Category Archives: Illustrators

Welcome to the World, Penny & Jelly: A Talk with Illustrator Thyra Heder!

Happy Launch Week, Penny & Jelly!!

 

I have always been fascinated by art and artists. People who can draw are, to me, the world’s greatest geniuses! Art (particularly painting) was one of my first loves. Sadly, I have no talent for drawing at all. For example, this was my attempt to draw an alien rock monster:   AlienSee what I mean?   At least I have the good fortune of getting to converse with many people who can turn paper and lines and shapes and colors into something amazing. When we started planning the launch party for Maria Gianferrari’s delightful Penny & Jelly, I jumped at the chance to interview illustrator Thyra Heder.

 

Tell us a bit about how you began your career as an artist, and found your way to illustrating picture books. While I was in college, my sister needed storyboards for a short film she was making. I thought I had read enough comics as aJelly_sketches kid that I could do it, and I was sort of right. I was not great, but my drawings looked proficient enough to get another job from that production. By word of mouth, I started storyboarding other films, tv shows, and ad campaigns. Storyboarding lead to other design and illustration work, which forced me to scramble and teach myself styles, mediums and explore aesthetics. So I guess that’s how I learned my skill…though I must admit I’m still teaching myself.     PennyJelly_sketch3I got into picture books because I’ve always loved them and collected them and one day I had an idea for one. After finding an agent who would take me on and revising my book for what felt like eons I got a book deal. That book, Fraidyzoo, gave my drawings exposure that could lead to other book opportunities like Penny and Jelly. I think the reason I finally took the leap into pursuing picture books was that I was aching to make things that people actually saw. Also I’ve always felt there is nothing more special than a moment reading a book to a kid, and I wanted to be a part of that.

 

What did you love most about Penny and Jelly? I loved that she allowed me to draw action, and I loved the chance to draw a relationship between a girl and her dog. I’ve got 0209_PennyandJellyStyleboardmy own dog, Toby, in the studio with me everyday, so I was excited to draw Jelly in his many states. My favorite thing about painting her is that I find myself making her expressions.

 

Where can readers see more about you on-line? Are you working on any new projects? Well I just finished Penny and Jelly 2 which was fun to paint (proofs look great!) and I’ve got my 2nd book that I wrote and illustrated coming out in October called The Bear Report. I’m also working on a screenplay with a friend for an animation at the moment so that will be filling my brain for the rest of the summer! I’ve got a non picture book drawing blog: uniqueyounork.tumblr.com and my website: thyraheder.com. thumbs_layered_1217_06-70219Spreadwalkhome

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
Don’t forget to comment for a chance to win a copy of this heartwarming book. You can purchase it for yourself and everyone you know by going to Penny & Jelly’s website and choosing the buying link that’s best for you!  A second winner will receive some Penny & Jelly swag!    ____________________________________________________

Susan Vaught Susan Vaught is the author of many books for young adults, such as TRIGGER, BIG FAT MANIFESTO, and FREAKS LIKE US. Her debut novel for middle-grade readers, FOOTER DAVIS PROBABLY IS CRAZY, published by Simon & Schuster, hit the shelves in March, 2015. Please visit Susan at her website, follow her on Twitter, and like her Facebook page.
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Filed under Blogging, Book Giveaway, Book Launch, Book Promotion, Celebrations, Creativity, Illustrators, Interviews, Promotion

From the Journal of Susan Vaught (Who is Not Afraid of Walruses), Plus a GIVEAWAY!!!!

I asked my friend Gisele to interview me for this article, so I could be like my main character, Footer Davis. Gisele rolled her eyes a lot, but in the end, she surrendered. I knew she would.

Why am I interviewing you?
Because interviews are fun. And because my latest book has a lot of interviews in it.

I’m only doing this for brownies. You know that, right?
Yes, I know.

Brownies and cake.
Got it.

What do you do for a living?
By day, I’m a neuropsychologist who works in a haunted monolith I call the Old Asylum. By evening and night and wee hours of the morning, I make up worlds and people and all manner of chaos. I try to paint with words. I live and write in that strange hinterland between psychology and creativity, between seeing patterns and laboring to describe them.

Did being a psychologist help you write your latest book?
Sometimes my two lives intersect, and my stories include characters who have mental health issues. That’s definitely the case in Footer Davis Probably Is Crazy, coming in March, 2015 from Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books. Footer’s mom struggles with Bipolar Disorder, and Footer lives with the fear that she’ll wind up battling the same illness. That doesn’t stop her from exploring a big mystery, trying to save some missing kids, and working on her upcoming career as a journalist. She’s decided she can’t be an artist since she can’t draw–not that lack of talent stops her from illustrating her own story, especially when she wants to annoy a stodgy teacher, show somebody what snake guts look like, or explain her walrus phobia. Some things, like mutant alien rock monsters and mysterious sneakers, just work better in pictures.

