Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Happy Coincidence

Yesterday I went to the library to look for books on picture book illustration. Along with a whole armload of those I happened to find a book called ipad for Artists by Dani Jones. A little off topic but too interesting to pass up. And I have hardly been able to put it down. Here are some things I’ve learned.

The author was born the same year I graduated from high school, which means she’s good with technology, and I feel old. However, this book explains things so I can easily understand them. She also happens to be a children’s book illustrator and author.

I’ll be doing some travelling in the next two months and taking my ipad with me. I may never produce any masterpieces of illustration on my ipad, but this could be a fun way to be creative on the go. Some people do make gorgeous art on their ipads, and others use them as digital sketchbooks.

 I really like Jones' method of brainstorming and creating characters she can develop later on her computer. And there are instructions for saving color schemes, adding textures from photos, and lots of other cool things. It’s another medium to explore, and who knows, playing with it might lead to greater creativity in other areas? 

Friday, March 21, 2014

Weekend Links: Online Course taught by Emma Walton Hamilton

I signed up for Julie Hedlund's 12x12 writing program this year. I've benefited immensely from all the resources Julie has offered, not the least of which was an opportunity to be selected as a beta student for award-winning author Emma Walton Hamilton's Middle Grade/Chapter Book course.

I'm only one week into the 14-week course, but I feel like I've already had those light-bulb moments that I need to fix a languishing middle grade novel.

Some of the tips that resonated with me were:
  • Each character needs to further the story. If not, the character needs to go or be combined.
  • Each chapter needs an ending hook to keep the reader wondering what's next.
  • Each page needs emotional or dramatic tension.
  • Don't preach. Let the story set up a scene that allows the reader to draw their own conclusions.
One of the exercise we were asked to do was to write down the dramatic question. What is it that the reader needs to learn or achieve by the end of the book? Keep that question in mind as you draft your plot.

Emma also recommended a book on writing that intrigued me greatly: The Writer's Journey, by Christopher Vogler. Vogler uses the mythic structure explored by Joseph Campbell to outline an effective story-telling method.

There's much more, but that was enough to get me going in a direction I needed. I'll update as the class goes on. Emma has a picture book class and now a middle grade and young adult class she offers through her site,

She is a faculty member for Stony Brook Southampton's MFA in Creative Writing and Literature, which means I'm basically getting a college course on my computer at my own pace with an award-winning author to teach me. I'm so excited to have this opportunity and so is my poor novel.

Have a great weekend.

P.S. The video is Emma and her mother, Julie Andrews talking about writing and how it links up with other art forms. I love it. Perhaps because of my own acting background, but I thought if ever I do a school presentation, a reader's theater would be a great way to get children to interact with your book.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Art Shown Money Made

Dream Come True

It's an amazing tale actually. So amazing I still can hardly believe it really happened, yet the money is in my bank account and the paintings did not come home with me after the show closed. This is how it happened.

The first day of the show, as I was bringing my paintings in from the car, a customer at the coffee shop started to browse through my work. Since this was my first solo show, I wasn't sure what to expect and what to do. It had been over a year since I had met the curator so I didn't even recognize her at first. The gentleman talks with the curator, then walks over to me to ask a few questions: how long have you been painting, have you shown before, how much for everything?

Really? What? We haven't even hung anything on the wall yet. I get out my list and try to do the math. He doesn't want the small flowers, but everything else he'll take. I just sold eight paintings! And he's a collector. The curator was shocked as well (pleasantly so, I must admit). She asked if I had anything else at home we could add to the show. So I went home and painted some more.

A week later, at the opening reception, I had hung two new paintings and many of my friends, family, neighbors and colleagues came to support me. It was wonderful. My "patron," (can I call him that?) also came. He fell in love with one of the new paintings and bought it too.

In the end I brought three paintings home: two of the little flowers (there were six to start) and one painting of fishies (three at the beginning) and none of the landscapes; have three commissions and an invitation to do another show.

What this all means to me is, it looks like when I put my heart into my work and take a leap of faith in letting my work out into the world, people enjoy what they see enough to take it home with them.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Weekend Links: Inspiration All Around

My husband is a former archaeologist and he's shared information with me that you don't usually get in school. His experiences fueled my curiosity, and I developed an interest in history, science and anthropology that I, sadly, never had in college. What does this have to do with writing? A lot, I've found. 

Katherine Appelgate, the author of One and Only Ivan took her inspiration for her story from a real life event (Click here for the details.) Brian Selznik also drew inspiration for his novel The Invention of Hugo Cabret from a book he read about the history of automata. And even the great Sir Arthur Conan Doyle found his stories in ones told before. 

In the following video Brian Selznik speaks of the inspiration behind The Invention of Hugo Cabret. And the link below that takes you to a short clip about the legend that inspired Doyle's popular The Hound of the Baskervilles:

The Rebirth of Sherlock Holmes Video : Castle Secrets & Legends : Travel Channel

And for all you illustrators/artists out there, inspiration can be all around us. Here's one of my favorite photo tours of artists making art from everyday things:

Have an inspirational weekend and keep your eyes and ears open. You may find your next great novel/illustration lurking in a most unlikely place.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Weekend Links: Eric Carle, Aussie Vintage Stories, and a Children's Lit Panel

As a writer, I find the life stories of other writers extremely helpful in understanding how to use my own experiences to create my own stories. The following video interview of Eric Carle is a prime example of how his writing and art was influenced by the world around him. Full of juicy tidbits of writerly wisdom, it's well worth the 8 minutes:

One of my favorite courses in college was my legends, myths and folktales class. As I've traveled, I've tried to gather folktales from each place I've visited or lived in. All of these stories unfold in my mind at some point in generating ideas. Like Tolkein who used the myths he studied to formulate his own world, a study of literature from all parts of the globe enhances our ability to tell a timeless story. The following 4-minute video discusses a collection of vintage Australian children's literature that is available online. Can I just give a cheesy Aussie Awesome! And here's the link to the online collection:

And finally, coming it at 42 minutes but worth each one (skip to minute 1:10 to get to the introductions) is a panel on children's literature hosted by Southampton's MFA in Writing and Literature. The authors on the panel are Emma Walton Hamilton, Peggy Kern and Tricia Rayburn. They discuss different genre's from picture books to young adult. 

Part two (36 minutes) is here and goes into more depth about the construct of the books in their genre of choice: