Saturday, November 29, 2008

Terroist attack

Children's book author & illustrator Linda Ragsdale was shot in the back in the terroist attacks in India and underwent surgery. After the attacks, her husband flew to India on an emergency visa to be with her. Linda's such an energetic and fun woman; the first time I met her she bought me dinner and we laughed all night. Please keep her in your thoughts and prayers for a quick and full recovery.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Highlights Magazine

I'm so honored to have illustrated a wonderful Christmas poem by Eileen Spinelli in this month's issue of Highlights Magazine. Highlights - "the world's best-loved magazine" - how sweet is that!

The only thing I didn't realize was how dark and dull my illustration would print on magazine newsprint. The top is what it looks like in the magazine, and the bottom is how it's supposed to look. Hmmm... I'm hoping for more assignments from Highlights, and I'll be sure to up my brightness and colors next time around.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Illustration Friday "Pretend"

This is one of the card designs I did for Christian Collection's Christmas 2009 catalog. I know it's a whole year away before you'll be able to buy the cards, but that's how timing works for when they need the final art!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Trade Book Sketches

What am I currently working on? A sweet, trade picture book for Shen's Books. Here's a lil' sneak peek at the main character. I'm still in the sketch phase. It's so much fun to create a personality, a tiny life that exists in this book.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Operation Christmas Child

The thing I love most about this time of year is a program called Operation Christmas Child. You take an ordinary shoebox, fill it with toys, school supplies, hygiene items, and a note, take it to a local church who will send it to Samaritan's Purse, who will carry your box around the world and give it to a needy child. It may be the first present that child has ever received. What a tangible way to show little children that God loves them, and they are precious in His sight! If you're interested in filling a shoebox, you can go to the Samaritan's Purse website to see where in your city you can drop off your box: They collect boxes until Nov 24, so that they still have time to ship them around the world before Christmas. Here's a video about the program:

I love this ministry, and try to do as many boxes as I can each year! Please join me.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Illustration Friday "Strings"

When I saw the Illustration Friday topic of "strings," I thought of a tightrope. And since I have penguins on the mind, I decided to draw a performance poster for Mr. Popper's Penguins.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

I won SCBWI Midsouth Conference Poster Contest!

I packed my bags and headed to the Midsouth SCBWI Conference last weekend. I had a wonderful time.

A new part of the conference this year was a poster contest for children's book art. The conference faculty chose the one that they felt looked most like the cover of a children's book and mine won. How exciting is that!

There were a lot of beautiful illustrations at this conference. Those of us who had attended last year's conference and had met with the Art Director, Laurent Linn, have greatly improved our portfolios based on his articulate suggestions. It's so encouraging to learn at these conferences what makes strong illustrations for the picture book industry and to see other artists grow. I can't wait to see next year's artwork after meeting with Victoria Jamieson this year.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

SCBWI Midsouth Conference

This past weekend I attended the Midsouth SCBWI Conference in Nashville, TN. This region seriously puts on amazing conferences! Here are some of my notes:

Bruce Coville (author of more than 90 books)
I've loved Bruce's books that I've read and listened to. He's such a super dynamic and animated speaker. If you ever get a chance to hear him, go, go, go!
HA! WA! YIKES! If you can get all three of these reactions in your reader, you've written a great book.
HA! Kids love humor. How do you get a laugh? Use one of the following words: fart, booger, butt, naked, etc. But the best laugh is one that comes from the story itself. For example, a bully gets puts into his place.
WA! An honest tear. Easy tear - kill the dog. But the best tear comes from the story itself. For example, tears of joy when something so wonderful happens.
YIKES! Kids love scary books. The best scary is when a character you love is in trouble, emotional peril.
Use sensory details to sweep you into a scene. In any important scene, use 3 of the 5 senses.
Make a good story a great story by making your character face a tough moral choice. The question kids have is not, "Do I want to be good?" but rather, "Who do I want to be like?" Provide role models.
"Sometimes I write a fairytale because it's the best way to tell the truth." - C.S. Lewis

