Welcome to Inkygirl: A Blog For Children's/YA Book Writers And Illustrators, which includes my Writer's and Illustrator's Guide To Twitter, interviews, my MicroBookReviews, book reviews in comic format, writing/publishing industry surveys, Writing & Illustrating a Picture Book For Simon & Schuster BFYR post series and 250, 500, 1000 Words/Day Writing Challenge. Also see my Inkygirl archives, Category archives, and comics for writers (including Will Write For Chocolate).
I tweet about the craft and business of writing and illustrating at @inkyelbows. If you're interested in my art or other projects, please do visit DebbieOhi.com. Thanks for visiting! -- Debbie Ridpath Ohi
A while back, I mentioned that I was going to be on the faculty at the Niagara Retreat and Conference this coming May. Not enough illustrators signed up to warrant keeping the Illustrator track, so the conference has decided to drop that part of the programming.
For those who signed up for my one-on-one Platform Critiques, I'll still be honouring those via Skype chat.
Disappointed that I won't be attending this year, but I still heartily recommend this event for anyone interested in writing for young people. Check out the all-star faculty:
Susan Rich: Editor-at-Large for Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.
Susan Hawk: The Bent Agency
Sara Zarr, YA author (From Debbie: I'm still hoping to get my Sara Zarr books autographed someday!)
Ellen Hopkins, YA author
Kimberley Griffiths-Little, MG and YA author
Lorin Oberweger, freelance editor
Roman White, director & author
Laura Biagi, Jean V. Naggar Literary Agency Inc.
More info about the conference and how to register at their website:
I've been wanting to read Sara Zarr's books ever since hearing her speak at the SCBWI Winter Conference in 2011. I was blown away and inspired by her closing keynote (you can read about it on the SCBWI Conference blog). I generally have way too many books on my "really want to read someday" list, however, and it was only recently that I bought Sara's first book, STORY OF A GIRL.
I'm only halfway through the book but love the writing so much that I had to buy two more of Sara's books: How To Save A Life and Once Was Lost. Looking forward to reading both.
I tend to get most of my MG and YA novels in ebook form because that's how I do most of my reading these days, but I bought these in print because I was planning to get them autographed at the Niagara Retreat/Conference. Unfortunately the conference has had to cancel its illustrator track, but I'm still hoping to get the books signed in person by Sara someday. :-)
[Note from Debbie: The fAiRy gOdSiStErS are right -- this conference can definitely be a career-changer. It was for me. Lee Wardlaw (bottom left in the photo) was the one who first told me about the SCBWI, and I'll always be grateful. Lee was also my very first writing mentor, and introduced me to her agent...Ginger is now my agent as well. :-) THANK YOU, LEE!!]
::::: fAiRy gOdSiStErS iNk :::::
has announced their 6th annual SCBWI Summer Conference Scholarship!
wHo can apply: YOU with your shiny SCBWI membership (Make haste to www.scbwi.org to join/renew if needed)
wHeN: Conference runs from August 2 -5, 2013
wHeRe: The Hyatt Regency Century Plaza Hotel, Los Angeles CA
wHy: We are five very fortunate authors for children and young adults who have been generously mentored, guided and supported by a host of talented individuals. We can't think of a better way to thank them than by easing the way for others. The National Conference is a game-changer.
hOw: To enter, write at least one but no more than three haiku telling us why we should pick you for this year's conference. (A haiku is a three-line poem, featuring a total of 17 syllables: 5 in the first line, 7 in the second, and 5 again in the third.) Have some fun with this!
Email your entry to email@example.com by April 15th. Winners will be announced on May 1st. Questions, just ask! Our Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/fairygodsistersink
Please feel free to share this info with your SCBWI buddies everywhere.
Best of luck to you all!
Evolution of an I'M BORED illustration in 6 sec video. vine.co/v/bp7AQAg3pwd— Debbie Ridpath Ohi (@inkyelbows) March 17, 2013
(To stop the video above from repeating, just click on the image. To hear my riveting narration, click on the speaker icon.)
I recently downloaded the Vine app on my iPhone after hearing a lot of buzz about it. Vine is an app by Twitter that enables users to easily create short video (max 6 seconds) that they can share on social media like Twitter and Facebook. It's sort of a cross between YouTube and Twitter, and has a clever interface that's easy to use.
