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Fangirl moment. THE Carin Berger is on my blog today. A children’s book creator I have long admired, Berger’s cut-paper illustrations bring delightful whimsy to books by former U.S. Children’s Poet Laureate Jack Prelusky, as well as imbue her own stories with a joyful spirit.

 

When I read her newest release, ALL OF US, I thought, “This is a perfect book for today—for right now.” So of course, I had to ask her about it. Thankfully, she agreed to an interview.

Carin, ALL OF US feels so timely, however I know it can take years to create a picture book. How did you decide upon the theme (and when)?

While it is true that it can take years to bring a picture book into the world, I wrote ALL OF US, in a single burst, in response to the turmoil in our country, especially in the lead up to the election. In fact I wrote it while I was in Germany, the country that my family was forced to flee in the 1930s because of unrelenting racism, hatred and violence directed against vulnerable minorities. I had actually voted on Election Day and then flown to Germany that afternoon. I landed to the news of the election results. The juxtaposition of the events in our country against my own family’s history of forced displacement was upsetting and surreal. I wanted to do something to make a difference, to remind those that felt unbalanced or ostracized or alone, that community, diversity, inclusion and love are powerful and will ultimately triumph. This idea of wanting to do something dogged me for days. Or maybe it was months. In any case, there in Germany, with such a stew of feelings inside, I woke up in the middle of the night with the words to the book almost like a song or refrain in my head. I scribbled them down and made thumbnail drawings in my sketchbook. The next morning I took a picture of this on my phone and then emailed to my publisher, Greenwillow Books. And, in a terrific leap of faith, Greenwillow agreed to put this project ahead of one that was about to go to final art in order to get ALL OF US out into the world quickly.

You are known for your cut paper illustrations. Was there any special consideration of the paper you chose for this project?

I do think a lot about the paper that I use in my illustrations. I work with found ephemera in part because I love that each piece of paper comes with its own history…like secret stories…that inherently add another layer of depth to the books. I intentionally gather really diverse papers from around the world, so if you look closely at the illustrations in ALL OF US, you might see a bit of Chinese or Spanish or Japanese or Hindi or Russian.

I know you surreptitiously include your daughter’s name “Thea” in every book. Did you hide any messages in ALL OF US? Or is your message out in the open?

I love that you remember that I put “Thea” in all of my books.

It is true, in ALL OF US, there are some covert messages. Others are right out in the open.

Some examples of hidden messages are:

Thea’s name appears on the hand that is on the “know that I am here, as steady as stone” page.

Elsewhere in the book, my brother’s name, Daniel, appears in one heart.

Additionally, there are two self portraits in the book. One appears on the wordless “love wins” page holding a heart that says “thea”.

A second family portrait is on the lowest row of the left hand side of the 2nd “love wins” page. There you will find me, my husband, Max, Thea, and our pet rabbit, Pearly.

Finally, on all of the pages in the book that have illustrations of people, I have included images of family and friends within the crowds.

Also, if you look closely, you will find my daughter’s black cat, Cosette.

What’s more, there is a gentle, unspoken story going on in the book.

There are two characters that reoccur, the little girl in the yellow boots and the little boy with the red kite. The girl starts the book with a heavy heart and an unsure step. The little boy is on the page with the unclear path and his kite appears on the stormy past page.

They first appear together on the “hazy future” page, and they don’t notice each other.

Eventually, as we make our way through the book, they notice each other and join together as friends in part of the larger community.

allofusspread

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(Click to enlarge spreads.)

Carin, what do you hope readers will connect with? What do you hope they will take away after reading ALL OF US? 

Hope is a great word. I HOPE that the message of HOPE in ALL OF US will resonate with readers.

I HOPE that the book makes readers feel more connected, that it opens up conversations about inclusion and community and the power of HOPE and love in the face of adversity.

Children face so many challenging moments in growing up…they are figuring out who they are, and how they fit it. They are trying to make sense of the world and navigate through all sorts of new situations. I really HOPE that ALL OF US can be a tool to bring people together and to offer empathy and light and HOPE in difficult times.

Thank you, Carin, for bringing us such a beautiful book for our uncertain times. I know I will treasure my copy.

Blog readers, if you would like your own copy to treasure, plus ALL OF US bookmarks and swag, please comment once below.

A winner will be randomly selected in September.

Good luck and thank you for reading.

 

 

Author-illustrator Denise Fleming gave the keynote at the NJ-SCBWI conference a few years ago and she said something that has stuck with me: “My internal age is five. So I make books for five-year-olds like me.”

