Thursday, March 6, 2014

SCBWI New York!

You never know WHAT
you will see in NY!
A little over a week ago I was a first timer at The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators’ Annual Winter Conference in New York.  I only just joined SCBWI in January, though I’ve considered joining for many years.  I sure wish now that I had joined then!  Anyone reading this who is on the fence about joining, do it!  The learning, the inspiration, being around like-minded creatives, and the friendships and support, is beyond value.

On Friday, I attended the optional illustrator’s intensive where I got to meet my online friends, Kary Lee and Akiko White, who from then on kindly helped me navigate my first conference!  Loved the interview with Tomie de Paola (by Cecilia Yung) and the presentations by Brett Helquist and Paul Zelinsky.  Having created my book with no illustration training, it was great to hear how the pros approach it, and to recognize in my book what I did well, and where I might grow and improve.

I won Paul's book!
After lunch was a panel review of some of the submissions by the attendees, where they discussed what worked and what didn’t, and then small group reviews of an illustration assignment given prior to the conference.  As I joined SCBWI so close to the conference, I did not have time to do this assignment, but it was still enlightening to listen to the reviews of others.  We were lucky to have Paul Zelinsky giving feedback at our table, and then I was lucky directly after when I won his Caldecott Honor Book, Hansel & Gretel, in the raffle!

I love my portfolio
The Portfolio Showcase was Friday night, where we got to preview our fellow illustrators’ artwork – loved that!!  I was really excited to share my mosaics, and loved seeing what everyone else was doing.  I grabbed a ton of postcards of my favorites so I could find their web sites and blogs when I got home.  Such wonderful images!  I came away inspired.

Akiko and Tomie
at the Illustrators' Social
I loved Saturday morning’s keynote from Jack Gantos who recounted hilarious tales from his childhood.  I laughed so hard I couldn’t see through the tears!  Of course, now I must go and read everything he’s ever written.
At the end of a day of breakout workshops and more keynotes, I attended the Illustrators’ Social, getting to know fellow illustrators and eating delicious cake made by Akiko, winner of the Tomie dePaola award (her award-winning illustration was made with cake!!).  Fabulous being in a room with so much creativity, including the talented faculty, and the friendliest people you could meet.

Akiko's winning cake illustration
Sunday morning Akiko received her award from Tomie (woop woop!), followed by a wondrously inspiring, funny and heartfelt keynote by KateMessner.  Did I think anyone could match Jack Gantos?  Nope, but Kate did!  When she asked us to celebrate the small successes and to take a few minutes to sit with those, it was the most moving moment of the entire conference for me.  Just wonderful.

An entertaining panel on The Art of the Picture book followed and then a keynote by Nikki Grimes, where I walked out excited to read more of her beautiful poetry.  Door prizes and then an autograph party ended the conference.  Fantastic day!

From The Nonsense Verse of Carroll & Lear
at the New York Public Library
But I wasn’t done – I spent the rest of the afternoon with more new friends, Connie and Dana visiting the New York Public Library’s exhibit “The ABC of It:  Why Children’s Books Matter” (loved!), St.Patrick’s Cathedral (beautiful, despite the renovations going on), a browse through Barnes and Noble, and a snowy walk through Central Park.  A perfect ending to my trip, and now, with much anticipation, I look forward to the approaching summer conference in L.A.  Yeah!

Kary, me and Akiko
Dana and I in Central Park





Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Quarterly E-Newsletter

I just sent out my quarterly e-newsletter where I share the latest goings-on in my art and book world, as well as express my great appreciation for the art of Sophie Blackall (above is a detail from her New York subway poster).  If you'd like to read my current newsletter, here's the link.  To receive my newsletters in your inbox, sign up here

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

A new community for me - SCBWI!

Woo Hoo!  A new adventure coming up!!  I recently joined the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI).  It is something I have been thinking about doing ever since I started the process of creating my book, but didn't consider myself an illustrator so didn't join.  I am still not sure about giving myself that designation, but now that I have a book, and am planning on another one, I feel a bit closer to it.  And I'd really love to meet others who love creating books for kids.