Videos will automatically start playing when you start browsing Vine, but you can pause any video by just tapping on it. Videos are on repeat play -- this may sound odd and possibly annoying, but once you start using Vine you realize it's for the user convenience. Since the videos are max 6 seconds long, chances are good that you'll want to view a video at least twice. Recording a video is also super-easy -- you just tap and hold the screen to record.
Some are experimenting with stop-motion animation. Labor-intensive, sure, but it's only for max 6 seconds. Knowing that, even I will probably give it a shot in the future. :-)
I've noticed a number of children's book publishers, teachers, librarians, authors and illustrators join Vine since it launched, though most have either not posted any videos yet or have only posted one or two test vids. It's not yet clear whether Vine is going to take off. The interface needs some work (there is currently no way to share someone else's video directly from the app) but I'm sure updates are coming.
It seems like the kind of app that could be a hit with younger readers, especially teens, once a few more features are added. Vine could be a great way for children's/YA book authors and illustrators to connect with their audience.
The other reason I joined: it's fun. :-) One of my favorite follows is Jed Whedon, who is the brother of producer/director/writer Joss Whedon, who has been posting mini-movies, musical clips and other interesting Vine experiments. Once Vine makes it easier to link directly to individual videos and userfeeds, I'll list some kidlit/YA favorite follows as well.
If you do join Vine, feel free to follow me at "Debbie Ohi."
I'll be posting a follow-up later this year to let you all know if I'm sticking with Vine and why (or why not).
How Writers & Readers Can Use Twitter's Vine - by Sherri Rosen
Promote Your Book With Micro-Videos Via Vine - by Chris Robley
5 Things To Know As You Get Started With Vine - by Sharon Vaknin
Then Rob and I found out that his editor, Maria Modugno, was leaving HarperCollins to join Random House. Since I still hadn't received the contracts, I didn't know what would happen. Would the new editor prefer a different illustrator?
Margaret Anastas was named the new editor and happily, she still wanted me as the illustrator for Rob's books. Yay! The fully executed/signed contracts arrived this week:
The first book is called RUBY ROSE ON HER TOES, and is a fun story about a little girl who loves to dance. You can read more about Rob's story on his website. I was delighted when HarperCollins sent me the mss -- those familiar with my Daily Doodles already know how much I love to draw dancing children, adults and creatures.
Margaret invited me to come visit HarperCollins earlier this year, and I enjoyed meeting her and Jeanne Hogle. Here are some photos:
They haven't named an art director for the project yet. Final art for the first RUBY ROSE book is due October 2014. Before then, I'll be finishing the illustrations for NAKED! (picture book by Michael Ian Black, published by Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers in Summer 2014) and as well as a yet-untitled picture book that I'm writing AND illustrating (Simon & Schuster BFYR, Spring 2015).
Thanks so much to my agent at Curtis Brown, Ginger Knowlton, for all her help.
I'm so looking forward to working on RUBY ROSE!
Earlier this week, late night talk show host Jimmy Fallon posted the following on Twitter:
A few minutes later:
Note the smart use of a hashtag, enabling others to browse book suggestions as well. Then he posted his updated list:
I love this. :-D And I've added a few books to my wish list as a result.
Then Michael Ian Black (author of I'M BORED, the picture book I illustrated last year for Simon & Schuster BFYR) and some of his Twitter followers suggested to Jimmy that he should buy Michael's book, YOU'RE NOT DOING IT RIGHT. If I had been online at that point, I would have been tweeting as well -- I *love* that book.
Anyway, it worked:
Jimmy Fallon may not be the first talk show host you think of when looking for book recommendations, but the exchange above -and especially the books he ended up choosing- made me more curious about the books that he's written himself (including a picture book!) as well as admire his Twitter savvy, including:
-- He knows how to engage his audience.
-- He used a unique hashtag to make it easier for his followers to see the rest of the conversation.
-- He uses images in his tweets to add visual interest and variety.
Even if you're not a famous talk show host, there's a lot that publishers and authors can learn from the exchange above. For more tips on using Twitter, see my Writer's Guide To Twitter.
Publishing with Skyscape/Amazon Children's: An Interview With Leslie Stella, YA author of PERMANENT RECORD
Plot summary for Permanent Record:
For sixteen-year-old Badi Hessamizadeh, life is a series of public humiliations. After withdrawing from school under mysterious circumstances, Badi enters Magnificat Academy. To make things “easier,” his dad has even given him a new name: Bud Hess. Bullied and misunderstood, Bud is an outcast who copes by resorting to small revenges and covert acts of defiance, but the pressures of his home life, plummeting grades, and the unrequited affection of his new friend, Nikki, prime him for a more dangerous revolution. Strange letters to the editor begin to appear in Magnificat’s newspaper, hinting that some tragedy will befall the school. Suspicion falls on Bud, and he and Nikki race to uncover the real culprit and clear Bud’s name before it is too late.
