Saturday, August 29, 2020

Interview with Jenin Mohammed- 2020 SCBWI Summer Spectacular Showcase Winner

 
©Jenin Mohammed
 
Hi there Jenin! Congratulations on your award! How does it feel winning SCBWI Summer Spectacular Showcase among so many other talented artists?
 
It’s incredibly exciting to have won one of the grand prizes of the showcase. I still need to pinch myself every now and then and ask myself “did that really happen?” I was so amazed by the amount of people that had entered and the amount of incredible work they had submitted, I was sure my small portfolio was going to be overlooked.  
 
Your work is too good to be overlooked! What kind of projects are you working on now?
 
I am illustrating a picture book for Harper Collins. I am also writing a middle grade novel about the struggles of growing up with siblings. It’s a funny, relatable book about what it’s like being the eldest. I even set the story in my hometown, Miramar, Florida, so the setting is just as personal as the main story.
 
Wow! That's so cool! Is there any type of illustration work that you’re hoping for in the near future?
 
Yes! I’d like to write and illustrate a book for older children (the middle grade to YA age group). I’d like to create a book that has illustrations woven into the reading experience, kind of like in “The Invention of Hugo Cabret.” I’d also look forward to writing and/ or illustrating speculative fiction that centers African-American children. Afro-futurism all the way! 


©Jenin Mohammed

 
That sounds amazing! Is there one really helpful piece of advice that you’ve gotten since pursuing illustration?  
 
The best piece of advice I got was through the webinar that Cecilia Yung and Laurent Linn recorded for SCBWI. I think I really had an artistic breakthrough when Laurent mentioned (and I’m paraphrasing) that children’s book art directors aren’t looking for portfolios that look like something out of a fancy artbook. They want the artist to think about how a kid sees the world. That piece of advice made me really think about how I set up the camera/ perspective in an illustration. I asked myself, “how did kid Jenin see the world?” then remembered the type of mediums I was using at that age. I ended up recreating the imperfect look of tissue-paper-cutouts that I’d make in my mother’s art room.
 
That's so interesting! Have you received any bad advice?

A bad piece of advice I got on creating a portfolio was “don’t do portraits.” I understand that portraits can be sort of static or boring. But I think if a portrait is done well, it can be interesting and convey a lot of story.
 
I agree with you on that. What was one of your favorite quotes or lessons from the SCBWI Summer Conference? 
 
My favorite lesson came from LeUyen Pham. She highlighted the importance of thumbnails. I learned that if you have done a composition well, your compositions can be connected through one long line.
 
That was helpful! What were some of your favorite books when you were a kid?
 
Oof, where do I begin? When I was starting elementary school, I liked picture books that ranged from weird and quirky like “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs,” and “Miss Nelson is Missing!” to beautiful books like “Aida” by Leo and Diane Dillon. When I got a little older, I was really drawn to the creepy illustrations of “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark.” And eventually I got hooked on graphic novels like “The Babysitters Club” by Raina Telgemeier as well as a number of shojo manga books.


©Jenin Mohammed

 
Where can we find you online?

I’m active on Instagram. My name on there is @knotwritenow. You can also find me on twitter under @JeninMoham.

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Interview by Meridth McKean Gimbel, a kidlit writer, artist, & champion taco cruncher who is currently building a time machine. They are also represented by Linda Pratt at Wernick & Pratt. You can follow their work at:


Friday, August 28, 2020

Interview with Neha Rawat- 2020 SCBWI Summer Spectacular Showcase Winner

© Neha Rawat

Hello Neha! Congratulations on your award! How does it feel winning the whole Showcase among so many other talented artists?

It's been over a week since the announcement was made and I'm still a complete mixed bag of emotions. I jump between feeling surreal, exhilarated, surprised, overwhelmed, lucky but mostly grateful :)

Well hooray for you and your art! What kind of projects are you working on now?

I have 3 children's books on my plate right now. My first international picture book deal with Candlewick Press was announced just this week which I'm super stoked about! The other 2 projects I received through my agency, Advocate Art, and I'm excited for them as well! 

That's wonderful news! Is there any other type of illustration work that you’re hoping for in the near future?

I love drawing cute and funny things so I would love the opportunity to work on a story with humorous animals as the main characters.

That sounds fun! Is there one really helpful piece of advice that you’ve gotten since pursuing illustration? Any one piece of bad advice?