Soooo, I have registered for the SCBWI winter conference in New York next month.  Eep!  Talk about jumping in blindly!  At least when I went to my first SAMA conference, I had been making friends online for years and felt at home immediately upon arrival.  This will be a completely new experience for me to go without knowing anybody, but from what I can tell reading about previous conferences, these members are an extremely friendly and playful bunch and I think I will easily fit right in.

I am currently getting my portfolio together as I've never had a physical one before.  My presentation folder is being handmade and customized for me and it is going to be so beautiful, I can hardly wait!!  And I just ordered new postcards and business cards so I'll be good to go.  I haven't been to New York in more than 20 years, so I'm excited to be there once again.  I'm really looking forward to what this new adventure brings!

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

A heartwarming way to share my book

A couple of nights ago I read my book to a group of children living at Transition House, a shelter and resources for the homeless.  The entrance has beautiful stained glass doors, immediately welcoming and familiar!

The questions and comments during story time were priceless. My favorite comment, however, came from a boy who, after I told them my family was in the book, looked at the page where my husband gets a new guitar and said excitedly, “Your husband met SANTA?!” After I read the story, I met each one and put their name in a book for them to keep. The 25 books were donated by a very generous coworker of my husband’s.  Thank you Andrew!!

What I love to now imagine is them going to bed with their books and believing in the magic of Santa.  I hope all of you have a magical Christmas, too!!

Transition House is dedicated to the solution of family homelessness in the Santa Barbara community.  Capable and motivated families with children are offered respectful, non-sectarian residential services and the life skills needed to alleviate their poverty, and to restore self-sufficiency and dignity.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

A Goodreads Review

On my dear friend's piano (my son painted
the Santa when he was five)
Just wanted to share this review I received on Goodreads this week.  I had a book giveaway and one of the recipients posted this review:
This new 2013 edition is illustrated with talented Christine Brallier’s absolutely stunning stained glass mosaics. The accomplished artwork gives the familiar Christmas poem a warm and antique look. I know nothing about making stained glass mosaics, so was delightfully surprised to discover that this medium can portray movement so convincingly (unlike the frozen-stiff figures so often seen on church windows.) The pages are full of details that invite the reader to linger, such as the patterns on Santa’s hood and on the reindeer blankets, the long white strips of glass that make up Santa’s beard and the reindeers’ manes, and the stripes in the cat’s tail. 

The cats are a particular delight, especially the grey and white cat modeled on the artist’s cat Raymi. For a story-within-a-story, follow this feline through the pages of the poem for the cat’s perspective on the Christmas Eve happenings. Note her realistic poses and behavior: curled up on her owner’s bed and completely oblivious to the mouse sleeping in the living room wreath; peering out the window to check on the clatter on the lawn; diving to hide under an armchair as Santa appears in the fireplace; peeking out curiously from under the chair; cautiously considering Santa’s outstretched hand; batting the side of Santa’s chair as Santa strums the guitar; clawing Santa’s beard; and finally curled up again on the bed, purring and kneading and dreaming about those perfect cat toys Santa just delivered. There are also other wonderful cats shown in the framed photos on the wall of the house. 

On the shelves at Chaucer's Bookstore
Recommended for children of all ages including pre-readers, for art lovers, for cat lovers, and for just about everyone else except Grinch and Scrooge. I’m sure our copy will become a treasured family Christmas book, brought out every year along with the holiday decorations. 
Thank you so much, Alexandra!

My book is available here.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Book Review!

Hooray!  My first book review, how wonderful.  Much gratitude to Tasha Saecker at the blog, Waking Brain Cells, where she reviews books for children and teens.  Head over there to read her review of my book and if you're a fan of children's books, there's plenty to explore there!  Her review of my book is here.

About Tasha from her blog:  My name is Tasha Saecker, and I am the Assistant Director of the Appleton Public Library in Appleton, WI. I started my library career over 20 years ago as a children’s librarian, and continue to be connected to books for children and young adults.
I hope in Waking Brain Cells, you find a warm, friendly place where books for children and teens are celebrated.

Thanks, Tasha!!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Priority Shipping Now Available

Want to get your copy of my book delivered by Christmas?  Priority shipping now available on my web site.  Order soon, Christmas is nearly here!

My book is available here.  Happy Holidays!