SCBWI Mentorship Friends

One of the many things that I love about being a part of The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), is that with each conference and event I meet new wonderful writer/illustrator friends. This has become more significant since I’ve been a part of the Summer Conference Mentorship Award, in 2010. I’ve made some of my closest illustrator friends, Debbie Ohi, Kimberly Gee, and Andrea Offermann during my year being mentored, and we created the Kidlit Artists group blog. Each year new mentees receive the award, and our circle of friends gets bigger. To help us all connect, one of our mentors, illustrator David Diaz has hosted an illustrators’ retreat at his beautiful home in California these past two years (which we call Lost Weekend). We bond over all the things unique to being children’s illustrators – talking about techniques, art materials, books, writing, working with publishing professionals, building great portfolios, etc.

Lost Weekend, Photo by Debbie Ohi at debbieohi.com

For more on Lost Weekend, check out these great posts:

Lost Weekend With David Diaz (Part 1): A Retrospective From A Veteran Mentee – by Debbie Ridpath Ohi

Lost Weekend With David Diaz (Part 2): More Highlights & Why I Will Always Be A Mentee At Heart – by Debbie Ridpath Ohi

Lost Weekend 2012: A Kidlit Hobnob! – by Jen Betton

I spent the month of January introducing the newest crop of SCBWI mentee friends over on the Kidlit Artists blog, and they are an equally talented and sweet bunch. Go over and check out their interviews, where each of them shares a bit about their experience of the mentorship program and how it’s helped them to grow in their work. It’s fun to hear details about each of their experiences.

Jen Betton Interview (www.jenbetton.com)

Lisa Anchin Interview (www.lisaanchin.com)

Maple Lam Interview (www.maplelam.com)

Karyn Raz Interview (www.karynraz.com)

Brian Won Interview (www.brianwon.net)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m exceedingly sorry not to be joining them all this weekend as they romp around New York city for the SCBWI Winter Conference, and to visit with publishing houses (set up by David Diaz). It’s sure to be an amazing time! I chose to forgo this year’s trip to help chip away at some building debt – and so last night, in honor of missing this wonderful conference (did I mention Shaun Tan??), I paid the price of that trip to my credit card. Not nearly as fun, but it felt good all the same.

New Piece: Mother West Wind

I wanted to share with you my latest personal work, which I finished in December as a gift to my grandmother, Marvel Swanson. I credit Grandma Swanson for instilling in me an early love of children’s books. She has adored children’s stories since she was little, and when she read to me as a child I could tell she genuinely enjoyed every word and picture she shared with me.

I found out that her favorite books growing up were the stories of Thornton W. Burgess, particularly the story of Mother West Wind and the Merry Little Breezes. She once said she would love to see my illustrations paired with his words, and so I decided to make her a gift of original artwork inspired by the opening scene in the story Mrs. Redwing’s Speckled Egg.

Thanks to both my grandparents, Ray and Marvel Swanson, for all their love and support throughout my life.

MotherWestWind_72

 

Exerpt from Mrs. Redwing’s Speckled Egg, by Thornton Burgess (1874 – 1965):

Old Mother West Wind came down from the Purple Hills in the golden light of the early morning. Over her shoulders was slung a bag – a great big bag – and in the bag were all of Old Mother West Wind’s children, the Merry Little Breezes.

Old Mother West Wind came down from the Purple Hills to the Green Meadows, and as she walked she crooned a song:

Ships upon the ocean wait –
  I must hurry, hurry on!
Mills are idle if I’m late –
  I must hurry, hurry on!

When she reached the Green Meadows, Old Mother West Wind opened her bag, turned it upside down and shook it. Out tumbled all the Merry Little Breezes and began to spin round and round for very joy, for you see they were to play in the Green Meadows all day long until Old Mother West Wind should come back at night and take them all to their home behind the Purple Hills.

First they raced over to see Johnny Chuck. They found Johnny Chuck sitting just outside his door eating his breakfast. One, for very mischief, snatched right out of Johnny Chuck’s mouth the green leaf of corn he was eating, and ran away with it. Another playfully pulled his whiskers, while a third rumpled up his hair.

Johnny Chuck pretended to be very cross indeed, but really he didn’t mind a bit, for Johnny Chuck loved the Merry Little Breezes and played with them every day.

 

 

KidLit 101 – Fields of Illustration

Graphic Artists Guild Handbook: Pricing & Ethical Guidelines, 13th edition This morning I wrote about working in illustration, and gave a quick rundown of all the professions available to illustrators, including animation, editorial illustration, book illustration, liscensing, and more.