Alien mutant rock monster, drawn by Jennifer Black Reinhardt, not me, because I can’t even draw stick figures.

Alien mutant rock monster, drawn by Jennifer Black Reinhardt, not me, because I can’t even draw stick figures.

 

I was able to ask Jennifer Black Reinhardt, the book’s illustrator, a few questions, so, bonus!

Me:     What does it feel like to be able to draw something other than a stick figure? Because I’m way envious. Even my stick figures stink.
Jennifer:     I’m not sure if I’ve always loved to draw because I was good at it? Or, if I got good at it because I loved to draw? I think it might be the latter. I can remember being very little and having an idea and being absolutely consumed with hurrying to finish my bath so I could go draw. I would spend hours drawing different noses on a person in profile and was mesmerized by how just that one line could transform a darling little girl into an evil witch. But I did have that love and passion for it at a very early age.
Me:        Envy       

Me:           I panicked when I heard they were getting a real artist to draw Footer’s sketches, because like me, Footer can’t really draw! You did such an awesome job of making wonderful pictures that weren’t perfect–and yet were, in every way. How hard was it to draw like Footer?
Jennifer:     I did have to think about how to do them, but it was really fun! Are you sure Footer can’t draw? Because the fact that she liked to document some rather odd/difficult things with her drawings seemed to indicate to me that she thought she could succeed? I looked through some of my daughter’s old sketchbooks from about that time to get a feel for what Footer might do. I thought Footer would spend some time on them. So, I didn’t want to make them as quick as single line. I kind of wanted Footer to think she did a good job.
Me:         love  

Me:     What are you working on now? Where else will readers be able to see your masterpieces?
Jennifer:     This very moment I’m doing sketches for “Yaks Yak” a word play picture book by Linda Sue Park published by Clarion. And right before that I finished final art for a book by Suzanne Slade, published by Charlesbridge  about Thomas Edison and Henry Ford. So I’ve gone from non-fiction inventors, to a possibly crazy Footer Davis, to definitely wacky animals! I love being an illustrator!
Me:     You are awesome. Thank you for bringing Footer’s pictures to life. (And, get this, Gisele, she didn’t even charge me brownies for the interview…)

 

Now back to our regularly scheduled questions.

Are you afraid of walruses?
No. That’s Footer.

Suuuuure it is.
Really. I’m not afraid of walruses.

I want oatmeal raisin cookies, too.
FINE.

Have you ever written a middle grade book before?
Footer’s tale is my first published middle grade story, after years of writing for adults and young adults. Writing middle grade fiction is something I’ve always wanted to do . . . well, that and picture books, but the whole picture book thing—yeah. Still working on that (see above re: stick figures). Despite my issues with drawing anything other than ugly blobs, I started this story by sketching a really awful doodlebug, and labeling its parts and looking up its scientific classification. Footer Davis CvrFooter researches doodlebugs as part of a paper where she’s supposed to explore the origins of her town, Bugtussle. Bugtussle got its name from its surplus of doodlebugs, and Footer thinks that’s pretty freaky, but not as freaky as her mom shooting a snake off the pond in their backyard with her dad’s elephant gun. That’s how Footer Davis Probably Is Crazy begins, and it’s how my third grade summer began, too. My mom really did that. I don’t think the elephant gun left any permanent scars on Mom’s shoulder, but it definitely left its mark on the snake. The snake Mom shot was a copperhead, just like the one Footer’s mom removes from the land of the living. The snake ended up on the book’s wonderful cover. I really love the cover, and all the  little bits of Footer’s story tucked into it.

So, how did you get “the call” about this book?
This book sold at auction, so I got several calls from Erin Murphy across the day. When she told me Footer had a home with Sylvie Frank at Simon and Schuster, I was thrilled.

Does your new editor know you’re scared of walruses?
I AM NOT SCARED OF WALRUSES! Besides, Sylvie is completely wonderful and she wouldn’t care.

When you’re not writing or working at the Old Asylum, what do you do with your time?
I spend time with my family, including my adorable new grandson Anthony. I also spend time with my pets–too many dogs, a few cats, some chickens, a peacock, and a parrot.

No walruses, eh? I rest my case. Are the brownies ready yet?
Time to end the interview…

 

Thanks so much, Susan!! Susan is giving away THREE copies of Footer Davis Probably Is Crazy, leave a comment and be entered to win!

You can also purchase Susan’s book here:

The Flying Pig Bookstore

Indie Bound

Barnes & Noble

Amazon

 

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Filed under Illustrators, Introduction, The Call

What Would Garrison Griswold Do?

BookScavenger3d

If you’re coming back to hear my big plan, scroll down to the end for the update! 

I’ve been in the midst of making promotional plans for Book Scavenger. I’ve sought out advice from other authors on what they recommend and don’t recommend for your debut book, and the only bit of advice that everyone seems to agree on is this: The best thing you can do to promote your first book is write your next book.

