Illustrators, how do your stories grow?

Illustrators, writers, quite inspired, how do your stories grow? was the theme for the 2012 regional conference of the Houston Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) back in March. The weekend featured a most inspired and prolific storyteller-artist Dan Yaccarino along with editors, agents and one art director, Susan Sherman of Charlesbridge Publishing.

By Daniel Miyares for "Bambino and Mr. Twain" by P.I. Maltbie (Charlesbridge Publishing)

Front matter art by Daniel Miyares for “Bambino and Mr. Twain” by P.I. Maltbie (Charlesbridge Publishing)

Jennifer Rofe, literary agent with the Andrea Brown Literary Agency discussed The “So What?” Factor. Susan Sherman showed Pictures That Make the Words Work and Dial Books for Young Readers editor Heather Alexander walked the crowd through a document used by the department heads at Penguin’s Young Readers Group to evaluate if a dummy/manuscript is a go or no go in The Hard Sell: How Publishers Sell Your Manuscript In-house and Out. This all before lunch.

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Editors Jenne Abramowitz of Scholastic, Connie Hsu of Little, Brown Books for Young Readers  kept us awake all afternoon in their talks on writing and and book concepts. Kathleen Ortiz discussed author web sites.

For illustrators, this bracing counsel from Dan Yaccarino in his answer to a question from the assembly (and I’m paraphrasing): Don’t spend your time working for small presses or author self-published projects. Aim for the big houses, the major trade book assignments, the important work. ASAP.

Faculty for the Houston SCBWI regional conference 2012 art director Susan Sherman, agent, Kathleen Ortiz, editor Jenne Abramowitz, author-illustrator Dan Yaccarino, editors Heather Alexander and Connie Hsu, and agent Jennifer Rofé. Photo by Marianne Dyson, Houston SCBWI

Faculty for the Houston SCBWI regional conference 2012 art director Susan Sherman, agent, Kathleen Ortiz, editor Jenne Abramowitz, author-illustrator Dan Yaccarino, editors Heather Alexander and Connie Hsu, and agent Jennifer Rofé. Photo by Marianne Dyson, Houston SCBWI

InteractBooks contest winners created six new children’s books for the iPad

Congratulations to author Gwen Christie and illustrator Paul Wrangles of England for winning the 2012 Winter InteractBooks competition with their interactive digital book The Champion Hare. 

First Place winner of the InteractBooks Winter interactive digital book-building contest, "The Champion Hare" by Gwen Christie and (illustrator) Paul Wrangles of England.

First Place winner of the InteractBooks Winter interactive digital book-building contest, “The Champion Hare” by Gwen Christie and (illustrator) Paul Wrangles.

CEO Ezra Weinstein announced the first place through fifth place winners (there was a tie for third place) for the winter contest in a live webinar broadcast.

See the recording with news about the 2012 spring contest and an upcoming class series on building interactive books for electronic tablets, using the new 3.0 InteractBuilder software.

Check out the covers of all the winning books on the InteractBook Facebook page.

Behold the “e-Future”

A couple of years ago editor and publisher  Stephen Roxburgh put his thoughts together on the “e-Future”  — for a talk he was to give at the Austin SCBWI regional conference.

He’s updated it since then and in April Horn Book magazine featured his essay that offers a remarkable snapshot of the publishing industry at the crossroads.

If the topic of e-books interests you, you’re in for a great read.

Author-illustrator Peter Sis

Author-illustrator Peter Sis

Sis named 2012 Hans Christian Andersen book artist

In this interview by Takoma Park. Maryland librarian Karen McPherson, distributed by  the Scripps Howard News Service, Peter Sis, the winner of this year’s Hans Christian Andersen Illustrator Awardtalks about three phone calls that changed his life.

One was a collect call from Maurice Sendak who urged him to move to New York if he wanted a serious career as a children’s book author-illustrator. (Sis took his advice.)

A call from editor Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis at Doubleday led him to writing and illustrating a book about growing up in his native Czechoslovakia.

From the McPherson interview: “Sis remembers that, in communist Czechoslovakia, ‘we couldn’t talk openly… We all started to think and talk in different layers — protective layers,’ he said. Those “layers” became second nature to Sis, whose books and other artwork now are noted for their stratums of design and meaning.”

The third call came from the MacArthur Foundation to inform him that he’d been selected to receive one of the foundation’s “genius grants.”

Sis, who once made an animated films and later illustrated for the New York Times,  mentioned the three life-changing calls in his acceptance speech for the award.

The Hans Christian Andersen Awards were announced by the International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY) at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair in March. You can learn more about the awards and this year’s other winners here. You might also enjoy this short audio in which Peter Sis tells interviewer Susan Viebrock how growing up in a communist state has informed his books, themes and artwork. You can listen to the audio here.

Sizing up Sendak

As news of Maurice Sendak’s passing settles down it might be time to reflect a little on his scruffy, straightforward, exquisite cartoon art and what it’s meant to two generations. Here are some resources to consider.

Maurice Sendak, widely considered the most important children’s book artist of the 20th century, who wrenched the picture book out of the safe, sanitized world of the nursery and plunged it into the dark, terrifying and hauntingly beautiful recesses of the human psyche, died on Tuesday in Danbury, Conn. He was 83… ” the obituary leads off.

Nutshell Library by Maurice Sendak with "Pierre" featured on the cover

“…Roundly praised, intermittently censored and occasionally eaten, Mr. Sendak’s books were essential ingredients of childhood for the generation born after 1960 or thereabouts, and in turn for their children.”

How has the art of Maurice Sendak affected you in your life?

What’s your PB Dummy Challenge?

Chances are you’ll see your issue addressed in the Picture Book Dummy Challenge series that’s been going on all year over at the #KidLitArt blog.

You’ll enjoy this latest process post by Aaron Zenz on that critical stage of producing the final art for your picture book.

Illustration by Aaron Zenz

Zenz shows how he’s willing to re-do a painting or try a new concept — sometimes more than once —  if that’s what it takes to delight his editor, publisher, or client. The post is filled with ‘case studies’ and Zenz’s appealing artwork from these assignments.

Illustrators Bonnie Adamson and Wendy Martin do a great job riding herd on the #KidLitArt blog series.This could be a biased statement, because I also guest posted for the series (PB Dummy Challenge Step 5,  Creating Full Sized Drawings for your Dummy Pages.)

But I can vouch with complete objectivity for the #kidlitart chats that Martin and Adamson host every Thursday night (U.S. Time zones) and are open to anyone on Twitter.

Each chat is based on a theme important to children’s illustrators. Each chat provides a fine opportunity to hunker down with your picture-making colleagues, published and aspiring. If you miss a live session you can always catch the transcript archived on the blog.

And the learning never stops…

Austin, Texas sure likes digital storytelling for children.

Registration has opened for Austin SCBWI’s Digital Symposium II: Nuts and Bolts of Success, a hands-on technology workshop for illustrators and authors of all techie levels.  Set for Saturday, October 6, once again this year at St. Edward’s University’s Fleck Hall.  Read more.

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featuring illustrations by Charisse MellizaThree cheers for Charisse Melliza whose illustrations appear in the newly released Mama and Asha by Carolyn Rohrbaugh (Shapato Publishing)

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Then, there’s Mowgli and Baloo…

Yes, we’re exploring the art and cunning of the Disney animators over at the Illustration Course blog.

The latest video post shows how Walt Disney and his team turned the Rudyard Kipling stories sideways and added songs for their animated version of The Jungle Book. Part1 of an absorbing documentary.

* * * * * "Make Your Splashes Make Your Marks!" course modules

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Discover a way to righteously better drawing. These free videos show you the secret.

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Conjuring a young witch’s world in watercolor

University of Texas BFA grad Marsha Riti worked at her first creative love, ceramics before she saw an opportunity to make some extra money with her studio art craft — illustrating books for children.

She did some additional study (including taking my class at the AMOA Art School), joined the Austin chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and built up her portfolio.

Eventually she landed the assignment from Pelican Press to illustrate the picture book The Picky Little Witch by Elizabeth Brokamp.

