Wednesday, November 03, 2010

PiBoIdMo Begins!

If you are new to writing for children, this special month could just be the kick-start that you need. Or, if you've been in a writing funk, (not mentioning names) then November could bring you out of your slump! 

Wondering what's happening? 

It's Picture Book Idea Month. The one month out of the year, when we all get together, put our thinking caps on, and bathe together in the glow of creativity! 

How it works: Starting November 1st, you must make a pledge to come up with a NEW Picture Book idea every day until November 30th. That's it! You don't have to write an entire manuscript, just write down something that will give you a kick start later down the road. Like say, a great title for a Picture Book, or a wonderful idea for a unique character, a special scenario, or an intriguing location.

I am writing mine down separately on colorful scraps of paper, and depositing them in a beautifully decorated, wooden box. That makes it feel even more creative for me. I look forward to seeing my new ideas filling up the box. I'm sure that by day 30, I'll have forgotten many of them, but they'll be there waiting for me to rediscover, when time permits. No more wondering what to write about in the days ahead! 

I'm wondering how many of my picture book writing friends are following along, cooking up ideas? I can almost hear the earth shifting under my feet as all that creativity begins to bubble.

If you'd like to officially sign up for the challenge, go to:

Thursday, July 29, 2010

First-time author, looking for an illustrator???

I recently had a first-time author ask me if I would be interested in illustrating her manuscript, (which was quite imaginative!) I thought other new authors might benefit in hearing my answer;

First I'd like to congratulate you for having finished your first children's book! That in itself is a great accomplishment. I know how challenging and agonizing it can be to "put yourself out there". I remember when I completed my first PB manuscript and sent it off to publishers (back in 2003). I was so filled with anticipation and hope! I just knew I had written a great story that was sure to be picked up by a big publisher. Little did I know, I had a LOT to learn about writing for children and the children's publishing industry. It's quite different from any other type of publishing. Now, almost 8 years later-I'm STILL learning!

It is my opinion that honesty and respect is the best way to begin any relationship. So here we go!

Your manuscript is full of great images that are bursting at the seams with life and enthusiasm. It's a great place to start. However, with respect to your efforts (in my opinion) it may not be ready for submissions. In today's ever-changing publishing industry, it takes a LOT of work to make a manuscript shine brighter than all the others that pass by an editors desk on a daily basis. In order for a book to become a beloved classic, resulting in a reasonable amount of sales, your manuscript must be equal to it's illustrations in every way. In turn, the illustrations must be as good as the manuscript. It's just like a well choreographed dance!

Since this is your first book, I know you have big hopes and dreams, as well you should! I would never want to squash them. I'm sure you've heard all the statistics regarding publication, but if you haven't, then you need to slow down a bit.

Unless you are planning to self-publish, illustrating your book is a bad, and very costly idea. If you are thinking that it will help to get you published, I'm sorry to say, it will do just the opposite! Children's Book Editors today like to pick their own illustrator after they have accepted and made you an offer on your manuscript. They have the ability to pick from thousands of illustrators, and they will choose who they feel will fit your book best and make them the most money on their investment. Often the cost to produce one Picture Book exceeds $100,000.00 dollars! I can assure you, they will do everything possible to make it the best it can be, so that their money isn't wasted.

There are so many writing rules for Picture Books, that it is staggering! One of the first things YOU should consider, is how many manuscripts with dogs (as the main character) do you imagine editors read? I'll tell you. Each and every editor out there reads HUNDREDS! By making your main character into a dog, you have placed yourself in direct competition with thousands of other dog manuscripts, decreasing your chances by an incredible amount. Make her into a child, and you INCREASE your odds in today's market, as editors are actively seeking manuscripts about real children! I believe that your story would be just as fun if it were about a real child that children could relate to.

If you haven't yet, I suggest you spend $80 to join the Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators, It was the best investment I EVER made in my career, and I have renewed my membership every year! The SCBWI has a members message board, where you can ask questions and receive answers from professionals like me. They also have writers critique groups in every state that are free as part of your membership. My first face-to-face critique group was instrumental in improving my writing capabilities. They showed me what I was doing wrong, and helped me to polish my manuscripts. But more importantly, critique groups help you to see mistakes in other peoples writings, so that you can avoid making those mistakes yourself. If you are a full-time writer, you can deduct the yearly fee from your taxes as a business expense.