I had an ah-ha moment, complete with a hovering lightbulb. I’m eight, I thought. No wonder I write what I do.

Denise’s newest book was recently released, and if you’re familiar with her work, it looks a little different. I learned that Denise has changed up her style. So, of course, I wanted to chat about it.

Denise, you are well known for your innovative illustrations created with paper pulp. THIS IS THE NEST THAT ROBIN BUILT looks a little different—still gorgeous and unique—but I understand you decided to reinvent your style with this book. Why did you feel the need to change up your technique?

I have been illustrating my books with pulp painting for over 25 years. While I love paper making, I felt it was time for a change for several reasons. The small company where I bought my pulp had changed hands and the new pulp was causing me problems. The board I used for stencils was no longer available. I had tried substitutes but none worked as well for detail and some were difficult to cut. Then, there were the hours of standing bent over the paper vat which was affecting my health. These were all a part of my decision to experiment with new techniques.

Gelatin printing and foam printing along with collage were the techniques that really interested me. These provided more freedom and the ability to create more detail, which is difficult with paper making. I also felt I needed a bit of reinvention. I have been around for a long time, I wanted readers to take a second look at my art. I am fascinated with printmaking. Before I created books I studied printmaking, mostly etching, lithos and mono-prints. I am excited to try new styles and techniques in upcoming books.

How does this new style contribute to and enhance this story?

With the new style I am able to create more detail in the illustrations. Printing the background and collaging the foreground gives the feeling of more depth. I also am able to make papers with the textures of feathers and grasses which enhances the art and adds a feel of realism.

 

Has your new style given rise to ideas for books you would have never thought of before?

Actually, I will be experimenting with several new styles in upcoming books. And yes, these new styles will allow me to more ably illustrate several manuscripts I had put in the back of my file due to the fact that I couldn’t figure out how to illustrate them in my pulp painting technique. People are difficult to do in pulp painting. Up until this point I have illustrated people as large graphic shapes. Hands and fingers were stressful as the pulp would fill in spaces between figures. Ugh. So maybe more figures and details in upcoming books. And maybe even white space.

Can you tell us about any upcoming projects?

As to future books, I have been on a sort of sabbatical. Working out how I want books to look. Manuscripts have not been submitted, so I would rather not reveal any of the books until they are under contract. But, I will let you know about them as soon as I send them out and am offered contracts. I agent myself, so I have to give myself a push. Unfortunately, I love experimenting, so I am slow to get back to the business of books.

If I were to edit your reply, I would delete “unfortunately”. Readers are lucky that you keep innovating and creating even more beautiful art!

THIS IS THE NEST THAT ROBIN BUILT is available now from Beach Lane Books.

You can win a copy here by leaving a comment below. A winner will be randomly selected in a couple weeks.

Good luck!

by Josh Nash

When you are trying to make it in a business that favors good ideas, you are going to need to get some. Easier said than done, right? It’s not the 1960s anymore when you could just send away for them by mail order catalog. (Not a lot of people know that “Where the Wild Things Are” cost Maurice Sendak $8.95 and a self addressed stamped envelope.)

So where do ideas come from? Good question. I always think of the Bright Eyes lyric by Conor Oberst about being a musician and songwriter: “I’m drinking, breathing, writing, singing. Everyday I’m on the clock.”

First, when it comes to drinking and working, I recommend coffee. But you can drink whatever you want. Tea, Black Cherry Kool-aid, Orange Julius. Second, it’s the “Everyday I’m on the clock” bit that makes the most sense to me because I like the idea of never being off the clock as an artist and a writer. It is a job we never really punch out of, isn’t it? Living a creative life is a full-time job and being open to ideas means you are always on the clock.

You are on the clock during your morning commute. Four lanes of Hondas and Subarus jockeying for the exit lane may not be the ideal setting for turning illustration or story ideas over in your head, but the creative mind never clocks out. Just be careful not to drive off the highway into a ditch especially when your last phone transmission is a text to yourself that reads “bunny has a potluck but everyone brings cups.”

minivanditch

Keep a notebook handy at the office because even when you are on the clock, YOU ARE ON THE CLOCK! Ideas don’t quit just because you have 150 emails to answer and Dale from Accounting is waxing interminable about his adventures in home brewing. However, you don’t want to be so focused on story ideas at your day job that you end up getting fired for being a bad employee. But if you do get fired, it would be good if you had plenty of amazing story ideas to sell. So it’s a tricky balance.

officecoffee

Standing in line at Starbucks? You got time to lean, you got time to clean, buddy! Ideas are working overtime at coffee shops. The right mix of caffeine and anonymous strangers milling about keep the idea synapses firing. Who is that old lady? What is her story? Who is that toddler? Why is she screaming? Why is that screaming toddler’s dad just staring at his phone while his toddler is screaming? Is he actually a cyborg dad suffering a program glitch? And there’s your idea. Write it down.