Victoria Jamieson (designs picture books, middle grade, and YA for Greenwillow)
Victoria has a website with her own illustration work, and she has a fun picture book coming out next summer, Bea Rocks the Flock!
She prefers illustrators to send in postcard samples of their artwork, not envelopes that she has to open.
Have a web portfolio where she can find more of your work, and she can print it out.
If you like a particular subject or type of book, do at least 3 illustrations like that for your portfolio.
Victoria showed us some picture book dummies which I found very helpful since I would like to write and illustrate my own picture books.
She talked about Darcy Pattison's Narrative Arc Formula:
This is a story about ______________________________
Who more than anything else wants __________________
(Alternate: Who more than anything else fears_________________)
But can’t get it because of these complications:
(Alternate: But has to face it because of these complications:)
UNTIL (climax/resolution).

Amalia Ellison (Assistant Editor at Abrams)
Why have an agent: Agents protect you in ways you don't realize until it's too late.
If you don't want an agent: query the assistant and associate editors and editorial assistants if they have aquiring ability. They are the ones who will be passionate about your books and will work on building a relationship with you because your success means success for them.
Amalia prefers email submissions with manuscripts as attachments (go green). If she feels your writing is great, but it's not what she's interested in, she'll pass it around the office. Amalia loves mysteries, math mysteries, and humorous adventure books - so do I! She was quite funny and a good storyteller.

I had a portfolio critique with Victoria Jamieson at this conference. Last fall, I had portfolio critiques with Laurent Linn from Henry Holt and Elizabeth Parisi from Scholastic, and I've been putting into practice all that they said about art for trade book publishing. I feel like my artwork has really grown over the past year, but I know I still have a lot of growing to do. I was excited to see what the comments would be at my critique this year, because most of the illustrations in my portfolio are new. There was one piece in my portfolio that an Art Director had said was my strongest piece two years ago. That was one of the only two illustrations that Victoria told me this weekend to take out of my portfolio now. How encouraging! What had been my strongest piece two years ago is now my weakest piece! Most of my new pieces are stronger, so that verified my growth as an artist. Yay!
These two illustrations Victoria pointed out as being some of my strongest:

Harold Underdown and Alexis O'Neill also spoke at the conference. If you're interested in writing or illustrating for children, I highly suggest digesting all of Harold's website and checking out his book, The Complete Idiot's Guide to Children's Book Publishing. Also, join SCBWI and go to some of these amazingly helpful conferences!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Illustration Friday "Island"

This is a color comp I'm working on for one of my own picture book manuscripts, and it fits the Illustration Friday theme since little brother discovers big sister's island of vegetation in her bedroom.

This, of course, is just a messy color comp, not the finished painting, but I've been getting frustrated over it trying to get the colors and composition to work together. I was hoping to have the painting finished before the SCBWI conference I'm going to next week, but I doubt that's going to happen with all my other illustration work right now and with my main computer in the shop. But perhaps this illustration will end up falling into place... I do like some areas of color in this.

Check back after next weekend for my notes from the conference.

Monday, August 25, 2008

New leveled reader series

This series of 6 leveled readers that I illustrated for Seedling Publications has just been released! The colors printed exactly how I expected thanks to my new monitor.

These are all copyrighted 2008 Seedling Publications. Do not post these images anywhere. Thanks.

Monday, August 18, 2008

5.5" x 8.5" Postcard Mailer

Click on the image to see it larger.

I'm getting ready to do a mailing to art directors and editors at publishing houses I'd like to work for, and I've created a few different options for the front of my 5.5" x 8.5" postcard. The back of the card shows a couple characters in multiple poses that are sample interior black & white illustrations for a middle grade novel. Front 3 shows a sample middle grade cover using the same characters that I used on the back. I'll send Front 3 to those who don't work on picture books, but stictly publish chapter books/middle grade/YA.

