You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘Luke Reynolds’ tag.

Today IF MY LOVE WERE A FIRE TRUCK illustrator Jeff Mack takes us on a whirlwind ride through his creation process.

Jeff, when you first read a manuscript, how do you begin generating the style and vision of what the art will look like?

I start by making some really rough scribbles on the paper. I don’t think too hard about it. I just sketch whatever first comes to my mind. The sketches suggest the general shapes of the things in the picture because, at that point, I have only a vague idea of what the picture might look like. Some of the scribbly marks may serendipitously give me ideas for details that I didn’t think of at first. So I stay open to those possibilities as I redraw the picture over and over. Then I start adding a range of values in black and white.

For FIRE TRUCK, I used a combination of watercolor, cut paper, and digital to get the style I wanted. So my next step was to create the characters in watercolor and cut paper. Then using my computer, I added the background colors. On some of the pages, such as the lion image, the cut paper really stands out. On other pages, like the dragon image, I used the computer to blur the edges a bit.

FIRE TRUCK went through many versions in the sketch stage. For instance, I considered animating each of the vehicles that the characters rode on. I also created a version that included lots of different fathers with both sons and daughters. But, in the end, I decided that one father and one son was the best way to lead the reader through the story.

For IF MY LOVE WERE A FIRE TRUCK, you insert surprising moments of humor, such as the scene where the small dragon’s fire enables the young boy to toast his marshmallow. How do you arrive at funny additions like this?

One of the things that drew me to the story was how Luke Reynolds’ text leaves plenty of room for visual interpretation. In the best picture books, where the text and images support each other, leaving this kind of space for the illustrations this is the mark of a highly skilled and clever author. Overall, FIRE TRUCK has a perfect little story arc. At the same time, each of Luke’s rhymes suggests a story of its own. So when I was thinking about each image, I wondered what else could be going on in the scene. What details could I add to make the scene spin off into its own story? What will give the readers something extra fun to talk about? On the dragon page, it’s the marshmallows. On the elephant page, the monkey has swiped the dad’s watch and hat. On the whale page, they’ve hooked a giant blue whale from their tiny fishing boat.

How do you decide what projects to work on, and how long does it take for you to craft the art for an entire book?

I take on few stories by other authors because most of the time I’m working on projects I have written myself. So I have to really love a story to illustrate it. When I’m considering a manuscript, I ask myself “What job does this story do?” or “What important thing will this book add to a young reader’s life?” I ask the same questions of my own stories.

Here’s what I wrote to my editor at Doubleday, Frances Gilbert, about the FIRE TRUCK manuscript:

“Have I mentioned how much I love this book? When I took on the project, it was Luke’s clever, lyrical, emotionally rich poetry that sold me on it. I love that this is about fathers and sons expressing their feelings for each other. Too many guys grow up in our culture with pressure to be tough and to hide their emotions. Luke’s story encourages them to communicate their feelings starting at an early age. He’s given kids and parents something they can really share and connect over. And the wild range of vehicles and animals make it so much fun! I imagine some parents will get a little teary over the ending too.”

It takes me about a month to make the dummy. That’s the process of drawing and redrawing and re-redrawing the sketches. The finished color pictures usually take me between two to three months depending on the style and the amount of detail.

What do you hope readers remember from your artwork in FIRE TRUCK?

When I was young, there were often odd little details that stuck with me about certain illustrations. For example, I loved the way H. A. Rey drew donuts in one of the Curious George books. Do I know why I became fixated on his donuts? I do nut. But I do know that I tried to draw donuts the same way. It got me practicing and working on my own drawing skills. So I guess I hope readers notice and remember some of the little details in the illustrations and that those might inspire them to make their own drawings. By the way, my three favorite images in FIRE TRUCK are the rocket page, the parade page, and the dragon page. But I’m sure readers will have their own favorites different from mine.

What’s your favorite snack while you work?

Coffee, Mint Chocolate Brownie Cliff Bars, more coffee, Skinny Pop popcorn, and then a lot more coffee.

Thanks for the fascinating inside look at your illustration process, Jeff! 

Blog readers, leave one comment below for a chance to win an original sketch by Jeff Mack.

I’m overdue selecting winners for many giveaways, so I will announce them all next MONDAY, just in time to give as holiday gifts!

Jeff Mack studied art at SUNY Oswego, Syracuse University, and Scuola Lorenzo De Medici in Florence, Italy.

In 2000, he moved to NYC to try to sell his stories to publishing companies. He didn’t have much luck at first. After a few more years of practice and persistence, he became a published author in 2008. 

Since then, he’s written and illustrated a long list of picture books, chapter books, and early readers. And his book GOOD NEWS BAD NEWS, which has only four words in it, has been published in twelve different languages!

Learn more about Jeff at JeffMack.com.

Sorry if I tricked you.

