Saturday, March 26, 2016

2016 SCBWI Bologna Illustrator Interview: Annie Won

By Angela Cerrito
for SCBWI Bologna 2016
and Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations

New-York based illustrator Annie Won received her MFA at the School of Visual Arts in New York. 

Her style is characterized by the use of digital collage, mixed perspective, and a dreamlike quality that speaks to the imagination of children. 

Her illustrations will appear in The Dragon Circus, Tea Party, Picnic in the Snow, and Welcoming Song, ibooks such as The Old Man and The Sea, The Hound of the Baskerville and picture books that will appear in 2017.

Congratulations on your illustration The Light being selected as a finalist for SCBWI’s Bologna Illustration Gallery. SCBWI will display The Light at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair. Can you tell us about the inspiration for this illustration?

Thank you to SCBWI for selecting my piece. I am so pleased to have such a great opportunity. I hope I can attend the Bologna Children’s Book Fair one day.

I can’t say what inspired me exactly. It may have been a sweet lyric of a song, a warm breeze across my face or a touching story from news. What I know is all of those were mixed harmonically and made me to create image of mother and her child.

As a children’s book author-illustrator, my illustration is always based on stories. It’s funny that I need a full story even though I draw a simple doodle. And The Light is the peak moment of a story about a Mother who finds her lost child.

I can see that emotion in the illustration. When did you begin drawing?

I started drawing when I was able to grab something to draw with. My official artistic career started with my first job. I was a computer game concept artist. I drew all kinds of things such as characters, trees, clothes, weapons and more for the game.

However, after working as a designer about seven years, I decided to do something more meaningful for both people and myself: a children’s book author-illustrator. I studied at School of Visual Art and after graduating the awesome course, now I am working as a freelance illustrator.

What led you to children’s book illustration?

I love children’s picture books. They are each like a small art gallery with brilliant stories. Also I’m always amazed by how children read stories from a single image. They even find something interesting in my image that I haven’t recognized!

You’ve illustrated work for children’s magazines, including the cover for the back to school issue of Spider (September 2015). What do you enjoy most about magazine illustration?

I like magazine work because I can try something new for each piece and have to complete those as fine images. I must get successful results right away, since I don’t have much time to start everything again. Compare to children’s book assignment, magazine assignments have to be completed on a tighter deadline. Thus it is pretty tough but I love the challenge. And I love my editor Sue, who encourages me to try the new thing.

What advice do you have for others who are starting a career as a children’s book illustrator?

Do not to give up your dream. It seemed like I would never get a book assignment until I was offered my first assignment by Little Golden Books.

Before that, I tried my best to promote my work and learn from others. I made more than dozens of picture book dummies, sent bunch of postcards to publishers, presented my portfolio to several publishers, joined SCBWI and attended three conferences, enrolled children’s book boot camps and more. While I was trying those things, nothing was sure and clear except one thing: I believed that my dream would come true if I don’t stop trying.

What are you working on now?

I just completed my first Golden Books illustration assignment. And now, I am working on another magazine piece, cover art for Ladybug magazine. I am also developing my own story for a picture book, too. I am truly happy to start my career as children’s picture book illustrator but I hope I can publish my own story as well.



Cynsational Notes

Angela Cerrito is a pediatric physical therapist by day and a writer by night. She thinks she has the two best jobs in the world.

Her latest novel, The Safest Lie (Holiday House), was named a finalist for the 2015 Jewish Book Award, a Sydney Taylor Notable Book for Older Readers and a Notable Social Studies Book for Young People.

Angela Coordinates the SCBWI Bologna Interview series, volunteers as SCBWI’s Assistant International Advisor and is a Cynsational reporter in Europe and beyond.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Cynsational News

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

The Matter of Talent by Barbara O'Neal from Writer Unboxed. Peek: "Why does one person dance, another preach, another write novels? Is talent a thing? Where does it come from? How do we know if we have it—or don’t?" See also When You're Writing Mountain Is My Writing Molehill (and Vise Versa) by Jan O'Hara.

Piñata Busters and Trailblazers by Angela Cervantes from Latin@s in Kidlit. Peek: "I was inspired to write this book because I grew up in a close-knit, proud, Mexican-American community where we celebrated the accomplishments of people like Ellen Ochoa, the first Hispanic woman to go to space (1993 Discovery mission); Henry Cisneros, the first Mexican-American mayor of San Antonio (Yay, Texas!); Tom Flores, the first Hispanic NFL head coach to win the Super Bowl (Go Raiders!)"

Bologna 2016: Agents Talk Children's and YA Book Trends by Diane Roback from Publishers Weekly. Peek: "On the YA side, I’m seeing a lot of fantasy that feels very accessible to readers who are not dedicated to fantasy. The setting is similar to somewhere on our planet (like China, or Scotland, or Mexico), usually with a female lead."