Now, to answer your question directly. You asked if I would consider illustrating your Picture Book. I would be honored, if the circumstances were a little different.

1.)As I mentioned, editors aren't interested in writers & illustrators who "collaborate". They want to have control over the expense of publication.

2.) "Collaborative" efforts seldom pay illustrators fairly for the amount of work that goes into illustrating a complete Picture Book. Publishers pay between $3000-$15,000 dollars for illustrations, depending on the illustrator's credentials and the size of the book. It takes 4-6 months to illustrate a book professionally. You can find freelance illustrators who will work for much less, but you will seldom get the quality that your book deserves, or the notoriety that comes with working through a professional publishing company.

3.) Seldom do first-time writers know what it takes to produce a Picture Book. For example, were you aware that Picture Books are paged in increments of 8?

If you are planning to self-publish, have you decided on a printing company, and if so-what size books do they print and what type of downloadable illustration files do they accept? These are very common questions that you must find answers for before you look to hire an illustrator.

As I mentioned earlier, I do not wish to be someone who puts a damper on your efforts, as they are commendable. But I do hope that you will see the reality of the situation and take from it a renewed sense of direction. Your first step should be joining the SCBWI, I can not begin to tell you how much strength and respect you will gain from it! There are literally thousands of Picture Book writers all over the world, and we're all working towards getting published!

After that, join a Picture Book writers critique group, either locally or on-line. You can find many of them on the on-line SCBWI membership boards. A critique group will help you to polish up your story, and make it into an editors dream! Who knows, maybe the odds are with us, and your editor will pick me after all....well, I can dream too you know!!!

Thank you for thinking of me, and I'm glad that you enjoyed my website!

Most sincerely and respectfully, Lisa

Friday, June 04, 2010

Hello there! Yes, I's been a long time since my last post. You may be sitting there, wondering, "where's Lisa been?", so let's catch up.
The truth is, I became very ill, and life escaped me for a while.

Sickness pulls you right out of the game, away from everything that you hold dear. It's a time stealing thief, holding you hostage while life around you begins to race by at what seems like an unnatural speed. Nothing matters anymore, and the longer you're in it's strangle hold, the further away you sink. It pulled me down so low that I no longer recognized myself. That's when I truly began to wake up.

It all started with a huge mistake. I placed my well-being in the hands of the wrong person. Someone who is blind to every reality accept their own. Someone who can't appreciate the value of another without a road map. In my most desperate hour, I realized that the only person who will ever come to my rescue is me.

Almost three months after my eye-opening event, I'm still fighting to get back all that I lost. Time, energy, trust, self-esteem, waking up pain-free, a feeling of normalcy. Sometimes it feels like I'm on a treadmill, going nowhere fast. I take one step forward, and three steps back.

More importantly though, are the things that I gained from the experience. I now have a renewed sense of urgency, no more delusions about relationships, an appreciation for the things that my body does on it's own-like breathing, and a deeper respect for those in pain.

Prior to this, I thought that I knew what pain was. I believed myself to be a sympathetic person, understanding, kind and patient. I thought I knew how to bring comfort to those who were suffering. But until you're flat on your back, unable to move and at the mercy of another, you can't really know pain.

It tests your strength, forcing you to push back when you have no fight left in you. It makes you lose your temper, and say things you don't mean. It makes you beg out loud and plead for it to stop, if only for a moment, so that your mind will stop screaming. It makes you weep constantly, even when your eyes ache and your head pounds. It vividly reminds you of the loved ones you've lost, as you ask them for strength and forgiveness for your ignorance. Unrelenting pain robs you until you give up, and learn acceptance.

For most people, pain becomes nothing more than a faded memory. The brain numbs it's intensity, and soon it's the equivalent of a skinned knee on the sidewalk. But I'm not like "most people", I'm a writer. Although the particulars of past events may become cloudy, the feelings will never leave me. They'll show up in the manuscripts waiting to be written, influencing the characters yet to be imagined. Every experience I've ever "felt" has remained with me, in all its intensity. It's a blessing and a curse.

Aside from recuperating, I've been catching up with my writing and illustrating groups. They've been keeping me very busy, along with wrapping up my "never-ending" picture book assignment.

