Friday, May 25, 2007

The heat is on...

I took these photos this week. Nice sunny days. Warm, but nice. I could still leave the studio door open. Well, now it's approaching 100 degrees, with 105 just around the corner. Good bye open door 'till about...mid September!

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Welcome to Our House

The Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators Arizona held their 5th annual "Welcome to Our House" Conference this past Saturday. This year's theme was "It takes a Village: From Craft to Market and Beyond". The event, held in Scottsdale, was another great success. It was so cool hearing how each speaker used the theme, It takes a village... in their presentation. The full day event included individual manuscript critiques, portfolio reviews, a presentation from three editors, (Pamela Bobowicz, Sarah Cloots, and Alexandra Cooper) one designer director, (Sara Gillingham) and one literary agent, (Maircia Wernick) Up Close and Personal Breakout Sessions, and First Page/First Illustration panel discussions.

It was a great day for talking shop, meeting up with old friends, and meeting new cyber-space friends in person! Each member of the faculty shared some background on the publishing house they are at or agency they work for. What books they are working on or recently finished. What has been a success for them. What books they like. And what they are looking for in submissions.

The Setting

The Conference Room

The Crowd

The Presentation
(Alexandra Cooper)

The Design Director
(Sara Gillingham with illustrator Amanda Shepard)

The Agent
(Marcia Wernick and me)

The Breakout Session

The "First Page"

The"First Illustration"
(boy that's big!)

The Wait

The Critique

We heard a lot about voice from everyone, include the design director. I found this very interesting. I took it as meaning that your "style" is like your visual voice. Which makes a lot of sense to me. I know that's what I have been trying to develop for the last two years. As far as writing goes, I felt like the first page session best defined what "finding your voice" is. Just hearing the story read out loud, and the reactions from the panel, seemed to make something click for me. I started to feel like I knew which one had a "true" voice before the panel even commented on it. I know it is something that will carry over the next time I sit down to write.

On a personal note: I had a very good portfolio review and a good reaction from the First Illustration panel! OK, it was a really good reaction. More than I could have hoped for!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Book Review: Lissy's Friends

Lissy's Friends, written and illustrated by Grace Lin. Viking (a division of Penguin Young Readers Group). $15.99

I got this package in the mail shortly after responding to the opportunity to read an advance copy of Lissy’s Friends, a new book by author/illustrator Grace Lin. Being a graphic designer and having a fine appreciation for a great presentation, I have to say just opening the package blew me away. Not only was there a beautiful book with the distinctive art of Grace Lin adorning its cover, but there was a handmade note card in a small gold envelope, a shimmery gold paper band wrapped around the book and sealed with a sticker bearing her logo, and best of all, a beautiful paper crane attached with gold thread strung in beads. Now this is impressive! The only problem is, it’s setting up very high expectations for the book itself.

But, Lissy’s Friends doesn’t disappoint! A delightful cover. Interior pages loaded with colors, patterns, and shapes just like Lissy’s origami friends. Illustrations that literally come to life, as we see inanimate objects take on their own personalities. From the soft background patterns and detailed borders, to the darling little Lissy herself, Lin put her unique and recognizable style all over this book.

It’s a simple story about a simple problem, one that both kids and parents can relate to, adapting to change and fitting in. Lissy finds the most unusual and imaginative way to do this! Her plan works at first, but she soon discovers that it won’t last. The friends she “made” must move on. (Although these friends do show up in a surprising way later on, just when you think the story is over, showing how moving on to new things can lead to adventure!) The story uses the metaphors of “making” and “losing” friends. Lissy makes new friends each day, only her friends are folded out of colorful paper. Eventually she realizes that losing those friends is exactly what helps her make “real” friends.

Lin was able to do what all great author/illustrators must be able to do, let the words and the images compliment one another. My favorite spread shows this done to perfection. Lissy is walking down the school hallway with other kids around her, but not talking to her. Barely visible is a paper crane peaking out of her pocket. The text reads “The rest of the day, Lissy smiled a secret smile.” This made me smile too. The reader immediately feels like she knows the secret that none of the kids at school do.

The story shows both Lissy’s sad and her happy moments, and ultimately the understanding of what a treasure true friendship really is. As an added bonus, instructions are included on how to fold a paper crane. Kids will not only delight in discovering all the different origami animals in this book, they will be anxious to make one of their very own. In fact, I think it’s time for me to make one for myself!

Monday, May 14, 2007

They're in the Mail!

My very first mass mailing to art directors went out to all the publishing houses on my wish list Saturday! After spending last week double checking all the publishers I've been researching and verifying addresses, art directors, and submission requirements, all my envelopes were stuffed, stamped, and mailed. Just in time to beat the postal rate increase. Funny thing is I had brought my prototype to the post office last week to make sure I had the right amount of postage. I was told it needed 63 cents. Well, I heard on the radio this morning that the new amount for a letter requiring an extra stamp actually decreased to 59 cents! Interesting how they didn't think of mentioning that when I was at the post office. Oh well, at least it gave me a deadline. And a deadline always makes me get things done.

Friday, May 4, 2007

"Thank You to Verla Kay" Campaign

Verla Kay's Blue Board and Award Winning Website has been an inspiration, a sounding board, a research tool, a friend finder, a motivator, a soapbox, a response time resource, a critique tool, an event announcer, a good news board, a place to discuss children's literature, and a fun place to hang out!

Somehow she not only keeps this small community running smoothly, but she finds time to write too! Check out her latest book is
Rough, Tough Charley, a non-fiction biography about a stagecoach driver from the 1850's and 1860's written in her signature style of cryptic rhyme.

I've gotten so much out of the blue board. Now it's time for me to join the campaign. I'm asking my library to order her latest book and I'm buying a copy of it and Tattered Sails. How about you? Show your support and join the campaign! And thank you Verla Kay!

You can find out more about all of Verla Kay's books here. And buy them here or here.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Clearing Things Up

I thought I'd better clear things up. After my last post people were getting the impression that I'm a neat and organized person. On the contrary, in reality I have a very difficult time getting rid of anything. I also like to stack. I mean really like to stack. Sometimes I can't find a thing, other times I know exactly where to find what I'm looking for. In fact, it seems like once I clean things up, I can’t find anything!

Earlier this week, a Blue Rose Girl mentioned a book on her blog made just for me. "The Perfect Mess: The Hidden Benefits of Disorder--How Crammed Closets, Cluttered Offices, and On-the-Fly Planning Make the World a Better Place" by Eric Abrahamson and David H. Freedman." (Thanks Alvina! I love the deck of cards analogy.) I'm going to have to get a copy of that book!

I think being creative is just a messy business. I recently saw some messy spaces here and here and here and here. In fact Don mentions on his blog, that he read somewhere, that there is a correlation between a messy work area and creativity. If anyone finds that article, let me know. I'd like to read more about it.