Okay, cool, I’m doing that! I have two more books scheduled to come out in 2016 and 2017, and I’m currently working on both simultaneously. One is in the outline/first draft stage, and the other is nearing the end of its second revision. (I feel like those last two sentences make me sound very organized in my writing process. I am not. I wrote “working on two books simultaneously” but really it feels more like spinning in circles while juggling cats.)

But still, even if everyone agrees the best thing you can do is write the next book, I can’t do nothing for my debut. If for no other reason than I’m excited about it! I want people to hear about it. So many people have had a hand in shaping the book–early readers and critique partners, teachers, my agent, my editor, the art director, production editor, copyeditor . . . And the illustrations! Sarah Watt’s work is so freakin’ cool and takes the book to a whole other level. The book that will be in bookstores and libraries has been a team effort, and I’m proud of it. Even if readers hate it, I want Book Scavenger to have a fighting chance of surviving in the retail world, and that won’t happen if readers don’t hear about it in the first place.

griswold

Illustration by Sarah Watts

So I wanted to do something fun to celebrate Book Scavenger and spread the word about its existence. What to do, what to do? That’s where Garrison Griswold comes in.

Garrison Griswold is a central character in Book Scavenger. He’s this larger than life, eccentric book publisher who’s a huge game and puzzle fanatic. He thrives on thinking up elaborate games and making them happen–something that has earned him the reputation of being “the Willy Wonka of book publishing.” A reputation, by the way, that he loves to play up. Book Scavenger is one of his game creations. It’s a website and a real world book hunting game where players hide used books in public places and then upload clues to the website for other book scavengers to solve in order to seek out the books. (Kind of a mashup of Book Crossing, Geocaching, and Little Free Libraries, with a dash of influence from video games I played as a kid.)

I wanted to do something in the spirit of Garrison Griswold, but I couldn’t go all out Garrison Griswold because that guy has resources that I do not. (He rented out the San Francisco Giants stadium in order to break the Guinness World Record for largest group Bingo game, for example. I can’t do that.)

But I did come up with something that’s big, by my standards at least, and fortunately my publisher was on board. I hope it will be fun and will make Mr. Griswold proud. I’ll be putting this plan into action on Wednesday and will update here with a link to the info, but for now here’s a teaser video (which offers a clue–something I know Mr. G would approve of):

UPDATE: So I mentioned I have something fun in the works . . . 

I am excited to share the new website for my book series, designed by the awesome Jenny Medford of Websy Daisy. To celebrate this, I’m giving away 50 advance copies of Book Scavenger–yes, 50!–with the hope that the recipients will help launch a book hunting game in the spirit of the one in my novel. Read the post on BookScavenger.com to find out all the details!

____________________________________

jenn.bertman-2002139Jennifer Chambliss Bertman is the author of the forthcoming middle-grade mystery, Book Scavenger (Christy Ottaviano Books/Henry Holt/Macmillan, 2015). Book Scavenger launches a contemporary mystery series that involves cipher-cracking, book-hunting, and a search for treasure through the streets of San Francisco. Jennifer earned her MFA in Creative Writing from Saint Mary’s College, Moraga, CA, and is represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette.

You can find Jennifer online at http://writerjenn.blogspot.com where she runs an interview series with children’s book authors and illustrators called “Creative Spaces.”

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Filed under ARCs, Book Promotion, Celebrations, Dreams Come True, Illustrators, Promotion, Writing and Life

Writing in One Layer

In Photoshop, you can build a complex image using layers.  Layers are images that are stacked on top of each other like cellophane, with individual elements of the design or illustration existing on individual layers.

Background

Here’s a background layer.

BackgroundCircle

Here’s a yellow circle layer on top.

BackgroundCircleRed

I am awesome at this.

Images are stacked in this way so that they can be easily separated into manageable segments. This allows an artist to remove or make changes to various pieces of the work without having to recreate the entire thing.  That red squiggle needs to be orange?  Great.  Select the layer with the squiggle, change the color, and everything else can stay as is.  Easy peasy.

The more complex and layered an image, the more segmented it is. That’s great for small changes, but not for big sweeping ones. In order to make holistic changes to the work, the artist has to go in and edit each individual layer.

Hold up.  This is a writing blog, right?  Why am I talking about Photoshop?

A few weeks ago, at LeakyCon, I had the pleasure of being in the room for a Q&A with Kazu Kibuishi, the writer/artist behind the AMULET graphic novel series and the cover illustrator of the 15th-Anniversary editions of the American Harry Potter books.  He is a stellar talent.  While showing us several drafts of his cover illustration for CHAMBER OF SECRETS, he mentioned that he had drafted those images in one layer.

I was surprised.  The images Kazu showed us didn’t even look like drafts.  They were complex, beautiful, detailed paintings – and he had done them all in one layer, with no segmentation.  Why?  Wouldn’t that slow him down, if he needed to make changes?