Mind the Gap: Questions about Power for Storytellers by Mitali Perkins from Mitali's Fire Escape. Peek: "I offer these questions as a checklist for fellow authors and illustrators, perhaps as fodder for discussion in critique groups and conferences, or for your private journaling pleasure." See also All That Isn't Said: Islamophobia in YA Lit by Kaye M from Interrogobang.

How to Write a Great (and not Schmaltzy) Love Scene by Jessi Rita Hoffman from Jane Friedman. Peek: "There was tension and intensity in old-fashioned courtship, and that is the stuff of which great fiction is made. Your writing teacher called that tension “conflict.” Interesting fiction is built on conflict."

Author Interview: Adi Rule on The Hidden Twin by Robin Herrera from WCYA: The Launch Pad. Peek: "The secret to authenticity is in the mundane, I think. What is the protagonist’s day-to-day like?" See also Author Interview: Deb Caletti on Essential Maps for the Lost by Roger Sutton from The Horn Book.

Damaging Perceptions About Alcohol Abuse Among Native Characters in YA Literature by Debbie Reese from American Indians in Children's Literature. Peek: "Doctors assumed he was alcoholic, and that alcohol abuse was the cause of what they saw in tests. He told them he didn't drink, but, they wouldn't probe further. Now, he's finally been diagnosed with a fatal disease."

Discussion: Magical Disabilities by Corinne Duyvis, Natasha Razi, Kayla Whaley from Disabilities in Kid Lit. Peek: "I want disabled superheroes. I want lots of disabled superheroes. ... But I don’t want to be able to read the disability and immediately guess the superpower." See also Interview with Corinne Duyvis on Otherbound and The Edge of Gone.

The Pros and Cons of Using a Facebook Profile But Not An Official Page from Jane Friedman. Peek: "...a lot of the people I consider friends also work in the industry, but still: I imagine my public posts can be a mix of dull or irrelevant, which means I risk being muted indefinitely by a fair number of friends."

This Week at Cynsations


SCBWI Bologna at Cynsations



More Personally

Thank you, North Texas SCBWI!
Congratulations to the Texas Institute of Letters finalists, including Liz Garton Scanlon, Anne Bustard, Don Tate, Brian Yansky, Pat Mora, Kathi Appelt, and Chris Barton.

Personal Links

Boys Could Enjoy Stories About Girls and Vise Versa, If Only We'd Let Them
5 Native American Women Who Know Their History
We're the People: 2015 Summer Reading List 
Mary E. Cronin on The Apple Tart of Hope by Sarah Moore Fitzgerald 

Thursday, March 24, 2016

2016 SCBWI Bologna Illustrator Interview: Ying Hui Tan

By Angela Cerrito
for SCBWI Bologna 2016
and Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations

Ying Hui Tan is a Malaysian Chinese illustrator. Born in a small town, Teluk Intan, she graduated with a degree in 3D Animation at the University of Hertfordshire and currently living in Reading, U.K. She spent the first few years working as a concept artist for games and cartoon series then she decided to become a children’s book illustrator. 

She loves storytelling and giving ideas while working with talented people. Her favourite parts of creating her artwork are mixing colours and experimenting different lighting setup for her scenes. 

Tan’s dream as a children's book illustrator is to spread positive energy, thoughts and happiness to another because she believes everyone is born kindhearted and have a choice to forgive and help another. 

Tan spent her free time traveling with her husband and camera, eating local food, taking good photographs and meeting local people or just staying at home watching classic old films, listening to oldies and cooking new dishes. Tan loves animals especially whales, dogs, dragon like reptile and dinosaur, she wanted to adopt a dog someday.

Congratulations on having your illustration Dreamer Whale selected for SCBWI’s Bologna Illustrators’ Gallery. Dreamer Whale will be displayed by SCBWI at the prestigious Bologna Children’s Book Fair. What inspired Dreamer Whale?

Thank you, I am thankful for being selected as a finalist and taking part of this interview. I always fond of whales, especially blue whale. They are the biggest living thing yet they are so gentle and elegant, they can sing too! I don't know how to swim but I always imagine myself swimming closely with them just like a kid having a dream.

Your career as an artist has included many fascinating achievements from working as a concept artist for games and cartoon series to 3D animation and now children’s books. 

How do these experiences influence your current projects?

Those experiences help me see my art differently, making a children's book is like building a 3D world for me, everything has to start from scratches and find the connection between them. Since I left the games and animation industry, I always start from a story before I creating a character or a scene. I don't like to paint without my soul and feelings, so having a background story really helps me to stay excited of making the scene looking right to tell the story.

Being a children's book artist is really fun because I can be a director and photographer at the same time, the biggest challenge is using limited frames to tell a story and make each page / frame counts.

As a woman from a small town in Malaysia who now lives and works in Reading, U.K., do these experience inspire your art?