This is not a post about breaking picture-book-writing rules. (Although I will DEFINITELY get on that idea lickety-split!)

This post’s about the book BREAK THESE RULES!

Due from Chicago Review Press in September, yours truly plus 34 kidlit authors YOU’VE ACTUALLY HEARD OF (unlike me), take on typical life rules adults love to preach (like “Grow Up and Be Serious!”) and offer our experience of why it’s probably a BETTER idea to BREAK those rules.

The subtitle says it all: “35 YA Authors on Speaking Up, Standing Out, and Being Yourself”—and so do the yellow canvas sneakers clashing with the argyle socks.

Behold the brand-spanking-new cover!

breaktheserulescover

My husband asked why my name wasn’t on the cover. Isn’t he adorable? (Seriously, I just wanna pinch his cheeks like a plump polyester-pant-suit-wearing Auntie.) Um, there’s no way anyone’s gonna pick up this book because it says “Tara Lazar”. But look—it says “Matthew Quick” and “The Silver Linings Playbook”. HOLY OSCAR-WORTHY GUACAMOLE, PEOPLE!

So be on the lookout for this extraordinary compilation come September because all proceeds benefit The Children’s Defense Fund. And it’s sure to be a POWERFUL read for adolescents and teens (and the occasional pusillanimous adult).

Yes, I’m from Jersey where “lotsa” is a word.

But enough formalities, let’s get on with the prizes!

 

The new blog subscriber winner of the three-picture-book prize pack is: ORTHODOXMOM3!

Congratulations! I’ll be sending you an email shortly!

And now onto the KEEP CALM AND QUERY ON goodies from Ryan Gosling (aka Luke Reynolds)!

First, the winner of the signed book is: MARY ZISK!

Next, the winner of the query critique from Luke is: REBECCA COLBY!

Finally, the lucky person who gets a phone call pep publishing talk with Luke is: SUSAN G. CLARK!

Okay, ladies, try to KEEP CALM!

I’ll send you an email later today!

Congratulations to all! And remember…there’s more giveaways coming in April!

It’s Picture Book Palooza month!

(And obviously exclamation mark month, too.)

Among those represented by the Erin Murphy Literary Agency, Luke Reynolds is known as the *real* Ryan Gosling (you had to be there). Although, I happen to think Luke is cuter, don’t you? Just look at that dimple! And I happen to know he’s a heckuva lot funnier.

He’s also smarter than my Ryan Gosling when it comes to publishing, writing and living.

Luke is the author of KEEP CALM AND QUERY ON: NOTES ON WRITING (AND LIVING) WITH HOPE. And he’s here today to give you that: HOPE. (Plus a copy of his book, plus a query critique, plus a personal “pep talk” phone call!)

Half of Luke’s book includes some reflections for writers on perseverance, hope, humor, gratitude, and work ethic, while the other half includes interviews with writers like Daniel Handler (a.k.a. Lemony Snicket), Katherine Erskine, Jane Smiley, and 11 other authors.

Without further Ryan Gosling references, take it away, Ryan! Erm…I mean Luke!

Making a Life

by Luke Reynolds

There are two places where fast, easy manoeuvres and accomplishments are both warranted and worthwhile: 1) In a snowball fight, when your opponents are slinging well-packed cold stuff at you faster than re-runs of Friends episodes appear on TBS; and 2) In getting the kids to bed when they’re already overtired after a long day of snowball fighting.

Most other pursuits in life don’t lend themselves to easy success. And at the top of a very, very long list of Stuff That Takes Forever comes the pursuit of writing. But that’s a good thing—a terribly hard, but fantastically good thing. Because deep down, none of us who love writing want it to be easy anyway. That’s not why we fall in love with something in the first place.

When we were children, people asked us, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Very few of us, I’m guessing, responded, “I’d really love to find something easy—something that requires little skill, almost no perseverance, and happens fast.” Instead, most of us said we wanted to fly into outer space wearing massive white suits; or we said we wanted to sing on stage in front of a roaring audience; or we wanted to be pilots or race car drivers or scientists who found cures for every kind of disease or explorers who found distant lands.

Or we wanted to be writers.

Novelist John Dufresne writes in his Foreword to KEEP CALM AND QUERY ON the following: “Writers want to write, not to have written.” Even though the manuscript of Keep Calm had been finished and proofed and was ready for publication, that line from John’s Foreword hit me hard and fast—much like a well-packed snowball or like a child screaming wildly that he isn’t ready for bed. The line speaks so loudly because it captures the essence of this pursuit we’ve chosen: a creative calling that is about making a life, not a living.

We write because we love the small giddy feeling that rises up like regurgitated food after we’ve eaten too much and then laughed too hard. We write because we like the problems (deep down) that our characters encounter, and we like the fact that there is no easy way out—either for our characters themselves or for us as we make plotting decisions. We write because we know that hearing no enough times and going back to our desks, reworking material, forging new work, and venturing back out into the wild, beautiful possibility of publishing makes our hearts beat fast.