Check it out over at my group blog, KidLitArtists.com:
http://kidlitartists.blogspot.com/2012/12/fields-of-illustration-by-eliza-wheeler.html 

The post was guided by info provided by the Graphic Artists Guild HANDBOOK, a great resource for designers and illustrators.

 

 

Miss Maple’s Seeds: F&G’s


The F&G’s for Miss Maple’s Seeds are in! This is exciting for two reasons:

1) I get to walk around saying “F&G!”, and nobody can scold me.

2) I get to see a beautiful printed proof of my book, all laid out and paginated.

As you’ve likely deduced by now, F&G is not a literary swear word – it stands for “folded and gathered”.

 F&G: “folded and gathered”. A complete printed proof of a book (stack of signatures) that hasn’t been trimmed or bound, and excludes the hard-cover.

F&G’s are the final chance to make sure there aren’t any errors and that the printing and colors are of the quality we’re after. It’s so exhilarating to see in print!

I would never have thought certain things like an ISBN, listed retail price, publisher’s logo, and copyright page could make me go giddy. But there you have it – it’s those details that make the whole thing feel more real!

Interesting side story – I usually get all my Penguin mail from my editor’s assistant, Sara Kreger, whom I discovered (via Facebook, where else?) is also the sister of a college friend, Laura Kreger, from UW-Stout. Crazy small world, eh?

And here’s a little peek at the first spread, just to wet your whistle:

I can’t wait to introduce Miss Maple to the whole wide world on April 4th, 2013!

Current Projects: Rundown

I am so totally behind on all the pieces of news I need to share with you all! So, here’s a quick rundown of my projects to date (and I’ll share more on each item in follow-up posts):

MISS MAPLE’S SEEDS
story and illustrations, Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin

This is my first very own picture book! Coming out April 4, 2013.

 

DOLL BONES, by Holly Black
illustrations, Simon and Schuster

I created cover art and interior black and white chapter drawings for Holly Black’s new middle grade novel (HOLLY BLACK, you guys!). Coming Spring 2013.

 

THE GRUDGE KEEPER, by Mara Rockliff
illustrations, Peachtree

Illustrations for a picture book by author Mara Rockliff, coming 2014(ish).


(preliminary character sketch)


THE INCORRIGIBLE CHILDREN OF ASHTON PLACE, BOOK 4, by Maryrose Wood
 interior illustrations, Balzer & Bray/HarperCollins

A big ol’ curve ball here – I’ll be doing the interior black and white illustrations for book 4 in the middle grade series by Maryrose Wood. Jon Klassen (squeeeeal!!!) was the artist for book 1-3, and will still be illustrating the cover. Check out the books! http://www.maryrosewood.com

 

Phew – awesome projects, right?? I’ll give a little more info on each one in subsequent posts, and will update on each project as I’m allowed to share more.

 

Keep Me In Your Heart

A new illustration in honor of good friends getting married.
What could be more appropriate than a Winnie the Pooh quote?

“If there ever comes a day when we can’t be together, keep me in your heart.
I’ll stay there forever.” ~A.A. Milne

Congratulations Sean and Sarah!

 

 

SCBWI Bulletin (Sept/Oct 2012) Cover Piece

 

 

I was invited by the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) to do cover artwork for their magazine’s 2012 Sept/Oct issue. This is a huge honor, as it only comes out 4 times a year and the illustrators they usually ask to contribute are total rock-stars!

The theme always involves a kite in some way (the society’s logo), and I had so many fun image ideas; funny, scary, sweet – but the one I chose was what I hope is the most magical concept.

Left: rough thumbnail, Right: tight thumbnail

This was the first time I’ve ever worked in 3-point perspective, the view of the city being from above. It was a really cool challenge, and I used some photos from a trip to Europe that my husband and I took back in 2010 as inspiration. I decided to make the city a merge of London, Paris, and Quedlinburg (Germany).

Photos from our trip to Quedlinburg, Germany

I blew up the thumbnail sketch to full size and sketched on tracing paper over that.

Perspective drawing on tracing paper

Final pencil outline

sketch detail – the boat

I scanned this light pencil outline and then printed it onto my watercolor paper (Arches Coldpress 140lb) with my printer (Epson 2880 wide format, pigment ink). This is how I transferred the sketch onto my final paper, but sometimes I use a lightbox to re-sketch the image for the final image instead of doing it this way; it just depends on which is easier for that particular piece.