My dilemma is what to send to those who publish both picture books and middle grade. Front 1 and Front 2 show my Peter Pan illustration and an illustration that will be in Highlights in the December issue. The Highlights illustration would work fine for picture book editors, and the back of the card shows middle grade illustrations, so both picture books and middle grade would be covered in one card. The other option is to send Front 3 to everyone who works on middle regardless of whether or not they do picture books too and just target middle grade right now. What do you think? Show both picture book and middle grade samples on one card or just focus on middle grade for this mailer?

Friday, August 08, 2008

Illustration Friday - "Sail"

It was smooth sailing for this year's Christmas pageant.

This is the front of a Christmas card design I'm working on that will be licensed for Christmas 2009 to Christian Collection. Typically they have me design about 1.5 years ahead of the holiday for cards. You can find of more of my cards on their website for this Christmas:

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Peter Pan

A bit of fairy dust, a good thought, and POOF! You could fly too!

Last week I read Peter Pan as part of Jacqui Robbin's Remedial English Lit Summer Project. Here's my cocky, young Peter.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Happy Fourth of July!

So, this is a bit belated, but I hope you enjoyed your holiday weekend (if you live in the US). My husband and I spent the weekend helping some friends move down to Texas where we used to live. It was fun to visit old friends, but it was quite a drive - 15 hours of driving each way! Whew! It's a good thing we love being in a car together and listening to books on CD. We listened to Tears of the Giraffe, which was wonderful, and we listened to Whiskers of Evil, which had an interesting plot, but the writing went off into needless tangents and should have been cut in many boring places. It also used Bible verses completely out of context, which annoys me. So I don't recommend the second book, but the first book is a great read.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Moby Dick

I just finished reading Moby Dick as part of Jacqui Robbin's Remedial English Lit Summer Project, and man, if that book was published today, I'm sure most every editor would have cut it down to at least a quarter of it's size! Chapters upon chapters upon chapters of whale anatomy and characteristics - oy!

One of my favorite characters was the little ship-keeper boy, Pip, so I did the character sketch of him above. Here's a section of a scene from Moby Dick about Pip:

"Ha, Pip? come to help; eh, Pip?”
“Pip? whom call ye Pip? Pip jumped from the whaleboat. Pip’s missing. Let’s see now if ye haven’t fished him up here, fisherman. It drags hard; I guess he’s holding on. Jerk him, Tahiti! Jerk him off we haul in no cowards here. Ho! there’s his arm just breaking water. A hatchet! a hatchet! cut it off—we haul in no cowards here. Captain Ahab! sir, sir! here’s Pip, trying to get on board again.”
“Peace, thou crazy loon,” cried the Manxman, seizing him by the arm. “Away from the quarter-deck!”
“The greater idiot ever scolds the lesser,” muttered Ahab, advancing. “Hands off from that holiness! Where sayest thou Pip was, boy?
“Astern there, sir, astern! Lo! lo!”
“And who art thou, boy? I see not my reflection in the vacant pupils of thy eyes. Oh God! that man should be a thing for immortal souls to sieve through! Who art thou, boy?”
“Bell-boy, sir; ship’s-crier; ding, dong, ding! Pip! Pip! Pip! One hundred pounds of clay reward for Pip; five feet high—looks cowardly— quickest known by that! Ding, dong, ding! Who’s seen Pip the coward?”

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Tuesday, June 10, 2008


I have an illustration in Borderlines, the quarterly newsletter of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, Midsouth Region. You can view the pdf newsletter here. This issue has some great illustrations along with advice about writing for magazines, writing middle grade novels, snagging an agent, and more. If you're interested in writing or illustrating for kids, you can find more SCBWI regional newsletters from all over the world here. Enjoy!

