Thursday, January 31, 2008

The Great Monet Breakaway

Or why is this creature being attacked by a giant lily pad? I don't know what provoked me to do this. But I had these mad visions of images in paintings attacking their viewers in retaliation.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

What makes the illustration and writing great in a pb

For me...that is easy.

Soul, personality and gumption. And originality to boot. And part of the creator's mind.

To me all the technical skill in the world can't match the five things above.

Using the opposite side of the brain

can benefit the most frequented side. I started a part time job in finance. Two minutes or less from home (eeeeyesss). I like it. It is challenge for someone like me who is good with language(s), art, music and the like. But numbers are another story.

But I like it and my boss loves me and is teaching me the biz from the inside out. She's mentoring me. "You can decide if this is something you want to pursue and eventually get a license to do it or not."

Me, I don't know yet. I don't know where this is going to go but I've got to do something. Because I need something for me. The kids are independent, my art is out, I know what kind of writing I want to do, and with all my hope and heart maybe someday I will find the right person but until then I need something real (even if it is the shitty, volatile stock market...)

What does this have to do with illustration anyway? Zippo bippo. But it kills the waiting. And makes some money. I like money.

But still I can't WAIT to get back to the drawing table...........the most frequented side of my brain is there. If this ever takes off and becomes tangible, then I'll revisit and review the situation.

But a normal together person cannot keep going like this with hope against hope. And luck ( son won an Ipod Nano today in a raffle of 500 happens...he really did ...LUCK...yet I digress)

Right now I need something real that I can hold onto and see results in.

So the point I nimbly make is keep going toward the "dream" but don't make the dream a nightmare. Be happy...keep doing what you are good at ...and something ELSE you might be good at...especially if it is offered to you. You never know. The opposite side of the brain can do wonders for the frequented side of the brain.

Chin up. Go forward and finish that illustration or two.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

A Face Only a Mother Could Love

You know you are writer when

you get a form letter and you know it is one before you even open the envelope. You hold it up to the light. You read the publisher letterhead and feel for some kind of texture (a signature with real ink....gasp??? Not this time). No there isn't one... this it is Pfftt right into the garbage can. No emotion, no effort, just that one handed-toss that you have perfected over the years. With your left hand if you are a rightie and vv.

For me, my right hand is for making art, and the left hand is for taking aim.

I am an artist, not a thing to throw away. You throw me away and I throw you away,too. Cathartic. I may never get anywhere in this insane business. But you will never make me feel like I am not good enough. I love to create and as I said before I hate to sub. I really hate it. If I could find one editor who loves my work that is all I would want. And to keep making wonderful art/mss. I don't like all this agent/editor subbing and I'm not good at it. But I am good at the art part and the writing is coming together.

And if you hear enough feedback sometimes it feels like clutter.

I know what to do and what not to do. But there is so much flippetygibbit to filter and after a while you start to wonder what is right or wrong. This is where that post came in about trusting yourself and staying true to yourself enough so that when the times comes you can trust your editor.

Feeling GROUCHY yet productive and confident. I did a lot today. And it turned out well. My standards of course. Two sketches a day and I hope to be done in a week...she says sheepishly. I feel great about my art and better about my writing. I have noticed that dummying a ms really helps with the writing in the end.

And as you can see, rejection letters are annoyances...kind of like flies on great food.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Favorite new picture books

Editorial Anonymous talked about her/his favorite picture books from last year and because I LOVE EA's blog I had to check them out.

Yes, 'That Rabbit Belongs to Emily Brown' is delightful.

And it is me. Through and through. I loved everything about it. The story, the artwork and the "speaking to children" aspect. It does all three to me. Just the way I like it.

And I bought my son 'Wednesday Wars'. Another recommendation.

My bookstore sales clerk likes me. And knows me.

I hope some day she will be selling me.

Dummy smarts

For my last dummy, rather than binding, or folding in half, or stapling whatever, I took apart an ITOYA 8.5" x 11" portfolio. I took the clear sleeves apart from the black plastic cover. Then I inserted the individual sketches. And dps' are(were) simply two singles facing each other. That way if there were changes, it wouldn't be such a big deal to re-do the dummy. The only drawback is that it must be portrait. I wish I could find a landscape version of such a portfolio.

And I can scan at home rather than xerox at a copy center.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008


I am picture book writer who is niew to industry. My story is about crane who delivers babies to Ukraine but they all get sick. It is called SIBERIA,YOU ARE BACTERIA. I try to send story to editors. But they refuse to open. Why this?

I hear ya. I once wrote a story called The Bacteria Bear about my two-year-old's loved to death teddy (and no editor would open the envelope).

Children's book editors LOVE foreign writers, but I must say bacteria is a word favored by science and medical book editors.