And just when you think it’s quitting time, remember that ideas work the night shift too. After you have kissed your honey or let your cat bite you goodnight, and after you have drifted into that state of half-awake, half-driving-your-bed-through-four-lanes-of-Hondas-and-Subarus because-you-are-three-hours-late-for-that-college-humanities-class-you-forgot-to-drop-in-1997, you will have one more idea. This will be a very bad idea. Do not write it down, it’s gibberish!

Ideas never take a day off. They are workaholics. All you have to do to get them is to show up, is punch your timecard and get to work. By constantly being on the clock, and making room for creative work in your daily life, whether it is writing, painting, daydreaming or doodling, ideas will come knocking at your office door, submitting their tiny résumés. And you are always considering candidates because you are always open for business. You’re always on the clock.


Josh is 50% eraser shavings, 50% animal cookies and 50% Café Americano. Josh is also horrible at math but he loves to draw. When he was very small, his mother read him books with words and pictures by Maurice Sendak, Garth Williams, Richard Scarry and Ezra Jack Keats. His dad provided him with piles of scrap paper, pens and pencils to make his own pictures. Josh is bigger now but he remembers those stories and pictures vividly. And he still loves to draw.

Josh has been drawing professionally since 2004 and has done so for the nice folks at Scholastic, Hooked on Phonics, and singer-songwriter Kenny Loggins.

When he isn’t drawing he can be found enjoying beautiful Northern California with his wife, traveling to a rainy European city, reading a book or doing any number of activities that don’t require math.

Visit him online at JoshuaNashIllustrates.com and on Twitter @joshuanashillus and Instagram @joshuanashillus.

Josh is giving away a signed copy of this adorable fox print.

by Joshua Nash

Leave ONE COMMENT on this blog post to enter. You are eligible to win if you are a registered Storystorm participant and you have commented once below. Prizes will be given away at the conclusion of the event.

Good luck!

by Timothy Young

In my new book I’M GOING TO OUTER SPACE! I tell the story of a boy named Luis who tells us all about the exciting things he wants to do and see when he gets to outer space. I was inspired to write this book as an homage to all of the science fiction I’ve loved since I was young. I remember watching old B&W films like “This Island Earth” and “Invaders From Mars” on television and cartoons like “The Jetsons”. As I got older I would read books by Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury and Robert Heinlein and watch “Lost In Space” and “Star Trek”. I was already an avid sci-fi fan when “Star Wars” came out and my love for Science Fiction only grew further and continues to this day.

When I started to flesh out the illustrations for my story I decided to pay homage to the entire genre. I have a spread with spaceships from the 1930’s to now. I have a page of robots that I challenge any sci-fi fan to name them all. They are from movies, television, comics and even other picture books.

When it came time to draw aliens, I realized I had a problem. I love designing aliens, it’s one of my favorite things to draw. But I also wanted to have some classic aliens as I had done with the spaceships and robots. I decided to have one spread with recognizable aliens that kids and parents will have fun figuring out who they all are. For the rest of the book I put my own original creations designed just for this book…all except one.

Back when I was just out of college I was hired by a friend who was an art director at Doubleday Books. They needed an illustration of an alien artist. At the time I was creating sculptural illustrations, 3D models that were photographed for print.

I created a number of sketches for the alien and when one was picked I sketched the final scene. I then sculpted the character and built his props; the easel, canvas and box of paints he uses. Another artist built the landscape and a sky backdrop was rented.

Everything was brought together at a photographers studio in lower Manhattan and the photograph was then used as the cover of a catalog of Science Fiction Art Books.

So when I started drawing aliens for I’M GOING TO OUTER SPACE! I decided to include my first alien from one of my first professional illustration jobs. He appears a few times in the book including this spread with a bunch of his friends.

I’M GOING TO OUTER SPACE! released just a few days ago…on December 15, 2017 from Schiffer Publishing.

Thanks, Tim! This was like time-traveling through outer space!

You can go to outer space, too, because Tim is giving away a signed copy of I’M GOING TO OUTER SPACE…THIS WEEK.