In fact, he said it does the opposite.  He learned from watching artists Chris Appelhans and Khang Le that when drafting in Photoshop, it’s freeing to do all the initial work in one layer.  It allows him to paint with confidence, make decisions faster, and minimize production choices.  Because drafting isn’t about making production choices.  It’s not about self-censorship.  It’s about getting your ideas down authentically, in service of creating a compelling work of art.

Well, I thought about that.  I chewed on it for days.  Because it’s not just a strategy for working in Photoshop – it’s a philosophy.  Draft with confidence.  Minimize choices.  Don’t make production decisions too early.  Save layers for later, when you know more.  Just paint.

Or in my case, just write.

When I was newer to writing and not yet thinking about publication, I mostly wrote fan fiction – thousands of pages of it. I wrote it very, very fast.  Unless I got really stuck, I didn’t spend time pondering or fussing.  I just followed the bird in flight, chasing the idea as fast as I could and giving myself as much enjoyment as possible in the process.  I didn’t worry whether that page of witty banter was pure stuffing or whether the kiss I was writing drove the plot enough to be worth keeping.  It was fanfic, so I just wrote it to make myself happy, painting words with fast strokes, making the movie in my head come alive in the narrative.

Now I’m writing original fiction, under contract (hooray!), and I find myself slowing down. Thinking ahead. Manipulating the layers before I know what the whole picture looks like.  Editing earlier than necessary.  This wasn’t true with the first book of the series – I wrote that first draft without knowing what the full editorial process would entail, and without second guessing my choices.  With this second book, however, I hovered over myself a little bit as I drafted, questioning things that didn’t need to be questioned yet.

Immediately after Kazu’s Q&A, I sat down for a long chat with my editor, Cheryl Klein, about how to approach the revision of the second book in the series I’m writing.  One of her suggestions was that I should concentrate on the romance more.  I share this because anyone who knows me or my writing well will find it odd that I’d ever need to be given this note; I have a tendency to dive pretty deep into the romance.  I love, love, love to write the romance.  If anything, in the past, I’ve needed to pull back on the romance.  But because I’ve been drafting with too much of my brain focused on technical maneuvering and not enough of it focused on simply following the flow, I lost my romantic guts, a little, in this recent draft.  I pulled back before I’d reached the destination.

So I’ve decided to take Kazu’s Photoshop philosophy and apply it to my revision. One layer. No tinkering. Not yet. In the past week, I’ve blown through almost a hundred pages, including a couple of brand-new scenes that were incredibly fun to write and felt totally self indulgent. And maybe it’ll turn out that they are totally self indulgent and have to be removed.  I don’t care.  The romance is flowing.  The questions are vanishing.  The inner editor is on forced hiatus.

I’m not saying that fast is best (speed is a personal thing for authors – we each have our own process, and pace is part of that).  Rather, if you ever find yourself getting in your own way and picking at your choices too early, try visualizing your draft as something that’s pouring out in one uncensored layer, and see if it sets you free.

 

HiRes_Morrison_6861_cropMegan Morrison is the author of GROUNDED: THE ADVENTURES OF RAPUNZEL, due out summer 2015 from Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic. GROUNDED is the first book in the Tyme Series, co-created with Ruth Virkus. You can follow Megan on her blog at makingtyme.blogspot.com or on Twitter at @megtyme. She is represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette.

 

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Filed under Advice, Advice - Helpful or Otherwise, craft~writing, Creativity, Editing and Revising, Editor, Illustrators, Satisfaction, Writing

Getting the word out.

bunniesGOpublic

BUNNIES!!! is being printed (I imagine) overseas at this very moment. It’s release date is January 27. That means I have roughly five months to generate some pre-release buzz about it. I find myself staring blankly at the FnGs and wonder what to do next. A website? Facebook page? Postcards? (Done). Trailer? Press release? Standing on a corner saying, “Look at this!” to anyone who happens by? I am not a stranger to marketing and promotion—I’ve worked on many programs and projects over the years as the graphics guy—but I am daunted by what to do for my own book. I suppose the promotion and marketing has never seemed as important as it does when you are promoting and marketing  your own stuff. I don’t know what all I’ll do. I don’t know what kind of participation I can expect from the publisher. I don’t know if I need to hire a professional PR or marketing person. I don’t know a lot. Declan (above) screams the title of the book with unfettered joy and excitement. That’s what I want the promotion to feel like. So….

bunniesCover250wide

January 27, 2015 • From Katherine Tegan Books, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublisher

-kevan atteberry

kevanatteberry.com

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Filed under Book Promotion, cover art, Illustrators, Picture books, Promotion, Thankfulness, Uncategorized

Interview with ALL FOUR STARS cover artist, Kelly Murphy

Yesterday you got to meet Gladys, and today we bring you the illustrator who brought Gladys to life on the ALL FOUR STARS cover. Please welcome cover artist and illustrator Kelly Murphy!

