Research Travel Tips

“Sir Adam’s Amazing Maps”

 

Over on the Picture Book Builders blog, I shared some highlights about illustration research I did for three weeks in England in 2015 for the new picture book biography JOHN RONALD’S DRAGONS: STORY OF J.R.R. TOLKIEN, by Caroline McAlister.

I had a great question come over Twitter recently about traveling for research, but couldn’t seem to limit my answer to few characters, so I’m sharing those here!

The most helpful thing I learned overall is to prepare as much ahead of time as possible, but leave some time and flexibility in the schedule for the unexpected.

Timeline at the Tolkien Museum in Sarehole Mill, Birmingham.

Here are some other key tips:

  1. Print out maps, bus/train schedules, and directions ahead of time. Phone and internet service can be unpredictable and at times unavailable (usually in the moments when you need them most). Luckily, my super amazing husband/travel assistant, Adam had foresight and prepared printouts to guide us, and they were indispensable.
  2. Call ahead. We discovered that dates and times for exhibits or opening hours were frequently inaccurate online.
  3. Balance travel with rest. When paying out-of-pocket to travel for research, you can feel pressure to maximize every minute there. But filling every minute will make for a miserable trip, and you’ll want time off for rest and recovery. We spent the weekdays researching, and chilled with relatives of Adam’s who live in England on the weekends.
  4. Keep your receipts! These trips are tax-deductible, so keep a detailed travel journal and all your receipts for filing at tax time.

We did a pretty great job of maximizing time and enjoyment. If I could have changed one thing, I would have added some extra days for returning to locations just for sketching on-site, which we didn’t end up having time for. But we took hundreds of photos to make up for it!

A few pictures: Mosely Bog, Sarehole Mill, Tolkien’s childhood cottage, Oxford tour, The Eagle and Child pub.

If you’d like more info on the book:
JOHN RONALD’S DRAGONS: THE STORY OF J.R.R. TOLKIEN
March 2017, Roaring Brook Press/MacMillan
AGES: 4-8,  48 pages
ISBN 9781626720923

Buy JOHN RONALD’S DRAGONS at your local indie bookstore
-or-
Order from Barnes and Noble here
Order from Amazon here

Miss Maple Fan Art by Mary Lundquist!

So, I’m going to be rich. Not because 1 billion copies of Miss Maple’s Seeds have sold, but because I am the proud owner of an original Mary Lundquist illustration! And she’s going to be big time. So, I’m going to be rich. Mary came to my book launch party on April 7th, and brought this adorable fan art:

Art by Mary Lundquist www.marylundquist.com

 

It kills me! That’s me, and I’m sitting on an acorn, drawing, in a tree studio!! I LOVE it.

Mary and I met at last year’s SCBWI LA conference, and her portfolio was incredible. I was super excited when she won a Portfolio award, and even more excited when I heard she got representation with agent superstar Steven Malk, and now has multiple book projects in the works. As you can see, she deserves it.
I was so touched that she made the trip out for my book party, and created this super sweet illustration for me. Thank you Mary!

Check her art out: www.marylundquist.com

A debut novel by the late Bridget Zinn

I’m joining in to spread the word about the debut young adult novel POISON, by the late Bridget Zinn. Bridget was from my hometown, and sadly died of cancer in 2011 at age 33 before she was able to see her novel reach publication. Her family and friends are helping to promote her new book on her behalf.

I was in Jr. High when Bridget was graduating High School, so I only knew her from afar. My strongest memory of her was from when I had joined cross-country and we always watched and cheered for the high-schoolers’ races. Bridget came in far behind the pack every time with a confident smile on her face. She was a beautiful example of doing what made her happy regardless of where the rest of her peers were. That had an impact on me then, and left a lasting impression.

I can’t wait to read her book POISON (Hyperion Books), and celebrate her amazing accomplishment. http://www.bridgetzinn.com

Read the article and review in Publisher’s Weekly.