Leave one comment below to enter! And good luck!

 

I met the talented author-illustrator Roxie Munro several years ago while appearing at the Princeton Children’s Book Festival. Our tables were next to each other, and knowing she had been well-published for over thirty years, I sidled up to ask her about the business. She was gracious with the advice—when she wasn’t busy signing books! Her table was a popular destination, and I made sure to pick up a couple of her books for my daughters as well.

One of those titles, MAZEWAYS: A to Z, became a steady favorite in our house. Imagine “Where’s Waldo” meets a maze activity book crossed with an alphabet book. What a concept! The intricate illustrations and planning that had to go into the book mesmerized my imagination. How did she do it???

So when I saw Roxie again this spring for the Chesapeake Children’s Book Festival, I zoomed toward her table. And I spotted it—her next great concept—MASTERPIECE MIX.

Once again, Roxie was gracious enough to answer my questions about this new book—her 45th—which hits shelves TODAY from Holiday House!

Roxie, your maze books astound me because such meticulous planning must go into every spread. Likewise, MASTERPIECE MIX must have required much planning to fit 37 art masterpieces into the final spread. Can you give us a glimpse into the process for this book?

The maze books are harder, actually (I remember once a solution to a complex maze came while I was asleep, dreaming about it). I had the idea for MASTERPIECE MIX more than 15 years ago. I did a complete dummy, but it was rejected by my publisher at the time, and I just put it into my flat files. A couple years ago, I showed the dummy to Mary Cash at Holiday House. She really liked it, but thought the middle section, where I showed perspective, color wheels, volume and shadows, and other art techniques, was too confusing. Grace Maccarone, another editor there, suggested genres, like still life, landscapes, portraits and so forth… that was the creative “click” it needed.

We were concerned about getting permissions to use images, but I discovered that the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC had just instituted an Open Access policy, so I used those images for the art in the book. The grand finale actually came easy—I just had fun figuring how to incorporate those mostly historic images into a contemporary city. Fragonard’s “Girl Reading” is a banner above the town library, Bellow’s boxers are used in a gym’s sign, Cassatt’s mother and child advertise a day care center.

[Click any image to get a closer view.]

Did any of the masterpieces in the book inspire you to become an artist?

I remember the Winslow Homer painting, “Breezing Up,” shown in the book, from my childhood—we had a print of it on our dining room wall in our home, and it fascinated me. Van Gogh became my favorite painter as I saw more of his work…I love his fresh, sensuous brushstrokes, his use of “participatory” (somewhat distorted) space, and wonderful awareness of pattern. And I adore Daumier’s dynamic lines and Hopper’s melancholy city.

Is the main character in the book really you?

Yep.

Ha, I knew it! 

My family loved art (my sister Ann Munro Wood is a professional artist also), and encouraged us to draw and paint. My parents made a special family trip to Washington DC just to see “Young Girl Reading” by Fragonard when it was acquired by the National Gallery of Art in the early 1960s—it felt like seeing the Mona Lisa—excited press reports announcing the purchase, and lots of visitors to the Gallery.

I visited Arles, France, in a pilgrimage to my beloved Van Gogh. Of course have visited the Louvre, D’Orsay etc in Paris; the Rembrandt and Van Gogh museums in Amsterdam; the Uffizzi in Florence; the National Gallery in London; Philadelphia Museum of Art; Prado in Madrid; Munch Gallery in Oslo; MOMA, the Met, and the Hopper shows at the Whitney here in NYC. And many other museums in the USA and the world, although not all in research for this book. Even visited Gauguin’s grave in the Marquesas Islands.

I’ve also been to the Honolulu Museum of Art, San Francisco Art Institute, Chicago Gallery of Art, Kimball Art Museum in Fort Worth; Baltimore Museum of Art; National Portrait Gallery and Phillips Collection in Washington DC; Victoria and Albert in London; National Museum in Stockholm; National Gallery in Edinburgh; the Frick and Guggenheim in NYC; etc., etc.

What do you hope readers (and search-and-finders) will take away from MASTERPIECE MIX?

I hope that readers will understand that creativity requires education, and references to those who have gone before you, but also your own personal experience and insight. You need both. Creativity is often combining the old and the new in fresh ways.

And practicing—a knowledge of craft and process—is helpful. It is useful in getting your point across in an accessible clear competent way. Paraphrasing the cliche: Art is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.

But the creative inspiration lifts the work, and gives it wings…it delights.

Wow, thank you, Roxie. This was a fascinating look into your artwork and process.

