Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Who say's there's no Santa!!!

Yes Virginia, it's been a while.

I've been so busy this past year that I've neglected my blog, among other things.  My head is hanging mighty low. If I were a mutt, I'd be plopped on my twist of a tail, banished to the dog house 'till New Years. Thank goodness I'm human, (faults and all) with so much to be grateful for, especially you - my supportive, patient readers and friends.

While it's true that 2011 had it's highs and lows, I still remain optimistic about the future of the Children's Publishing industry. This has been the year of the "App", a boom for self-publishers everywhere. If you've still got your head in the sand, thinking you can ride it out until the tide turns, you'd better get real. Apps are still on the rise and here to stay! With all the new App building tools flooding cyberspace, illustrators who can create them will soon be a dime a dozen. Although, it's not as easy as they'd like us to believe!

What I've learned so far is, I jumped the gun in thinking it was something I'd be able to pick up quickly. Even with simple App building tools and a bucketload of Photoshop skills, I'm spending a ridiculous amount of time building my first trial run. "Simple" it is NOT! At least not for this old dinosaur. But I know that I must get aboard the train, or be left at the station.

"So," you may ask, "why am I so optimistic 
about the future of children's publishing?" 

I'll tell you why. With all the changes we experienced in 2011, I think there are big changes yet to come!

*Have you noticed that no one is really squawking about the poor quality of so many self-published apps?? Wait. It's only a matter of time.

Teachers, Mom's, and doting Grandparents will get tired of poorly written stories and mediocre illustrations. . . even if they are just $1.99 a pop! I mean, every kid on the planet has wanted some dangerous or stupid toy at one time or another, but we eventually woke up and refused to buy it, realizing that it was bad for our kids.

So how will we ensure quality in future picture book Applications?? 
I think that's where traditional publishers can gain 
back some of the ground they lost in 2011! 

Consumers still remain confident in the quality that recognizable publishers maintain. They know that when they purchase an App from a traditional publishing house, they're going to get material that is well written, visually appealing and usually educational in some way. Now that publishers are waking up and producing Apps of their own, self-publishing will (once again) take a back seat to quality assurance. Professional illustrators who took the time to grow their talent and learn how to illustrate for Apps, will be highly sought after.

And what about printed picture books? 

In a world full of keyboards, wide screens, hand-held devices and video games, I choose to believe that printed picture books will blossom like flowers in the sun. With their intoxicating aroma, and delicate pages, they'll become more valuable than ever. Just like Christmas, they'll be something to preserve and treasure. :o)

*Self publishers: Please do not send hate mail! I acknowledge that there are many, many wonderful Apps being produced by self-publishers today. It is unfortunate that their voices are getting buried in a sea of mediocrity! When the marketplace establishes some sort of quality assurance, I'm sure that the cream will rise to the top! 

Sunday, August 07, 2011

My Old Friend Technology

So, now that "Alphey Loves Letters" is a reality, I find myself looking to the future at last. I'm happy to say, there are now more options opening up than ever before. What an exciting time for illustrators and authors who aren't afraid to expand their brains in order to keep up with technology!

There are some who would argue with me regarding my tech skills (or lack there of), but I know my limitations.

Yes, I built my own website, while others were paying someone else to build theirs.

So what, I had a blog before many of my colleagues understood what a blog was for.

Okay, I "tweeted" while other's sent me e-mails asking, "What the heck is a Twitter?"

These were not great accomplishments, but I felt they were necessary if I was to keep up with the world at large.

So it's no great surprise that I now find myself, (an aging, not so tech-savvy picture book illustrator) embarking on an exciting journey into the production of loop animated, interactive e-book applications. That's right, you read it correctly. I'm taking the plunge. But this time, it's not just for survival.

I'm sure you've all heard it by now, those doom and gloom predictions about the end of the publishing world.

I'm not so sure I'm buying into all of it. But like it or not, things are changing.

Among the illustrators my age, I'm not seeing a lot of movement out there. It's like everyone is hanging on and holding their breath. It's "business as usual", despite the fact that publishers are over-wrought with enough picture book manuscripts to carry them through for several years to come, mid-grades continue to be on the rise, and small publishing companies are dropping like flies in a smokehouse!

I could wait, like so many others seem to be doing. I could hold out, continuing to submit samples to publishers with the hope that I might get that elusive "traditional" illustration assignment. I could turn to illustrating for low-paying self-publishing authors again, but . . .

 I think the time is right to grab the wave!  

Like I said, it's not about survival, it's about getting in as the wave swells, and riding it to the top.

Over the next few months, I'll be throwing caution to the wind, and going where many of my colleagues refuse to go, . . . into the world of Apple i-phone and i-pad applications. I'll do my best to keep you posted, as I create my first picture book application. It promises to be quite a ride, and if I'm lucky - it'll all go well and I'll get more, better-paying work from the skills acquired along the way!

Oh yes, I'll sneak in a few traditional submissions as I go. Old habits and old dreams die hard.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

It's arrived!!!!

My latest book has finally been released! "Alphey Loves Letters" is now available through Castlebridge Books. Here's a sneak -peek. . . 

Monday, March 21, 2011

Turning a negative . . .