I had been freelancing as an illustrator for a few years before I found my calling in the children's publishing industry, and learned a lot through my own struggles. This wasn't advice that was given to me, but things that I assumed and learned over time.

Best advice: Draw what you love instead of what you think others will love. 
Bad advice: Compare yourself with other artists.

© Neha Rawat


That's really good advice. Thanks! What was one of your favorite quotes or lessons from the SCBWI Summer Conference?  

In the session with LeUyen Pham and Dan Santat, one of the questions asked to them was "What do you wish you knew at the beginning of your career that you know now?" Since I'm at that stage now, I really appreciated this question and even more so, LeUyen Pham's answer to it. She said it's all a confidence game. As an illustrator, I need to believe that the art that I am creating for a book is the best that "I" envision it to be and that I'm not trying to fit someone else's version of what a book is supposed to be. I think this is exactly what I needed to hear right now :)

I'm so glad. I think that's really good to keep in mind for us all. What were some of your favorite books when you were a kid?

The first ever picture book that I remember and loved was Walt Disney's "Dumbo". It came with a read-along audio tape and I just loved the story and illustrations of it (and was thrilled when I came to know there was a movie as well!) Other than that, I was and still am a big Snoopy fan :) We had (have) the full set of Charlie Brown's encyclopedia and though I couldn't understand a lot of what was written as a kid, I spent hours looking at the pictures.

© Neha Rawat

Where can we find you online?

Instagram: @NRBstudio.in
Facebook: NRBStudio.in
Twitter: @nehrawat

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Interview by Meridth McKean Gimbel, a kidlit writer, artist, & champion taco cruncher who is currently building a time machine. They are also represented by Linda Pratt at Wernick & Pratt. You can follow their work at:


Thursday, August 27, 2020

Interview with Marissa Valdez - 2020 SCBWI Summer Spectacular Showcase Honor Winner


© Marissa Valdez


Hi there Marissa! Congratulations on your Honor! How does it feel winning among so many other talented artists?


Oh wow, really unbelievable! I’m still in shock because there were so many amazing portfolios in the showcase. So feeling very grateful, lucky, and just a little bit validated about my own work. 

 

You should feel validated. You are fabulous! What kind of projects are you working on now?


While I can’t say anything specific about it yet, I am suuuper excited to start illustrating the first book in an early chapter book series! It’ll be my first time illustrating spots for a chapter book, so I’m pumped to dive right into the process. I’m also trying to write more of my own stories. I gained a lot of mental writing momentum from the Summer Spectacular talks so I’m hoping to channel that energy into a pile of new book dummies.

 

Oooh! That's exciting! Is there any type of illustration work that you’re hoping for in the near future?


I’m the type of person who loves to do a bit of everything! I’m hoping to illustrate more picture books in the future for sure, and to write and illustrate more of my original ideas. But I’d also love to illustrate middle grade covers, spot illustrations, kid’s magazine covers, children’s toys and oh! Puzzles! I’m not sure why but I’d love to design a children’s puzzle one day. I mean, who doesn’t love puzzles?

 

I definitely love puzzles! Is there one really helpful piece of advice that you’ve gotten since pursuing illustration?  


Yes! I actually got this advice before I decided to focus on my illustration career but it’s pretty universal: take risks. Even if they’re small risks, like reaching out to an illustrator that you admire or attending your local SCBWI chapter meeting, constantly take risks! I found out early on that it was near impossible to accomplish my goals, like getting an agent or winning contests, without taking those little risks along the way, and I had to persevere even if I felt anxious or especially sweaty during the process.


© Marissa Valdez


That's great advice! Any one piece of bad advice?


Oof, one bad piece of advice I’ve gotten is that there’s only one way to create a picture book. I’m finding out that there’s about ten million different ways to create a picture book and it really depends on what works best for you. Picture books are surprisingly flexible and it’s great to think of new ways to push their boundaries. Books like Dan Santat’s ARE WE THERE YET? and Adam Rubin’s and Daniel Salmieri’s HIGH FIVE are great examples of picture books that have pushed that boundary for me.

 

I love that! What was one of your favorite quotes or lessons from the SCBWI Summer Conference?  


Watching LeUyen Pham talk about how she designs her picture books totally blew my mind. My hand started cramping taking notes; she was giving so much good advice so quickly that I couldn’t keep up! When she started talking about keeping a “line” for your eye to follow through a picture book, I felt like I was seeing page spreads in a whole new light! It was really inspiring. 

