Jot Downs - SCBWI Carolinas Conference - Part 2

  Step forward into the unknown and assume it will be brilliant.

~ Grey's Anatomy

Camille Andros, author of picture book Charlotte the Scientist is Squished, hosted a workshop on How to Write a Picture Book Agents & Editors Can't Say No [to].  I was only able to attend the last part, but I wrote a few notes I will find helpful in the months to come - including the opening quote.

Successful picture books have three things in common:
  1. Rhythm (Read it out loud.  What does it sound like?)
  2. Repetition (Allows the child to participate in the story)
  3. Rule of Threes (Three attempts to solve a problem and the last one works)
And while I didn't get to write this part down exactly as Camille said it, the gist of it is very plain.  No one is going to send me an invitation to write a book, to put the ideas in my head on paper, etc.  I need to show up and do the work.  A quote from Stephen Kings book, On Writing, says it best - 

Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.

That book, by the way, was recommended more than once this weekend.  I'm expecting my copy to arrive tomorrow.


You are the BOSS...

The following jot downs pertain to your business...yes, YOUR business.  You are the BOSS OF YOU!  The truth is, MOST illustrators and writers - even the famous ones, hold outside jobs in addition to doing that creative thing they love.  We become adept at juggling.  We find a rhythm that works...until life happens.  It's okay.  Get up. Dust yourself off and keep on going.  You'll find that rhythm again. I promise.


No one will send you an invitation...

So, no one is going to send you an invitation to live your dream.  You have a part in making your dream happen.  For illustrators, one piece of the pie is called a POSTCARD.  I can hear you through the Google bots...don't groan.  DO.  

Laurent Linn suggested sending out 3 - 4 postcards a year with these tips:
  1. Vary the postcard content each time
  2. Make sure your website is on your postcard
Your website IS your portfolio.  Laurent said that, when he looks at a site, it's not necessary to label your art (i.e. education, mass market, etc.).  However, it is helpful to have your art grouped by "styles".  If you have several styles that you do well, such as watercolor, cartoon, etc., arrange your website according to the style.

Postcards can and will get your work noticed.  This past weekend I learned of a postcard success story.  One of our illustrators was contracted to do a picture book based on a postcard she had sent a year earlier.  Sometimes it takes a while so be patient.

If you are in the SCBWI Carolinas region, we have a "Four Out The Door" postcard initiative.  Send me a jpeg of your postcard and I'll put it on our Carolinas region postcard gallery website.

Get your postcard designs ready!  Next blog post will be tips on building a mailing list, research and submissions.  Until then, do what you do best....YOU DO YOU!


25th Anniversary Conference of SCBWI Carolinas (NC & SC) Part 1

Stories give us more to be human beings with.

~ Gary Schmidt, author 


The 25th Anniversary conference of the SCBWI Carolinas region was RED HOT with an all-star faculty line up.  They, along with over 200 attendees, set the Crowne Plaza Hotel ablaze with newly found purpose and passion.  Still buzzing from the energy I received at the LA SCBWI Conference, I am having a hard time containing the heart fire that filled me up over the weekend.

This post highlights the events that encouraged me and I hope they will do the same for you, too. 

Laurent Linn, Art Director for Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers and Paula Wiseman Books, taught an illustrator intensive, Bringing Your Characters to Life.  He also taught a workshop on Trade Illustration vs. Mass Market.  The following are [my] main takeaways from each:
  • A character needs PURPOSE.
  • Ask yourself - What is the purpose of what I am illustrating/writing. What is the purpose of the book?
  • Don't compare yourself.  No one else is doing what YOU are doing.
  • Create a character that people care about because that character will stay with you.
  • Picture books are "controlled" content that allows children to explore the world in a safe way.
  • Everything is part of the character:  light and shadow, clothing, background. For example, a tree, or cloud, can be drawn with emotional characteristics.
  • Color is part of the character. Use color to connect character to rest of scene.
  • Emotions can show through hair, clothes, posture, etc.
  • The main character tells you how to feel through eyes, facial expression, body language.
  • Clothing/costume - what does it say about your character?
  • Stay away from cliché gestures.
  • Social Media - no one should feel obligated to share their work on social media. Ask yourself - what is the purpose of your social media platform.
  • Your website is your portfolio.
  • Animals - anthropomorphic - the sky is the limit on marketability.
  • Understand your audience.
  • Books for young children - Use sparse backgrounds.  Characters are prominent.
  • Examples of character driven books: I'm Bored by Debbie Ridpath Ohi; Little Cloud and Lady Wind by Toni Morrison and Slade Morrison, illustrated by Sean Qualls
  • (Side note:  Read the book On Writing by Stephen King)

Gary Schmidt, two-time winner of the Newbery Honor and a Prinz Honor winner, opened the conference with an inspirational keynote.  The following are a few highlights from his talk:
  • There are 91 million functionally illiterate people in the United States.
  • 40% of schools have no librarian.
  • We know the damage - the effects - of certain situations - and we accept it anyway.
  • His uncle wrote for the children's TV show Captain Kangaroo.
  • The story of Elisha and Naaman (2 Kings 5:1-19).
  • Books show the complexity of our world.
  • Books show us empathy and teach us about other people.
  • All art should ask hard questions. What's the matter? What can I do?
  • Show up despite the brokenness of this world.

There are many more photos and notes to share. For now, I will leave you with my best takeaways...I know my purpose.  I found my direction.  I have a super power that can inspire a child's world.  I can choose to create joy where there is none. I can create characters and write stories that bring empathy into a broken world. I can use my God given gifts to serve others. And no matter how difficult the journey gets, I will show up anyway.

Keep creating.  
Keep showing up. 
Keep doing what you do best...YOU!


Flannel Moose Café...something creative is always brewing!

Flannel Moose Café is my new blog that covers everything creative, including illustration, writing and design.  The tag line, "Something creative is always brewing!" is a catchphrase that describes...well...me!

The idea behind Flannel Moose Café has been brewing for a few years. The bigger picture has been simmering much longer and, hopefully, will be ready soon.

Rather than wait and deliver something in a tidy package (because that's no fun), I am inviting you in to the creative process while I unpack my ideas.

To tell you the truth, it's been a rather busier than normal summer.  Conferences, travel, deadlines...and here it is, the "almost" end of summer.  Nothing really artistically romantic to report, but there have been intentional moments, like those at the SCBWI LA Conference.  Significant snapshots that I will carry for years to come.

Enough about me.  I want to hear about you!  Pull up a chair and I'll grab us a cup of coffee (or whatever your preference).

Tell me about your summer takeaways in the comment section below!