I have been living in the U.K. for more than five years without my family and friends. I never felt this loneliness and emptiness before. What I could do to help myself is creating and imagining happy and beautiful things to keep me going.

You mention on your website that it was your love for Japanese anime that got you started drawing. 

Did you first draw your favorite characters? Or did you create your own stories?

I drew my favourite characters at first because I didn't know I can draw, then soon I started creating my own stories, it was more fun to create my own.

What are you working on now?

I'm working on a new book called JoyN'TheVoid, a book to help children opening their mind and feelings towards happiness and helping another.

What advice do you have for artists just starting out in the field of children’s book illustration?

Good things will come eventually after loads of hard work, always have faith in yourself and keep trying!



Cynsational Notes

Angela Cerrito is a pediatric physical therapist by day and a writer by night. She thinks she has the two best jobs in the world.

Her latest novel, The Safest Lie (Holiday House), was named a finalist for the 2015 Jewish Book Award, a Sydney Taylor Notable Book for Older Readers and a Notable Social Studies Book for Young People.

Angela Coordinates the SCBWI Bologna Interview series, volunteers as SCBWI’s Assistant International Advisor and is a Cynsational reporter in Europe and beyond.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

2016 SCBWI Bologna Illustrator Interview: Erin Bellingham

By Angela Cerrito
for SCBWI Bologna 2016
and Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations

Erin Bellingham grew up in San Diego, where you could usually find her playing make believe, running around outside, reading a book, or doodling. She studied illustration at Cal State Fullerton and moved to Oregon shortly after graduating. 

She now lives in Sherwood, Oregon with her husband Ryan and their dog, Scout. She still enjoys reading and playing outside (usually with Scout right beside her). 

And of course she loves to draw and play make believe; only now, she's working at making a career of it. 

Erin has been a member of the SCBWI since 2008 and recently signed with Danielle Smith of Red Fox Literary.

Congratulations on having your illustration Tree Climbers selected for SCBWI’s Bologna Illustrators’ Gallery. SCBWI will display your illustration at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair. As a long time tree climber, I was especially drawn to your illustration. Tell us about the inspiration for this work.

The initial idea popped into my head while I was poking around on Pinterest. There was an image of this great tree with a mom and her kids posed sitting in the branches. It reminded me of some of the trees we'd seen on a trip to Costa Rica that seem to expand across your whole view. And it looked like a great tree for climbing.

So I started thinking about a tropical tree that stretched across the whole page and all the fun things kids could do in its branches.

Side Note: we just went to Maui and I saw this scene actually happening in real life on a tree near a playground. It was just about the coolest thing ever.

How did you get started illustrating?

If I'm going all the way back, it started with me pasting an image of a painter in the "What I Want to Be When I Grow Up" section of an "All About Me" collage in Kindergarten.

Add that goal to years of my loving, supportive family being just crazy enough to continuously tell me, "That's a great idea! Be an artist!" and you get me, heading to Cal State Fullerton to study illustration.

There I decided I wanted to illustrate children's books and met a couple of amazing professors/mentors. They taught me the importance of narrative in illustration, showed me what it takes to create submissions for publishers, and even got me an internship at a publisher in Los Angeles. Then, one of them introduced me to the SCBWI.

After joining SCBWI, I went to at least one conference a year and always made sure I got a portfolio critique. That gave me the feedback I needed to keep developing my craft and my style. I would also submit my portfolio for the showcases at the conferences. Eventually, a couple of digital educational publishers picked up my postcard and I got my first official illustration job.

What comes to you first a character? A story? An image? Something else?

It's probably a pretty even split between an image inspired by something I've seen and a story.

A lot of times I'll start with the piece of an image (a cool tree, a bright red barn, boy scout uniforms, the tiny bubbles underwater after you jump in a pool) then expand from there until I feel like I'm telling a story with my illustration.

I also like to write stories so sometimes I'll draw from just the idea of a story, which then helps me flesh out the writing of the story.

And other times I've basically finished writing and I'll start a dummy book, picking a few images to finish out. (I say basically finished because I always end up changing the text once I start sketching.)

Every once in a while a character will pop into my head that's so cute that I have to get it down onto paper. Or I'll be doodling and I'll draw a kid or animal that I fall in love with and I'll create an image or two from that.

What is a typical work day like for you?

I usually go for a run or do a workout in the garage if it's raining (which is a lot) when I first get up. Then I'll check my e-mail and poke around on social media while I eat breakfast.

At this point, Scout starts getting restless, so we go play until she is sufficiently worn out to leave me alone for a few hours.

When we get home, I head upstairs to my work space. If I have a project/job going, I'll jump right into that. If not, I'll take a look at my website, see what kind of things are missing from my portfolio, and start listing ideas.

I'm a big list maker. I have a ton of story ideas, observations, and even pictures of things that inspire me on my phone so I'll refer to that if I'm having an "uninspired" day.

