SCBWI 2014 Summer Conference

summer conference 2014 logo

Each year I go to the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrator’s National summer conference, and each year I promise myself to type up notes and blog about the experience. And each year (up until now, huzzah!) this promise has gone un-kept. By now I’ve got a pretty good handle on how this happens — and I think other conference-goers can probably relate. This event is four straight days spent with 1200+ fellow writers, illustrators, publishers, agents, and SCBWI staff. It’s a social, informational, and inspirational whirlwind. SCBWI’s director and MC, the hilariously love-able, Lin Oliver nailed it when she said:

“This is what happens when a bunch of introverts get together and feel comfortable with each other.”

It’s the best kind of social+professional interaction. In fact, it’s come to the point where these events nearly match Christmas for me. I’m giddy and excited to geek out with hundreds of other children’s book, well, geeks for four days straight.

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But, as we know about introverts, even small social interactions involve rest and recovery periods. I’ve come to terms with the fact that it takes me a whole 7 days after the conference to recharge (the entire first day involves lying face-down on the bed). A lot of that time is spent catching up on deadlines, emails, and binge-watching some tv series (usually involving bridal gowns, or food, or the 90’s). It also involves thinking “I gotta type up those conference notes while it’s all still fresh,” yet not having quite enough energy to take action. But this year I did it! It’s two weeks later, the dust has settled, but it’s still fresh on my mind.

The event highlights for me:

  • my conference buddies, Debbie Ohi and Kimberly Gee
  • meeting author Pat Z. Miller!
  • the keynote speakers
  • juicy breakout sessions, during which I always seem to collect new tips on craft, and get insight for my stories in progress
  • seeing my agent, friends I’ve made from conferences past, and the SCBWI mentor/mentee group–we eat, we drink, we bond
  • meeting new friends, and collecting cards at the illustrator’s social
  • the Monday Illustrator’s intensive: all about inspiration this year

 

 

Featured as “10 children’s illustrators to watch”

I woke up to a super cool thing today . . . one of the greatest children’s book bloggers out there, Julie Danielson (of the Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast) was asked to compile a list of the “10 Children’s Illustrators to Watch” for BookPage. Guess what? She thinks I’m one of them! Woohoooo!!
Thank you, Jules!

10 illo to watch_thumb

She said: 10 illo to watch_crop2

The illustrators on this list are fantastic – it’s an honor to be considered part of the company:

Aaron Becker
Christian Robinson
K.G. Campbell
Angela Doninguez
The Brothers Hilts
Theodore Taylor III
Molly Idle
Greg Pizzoli
Duncan Tonatiuh
and also
Hoda Hadadi and Birgitta Sif

 

THE GRUDGE KEEPER, released!

No one in the town of Bonnyripple ever kept a grudge.
No one, that is, except old Cornelius, the Grudge Keeper.
Ruffled feathers, petty snits, minor tiffs and major huffs, insults, umbrage, squabbles, dust-ups, and imbroglios–the Grudge Keeper received them all, large and small, tucking each one carefully away in his ramshackle cottage.
When a fierce wind blows through Bonnyripple, the residents are forced to rescue Cornelius and deal with their various disputes . . . 

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A picture-book that I illustrated, THE GRUDGE KEEPER (written by the talented Mara Rockliff), was released on April 4th, 2014. It’s such an exciting moment to see the book all put together, in real life!

GK_box of books_72dpi

GK_books to sign_72dpi

Boxes of books to be signed!

Check out this wonderful interview about the writing and illustrating process with Mara and me on Peachtree Publisher’s blog, here:
The Making of The Grudge Keeper

A few peeks into the process:

GrudgeKeeper_characsketches_72dpi

Sketches for the large cast of characters.

GK_storyboards1.pdf

Thumbnail layout of the book.


Here are a couple of the sketches paired up with the final page spreads from the book:

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Three cheers to Mara Rockliff’s wonderful story, and to Peachtree Publishers for all their amazing work bringing it to fruition!

For more info about the book, visit Peachtree Publishers online.

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Buy ‘The Grudge Keeper’ HERE

 

 

 

‘OUR BABY’ book announcement

I’m so excited about the announcement of a new picture-book I’ll be working on later this year with my editor for MISS MAPLE’S SEEDS, Nancy Paulsen. The story, called OUR BABY, written by Varsha Bajaj, celebrates a baby elephant’s birth. The text is so sweet, and is bound to be a great new baby gift!

I’ve been paying special attention recently to photos and articles about elephants, and also got a pass for our nearby zoo so that I can sketch them up close. They are fascinating and intelligent creatures, it’s going to be fun spending more time learning about and drawing them. When I was young, one of my favorite Disney films was DUMBO. I’m looking forward to re-watching that for inspiration! I’m trying to collect elephant reference, so please feel free to share any links to articles, photos, or videos that you come across!

DUMBO eliza wheeler

I’m also especially looking forward to working with Nancy Paulsen again — her feedback is always so incredibly thoughtful, and she’s extremely supportive of the creative process. Nancy and I have been working back and forth since the publication of MISS MAPLE’S SEEDS to nail down my next book, and have worked through several story ideas. She’s been patient with my slow pace when it comes to the writing process, and it helps me to know she understands that a great book doesn’t happen overnight. She’s both honest and encouraging (a great combination).