Blog readers, you can be sure that this book delights—and you can find out for yourself by going out to get MASTERPIECE MIX, and/or winning this giveaway.

Leave one comment below to enter. A winner will be randomly selected in about two weeks.

Good luck…and keep creating

In the midst of her first Storystorm in 2015, Sarah Lynne Reul was picking up her daughter from French lessons (her husband is French with family in France) when she began receiving a slew of text messages from friends checking in to say they were safe. She had no idea what was going on. Turning on the radio, she heard scant details about the terrorist attacks in Paris.

“I walked into the after-school building full of people with family in France, and it seemed nobody else was yet aware of the attacks.  I couldn’t decide if it was helpful or harmful for me to tell them about it, since I had so little information on what had happened.”

She recalled how everyone was glued to the TV during September 11, even though the news anchors kept repeating themselves, trying to reach conclusions before the mesmerized, worried audience.

While she was driving home, Sarah could tell that her daughter knew something was going on, even though the radio was off. “She told me she’d make a forcefield to protect everyone we knew, and it made my heart ache. I jotted that down when we got home as the idea of the day. I kept coming back to the concept, and a few weeks later created the first draft.”

The result is THE BREAKING NEWS, her debut picture book as author-illustrator. And today Sarah is revealing the cover with the story behind its evolution.

Thanks for hosting my cover reveal, Tara.

We went through a bunch of different iterations for the cover—my editor, Claire Dorsett, and my art director, Anne Diebel, provided lots of guidance and feedback throughout the process.

I began the process for the cover after I had finished all of the interior art. The original working title had been “THE BAD NEWS”, which felt a bit too negative, and for a while, we were playing with the title “ONE SMALL THING”, so you’ll see those names in some of the early sketches below. We eventually settled on “THE BREAKING NEWS” as a final title, which we all felt works best for the book.

Here are some of my earliest sketches for the cover.

I liked the one that I had circled here—I felt like it showed a problem for the main character to solve, but ultimately it didn’t show a connection to the actual news media, which plays a pretty big role in the book.

So I tried a few options that put the focus on newspapers and/or TV, as well as the reaction of the family.

We ended up going with a variation of the middle option, and then we went back and forth on the framing. Here’s a sample mockup from Anne:

Finally, I worked on softening the expressions and exploring options for the colors and the hand lettered title to find the right combination for the final.

Fascinating glimpse into the process for this book, Sarah, thank you! And having been lucky enough to read it, I can say that it sums up the story beautifully.

THE BREAKING NEWS by Sarah Lynne Reul makes it debut April 10, 2018 from Roaring Brook Press. Mark your calendars, eager readers!

Narwhals are fascinatingly cool, and lucky us, there’s a whole buncha new books that feature these unicorns of the sea. One such hilarious take is Ben Clanton’s new _____ book series NARWHAL AND JELLY. I asked Ben to share the backstory of his most awesome underwater adventure…

Ahoy Tara,

I’m thrilled you like NARWHAL AND JELLY! Thank you!

NARWHAL: UNICORN OF THE SEA! started out as a PB, or actually a series of picture books. There have been a number of iterations, but ever since NARWHAL first swam into my brain I knew one book wouldn’t be enough for me.

I first got it into my head that I wanted to make a book featuring a narwhal after seeing the book POLAR OBSESSION by Paul Nicklen several years ago. The book has some absolutely stunning photographs of narwhals in it and my mind was o-fish-ally blown. I must confess before seeing Nicklen’s book I didn’t really know about narwhals. That such a creature which seems so fantastic actually exists caught my imagination. I started doodling little narwhals even more than monsters, dragons, robots, or my other usual favorite subjects.

However, my first attempts at writing a story about one of these little narwhals didn’t turn out so great. Most of my initial ideas centered around a narwhal getting lost at sea and separated from its pod. I finally realized I was trying to force too serious of a story on this narwhal when standing in line for ice cream (Molly Moon’s in Seattle). Something about the smell of newly made waffle cones in the air and thinking about how they look like horns (or perhaps a narwhal tooth?) flipped a switch in my head and it suddenly clicked for me that Narwhal is the sort of character that is as sweet and awesome as waffles and ice cream AND that Narwhal’s story should be too.

Jelly, who is a bit of a worrier and skeptic, wasn’t so sure about this new approach for a narwhal story, but that night I came up with three stories (“Narwhal,” “Narwhal’s BEST WEEKEND EVER,” and “Narwhal’s Pod of Awesomeness”) and made quick storyboards and even a mock-up. By the next day I had several more book ideas featuring Narwhal and Jelly. And then a flood of new story ideas by the day after that.