Another option is going through the stories I've typed up to see if I want to develop any into dummy books. Then I start sketching and see what I fall in love with and start working on that.

After a while of this, Scout starts poking my arm with her nose (really not helpful when you're trying to paint/draw), which means... lunchtime! After I eat, I take Scout on a walk to the park and throw sticks for her in the woods.

If I'm painting, this is when I let my first layer of paint dry but it's also just a great time to let my mind wander, stretch my legs, and see if there are any stories going on around me. For example, someone builds these amazing fort-like structures up against the trees in the park that are really cool and mysterious. I just know there's a story there waiting to be told.

When Scout is tired again, we head home and I keep working on whatever I started in the morning, or if I finished something in the morning, I start the process of deciding what's next all over again.

Then around dinner time, I call it quits for the day and relax on the couch with my husband and still tired dog. Or if I have a tight deadline, I'll go back upstairs and work until I feel like I shouldn't be anymore (AKA I'm tired and I'm about to start screwing things up).

What advice have you received that has been helpful to you as begin your career as a children’s illustrator?

One of the best and for me the most challenging pieces of advice came from a workshop lead by Steve Malk, agent extraordinaire (that's his official title, I'm pretty sure) at the summer SCBWI conference a couple of years ago.

He emphasized the importance of refining and re-refining your submission, whether it be a novel, picture book, or portfolio, and with that, patience.

It's so easy to want to finish something and send it off right away or to complete enough pieces to fill a portfolio and assume you're ready for work right now. But you want what you're submitting to be the best you can possibly do.

So, as tempting as it is to rush through a dummy book or throw in a couple of mediocre pieces to finish out your portfolio, it's always better to stop, look with a critical eye, and revise it again.

When you think about it, taking a few extra weeks, months, or even years to create the most polished product you can and become the best at your craft that you can, will all be worth it, and seem like nothing when you start your hopefully lifetime career. With that in mind, enjoy what you do, work hard at it every day, and patience!

Cynsational Notes

Angela Cerrito is a pediatric physical therapist by day and a writer by night. She thinks she has the two best jobs in the world.

Her latest novel, The Safest Lie (Holiday House), was named a finalist for the 2015 Jewish Book Award, a Sydney Taylor Notable Book for Older Readers and a Notable Social Studies Book for Young People.

Angela Coordinates the SCBWI Bologna Interview series, volunteers as SCBWI’s Assistant International Advisor and is a Cynsational reporter in Europe and beyond.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Guest Post: P.J. Hoover on The Awesomeness of School Visits

By P.J. Hoover
for Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations

OMG an author visit! It’s a huge, exciting time for students, teachers, and the author. We, the authors, are honored to be visiting your school.

Aside from the fact that it gives us an opportunity to get out of the house (and change out of our pajamas), there is nothing better than connecting with our target audience about a subject we love: books.

About the Visit

I like to start my school visits off with a story from Greek mythology. It’s a great way to not only engage the audience right from the beginning, but it provides a nice framework for the entire presentation.

And my story . . . it’s filled with adventure. It’s filled with suspense. It’s short. It’s sweet. And it concludes with a satisfying ending. But disguised underneath it, it talks about the Hero’s Journey.

The hero in the story sets out with one goal in mind. One thing he must accomplish. It’s the thing that drives him forward and keeps him from giving up, even when faced with unspeakable perils.

It’s a lot like life.

With author Cory Putnam Oakes
I’ve learned a ton in the last decade or so, in my transition from electrical engineer to author, much like the hero in my story learns as he travels from one end of his adventure to the other. But the big difference between my hero and me is that he reaches his destination. His perils are left in the past, and he reaches his goal.

My perils? They continue on, day after day after day.

Perils as an author? Sure, I face a ton of them, but lucky for me, everything I’ve learned so far on my hero’s journey has helped me deal with these perils.

It’s made me better, stronger, faster. And I can’t imagine anything more rewarding than being able to share my journey with today’s kids.

School visits are a tricky business. There’s this very fine line that we, as authors, must walk. We need to entertain the kids, to keep them hanging on our every word, while also making the educators in the audience happy. We want the teachers to shake our hand afterward and tell us how they can’t wait to use what we’ve shared in the classroom. And the kids . . . we want them asking for our Instagram usernames so they can follow us and continue the connection.

Because that’s what it all comes down to: the connection.

Take this. I adore playing video games. From the time I got my very first computer (hello, Commodore 64) to my brand new table-top Ms. Pac-Man/Galaga gaming machine (complete with 410 retro arcade games), video games are a great way to relax, spend time with my kids, and—hey, look at that—they’re also a great way to connect with kids during school visits.

I’ll talk about Fallout 4 and Minecraft after the presentation with the kids for hours. But underneath, talking about video games isn’t enough. It needs to relate to books, to writing, and to my hero’ journey. And you know what? It does.