Seeing myself as a children's book illustrator, I've always found writing to be a real challenge. Who'd ever imagine that someone so long winded would have a problem finding words, right? Well it's true. I struggle with it.

I know what I want to say when I sit down to write. It's usually something I've been mulling over for days, and then about two lines into it, I draw a blank (no pun intended).  I shlump back to my sketchbook with my head hung low. I curse my mother for teasing me all my life over my inability to spell, yet making no attempt to correct the situation. It's HER fault that I freeze up before the words can escape the confines of my tortured brain, if only she'd been . . . S--SU--SUPPORTIVE!!!!

The only time this doesn't happen, is when I'm really, I mean really ticked off about something. Thoughts flow down through my fingers and spill over my keyboard so fast that this hunt-and-pecker, spell-check freak turns into something that resembles a real typist!

I have to say, being in great writers groups and blogging has helped. You want to talk about support? My crit group members have more than made up for the mental abuse I received as a child. God bless everyone of them!   If I could only remember half the advice that I've dished out while critiquing their manuscripts, I might someday find writing success for myself.

You know the old saying, "Those who can't, teach." I've been at it for so long that I was beginning to think that it's true.

So imagine my surprise when Stephen Mooser's (editor for the SCBWI Bulletin Magazine) e-mail arrived, informing me that my submitted article had been accepted for the March-April edition. Eureka! I could feel the rush. Once more, I'm a published writer! Stick THAT in your ear Mom, I've proven you wrong again!

Now, it's time to dust off those picture book manuscripts and get back to work.

P.S., "Shlump" is not misspelled, I made it up. Get over it. (Lol!)

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Win an Illustration from The VSS!

Are you a fellow illustrator, writer, teacher, parent or art lover? If so, then you might like to have this original artwork  created by VSS illustrator and moderator, Jill Bergman!

To enter the contest, all you need to do is visit The www.theVSS.org for further instructions. Enter today, we'll be picking a winner soon!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The VSS Update-Technology to The Rescue!

If you know much about me, then you know about a little project I started a while back, called "The Visual Storytellers Studio"@www.TheVSS.org.  It was born out of my frustration over the high cost of online promotions for children's book illustrators. I wanted to create an ever-changing (never stagnant and boring)  forum in which my fellow colleagues could display their work, free of charge.

My vision of The VSS was a child, parent and teacher friendly website, that was the equivalent of a walk through a fine illustration gallery. I didn't want any distractions for visitors, like annoying elevator music or pesky pop-up advertisements. I hoped to create a pleasant environment, one that visitors would want to return to, bringing their friends along. Ultimately, I hoped that industry leaders would do the same and discover our "secret" treasure trove of talent.

Along came Jill Bergman, my illustration critique group moderator. She loved the idea, and helped me in putting together The VSS. We stocked it with talented artists and began promoting it. The first few months, it moved along at a break-neck pace. Wonderful illustrators clambered to come on board, and we welcomed them with open arms. Everybody posted regularly, and the excitement began to grow.

Our list of "followers"started to expand, so Jill designed the first VSS promotional post cards. They were really impressive! We were The Little Engine that Could for quite some time, but then we began to run out of steam.

During 2010, The VSS quietly chugged along, holding it's own among the many clone sites that have popped up all over the internet. We have maintained our followers by giving them a steady diet of interesting illustrator and artist interviews and most importantly, incredible new illustrations to view daily.
However, in this ever-changing industry we've come to realize that it's not enough!

I'm happy to announce that this week, Jill launched a new Facebook page for The VSS @  http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Visual-Storytellers-Studio/185847514782380?v=wall .

 It's a wonderful, interactive site for all our friends who create illustrations for children's literature, and it's also for those who write stories for us to illustrate!

For all you Twitter fans, you can send us a "tweet" on our VSSchat Twitter page;  http://twitter.com/#!/VSSchat 


Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Root beer float anyone?

Children’s book writers are always thinking about words as a way to tell a story. But words can also record memories for future generations and if we are honest and true, they capture the emotions felt in those brief moments of life. That authenticity is what moves us, and makes for a great read. Writing what you know, what you have lived, makes a lot of sense. It’s a great place from which an aspiring author can launch an inspiring career.
As a child, my favorite stories were the ones in which I could escape by envisioning myself in the lead role. Pippi Longstocking was like my alter ego. She was always on the ready with a smart response and a sun-shiny approach. Her glass was always half-full, no matter what her predicament. She spoke to me in a way that my mother could never understand, and I loved her for it! 
I remember imagining the author, Astrid Lindgren, to be a bit like Pippi herself, plunking out her childhood memoirs at an old typewriter, while sipping a strawberry milk shake in her striped leotards. Oh Pippi, how I miss you!
While contemplating the personality of my own main character, I wonder how much of myself I’ll need to reveal in order to make her authentic. Can I safely maneuver through the elaborately exaggerated waters of childhood memory? Only time will tell. 
I’ve been writing my main character with an inner strength I wish I’d had, surrounded by people I wish I’d known. But now I’m beginning to think that maybe, just maybe, I’m going about it all wrong. Perhaps I should surround her with the people who flood my memories and made me who I’ve become. Those people were characters indeed! Maybe then my readers will picture me to be a bit like her, tapping away at the keyboard, sipping on a root beer float, in flamingo print pajamas and fuzzy purple slippers.