At the time, I just assumed that these stories would/should be picture books. That was the format I was most familiar and comfortable with, but after submitting to several publishers the feedback I received from pretty much everyone was more or less the same . . . the characters are great but the stories seem slight. It was Tara Walker (Tundra Books) that mentioned the stories when viewed together seemed to add up to more than the individual parts. She encouraged me to consider exploring the format and page count. I resisted this idea at first. I didn’t mind the books being light on plot. Actually, that was a part of the appeal to me and one of the reasons I felt they worked well. But as is usual for me with any suggestion Tara gives me that I don’t agree with (which is rare) . . . I eventually came to see she was right. So I tried combining a couple of the stories into a long picture book. It felt forced. It wasn’t until I started to add panels and bonus materials that i found a way to make three 32 page “picture books” into a 64 page ______ book.

This process took years in which I kept revisiting the format and what I ended up with . . . it doesn’t exactly neatly fit into the typical designations of “picture book” or “chapter book” or “early reader” or even “graphic novel.” I suppose “graphic novel for early readers” is the closest. Yet it is really a bit of a hybrid.

Somewhat ironically, even though Tara and Tundra Books had encouraged me to explore the format they weren’t entirely sure about the unusual one I had come up with, but I had been fully converted. I was sure this was the way to go. It took awhile but Tara and Tundra finally decided to take a chance on it.

And aren’t we lucky that they did!

Thanks, Ben and Tundra!

Tundra is giving away a copy of the first NARWHAL AND JELLY book, so leave ONE COMMENT below to enter. A winner will be randomly selected soon!

by Courtney Pippin-Mathur

Today is the day that my second written and illustrated picture book DRAGONS RULE, PRINCESSES DROOL! will be released into the world!

It’s the story of a dragon whose land had been invaded by two adorably horrible princesses who change everything. As you have read on other posts on Tara’s awesome blog and during Storystorm, you know that characters are very important in picture books. A strong character can inspire strong emotions and getting his/her/their look is extremely important to the book.

DRAGONS RULE, PRINCESSES DROOL is comprised of three main characters; a grumpy dragon and the two princesses who have invaded his land.

Below, I’m going to share a quick, edited run through the many, many, many different versions of the Dragon and the Princesses. Just like revisions in the text, there are revisions in the art.

The story originally started out with the dragons invading the princess’ land, but in a Eureka moment (brought on by delirium from the stomach flu) I flipped it.

After I settled on this new plot, I wanted to create the cutest dragon I could. These were my first attempts; I was going for a combination of a dinosaur and a chicken.

Here it is with various emotions.

Reasonably happy with this version, I did a few color character studies to try and learn exactly who the dragon was. (You’ll see that I call him Fred.)

I wasn’t totally happy with this version, so after several sketches, I decided to try to combine two of the coolest things ever—Elvis and an alligator.

I had it! The perfect image of a snotty little dragon. Here he is on a sketch of the first page of the book. I loved him.

A color sketch:

I completed the first draft of the dummy, sent it to my art director and waited. A few weeks later, I got an email from her. It was wise. It was great advice. It was tragic. (Not really, but it might have felt so at the time)

She noted (with great wisdom) that the dragon looked a bit too snotty. Perhaps we needed to make him cuter.

So, I created 4 new sketches, cleaned them up and sent them to her.

As you can see, I really wanted to keep the Elvis hair.

Can you guess which one she picked? Yup. The only one without the pompadour. (cue tiny violin music).

I did a version in full color. And once again, I was in love.

After a few more tweaks, he started to look like this.

And then, at the very last stage of illustrating the book, he got a snout job.

The princesses did not take quite as many attempts. This is how they looked in one of the first color pieces I created for the first dummy.

They were not quite right, so I did a few more sketches.

and a few more…

and this tiny one.

She was a winner! But none of the other princesses seemed right, so back to the drawing table I went.

I knew how I wanted her face to look. We (me and the wise AD) just weren’t sold on her hair.

And then I sent this.

Finally, we had our main characters. While all of this was happening there were also settings, other dragons, creatures and princesses ball gowns considerations as well as a general color pallet.

But that is for another post.

For some more dragon-y fun, you can take a personality quiz based on DRAGONS RULE, PRINCESSES DROOL! Are you a dragon, a princess, both or something else entirely?

www.pippinmathur.com/quiz

You can also follow me on Twitter at @pippinmathur.

