Making it up as we go along…

Author-Illustrator Jeff Crosby

Children’s book author-illustrator Jeff Crosby (Wiener WolfDisney-Hyperion) was talking with young students of the Austin Independent School District the other day — and he let them tell him a story, while he illustrated their scenes.

A bit of a high wire act, yes but he pulled it off with his usual calm and cleverness.

You can see the story somewhere in the following slide show.

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The slides include some of Jeff’s original sketches and paintings from Wiener Wolf as well as for Little Lions, Bull  Baiters  & Hunting Hounds (Tundra Books)  that he wrote and illustrated with his wife, author-illustrator Shelley Ann Jackson.

The event was for a birthday bash of sorts, 100 Years of School Libraries in Austin.

Illustrators recognized as the 2012 SCBWI Summer Conference wraps up

Congratulations to Melissa Sweet — winner of the 2012 Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) Golden Kite Award for Picture Book Illustration,  for Balloons over Broadway: The True Story of the Puppeteer of the Macy’s Parade (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011), a picture book biography that was five years in the making and has won several other awards.

And congratulations to Juana Martinez Neal, Grand Prize winner, and Mary Jo Scott, Nancy Armo and  Mary Lundquist,  honor winners in the Summer Conference Portfolio Contest.  

The awards were presented at the conference Sunday luncheon in Los Angeles.

Painted motion on glass

Alexander Petrov's "the Old Man and the Sea"

Does the Russian animator Alexander Petrov know a thing or two about using thumbnail sketches to build his stories and move them forward? Of course he does! Read about this and see his complete Academy Award – winning animated film, The Old Man and the Sea (20 minutes), based on Ernest Hemingway’s short novel here on the Illustration Course blog.

On your mouse, get set…go!

Austin SCBWI’s Digital Symposium II: Nuts and Bolts of Success is a hands-on technology workshop for illustrators and authors of all techie levels. Be it blogging or beveling, tweeting or technique sharing, hyperlinking or hashtagging, the intention of this symposium set for October 6 at St. Edward’s University is for the participants to leave with new skills to add their technological tool belts. You can download the full packet here, which includes conference info and an off-line registration sheet.

Parlay your ideas into children’s book art

"Make Your Splashes - Make Your Marks!" online course

“Make Your Splashes – Make Your Marks!” online course

Learn drawing and painting the fun way this summer. Take Mark Mitchell’s self-paced, online course Make Your Splashes – Make Your Marks! 

It teaches a dynamic approach to illustrating children’s books using traditional painting mediums.

Discover a great secret about drawing (four videos) and find more details about the course here.

Kevin Henkes’ gentle brush

Children’s book author-illustrator Kevin Henkes received the Caldecott Medal in 2005 for his picture book Kitten’s First Full Moon (Greenwillow, HarperCollins.)

But that was just a step on the journey that began more than 25 years before when, as a junior in high school, he decided to make a career of illustrating children’s books.The summer after his freshman year at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, Henkes set out for New York, portfolio under his arm.

He was 19. His first stop was Greenwillow Books and there he met the publishers founder, Susan Hirschman who, in the words from his website bio “signed him up on the spot.”

Henkes’s first published picture book, All Alone (1981) was followed by a series of icgture books featuring little mice characters — most famously Owen, named a Caldecott Honor Book (1994) and Lilly of Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse (1996.)

“Each book is different. Some come easily, and some are very difficult to bring to completion.
I’ll often think about an idea for months, even years, before I’m ready to write,” Henkes says.

“It’s difficult to say how much time I spend on each illustration. I don’t do each illustration from start to finish; I do them in stages.  I do sketches for the entire book first. Then I’ll refine all the sketches. Next, I’ll do a finished pencil drawing for each illustration in the book.”

He then inks, tests colors for each illustration, then paints in watercolor.

Kevin Henke's "Old Bear"

Time to submit your story in the PB Dummy Challenge

The PB Dummy Challenge crew wraps up its series on the #KidLitArt blog this week with this this post about how to pitch your story to the world and author-illustrator Tara Lazar’s encouraging video in which she shares truths about rejection and “revisions on spec” requests from editors.

Parlay those art skills into children’s book pictures 

"Make Your Splashes - Make Your Marks!" online course

“Make Your Splashes – Make Your Marks!” online course

Learn drawing and painting the fun way this summer. Take Mark Mitchell’s self-paced course Make Your Splashes – Make Your Marks!which teaches a dynamic approach to illustrating children’s books using traditional watercolor. Discover a great secret about drawing (video) and more about the course here.

P.J. Lynch: Story illustration A-Z

The childhood thrill of make believe looms large for Dublin-based artist P.J. Lynch, 2X winner of England’s Kate Greenaway Medal for IllustrationHe may not come out and say this. But you can’t not feel it in his children’s book illustrations and murals, YouTube videos and lectures about art and painting in Ireland and the U.S.

He puts pretending first, which makes his formidable technical skills as a draftsman and painter accessible to all.

Lynch created two remarkable murals on the theme of Gulliver’s Travels for the Johnston Central Library — in Cavan County, Ireland (where Johnathan Swift wrote most of his classic satire.)

In the video Lynch shows us how he acted out the character roles for one of the large panel paintings.

Illustrators are actors, as Howard Pyle suggested to his students more than 100 years ago.

In the above BBC film short Lynch talks about illustrating the old Norwegian folk tale East of the Sun and West of the Moon and how he asked his mom, girlfriend, neighbor “and anyone who was handy” to pose for him as characters in Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen.