 

I'm still digesting it all. What were some of your favorite books when you were a kid?


One book that’s stuck with me since I can remember is AESOP’S FABLES by Charles Santore. I used to pour over his illustrations like I had a little art museum laying in my lap; the book even included a fold out poster page that I remember being about as tall as me. I always loved the expressions he illustrated onto different animal characters because they could tell the whole story on their own. That emotion and evocative storytelling through illustration is something I strive to include in my own work now. 


© Marissa Valdez 


Where can we find you online?


You can find me on Instagram at @marissaarts, Twitter at @marissaillo and feel free to peruse my portfolio at www.marissavaldez.com. Also feel free to reach out to me just to chat, I could talk about children’s books all day!


Me too friend! See you 'round!
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Interview by Meridth McKean Gimbel, a kidlit writer, artist, & champion taco cruncher who is currently building a time machine. They are also represented by Linda Pratt at Wernick & Pratt. You can follow their work at:


Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Interview with Leanne Hatch - 2020 SCBWI Summer Spectacular Showcase Honor Winner

© Leanne Hatch

Hi there Leanne! How does it feel winning the Honor among so many other talented artists?


Receiving one of the portfolio honors was an absolute surprise and I couldn’t be more excited! I almost didn’t submit my portfolio since the conference was online and more accessible to so many amazing artists. I was so sure mine would just get lost amongst a sea of incredible talent (and there was A LOT of incredible talent!) At the last minute, I decided it’s important to take every opportunity to put your work out into the world and it turned out, my portfolio did not get lost!

Absolutely! I'm so glad you submitted your portfolio. What kind of projects are you working on now?

I am wrapping up my first picture book, UNRAVELED, which comes out Summer 2021 and am working on revised sketches for my second picture book which will come out the following year. I have enjoyed every second I've spent working on these projects and can’t wait until others can enjoy them too!

Wow! Congratulations! Is there any other type of illustration work that you’re hoping for in the near future?

So far, my stories have been written and illustrated by me. I would love the chance, as an illustrator, to help bring someone else’s story to life.

© Leanne Hatch



That would be lovely. Is there one really helpful piece of advice that you’ve gotten since pursuing illustration? 

I am pretty new to the children’s book industry so I’m still taking it all in! I think one important piece of advise is to always be open to change and suggestions. Writing and illustrating is very personal and after spending a lot of time with your ideas and characters as you develop them, it’s easy to get attached and used to them being a certain way. Discussing your work with your editor or critique group or even children is so valuable in getting a fresh perspective which almost always results in a better story. 

That's good advice! What was one of your favorite quotes or lessons from the SCBWI Summer Conference?  

I learned something from every single presentation but as an illustrator, I was most inspired by LeUyen Pham. She’s amazing. From her suggestion that understanding design far outweighs the ability to draw to her lessons on how to create compositions that carry the reader through the entire story. Who knew that the figure eight could hold someone's attention? I’ve already started incorporating her techniques into my current project!

Yes! So many good tips! What were some of your favorite books when you were a kid?

I grew up in the 70s and 80s and loved Maurice Sendak, Dr. Seuss and Richard Scary books. I remember daydreaming about being a little mouse and getting to live in my dollhouse. Another book I will never forget was called "My Mama Says there aren’t any Zombies, Ghost, Vampire, Creatures, Demons, Monsters, Fiends, Goblins, or Things" by Judith Viorst. One of the illustrations frightened me so much, the book remained shoved under my parent’s bed for the rest of my childhood. It’s possible that it’s still there!

© Leanne Hatch



Hehehe, I love that book! So where can we find you online?

My website is www.leanehatch.com
and I can be found on instagram @leannehatch_illustration

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Interview by Meridth McKean Gimbel, a kidlit writer, artist, & champion taco cruncher who is currently building a time machine. They are also represented by Linda Pratt at Wernick & Pratt. You can follow their work at:


Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Interview with Rob Sayegh Jr. - 2020 SCBWI Summer Spectacular Showcase Honor Winner

Hi there Rob! Super congratulations on another award for your scrumptious work! How does it feel winning an Honor among so many other talented artists?

Winning the honor award feels incredible.  To be recognized a second time by the SCBWI, judges still has me in a state of shock, but to be chosen among the almost 500 beautiful portfolios of my colleagues and friends was special.

