Piccola! I can hardly believe how cute this is. SMALL is now available in Italian! This girl is going places! I am 1/2 Italian and think my Nana Perry and Auntie Louise would have been pretty excited about this.
2. Live Painting with 2nd Graders! I visited my daughter’s classroom this week. They are writing and illustrating their own stories. Their teacher gave them a few ideas about illustration styles they can follow and I got to throw them a colorful wrench with my style. I showed them my messy palette and left them with gouache and brushes to try out. They had great questions, were so well mannered, and I can hardly wait to see what their books look like!
3. Timberlane Literacy Night Next Thursday I will be hanging out with local authors, meeting students, and signing books. I’ve slowed down my event calendar which has made me appreciate every chance I get to meet young readers. I hope to see you there - details, here.
4. Building Stuff This industrious kid will be making her way around to publishers next week in the form of a postcard. It’s November, but it’s the first postcard I’ve sent in a year. Oops! It was a busy year, though!
5. In the beginning I’m working on a new story. I had a flash of inspiration this spring when I was WAY too busy to go off track. But I just couldn’t ignore my excitement so I spent a day noodling around with this idea and built it into a bigger idea. I spent another week or so thinking of a plot whenever I could find a spare minute. I was SO excited about this project! Then, when I finally had time to return to it, it just wasn’t working as a picture book. I was frustrated and grouchy and started sinking into that whole ‘I have no more good ideas, I should quit’ pity party. A few weeks later, I am finally back on track. Do you know how? I sat down and I did the work. <—Those are Julie Falatko’s words. Go follow her daily Instagram stories if you want a solid reminder of how important doing the work is compared to brilliant flashes of inspiration. And go buy her new book, No Boring Stories! out this week.
These are just some of my original character design sketches for Peanut & Moe. I landed on Moe's design fairly quickly, but Peanut took a bit more tinkering. Once I had them fairly sorted, I made final art. For several years, all my Peanut & Moe art was a mix of gouache paint, colored pencil, a bit of multimedia (pink fur paper!) all cut and assembled to create a dimensional piece.
I'm still proud of the dry-brushing on that pancake stack!
This phase involved photographing the finished art. It was a technical challenge to get the shadows just right - soft, but pronounced.
At some point I relinquished my layered/photographed technique. The above is a combination of gouache and pencil, combined digitally.
And here they are, in the final spread from the book. 100% digital. I switched over to working on a Wacom Cintiq a few years ago and I am still over-the-moon-in-love with working this way. I hope it's as apparent to you also, how each iteration made the final idea and characters stronger. IMHO, every little edit to an eyebrow, finger shape, or color palette made an improvement. The power of persistence!
I like a catchy jingle. I like to either make them up or co-opt them from pop-culture and make them my own. I guess you could say it's my 'thing', though not many people know this about me.
Many years ago I took a depressing indie tune with the lyrics 'too much, not too much' and turned it into the more upbeat and amusing, 'Too much mayo, not enough mayo'. (I will gladly sing it for you if you see me in real life and ask nicely) Naturally, I sang it to make turkey sandwiches.
On a quiet drive home from an illustrator meeting, I somehow realized 'too much! not enough!" was a fantastic refrain for a picture book. This may have been my first original idea for a book of my own. And if it wasn't, it was certainly the first one that seemed good enough to remember.
It seems like a bit of a miracle, but this little note from nine years ago fits the book coming out in August. Originally I named the monsters Little & Big. Names would go through major revisions, but the characters never wavered.
I struck gold (sort of!) with premise #2. The first part is essentially what happens, and they do get to camp under the stars but you have to wait until book #2 comes out next year.
So, you might be thinking, "What the heck took nine years if you figured all this out from the start?". I'm showing you snippets from a notebook that I started on August 20th, 2009. My son was 8 months old and I was on the verge of a breakdown because I just needed time to myself to make art. That Sunday morning I left with a mission, putting my husband on baby duty, while I grabbed a new notebook and headed for the nearest coffee shop. I got there and it wasn't open yet. Wasn't going to be open anytime soon, in fact. I may have cried. But then I got to work. I sat in my car and wrote page after page. I doodled ideas for what these monster friends looked like. I thought of all the ways they could irritate each other, and how the little guy would make things better. And then I went home. Back to my overwhelmed new stay-at-home-mom life. But the glimmer of this book was a life line.
I worked on this story all those years. Bird by bird, as Anne Lamott would say. I made art. I made dummies. I shared them with critique partners and started from scratch again. I got an agent and we submitted my dummy. It made it to sales and acquisitions and to revision with two lovely publishers at the same time. And because publishing is often perplexing and unpredictable, it ended up back on my desk again. There was a small army of wonderful friends who listened when I grouched about how long it was all taking. I got busy with other projects and sold my first book, SMALL. Around the same time, I illustrated a book with a fantastic editor at Tundra books. When it was time to think about my monsters again, my agent and I wondered. Perhaps Samantha Swenson would be a good match? The first news was good! But then time went by (again, publishing) and I worried. But the real news was spectacular. Not only did Tundra want to publish TOO MUCH, they offered me a two book deal. And as fate would have it, that second book is another Peanut & Moe story. I had known these characters for so long, that they almost wrote their own second story. Oh, pish. I wrote it. With the wonderful and smart guidance of my editor, Sam. And this one didn't take nine years from start to finish. It took under a year.