Kelly Murphy

LAT: Thanks so much for joining us this week to celebrate the ALL FOUR STARS launch, Kelly! Can you tell us what the process was like to get it there?

ALL FOUR STARS sketch 1KM: Book covers are some of my favorite illustration projects. It’s that one image that you have to create to entice an audience but be careful not to reveal too much. It’s being able to visualize the voice of the author, creating an important balance between narrative and emotion.

LAT: What do you consider when deciding whether or not to take on a project?

KM: Honestly? TIME. Can I finish this on time. That’s always my number one question. Juggling a few books, teaching, and trying to sustain a remotely healthy sleeping schedule can be pretty tricky. Secondly, I really listen to the editor’s synopsis, and the overall mood they’re looking for. There’s a reason why they came knocking on my door, and I love to hear how the editor made the connection between my artwork and the novel. I had heard about this novel a month or so before it came into my inbox. I was speaking at 2013’s Whispering Pines winter retreat in Southern Rhode Island, where I met with Shauna Rossaro. She hinted that she thought my sense of color and character would be perfect for a foodie middle grade novel. My eyes widened and kept my fingers crossed. I consider myself a rather reclusive illustrator, therefore it’s very rare to meet in person with editors and art directors. So, not only was I very flattered, it was one of the first instances of productive face to face networking for me! I hope my eagerness didn’t scare Shauna too much! And a few months later, I received that happy email!

ALL FOUR STARS sketch 4LAT: I can totally relate to the reclusive networker thing, and I’m so glad you didn’t scare her off! What did you think when you first saw the ALL FOUR STARS manuscript?

KM: ALL FOUR STARS really hones in on the spunk and passion that young minds have. Gladys has this “never say die” approach to the problems set in front of her, and she knows what she really wants. It was great to be able to bring that character into visualization. While a lot of my work typically has a period feel to it, I was excited to work on a contemporary middle grade novel.

LAT: It sounds like you really “get” Gladys. Do you usually read the whole manuscript for a project, or just a synopsis?

KM: Whenever I can, I read the whole manuscript. To really understand and then draw the characters I need to know all of the subtleties. I love imagining the whole world around them. Often I will draw them in their favorite place or bedroom, even if it isn’t described.

ALL FOUR STARS sketch 3LAT: That makes me even more curious! What were the first images/ideas you had? How many initial designs did you propose? How did those get refined over time into the final product?

KM: Gladys has an extremely active mind, and I knew I wanted to have the composition reflect that. My first ideas were of her surrounded by all of the pastries in the story. I was toying with the idea of having the cover framed, particularly by a window. I felt as though not only was it a good compositional device, but it could also reflect Gladys’ struggle to achieve her goals. In essence, stop window shopping and finally walk into the restaurant. I typically like to sketch up to three or four ideas. For ALL FOUR STARS, the ideas were similar, but just presented in a different manner.

LAT: There are so many fun details in the ALL FOUR STARS cover. I keep noticing new things every time I see it. Can you give us any insight into your thinking about some of those specifics: Gladys’ striped shirt, for example, or the swirl that she is sitting on, or the jello molds on the table? How did you make those decisions?

KM: Tara did such an amazing job bringing Gladys to life. I love writers who weave small details about the character throughout the whole book. Most of the details were mentioned throughout the text. Some details are taken from my fascination with French patisseries and all of their delights. It made perfect sense to then subtly invite art nouveau lines and curves to frame Gladys.

ALL FOUR STARS sketch 2LAT: Oh, I love that! What’s your favorite thing about the ALL FOUR STARS cover? Is there anything you wish you could go back and tweak?

KM: I really enjoyed painting the fine details, and working with such a bold color palette. I always wish I had more time to tinker and perfect, but if I dwell too long on what could have or should have done, I may never move on to the next painting!

LAT: I wouldn’t change a thing. I think you nailed it! How was ALL FOUR STARS different from your other cover work, either in your own creative process or in terms of production? Were there any surprises, funny anecdotes, or unusual challenges or frustrations?

KM: Initially, the cover was approved and painted with a confining border, and the text broken in different blocks. Ultimately, each word in the title did become too segmented and did not unify together nicely. It was a good idea to change and manipulate the border to let the whole composition breathe a bit. Overall, it changed the dominant color to a much more pleasing and appropriate butter color.

ALL FOUR STARS cover

LAT: Wow, that’s fascinating! What are you working on next? 

KM: I’m already working away on the companion to ALL FOUR STARS! I’ll be finishing up the painting this week!

LAT: I’ll be looking forward to reading it… AND seeing the cover! Thanks again, Kelly. It’s been such a treat to hear the “inside story” behind a absolutely fabulous book cover!


Remember, you can get your own copy of ALL FOUR STARS from your local independent bookstore (find one here), or order it from your favorite national or online retailer such as PenguinPowell’sB&N, or Amazon.

And, don’t forget, comment on any post this week for a chance to win a signed copy!

 

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Filed under Celebrations, cover art, Illustrators, Interviews

Letting Go: A Cautionary Tale for Control Freaks

Pat’s post hit a chord with me. I’m in the prepare-to-prepare stage leading up to my 2015 debut. Trying to forecast promotional efforts in the months leading up to the launch. And, hoping my book is cherished as much as Sophie and Bernice. First, I’m reflecting on the surprising angst that followed my book contract. The angst of letting go.

See, I love the inventive stage of writing. Don’t get me wrong, writing is damn hard. But, I love that evolving sense of possibility when worlds and characters spin out of thin air and land as words on the page. Imagination is magic. Even in nonfiction. From the moment I began writing my debut, STEP RIGHT UP: THE STORY OF BEAUTIFUL JIM KEY, I occupied the story. All writers do this. Before we can add depth and motion to our words, writers visualize until our stories unfold movie-like on the big screen of our mind. We are all eager to control the script and staging. We like telling our characters what to do, what to wear, how to stand. If we can’t visualize it, we can’t write it. In the case of nonfiction, it’s about telling the truth and filling in gaps. Sometimes, that means converting 125-year-old images from two-dimensional, dingy black and white to Technicolor. In panorama. And in 3D.

While writing, the world on the page is mine, mine, mine!

I am in control. Mwahahaha!

 Until I am not.

My editor had suggestions on STEP RIGHT UP. Lots of them. Some of her suggestions were that I undo some of her suggestions. Add, cut, expand, simplify, redirect, rinse, repeat… In a way, my story became a collaboration. But, as the word weaver, I still felt a sense of control. Sort of.

Until I wasn’t.

Enter, the illustrator.

I am in awe of artists who can press “copy” on their mental printers and, voila! They sketch, sculp, paint, and pixelate their visual imaginings for all the world to see. More magic!  So, I was surprised to be so full of angst as I awaited the illustrator reveal. Seriously, y’all. Angst! And worry. And maybe a tiny speck of panic. An illustrator will have his/her own visual interpretation. Their own image of the world Doc and Jim lived in. Their own tinted lens through which the mental movie plays for them. Aaaaack! I found myself playing the “What-if” game. What if the illustrator can’t capture Doc and Jim as I see them? What if his/her art is too silly, too serious, too dark, too light, too cartoony, too portraity, too realistic, too unrealistic?

And, besides, horses are hard to draw. Just ask the people I forced, I mean asked, to draw for me. (Some of these people may be related to me. Except for the tile guy.)

photo copy 5photo

 Arin's horse 8

photo copy 6

Donna horse 1

photo 2

Thankfully, I can be confident that an illustrator will do better. But letting go is hard. As I peruse the books on my shelf, I’m reminded that it takes many creative perspectives to create visually stunning and memorable stories. Magic multiplied. Now, I find that my illustrator angst has given way to excitement. The kind of excitement I felt, not knowing what kind of wonderfulness was wrapped under the Christmas tree. There is a childlike wonder in this anticipation.

I’m ecstatic to announce that Coretta Scott King Honor recipient, Daniel Minter will bring Doc and Jim to life through his spectacular art. Better still, Daniel and I have been communicating. He would like my input. I think I’m in heaven. Check out his work, y’all. My little book baby is in very good hands.

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Filed under Anxiety, Illustrators, Thankfulness, Updates on our Books!

Cover reveal: ALL FOUR STARS by Tara Dairman!

Recipe for a delicious book cover:


Start with one strip of sparkling city skyline…
Skyline only


Stir in 22 mouth-watering desserts…
Desserts only


Add a dash of determined heroine…
Gladys only


Season with one generous scoop of lovely blurb…
Blurb only


And get an incredibly talented artist and design team to cook things up…





and maybe…





just maybe…





if you’re very lucky…





the stars will align…

stars only




and you’ll end up with something like this. 🙂

AllFourStars_FINAL
Gladys Gatsby has dreamed of becoming a restaurant critic for New York’s biggest newspaper—she just didn’t expect to be assigned her first review at age 11. Now, if she wants to meet her deadline and hang on to her dream job, she’ll have to defy her fast-food-loving parents, cook her way into the heart of her sixth-grade archenemy, and battle Manhattan’s meanest maitre d’.

On a menu (by which I mean, in bookstores) near you in summer 2014. Hooray!

Many thanks to amazing cover artist Kelly Murphy (whom we’ve interviewed on Emu’s Debuts before!) and the design team at Penguin Young Readers Group for producing such a perfect cover for my story. Also, today I’m being interviewed by Krista Van Dolzer over at Mother.Write.Repeat. about this cover, the editorial process for All Four Stars, and its sequel-in-progress, so feel free to stop by over there, too, if you’d like a little more behind-the-scenes info on any of those things!

