On Inspiration

Sometimes, like buses in England, everything seems to happen at once. Perhaps it is just because I haven't blogged for 2 weeks (due to gadding off to Hollywood) and there is a lot to tell. But I will do my best. First, here is one of the most inspiring speakers I have ever seen:

Mr Ashley Bryan, the closing keynote speaker at the Los Angeles Summer Conference (SCBWI). His poetry renditions were just AMAZING. I don't think there was a dry eye in the house. I came home with his tones ringing in my ears, inspiring me to do more! Thank  you Ashley. And I am definitely going to take you up on the offer of a visit to your studio in Maine! I was lucky enough to sit next to him and chat during one of the sessions and eat dinner with him at the Heart and Soul Ball. But I do so wish that I had a photograph of him wearing my nodding heart headpiece, but we can't have everything in life!

The conference was just fantastic.Packed programme, a beautiful hotel, fun and interesting people, great weather. I do love this world of 'children's content creators!' For once in my life I am in the right place at the right time. Other speakers I was inspired by at the conference: Loren Long ... what a funny and lovely person (have you read Otis??). I got to sit next to him in one of the sessions too. I know there is a lot of name dropping, but it is so inspiring to be able to communicate directly with those who have done the hard work and are out there inspiring children! EB Lewis .. no words, because he is a smooth as silk and talent incorporated. Stood next to him at dinner also! (He declined to try on the silly heart headpiece ... you can't have everything.) Dancing with Gail Carson Levine (Ella Enchanted writer), crazy lady! M.T. Anderson (what a singer!), Rachel Vail, Jon Scieska (Stinky Cheese Man) - funny, funny man, Stephanie Owens Lurie (Disney Hyperion Editor - great information on thinking like a publisher), Marion Dane Bauer had me in tears with her poignancy, Rubin Pfeffer (Agent) - great words. And so many others.

But the best part - consolidating friendships and making new ones. They say this is what it is all about, and they are right (these 'they' people.) Because when you are back in your studio or office or workshop, all alone, plodding away at the good work and the not so good, it is comforting that all over the country (and world) are those you are connected to by the thread of INSPIRATION.

We (me and my buddy Sheri and I am happy to say our friendship has survived a week in the same room) arrived a day early and we went to the J P Getty Museum. It was wonderful and fed our souls. What a beautiful building and gardens. Like a medieval castle rearing up from the hillside. All white granite and smooth surfaces. A labyrinth of rooms filled with exquisite work. Saw the Gerome exhibition ... what a talent and so prolific.

And here I am, back home in Maine. 'Im indoors held the fort while I was away and kept the menagerie (including himself, fed and watered.)

Right then, lastly, 3 exciting pieces of news from the world of the Wacky Brit!

1. The LAD (Lovely Art Director) and I have almost finished negotiating on the illustrations on the book on Autism. YIPPEE! Lot's of celebrating ... my first 'real' contract. I will begin the illustrations (it's a 42 pager) first week September, finals for Thanksgiving, so it is a tight schedule. They are all b&w and I will be doing the text by hand too. So stay tuned for more details as and when.

2. Just before I left the conference I received an email from a publisher in the North East! (YOU SHOULD HAVE HEARD ME HOLLER IN THE LOBBY!) Not too many details yet but they are starting up a new company and interested in my style ... oooohhh. So I am excited about this too, as they have done great books in the past. I will know more next week.

3. BUT MOST EXCITING! I have been accepted to be part of the Nevada SCBWI Mentoring Programme that begins in October 2010 until April 2011. You can read about it here. I will be working with PRISCILLA BURRIS, National co-ordinator of illustrators for the SCBWI and a prolifically published illustrator herself. So that means I get to go to Virginia City, NV in October for a meet up and the Nevada Conference. So you KNOW I am jazzed! I think this is just what I need at this stage in my career. Thank you, Priscilla, for choosing to work with me as one of your mentees!

Whew. OK, I am all out of news, and you are all out of reading. I am looking forward to my Brit friends coming to stay next week. We have many fun things planned and it will be good to have some BRIT TALK.

OH ... I have notes from the conference available ... if anyone would like a copy of the whole PDF, please leave me a comment or send an email. Here are a few snippets ....

Hopefully next week I will have some incriminating photos to post.

Right, that's it for now. A very excited Wacky Brit signing off and thanking you for reading along.


PS No new books on the shelf ... exhausted.
PPS No prizes for me in the Portfolio Showcase, but completely overawed by the talent, and congrats to the winners!

"Pleasure bent again, Lizzy!"

It has to be my favorite quote from 'Pride and Prejudice'. I say it every time I am going on a fun trip ... I have even got 'im indoors saying it now. So, yes, 'pleasure bent again Lizzy' - in just 5 days to Hollywood ... yippee! If you missed the it (and I can't imagine you haven't been following the thread) I am attending the SCBWI summer conference in Los Angeles. Just seems to have been one fun trip after another this year, and it's not over yet! Lucky me (mixed with a lot of hard work). So I feel the old quote will be dragged out several more times before I am done with 2010.

It will be fun to meet up with Sheralyn Barnes, a gal I met at the NY winter conference (and fellow illustrator/author) . Yee gads, we are even rooming. This could be make or break for our friendship. (Check her work out). But I am predicting a lot o' fun. networking and possibly the odd cocktail. (Or two.)

Meanwhile, back at the drawing board, what's been going on in the attic ..... ?