Illustration Friday - "Forgotten"

I had forgotten to add a title to this sample cover illustration I had created a few weeks ago. I had originally created it for the Illustration Friday topic, "wide," and asked for your ideas for a title name. I went with Woody's suggestion of The Last Divide. Thanks Woody! I also played a bit more with the illustration.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Baby Mowgli

Ok, right now I'm supposed to be sketching a Highlights illustration (my first Highlights assignment - yay!) and I'm supposed to be working on paintings for two different leveled readers, but since I just finished The Jungle Book as part of Jacqui Robbin's Remedial English Lit Summer Project, I took a quick break to sketch a fearless, baby Mowgli who won the heart of a wolf family. So here's an adorable, jungle baby. Now back to my fun paying illustrations...

Illustration Friday - "Baby"

Monday, June 02, 2008

Picture Bookies!

The Picture Bookies is a group of 8 professional illustrators and writers dedicated to their craft and to inspiring kids to love and read books. They invited me to join, and I'm so excited! I received such a warm welcome already.

Here's the Picture Bookies website:
And the Picture Bookies blog:

The Picture Bookies have another blog where they showcase the work of almost 50 illustrators who have been invited to join the showcase blog:

Friday, May 23, 2008

Illustration Friday - "Worry"

These top four sketches are from my sketchbook this week. I'd like to add a "Sketches" section to my website portfolio. Which ones do you think I should use? I have lots more sketches to choose from too; these were just the ones that I felt went with the Illustration Friday topic, "Worry."

I sketched these two, cute brothers in the subway station in New York. The smaller one kept trying to pull his older brother away from the yellow line that he's not supposed to touch while waiting for the subway. He was sooo worried that his brother would fall in. I think I captured the older brother's attitude pretty well here.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Illustration Friday - "Wide"

A wide chasm to leap across!

I created this piece this morning for my chapter book/middle grade novel portfolio. I'd like to make this into a cover illustration sample by adding a made-up title. Any good ideas for a title?

Friday, May 09, 2008

Illustration Friday - "Electricity"

"The front of the black rock glowed as Bryce picked it up. Odd."

This is another sample illustration with a made-up caption for my chapter book/middle grade portfolio. It goes with the b&w illustrations a few posts ago. I'd love to illustrate some adventure books for trade publishers.

I just finished reading Alcatraz versus the Evil Librarians by Brandon Sanderson. That would have been a fun book to illustrate (hint: Scholastic, if you'd like b&w illustrations in the next printing, please hire me).

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Orphan Works Bill

Have you heard about the Orphan Works Bill that has been proposed? It could devastate artists' careers by allowing anyone to use our artwork and claim that they can't find the copyright holder of that piece of art. Our paintings or photographs can easily be labeled "orphan" and are then open to anyone to use. If we find someone using our work, we need to take them to court, prove that we own the copyright to the image, and then we'll only be compensated a "reasonable" amount for use of that piece of artwork because the infringer did nothing wrong if they claim they couldn't find the copyright owner. It puts the burden on the artist instead of on the infringer. The infringer will have no reason to try to find a copyright holder. It's just wrong.

Illustrators Partnership has set up a website where you can email your Senators and Representatives about this bill with just one click:

If you're a visual artist, please become educated on this issue and take action.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Greeting Cards

The Picture Bookies Showcase theme for the week is "Greetings" so I thought I'd post some of the greeting cards I license. I usually license between 4-6 greeting card designs a year. This image is a small sample my previously licensed cards. Click the image to see the cards large enough to read.

I've just removed my whole greeting card section from my portfolio website, because I want my portfolio to focus more on illustrating children's books, specifically trade books. For trade, I'm gearing my portfolio both toward picture books and toward chapter books, although I haven't yet done any jacket art samples. I guess that should be next on my portfolio sample list.

I also do a fair amount of educational illustrations, so I included a black and white line art section on my website. That kind of work is fun, quick, and pays well. I love creating lots of new characters in black and white line, especially kids of diverse ethnicities, and to create personality in a character with the stroke of a pen (digital pen that is).

My two current goals are to find more clients who need line art and to break into trade publishing. I've just sent out lots of postcards (see my last post) and I'm already getting the next postcard sample ready to send out.