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Tara DairmanTara Dairman is a novelist, playwright, and recovering world traveler. All Four Stars, her debut middle-grade novel about an 11-year-old who secretly becomes a New York restaurant critic, will be published in 2014 by Putnam/Penguin.

Find her online at taradairman.com.

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Getting the girl just right: An interview with RADIO GIRL cover artist Michael Koelsch!

RADIO GIRL by Carol BrendlerWhen you’re reading a historical novel, what’s your first clue that the story is set in a different time period? The cover is usually a pretty good indicator—and in the case of Carol Brendler’s debut novel RADIO GIRL, boy is it ever!

Today I’m so pleased to welcome artist Michael Koelsch to Emu’s Debuts to talk about his work on RADIO GIRL’s beautiful, vintage-inspired cover.

Tara Dairman: Hello, Michael! Your cover for RADIO GIRL is so evocative of the time period when the story is set (1938, the heyday of radio). I see from your portfolio that a lot of your other art also embraces a fabulously “retro” style. What got you interested in creating this style of art?

Michael Koelsch: Thanks. I have been interested in classic illustration since I was little. My grandmother introduced me to a lot of illustration early on: artists like Norman Rockwell, N.C. Wyeth, and even pulpier illustrators like Norman Saunders and Walter Baumhofer. I got into a lot of the old movie posters as well.

N.C. Wyeth brought Treasure Island to life, Rockwell idealized life in America, Saunders made book covers explosive, and illustrators like Coby Whitmore made women beyond gorgeous in advertisements in the 1960’s. These are the guys who I looked up to in school and who I try to bring back when I do illustrations today, whether it’s for advertising or for book covers.

TD: Cecilia (the main character in RADIO GIRL) is the focal point of your cover. Did you have any of the stars of that era—like Judy Garland, or Deanna Durbin—in mind when you drew her?

Radio-Girl_detail

Cece: Ready for her close-up

MG: Most definitely. When doing vintage-looking illustrations, it’s really important to reference the things of the past, whether it’s people, or cars, or buildings. I like to discuss things with the art director and sometimes the author to see what their inspirations were in doing the book. I then put my two cents in visually.

On RADIO GIRL, Judy Garland was a big inspiration—but other actresses from that era also helped me get the feel and look of our girl character for the cover. Once we had the look of the character, then we went through some phases of capturing the emotion and expression our character was going to show. I got some references from the author, but I will tend to do a lot more in-depth studying of that era, from clothing to hair styles, from architecture to color moods of that time period.

A pattern that helped inspire the look of Cece's shirt.

A pattern that helped inspire the look of Cece’s shirt

I will pull things from old books and, of course, the Internet—everything from old sewing patterns to soda pop ads to actual photos of girls from that time period. When doing realistic paintings, everything and anything I can find goes into helping me draw and paint.

TD: A little more about Cecilia: Her face is so expressive of the different emotions she feels in the story (earnestness, bravery, fear). We authors often have to write many drafts of a story to get the emotions just right. Did you need to go through a similar process when drawing Cecilia?

An early sketch of Cece

An early sketch of Cece

MG: My process is quite similar—but usually I don’t have to explore the gamut because I have the benefit of working with an art director who has discussed things with the author or has come up with a rough concept before I start. While this is just the starting point, I already have narrowed things down quite a bit. BUT, while that’s the norm, there are always those times where I do a sketch or two, and then those spark another idea which could be completely different but might make a stronger cover or image. I’ve been blessed with working with confident art directors who are not fearful of trying something different and usually like to explore those options too.

A model for Cece's new expression

A model posing for Cece’s new expression

On this cover specifically, we did actually make an “expression” change with Cecilia.  Initially I went for a classic, almost heroic/confident look for Cecilia, which probably looked too much like a vintage ad.  After some discussion, we decided to pull some “real” emotion into the piece and give her that “first time in a recording studio” look.

TD: What is your process generally like when designing book covers? Did you receive much direction from Holiday House before you started to work on the cover for RADIO GIRL?

MG: I’d probably bore everyone to death if I discussed my whole process, but generally I get a synopsis or a copy of the book. For covers, sometimes I don’t get a chance to read the whole book due to time constraints, so a synopsis from the art director or editor usually works best.

From there, I do a couple of thumbnail sketches based on references I have, or I find references based on those thumbnails. Those are usually for my eyes only, but occasionally I have to send those to the AD too.

The final masterpiece!

The final masterpiece!

After that, I put together a pretty tight sketch from the reference I have or have shot. These tend to have some color thrown on top. This is a good stage to work out any changes to the composition or figures and saves me from redoing them in the final painting. I still paint traditionally, so that’s huge—I can’t always go into Photoshop and just hit “undo.”