When I was younger, I would have much rather played video games than spent time writing. I didn’t love writing, mostly because I thought it was very subjective and that you were either born a writer or you were not. While some of my author friends spent their youth writing stories, I learned to program in BASIC. I wrote video games on my computer. And I went on to become an electrical engineer.

Now, I love writing, too, and I’ve learned that there is a beautiful cross section between books and the world of technology (including Scratch, Minecraft, and other fun STEM related ideas). It’s this cross section that kids don’t expect. And it’s this cross section that I believe it is important for kids to see.

The same thing goes for "Star Wars." Kids laugh when I tell them that when I was little, I wanted to be a Jedi. You know why? Because they wanted to be Jedis, too. (They probably still do. I do; that’s for sure.) And the thing is that though my dreams of being a Jedi didn’t work out (yet), it’s totally played a part in my life and getting me to where I am today.

The thing about Jedis is that they don’t give up. They don’t walk away from fear. And we, as authors, can’t either.

When I have the kids guess how many rejections I’ve received, they at first say really high numbers because they think it will be funny and get a laugh out of their friends. And then, when I tell them that they’re right, they’re floored.

But, as I tell them, if I don’t face these rejections, day after day, I will never publish another book. It’s a way to show them—yes, show, not tell—that we all face failure. And we all fail. And that’s okay. But it’s what we do after that failure that makes the difference.

If I had to list five (covert) messages I try to get across in school visits, they’d be: 
  1. You don’t have to be born an author to be an author when you grow up. (You can, in fact, be an electrical engineer, just like me.) 
  2. Many things in life are a lot harder to do than you think they’ll be (like, hey, writing a book! I thought it would be easy).
  3. Never give up (even though lots and lots of times you may want to).
  4. Face your fears and do it anyway (this is also a fun time to mention that I’m a third degree black belt in kung fu) And perhaps the most important . . . .
  5. It’s going to be a long journey while you work toward whatever it is you want in life, so you better learn to enjoy it.

Prepare (but don’t stress) about the Visit:

My dream author visit is this. I drive up to the school. My name is on the marquee out front. There is a parking spot reserved for me (and bonus points if it has streamers and balloons). The office staff greets me by name when I walk through the front door, because guess what?

They’ve been expecting me! They know I am coming. They sign me in and have a student escort me to the library. Other students point as I walk to the library and whisper things like, “There’s the author!” or “It’s really her!” I feel kind of like a superstar at this point.

Outside the library is a huge banner with my name. A display of my books sits in a glass case along with fan art created by the students.

Inside the library waits a Starbucks for me (venti Americano, no room). The librarian warmly tells me how the students can’t wait for my visit. She lets me know that every student has read my book.

Things are going great. The technology works without a hitch. There is water. A microphone. Lots and lots of pre-orders.

Like I said, it’s a dream author visit, but we don’t live in this dream world, and I completely realize that this is not always the way author visits go.

As much as I would love every student to have read my book ahead of time, I get that this is not realistic. But there are some simple ways to get the kids excited about an upcoming author visit. Things that can go a long way.

  1. Booktalk the author’s books ahead of time. Display them in the library, print out covers, talk about them during library time. 
  2. Enlist the help of your Language Arts teachers. If budget permits, consider purchasing a copy for each classroom, and encourage them to read a chapter aloud. 
  3. Have students visit the author’s website. For schools hosting me, have the students complete my Author Scavenger Hunt ahead of time. If possible, reward the completion with extra credit. 
  4. Publicize the upcoming author visit during the morning announcements. Announcements are also a great place to remind students about pre-order book deadlines. And finally . . . 
  5. Think about back to the connection. Do you have a kid that can solve the Rubik’s Cube? I’m happy to do a challenge. Someone who can beat box? I’ll rap Alphabet Aerobics. Ask me to sing The Element Song. Challenge me in a kung fu sparring match! (okay, maybe not this, but I do love showing my kung fu video). Whatever it is, make the kids feel like they are a part of it. That this event is special for them.

Continuing the Connection

I admit I got tears in my eye when I read this email I received after an author visit.

“After that talk about your journey to being an author you have inspired me . . . I thought that I couldn't do military, become an engineer, and become a successful author, but now you've changed that. You have shown me that you can do whatever you want as long as you don't give up and keep striving towards your dream.
"My parents always say never give up because you might achieve your goal, but I always thought that was something that parents said because it was a requirement for being a good parent or something. Then I heard about your stories and how you achieved all you goals and dreams using perseverance, patience, and persistence.
"You are one of my heroes and inspirations to chase after my goals . . . You are an inspiration to me showing that nothing is impossible no matter how hard . . . Thank you so much for presenting to us and inspiring me.”

This. This is what it all comes down to.