This morning I read a great post on what to include and not include in your portfolio by Cheryl Klein, an editor for Arthur A. Levine Books (Scholastic). I'm looking through my online portfolio a bit closer. Do you see anything I should remove on Some of the pieces that I feel are weaker, others have commented on and said they love. It's hard to know what the art directors will think. I'm constantly changing out the pieces in my printed portfolio. What do you think is my strongest piece? Weakest piece? Anyone?

Monday, April 14, 2008

Promotional Postcard

(Update: I've created a newer blog post on promotional postcards going further in depth on the subject)

A few days ago, I sent over 300 of these postcards to publishers, editors, and art directors. This is a 5"x7" postcard and I placed a label with the publisher's address in the center of the blue tablecloth. I usually get my postcards printed at, but since Vistaprint doesn't do 5"x7" postcards, I had this one printed at

Right now, I'm working on illustrating a series of 6 easy reader books. They'll be published this summer, so it'll be a little bit before I can show you a peek at the artwork. It's a really fun series with a theme I really enjoy! I'm also working on some black and white line drawings for educational purposes for another publisher, and I'm trying to find time to work on my picture book dummy for one of the manuscripts I've written. Lots of work at the moment - yay!

Friday, April 04, 2008

Illustration Friday - "Save"

How do you save a crate filled with top secret stuff from the bad guys? Hop on it and slide...

I created this illustration this morning based on the Illustration Friday theme of "Save". It's another sample piece for my middle grade book portfolio.

I just finished reading Max and Maddy and the Chocolate Money Mystery by Alexander McCall Smith. This illustration is sort of inspired by a scene from that novel. In the story, there are dogs who are running alongside the children and helping the children. I thought it would add more drama to have creatures chasing them along with the bad guys so I drew it that way.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Illustration Friday - "Leap"

I created this illustration today for a new portfolio piece based on Illustration Friday's prompt of "Leap." I'm adding black & white pieces to my portfolio that would work for chapter books and middle grade novels. I like adventure stories, so I'm using these two characters in a number of additional pieces. What do you think?

Friday, February 15, 2008

SCBWI Winter Conference Trip - Sunday

Sunday started off with the Portfolio Exhibition awards. Tomie dePaola had a short list of illustrators he liked: Sandre Griffin, Larry Day, Jim Carroll, Andrew Mitchell, and Sarah Stern
And the winner of the Tomie dePaola Award of $1000 art supply gift certificate was Heather Powers.
The winners of the juried exhibition were:
Honorable Mention - John Rocco and John Deininger
3rd place - Alan Witschonke
2nd place - P.A. Lewis
Winner of a full-page in picture book and a trip to NY to visit art directors - Jim Carroll

Susan Patron, winner of the 2007 Newbery Medal for The Higher Power of Lucky, gave us a hilarious list of how she went about winning the Newbery and what she's been doing this whole past year as the Newbery winner. One tip from her list, "Words for body parts may be used where needed if they are of service to the story." In case you haven't heard what was all over the media this past year, Susan used the word "scrotum" in numerous places in her book and many people wanted to ban the book because of it. Ridiculous. It was referring to a snake biting a dog's scrotum and the main character asks an adult what the word means. The adult gives a nice, scientific answer. I think that shows kids that it's ok to ask adults about words that you hear and don't know what they mean. Now that the 2008 Newbery winner has been picked, Susan's husband calls her an Oldbery.