So, deep down, we know it’s not easy. Nor do we want it to be. That’s not why we love it in the first place.

Why do we love films and stories about underdogs? Why—for instance—does Atticus Finch inspire me to no end? It’s not because he took an easy case that guaranteed a sure-fire victory with no obstacles. I love Atticus because he took an impossible case that guaranteed a loss but his conscience demanded it and his soul echoed the call.

You love the books and characters and films you do, I believe, because you know that triumph is only beautiful when the journey is difficult, that getting the story right is profoundly moving only because you’ve known the story has been so stubbornly wrong—however slightly—in its previous lives.

The MG novel that my agent, the lovely Joan Paquette, signed me on was originally entitled ATTICUS AND ME. It was a story that came down my arteries and out through my fingertips. The first draft, though, would have guaranteed a speedy rejection from Joan. So she didn’t see Atticus until his fourth revision. And then Joan continued to revise Atticus into a character who was more authentic, more real—a character whose story meant more. Joan raised the stakes in the novel. And after quite a few rounds, Atticus is still growing, still changing.

And various picture book manuscripts are in their own worlds of revision, each entering a fifth, ninth, and eleventh or more incantation of their possible lives.

We write because we want to write, not because we want to have written. As writers, we start to accept the fact that—much like us—the characters that people our stories are going to need second-chances, harder obstacles, higher walls, deeper pain—and that all of this, eventually, leads to greater love. In the writing, for the writing, and through the writing.

So, then, the question remains: if we don’t want writing and publishing to be easy, what do we really want? I’d venture a humble guess: we want support. We want somebody—anybody, the mailman, Grandma, our children, our students, and maybe one day an agent and editor—to tell us that we have what it takes. We want support. We want to know that our work is worth it. That ninth draft of an MG novel or our twentieth time through a PB manuscript that has changed completely and become almost an entirely new book are both pursuits for which support is not only helpful, but essential.

In short, we need someone in our corner, shouting in a voice of accountability, conviction, and faith to keep going. You have what it takes. Get through this draft. Try it from a different POV. Try it from a different character’s perspective. Try the story in present tense. Throw in a cow who believes he is Ryan Gosling. Throw in a turtle who eats books. Throw in a kid who thinks it’s over, until—

Until that voice. Listen it to it clanging inside the damn-near defeated walls of your heart. That voice confirms what you and I already know: we don’t want it to be easy. It’s hard. We know that. What we want is the pluck and the nerve and the faith to keep going—to make a life with our pursuit of writing and the way we embody it, rather than simply a living.

We want more than a contract and some cash. We want to craft the words that get us excited—that get readers excited. Or, as John Dufresne put it, we want to write, not to have written.

So: a toast. (I wish I had wine, but coffee feeds the writer in me more). To the very act of writing—in all its difficulty, stubbornness, painstakingly slow but remarkably beautiful worth. May we all, as writers and as people, keep calm and query on.

Thanks, Luke! Very inspiring. I need a tissue now. *sniff*

And you folks need to comment! Luke is giving away THREE PRIZES!

1. A signed copy of KEEP CALM AND QUERY ON.
2. A query critique.
3. A personal phone call and pep talk to discuss your writing career.

Your comment counts as one entry. You get an extra entry for each mention on social media: Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, etc. Just mention it in your comment. Comments close the end of April 1 and winners will be randomly selected on April 2.

Now keep calm and comment on!

Luke Reynolds is editor of the forthcoming book for teens and tweens BREAK THESE RULES (Chicago Review Press, 2013). He has also co-edited BURNED IN: FUELING THE FIRE TO TEACH (Teachers College Press 2011) and DEDICATED TO THE PEOPLE OF DARFUR (Rutgers University Press, 2009). His newest books are KEEP CALM AND QUERY ON: NOTES ON WRITING (AND LIVING) WITH HOPE (Divertir Publishing, 2012) and A CALL TO CREATIVITY: WRITING, READING, AND INSPIRING STUDENTS IN AN AGE OF STANDARDIZATION (Teachers College Press, 2012). He loves garlic bread with passion, and loves children just about as much. He has taught grades 7-12 and he’s now a nightschool teacher and home-dad by day. His writing for children is represented by the formidably wise and oft-inspiring Ammi-Joan Paquette of the Erin Murphy Literary Agency. Keep calm and visit on at www.lukewreynolds.com.

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.

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive kidlit news, writing tips, book reviews & giveaways via email. Wow, such incredible technology! Next up: delivery via drone.

Join 9,804 other followers

My Picture Books

COMING SOON:

THE WHIZBANG WORDBOOK
illustrator TBA
Sourcebooks Jabberwocky
Summer/Fall 2018

Blog Topics

Archives

Twitter Updates