In these excerpts from a video interview she did for students of the Make Your Splashes – Make Your Marks! online course, Marsha shares her process for illustrating a picture book.

Her technique of patching together and occasionally manipulating her watercolor illustrations in Photoshop has served her well.

Her blog that she fills with her images and interviews with her illustrator and artists friends caught the attention of an agent, which led  to a contract to illustrate a series of chapter books for the Little Simon imprint of Simon & Schuster.

In the slideshow below you can see Marsha garbed as her witch-in-training heroine at last month’s book launch party.

She’s joined by friends from her Austin SCBWI illustrators’ critique group, the Girlustrators who came out to support, babes and broomsticks in tow.

Marsha Riti signs at BookPeople, surrounded by her Girlustrator pals.

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InteractBook contest winners announced

Our judging team has named the winners for the create your own iPad
book app  contest by InteractBooks.

The first place winner in the contest for creating an interactive book using the InteractBuilder software received an iPad2 and a publishing contract.

Other contestants received prizes, too.

First Place –  It’s Time for Carrots by Dan Byrne

Second Place –  Put the Ow in Meow by Adreienne Jervis

Third PlaceThe Magic of Lizzie Boo by Leslie Dennis

Coming in fourth and neck in neck with third place – CAE Club gets Ready for a Great and Scary Halloween by Ann Kesselman.

Congratulations to all contenders!

Stand by for some videos about the entries, an interview with the winner and news about the next InteractBooks contest.

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Read a fun post by South African artist and new student Helga Pearson about the Marsha Riti interview and her experience of her first lessons of the Marks and Splashes course.

Find out more about the Make Your Splashes – Make Your Marks! online course on illustrating children’s books in a changing publishing world.

“Little toddler feet and hands all over my wall…”

Children’s book illustrator Patrice Barton begins a picture book with a spiral ruled notebook that she soon fills with ideas, tactics and to-do checklists related to the project.

It’s almost as if the words come first. The drawings, which for her are a series of tireless explorations only a tiny fraction of which make it to the book, spring forth after she’s worked out the notions, notations and marching orders for herself.

In the previous post she told how she assembled her scraps of sketches on tracing paper to develop finals for Sweet Moon Baby by Karen Henry Clark (Knopf Books for Young Readers.) This time she reveals the earliest stages of her artwork for the picture book Mine! by well-known children’s author Shutta Crum.

Released in June, Mine! is Patty’s second book for Knopf.  Patty’s work for Mine! is being included in the Society of Illustrators Original Art Exhibit, 2011!

At the end of our video interview minutes before class time at the Art School of the Austin Museum of Art Patty walked through the F&G’s for her third Knopf title, Rosie Sprout’s Time to Shine by Knopf editor Allison Wortche — due for publication in December. Here are sophisticated first graders, not babies or toddlers. With their glances, gestures and placements on the pages, Patty orchestrates a very funny elementary school drama of evil plans, remorse and redemption.

Watching her interpret Wortche’s scenes as text gives us insight into how she thinks about her characters and re-constructs a story in its most telling images.

SCBWI happenings for your calendar

Southern Breeze Illustrators Day poster

Southern Breeze Society of Children’s BookWriters and Illustrators Illustrators Day   – Friday, September 2 on the lower floor of the DeKalb County Public Library, Decatur, Georgia.

Kristen Nobles, art director for Candlewick Press will give the keynote, Thinking Visually: The Illustrator as IlluminatorKristen Nobles

Michael Austiin will mentor 12 illustrators (first come, first serve) with an assigned project before the workshop. Also featured will be Robert Agis, Editor from Sterling Children’s Books, Illustrator Mike Lowery  speaking on Self Promotion and Sketchbook  and picture book author Laura Murray. There will also be a portfolio review.

The Annual SCBWI Eastern PA Illustrator Day, Saturday, September 24 is a one day intensive at the University of Pennsylvania Golkin Room,  at the Perelman Quadrangle featuring Clarion Books senior designer Kerry Martin. Kerry’s workshop involves an exciting pre-workshop home assignment. You’ll receive the assignment when you register. He and illustrators agent Kirsten Hall with The Bright Agency will be doing portfolio reviews.

Storytelling in the Digital Age – Embrace the Change  – Saturday, October 8 at St. Edward’s University, Austin Texas. Austin SCBWI symposium on the fast-evolving  e-publishing scene features presentations by professionals who are doing it in the Austin area and the key address, via Skype by SCBWI Executive Director Lin OliverSCBWI  and Digital Storytelling.

St. Edwards University, Austin Texas

St. Edwards University, Austin Texas hosts “Storytelling in the Digital Age”

Other scheduled sessions:

Creating and Maintaining Your Web Persona by Erik Kuntz,

Standing Out in the E-book Crowd: Storybook Apps, Enhanced Content, and Digital Marketing Extras by Deanna Roy

Your Story as Electrons: Breathing Life into Words in the Digital Age by PJ Hoover

There’s an App for That by the illustrator and art director of  Spider, the Secret of Bryce Manor  Amanda Williams

Spider - the Secret of Bryce Manor

“Spider – the Secret of Bryce Manor” game app

How Do They Do That? Creating Digital Books by Meridith Blank Taylor

From Oop to App: The Transformation of Picture Books to Apps by Lindsey Lane

Paper to Pixels: The Art of the Digital Paintbrush presented by Clint Young

Extranormal: The Storyteller’s Dream Software
 by Zack Gonzales

YouTube and the Science Behind Visual Learning by Joel Hickerson

Storytelling in the Digital Age: Imagine by InteractBooks’ Ezra Weinstein

Children’s Book Illustrators and Technology by the Girllustrators

Social Media 101 by Nick Alter

Getting Discovered: Why You Should ABSOLUTELY Give Your Stories Away for Free by Bear James

Traditions and Technology: The Transformation of Children’s Publishing  is the theme of this year’s North Central/North Texas SCBWI regional conference, October 7-8 at the Fielder Road Baptist Church in Arlington, Texas. The Saturday event features Simon and Schuster art director Laurent Linn, a line up of editors from Scholastic and Random House, an agent from Andrea Brown and authors Bruce Coville and Tammi Sauer.

More fine notes

Illustrator Amy Farrier’s blog Three Ravens Press has a great interview with talented illustrator and Etsy artist Audrey Lopata. Audrey meanwhile, interviews illustrator Dallion McGregor on her blog  with fun results. (Dallion was recently interviewed here about his winning logo design for the Storytelling in the Digital Age Symposium.)

Hugo Cabret

School Library Journal asks Brian Selznick about many things, including his new illustrated children’s novel Wonderstruck  (Scholastic) and the Martin Scorcese movie adaptation of his Caldecott Medal-winning The Invention of Hugo Cabret. Read the story here.

An online course on illustrating children’s books, Make Your Splashes – Make Your Marks! shows you how to draw nearly anything, unlock beautiful design and color in your art and what to do, step by step when you land that assignment to illustrate a story for a book, magazine or digital product. You can read more about the course here. 


Patrice Barton's "Rosie Sprout"

Build your interactive children’s book – win an iPad2!

Illustrators can now jump with both feet into digital publishing with the help of some free software and a contest launched by InteractBooks.com

“What better way to showcase all that our InteractBuilder e-book software can do on the iPad and iPhone than holding a contest to find the very best interactive book it can make?” asks the Interact Books website .

“And who better than you to produce this book by using your developer talent and our app software for the Mac and PC?”

InteractBooks

A Youtube video doesn’t do the reading experience justice, but an actual iPad encounter with The Tortoise and the Hairpiece by Don Winn, illustrated by Toby Heflin and distributed on the Apple iTunes store demonstrates how the touch screen interactions and subtle animations of an interactive book (let’s call it an i-book) make for a whole new storytelling language.

An InteractBook, an interactive alphabet picture book on an iPhone

I-books or interactive e-books aren’t quite the same as the e-books now making headlines for trouncing paperbacks in sales at Amazon.com.