Courtney Pippin-Mathur moved from Texas to a suburb outside of Washington, DC. She shares her home with a knight, a princess, and two unruly dragons, which leads to many exciting and loud adventures.

Thanks, Courtney, for showing us how art edits evolve. (And as an author-only,  I will never complain about edits again! Well…we’ll see…)

Courtney is giving away a copy of DRAGONS RULE, PRINCESSES DROOL!, which releases today! Leave a comment below to enter. A winner will be randomly selected in about two weeks.

Good luck!

by Debbie Ridpath Ohi

I’m assuming that you’re all deep into your brainstorming about story ideas at this point and already have a meaty list after all the inspiring posts you’ve been reading during Storystorm. Good for you!

I sometimes equate this stage of story brainstorming to experimenting with a recipe for a cake. Why cake? Because cake is one of my favorite things in the world. And suppose it’s a recipe entry for a baking contest in which you can submit ONE entry.

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After Storystorm, I advise you to browse your list of ideas and choose the one that appeals to you the most. Maybe you’ll be so excited about this particular idea that you won’t be able to wait. Maybe you’ve already started working on expanding the story, plotting an outline and/or doodling rough sketches. Maybe you’ve just expanded the idea a wee bit, perhaps into a paragraph or a few pages of notes.

Excellent! Now put that story away and DON’T LOOK AT IT for a while. “A while” is up to you. For me, it’s at least two weeks but sometimes several months.

In our baking analogy: it means tweaking your cake recipe and then putting that experimental cake in the oven:

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RESIST THE URGE TO TAKE IT OUT OF THE OVEN BEFORE IT’S READY.

Why?

Because if you take it out too soon, it’ll look pretty much the same as when you put it in. What you want: to give it enough time to settle, to bake, to reach a state where you can taste it objectively and see whether it’s really THE cake recipe you want to submit to the contest.

Sometimes when you take it out of the oven, it’ll look like this:

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Though of course we all hope for this:

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But back to when your cake story looks like this:

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At this point, you may realize that it’s not worth salvaging, and you may want to just toss it. Sometimes your instinct will be right.

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However, there may still be SOMETHING about it that you just can’t let go of:

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In that case, try experimenting some more. Maybe combine it with another idea, find a different spin, rework it in a different genre or format. Turn it upside down or reverse it, add an unexpected twist. You never know what will happen. Read this Veronica Bartles Storystorm post about how she substitutes story ingredients to familiar recipes to make them uniquely delicious. (Mmm, plus her Cranberry Sage Cookies With Almonds recipe sounds yummy….)

Then put it in the oven again to let it bake:

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As before, no matter how excited you are, force yourself to work on something else and NOT take your new creation out too soon. While you’re waiting, take a look at your other recipe ideas, start experimenting for another recipe.

And so on. Ok, I’ll drop the baking analogy…you get the message, right?

Sometimes I may feel SUPER excited with a new story idea and have the urge to IMMEDIATELY dive into the writing and editing and revision process. Sometimes the first draft of the story pours out onto the paper; I love when this happens. However, I have learned to let an idea or first draft sit for a while before coming back to it. If I’m still excited about it, then I go to the next stage. After another round of writing or sketching or revising, I let it sit again and then re-evaluate.

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The danger of letting yourself dive into developing a story idea too soon is that you’ll get so caught up with the “ooo shiny toy” honeymoon phase that you won’t be objective. You’re going to be pouring a lot of time and effort into this project, after all, as well as inevitably getting emotionally invested. It’s in your best interest to take your time before you commit.

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So stick with the rest of the Storystorm month! Keep reading Storystorm blog posts and coming up with ideas. By the end of the month, you’ll be able to look at your earlier ideas more objectively.

This is pretty much my story brainstorming process, by the way. I currently keep a notebook where I constantly jot down story ideas, fragments, bits of conversations and synopses for picture books, chapter books and middle grade novels. I used to use a digital notebook but I currently prefer a paper notebook where I can doodle as well as scribble ideas PLUS I like being able to physically browse earlier ideas to see if they still excite me.

Whatever the method you use to keep track of your story ideas, I encourage you to GIVE THEM TIME to develop and before sending them out into the world.

