away at the bottom of this post!

Also available this week: Book 2 in this delicious, unforgettable series:

Jasmine Toguchi, Super Sleuth (Book 2)

by Debbi Michiko Florence (illus. by Elizabet Vukovic)

It’s a big weekend for Jasmine Toguchi! She’s excited to celebrate Girl’s Day―a Japanese holiday honoring women and girls―with her sister, mother, and best friend, Linnie. When Linnie comes over to plan for the Girl’s Day celebration, Jasmine’s neighbor lets them play dress up in her garage. But the garage is dark, which is kind of scary. And Linnie decides to go home early, which is kind of weird. And Jasmine’s big sister, Sophie, doesn’t seem to want to join in the Girl’s Day fun this year, which is kind of confusing. WHAT is going on?

As her big weekend plans start to unravel, Jasmine must use her sleuthing skills to spot the clues around her. Then maybe, just maybe, she can fix things and make sure the Girl’s Day celebration happens!

Ages 6 – 9

Available July 11, 2017 (Farrar, Straus and Giroux BYR)

Enter to win MOCHI QUEEN and SUPER SLEUTH! One entry per one comment per post this launch week for a maximum total of five entries. The winner will be drawn at random. Must have U.S. mailing address. Enter by midnight EST Sunday July 16th. Good luck!

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Filed under Book Giveaway, Book Launch, Character Development, Dreams Come True, Families, Illustrating, Illustrators, Inspiration, Interviews, process, Uncategorized

I Need Space (and so do you!)

Ever feel so focused on the details of a manuscript that you actually lose sight of the entire work? Maybe you are working on the pacing or world building or hunting down ‘telling’ to replace it with “showing.” Maybe you have zeroed in on three words, writing and re-writing them over and over again. Meanwhile, six hours just zipped past. And these three words you labored over––exist in a manuscript that has 35-thousand more!

It’s critical to focus on the bits and pieces, to lose oneself in the particulars. But when I am ready to emerge from the deep the woods of writing, sometimes I need a compass to find my way out.

As I painter’s daughter, I know that artists also become consumed with specific brush strokes or the interplay of colors in hidden shadows, or using the reflection of a painted sterling cup to tell a story. Detail after detail lures the artist deeper into the painting until he is so consumed with the pieces, he can no longer see the whole painting.

Mirror in hand, my father will turn his back to a painting and stare at his work in the mirror’s reflection. This fools the brain into seeing the painting anew, from a different perspective, with more objectivity. And, like magic, mistakes and solutions are suddenly easy to spot.

How do we writers obtain the same distance from our work? How do we back away from the minutia and see the whole story? Free our creative flow? This is especially hairy after we opened the idea cupboard only to find it bare. Or face a tight deadline.

Here are some tricks that work for me:

~ Listen to someone else read your work aloud. This is as close to the mirror trick as we can get. Where do they stumble? Did the emotion in their voice match the emotion you hoped to convey? Did it make sense? Was it too slow in places? Things will jump out at you.

~ Read your WIP out loud to yourself. Did you stumble?

~ Put your MS in the drawer and leave it there (or stash it in a computer a file labeled “incubator”) and don’t touch it. Whether it sits in the incubator for two hours or two years, sometimes you need space. In Television News, self-critique is a staple of the process. You can’t improve your skills without it. But an anchor told me early in my career, let 24 hours pass before “watching back” any tape. Even with the passing of one day, the emotional connection to the performance is broken and now you can view it objectively.

~ Put down the computer and work it out on paper. Sometimes, when I’m especially stumped, stuck, or just not moving a work forward, I turn to cursive. There is something about writing in cursive that activates a different part of my brain. Suddenly while looping letters, a breakthrough appears on the page.

~ Go and do something physical, something out of your routine. Ride a ferry, journal at sunrise by the ocean, take a road trip, or skip down the block instead of walk. Whenever I shake up my external world, it is amazing how quickly things loosen up in my internal world.

~ Take apart the beaver dam. When I’m focused on a manuscript and get a new idea for another story, I find myself shutting it down. “I’ll get to that later, right now I’m working on this project and cannot be distracted.” Story by story, idea by idea, log by log, I’ve built a dam. And then, nothing is getting through. Why not devote twenty minutes in your day for a delicious idea feast? Get those thoughts on paper and keep the dam at bay.

What are your tricks? Share them below!

Here’s to space, new perspectives, and roaring idea rapids!