Once my sketch is approved, I go to paint on the final. Then I scan the painting and do some minor tweaks and cleaning up in Photoshop and, if need be, add text.

Thanks for the opportunity to share my part of this whole process; I hope you guys find this interesting and possibly inspirational. When authors and illustrators team up together, they get the chance to create a little magic no matter what format, digital or traditional!  It’s a great experience to put ideas to paper.

It sure is, Michael! Thank you so much for sharing your process and your art with us!

***

Readers: What’s your favorite aspect of RADIO GIRL’s cover? Remember, one lucky commenter this week will win a signed copy of the book!

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Tara DairmanTara Dairman is a novelist, playwright, and recovering world traveler. All Four Stars, her debut middle-grade novel about an 11-year-old who secretly becomes a New York restaurant critic, will be published in 2014 by Putnam/Penguin.

Find her online at taradairman.com.

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Filed under Book Promotion, Celebrations, Illustrators, Interviews

“A book. . .is a whole world.”: An Interview with Anne Wilsdorf

One of the intriguing things about a picture book is how the words and the pictures work together to create a story that neither by themselves could make. If you haven’t had a chance to see how this works in Sophie’s Squash, pick up a copy. It’s a lot of fun. Many thanks to Anne Wilsdorf, the artist who illustrated Sophie’s Squash, for talking to me about this process. Anne lives in Lausanne, Switzerland.

ImageMylisa: One of the things I love about your books is that you take advantage of all the places where illustrations can tell the story. For example, you often illustrate the endpapers as you did in Sophie’s Squash.

Anne: Yes. A book is not just something you consume and throw away. It’s a whole world. You enter into that world when you enter the book. So it has to be complete–from the cover all the way to the endpapers. I think when it is complete, it allows you to be in the world of that book.

Mylisa: When a child and an adult are reading a picture book together, the adult is often reading the words but as each page is turned, the child is reading the pictures. Another thing I love about your illustrations is that there is so much detail for the child to read. And one thing that is often going on in your books is that there will be a cat kind of having his own adventures in the book. Which makes me wonder: do you have a cat?

Anne: I thought you might ask about that. Yes, I have two cats. I have always lived with cats. I love the way they look at the world. But they don’t talk so we don’t know what they are thinking. They have their own story. When I put them in a book, they are like someone who comments on the story. They are another point of view.

Mylisa: I’m sure in each book, there are spreads that are your favorites. . .

Anne: There are always favorite pictures where you were able to express something that you wanted to express. I think my favorite part is that I love not only drawing the actions of the characters but translating their emotions. You use gestures or how a character uses her body to show those feelings and emotions. How you put your hands, how you place your feet. It’s just like theater.

Mylisa: And I think you do translate those emotions so beautifully in Sophie’s Squash. For instance, Sophie’s protectiveness and horror when her mother suggests they cook the squash. And then that lovely picture where Sophie has both of her hands on the windowpane and she’s looking out at the snow, worried about her squash, Bernice.

Mylisa: What are a few books that you loved as a child?

Anne: Oh, there were so many, so many.

I loved Tomi Ungerer. I always had his books first. We lived in Africa then and we had a big family–5 children. We were always together. When we had books, it was such a joy, incredible.

I loved the books of Wilhelm Busch. His Max and Moritz books. They are about two boys who do things that are very wrong, very naughty.

Mylisa: How did you begin to illustrate children’s books?

Anne: Since I was a child, I always loved to do books for family, for my sisters. I just kept going. It was natural for me.

I think it’s a way to know the world. When you are in your imagination, you are free to interpret the world. It gives you a very good feeling, a superwoman feeling.

Mylisa: Do you prefer working in traditional media or digitally?

Anne: I like the manual work. I like doing the drawings.

But I don’t hate the computer. I think that could be an interesting way to do things. I just haven’t done it.

Sophie's Squash by Pat Zietlow MillerAnne: I have something I would like to add about Sophie’s Squash. I love the story because it’s not so cute. So often in books we make things how we wish they were. In this story, there’s a problem because the squash is going rotten. This I love. We are very sad with the little girl and then we are very happy with her.

We are like Sophie in this book. I like to show many things in her room. How Sophie manages these objects, how she arranges them, helps us know her. I like to put her drawings on the wall. She is thinking about her squash. She is drawing her squash.

Many thanks to Anne for both the interview and the art. If you want to see a happy marriage between text and pictures, check out Sophie’s Squash.

 

mylisa_email_2-2Mylisa Larsen has been telling stories for a long time. This has caused her to get gimlet-eyed looks from her parents, her siblings and, later, her own children when they felt that certain stories had been embellished beyond acceptable limits. She now writes children’s books where her talents for hyperbole are actually rewarded.

She is the author of the picture books, How to Put Your Parents to Bed (Katherine Tegen Books) and If I Were A Kangaroo (Viking.)

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Filed under Book Promotion, Celebrations, Illustrators