Send it to them with samples. Just specify the sample names on the envelope. Or include them with your mss.

Dos vedanya!

Literary/commercial/literary/commercial.... aaaagh

I spent a part of today rewriting a picture book but too much of that was wondering if it is commercial or literary. This is a complete waste of energy to me because how can a writer possibly know what the outcome is going to be. And why can't the two coincide?

I tend to write pretty (even if it is gross), elegant (even if it is a gargoyle or the like), funny (smart not slapstick) and wry (I love irony and I always have). Does that mean literary? How the heck do I know that?

I am a doer and think too much. But am no judge when it comes to yours truly.

Getting back to literary for a moment. I know what literary is. It has depth. It is beautifully written. It has a real story floating out of the written/plot story. It has impact. It lingers. It haunts.

All that commercial means to me is that it appeals to lots of people. That is about it.

So if it is neither literary nor commercial it is....

in trouble.

Avoiding the inevitable...

my studio. It is a complete and utter disaster (worse than my kids' rooms and that is BAD). At least there is not stuff growing in the rugs.

I get tired just looking at it. I don't even know where to begin. Kind of like starting a dummy...but instead you have everything everywhere not nothing anywhere.

So today I started the dummy and I started my studio. The dummy has about 14 or so undone illustrations to show for it. The studio has about 100 done illustrations to show for it.

But I can't finish the dummy until I finish the studio. Because I can't find anything.

Monday, January 21, 2008


Husband home sick today. Kids home today. And I finished an illustration I started yesterday. Yay.

This project is going to be a combination of collage/mixed media and watercolor. I might even add photography if I am daring enough. 

I love trying new things. And I know that one should be good enough and confident enough with new materials to venture into new territory.

I have decided that out of the ten or so mss I have written, five or maybe six of them are projects I wish to pursue in the future. 

And Monsieur Gargoyle is the one commanding my attention right now. He looks a hell of a lot different than he did years ago. You wouldn't even know him.

The question is should I send him back to his former jilters, or send him into new and open arms.

Well, I have time to think about it. And time has become nothing to me. Quality and knowledge have replaced it. Maybe I just think too much.


Pudders, why did you choose this background for your blog, pray tell?

Why it is because I like ellipses...of course.

Sunday, January 20, 2008


I am an illustrator who juggles all kinds of contact lenses and glasses all day long. For heaven's sake, I have twelve pairs of glasses and three different pairs of color coordinated contacts. Sometimes I even resort to a monocle. I try to wear glasses or contacts that match my attire and make me feel like an illustration fashionista. But, it is so tiem consmuing, looking all ovre the plcae for the rihgt piar. And it is strating to afefct my vsion adn illostrusion. Waht do you sugesgt?

Oh, what a bother. I know. Have you been to an opthomologist? I was given the best advice recently from mine. He said, that if you do very detailed, precise work, it is best to wear nothing at all.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Love makes the manuscript go round

I am one of those people who will never give up on something that I believe in. I am one of those people who if I had lost something I loved I would try like the dickens to get it back.

I am also one of those people who can walk away when others say you must keep submitting this. I mean I can say, "No, I don't really love this enough to blanket the town with it."

Which brings me to a story I wrote years ago about a little gargoyle. Except at the time he wasn't little. He was big and ugly. He got lots of requests but no one wanted to keep him. They didn't love him enough.

Well, I figured out why. One being that he was too big and ugly. He was also too long, too versical (is that a word?) and didn't have enough conflict/resolution in his life to make him appealing and interesting.

Then I rewrote it completely and kept some of the language I loved, but mostly I made it much shorter and bashed the rhyme into rhythmic prose.

Then my computer crashed and I lost it. And then I lost it. I went into a temporary manic depression as I had no back up or hard copy to speak of. I stopped writing. I stopped making art. I stopped. For a pretty long while. (Sulking sucks...don't do it.)

Then my husband said (and was probably thinking I can't live with this woman unless she writes again), "Rewrite it. Just do it."

I looked at him, cried and said, "I can't do this."

He said, "Yes, you can."

"Okay, you are always right...usually," I said.

So I rewrote it slowly trying to remember the basic elements of the story. The lines that I laughed at came back in trickles. This was tough.

And now after a long while, my gargoyle is as cute and funny as a little gargoyle can be. He's got a problem or two that I hope kids will find endearing and he solves them too. And he does something magical for everyone to ooh and aah at. And he's got hope and vulnerability to boot. And he gets what he wants. (There are four 'Ands' beginning sentences in this paragraph but I don't care.)

But he still must be properly dummied. SMILE.

So the moral is, if you really believe in something and love it with all your heart...and if at first you don't succeed...try, try again.

But only if you LOVE it.

And if you don't have back up or hard copy, you are going to get screwed.