Good luck!


debbieridpathohi-laugh-anniet-v-500x750Debbie Ridpath Ohi is the author and illustrator of Where Are My Books? (Simon & Schuster), a book that began as an idea generated during PiBoIdMo (now known as Storystorm). Her illustrations appear in books by Michael Ian Black and Judy Blume, among others. Upcoming books in 2017 include Debbie’s second solo picture book, Sam & Eva (Simon & Schuster), Sea Monkey & Bob (Simon & Schuster, author Aaron Reynolds), Mitzi Tulane, Preschool Detective in The Secret Ingredient (Random House, author Lauren McLaughlin), and Ruby Rose, Big Bravos (HarperCollins, author Rob Sanders). Debbie posts about reading, writing and illustrating children’s books at Inkygirl.com. Twitter: @inkyelbows.

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Debbie is giving away one of her original found object doodles, using a crumpled Lindor wrapper and drawn with a fountain pen. It’s about 5.7″ x 7″, and will be mailed in a protective cellophane wrapper with a cardboard backing.

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Leave ONE COMMENT below to enter. You are eligible to win if you are a registered Storystorm participant and you have commented once on this blog post. Prizes will be given away at the conclusion of the event.

Good luck!

by Keith Allen

As a kid, I loved building things out of cardboard, whether it was a spaceship for the very first mission to Saturn or a fortified castle to keep out the fire-breathing dragons. That love stayed with me into adulthood and today I find that same sense of wonder when I’m creating new worlds from a flat sheet of paper.

I work as a Senior Designer, Illustrator and Paper-Engineer at a large greeting card company and also own an independent publishing company that specializes in pop-up books. You may ask, “What exactly is a paper-engineer?” Sounds fancy, right? Well, a paper-engineer is simply a title for someone who loves to build things out of paper. And that’s me!

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When I first graduated from Art School, I got a job designing party supplies and was immediately drawn to creating paper centerpieces. I loved the challenge of building something very complex, but simple enough for a consumer to assemble. Wanting to branch out, I began making paper toys and sculptures on my own. An art director noticed my work and asked if I would like to work on pop-ups for an upcoming greeting card line. With a very enthusiastic YES!, I took the job and the rest is history.

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I’m not going to lie, building pop-ups can be time-consuming and challenging at times, but when it all come together perfectly, it is exhilarating! My pop-up development process looks like this:

1. Quickly sketch out your ideas on paper first to find a great layout. This does not need to be pretty.

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2. Build a rough concept by experimenting with a variety of folds. This step can take a while, but it’s important to get it right in the beginning. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, some of my best folds can from my mis-measurements.

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3. When your rough spread is finished, rebuild it over and over and over again. Do this until all the mistakes are corrected and it opens and closes neatly without catching or hanging out of the page.

4. Once it looks good, tear the whole thing apart, but gently. Scan all your pieces into the computer and build your dielines. I like to use Adobe Illustrator for this, but there are many programs that can be used.

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5. Illustrate your artwork onto your refined dielines. When your pencil lines are complete, assemble it again and make sure your art is lining up correctly with your folds and attachments.

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6. Once your pencil lines are corrected and complete, you can color and finalize your Illustrations. Now you have a finished Pop-Up spread!

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If you are interested in learning more about paper-engineering, there are so many great resources out there for beginners and experts. My favorite reference book is THE ELEMENTS OF POP-UP by David Carter, which I refer to almost daily. YouTube has so many wonderful tutorials and videos that go into great detail about particular fold types. I have created a few as well on my YouTube Channel.

Keep on Poppin’!


keithallenKeith Allen is a Senior Product Designer for American Greetings in Cleveland Ohio. He is the co-founder of By the Bay Books and owner of the independent publishing company, 5am Press, LLC.

Keith’s most recent pop-up book, “What a Mess! A Pop-Up Misadventure” was successfully funded on KickStarter.com and will be available for sale in the Spring 2017.

Visit him online at allendesigns.blogspot.comFacebook.com/5ampopup, Twitter @5ambook and Instagram @5am_popup.

7ate9
Winner of the 2018 Irma S. Black Award and the SCBWI Crystal Kite!
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As a children's book author and mother of two, I'm pushing a stroller along the path to publication. I collect shiny doodads on the journey and share them here. You've found a kidlit treasure box.

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My Picture Books

COMING SOON:


illus by Melissa Crowton
Tundra/PRH Canada
June 4, 2019

THE UPPER CASE:
TROUBLE IN CAPITAL CITY
illus by Ross MacDonald
Disney*Hyperion
Fall 2019

FOUR WAYS TO TRAP A LEPRECHAUN
illus by Vivienne To
HarperCollins
Spring 2020

THE WHIZBANG WORDBOOK
illustrator TBA
Sourcebooks Jabberwocky
Spring 2020

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