Everyone should (and can) benefit from an author visit. I want each kid to walk out of there with something. Some little tidbit that they’ll think on, that they will use in their life. I want them to believe that anything is possible. That they can accomplish their dreams and goals, even when those dreams seem impossible.

And most of all, I want them to enjoy their journey in life.

Cynsational Notes

For information on author visits with P. J. Hoover, contact Carmen Oliver at The Booking Biz.

P. J. (Tricia) Hoover wanted to be a Jedi, but when that didn’t work out, she became an electrical engineer instead. After a fifteen year bout designing computer chips for a living, P. J. decided to start creating worlds of her own. She’s the author of Tut: The Story of My Immortal Life and the forthcoming Tut: My Epic Battle to Save the World (Feb. 2017), featuring a fourteen-year-old King Tut who’s stuck in middle school, and Solstice, a super-hot twist on the Hades/Persephone myth.

When not writing, P. J. spends time with her husband and two kids and enjoys practicing kung fu, solving Rubik’s cubes, watching "Star Trek," and playing too many video games.

Monday, March 21, 2016

2016 SCBWI Bologna Author-Illustrator Interview: Nicola L. Robinson

By Elisabeth Norton
for SCBWI Bologna 2016
and Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations

Nicola L Robinson is an illustrator based in Nottingham U.K. Her children's illustration work includes cover art, pop-up books, pen and ink illustrations, hand lettering, illustrations for children's poetry and illustrations for prints and greeting cards. She particularly loves drawing monsters, dragons, animals and architecture, often with a slightly creepy edge.

She is the author and illustrator of The Monster Machine, a monster picture book published by Pavilion Children's books. The Monster Machine was shortlisted for the Cambridge Children's book awards 2013 and selected as part of the Summer Reading Challenge by The Reading Agency.

Nicola won the Silver award in the self-promotional category at Images 36. Last year, she exhibited in London in the HAI Illustration 100 exhibition and also in multiple locations as part of the SCBWI BI showcase exhibitions. Nicola also owns and runs Teeth and Claws, her personal brand of prints and cards featuring her illustrations, predominantly dragons, dinosaurs and cats as well as other beasts too. Follow her blog and via Twitter @NLRobinsonart.

Congratulations on being awarded Honorable Mention in SCBWI’s Bologna Illustration Gallery for your illustration of The Billy Goats Gruff. I still have my copy of the Three Billy Goats Gruff book from my childhood, and I love your take on this classic tale! Was this piece part of a larger project such as a picture book, or was it a stand-alone piece?

Thank you very much! I'm pleased you like my version. The Three Billy Goat's Gruff has always been a favourite story of mine since being a small child.

I'm particularly drawn to fairy tales featuring animals and monsters so had been meaning to illustrate this for a while. It is a standalone illustration, done purely for myself- I wanted to capture an overview of the whole story with it, with a focus on the troll.

How long have you been an illustrator? What path led you to pursuing a career in illustration?

I've been drawing and creating all my life, so a career in art was a natural progression for me. I have always loved drawing particularly from my imagination.

I did art at school and went on to University where I did my degree in Fine Art, specialising in Painting. It was during my Fine Art studies that I found I really love making art with a narrative, something which tells a story be it from text or on its own and I realised Illustration was where my passion lay. I started freelancing and taking commissions when I was still a student.

I graduated in 2005 from Cardiff School of Art and Design and have been illustrating ever since. Although it is only in more recent years that I have been illustrating for children's publishing.

You are also an author. Is there a creative difference for you as an illustrator, when you are illustrating your own work, versus illustrating someone else’s work?

I had a lot of fun writing and illustrating my picture book. I found being both author and illustrator and so able to work on both text and image simultaneously was really useful- particularly when designing the layout of image and fitting the text on the spread. Being both author and illustrator gave me a lot of control over the finished look. Although as ever deciding which story elements to be shown in the artwork and what to tell in the text was a bit of a balancing act.

When illustrating other people's work I've usually have less control as there are more people's inputs to be considered. Most of my other commissioned children's book work has been for cover art and classic books which have a different set of requirements to work within than the larger canvas of a picture book. I usually work with art directors who are commissioning something very specific. I do enjoy illustrating other people's work though, and I try to bring something new to any text or cover I work on.

Do you have a favorite medium for your illustrations?

I love working in pen and ink, particularly old dip pens and nibs as well as finicky technical pens too. I love the lines which come out of them. I also love watercolours, coloured inks acrylic paint and digital techniques too. I have used a lot of different materials over the years depending on the project and subject to depict.

Is this the medium you used when creating your piece that was selected for the Bologna Illustration Gallery?

Yes. It is a combination of pen and ink drawing, watercolour, coloured ink, acrylic paint and a touch of digital fine tuning too.

Could you describe your creative process?