Friday, January 18, 2008

The most important thing that I remember...

besides the fact that I hate taking notes is..........

there were very few newbie questions and such. There were one or two but thankfully, no one dwelled upon them. I put my face in my hands and counted to ten. And then the coast was clear.

And one of the eds used the F word a few times and that picked me up. Phew.

Why can't there be more events like this... small (like less than thirty people), nice cosy Ottoman type place (until the Salsa got going in the next harem...I almost went over there), cheap heavy drinks and cool, low key, smart and savvy, approachable people...and free (well...yeah). Nice.

And subdued lighting.

It is not that I don't like regular conferences. But I am finding them less helpful. And definitely more beginner. When you start to outgrow message boards, conferences and the like, does that mean trust yourself more? I think so.

An editor held up a copy of "The Arrival" and talked about how much he loved it.

Will I ever produce anything that good?

What I really need is a writer/illustrator who knows a lot about pbs (experienced)...and who is super talented... to critique with. And I haven't found anyone near me. I don't think I could do this thru a computer. Isolation is frustration.

Back to work. Must get samples out. Must finish dummy. Must work on queries. Must must must dust.

I am in a DAYS or What else do I remember from last night?

This is hard because I know that I had a martini, and it was enormous, and it was so strong it tasted like glue. Yuck. Usually, drinks are so watered down or puny that I spend too much money on them.

This one wasn't any part of that last sentence. I finished it over the course of the seminar and my questions were not garbled or unintelligible.

Queries. I talked to a published author who said he spends DAYS on them. What other word in this previous sentence makes the word DAYS meaningful?

The eds said to make it clear why you are picking them. Make it clear that you know their tastes, their line and what your book is really about and why would someone want it to read it.

Comparisons are fine but don't say your book is the next thing (that they already have). Read their webpages.

PB writers: you are telling part of the story. Your PB is not yet a pb (that is easy for me but I imagine it is harder if you don't illustrate).

The market now is tougher than ever (but I see some awesome pbs out there so there).

YA is all about VOICE. They are always looking for new and fresh voices (good thing I didn't stand too close to the eds after that martini).

Try to understand the difference between institutional, library, school Sometimes that is hard.

I have a lot to do. DAYS of work.

A Tale of Two Editors

Not really. They were certainly not polar opposites. But a few different takes on writing, submissions etc..

Anyhow....WOW! While it is fresh in the ole brain....................

I attended this seminar last night and came home feeling exhilarated, enlightened and inspired. Boy, did I need this right now. And I learned how they want their writer/illustrator submissions presented (which is nice because it seems different folks want different strokes (i.e. dummies or no dummies...worded in...not worded in.). I went up and asked. I am getting braver.

This was one of the best sessions I've been to. Not only were they funny (which I need) but they were honest, informative, human and genuinely in love with great books. And they said that buying a ms means you have fallen in love with it. Of course, it does. Would you work on something if you didn't love it? (That applies to marriage as well..the problem with that is it never ends).

And it seems a big thing they want to see in writing (and I have to believe art) is the creator's PERSONALITY. ........yeah. And I am also going to say LIFE and CHARACTER. I know when I buy a book that is the first thing I notice...or don't notice and don't buy.

They also said to stick with one genre/format and make it GREAT (over and over) before you move on to another. There is too much mediocrity out there.

Word lengths of picture books....lots of rolling of the eyes. Can you have a 2000 word pb?....sometimes...yes. Depends. These rules we hear OVER and OVER again are not set in stone.

Are pbs always 32 pages? NO. (BTW...I've noticed MANY pbs now are longer....yay!! )

The only time a non-artist writer should send illos is when it is a concept book.

Illustrator notes pretty much only for contradictions. Even then not really necessary.

Will editors look at writer/illustrators for a first book ?.....YES!!!!!! But they also might not. Depends.

Re: Agents. The consensus seems to careful (you are putting a lot of trust in someone).
As a matter of fact, both seemed to think first timers should go right to the editor, if possible.

Anyway, I realize now how much work I have to do before I sub to them. WHEW!!

On a lighter note, a friend of mine was there and he just got his novel pubbed by one of them. Way to go!!

And maybe another commercial at my house... the location scouts are coming back for a second look. EEEP.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008


Why is a dummy called a dummy? I mean I do them, and I am not stupid.

Oh course you are not.

I believe the original meaning comes from Alexandre Dumas. He had to come up with dumb things that musketeers might do if they were challenged by Cardinals (my favorite birds) and Dauphins (my favorite sea mammals). So he wrote a mock up book about these guys and it was so good that they eventually made it into a movie. And you know, movies are visual. So the producers said give us a dummy, Dumas. And he did. The term stuck.

The really cool thing is that there is an extra muskateer. Can you find him?

His name is d'Artagnan.

Just ask Martin Handford. Where's d'Artagnan???