Next was a panel on the path of the picture book. It included Arthur Levine (the publisher/editor), Jonah Winter (the author), John Mason (sales at Scholastic), Tracey Van Straaten (publicity at Scholastic), and Bob Brown (bookseller). But sadly, no illustrator was on the panel. Jonah talked about how he got his idea for the picture book, Dizzy and how Arthur signed it up. The editor helps to focus a book. Sum up the manuscript in one sentence and parts that distract from the main point needs to be cut for picture books. Eliminate extraneous material. After the art layouts were created by Sean Qualls, Arthur showed them to Jonah. Jonah thought the art looked too somber for such an exuberant story, so some changes were suggested to the illustrator and it made the book much stronger. John Mason talked about how wonderful Jonah's reading of the text was, so marketing decided to make a recording of Jonah reading the book and sent that out to reviewers and librarians. Tracy used the starred reviews to market the book further through magazines, newspapers, and the media. Black History Month provided more marketing opportunities. Bob talked about why he bought this picture book for his store and how excited he was about it.

The last speaker was Richard Peck, a novelist. "Our readers are looking for themselves in our books." "Fiction is not real life with the names changed." "If you can't find yourself in the pages of a book early in life, you'll go looking in all the wrong places."

After the conference was over, we all said our good-byes. Here's a pic of my roommate Susan and me:

I stayed for four more days after the conference to sight-see in New York with my husband and to drop off portfolios at various publishers. It was a fun week!

SCBWI Winter Conference Trip - Saturday

"Fire in the chute!" That was Lin Oliver merrily shouting in response to the alarm system going off for probably an hour on Saturday morning in the Hilton and delaying the conference a bit. She said she's always wanted to yell that, even though "it's a boy thing to say." Apparently there was a small fire on one floor of the HIlton.

Lin greeted 1064 conference attendees from 45 states and 10 countries. Yep, it's a big conference.

The first keynote speaker of the day was Nikki Grimes who spoke on the power of poetry. "Poetry is the place where words and music meet." "Poetry at its heart is about painting a picture with words."

Next was my favorite speaker of the whole conference, David Wiesner. I just love his books! Here he is talking about his young days of drawing disconnected arms (you can see his artwork on the screen):

David said that early in his career he became known as the cute lil' animal guy, illustrating books like Owly. He wanted to do more in the line of folktales and fairytales, so he redid his portfolio to show the kind of work he'd like to get. In 1983 he started working on his own wordless picture book, Free Fall, filled with all kinds of imagery he had been working on for his own personal pieces. That book was published in 1988 and won a Caldecott Honor. He's won 3 Caldecott Medals (Flotsam, The Three Pigs, and Tuesday) and 2 Caldecott Honors (Sector 7 and Free Fall). For references, David likes to build models of the characters or buildings in his artwork in order to experiment with lighting, shadows, and perspective. He showed us slides of model frogs, pigs, and buildings. Here are some photos of his process (click them to see them bigger):

The choices for the breakout sessions were all editors, no art directors. I was disappointed in this because the editors seemed to speak only on writing and just skimmed over the illustrators, basically giving the publisher's guidelines for submitting illustrations which we could get online.

For the morning breakout session, I saw Anamika Bhatnagar, a Senior Editor from Scholastic. She's looking for books with unique writing and a strong narrative voice. Picture books need to make her laugh out loud. She likes short, simple, alliteration, rhyming, fun sounds, satisfying, strong verbs and actions. Some picture books she likes: A Birthday for Cow, I'm the Biggest Thing in the Ocean, and Jane Yolen's dinosaur books. She wants chapter books starring characters she wants to be friends with. She loves school books, grounded in reality for either gender, humorous and satisfying. For illustrations, she likes everything, paintings to cartoons, graphic novels, very realistic to simple, black and white illustrations in books like Clementine. Anamika seems like she would be a fun person to work with.

At lunch I sat next to an illustrator, Carrie Harman, and an agent who spends her time between England and the U.S. The luncheon keynote speaker was Carolyn Mackler, a teen novelist. She was funny, but since I don't have any desire to ever do teen novels, I didn't get anything out of her speech.

For the afternoon breakout session, I saw David Gale from Simon & Schuster. He said he's best known for teen novels (wish I knew that ahead of time!) The few picture books that he does, he wants to be as short as possible, just one line per spread, and he despises rhyme. He wants kid-friendly books with a beginning, middle, and end. His list is full with previous authors and big sellers, so if he takes on a new book from one of us, he would have to take off one book from his list. He said to send manuscripts to the general submissions pile, so that junior editors can pick them up. For illustrators, he basically just read the guidelines from the website. No insight for us.