They’re a new animal, maybe a new art form nd it may be months or even years before anyone knows where this fusion of tactile interactivity and literacy is going, commercially or aesthetically speaking.

Developers and a few publishers are delving into the format, but no leader for an interactive book-building engine or platform has emerged — yet.

In the meantime Austin, Texas based-InteractBooks wants to push the innovation timeline up a little by launching the first ever contest for an interactive children’s book. Entries must be built with their free InteractBuilder software.

  • First place prize – 16gb white or black WIFI iPad2, or $500.  lnteractBooks will  also publish your title and give you a three year membership in the InteractBuilder community (a $300 value)
  • 2nd Place wins a 32gb iPodTouch or $200* and a two-year membership to the InteractBuilder community.
  • 3rd Place yields a $100 Best Buy Gift Card and a one-year membership to the InteractBuilder community.

All runners up and anyone entering the contest with an InteractBuilder-approved book will have a free year’s membership in the InteractBooks builders community.

The deadline is September 18 and the winner will be announced  October 1, which doesn’t give you much time.

InteractBooks logo

That’s why the InteractBook folks are encouraging illustrators and authors to mull over the books they’ve already done, published or unpublished, with pictures and text ready to go — and see how they might adapt their story to this new media.

“Do you have a picture book already in print that lends itself to interactivity? What about an illustrated story that’s just prime for animated graphics and coloring, tapping, and swiping on a tablet? Have you always wanted to make an e-book?” the website asks.

Read the contest details here.

Yes, I’m one of the judges for the contest.  So I can tell you ahead of time what we’ll be evaluating your submission on:

1) A theme that’s enhanced for readers through interactivity

2) A well-written script that is different from the norm

3) Visuals and illustrations in keeping with InteractBooks’ high-quality standards

4) The ability to leverage the technology of smartphone devices and tablets

5) Effective use of music and sound effects (yes, the books can include sound, voice and video, too!)

6) Voice narration of text recommended but not required

7) An easy to read script by a child and/or parent

Remember, education and entertainment are the basic ingredients. Try to have your picture elements’ interactive behaviors fit in with your story, or better yet, help move the story forward.  If you’re uncomfortable with the idea of building your own book from Photoshop files, team up with a programmer or someone who’s already  working with the InteractBuilder software. Read more details on the contest press release.

And good luck! I can’t wait to see what you come up with!

Lisa’s dragon takes flight

You remember Lisa Falkenstern, the illustrator who needed help coming up with a name for her new picture book.  She sought our suggestions and reactions to some of the picture book title ideas that she and her editor at Marshall Cavendish were batting around?

Well it’s out! And, yes, it has a title.  Lisa’s celebrating with a book launch party this Saturday at Clinton Book Shop, 12 East Main St., Clinton, New Jersey.  Reserve your book for signing by the author-illustrator by calling 908-735-8811.

Lisa thanks everyone who participated in our June 1, 2010 poll to vote for and suggest titles  for her book.

Tchaikovsky and Duke Ellington meet Don Tate

There’s a wonderful post with pictures in the Vermont College Journal of Fine Arts, Hunger Mountain by Austin, Texas children’s book author-illustrator Don Tate. In it, he shows us how he came to grips with an assignment to illustrate Duke Ellington’s Nutcracker Suite by Anna Harwell Celenza (Charlesbridge Publishing.)

Spread by illustrator Don Tate

Spread by illustrator Don Tate for the upcoming "Duke Ellington's Nutcracker Suite" by Anna Harwell Celenza (Charlesbridge)

Don writes that the nonfiction picture book due to be published later in the year tells how composers Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn, “collaborated to reinvent a holiday tradition, by remaking Tchaikovsky’s famous Nutcracker Suite into a jazz album.”

“I’d studied jazz album covers of the 1960s, artists like Jim Flora, David Stone Martin, Cliff Roberts. They employed very loose, whimsical ink-line techniques, overlaying solid colors or washes. I wanted to achieve that same look without getting  too cartoony in style,” Tate says.

After a rocky start and facing a punishingly tight deadline, Don pulled out a tour de force of brilliant ink line art with bright watercolor wash.

The post is generously illustrated with Don’s photos of his work-in-progress in his work space.  You’ll see it here.

How do you draw a “werearmadillo” ?

Here’s a great Newsarama.com interview with best-selling YA author Cynthia Leitich Smith and illustrator Ming Doyle on their graphic novel debut Tantalize: Kieran’s story  (Candlewick) that’s due in stores August 23rd.

Smith, who has written successful children’s picture books as well as YA novels nutshells her script for us:

“When the beloved chef at a vampire-themed Italian restaurant is murdered, the crime scene suggests that killer was a werewolf. Unfortunately for our hero Kieren Morales—a teenage human-Wolf hybrid, he happens to be the person who discovers the body and calls the police. That makes Kieren a prime suspect,”  Smith says.

“But in an underworld where vampires can take wolf form and other shifters (the werecat, werebear, werevulture…) stroll Austin’s streets, who’s to say the killer was a Wolf at all? While Kieren tries to solve the murder, his best friend Quincie is courted by a new, too-charming chef who baits the young Wolfman at every turn.”

Wiener Wolf  book release (and dog costume party)

It was Saturday, July 2, 11:30 a.m.  (Hot dogs were served for lunch.)                  

Jeff Crosby reading from his picture book "Wiener Wolf" at BookPeople

Author-illustrator Jeff Crosby reads from his picture book Wiener Wolf  (Hyperion.)

  Author-illustrator Jeff Crosby reads from "Wiener Wolf"

Author-illustrator Jeff Crosby reads from "Wiener Wolf"

Shelley Ann Jackson

Author-illustrator Shelley Ann Jackson as “Granny”, an important character in her husband’s book.  (Yes, they’re a dachshund family. )

Jeff's wife Shelley Ann Jackson

See the resemblance?

A record turnout for the "Wiener Wolf" launch at BookPeople in Austin, Texas. Hot dogs were served by the Austin restaurant Frank's.

Illustrator friends and Austin SCBWI'ers Erik Kuntz of SquareBearStudio.com and Martin Thomas of Spill.com show off their colleague's new picture book

Hear Jeff and Shelly talk about their art-making process here.

Keep up with the summer bumper crop of new picture books by Austin, Texas illustrators and authors.

Late last year I interviewed InteractBooks founders Ezra Weinstein and Richard Johnson as they were launching their company.  You can see  parts of the video interview here. 

Listen to the NPR interview with Erin and Phillip Stead, illustrator and author of the 2011 Caldecott Medal picture book, A Sick Day for Amos.

Read the team blog wrap of highlights and see work by the conference portfolio winners from the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) 40th Annual Summer Conference in Los Angeles, which ended Monday.

Patrice Barton and Shutta Crum team up for Mine! 

Illustrator Patrice Barton’s artwork for Mine!  has been accepted into the Society of Illustrators Original Art Exhibit, 2011. 

Patty was recently interviewed for Mark Mitchell's online, self-paced course on children's book illustration, Make Your Splashes - Make Your Marks!  You'll see an excerpt from the video discussion next time on the blog.

Study buddies help

Now you can enroll in Mark’s course and bring a study buddy with you.

The new study team option (a near “2 for 1” deal) will come in handy as the course enters a new, expanded tech phase on illustrating for interactive e-books for smart phones and iPads.  You can check that out here.   

To learn a  “magic secret” for improving your drawing quickly, go here.

Build your book? Children’s book illustrators have new options.

Illustrations that move and make sounds at the touch of a finger.  The age of the interactive children’s book app has arrived.

We talked with Ezra Weinstein and Richard Johnson of InteractBooks,  a publisher of books for iPads back in December in Austin.  Weinstein is a programmer, app developer and the son of a school librarian. His business partner Johnson has a background in the computer gaming industry.

Things have moved right along for their company InteractBooks since that Saturday lunch visit.  Their free InteractBooks (Version 1) app is scheduled to be released on the Apple AppStore on February 28,  2011.  (If you want to download their free app for your mobile device you get it from iTunes right here.) Several new Interact children’s picture book s will be ready for download by then.