In the videos above and below an older Lynch walks us through the stages of creating illustrations for American Frank Stockton’s The Bee-man of Orn. 

He shows us how he uses the computer to re-arrange his drawings and compose his scenes to best effect.

Elements from his piles of sketches can be “moved about like paper cut-outs,” he says.

“The great thing is they can be enlarged or reduced and you can even change the shape of them. You can even flip them over, like this…”

“Then all I have to do is paint the pictures,” Lynch says with a hint of drollness.

Some of these pictures will take up to a month to complete, he says.  He’ll make sketch after sketch “before the image ever starts to take shape.”

His watercolor demo speaks for itself. At the end he adds touches of gouache for highlights. You’ll enjoy peeking into his blog, where you’ll find more examples of his spellbinding art.

Voyage to Lilliput mural for Cavan County Library

East of the Sun, West of the Moon by George Webbe Dasent (translator)

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See what happened when Walt Disney (and Boy Scouts  movement founder Lord Baden Powell, too) discovered Baloo, Mowgli and other characters from Rudyard Kipling’s darkly themed stories about animal society in the Indian jungle. You’ll enjoy the latest video post up on the Illustration Course blog.                                                                                                                                                      * * * * *

Check out illustrator and teacher Will Terry’s guest post on  preparing your picture book dummy to send to publishers.  The post is part of the terrific on-going PBDummy Challenge series by illustrators on the #KidLitArt blog.

Will offers  some great video courses on illustration and other art-making at his Folio Academy website. My favorites are How to Illustrate a Children’s Book and his two Photoshop video courses. You can read more about them here.

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Are you interested in writing children’s books as well as making pictures for them? You can download two free examination copies of the Children’s Writer newsletter at the newsletter’s website here.

The newsletter is a publication of the Institute of Children’s Literature. Writer Mary Furlong has profiled Make Your Splashes – Make Your Marks! (On Your Mark, Get Set…Illustrate!) in this month’s edition of the Children’s Writer  (June 2012).

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Discover an instant way to righteously better drawing in these free videos.

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Author-illustrator Mark Mitchell teaches an online course on children’s book illustration that you can read more about here.

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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.

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

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A party in February

Erik KuntzAmy Rose Capetta and Nick Alter made this video of the Austin Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators 2012 Regional Conference, Something for Everybody. 

I get a kick out of how the thumbnail on YouTube shows me in the crowd, getting a hug from illustrator Marsha Riti. So of course I had to include it here.

Erik, our web designer and webmaster and Nick, our chapter’s social media strategist produced the video around Amy Rose’s wonderful portrait photography. They put it all together on the fly — while the event was still happening, in time to show the attendees at the day’s end.

You don’t want to miss hearing the Muppets in the video’s second half.

My own photos will never be as good as Amy’s — but they’re illustration-centric and include shots of the illustrators’ intensive session by Patti Ann Harris, senior art director for Little, Brown and Co.

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Yes, it was all back in February! But the experience feels fresh still. Highlights for me were a session Patti did with Random House (Golden Books) editor and author Diane Muldrow on the art director/editor relationship at a house  — and a special award that our chapter presented to two of its beloved members:  Authors Cynthia Leitich Smith and Greg Leitich Smith. The award recognized this married pair for being our chapter’s friends/mentors and Ambassadors for the Austin Kid-Lit Community to the world.

I loved how the Girllustrators organized the illustrators’ print and original art donations for the silent auction and ran herd on the portfolio room and portfolio competition (won by Jeff Crosby.) They represented our group splendidly.

Others’ thank yous were given out many weeks ago. But I’ll add mine now — thanks to the Girllustrators, our terrific guest faculty, especially author Lisa YeeDebbie Gonzalesour chapter’s regional adviser (RA) and assistant RA Carmen Oliver, also Meredith Davis, Shelli Cornelison, Samantha Clark, Sheryl Witschorke  and so many volunteers, and Sister Donna Jurick, Ramsey Fowler, PhD. and Rebecca Rodriguez of St. Edward’s University who allowed their beautiful campus to be our base for the second year in a row.

Girllustrators at the conference

The “Girllustrators” who coordinated the Portfolio Showcase and portfolio contest. Left ro right standing are Emma J. Virjan and Shelley Ann Jackson, seated – Divya Srinivasan, Marsha Riti, Patrice Barton and Amy Farrier — with Emma J. Virjan, Marsha Riti, Patrice Barton, Amy Farrier and Shelley Ann Jackson at the Mabee Ballroom at St. Edward’s University. Not pictured are Lalena Fisher, Tiffany Vargas and Amanda Williams.

A Crystal Kite for Patty

Austin SCBWI’s own Patrice Barton joins Michigan SCBWI’s author Shutta Krum in winning a 2012 SCBWI Crystal Kite Award for their picture book Mine!

The Crystal Kite is given by the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators each year to recognize the best books from 15 regional SCBWI divisions around the world. Peers, children’s book authors and illustrators in the 15 divisions, vote for their favorites.  Mine! was the winner for the Texas-Oklahoma Division.

Last summer we interviewed Patty for Marks and Splashes course students. In this excerpt from video interview Patty did for students of the Marks and Splashes course  she talks about working on the illustrations for Mine! 

 And remembering Maurice Sendak

Who brought many of us back to children’s books — when we thought we’d left them behind long ago.

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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