Thursday, May 8, 2014

Mini-interview with Martha Rago: Associate Creative Director at HarperCollins Children's Books on the SCBWI and Illustrators - by Debbie Ridpath Ohi

I'm so enjoying working with Martha Rago for RUBY ROSE ON HER TOES, a new picture book written by Rob Sanders and illustrated by yours truly, coming out from HarperCollins Children's in Winter 2016.

In case you missed it, also read Lisa Anchin's interview with Martha Rago last year, where Martha talks about what she looks for in an illustrator portfolio and other tips.

Q. Has the SCBWI Portfolio Showcase helped you find illustrators for book projects at HarperCollins Children's?

Here's Martha's answer:

I've found several illustrators for projects at Harper who were members of SCBWI, but none specifically through the Portfolio Showcase. I owe thanks to SCBWI for bringing Eugene Yelchin, Daniel Jennewein, Maple Lam, James Horvath and you, Debbie Ohi, to my attention. We've published, or will publish, quite a few successful books together.

But the Showcase is a great way to see a lot of work all at once which helps when I'm looking for something in particular. If I like the style but don't see something specific to a project I have in mind, I may follow up later and ask for a specific kind of image or character studies based on my text. I don't always have the right project for an artist whose work catches my attention but it does plant the seed which can grow into something later, and that's valuable.

SCBWI Portfolio Showcase in Los Angeles
An obvious immediate benefit of the showcase for the artists is that it seems to connect quite a few of them with agents, giving them access to many publishers at once, and therefore a greater chance of finding the right fit and probably more quickly. I've seen really strong work from the show get picked up and published elsewhere. That can be bittersweet but still, it's mostly sweet. It's gratifying to see a talent that I recognized rise and shine whether or not I had a hand in it or get to share in the glory. I like artists to get work!

Debbie Ridpath Ohi received her first children's book contract because of the Portfolio Showcase at the 2010 SCBWI Summer Conference. Her illustrations appear in the just-released picture book NAKED! written by Michael Ian Black and on the covers of seven Judy Blume classics being reissued in middle grade format, all from Simon & Schuster Children's. Twitter: @inkyelbows.

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