The company is already working on InteractBooks App Version 2.  When it comes out,  Weinstein and Johnson will also  make available their  free InteractBuilder tool that will run on Mac and PC platforms.

“The InteractBuilder will allow developers of all ages to create and publish their own InteractBooks to their supported tablet and smart phone devices,” Weinstein says. “Publishers can use the InteractBuilder and our InteractPublisher tools to publish their own books for sale in our online marketplace. ”

“If you want to build your own children’s book, graphic novel, or educational content into an InteractBook, please be sure to sign up for the InteractBuilder Community on our website and we will send you details as they are available,” Weinstein says.

See the InteractBooks website, Facebook page or iTunes page to learn how to sign up to be a beta tester for the InteractBuilder.

Lots of companies are jumping into the iPad and mobile device book space,  including, of course the major children’s publishers.  Yes, it’s a new technology scramble and you do hear allusions to the Rushes — for Oklahoma Land and 1849 California Gold.  Rush.  This is a virtual landrush that has long-time publishers and media companies drooling — and maybe a little bit frightened. No one is quite sure yet how the business model should work.  In publishing, supply typically exceeds demand and so the trick remains: How do you capture public imagination and achieve mind share?  It’s the same old quest for readers and eyeballs, though the platforms seem to be changing.

You can read more about how entrenched traditional publishers like Harpercollins are gearing up for the new era of “reading media” and discover a few tips about how to evaluate children’s book apps in this School Library Journal round-up by Elizabeth Bird.

Weinstein and Johnson, though both love books and the idea of being publishers, are also interested in selling their platform software to existing publishers, educators and marketers. And they’ve found that children’s picture books — with their artwork that drives the stories — make a marvelous vehicle for showing off their interactive book-building and publishing technologies.

Watch more of the interview with Ezra and Richard Johnson (seven short videos total) on the IllustrationCourse.com YouTube channel.

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2011 Caldecott Medal awarded to Erin Snead

The Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association (ALA) awarded the Caldecott Medal to Erin Snead for her illustrations for the picture book

A Sick Day for Amos a few weeks ago, during the annual ALA Conference.  Named in honor of nineteenth-century English illustrator Randolph Caldecott, the medal  is awarded each year to the  artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children published in the U.S. that year.

A Sick Day for Amos McGee was written by Philip C. Stead, and is a Neal Porter Book, published by Roaring Brook Press, a division of Holtzbrinck Publishing.

Below are the runners-up — the two Caldecott Honor winners.


Dave the Potter: Artist, Poet Slave
illustrated by Bryan Collier, written by Laban Carrick Hill and published by Little, Brown and Company, a division of Hachette Book Group, Inc.


Interrupting Chicken Written and illustrated by David Ezra Stein, and published by Candlewick Press

We have winners!

We have our winners for the free portfolio critiques and the group intensive sessions at the Austin SCBWI 2011 Regional Conference coming up in two weeks.

Illustrator Shelley Ann Jackson of Austin has won a free portfolio consultation with illustrator Julian Hector and Illustrator Debbie Meyer of McKinney, Texas has won the free portfolio critique with David Diazcourtesy of the Texas Sweethearts and Scoundrels.

Author-illustrator Frances Yansky's portfolio display

Debbie Meyer, Bobbie Dacus and Debra Haun won free front row seats at the group intensive session with Julian Hector. And Bobbie Dacus won a portfolio review session with me.

Congratulations, gang! Thank you to everyone who entered the contests!

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Enter to win Will Terry’s video course

I’ll be giving away a free pass to children’s book llustrator and instructor Will Terry’s wonderful eight video course on children’s book illustration! The prize will go out next month to whoever writes me the best e-mail short essay on the following topic:

“What’s the major discovery you’ve made or the biggest insight you’ve learned this year in drawing or  painting, or marketing oneself as an artist in  the children’s publishing field?”

So that’s it. Just write about your best discovery or insight into the craft gleaned over the past 12 months.  Your essays do not have to be long — just fun to read and genuinely helpful. Look for the award to go out  in March.  I’ll review Will’s first online video course in an upcoming post.

"A Dragon Moves In" written and illustrated by Lisa Falkenstern

Name chosen for Lisa Falkenstern’s book!

New York illustrator and now author-illustrator Lisa Falkenstern reports that she has completed and submitted all of her finished art for her picture book A Dragon Moves In, to be published later this year by Marshall Cavendish. You might remember that we ran a poll for her back in June to help her decide on a title for her picture book. Lisa and I want to thank all 367 readers who voted or offered write-in suggestions for titles! The feedback helped her and her editor  choose from the list of possibilities they were considering but a little stuck on.

Austin SCBWI wrapping up registration for” Boots”

Yikes! Boots, Books and Buckskins has just about filled up and the gates are about to close.  The cut-off date for registering for the 2011 regional conference of the Austin chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) is this Thursday, February 10.

St. Edwards University, home of the Austin SCBWI 2011 Conference

Spend a day at one of the most beautiful college campuses in Texas, St. Edward’s University hearing from Caldecott Medal winning illustrator David Diaz, author-illustrator Julian Hector, National Book Award winning YA novelist Kimberly Willis Holt, publishers, editors and the agent (Emily van Beek)  who represents this year’s Caldecott Medal winning illustrator-author team.

The conference is being sponsored by St. Edwards University and InteractBooks, the iPad book publisher featured in this post.

Register online and/or download the conference information and registration packet.

"Make Your Marks; Make Your Splashes!" course“Marks and Splashes” sale ends Thursday

A 25 percent off sale for the  “Make Your Splashes; Make Your Marks” course extends through the end of day Thursday, February 10.   It’s to  draw attention to the 2011 expansion of the online course, which teaches how to draw and paint effectively for children’s book illustration.  The price for the 2011  version will be higher, but students already enrolled in the course will receive the upgraded features and benefits at no cost.

If you’re interested in enrolling at the sale price, you have about 24 hours from the date and time of this post to go to this page, click on the “enroll now” button near the bottom and enter the following coupon code in the field box on the registration form where it says, Enter coupon code:   Here’s the code ED292AF0DC

The code is good through the end of Thursday.
Current and past (online) students do not have to re-enroll.  You’re already in.

Houston SCBWI 2011 Regional Conference

“The Art of Book Craft” –  Houston SCBWI 2011 Conference slated for April

The Houston SCBWI 2011 regional conference The Art of Book Craft is set for Saturday April 9 at Merrell Center in Katy, Texas.  Get your details and registration form here.  Let me just telegraph some of the line-up of presenters:

Ruth McNally BarshawAuthor-Illustrator of the Ellie McDoodle Series
Laurent Linn, Art Director
, Simon and Schuster
Brenda Murray, Senior Editor
, Scholastic
Abby Ranger, Editor
, Disney Hyperion
Anna Webman, Agent
Curtis Brown
Kate Fletcher, Editor
, Candlewick

and more authors, agents and editors. Diandra Mae,  a friend and the illustrator -coordinator for the Houston SCBWI chapter says that Laurent Linn, the art directorfor Simon and Schuster plans to  “do a general assembly presentation as well as a ninety minute breakout session for illustrators, portfolio critiques.”

“He’ll also judge the portfolio showcase,” she adds. “We’re ironing out all the details of his sessions now, but I’ve heard he’s  a fantastic presenter!”

Is your buffalo ready for kindergarten?

Austin SCBWI illustrators enjoyed meeting Daniel Jennewein,  illustrator of Audrey Glassman Vernick’s picture book Is Your Buffalo Ready for Kindergarten (Balzer & Bray/HarperCollins) on his swing through Austin on a U.S. book tour that was scheduled to include an appearance at the SCBWI National Winter Conference in New York City.  Jennewein works as an illustrator and commercial designer in Frankfurt, Germany.  Some members of the Inklings, a picture book critique group under the Austin SCBWI took him and his wife, YA literature blogger and Texan Lenore Applehans to lunch at the Shoal Creek Saloon after Jennewein’s appearance Saturday January 22 at BookPeople. They were accompanied by several other Central Texas YA blogger friends.