When are you satisfied?

When you work on something and it comes out in a way that you did not in sigh...better. You get a high from it. Sometimes you struggle for a while until you get it, but then it happens. And when it happens it is euphoric. People who don't do this neither understand nor appreciate this (and why should they?).

I'm having a good day.

What are we working on today?

"When are you going to come down...when are you going to land..."

Swiss cheese kites.

There has got to be a way to make those mice come back down.

Kites?? Maybe I should send this into the Bulletin.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008


I want to be a picture book illustrator so bad(ly).
I realize that like most things you need to pass some kind of test in order to qualify. Is there a test requirement for picture book illustration?

Yes, there sure is. Actually, it is an optical illusion. You know that picture where either you see the old lady witch or the young girl. If you don't see the young girl ...forget about it. Time for another career.

Good luck!!


I am doing a pb about pb. Can I use real pb instead of paint?

Absolutely. Art Directors are looking for new media these days. And you'll get a real nice, authentic grease mark to go with it. While you are at it, add some j.


Can writers put new words (I mean words that have not been approved by the FDA ((Federal Dictionary Association)) into picture books? You bet!!! As long as it makes sense.

You B log to me. We B log together. And my aching back.

If you have bad cold don't come near me. I can't afford to get sique.

And speaking of my physique...

How do illustrators deal with back ache?

One trick is to stand while you work. Unfortunately, that often leads to neck ache.

Pick your poison. Or alternate poisons. Or poses. Sit down and illustrate for a half hour. Stand up and illustrate for a half hour. Sit down and illustrate for a half hour.

You get the idea. You just have to remember the order. And get a timer.

How is the art going today?? Swimmingly (and that is good for your back ache ,too).

I love illustrating so much it hurts.

Monday, January 14, 2008

No, Gary Larson is not a picture book artist

I've noticed that my stuff is getting more "adventurous."

But I am constantly reminding myself that my audience is not a fan of Mr. Larson....YET (well, I am but that is not the issue)

It is basically five(ish). It ain't dumb... just a little bit more ignorant (that doesn't mean dumb, either.)

Still, I harbor this inner twitch.

Remember your audience, I know, but sneak in that inner twitch to fit. My audience is smart, too...just in a different way!!!!

Today's accomplishments: On target...nothing monumental but still some kind of...mental.
If this cardinal could talk, what would he be saying?

Probably, "You talkin' to me?"

You know...Juno!

My daughter's friend's mom is part of the Screen Actors Guild. So she gets pre-DVDs, and gets to rate movies before they come out. So we got to watch Juno in the comfort of our own home before it hit the theater. So what does this have to do with writing for children?? daughters and husband LOVED it. I liked it.

I LOVED the mc. The boyfriend, though. Oh, those boyfriends. He bothered me because he wasn't there enough for her. Now my husband says vehemently, "You don't KNOW what 16 year old boys are like. They wouldn't be there, in her face."

He's right. And because I have never been a sixteen year old boy, I don't identify.

So this is why I don't write YA for teen boys. How do you female writers do it? How do you relate to teen boy protags?

I want to know.

Now ask me how I relate to five year olds. I don't know if I could give you an answer. The only thing I could say is I REMEMBER. Good and bad.

Keep writing and illustrating!!!!!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Stacks of hope and terror

I love to create. I HATE to sub. Basically, all I get are nice letters...since when. I am at a loss. And the thought of querying multi-agents now terrifies me. I want the perfect editor...but I HATE subbing. So what is a girl to do??

I just go back to my art because it is comfortable. And folks at big houses seem to like it. And the writing is invigorating. Can't illustrate without the can we.

I'll never get anywhere. The stacks are getting higher. Sort of like a book I read about a boy climbing the highest heights (when I was seven)...He just kept going up but never reached a tangible goal. And that is what I feel is inevitable with me. But I can't stop what I love and what I feel I am "good at"...don't you hate that talking about yourself........

Fun with floating mice

Illustrating for children is a very bizarre thing. Especially when you do humor. You'll find yourself laughing uncontrollably at the oddest things...that you made.

Like floating mice and a menacing cat.

Or peanut butter and jelly winging their way across the page between boy and monster.

Or a gargoyle fighting off pigeons and pigeon poop.

"Mom...we have to go in like ten minutes!" (Back to reality).
So inadvertantly, I plug into the next blog and I am in France. Which brings me to cooking. The two are inseparable in my mind.

My husband made a vat of vichysoisse. I give him credit for being a fantastic cook, and he does me for being his willing victim.

Today his jazz band is rehearsing in my living room...actually they always rehearse here because we have (are) the piano. And they are all so good. No not good, great. I look forward to hearing them while I paint... upstairs. It is always a pleasure.

Good soup, good music, good art. Sounds like a great day.