OH! OH! The Lovely Art Director (from here on in known as LAD), emailed me to say I have been chosen to illustrate the Lovely Publisher's book on Autism. VERY EXCITED. So watch this space for more news. Giddy to tell all, but you know what it's like. So LAD will hopefully be calling me today to discuss NUMBERS. (I am good on 1 to 10 thanks). ETC. Whatever ETC is. I am really going to enjoy this project because I am also going to get to do all the text by hand which I have always wanted to have a go at. So - CELEBRATION in LA for me!

In between 'cleaning ship' (as we used to say in the Royal Navy) in prep. for the visit of in-laws (arrive today) I have been working on my portfolio. I have stuck to the same style this time ... and OMG it is so PASTEL (colour I mean not medium). Totally odd for me, cos I do like my dark colours. Well we will see.

Here are a couple from 'Share the Bear' which are in there.

Portfolio organized ... new biz cards and postcards ... small photo size portfolio to fill and I'll be good to go.

SERIOUS MOMENT: Bought 'Reading Magic' by Mem Fox this week (as recommended by Allyn Johnstone in a seminar). Excellent so far. Gave myself a break from chores/work yesterday and bimbled over to Tim Horton's for some carbs (which I DO NOT NEED - note to self). Sitting munching and reading away quite happily. Mem talking about how early you should begin reading to your child. Now, I was only thinking the other day that I have no real memories of being read to particularly. I remember laying in bed reading 'A Child's Garden of Verses' when I was 5, and then I was on to chapter books and beyond. I have virtually no memory of picture books, although I am sure there were a-plenty.

My childhood was somewhat unsettled in many ways. I think my mother fell out of love with books when the general wear and tear of real life got to her, and, apart from trashy novels, I never saw her read much. But I know she did as a child and teenager and loved Dickens and some of the classics. But it was something I had to come to on my own; books and art were my escape.

And then, as I was reading Mem Fox's words, I suddenly remembered images of my sister reading with me ... a memory that was buried deep down. My sister is 9 years older than me, and although we do not have a close relationship now, she looked after me a great deal when I was young. And right there, in Tim Horton's I found tears pouring down my cheeks! Oh no! I dabbed them away, feigning something in my eye, as you do, even though no one is really looking and sniffed all the way home. So that's the last time I take a book to read in Tim Horton's on a lunchtime! But it does remind me how potent childhood memories can be, and how serious this fun occupation of writing and illustrating for children really is.

Right-o ... I must get back to gluing down the floor tiles in the kitchen and cutting the grass so the place is the best it can be for the relatives inspection. Why do we feel the need? Sigh.

I'll be back to the blog after I return from Los Angeles.

Now, where did I put the Tums? Must remember to pack them.

Tatty Bye from Maine.

aka The Wacky Brit.

PS ... Here are some of my notes from the last conference ... it's a wonder I ever remember anything!

You can only do so much

I'd like to get it all done. But in an unusually sensible train of thought I have decided, NO, I am not superhuman. This comes as a bit of a surprise, and I figure it is a sign of age. I am hoping it might be wisdom, but that may be asking a bit much.

I talk of the fact that it's 17 days until Los Angeles SCBWI conference and the completely new images for the portfolio are not going to happen. Most illustrators I talk to at this stage in their career (ie not published widely) seem to spend a LOT of time agonising over their portfolio. Especially the ones, like me, that have been around the block and back. The more youthful in the field are not weighed down by the pressures of life, failures and successes it seems and throw a portfolio together with innocence and abandon. We more mature folks have perhaps too much choice, or over analyse. See? I am doing it right now.

So I am going to put in only images from the problem solving books I am working on, which will be the same style and are fun and do reflect me. And that's FINAL!

Which is what I have been working on this week, the last in the series of 4 books. WHY did I decide to work on four books at once!!!! Share the Bear is turning out to be a lot more detailed than the previous three ... I think this is because the setting is all interior, and their are more characters and they have more characteristics. I hope to be done with the roughs by Wednesday. I have a bit of tweaking to do on 2 of the others (I decided to but all the speech into bubbles, as it is all direct and I think it works better.)

Here are some of the roughs for Bear ...
I am enjoying these characters ... and the bunny slippers! I don't know why Share is wearing them, they just appeared. It's great when a character tells you what they want. Happens in illustration too, as well as when writing.

And if your wondering I am still waiting to hear from the Lovely Agent. Friday was a day of anxiety, jumping when the phone rang, checking email every nanosecond.. I must admit I really, really, REALLY hate the waiting that seems a big part of the publishing word in all sorts of aspects. I can deal with abject failure much easier than I can with a grain of hope. Well it could be worse. I could be repossessing rental TV's. And yes I did that in a former life, and countiing piles of doggie doo for a town council litter group (Keep Britain Tidy). Ah, happy days ...

So, to take my mind off the LA (lovely Agent, not the conference) I am out on the schooner Isaac H Evans for an overnight trip tonight, so I had better get my skates on and do some chores. 'im indoors is installing the new dishwasher (hurrah! been a long time coming) while I am gone, so have to do some insulating behind it before I go. (I get the fiddly jobs being non skilled.)

Had an email from an author/illustrator I met at a conference this week ... she is working with an English Art Director. He asked for less cartoony, so she veered more realistic, when what he wanted apparently was more 'illustrative', like Quentin Blake, EH Shepherd etc, which she would have considered cartoony ... lol, culture differences. I wonder if anyone else has come across 'illustrative' in USA and what it means here?

TTFN and thanks for dropping by ...

aka The Wacky Brit.

On the bedside table this week"
Can I play too (Elephant and Piggie Book) Mo Willems
City Dog, Country Frog - Mo Willems and Jon J Muth
Dawdle Duckling, Ready or Not Dawdle Duckling, Little Loon and Papa by Toni Buzzeo and Margaret Spengler
The Sea Chest by Toni Buzzeo and Mary Grandpre