© Rob Sayegh Jr.

That is pretty special. What kind of projects are you working on now?

I just finished final art for my author/illustrator debut, Love Tails with Cameron Kids, and Arlo Draws an Octopus written by the fantastic Lori Mortensen with Abrams kids. Both are available in Spring 2021.

Congratulations! That's wonderful! What kind of illustration work are you hoping for in the near future?

I would really love to work on a series of picture books or graphic novels.  I love the idea of a story and character that can last longer than one book with many layers.

That would be awesome! Is there one really helpful piece of advice that you’ve gotten since pursuing illustration?  

The best advice I have been trying to push myself to do more of is to get to a place as an illustrator or author where you are willing to rip up all your work and start over.  No matter if it's the best thing you ever wrote or drawn.  For me, it translated that you need to be fearless as a storyteller and not to hang on to something because they will prevent you from moving forward and trying new things.  It's helped me to take many more risks and draw more freely without the fear that I have to make something perfect or submittable to a publisher each time I create something.

© Rob Sayegh Jr.

I love that! That's great advice! Any one piece of bad advice?
The only bad advice that I have heard is that we live in a culture where you need to post your artwork every day to social media to be seen as an artist today.  I think the opposite, and it relates to the best advice I was given.  You should curate everything that goes out into the world, and the rest is you and your's alone to know about.  I have countless drawings that never make it out there.  They are little doodles that are awful, but they help me figure out a concept or an idea that I don't share with anyone.  They are experiments that have gone wrong and manuscripts that make zero sense. Still, those mistakes and experiments are sometimes much more valuable to my overall career than the things I post online or market about my work.  To any new artist, I would suggest just taking the time to figure out who you are and what niche/market you want to be a part of first.  Play and experiment around that idea until you have a small portfolio of images you feel comfortable with and then begin marketing yourself.  Avoiding the instant gratification of getting yourself out there for the sake of being out there is a mistake I think people make too often because of the pressures of social media.

Great advice! What was one of your favorite quotes or lessons from the SCBWI Summer Conference?  

I am a firm believer in keeping it simple, which was said by Dan Santat and a few others.  I think when you keep it simple, it is easier for your voice to shine and, at the same time, for others to relate to your story.

I also really loved Mac Barnett's question of How does your book exist in the world?"   I think starting from here is so important.  It makes the place you are coming from so much more genuine and gives you manuscript purpose.

What were some of your favorite books when you were a kid?

I am, to this day, the biggest fan of Bunnicula by James and Deborah Howe.  Lyle, Lyle Crocodile by Bernard Waber is a picture book I ADORED as a kid.

© Rob Sayegh Jr.


Those are good books! Where can we find you online?

You can see more of my work on www.robsayart.com and Instagram and Twitter @robsayart
You can also follow me on Goodreads for book updates.

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Interview by Meridth McKean Gimbel, a kidlit writer, artist, & champion taco cruncher who is currently building a time machine. They are also represented by Linda Pratt at Wernick & Pratt. You can follow their work at:


Monday, August 24, 2020

Interview with Kayla Harren - 2020 SCBWI Summer Spectacular Showcase Honor Winner

Art ©Kayla Harren

Congratulations Kayla on your Honor at the SCBWI Summer Conference! How does it feel winning the Honor among so many other talented artists?

It feels like I got very lucky. 


I would also add that you are very deserving.


I spent a few hours looking through all of the portfolios in the showcase and immediately had to go follow so many of the artists on Instagram. It is inspiring seeing everyone’s unique style. There are so many wonderful portfolios in this showcase, I still can’t believe mine is listed in the Honors next to Leanne Hatch, Rob Sayegh Jr., and Marissa Valdez.


They are pretty fabulous, aren't they?! What kind of projects are you working on now?


I am illustrating the picture book A Teacher Like You, the third book in the “Like You” series written by Frank Murphy and published by Sleeping Bear Press. I am also finishing up a book with GP Putnam’s Sons titled Calvin about a transgender child’s first day of school and the supportive parents, teachers, and friends who rally around him. Both books will be released 2021.


How exciting! Sounds like you are busy! Is there any type of illustration (or other work) that you’re hoping for in the near future?


I would love to illustrate middle grade covers and make black and white chapter book illustrations.