Here’s the final image:

Inked with dip pens and India ink, colored with watercolors

And look what I received in the mail last week; printed copies, a thank you note from Steve Mooser (president of SCBWI), and a beautiful framed cover image with engraving. Wow – thank you SCBWI!!

Printed copies, note from Steve Mooser, and a framed gift from SCBWI

 

Drawing Happy Fun Time with Jen Rofé

Treats; oh-yeah

 

I feel lucky to be living in the same city as my agent, Jen Rofé, and we were recently able to take advantage of our proximity with a face-to-face meeting. Jen came over for a little “studio” visit, to discuss some work in progress, reflect on this summer’s SCBWI conference (which Jen was highly involved in), and have some fun with a drawing lesson.

This was too valuable of an experience not to document and share! I’ve never given anyone a drawing lesson before and wasn’t sure where to start. Jen, the eager student, right away asks “Why the heck does drawing a simple box end up looking so wonky?”  This prompted exercises on one and two point perspective. I got a kick out of how enthralled Jen was with drawing boxes!

Jen using two-point perspective!

Then we had a lesson in character sketching, and I showed her how to start out with simple shapes, adding layers of detail on top of that. The character she drew is the most endearing little misfit – the hair Jen gave her had me in stitches!

Jen’s character!

That little gal definitely knows something we don’t. Jen impressed me by getting ambitious and adding a puppy. She did a  fantastic job!

Doesn’t she look at home at the drawing table?

Fun times!

But Jen, I think I speak on behalf of all your clients when I say, for our sake,  please don’t quit your day job!

 

How I Met My Agent: Jen Rofé

Photo: Andrea Brown Literary Agency

Have I told you yet that I have an agent? No?? You guys, I have an agent! She’s Jen Rofé. And, she’s awesome. Here’s the story:

Getting into the business of illustrating and writing for children, I knew early on that I would benefit from a literary agent. Some people are comfortable negotiating their own projects, but I wasn’t born with fast-talking, business-savvy genes. Aside from contract negotiations, many agents also help with career building, as well as editing your work and promoting that work to editors – many of which only accept submissions through a literary agent.

I spent about 6 months researching agents, compiling lists of viable options starting with about 50, narrowing that down to 20, then 10, and then 5 agencies that I was interested in querying. I chose agents to query based on online interviews, looking at their clients’ work, and talking to illustrators that they represent. When I had five submission emails typed up (and one already sent), something in my gut told me to wait. Wait? Wait for what? I don’t know, just wait. So I did.

That was in early November 2011. A week later I spent 3 days at an illustrators’ retreat held by David Diaz at his house, and Jen came to our Sunday night party. We put out our portfolios, which she perused, and she conducted an impromptu Q&A on agents and book deals. We exchanged info and discovered we’re both in Los Angeles, so we set up a coffee date for the following week.

Fast forward to the coffee date – I had no idea what to expect, whether she was really interested in my work or just being nice (side note: no agent or editor gives you the time of day “just to be nice”, it always means they see something worth their time). In my memory, she showed up at the counter yelling, “Chai Latte! Steaming hot! So burning hot that my face will melt off!” (Okay, not an exact quote). I have to admit, she kind of terrified me. Jen’s just what I’m not – a fierce, confident, no BS kind of gal; everything an agent should be. But as we talked easily for the next 3 hours that afternoon, her passion for children’s literature and enthusiasm for my work was evident. We gelled, and I was left without a doubt that she was the right fit for me. I’m glad that I waited, mysteriously, for that meeting – a face-to-face encounter with your prospective agent goes a long way.

Photo: Debbie Ridpath Ohi – http://DebbieOhi.com

The rest is history folks! I’ve been working with Jen since December 2011, and she’s been so invaluable already. Aside from managing contracts for me (thank you thank you thank you!), she’s an objective eye for my work, and she doles out tough criticism, which I love. Her feedback helps to elevate my stories, and asks the all-important questions “Why?” and “So what?”

It also turned out that one of her clients is Mike Boldt, who I worked with on the ABC’s of Northern Ghana project (who had mentioned how much he loved his agent), as well as SCBWI pals Ken Min and Mary Peterson.

I’m so grateful to have Jen in my corner, and I look forward to a fruitful partnership for many years to come. To learn more about Jen, check out these great interviews online:

– Literary Rambles: Agent Spotlight
– Middle Grade Ninja: 7 Questions for Literary Agent Jen Rofé
– The Brown Bookshelf: Expert Scoop with Jennifer Rofe

– Author: Agent Query

 Next up: Jen visits my studio (apartment), where I give her a drawing lesson!