Nancy sent me a random email one day asking, “Have you drawn any elephants?”  I hadn’t, but was eager to give them a try! So I made this sketch in response. The wrinkles and folds are going to be so fun to develop further!

elephant sketch_ewheeler_72dpi_copyr

 

A huge thank you to Nancy Paulsen for giving me this opportunity, and to my wonderful agent Jen Rofé for working out all the project and contract details!

 

 

ZENO and ALYA Cover Artwork

I created artwork for the cover of a sweet and emotional middle grade novel, The Desperate Adventures of Zeno and Alya, by author Jane Kelley, released earlier this Fall.

The book goes between two characters’ stories: Zeno, a newly orphaned parrot, and Alya, an 11-year old girl struggling to recover from leukemia treatments. Jane Kelley’s story is beautiful and heart-felt, and I wanted the cover artwork to convey the emotional quality of the story within.

 

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The book design, by Ashley Halsey, is so lovely.

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A little behind-the-scenes, here’s the original rough thumbnail and then the sketch.

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Thumbnail Sketch

ZenoAlya_prelimsketch

Full size sketch

This was another project that came out of my 2012 SCBWI winning trip to New York, where I had a portfolio consultation with Liz Szabla, editor in chief at Feiwel and Friends, an imprint of Macmillan. As my husband and I were looking for the address on my way to the meeting, we stopped to take pictures in front of the famous Flatiron Building.

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Standing in front of the Flatiron Building (and the Macmillan offices) in January 2012

We continued to search everywhere for the Macmillan address all around the buildings nearby, and I was getting flustered that we couldn’t find it anywhere. We finally realized that Feiwel and Friends was actually inside the Flatiron Building. I was delighted to be able to enter and do business in this iconic New York spot!

Working on the artwork with Liz Szabla and creative director Rich Deas was a joy and a breeze.
Thank you to Jane Kelley and Feiwel and Friends!

 Shop Indie


More about the book:

An orphaned African grey parrot who can speak 127 words. A girl so sick, she has forgotten what it means to try. Fate––and a banana nut muffin––bring them together. Will their shared encounter help them journey through storms inside and out? Will they lose their way, or will they find what really matters?

Here is a story that will remind readers how navigating so many of life’s desperate adventures requires friendship and, above all, hope.

 

 

CODY book announcement

I’m happy to be able to announce a new middle grade book series that I’ll be creating illustrations for called NOT EVEN CODY and CODY AND THE MEEN KIDS, by author Tricia Springstubb with publisher Candlewick Press. I’ve always admired the artistry of Candlewick books, and they’ve been one of the publishers I’ve hoped to work with for many years. I’m so thrilled that time has come! Here’s the official Publisher’s Marketplace announcement:

CODY character sample sneak peak

CODY character sample sneak peak

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Eliza Wheeler’s illustrations for Tricia Springstubb’s NOT EVEN CODY and CODY AND THE MEEN KIDS, about a brave, tender-hearted girl who’s always ready to help others out, to Elizabeth Bicknell at Candlewick, for publication in Spring 2015, by Jennifer Rofe at the Andrea Brown Literary Agency.
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Tricia Springstubb has created super lovable characters in the CODY books, and it’s been fun bringing them to life with the black and white chapter illustrations.

Tricia is also the author of the picture book Phoebe and Digger,  and the middle grade books Mo Wren, Lost and Found and What Happened on Fox Street. Visit Tricia here: www.triciaspringstubb.com

book-cover-phoebe-and-digger-tricia-springstubb  book-cover-mo-wren-lost-and-found  book-cover-what-happened-on-fox-street

 

Monday Inspiration

My dad is an elementary art teacher and was recently reading from a book to his students with advice from Maurice Sendak to young artists. He sent me some of the quotes, and I couldn’t help but share them here:

An illustration is an enlargement, an interpretation of the text, so that the reader will comprehend the words better. As an artist, you are always serving the words. You must never illustrate exactly what is written. You must find a space in the text so that the pictures can do the work.  Then you must let the words take over where words do it best. It’s a funny kind of juggling act.

As an aspiring artist, you should strive for originality of vision.  Have something to say and a fresh way of saying it.  No story is worth the writing, no picture worth the making, if it is not a work of the imagination.  ~Maurice Sendak

Here’s to a week filled with  imagination.

Inspiration this Week

Friends shared three links with me this week that were inspiring:

 

16 Quotes About Writing for Children (Article on Mental Floss)
http://mentalfloss.com/article/51869/16-quotes-about-writing-children

One that especially resonates right now is from Margaret Wise Brown:

“In this modern world where activity is stressed almost to the point of mania, quietness as a childhood need is too often overlooked. Yet a child’s need for quietness is the same today as it has always been—it may even be greater—for quietness is an essential part of all awareness. In quiet times and sleepy times a child can dwell in thoughts of his own, and in songs and stories of his own.” 

16 quotes writing for children

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The Pixel Painter, by Josh Bogdan and Ryan Lasko (Video on Vimeo)
http://vimeo.com/70748579

A sweet 8-minute documentary on Hal Lasko (Grandpa), a 97-year-old who spends all his time creating paintings on the computer.

pixel painter

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Adrift, by Simon Christen (Video on Vimeo)
http://vimeo.com/69445362

Breathtaking footage of fog rolling over San Francisco. Video meditation at it’s best.

Adrift