 

Wonderful! Is there one really helpful piece of advice that you’ve gotten since pursuing illustration?  


The best advice I heard was very simple: Keep making art. The only way to improve a skill is to keep practicing. Even when my book dummies were consistently being rejected and my artwork wasn’t making it into gallery shows and I wasn’t being hired to illustrate, I kept drawing and learning and making art. Eventually I got better, but if I had stopped making art, I never would have had the opportunity to improve.



Art ©Kayla Harren

That's inspiring. I'm glad you kept at it. Any one piece of bad advice that you've been given?


I don’t think I have been given any bad advice. Advice is a tough thing in general. Each person has their own unique struggles and everybody is at a different stage in their lives and careers. There really isn’t one perfect piece of advice because everybody needs to hear something different depending on their personality and goals.

 

Good point. What was one of your favorite quotes or lessons from the SCBWI Summer Conference?  


I didn’t write this down, so it is probably a misquote, but I love what Phillip Pullman had to say about success. Three things play a part in an author’s career: persistence, talent, and luck. The only thing you can control is persistence. This has definitely been true in my experience. 

 

It was definitely a theme of the conference! What were some of your favorite books when you were a kid?


I loved reading the Babysitter Club series and especially loved the paintings on the covers of the original books. I loved the picture books Little Chick’s Easter Treasure, Aunt Isabel Tells A Good One, and Rainbow Fish. 


Art ©Kayla Harren


Where can we find you online?


My website is www.kaylaharren.com and I post sketches and details on my Instagram @kaylaharren


Awesome! Thanks Kayla! We look forward to seeing more of your work!


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Interview by Meridth McKean Gimbel a kidlit writer, artist, & champion taco cruncher who is currently building a time machine. They are also represented by Linda Pratt at Wernick & Pratt. You can follow their work at:


Monday, June 22, 2020

Post Covid Promotion Plan for the Over-planner

by Eddie Edwards


I’ve been thinking a lot about.a post-coved promotion plan; how to get back out there and on the radar of Art Directors and Editors. I will bet that I am not the only one who makes an enormous list of possibilities and then wants to cry because they can’t prioritize and it’s all just too much. There were literally 43 possibilities on my list. And now I’m paralyzed with indecision. 

Spoiler alert, I’m not going to do any of them unless one just pops onto my radar and I feel like it. So here’s what I decided to do instead...

I decided to plan just one thing and do it well. 

Last year I participated in Inktober. Out of that project came two book ideas, prints, a private commission and I became super comfortable with social media. So that seems like enough!

You have the option of participating in the prompts or you can do your own thing. The only real “rule” is to post one inky drawing a day for 31 days in October to social media. And even that is flexible. But to get the most out of the challenge, do at least one every other day. 

Most people stick with black and white, or minimal color. Which will help keep you from spinning out of control with detail and perfection. 

You could make some simple and adorable classic children’s book characters like Amy Hevron.

[More Amy Hevron.}



Or you could make a complex and complete story like Barbara Bernát. 




Check out Barbara Bernát's process on Behánce.


Or pick a subject like bugs! 

Last year I decided to do bugs. I have a love/hate relationship with the little beasts, but they are fun to research and are crazy interesting. I am still undecided about a subject for 2020 but I have a PLAN.



Eddie Edwards
Complete Inktober 2019  series here:
https://helloeddie.com/inktober2019/


The Plan

It was difficult to keep up last year, because I did everything for each one on the day it was due.

Here's my plan for this year.

June
Make a list of possible subjects. This can be ANYTHING or you can follow the prompts. Keep in mind that you probably don’t want to spend more than 2-3 hours/day, so don’t over-burden yourself.

July
Decide the subject and start collecting reference. (You may also need to collect some interesting facts, so you have something to say about the subjects.)

August
Make your list of 31 images and finish your research.

September
Order your supplies (try some new things!) Do a few practice images and experiment with techniques and process. Try to come up with a process that allows you to work quickly and consistently.

October 
Ready, set, go! Schedule the time into your calendar and don’t leave for the day until you have finished one image and posted it. Use the #inktober and #inktober2020.

Don’t beat yourself up if you miss a day — just continue through all 31 images.

See you in October!



Eddie Edwards is an illustrator and a recipient of the SCBWI 2019 Mentorship Award. You can find her at helloeddie.com and on twitter and instagram at @helloeddieillo.