Last on the agenda for the day was an agent panel. Again, nothing really helpful for illustrators. The agents pretty much addressed the writers. For picture books, we heard character-driven picture books with clever plots that are short, simple, and easy to read, get great reactions from kids.

So overall, this day was for writers. David Wiesner was the only super helpful speaker of the day for illustrators.

SCBWI Winter Conference Trip - Friday

Friday I attended the Illustrator’s Intensive, an optional part of the conference that we paid extra to attend. It was a day fully focused on illustrating.

Jerry Pinkney spoke first. He has illustrated over 100 children’s books and won all kinds of awards, so you’d think he would be super confident. But it was a relief to hear that even he has doubts at times about his artwork. In his early artwork, he received one critique saying that his people were stiff compared to his animals. He said it was true, he used models as reference for his people but for his animals, he looked at photos, then used his imagination to pose them. I was recently told the same thing about my artwork and that makes so much sense. Using my imagination to pose my figures instead of relying on true photographic poses, offers so much more energy and kid-appeal.

An agent, Holly McGhee, spoke on stepping out of your comfort zone in order challenge yourself and make leaps in your writing or illustrating. She seemed to give a lot more examples of writing instead of illustrating to this group of illustrators. Oh well.

Tracy van Straaten & John Mason, both from Scholastic, acted out meetings on publicity and promotion of various kinds of children’s books. We heard about some of the ways that the publisher will promote, publicize, and market our books. Before our book is published, we can ask our publisher what we can do to help. Speak to the Author Appearance Coordinator at your publisher to let them know that you’d like to do school visits and such and detail what you do in your presentations. Timing is especially important in promotion.

Next was a panel with Arthur Levine (his own imprint at Scholastic), Bob Brown (bookseller), Kate McClelland (librarian), & Cecilia Yung (Penguin):
What is overdone in picture books: pirates, series based on a formula and gimmicks, sugary sweet books
What is selling: very simple art style with limited text, also beautiful books
What you want to see in picture books: books that build character in the reader (Bob), new baby joining family (Bob), folklore and fairytales (Kate), hard issues and special needs (Kate), minority and diverse characters in contemporary culture that kids can relate to (Arthur and Cecilia)

Terri Goldich presented handouts and spoke on archiving everything from sketches to finals. The Thomas J. Dodd center has an amazing collection and it was fun to see her slides of sketches, notes, dummies, and paintings from various artists. She also addressed how important it is to save digital files correctly and have backups. I work pretty much all digital now so the handout on that was interesting to me.

Robin Galender spoke on copyright for artists. The copyright owner has exclusive right to derivative works. You can't take someone's art and change it "enough" to call it your own. Even in collages, you technically need to have the right to use any small piece in your collage. Wow. She stunned the audience with that one. She told us what things aren't able to be copyrighted (ideas, historical & biographical facts, names of characters, US Government works, etc). She listed what items are in public domain (anything before 1923, and some things published 1923-1964 if the copyright wasn't extended). She gave us examples of the Fair Use Exemption. The copyright office is working on their website to allow us to register online soon. Very informative talk.

Next we had a surprise speaker - Tomie dePaola! He was filling in because one of the speakers was delayed in arriving. Tomie had just come from viewing our portfolios and he gave us his first thoughts on them - both positive and negative. He said a fair number of the portfolios looked "the same." He didn't like the art that looked too much like Bratz characters. He was looking for art that stood out from the crowd. Here are some questions he said to ask ourselves:
Is there too much in my portfolio?
Is it consistent quality?
Have I included any student work? Take it out.
Is it different than everyone else's?
Don't put your strongest or weakest piece first. If you put your strongest first, it's all downhill from there. If you put your weakest first, the reviewer loses interest already.
Tomie said some of the attendees didn't follow directions and brought large portfolios for the exhibition. I was surprised they were still allowed in the show. It created a problem because the space was already too limited for 200 portfolios.