What's next? Well, I've also learned that plans have a way of being changed without prior notice! Even so, as soon as the assignment is finished, I'm going to dive back into writing and get back to illustrating my own manuscripts. Perhaps better times are just around the corner...oh, and a little publishing success would be nice!

Friday, March 05, 2010

They're Here!

My stamp designs have finally arrived!
Several months ago, I began designing art stamps
for Helene Kempf, the owner of;

She was really excited with the results,and once she
received the rubber stamps from her manufacturer,
she sent them off to her design team to be made into
these wonderful card samples. Today they are being
shown for the first time, soon the stamps will be available
for purchase!

Here's where you can blog-hop to see more samples;
I'll keep you posted as to when the stamps become available!
Happy scribbling!

Monday, February 15, 2010

No Longer Heartless

As I began drawing the next illustration for "Alphey Loves Letters" this morning, I was feeling a little down. You see, Valentines Day had come and gone, and yet I still remained "heartless"....meaning I didn't get any of the usual heart shaped candies or pink roses, no stuffed animals or giant balloons, no "I love you" cards, no nothin'.

The truth is, it's sort of my own fault. I have trained my "other half" well. After twenty years of marriage he actual listens to me. So when I said, "PLEASE, don't spend a lot of money", he took it quite literally and didn't spend a single dime. Which leaves me to wonder....has the romance died? What woman really doesn't want anything for Sweethearts Day? He knows me well, so I am sure that he knew better. So to all my guy friends out there, what does this really mean, and don't try to cover for him by replying "stupidity"!

Anyway, back to where I started. I was feeling sorry for myself when the doorbell rang unexpectedly, and I stepped outside to find a package on my doorstep. I hadn't ordered anything in a long time (trying to save money). I was perplexed. Then I wondered, did someone remember me after all?

I tore through the wrappings and discovered a note from my friend Gail. She and I have been collaborating on "Chloe's Secret", a picture book manuscript based on her real-life pup, Chloe. The note was from them both, with a little clue to what was inside. Needless to say, I'm no longer heartless... I'm the proud owner of a little stuffed bundle of love! Kisses to the real Chloe, and hugs to my friend Gail for lifting my spirits!

Now that I'm finally here, I must share recent photo's of Alexander (my great-nephew). Can you believe that he's nine months old already? Every time I look at him, there's something new in his eyes. I no longer see just the reflection of the world as he views it, now there's great understanding as well. He gets what is going on around him, and he knows he's the center of it all.

Through Alex I am reliving my very first memories of existence. His eyes question me about those noisy, tiny things fluttering through the trees and I am reminded of the birds outside my childhood bedroom window. They chirped happily as I gazed up from my crib and watched the curtains lazily float away from the window sill.

Alex blinks with surprise when the wind rushes over him. He quickly inhales, catches his breath, and blushes into giggles. This reminds me of the first winter wind, and my beloved uncle Paul, taking me off to the store to buy my first winter coat.

When I bounce Alex on my knee, singing, "Horsey, horsey, horsey", I am transported back to 1962. My grandpa is suddenly alive again, lovingly looking into my eyes as I bounce with joy. He whispers, "sweet baby girl" in my ear and I reach for his nose.

Alex pulls off a sock, and I feel my own tiny pink toes in the summer sand.

He tries to stand, and I flash back to skinning my knees on the sidewalk...Ouch!

I can't help but wonder what Alex will remember. When he plays "Horsey" with his own son, I hope he remembers the tears in my eyes and the love on my face, and not just the glow of the computer screen behind me! My, how things have changed.

On a different note, I also wanted to share my "Gasperilla Pirate Invasion" experience with you! This year, we went to the night parade. The weather was chilly, which kept many Floridians in their homes rather than coming out in the cold night air. It was fine with me!
The crowd was much thinner than usual, making for more fun than in years past. The pirates threw twice as many beads, and the floats kept coming for two solid hours!

We were exhausted after all that dancing, singing, screaming for beads and jumping up and down! I wish I had more pics, but they all came out either too dark or blurry.

Until next time ya' lilly-livered scallywags! Gotta' go or they'll be makin' me walk the plank!Arrrrrrgh and a "yo-ho-ho"!

Where's that bottle a' rum?