Austin illustrators meet with German illustrator Daniel Jennewein

Austin, Texas SCBWI illustrators meet with German illustrator Daniel Jennewein and friends.

Left to right (top) are authors, writers and  illustrators Jeff Crosby, Shelley Ann Jackson, Daniel Jennewein, Martin and Marie Fry, Amanda Gignac (Zen Leaf), Daniel’s wife Lenore Appelhans (Presenting Lenore), (bottom) Maury Tieman, Mark Mitchell, Jenny Bragdon and Sarah Pitre ( both of Forever Young Adult)

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Richard Johnson and Ezra Weinstein, founders of InteractBooks at Tokyo Sushi. See all of the interview videos at http://YouTube.com/user/IllustrationCourse

Ridin’ down to the “Boots, Books and Buckskins” conference? Here’s your chance to win unbelievable contest give-aways for illustrators!

Hey,  illustrators and aspiring illustrators! Be the first kid on your block to win an in-person portfolio critique from Caldecott-Medal winning children’s book  illustrator David Diaz!  How?

Illustrator David Diaz

David Diaz draws a face for children at the Abilene, Texas public library.

It’s easy! First register for the Austin SCBWI 2011 Regional Conference  Boots, Books and Buckskins coming up February 18-19. You can do that right here and read all about the conference and the amazing faculty of  top authors, illustrators, children’s book publishers, editors — an agent and social media expert, too —  right in the packet  along with hotel information, campus map, schedule, break-out sessions,  author intensives and portfolio reviews and your EZ-peazy registration form.  Handy and amazing, right?

You don’t have to belong to the Austin SCBWI chapter to attend Boots, Books and Buckskins.  But you’ll  receive a discount for belonging to the National Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI.)

St. Edwards

St. Edwards University, Austin Texas, home of the Austin SCBWI 2011 Regional Conference

Good so far? OK,  next step is to e-mail the Texas Sweethearts, let them know that you’ve registered. You’ll be automatically entered into the contest to win the free portfolio reviews.  Who are the Texas Sweethearts? A small  group of dynamite published Austin area  Y.A. , middle grade and children’s authors you’ll want to know about, anyway.  See their blog here.

What if you enter the contest and don’t win a portfolio review with David Diaz?  It’s OK. Because this  is a big contest with more than one prize!

You might win a portfolio review with author-illustrator Julian Hector, another presenter.

Gentleman Bug by Julian Hector

Or you might win a review with author-illustrator Frances Yansky.

Or manuscript critiques by authors Jessica Anderson,   Bethany HegedusKari Ann Holt P.J. HooverJeanette Larson or Brian Yansky.

I could go on a bit about these authors because I know  them.  Instead  I’ll focus in on the two illustrator stars of Boots, Books and Buckskins David and Julian.

(The lineup of non-illustrator stars includes National Book Award author Kimberly Willis Holt, Egmont USA, vice-president and publisher Elizabeth Law, Arthur Levine Books editorial director Arthur Levine, agent Emily van Beek and many other wonderful presenters.)

David Diaz talks to kids

Illustrator, Designer, Caledcott Medal winner David Diaz

David Diaz

David Diaz was awarded the Caldecott Medal in 1995 for his work  in Smoky Night, about the L.A. riots, written by Eve Bunting.  His other award winning books include  Eve Bunting’s Going Home and Newbery Honor winner,The Wanderer by Sharon Creech.  Diaz’s colorful illustrations in Margaret Wise Brown’s The  Little Scarecrow Boy led to the book being named the New York Times “Best Illustrated Book” for 1998.

1995 Caldecott Medal winning "Smoky Night" by Eve Bunting, illustrated by David Diaz

Most Most recently  David has teamed up with renowned author Joyce Carol Thomas to create The Gospel Cinderella, a soulful retelling of the classic Cinderella story.  He’s on the advisory board for the SCBWI Nationa. He recently curated the national touring Golden Kite; Golden Dreams – an exhibit of original illustration art from SCBWI Golden Kite Award winning- books over the past 30 years.

Julian Hector

Julian Hector was born in Los Angeles, raised in rural Texas and received a BFA from Parsons the New School for Design, in New York City.  His clients include Disney-Hyperion, Scholastic, Harper Collins, and Simon and Schuster Julian Hector is represented by Rebecca Sherman of Writers House.  His books include Gentleman Bug (Atheneum Books for Young Readers) and The Little Matador (Disney-Hyperion).

The Little Matador by Julian Hector

The Little Matador by Julian Hector

So why,  you just might ask, are the Texas Sweethearts giving away the free portfolio critiques by David Diaz and Julian Hector — instead of — well for example,  let’s say an un-named children’s book illustration blog  by someone who just happens to share the same SCBWI chapter as them ?

Luck of the draw.  Ever-alert Sweethearts Jessica Lee Anderson and P.J.  Hoover won the portfolio critiques as door prizes at our recent Austin SCBWI Christmas Holiday party.  Since they’re not illustrators, they decided to exploit the windfall on their blog as a way to promote our regional conference.  Because everybody loves a contest!

So read PJ’s explanation to make sure you  understand the rules.  In a nutshell:

1.) Prepare yourself to come to Austin, Texas if you’re not already here. And Register for the conference here. (You’ll find the enrollment form to fill out and send in on the last page of the PDF.)

2.) E-mail the Texas Sweethearts to let them know you’re in.  Here’s the address:
texas_sweethearts@yahoo.com

Truly, these are your last chances for consultations with Diaz and Hector at the conference.
The paid portfolio sessions with them have all sold out!

Not to be eclipsed by the Sweethearts’ generous contest, I want to give away something too.

I’ll give away two front row seats to the two small group intensives that Diaz and Hector are individually doing on the afternoon of the conference.  Spots in these  “special sessions” are going fast for $20 apiece.

I’ll also give away one  portfolio review by me — since I can’t give away any by David Diaz or Julian Hector.  Since the Sweethearts are doing that.

To compete for my three prizes:

1.) Register for the Boots, Books and Buckskins Austin SCBWI Regional Conference before it sells completely out (seriously, it will.)

2.) Post a comment on this blog — or send me an e-mail — letting me know you’ve registered and which small group intensive session you’d like catch during the conference.  My e-mail address is: Mark@HowtoBeAChildrensBookIllustrator.com

I’ll pick three winners a week or two before the conference.  Note: You can  enter the Texas Sweethearts contest and mine at the same time to double your chances for a prize or prizesa! Try for everything!  You might win from me and the Sweethearts!

Now I have to show the Texas Sweethearts video.
Because I think you’ll see from this how it’s hard to stay peeved at them very long for winning  the Diaz-Hector portfolio critique doorprizes and making the most of their windfall with a blog contest.

Clearly these particular door prizes,  in a more perfect world,  should have been won (to be given away) by — let’s just say a more illustration-centered blog.  I won’t mention any in particular.  (In fairness to the Sweethearts, they recently expanded their ranks to include two author-illustrators Emma Virjan and Don Tate, along with authors K.A. Holt and Jeanette Larson. Now they go by the moniker Texas Sweethearts and Scoundrels — because Don’s in there.)

Anyway the video with its honky tonk soundtrack by Sharif hits so many of the same color notes as Boots, Books and Buckskins that it could be the conference theme as well.

The Texas Sweethearts and Scoundrels

Go here to Register for the Austin SCBWI 2011 Conference –  February  18 and 19,  2011.  Send the Texas Sweethearts and me your messages (details above.) Prepare yourself to possibly win one-on-one professional consults,  portfolio reviews, manuscript critiques and/or front row seats at exclusive small group intensives.
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Clint Young Interview on “Literary Asylum

Clint Youngs "Toast"

Wonderful interview with Austin SCBWI’s own superbly talented Clint Young on D.N. Cunningham’s Literary Asylum blog. Clint talks of how his daughter’s name for her pet stuffed pig  inspired the picture book Toast that was acquired by  Feiwel and Friends, of creating his own Photoshop brushes to paint, and his work for LucasArts as a Star Wars concept artist. Read it here.