Harry Bliss arrived from snowy Vermont. His showed slides of his cartoons, his New Yorker covers, and his picture book work. He was funny and very real, telling things how they are, but he seemed burned out and a little down too. He said he puts his all into everything he does and now he's going to take time off indefinitely from illustrating picture books because it's taking too much out of him.

Last up was a panel on marketing and publishing. Here are a couple tidbits from that:
Publishers set up author tours, but if you publish at a bunch of houses, one publisher may not want to send you to promote books from other houses. So it seems better to build a relationship with one house instead of being too spread out.
Your book may win an award, but the publisher has a short list of which award stickers they're going to spend money putting on book covers.

Friday night was the private portfolio exhibition for Publishers, Art Directors, Editors, and Agents. I'm glad that they didn't allow all of us illustrators to be there to distract the publishers from seeing the actual portfolios. Hopefully, my work was noticed, but who knows?

After we picked up our portfolios from the exhibition, a group of us illustrators met up at the Marketplace restaurant in the Hilton to see each other's work and chat. It was: me, my roommate Susan Eaddy, Adrian Tan, Jeff James, Priscilla Jo Neilson, Mary Uhles, and Amy Cerny. I think there were one or two more, but those were the cards that I got.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

SCBWI winter Conference Trip - Thursday

I had in-person portfolio reviews with two different publishers on Thursday: Henry Holt and Farrar, Straus, and Giroux. Both went well. As always, the Michelle sketches I've done were popular and it was suggested I do more black and white drawings that could work for trade middle grade books and chapter books.

I also had great reactions to my animal illustrations, especially the dancing penguins that I revised quite a bit last week. Here they are:

This is the Flatiron Building where those two publishers are located. What a cool building!

I dropped off a portfolio at Viking and did a bit of shopping for cute shoes. I also bought a sketchbook at A.I. Friedman (great art store) and visited a children's book store called Book of Wonder. Books of Wonder had signed originals and prints on exhibition in the back of the store by some mighty illustrators including Hilary Knight, Graeme Base, Mo Willems, David McPhail, and Uri Shulevitz. Thursday night, my roommate at the conference, Susan Eaddy and I, had dinner and a fun girly night with Linda Ragsdale, Kristin Tubb (who has a new book coming out soon called AUTUMN WINIFRED OLIVER DOES THINGS DIFFERENT, and another illustrator named Marie. What a fun day.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Winter SCBWI conference

The big Winter SCBWI Conference in New York City is coming up in just over a week!

Illustrators who are going - Since there's no scheduled time to be able to see each other's portfolios, I'm getting together a group of illustrators at 9pm Friday night in the NY Marketplace restaurant on the lobby floor of the Hilton to peruse each other's portfolios after the private portfolio exhibition. Hope to see you there!

Saturday, January 19, 2008

New series in the works!

I'm working on the first book in a series of six early readers for a publisher I've illustrated 24 books for already. This will be my first series of six books for them. Yay! It's a fun series and I can't wait to show some of the art. The first book will be published next month, so I have extremely tight deadlines - only four weeks per book. Yikes! Better get painting...

Another note: I'm attending the SCBWI Winter Conference in New York in a few weeks. My portfolio will be in a private exhibition for art directors, editors, and agents, but since it's private I'm not allowed to be there to see the reactions to my artwork. I can leave postcards featuring my artwork in front of my portfolio and could possibly gauge how much interest there is in my work by how many postcards are taken. We'll see... exciting.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

I won Kathy Weller's new picture book

Kathy Weller held a contest on the Picture Book Junkies blog and I won an autographed copy of her first illustrated picture book, The Months. Congrats Kathy! Can't wait to see it.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Illustration Friday - "100%"

He's 100% excited to see snow.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!