Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Podcast interview on Picturebooking!

Ever hear of the of the Picturebooking Podcast? It's run by the nicest guy ever, Nick Patton. Nick has interviewd people in our industry like Molly Idle, Dan Santat, Peter Bown, and Kelly Murphy, to name just a few.
He invited me on the show to talk about Firefly Hollow and making books. He's got a way with his guests that reminds me so much of the radio show from Northern Exposure that I assumed we would be stopping by Rosyln's cafe for a few cold ones when we wrapped it up.
But don't be fooled by Nick's laid back approach. His questions are spot on and there is top notch content in the archives for anyone in the buisness or interested in children's books. I've learned quite a bit from listening to the shows while working. Subscribe(free) on itunes and take a moment to rate or review it. This small thing helps podcasts like Picturebooking stay on the air keeping us all more informed about children's books and the people that create them.
Then, you can listen to me ramble on for about an hour!

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Publishers Weekly Q&A with Alison McGhee

from Firefly Hollow, Atheneum Books for Young Readers 2015 

From a wonderful interview here with Alison McGhee author of our new book, Firefly Hollow.

PW: "What, in a nutshell, do you hope that young readers take away
from the story?"

Alison: "No matter how lonely and misunderstood you may feel, there is a place for
you in this world, and there are people who will love you."

Read the interview here:

Alison McGhee on the writing of Firefly Hollow

If you have had a chance to read Alison McGhee's Firefly Hollow, and hopefully liked the book, then you may enjoy this wonderful post she has written on the creation of the story. In it, she shares her own thoughts and struggles in the writing of the manuscript with inspiring honesty and grace.

"The long and winding road that led to my novel Firefly Hollow began with some photocopied paintings that arrived in the mail one day. They were by an artist named Christopher Denise, and I spread them out on my big wooden dining table and stood there studying each one. 

The idea was that I would write a picture book to go along with them. I love an assignment, but this one intimidated me. The paintings were just so damn beautiful. There was a vole wearing a little sailor's cap, and there was a cricket, and there was a boat and a river. There was the night sky and moonlight and the colors in each painting were like jewels.

Could I write a picture book worthy of those paintings? I wanted to, and I tried. For about a year and half, I tried. But everything I wrote—and I wrote a lot—kept spiraling out into more story than a picture book, with its tiny word count and strict page limit, could handle."

Read the rest of her post here at the Pippin Insider:

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Firefly Hollow development part 2: Curiosities.

This is part two of a short series of posts about the development of my most recent book, Firefly Hollow written by Alison McGhee. See my post from June 26th to read part one.

Putting a story together, or rather discovering one and unearthing it, is tricky business. Steven King describes it this way:

“Stories are relics, part of an undiscovered pre-existing world. The writer’s job is to use the tools in his or her toolbox to get as much of each one out of the ground intact as possible. Sometimes the fossil you uncover is small; a seashell. Sometimes it’s enormous, a Tyrannosaurus Rex with all those gigantic ribs and grinning teeth.” 

What parts of my story did I have? Not much. I had a few sketches that were resonating and some notes about the characters, but still no real sense of the story yet.
I tried asking myself questions about the characters: Who is this vole? Where does he live? I caught a few glimmers of things but any sort of narrative remained elusive.

So, I did what many illustrators do when they are stuck: Research. 

I started collecting images of voles, crickets and paintings of water that I really loved. I looked up rafts and boats, grabbing  anything that caught my eye. Some of the images I already had in a folder that is constantly updated called "curiosities".  In his book on creativity "Catching the Big Fish", David Lynch calls these collections "firewood". I love the term, and it is perfect the way he describes it, but I shied away from naming my folder likewise. I didn't want to burn through my material too quickly! I started putting things up and soon I had a wall of the shed covered in images. 
Writing is hard work, I happen to think that it is MUCH harder than illustrating though many of my writer friends disagree with me. Writing good picture books is particularly difficult, you will know this if you have ever tried. Trying, as I was, to write something like the final manuscript of Firefly Hollow Firefly...was....lets just say that it is like showing at Wimbledon and trying to compete because you beat everyone in your family at badminton. Nevertheless, I tried to write the picture book version of my story-numerous times. They were terrible; really, really bad. 

As an illustrator, I respond to a text and then begin to add my own voice. Ultimately, I try to create a corresponding visual narrative that enhances and supports the written word-basically creating a parallel emotional narrative. That is a summarization, and I don't think about it that way when I am working, but its the closest I can come to describing the process. I had nothing to respond to so I continued on with what I felt right...the pictures. I sketched little visual "notes" about things that I thought would be fun to paint. 
I was still on hold for the project in my desk so I scanned a few of the sketches and painted them up in Photoshop (just for the fun of it) as a color studies. 

Firefly Hollow!

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Jonathan Stroud on Goodreads

I am a big fan of Jonathan Stroud's books. If you are as well, make sure that you are signed up on Goodreads. He will be answering questions from readers on July 29th. Sign up today-its free and a great resource!

Friday, June 26, 2015

The beginnings of Firefly Hollow. A fortunate delay, a change of venue, the kindness of neighbors, and finally...taking my own advice

The fortunate delay.

It was one of those rare times in publishing where there was a lull in the constant demand of my production schedule.
I was waiting for feedback from a publisher on a final round of sketches for a picture book.
In the past, I would have begun feverishly scratching away at the waiting heap of work for the next book. But there was no heap of work. I had been turning down projects-waiting for and wanting something that I felt a particular type connection with. This could have been a bit nerve-wracking for any self employed artist.  Fortunately, I had other things that were demanding my attention.

A change of venue.

At the time, my studio space was located in a revolutionary era merchant building. While it was charming, the roof had begun to leak and late nights of driving from Providence back to our little bay-side town were getting tiresome. Given my usual level of exhaustion, it was actually getting dangerous.
It was time to go.

The kindness of neighbors. 

Anika (see posts relating to Anika Denise) and I decided that it was time to to renovate our dilapidated garage.
But that process would take several months to complete so where was I to work?

This is the magical part, the part where the greatest gifts come out of the ether unannounced and without fanfare.

I asked for help.

I asked my friend and next door neighbor Doc Pete (he is really a doctor) to help me move some of the larger items out of the way so I could begin evaluating the task of rebuilding the garage.
Two minutes later I was looking at my new temporary studio, Pete's shed.
Doc Pete's shed was an eight foot by ten foot structure. It had a door, two windows, and electricity. Rent free. We cleared it out, opened the windows, and I could hear and smell the waves on the bay.
I was in heaven.

Taking my own advice...finally.

I taught at Rhode Island School of design for a few years.
Part of the job was handing out lots of unsolicited advice.
One of my favorite tidbits for aspiring illustrators was to use any "down time" they might have to create personal projects.
I had given that advice enough and now it was time to follow it. I quickly realized that this was quite a bit harder than I imagined.

But I had been given the gift of time, the gift of change, and a quiet place to accept those gifts.

I began to sketch and wrote this above my drawing.."Cricket and Vole"
This is what they looked like.