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Hop on to Mark Mitchell’s Make Your Marks; Make Your Splashes online course — about drawing and painting good illustrations for books and other children’s media — before the price goes up in January!  Learn a great secret for better drawing here.

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Shelley Ann Jackson and Jeff Crosby share their art

Author-illustrators Shelley Ann Jackson and Jeff Crosby shared their work with the Inklings, a picture book critique group under the Austin SCBWI chapter Sunday.

Nick Alter and Jeff Crosby at the ” Inklings”  get together at the Green Muse Cafe.  The artwork being shown in this  binder is by Tiffanny Varga, an Inkling  illustrator and fine artist.
“Inklings” checking out the art of Jeff and Shelley.

Shelley Ann Jackson
Illustrator Shelley Ann Jackson shows off work done by her and her husband illustrator Jeff  Crosby for their book “Little Lions, Bull Baiters and Hunting Hounds: A History of Dog Breeds” (Tundra Publishing) and several other book.

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Book producer Margie Blumberg adds something new to the tried and true

Children’s book illustrators would do well to make note of the pathfinders as the tectonic plates of publishing, communication and commerce are shifting under our feet — as we speak.

Content providers are rushing to the market, knowing that this day and age are like the Oklahoma Land Rush. In a matter of months, the virtual “land grab” will be over — the first round of it anyway.  The dust will have settled and the publishing landscape will be changed. Those trade books with a foothold in the new media will have an edge.

One of these pathfinders is Washington D.C.  author, publisher and patent holder Margie Blumberg, who is making her children’s books available as not only hardcovers but as iTune downloads for iPhones and iPads. Her two picture books,  Breezy Bunnies and Sunny Bunnies, featuring the art of English illustrator June Goulding.

She blogs about grammar and has an e-book available for all ages on the subject, and she’s exploring other formats as well for all her books.

Margie Blumberg, Publisher

Margie knew she wanted to write at an early age.  But like many writers, she took a detour on the way to her dream (in her case, law school and legal internships at the Food and Drug Administration and the Center for Science in the Public Interest).

Undeterred in her heart’s goal, she self-published what she describes as an “autobiographical recipe calendar.” It featured delightful comic strip illustrations by illustrator John Thompson chronicling the  trauma Margie says she faced as a young adult when her doctors ruled out chocolate for her for the rest of her life!

So she was already thinking outside the box,  or “the book,”  embedding her personal yarn and favorite dessert recipes (sans chocolate)  in a desktop calendar!

With co-author Colleen Aagesen, Margie went on to write Shakespeare for Kids: His Life and Times – a biography with 21 activities for kids for the Chicago Review Press’s For Kids series.

But the frosting on the cake (not chocolate, we hope) in preparing her for life as a contender in the new publishing/media was the award of a patent in 2008 for an electronic memory pad. She tells us more about that in the interview.

Margie graciously answered our questions about her books, her apps and collaborating with U.K. illustrator June Goulding on her first digital project.  Breezy Bunnies, a book for the i-Pad, and Sunny Bunnies, a hardcover trade book  are both available through  iTunes as downloads and apps for iPhones. Two other books in the series are in the works.

So let’s meet our New Publishing pathfinder.

Hi Margie! You’ve created a publishing company at a time when the industry is going through a remarkable transition and you’re also reaching out to a broad market range “From illustrated books for preschoolers to nonfiction books for adults” as you state. Why did you set up this challenge for yourself and what do you see as the challenges and opportunities in a marketplace that seems about to redefine itself?

Margie: Our goal is to create books of distinction that satisfy the universal need to connect to the world through art and words.

I founded MB Publishing, LLC, a few months before the publication of Avram’s Gift in May 2003. Technology then was not what it is today. Now, with the advent of Kindle, iPad, etc., the industry is redefining itself.  Assuming books made of paper survive [as I write this, my order from Amazon.com has just arrived], I hope the elimination of book returns will be part of this defining moment. In terms of our economy, I think apps could not have come along at a better time. For the price of one hardcover book, a family can download about five to eight picture book apps. That’s great for families on a budget (that’s most of us in America) and it’s wonderful for publishers, too.

Breezy Bunnies Spread

Spread from "Breezy Bunnies:  illustrated by June Goulding

Do you see your market as trade, mass market or education or all three and more? How are you engaging these markets?

I am a trade publisher. One of my biggest challenges is to get the word out about my company’s books—whether in paper or app form. That’s every publisher’s challenge, actually. That’s why there are so many social media experts, SEO experts, and PR experts. Blogs like yours are wonderful also for discussing issues, of course, and to bring attention to work and ideas that might otherwise be hidden from view.

I have engaged Susan Raab of Raab Associates to get the word out about my company and the books that I produce. She has done a marvelous job in reaching out to the media. I have also engaged an SEO expert to help people find my site, which includes information about each book, look-inside features, and downloadable coloring pages. I’d love to hear from Web site mavens and readers alike as to what else my site could offer to make it more engaging and worthwhile.

How can your illustrator help you in this process?

June Goulding has a blog (http://junegoulding.blogspot.com/) with which she keeps in contact with fellow illustrators worldwide. They are a very friendly and supportive online community, and June is able to share news about her work whenever she wants. In general, I think illustrators can help publishers by doing book signings, reaching out to children at local schools and libraries to show their work and inspire future artists and writers, and keeping in touch around the world through their blogs and via groups on LinkedIn or SCBWI, for example.

Sunny Bunnies

Sunny Bunnies, a conventional picture book by Margie Blumberg, illustrated by June Goulding

How did you find June and can you describe the process of working with her on both the traditional and i-Pad books?

After searching through hundreds of portfolios online and scouring children’s book departments, I found June’s portfolio on a site that featured 100 other illustrators. I fell in love with her style immediately
and e-mailed her about my interest in working with her on my “bunny books” project. Naturally, she asked for details (and she was thrilled because bunnies are her favorite to draw) and after a few back-and-forths, we talked. You should know that she is a modern-day Beatrix Potter, taking in hurt or stray animals, such as hens and birds and hedgehogs, and bottle-feeding them back to health. In her compassionate and capable hands, Carrot Cake Park is a beautiful and reassuring place for children.

June and I have a nice routine. As soon as I have “finalized” the text, I e-mail it to her to live with for a week or so. Then she plots out the book in thumbnail form. When I receive her thumbnails, I call her at home in Bristol, England, to listen to how she envisions the illustrations in the
layout, page by page and spread by spread. It never ceases to amaze me how two people—once perfect strangers, separated by an ocean and a language (British English is often quite different from American English, we have learned)—are able to see so completely eye to eye, book after book. By the way, this same simpatico feeling happened when Laurie and I worked together on Avram’s Gift.

It’s during this thumbnails phase that we can spot big problems—perhaps we have too many full-bleed double-page spreads in a row,  for example. If we can move around verses, or turn some spreads into spot illustrations, we do that. It is now that the rhythm and pace of the story and important page turns are set before we move on.

Next come the pencils. Any problems in the text—if they haven’t been caught already—are glaring now. I go off to my little corner and try to figure out a better verse or a better segue or perhaps a better word. I’ll often ask June for ideas, as she’s living with the text as much as I am by this point. I like brainstorming this way, and June doesn’t seem to mind (I think). [June Goulding: “I don’t mind. I like to bounce ideas around.”] Often it comes down to just a few different words, but sometimes I’ll have to create a whole new verse. If it’s a problem with the illustration, on the other hand—for example, which direction the hayride is going in (this was an issue in our fall 2011 *Busy Bunnies*), we talk it out. June has asked me to draw out my solutions, but it’s usually much better when June draws out thumbnail sketches of possibilities based upon our conversations. The obvious solution usually presents itself this way—and June doesn’t have to be subjected to my dreadful sketches.