Anna


About Anna:

_sl13594_lr_2Before diving into the deep end of writing for children, Anna Crowley Redding’s first career was as an Emmy-award winning investigative television reporter, anchor, and journalist. The recipient of multiple Edward R. Murrow awards and recognized by the Associated Press for her reporting, Redding now focuses her stealthy detective skills on digging up great stories for kids –– which, as it turns out, is her true passion.

Redding’s debut middle grade nonfiction GOOGLE IT! will be published by Feiwel and Friends in May 2018. Anna is represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette of Erin Murphy Literary Agency.

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Meet Our Newest Emu: Anna Crowley Redding

 

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Even now, I can still clearly see the view from my windshield as I drove along leafy, tree-lined streets with my three-year-old boy and his baby brother strapped into their car seats, slowly making our way home from the library.

“You can be anything you want,” I promised my sweet boys. “Anything you want. All you have to do is follow your dreams.”

As soon as the words left my lips, I felt a twitch inside.  A pang. A thud of a forgotten memory, the whisper of a long lost dream.

A dream, quieted by the demands of life. School. Journalism Career. Raising Littles.

But, in that moment, after an afternoon surrounded by books, I couldn’t deny I heard it. It felt like an untied shoelace.

You can be anything you want. All you have to do is follow your dreams.

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Anna Crowley Redding, Age 10. That little toothless girl had big dreams (and even bigger sunglasses. Some things just do not change.)

For as long as I can remember, my dream was to be a children’s book author. At 10, I used to a carry a wire bound notebook around with me, filling  the pages with a murder mystery. In my teens, I wrote picture books and poetry. All along, I collected children’s books. Even in my 20’s, my father still added to my collection every year during the holidays. I loved it!

But the dream of actually writing for children slowly, mindlessly, invisibly drifted to the back burner––until that drive home from the library. Until the talk about following one’s dreams. And I realized that if I want my boys to follow their dreams, I had better get busy leading by example.

The next morning, I woke up earlier, made coffee, climbed into a chair in front of my computer, and started. And it felt––ridiculous. I mean, truly, it felt absurd, silly, and small. How could I justify it? The boys, the nursing, the laundry, the schedule, the money, no assurance it would ever go anywhere at all, and on and on and on.

But the next morning, it felt less ridiculous. Defending the time to write came easier, with practice.

And that twitch, that pang, that thud of a long forgotten memory became a battle cry, day in and day out. Something that could only be calmed with writing.

I joined SCBWI and prepared to attend my first conference. Business cards, sharpened pencils, and fresh paper packed into my bag, I walked through the doors with big expectations. After two days of workshops, seminars, and talking to other writers, it hit me: I was standing at the bottom of an enormous mountain. And I had not a single clue as to how to climb it.

I felt defeated.

Until the next morning, that battle cry woke me up and I returned to the computer. The mornings added up. So did meetings with my invaluable critique group. Countless revisions, workshops, seminars, false starts, failed attempts to quit . . . every morning, the battle cry came for me. And I answered.

Nearly five years later, my agent called.

“Hey,” I said. “I’m about to run into the school for a parent teacher conference. I can talk for five minutes now or longer this afternoon.”

“Five minutes should be enough,” she said, “to tell you we have an offer.”

A book deal. A real live book deal.

All I remember after that is crying and feeling extreme gratitude, the kind of gratitude that’s built morning after morning, setback after setback, word by word, sentence by sentence, and draft by draft.

Maybe you, too, are in the throes of raising amazing little people, juggling the demands of an intense career, or fending off the terror of trying to make ends meet (or all three at once.) And maybe you, too, feel that twitch, that pang, or hear that thud of a memory long forgotten.

Tomorrow morning, if you wake up and get started, imagine me there with you, cheering you on . . . no matter how ridiculous it feels. Because actually what you are doing is quite brave.

Write on!

Anna

P.S. As a practical matter, here are some things I did that made all the difference:

  1. Join SCBWI
  2. Attend a conference
  3. Find a critique group (the number of times they have picked me up off the floor!)
  4. Don’t Give Up!

 

About Anna:

_sl13594_lr_2Before diving into the deep end of writing for children, Anna Crowley Redding’s first career was as an Emmy-award winning investigative television reporter, anchor, and journalist. The recipient of multiple Edward R. Murrow awards and recognized by the Associated Press for her reporting, Redding now focuses her stealthy detective skills on digging up great stories for kids –– which, as it turns out, is her true passion.

Redding’s debut middle grade nonfiction GOOGLE IT! will be published by Feiwel and Friends in May 2018. Anna is represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette of Erin Murphy Literary Agency.

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