Q. Congrats on your upcoming Amazon Children's book, PERMANENT RECORD! How did the project happen?
The short answer is, “I wrote the book in about 6 months, and it sold in about 6 months.” The long answer is, “It took me 8 years to write this book, and 8 years to get it published.” My publishing history is an interesting one and provides a cautionary tale for authors who think they only need to get an agent or sell one book in order to have made it.
I had three novels of contemporary adult fiction published between 2001-2005. After that I wrote three more novels that went nowhere and still haunt my hard drive. In fact, there was a very dark day in November 2005, where I woke up as the author of three published novels awaiting word on the acquisition of my fourth, and went to bed having been dumped by both my publisher and my agent. No contract and, as it seemed then, no future.
I made mistakes: I wrote trying to appease the market, for one thing. I wrote trying to appease my publisher. I wrote without much thought about what I wanted to write, but only about what I thought others wanted to see, or what would sell. Guess what? It didn’t sell! By the time 2010 rolled around, I had given up on ever being published again. But I had not given up on writing. So I wrote the book I wanted to read, and that was PERMANENT RECORD. And that’s the book that sold.
Q. How did you sell PERMANENT RECORD?
My fantastic agent, Lucy Childs with the Aaron Priest Literary Agency, had originally sold the book to Marshall Cavendish Children’s Publishers in summer of 2011. In 2012, Marshall Cavendish Children’s was acquired by Amazon Children’s Publishing—a brand-new publishing division of Amazon. We Marshall Cavendish authors (including their entire backlist and upcoming titles like mine) just went with the flow. This year, Amazon Children’s has divided up into two imprints, Two Lions (which publishes picture books and books for young readers) and Skyscape (my publisher, which is dedicated solely to young adult books). Publishing is a constantly changing industry, never more than today.
Q. What has working with Amazon Children's been like?
I was lucky to keep my same editor from Marshall Cavendish, Robin Benjamin. I believe that all the Marshall Cavendish authors continued working with our own editors after the acquisition, so editorially speaking, it was pretty seamless. Robin and I still worked together on the manuscript just as we had begun to do before Amazon bought the imprint. Robin is really a superb editor, and her edits and suggestions made PERMANENT RECORD a much better, tighter novel. I am definitely a writer who needs an editor; it is too hard, after working on something for months or longer, to see the work as it is, or as it should be. Robin is diplomatic and intelligent; she could see what was working in terms of pacing and characterization and what wasn’t, and her suggestions were all spot-on. I cannot overstress the importance of professional editing! With the right editor, you gain a partnership that will only improve your book.
It has been wonderful working with the whole Amazon Children’s team, particularly my publisher, Tim Ditlow. They are so hands-on and so personally invested in the success of their list. The vision they have for the future of publishing is strong and current and, most of all, rooted in a love of books.
Q. What's next for you?
YA is where I feel that I belong and where I want to stay. I have finished my next YA novel, and I will post publication info about it on my website when the contract is final. In the meantime, I post embarrassing stories about myself on my website and Facebook.
Q. Where can people find you?
I am always glad to hear from readers, and I write back to everyone.
Also see other Inkygirl Interviews.
I was a big fan of INTERN, a blog by an anonymous publishing intern. Not only was it an intriguing glimpse into the industry, but I loved the writing style: snarky, funny, introspective.
At Molly O'Neill's session at SCBWI-NYC, I was excited to discover that former INTERN Hilary Smith had a debut YA coming out from Katherine Tegen Books this May. Molly kindly let me have an ARC and I started reading WILD AWAKE while waiting at LaGuardia for my flight back home. Didn't (couldn't) stop reading until I finished the book just as the plane was landing.
Loveditloveditlovedit. What did I love most?
Moments of emotional truth. There were so many times when I connected strongly with something Kiri thought or how she expressed her experience.
Kiri's messed up and confused, but that's another reason I enjoyed this book. So many times I read stories in which the characters are a little too perfect, too clever. Kiri, on the other hand, changes her mind, flipflops between joy and angst, is an emotional rollercoaster. In other words, she's truly a teen.
I also connected with Kiri's musical background. I took piano lessons through the ARCT level, gave recitals, used to have to practice for hours every day, sometimes vented/grieved through my music at times in my life.
So many reasons to love this book, and I'm looking forward to a reread in the future. WILD AWAKE is an exhilarating and totally absorbing gem of a story.
Plot summary of WILD AWAKE, from Powells.com:
"Seventeen-year-old Kiri Byrd has big plans for her summer without parents. She intends to devote herself to her music and win the Battle of the Bands with her bandmate and best friend, Lukas. But a phone call from a stranger claiming to have some of her dead sister's belongings shatters Kiri's plans. This call throws Kiri into a spiral of chaos that opens old wounds and new mysteries. Like If I Stay and The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Wild Awake explores loss, love, and what it means to be alive."
Q. Why did you start INTERN? What made you decide to go public? How did/does your publisher feel about your INTERN posts?
I started INTERN to rustle up some editing work to support my unpaid self during the internships. Of course, it quickly turned into much more than that—a fabulous adventure I could never have predicted—but on the day I registered the blogger domain, I was a 23 year old with big city rent to pay and a salary of precisely zero. The idea of finding random jobs to support my publishing internships sounded both exhausting and inefficient to me—here I was learning all this useful stuff, and surely that wasn't worth nothing. So I started writing about what I was learning, and things snowballed from there.
Going public with my "true" identity was never in question after WILD AWAKE sold. Over the years, I've gotten to be friends with so many readers—it would be downright pathological to shut them out from my books for the sake of a secret identity. My publisher was (obviously) pleased that I was coming in to the deal with some sort of audience, just like any other platform. I hate that word, by the way—platform! It sounds so flimsy and shrill. If you want to have a conversation, fine; but let's put this platform-for-the-sake-of-platform nonsense to bed.
Q. How did WILD AWAKE get published?
When I started writing WILD AWAKE, I was very active as INTERN, and INTERN had been getting feeler e-mails from various agents and publishing types for some time. So even though I did go through the whole process of querying agents and going on submission, it was with this lucky star in my pocket.
Ironically, now that I've published a novel, I feel quite tongue-tied when it comes to blogging. INTERN was so confident in her insights; she made everything seem so straightforward. Since writing WILD AWAKE I've started to question a lot of things, with the result that I now feel like a complete imposter if I try to write posts like INTERN did. 10 Reasons to Revise That Scene? More like Let Us Question Our Motivations for Writing Scenes in the First Place, While Feeling Deeply Anxious About Reality.
So while I have an intense desire to continue the conversation with my INTERN readers, I've almost been in hiding—I've been afraid to come back onto the blogosphere like some deranged cat lady, flailing my arms and talking about all the weird stuff in my head that can't be translated into publishing advice.
Q. What was your writing process for WILD AWAKE?
I don't remember.
No, seriously—for me, writing and revising a novel takes so long that by the time I am sitting around answering interview questions, I literally have no recollection of writing the early drafts.
One thing I can tell you is that for the 75,000 words in the final book version of WILD AWAKE, I wrote something like 300,000 words in cut scenes, rewrites, alternative beginnings and endings, plus a few redundant characters and subplots for good measure. Now when I get frustrated with myself for how slowly or messily my current manuscript is going, it helps me to remember that figure. Sometimes, you don't get things right on the first try—and it takes a lot of passes to uncover a story in all its layers.
One of the most important things my editor did for me with WILD AWAKE was to help me gauge when something was ringing true, and when I needed to go back to the drawing board. It was extraordinarily helpful to have someone say "not quite, try again" but also "stop—that's the one!" Over-revision can be just as much of a demon as under-revision, and a good editor can help you identify both.
Q. What advice do you have for aspiring writers?
Be a fountain, not a factory. Remember when you used to write letters to penpals, silly notes to friends, scraps of poems in the margins of your notebooks, when your hard drive was cluttered with hundreds of random Word documents with nothing more than a paragraph or even a sentence of divinely inspired madness—that delightful all-flowing time before you became A Writer With A Book Deal and decided you needed to Be More Disciplined.
Let writing exude from your pores. Don't clamp down. Don't say, "I am a YA writer and must act like one." Don't say, "I don't have time for silly notes anymore, because I must focus on the Manuscript."