The thing about the word *problem *is that I actually *like *to work out these issues. It doesn’t always feel like work because I’m enjoying the process so much. I remember how I loved my favorite books growing up; if any of our bunny books become a child’s favorite or part of a happy remembrance of childhood, then, well, I’ll be thrilled.

iPad book Breezy Bunnies scheduled for hardcover publication this summer

Breezy Bunnies, written by Margie Blumberg and illustrated by June Goulding

Once pencils are done, June decides upon a palette. She sends me illustrations of the two main characters, each wearing the outfits we talked about but in several different color combinations. I must sound like a broken record by now, but we inevitably pick the same two color combinations for “the kids.” Once the palette is set, June begins to paint. She uses watercolors, ink, and colored pencils. June’s art is a gift, and every time she e-mails me new finished  illustrations, I feel as though I’m being showered with presents.

By the way, if we ever discover a problem in the illustration after the art has been scanned, June fixes it in Photoshop.

How do you, as a publisher and author, foresee illustrators working on these new digital children’s books that will soon be zipping at near-light-speeds into the consumer market ?

Because of the way PicPocket creates the apps, I don’t see too many differences yet. Illustrators will always be focused on creativity. Whether they work with watercolor, oil, pencils, pen and ink, or digital software, creativity will always be the key.

The one area that needs extra attention right now concerns the sound aspect of the app. Now that parents and children can touch something on the screen—a duck, for instance—and a sound is heard, artists and writers will be thinking more and more about new opportunities for adding sound elements to the app. Lynette Maatke, the co-founder of PicPocket Books in Silver Spring, Maryland, has a wonderful ear for sounds. After we go through the book, discussing which sounds will be important and fun, she goes to work locating the MP3 sounds.

Other book app developers and illustrators are doing more with animation. And I’ve seen others creating apps utilizing different camera angles—close-ups, wide shots, etc—and orchestrations. How fun! A book app can be as close to the real book-reading experience as possible or it can be like a cartoon or it can be something in between.

But no matter how sophisticated the software or the end product, it all comes down to the story and the illustrations: Whether static or animated, if the words and the art work beautifully together, well, that’s everything really.

From a spread illustrated June Goulding

Double spread page illustrated by June Goulding for Margie Blumberg's "Sunny Bunnies"

How is conceiving, writing,  illustrating, then publishing an electronic children’s book for a mobile digital device different from those same tasks in the creation and publication of a traditional illustrated children’s book?

At this point, I’m not creating books specifically for a digital device. The
new scanning technology allows each reader to manually move across the page at his or her own pace, so creating an app with pages instead of spreads is not something that I feel we have to limit ourselves to. I suppose I’m lucky that I got into apps at just the right time for these bunny books, which have lots of spreads.

Sunny Bunnies came out in hardcover first. Then it became an app, after Breezy Bunnies Breezy Bunnies which isn’t in print yet, was designed in the exact same way as Sunny Bunnies. My plan is that once all four books are out as apps, we’ll bring them out in a boxed set of four small hardcover books. Of course, by that time, technology may have evolved to the point where children’s books can be carried around in a flexible device that allows readers to interact with the story in a landscape format. Once the technology for children’s books can mimic the hardcover’s or paperback’s look and feel, then I think we will be in a new era. Apple should create a washable device called iPictureBook—or perhaps something fun like iPB&J (PB & J = Peanut Butter and Jelly), the idea being that even kids with sticky fingers can enjoy their books.

Right now, PicPocket Books, the publisher to whom I’m licensing the bunny books, simply needs jpegs of the art (including cover and endpapers) and the title and copyright pages; my text is sent separately in a Word document. Therefore, June, Andrew Smith (my graphic designer), and I don’t have to worry about choosing a charming but readable font anymore. For my part, the publisher asked me to find the narrator for the books. I held taped phone auditions with young actresses through Imagination Stage in Bethesda, Maryland. Once Lynette and I decided on the perfect narrator, we all gathered at the studio to record the first two books. I was able to help with readings of lines and we all got to see how a recording studio works. The engineer was fantastic. He noticed everything and was patient with us as we redid lines wherever necessary.

You mentioned that your graphic designer was Andrew Smith. What happens to the role of designer in such books? Do they now become multi-media designers?

I work with graphic designers on my hardcover and softcover books. And my full-color e-book on grammar, too, required a cover designer and an interior designer. As for the apps of the picture books, our full-bleed art makes a design for the frames unnecessary. However, a designer is a must for the covers and the title page. I work with Andrew Smith at PageWave Graphics on the bunny books.

Avram's Gift by Margie Blumberg, illustrated by Laurie McGaw

Avram's Gift by Margie Blumberg, illustrated by Laurie McGaw

Whenever the conversion does change the layout—on Kindle, for example—you need to work with a converter—or learn how to do it by yourself. I hired Joshua Tallent to convert my chapter book, Avram’s Gift, into a book for Kindle.

What is the royalty or fee arrangement for illustrators who work on MB titles? Or if that is too specific a question, what is the compensation model for illustrators of e-books and multi-media children’s products generally?

This is an area that is in flux right now and is being discussed by publishers, authors, and illustrators. I’ve heard of percentages ranging from 24% to 50% (for authors and illustrators to split 50-50). There’s much debate and terms are being redefined, but for my company, with regard to the picture books, as I am also the author, I give a 50% royalty to June for her illustrations.

In your FAQS about illustrator submissions, it sounds like you would be receptive to illustrators who work in traditional mediums, such as watercolor?

Absolutely. I love the use of traditional media. If I owned an art gallery, I would fill it with children’s book art and animation cels. So instead, I buy books.

How do you work with Emma Walton Hamilton as your editor in the production of your books? What is that like?

In a word, it’s a joy. I initially contacted Emma via e-mail, and we communicated by e-mail throughout the editorial process. We have since spoken on the phone and we did meet for lunch when she was in town (Washington, DC), but the bulk of our work together has been conducted electronically. Some may think that this sounds cold or distant, but you don’t know Emma. Her warmth and integrity—and her enthusiasm for books—shine through every word of her thorough critiques and her editorial work. Her e-mails sparkle with encouragement. When we finally got to meet in person, she was even more fabulous than I had imagined!

Art by June Goulding

Art by U.K. illustrator June Goulding for Margie Blumberg's "Sunny Bunnies"

You are now one of the pioneers in this world of electronic children’s books. What made you decide to bravely charge into this world of new
publishing technology on your own instead of waiting for capital intensive
giants like the major trade publishers, like Random House or even the newly formed Ruckus Media Group to develop the technologies, strategies and markets for this new book and interesting them in your traditional books?

I know it’s the dream of most writers to simply write and not be bothered with the details of printing books or developing apps or working with artists and designers. But my inclination is to write, work with artists,  and produce. It’s a lot of work—but fun, too!—to be responsible for the whole book. When I bake, I don’t want to make just the batter—I want to bake the cake and ice it, too. I am so grateful for the opportunities I’ve had in working with my graphic designers and with June Goulding and Laurie McGaw. And I had a really great time researching photos and art for my grammar book, as well. As for the apps, I know I could have waited, but waiting is not my strong suit. And the experience of being involved in the first wave of this new technology is not to be missed.

Also, in July, PicPocket Books was chosen as a Huggies MomInspired™ Grant Award recipient by Kimberley Clark Corporation. They will be using the support that comes with the grant to implement additional features to the platform, increase marketing efforts, and add new titles. The award includes individual consulting with one of the nation’s top PR firms for help with branding and marketing. So while PicPocket may not be a giant, it’s certainly on its way!

And now for the technology part of our interview, Margie: How did you come to invent a memory pad and get a patent on it? Does this tie into the production of electronic books?

“Necessity is the mother of invention.” It’s so true. I was trying to remember how often a medical event was happening each night, and when I couldn’t recall the number in the mornings, I decided to invent something that would help me (and others) record events. I shared the idea with a nurse who works in a retirement community, and she told me that the memory pad would certainly make her patients’ lives easier—and hers as well. The patent process was long (about 4 years), and now that it’s done, I’ve begun talking with app developers to create a memory pad app. At the time that I thought of this invention, apps were not yet in our vocabulary.

The app for the memory pad is not related to the e-books. Much as I wish I could, I can’t turn to PicPocket Books and ask them to develop this app.

