Tag Archives: crocodile

Illustration Friday: Orange



More fun with palindromes. . . and the answer is “he did, eh?”

Picture Book Writing: Navigating the Waters


My postcard for the SCBWI Winter Conference.

I just returned from three wonderful 40-degree days at the SCBWI Winter Conference in NYC. Came home to sub-zero temperatures feeling inspired, overwhelmed, determined, discouraged, encouraged . . . you get the picture.

First, a brief update on the book dummy I started working on in June: I was hopelessly stuck after my critique with Lisa and Laura from Mentors for Rent (great resource–highly recommend!); their comments were insightful and valid but I just could not navigate the changes. I was stuck in a snow drift without that box of kitty litter in the trunk of my car–spinning my tires and getting absolutely, positively nowhere.

So I did the best thing I could do–I tucked that story away and started on a completely different one. This time, I chose to work on text only–no pictures until I had a solid draft. Still working on revisions to that manuscript, but it is moving along nicely.

I decided to use SCBWI conferences as my mileposts, determined to schedule both a manuscript review and / or a portfolio review whenever possible–providing me with two things I desperately need: 1) deadlines and 2) accountability.

At the SCBWI Minnesota Regional Conference in October, I signed up for a portfolio review, and totally lucked out with a review by the amazingly talented Dan Yaccarino.

When I mentioned my stalled book dummy to Dan, he suggested an assignment he gives his illustration students: sketch a wordless book. This was great advice, as I could concentrate on structure and the visual storytelling without tripping myself up on the language (for now). This was the box of kitty litter I needed to get out of that snowdrift. I pulled out the old sketches, omitted the text, dumped the items that complicated the message and came up with a simpler story. Nothing earth-shattering, but still a great exercise in character development, pacing, and composition. Best of all, after many hours of refinements, I could include it in my portfolio for the Portfolio Showcase at the SCBWI Winter Conference.

Two spreads from the dummy (my postcard was my color sample):

Wednesday-Nancy-Meyers-1 Wednesday-Nancy-Meyers-3

So did any art directors pause to page through all 32 pages of that little dummy tucked in the last sleeve of my portfolio, one of 200 portfolios lined up on dozens of tables? Honestly, I doubt it. But it was still a very necessary step for me, and I don’t regret all the effort. At past conferences, I would obsessively count my promotional postcards before I dropped off my book, then count them again at exactly 9 p.m., after the industry professionals cleared out and before fellow illustrators filed in, to see how many cards had been taken. I would set a number in my head, a made-up number that would somehow–to me–equate to success or failure.

But this year I didn’t count postcards. Whoever opened my portfolio wanted to look inside, and that’s ok by me. The Portfolio Showcase was a success for me because I created a slew of new images over that last two years and I finally had that dummy exercise under my belt.

Dory said it best: “Just keep swimming . . . .”

So I’m swimming on to my next milepost–the SCBWI New England Conference in May–committed to drawing every day–the most consistent piece of advice from multiple speakers at the NYC conference. I’ll keep you posted on my progress!

Side note: If anyone is planning a trip to NYC, be sure to check out the fantastic (and free!) exhibit on children’s books The ABC of It: Why Children’s Books Matter at the New York Public Library.

Illustration Friday: Protest


Another character sketch from a story I’m currently working on–seemed like a perfect fit for this week’s Illustration Friday.

I had a window of time to work on a picture book idea and knew I had to grab it, so I finally completed the first draft after three weeks of long days (and sometimes nights) and many, many pages of sketches. I’ve decided to document the progress from this point on to wherever it leads me, because I have learned so much from other artists who have shared their journeys, including the triumphs and the pitfalls. Specifically, I would like to thank both Kelly Light and Will Terry for their fantastic blogs. You have to read their earliest posts to fully appreciate their candor.

I should clarify that this story idea originated more than six months ago, and kept languishing in a journal. I would revisit it and stall, then return periodically. I finally got fed up with my procrastination and decided I wasn’t getting anywhere without putting something–anything–down on paper.

But actually this dates back further, to a SCBWI Illustration Conference in 2003. I received a business card from an editor who liked the expressiveness of my characters, and she wrote a quick note on the back: “Do you write, too?” I immediately sent a note thanking her, and replied, “Yes!” But it has taken me ten long years to finally jump off the high dive. Armed with my dog-eared copy of Uri Shulevitz’s Writing with Pictures and Molly Bang’s Picture This, I started slowly piecing the manuscript to the sketches. True to Mr. Shulevitz’s advice, it helps me to create a three-dimensional dummy so I can really experience the pacing and page turns (I’ve actually created several so far).
Drawing is easy for me; writing is much more challenging. There is always someone saying, “I can’t draw a straight line,” but there is seldom someone who isn’t champing at the bit to correct your grammar or spelling. One of my favorite quotes is from Katherine Paterson, who was interviewed by Diane Osen in The Book That Changed My Life: Interviews with National Book Award Winners and Finalists“I had a professor at graduate school who stopped me in the hall one day and said, Have you ever thought of becoming a writer? I was just flabbergasted. I said I wouldn’t want to add another mediocre writer to this world. Being a glorious failure didn’t scare me at all, but being just mediocre did. What I heard her say was, If you’re not willing to be mediocre, you’ll never be anything at all. I think that’s a very important lesson to learn, because people always want guarantees that they’re going to be wonderful. But there’s no way of knowing you’re good, if you don’t dare to be mediocre.” 

Pretty gutsy thing to admit.  Of course, it helps that she can say this with a couple of Newbery Medals and National Book Awards under her belt. All the more reason why I am so inspired  by her honesty. Unlike rough sketches, which usually have a lovely sense of spontaneity, rough drafts are awkward, humbling, and often mediocre. But you have to start somewhere or you will never get anywhere. That said, my next step is a critique from Lisa Bullard and Laura Purdie Salas. I will keep you posted!

Illustration Friday: Farewell

My first thought was of crocodile tears, which I vividly remember from the days when I dropped my kids off at daycare and they would stay pressed at the window just long enough to make me feel like the worst mother ever, then happily skitter away to play once I was out of sight. But then I wondered, what if a very sincere crocodile had real tears in having to say farewell to his dear friend? So that is where my sketch ended up this week. This one is dedicated to Connie and Scout, who we will miss all summer but we know will be having fun!Farewell-RGB-r1