One of the enormous and heartbreaking mistakes I've made this past year has been to clamp down in exactly this way. I stopped giving myself permission to burble when I got the book deal. Suddenly, everything I wrote had to be Useful. It had to serve a Purpose. It had to be Worthwhile. Barking at your creative self to be more Useful and Worthwhile is about the fastest way to make it roll over dead. You'll steamroll over the very things good writing most requires.
Fill your hard drive with random Word documents. Scribble silly notes. Keep burbling. Don't clamp down.
Q. What are you working on now? Any other upcoming events or other info you'd like to share?
I am writing a second YA novel, the details of which are still secret. Other than that, I am learning to burble again.
Where to find Hilary online:
Her blog: www.hilarytsmith.com
Over-revision, under-revision: a good editor can help identify both. @hilarytsmith (WILD AWAKE) http://bit.ly/15t7ZY8 (Tweet this)
For 75k wds in final WILD AWAKE, YA author @hilarytsmith cut 300k. On revision and process: http://bit.ly/15t7ZY8 (Tweet this)
Writers: Be a fountain, not a factory. Don't clamp down. - @hilarytsmith (WILD AWAKE) http://bit.ly/15t7ZY8 (Tweet this)
Also see other Inkygirl Interviews.
For more info about Kevin Sylvester:
Interview with Rachel Poloski: Production Associate at Abrams/Amulet Books (and my 24,000th Twitter follower!)
Rachel was kind enough to answer some questions for Inkygirl about her work.
Q. Your profile says that you work in production at Abrams on YA and children's books. Could you possibly tell us more?
Of course! I work specifically on Amulet Books, which is an imprint of Abrams focusing on fiction and non-fiction writing for middle grade and young adult readers. I also work on reprints across all the children's imprints; Abrams Books for Young Readers, Appleseed, and Amulet Books.
I like to think of Production as the behind-the-scenes of book making. You don’t always see our names in the book or know who we are, but we are involved from start to finish. As production manager of a title, you begin by providing estimates on a book that has not yet been acquired. This enables editors, publishers, and our CEO to discuss the possibilities for the title and if it will work for Abrams. Once a book is acquired, you start forming a schedule based on a publication date or when advances of books are needed.
I work closely with Managing Editorial, Editorial, and Design to keep the schedule on track as well as start working out the book’s specifications. By this I mean the cover stock, text stock, cover effects, inks, trim size, etcetera. We also work out effects on the jacket/cover, which include lamination, embossing, glitter uv (ultra-violet coating), glow in the dark uv, metallic inks, cloth cases, and much more!
For the books I work on, this is the exciting work! Production managers have to be creative and provide ideas to editorial and design in order to bring their ideas to fruition, while maintaining a budget and schedule. Sometime we need to think outside the box and research materials or effects that will accomplish the look and feel the editor and designer desire.
Q. What recent or upcoming Abrams books are you especially excited about?
I am really excited about working on all my upcoming titles, but specifically I am enthusiastic to work on a new Lauren Myracle title and the final book in the NERDS series written by Michael Buckley! I also just finished working on the paperback edition of Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews, which is most definitely my favorite book published at Abrams. It is funny, endearing, unique, and moving. I also had the pleasure of running into Jesse Andrews in the Abrams elevator and he is equally as charming as his writing. He is a both kind and humble. Another hardcover to paperback title I am thrilled to work on is Roddy Doyle’s A Greyhound of a Girl. Such a fantastic book! In Spring 2014 I am also working on new books from Lisa Greenwald and Sarah Skilton, which I am also eagerly anticipating.
Q. What do you write? (aside: I notice that you're a columnist for the Abrams site, for example)
Ah, yes. I do write for the Abrams blog, mostly about cooking and then there is the one of me shooting a rifle in the Adirondacks. Don’t worry; this is not a regular sport for me. I do love to cook and bake, therefore writing about it is also pleasurable. Luckily, Abram’s imprint Stewart, Tabori & Chang publishes beautiful and yummy cookbooks for me to test out in the kitchen!
I also do some writing personally, either about silly characters I draw or about my coveted stuffed cat, Celeste. I like to make up names and personas for the little felted creatures I hand make, but nothing that I have published or shared with the world. Maybe there will be some short stories to come soon. I recently illustrated a nervous soul named Phillip. I think I might write a little piece on him.
Q. Where can people find you online?
I will hopefully have some felted creatures as well as some little felted naked people up on Etsy soon and I really would love to start my own blog. What’s stopping me you might ask? Me. Fortunately, I have slowly been putting myself out there on both Instagram and Twitter and its not so scary after all. I am proud of me and would love to share my zany thoughts.