I will share a lot about Peanut & Moe in the weeks leading up to their book debut, but I wanted to start here. Whether you are a reader, a teacher, or a pre-published author, I hope you walk away learning a bit about what inspires me as a writer (jingles!) and what helped me publish this book (tenacity! passion! good friends! never quitting! a great agent, editor, and publisher!)
1. SMALL is a Bank Street Books Best Children's Book of 2018 selection. Wow! I am so honored to have my debut make this esteemed list. I hope that it brings a bigger audience to SMALL. I just enjoyed a lovely book event at Wellesley Books this weekend, and was reminded once again how this book can empower all types of kids. A big thank you to my agent, Teresa Kietlinski and my editor, Jenna Pocius for believing in the power of SMALL and helping it become a real book in the world.
2. TOO MUCH! NOT ENOUGH! won't be out until mid-August, but a review is out today from Publisher's Weekly. It actually has a lovely reviews from Story Monsters Ink (p55), University of Manitoba, and Picture Book Sleuth as well. I have lots of surprises up my sleeve to celebrate Peanut and Moe's launch into the world, just you wait!
3. GIVEAWAY! To celebrate the one year anniversary of IT'S GREAT BEING A DAD in the world, I am hosting a giveaway on Amazon through Friday at midnight. It's super easy to enter - I hope you'll go check it out, here. P.S Happy Unicorn Day! (Thank you for the cute graphic, Tundra!)
4. On my desk I am working on another book for Tundra books (dream life, I swear!). When the time is right I will reveal the title, but for now I will just tease it by saying it's so much fun to be drawing these two friends again... I'm also doing a fun Halloween-y assignment for Highlights and waiting on a few last bits from the middle-grade project to wrap up. Happy to be busy!
5. Still spinning! One of my 2018 resolutions was to try a spin class (I know, I'm like a decade off trend). I started in February and it's totally my jam. I think it's the combo of a childhood love of bikes, a great instruction who pushes us every class, and blaring music. I'm often sitting at my desk for longer work stretches because I'm afraid to get up for the leg pains!
1. NESCBWI 2017, Here I come! I've been blogging about the annual New England SCBWI conference for a really long time. I attended for a really long time (since 2003, my last was in 2013). Polishing up my portfolio, bringing new art for contests, meeting editors for critiques, scaring away my introvert so I could meet new peers, and sitting through workshop after workshop. A few years back I decided to take a break. I was still working hard on writing and illustrating, but I just couldn't do it. All those years of trying without the success I wanted had taken a toll. I was bitter and didn't want to spread that around. I didn't feel like it was a good investment of my money, time, or spirit. So I took a break. And another. And another. So I'm thrilled to return this year, with a fresh portfolio, a book I illustrated in the bookstore, and no other pressures. I'm excited to see old friends, make some new ones and absorb some great peer knowledge.
2. A star! Publishers Weekly reviewed IT'S GREAT BEING A DAD - it's a great review AND it's a starred review. I hope this helps the book land in more readers hands. Congratulations to Dan Bar-el and Tundra Books!
3. Jumping for Joy, still. It's been tough to juggle promotion for DAD with work on final art for TOO MUCH! NOT ENOUGH! I just adore these rascals and can't wait to share the whole book with the world (Summer 2018!). In the meantime, here's a sneak peek. Shhhh!
4. Release the monkeys! So cool to get the May 2017 Highlights Magazine and see my monkey illustrations. Thanks, as always, to Patrick Greenish for seeing my weird work then finding more suitable assignments for me!
5. The Leftovers. Whatever you do, don't expect me to call/text on Sunday nights. Season 3 of The Leftovers requires all of my attention. It's like what happens to all of you Game of Thrones and Walking Dead fans, except WAY less people watch this (why? you are missing the BEST show ever...minus most of season one...)
In 12 days, IT'S GREAT BEING A DAD will be released - can you believe it??? You can pre-order it at Amazon, Barnes & Noble or your local bookseller. I'm super excited about the above launch party at Water Street Bookstore in Exeter, NH. It's just kismet to have National Unicorn Day fall days after the book release. Come join me for unicorn fun, a reading, drawing, and goodies!
If you JUST can't wait or can't make this local event, you can download and print a fortune teller yourself. It's part of the activity kit for the book. It was so fun to think of all the activities that could make this fun story into a library event, celebrating all the imagination and positivity in Dan's story.