This varies depending on the particular demands of each project and how the end product is going to be printed, or presented. Although I always start every project with some kind of thumbnail scribbles to get a feel for the overall composition. I do a lot of research if the subject is not familiar, and often visit the library in order to read up on the topic and get a strong mental image of the subjects to be illustrated.

I then do lots of drawings, and rough sketches often going over the same ones tweaking the composition and making edits as necessary. When I'm happy with the rough sketch (or if I'm working with a client once they are happy) I'll transfer my sketch to paper to start inking and if I'm going to be working in colour I'll stretch the paper beforehand too so it dries nice and flat.

Once painted in a combination of watercolour and coloured inks I scan the artwork before moving to Photoshop for any final editing and to prepare the artwork for delivery. I often work in layers to allow for maximum flexibility, so elements can be repositioned or used elsewhere in a project. This is particularly useful for popup books and covers requiring movable elements of text or other details or vignette illustrations requiring totally clean transparent backgrounds for clean printing.

Not everything goes through this process, sometimes it is nice to just work in a sketchbook and let the ideas simmer in there for a while until they are ready to be developed. Sometimes that is where they stay.

Can you tell us about your work space?

My work space is a bedroom at the front of my house, I've only recently moved in so it is still a work in progress! It is the place that I work, and drink copious amounts of tea, and also the place where I think and read too. I also use the room for sewing and other crafty things as well as packing orders for my Teeth and Claws shop.

Moving house took ages and as a result I did not having a fully functioning work space for some time last year, working out of boxes and not knowing quite when moving was going to happen was disruptive to my work, so I am very appreciative of my new workspace now I'm here. I love it, but I will be stripping that wallpaper...

Sometimes it is nice to have a change of scenery, so I do work outside weather permitting, and I've always enjoyed working on the floor (less prone to tea/coffee spillages here too) sitting cross legged with my wooden drawing board on my lap.

What is a typical creative session like for you?

If it isn't part of a project for a client which obviously requires a solid block of work I tend to create when inspiration strikes. So my creative sessions can vary from waking up in the middle of the night with an idea from something I've been dreaming and trying to scrawl it down on paper, to whole evenings and weekends in my studio just content in my own universe.

I do stop for regular tea breaks though although I have been known to forget to make lunch if I'm particularly absorbed in my work. I hate distractions so I work best alone with no phone calls or emails to interrupt!

I like to listen to music while I work, it often helps get a rhythm going particularly when inking something with a lot of texture or detail like a city with lots of roof tiles and tiny windows or a big scaly dragon.

Thank you so much for spending time with us today! I look forward to seeing more of your illustrations in the future.

Cynsational Notes

Elisabeth Norton grew up in Alaska, lived for many years and Texas, and after a brief sojourn in England, now lives with her family between the Alps and the Jura in Switzerland.

She writes for middle grade readers and serves as the regional advisor for the Swiss chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.

When not writing, she can be found walking the dogs, playing board games, and spending time with family and friends. Find her on Twitter @fictionforge.

The Bologna 2016 Interview series is coordinated by Angela Cerrito, SCBWI’s Assistant International Advisor and a Cynsational Reporter in Europe and beyond.

Guest Post: Linda Covella on Going Indie: Tips & Advice on Self-Publishing in the YA Book Market

By Linda Covella
for Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations

Thinking of going indie?

Self-publishing can be a fun, exciting, and rewarding endeavor. But get ready for an eclectic collection of hats, because you’ll be wearing many. It’s important to realize you’re selling a product that should be of the highest quality.

Here are some tips and resources to help you through the process.

Editing

By the time you’re ready to publish, you should have already gone through developmental editing of concept, character, and plot issues. Now, you need a proofreader/copy editor.

Don’t rely on a random friend or relative. Keep self-published books a strong and respected force in the market by having your manuscripts edited professionally or by a trusted, experienced critique partner. (Whenever you hire an outside service, be sure to have a contract.) See my list of editors from author recommendations.

Tip: Other indie authors can be a great resource for any self-publishing questions.

Cover Design

Your cover should be unique while blending with other books in your genre (a fine line to walk).

There are three cover options:

DIY: Royalty-free images are available online, such as this site, which you can use to design your cover.

Pre-made covers. Google “pre-made book covers,” and you’ll find quite a few.

Custom cover design. I’ve compiled a list of recommended cover designers. Bibliocrunch and Girl Friday Productions offer editing, cover design, and other help for indies on a budget.

ISBN

Do you need an ISBN (International Standard Book Number)?

Not necessarily, but most retailers and publishers require one. (Amazon.com does not.)

With an ISBN, your book will be more discover-able by readers, bookstores, and libraries.

Currently the price for an ISBN (purchased through Bowker) is $125—not cheap. And you need one for the ebook and paperback of each title. If you plan to publish several books, you can buy them in bulk at greatly reduced prices; they never expire. Some businesses buy ISBNs in large quantities so they can then sell them at reduced cost.

There’s some controversy about the validity of these or “free” ISBNs, so obtain one from a reputable source. See Joel Friedlander's article on ISBNs and the ISBN website.

Formatting and Publishing

Depending on where you decide to publish your book, you may need help formatting your manuscript. It’s free and easy to publish ebooks through Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP), and they accept Word docs. Amazon’s print service, Createspace, is free and requires only a PDF. They also offer professional publishing services.

Smashwords is an ebook publisher, accepts Word docs, but has a style guide that must be followed.

Smashwords has distribution agreements with all major online retailers and with Baker&Taylor, which libraries use to purchase books.

Draft2Digital publishes ebook and print books. They accept simple Word docs with no style guide to follow. They offer editing and cover design as well, and distribution agreements.

Smashwords or Draft2Digital? Here’s one blogger’s analysis.

IngramSpark is a print and ebook publisher with distribution agreements. They have a style guide to follow, and you may need a professional formatter. See blogger Linda Austin on IngramSpark vs. Createspace (book doctor Stacey Aaronson says it’s beneficial to use both)!

Pricing

To price your book, check other books in your genre. A common price for ebooks is $3.99.

The freebie can be a good marketing tool when you have a series: offer the first book for free in the hope that the reader will buy the other books in the series.

Experiment with pricing; see where that “sweet point” is. Just remember, you’ve worked hard and deserve to be paid a reasonable price.

Marketing and Promotion

Once you’ve published your book, the real work begins. As an indie book publisher, marketing and promoting is a never-ending job! Here are some tips and resources:

Local schools, libraries, and bookstores. Ask if libraries and bookstores will carry your book. Contact schools to do author visits. Author Alexis O’Neill’s blog is a great resource on school visits.

Subscribe to newsletters for publishing news, tips, classes, freebies, and generally “knowing your industry.” Some good ones are:


Follow blogs, including those of your favorite YA authors. If you use Wordpress, you can follow tags in your reader to find others with similar interests. Good blogs for self-publishing include:

  • Chris McMullen. Lots of info on Amazon, other self-publishing tips.
  • Bookbaby (another ebook and print book publisher). They had a recent Twitter chat with YA author Lauren Lynne.
  • IngramSpark has a blog on their website with self-publishing information.
  • Of course, Cynthia’s blog, Cynsations!

Guest blog on YA authors’ blogs. Most bloggers love having guest posts. Come up with an interesting topic and ask!

Join SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators), check the website for resources, sign up for their newsletter, and get involved in your local chapter (you can join forces with other authors for book signings, etc.).

Use Social Media

  • Get your books noticed through accounts on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, Instagram, and other social media sites.
  • Join some young adult author and reader groups on Facebook and Goodreads to meet and learn from other YA authors, and to expose your books to readers.
  • Create a website. Pay someone or DIY with sites such as Wordpress.com and Wix. This article showcases some “stellar” author websites.

Reviews

It’s tough for indie authors to get reviews. Ask for reviews on your website and social media. Put a request at the end of your books. Here’s one list of bloggers who review books. Though the title says middle grade literature, most will also review YA books.

Ginger
Do a blog tour (usually done when your book is newly published), and many of the bloggers will review your book. These businesses, among others, handle blog tours. Some specifically target YA audiences, but be sure to pick a blog tour company that lines your book up with YA bloggers.

Enter contests. Prizes can add credibility to and exposure for your books. There are many free contests and others, such as RONE, Chanticleer, and Literary Classics, have entrance fees. These three all have YA categories. And, of course, there are the biggies from ALA. See which awards accept indie books.

Advertise. Occasionally having a sale on your book and advertising can help boost visibility. Advertising prices and results vary. Most, if not all, of these promotional sites have YA categories. Missing from the list, but popular with authors, are The Fussy Librarian and Bookbub (expensive, but results can be worth it).

Self-publishing has lost its earlier stigma of “vanity publishing,” and readers are embracing indie authors and their books. Indies have discovered the advantages of self-publishing: control over content and cover design, higher royalties, and quicker time to market.

Do the research, put out a quality product, work on marketing, and you can find success and satisfaction as an indie author.

Cynsational Notes

Linda Covella’s varied background and education (an AA degrees in art, an AS degree in mechanical drafting & design, and a BS degree in Manufacturing Management) have led her down many paths and enriched her life experiences. But one thing she never strayed from is her love of writing.

Her first official publication was a restaurant review column for a local newspaper. But when she published articles for various children’s magazines, she realized she’d found her niche: writing for children. She hopes to bring to kids and teens the feelings books gave her when she was a child: the worlds they opened, the things they taught, the feelings they expressed.

She is a member of the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). She lives in Santa Cruz with her husband, Charlie, and dog, Ginger.

No matter what new paths Linda may travel down, she sees her writing as a lifelong joy and commitment. Find Linda at Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Goodreads, Pinterest and YouTube.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...