Also see other Inkygirl Interviews.
I had never heard of the Groovboard until Thomas Borowski approached me via Twitter about reviewing his company's product. I generally don't do product reviews anymore but when I checked out the GroovBoard website, I was so intrigued that I asked Thomas a few questions and then said I'd be happy to check one out.
The GroovBoard functions as an lap desk and an iPad stand, with grooves for inserting your iPad and a Bluetooth keyboard (in flat mode, I found I didn't really need the keyboard groove; see above photo) as well as built-in holders for a stylus.
One of my first questions to Thomas: "How heavy is it?" The answer: Depending on the type of wood, a Groovboard can weigh between 1.7 to 2.6 lbs (800-1200 grams). I asked for the lightest type, so Thomas sent me the American walnut model:
My GroovBoard arrived from Germany in good condition, and I immediately tried it out to see what the weight was like:
Good news: I don't notice the weight at all. It's sturdy enough that I don't feel as if my iPad is going to tip it over, but it's not so heavy that the weight is uncomfortable. It's a bit too bulky for me to want to travel with it, but it's perfect for couch writing. According to the website, there is also a GroovBoard cushion available.
The GroovBoard also separates into two pieces in case you want to use it as an iPad stand/prop for watching movies or typing with or without the keyboard:
If you want to use it this way with a keyboard, just hang the keyboard from the upper groove:
That photo is from the GroovBoard site, by the way -- I don't wear nail polish. :-)
I've been using the GroovBoard for several weeks now, and I love it. So does my husband -- he plans to order one for himself. I keep my GroovBoard in the living room beside the couch. Some might also use it to do writing or watching movies in bed.
The model I reviewed (GroovBoard Walnut) costs $129 fro non-EU customers, plus shipping.
Where to find out more:
Here's a comic I did about Ginger a few years ago:
I love my agent. :-)
The whole I'M BORED adventure has been amazing and continues to be amazing. Whenever things start to settle, something else happens that reminds me all over again to appreciate every moment.
I was floored about how it all began, with a rejection and a friend's encouragement. Then came the Simon & Schuster BFYR book illustration contract and the SCBWI Illustrator Mentorship program. Then the fun and immense satisfaction in collaborating with my editor and art director on the project.
Because I had been so focused on just trying to get published in past years, I underestimated how much joy I would get from reader feedback. Wow.
Experienced authors and illustrators out there are likely much more used to this, but I'M BORED is my first children's book project and I'm still getting used to the fact that people out there -- people who aren't related to me and don't know me -- are looking at my illustrations in a published book they bought or borrowed.
From Paula Speer White, who sent me the photo above: "This book is excellent for teaching verbal irony at the secondary level and self-efficacy at the elementary level~I give it a 10! Humorous, courageous, and witty!"
I've heard from some parents whose children have learning challenges or who are slow readers, who delight in the humor and want to read the book over and over again.
Parents tell me that their older children are enjoying the book as well, reading it on their own.
Librarians tell me that I'M BORED has become a favorite with their young readers. I so love the idea of a copy of the book eventually becoming battered and dog-eared because of constant use.
I think about a young person sitting down with a copy of I'M BORED, or perhaps having the book read to them by an adult, and try to imagine what happens as they listen to the story. Does it make them laugh out? Does it engage their imaginations? Do they identify more with the little girl or the Potato? Does the experience engage them enough to encourage a greater love of books and reading?
Does it change them for the better, even in a very tiny way?
Oh, I truly hope so.
What I've come to realize: While it's good to keep the market in mind (particularly if you want to get your work accepted by a traditional publishing house), remember that it's all about young readers. In the end, we create the magic for them, not the industry.
Teachers: if your class sends me snaimail about I'M BORED, I'll write back (with doodles!).
I first met John Martz at a National Cartoonist Society party in Toronto a few years ago and am also a fan of his popular illustration and cartooning blog Drawn. In addition to his professional comics work, John is the illustrator of several picture books including Dear Flyary from Kids Can Press, written by Dianne Young, and most recently he adapted the classic Abbott & Costello routine Who’s on First? into a picture book from Quirk Books. His first graphic novel, Destination X, will be released in May from Nobrow Press. John is also the founding editor of the popular illustration and cartooning blog Drawn.