From "Sunny Bunnies" by Margie blumberg, illustrated by June Goulding

From "Sunny Bunnies" by Margie Blumberg, illustrated by June Goulding

What new projects are you working on with MB Publishing? What other
kinds of books and “thinking outside the book” projects would
you be interested in publishing?

I have recently signed a contract with a new writer to publish her middle-grade novel. June is working on the pencils for Busy Bunnies (for fall 2011), and then we will finish the 4-book seasonal section of our Carrot Cake Park series the following year with Snowy Bunnies.  At some point, we’d love to send the bunnies on adventures abroad. In addition, Laurie McGaw and I are just in the talking stages but we are seriously considering writing a play about our friendship of 10 years and counting. Although we’ve met only once (for 90 minutes on my birthday in Philadelphia over dinner)—she lives in Canada and I live in Maryland—we’ve become the best of friends, talking sometimes every day (e-mail is not lively enough for us).  We’ve helped each other celebrate in happy times and cry through a few horribly painful and sad times. Ours is a friendship that also thrives because we can discuss breakfast, art, men  and kids and always find the funny as well as the poignant. I hope we can do the play. Also, there is a cookbook on MB Publishing’s horizon. I won’t be the author, but I will definitely be one of the tasters.

I would love to work with June and a software designer/developer to create a game based on the sights, sounds, and characters in Carrot Cake Park. I’m also interested in mysteries and reference books, and I would enjoy publishing more chapter books.

It is fair to say, then,  as I said in the introduction, that you’ve been drawn to publishing since your teens, or at least since your 20s when you did your desktop calendar Is There Life After Chocolate? with cartoons and recipes?

Yes, it is. By my teens, I knew I wanted to write books when I grew up. And in my twenties, when I had to give up chocolate, I had one of those light-bulb moments: I had just stopped eating chocolate when I wondered to myself, “Is there life after chocolate?” I was obviously feeling very sorry for myself (at the time, I worked in an office where chocolate-covered donuts were always available). Immediately, I thought that that question would make a cute title for a recipe calendar. I got to work writing the cartoons and eventually started working with a cartoonist (John Thompson) who brought it all to life. I’m now gathering the cartoons to make them available on Zazzle.com. I think they will look great on mugs and mouse pads and other such essentials of life!

Thank you Margie for a wonderful interview!  Read more about Margie and her publishing company, MB Publishing.

Ramp up your command of American-English by checking in with Margie’s blog, The Scoop on Good Grammar.

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"Moon Bear" by Brenda Z. Guiberson and illustrated by Ed Young

"Moon Bear" by Brenda Z. Guiberson and illustrated by Ed Young, published by Henry Holt and Co.

Moon Bear

Any new children’s picture book with illustrations by Caldecott Medal winning collage artist Ed Young is an occasion, and Moon Bear,  written by Brenda Z. Guiberson is no exception.

Moon Bear tells of  a  ursine breed  that hides in the mountains and valleys of southern China and Vietnam. This picture book beautifully produced by Henry Holt and Co. features some of the best page spreads ever created by Young.  With poetic language  and riddle-like questions, Guiberson delivers interesting nonfiction account of a female Moon Bear’s daily travels and travails, most of them involving her hunt for the next meal.

This  endangered species of Asian black bear is distinguished by a white marking on the chest.  Every bear appears to be wearing a white bandanna kerchief — or a bib in a fancy Italian restaurant.

Moon Bears eat bamboo shoots, ants and berries, in lieu of the spaghetti and meat sauce they would undoubtedly also eat if they could find it in the forest. They build their nests in trees. And they seem to possess a special genius for staying out of sight. They’re as elusive as the Abominable Snowmen. And yet they’re captured in considerable numbers in Southern China and kept in confining cages. The book tells us this much in an epilogue — without going into more explanation.

Young’s page designs bring us up close to our subject bear so that we have a real sense of her movement, her presence and spirit.  Made of scraps of colored paper, magazine photos and found objects (such as bamboo leaves), the imagery is kinetic, fresh and bright with contrast.
Guiberson’s language and Young’s pictures fuse nicely to introduce us to a mysterious animal.

Read our 2008 interview with Ed Young. He talks about how he lost all of his original collage illustrations for the picture book Wabi Sabi by Mark Reibstein —  just before turning them in, and what it felt like to start over with them, with a short deadline looming.

"Moon Bear" double page spread collage illustration by Ed Young

"Moon Bear" double page spread collage illustration by Ed Young

Children’s and YA author Cynthia Leitich Smith gives an in incredibly generous and instructive interview to Julie Danielson at the Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast blog about the six year gestation of her newly published  picture book Holler Loudly,  illustrated by Barry Gott (Dutton).  The  interview includes some wonderful pagespreads from the book — original outline drawings and finished illustrations. You might also want to check out Barry Gott’s sketchedby book tumblr page .

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Children’s and YA author Greg Leitich Smith, meanwhile has posted on the recent bumper crop of children’s and YA  books by Austin, Texas authors and illustrators.  Illustrators Patrice Barton (Sweet Moon Baby: An Adoption Tale, Layla, Queen of Hearts) , Don Tate (She Loved Baseball: The Effa Manley Story), Laura Logan (Nonna Tell Me A Story) and Keith Graves (Chicken Big).  He cites 22 new children’s and YA books just out by Austin area authors and illustrators, most of them in the Austin SCBWI chapter. Read Greg’s post here.

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Sweet Baby Moon by Karen Henry Clark with illustrations by Patrice Barton

"Sweet Baby Moon" by Karen Henry Clark, illustrated by Patrice Barton

Really nice guest post by my friend, illustrator Patrice Barton on Cynthia Leitich Smith‘s blog, Cynsations about the difference between picture book and chapter book illustrations. She also talks about her own illustration process. Read the post here. Her latest release is the gorgeous Sweet Moon Baby: An Adoption Tale by Karen Henry Clark (Knopf.)

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Holler Loudly by Cynthia Leitich Smith, illustrated by Barry Gott (Dutton)

A trifecta children’s book launch party at Austin’s BookPeople on November 14 for Austin, Texas SCBWI authors Bethany Hegedus (Trouble with a Capital “T– (Delacorte,, for ages 9-up),  Brian Yansky (Alien Invasion and Other Inconveniences Candlewick, for ages 12 and up)  and Cynthia Leitich Smith (Holler Loudly – illustrated by Barry Gotts – Dutton, for ages 4 and up ) drew a big crowd, including much or most of the Austin SCBWI membership. (We’re our own biggest fans.)

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Bruce Foster, the Houston-based paper engineer profiled in a recent How To Be A Children’s Book Illustrator post has attracted media attention in a  USA Today review for Charles Dickens‘ A Christmas Carol: A Pop-Up Book, illustrated by Chuck Fischer, and a Dallas Morning News feature for, among other accomplishments, his engineering of the official Warner Brothers’ Harry Potter, a Pop-Up Book, illustrated by Andrew Williamson.
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December 15 is the  cut-off date for early registration for the Austin SCBWI 2011 Regional Conference – February 18-19 featuring Caldecott Medal-winning David Diaz and National Book Award YA Novelist Kimberly Willis Holt. Read more about the event and register for it here.

Trifecta Book Launch Party featuring Austin SCBWI authors

The cleverly stocked refreshment table at the Trifecta Book Launch Party at BookPeople featuring Austin SCBWI authors Brian Yansky, Bethany Hegedus and Cynthia Leitich Smith and many other authors, including Anne Bustard (serving chili at the table) and Jennifer Ziegler ( in black leather jacket.) Writers Sean Petrie and Jan Baumer stand behind Anne.

Austin SCBWI Trifecta book release party

An eager audience of parents, children, teachers and lots of Austin SCBWI members are ready for authors Brian Yansky, Cynthia Leitich Smith and Bethany Hegedus at BookPeople.

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Children’s author-illustrator Mark Mitchell hosts the Children’s Book Illustration and Illustration Course blogs.

Learn a big secret for dramatically improving your drawing here.

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