Q. How did this project begin?
I was approached by the publisher, Quirk Books. I got the email while I was sitting in a coffee shop in Wellington, New Zealand on my honeymoon, which was a nice addition to the trip. The book was published in cooperation with the estates of Abbott and Costello, so there were no copyright hurdles that needed jumping, at least not in regards to my duties -- the material was already approved by the time I was brought aboard.
Q. What was your illustration process for WHO'S ON FIRST?
The manuscript for the book was essentially the script from the original Who's on First? comedy routine verbatim, although there were a few things removed or edited just for simplicity and kid-friendliness. Because the material is completely dialogue-driven, it was a given that the story would be presented in comic-book-style with speech bubbles.
My first task was breaking down the dialogue into pages and spreads. I printed out the script and cut out the different pieces of dialogue so I could manually move the bits of paper about until I had figured out the optimal breakdown from which to start thumbnailing. They took up the entire floor of my studio. The illustrations were created digitally, but this physical cut-and-paste way of figuring out pacing and is much easier when you can just move stuff around at will and stand back to look at everything.
The process was pretty straightforward then -- I presented the publisher with a thumbnailed version of the book, I incorporated their feedback into the first draft, and then after an additional round of feedback, I completed the final illustrations. As for character design, I was told I didn't need to worry about making the characters look like Abbott and Costello themselves, and that the characters should be animals.
Q. What advice do you have for aspiring children's book illustrators?
This is only my second picture book, so I'm still a relative newcomer to the field. Attending comics shows like the Toronto Comics Arts Festival and SPX in Maryland has been a great way to meet and interact with publishers and fellow artists. My first picture book Dear Flyary, written by Dianne Young, was the direct result of meeting my editor while manning my table at TCAF.
I'm still learning a lot about self-promotion. I'm a little leery of the hard sell online because it contradicts the types of artists and writers I tend to follow on Twitter and social media. Genuineness goes a long way online, and I prefer to follow creative types whose updates aren't just a stream of self-promoting ads. I end up supporting the artists, instead, that provide me with a real sense of personality and likemindedness who produce great work. I think it's a delicate balancing act between promoting your work and trying not being a carnival barker.
My method is to just be myself online, and develop the trust and goodwill with the small-but-growing audience I have, and to hope that when I have new work to share, that my friends and fans and readers will be receptive and want to share it as well.
Q. What are you working on now? Any other upcoming events or other info you'd like to share?
I just finished my third picture book, Black and Bittern Was Night by Robert Heidbreder, which will be out from Kids Can Press in time for Halloween, and I have a science fiction graphic novel called Destination X that will be out from Nobrow Press in May, debuting at TCAF. A collection of my webcomic Machine Gum will also be debuting at TCAF from La Pastèque.
Where you can find more info about John Martz:
Also see other Inkygirl Interviews.
I just bought the sequel, Mistle Child, and can't wait to read it!
Author: Ari Berk.
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers.
Click on my "microbooktweet" tag to browse some of my other micro-length book reviews and tweets. Please note that I am not seeking new books to review; I usually only review books already in my To Read pile.
I created a special bookplate in honor of the occasion. You can download it from the International Book Giving Day website.
I loved Meg Rosoff's HOW I LIVE NOW, and I look forward to reading her other books. I had never seen Meg in person, so was looking forward to hearing her keynote at the SCBWI Winter Conference. Meg is wonderfully blunt, witty, opinionated. And very, very funny.
One of the things Meg said in her keynote really hit home: That sometimes we get so caught up in worrying about how to get published, promotion, reviews and sales figures that we forget to remind ourselves of how important our books can be to children, and how our books can change their lives.
To be clear: I want to make a living at creating children's books; it's not just a hobby for me, so I DO need to appreciate the business side. However, I think I also need to remind myself more often about one of the reasons I love children's books so much.
Books affect me as an adult, but not nearly as deeply as they did when I was a child. My view of the world and myself changed so much as a result of reading books back then, for good and for bad. There were books that became part of me and are still part of me. Reminding myself of how important books were to me as a young person will not only help motivate me to craft better stories but also help me persevere when the publishing process gets difficult.
Something else that Meg said that I wish more aspiring children's book authors would understand: children are not dumbed-down adults. I've seen so many mss that talk down to young readers in a way that makes me wonder if the author has forgotten what it was like to be a child himself/herself.
For more info about Meg Rosoff and her work: http://www.megrosoff.co.uk/
For more info about the SCBWI: http://www.scbwi.org/