Tuesday, March 31, 2009
Monday, March 30, 2009
As the first installment of my author/artist series, I contacted the Karen Katz, author/illustrator of Jake's new favorite lift-the-flap books. I asked Karen if she would be kind enough to share her experiences in the publishing world, and to share her insight and advice about her journey to becoming a super-successful author/illustrator who has published over 45 children's books, won countless awards, and currently has over 3 MILLION books in print! But, to summarize the true measure of her success, she says, "I am living my dream. I couldn't think of anything I'd rather do than children's books."
Here are some of her responses to my questions (my comments are in italics):
1. How did you get your first book published?
After my husband and I adopted our daughter from Guatemala, I decided I wanted to illustrate children's books. For nine months, I painted pictures of kids and anything that looked like it could be in a children's book. I put together a portfolio to show. My second appointment was at Henry Holt with someone I had known from adult publishing. She asked if she could pass my portfolio on to one of the editors. There were paintings in my portfolio that represented a poem that my husband had written about adopting our daughter. Two weeks later, I got a call from Laura Godwin, a senior editor who wanted to meet with me and talk. This talk developed into my first book.
2. What is your educational background? (I've summarized)
Karen attended the Tyler school of Art in Philadelphia, and Rome, Italy. After graduating, she went to the Yale Graduate School of Art and Architecture. Before doing children's books full time, she created costumes for magician Doug Henning, and illustrated and designed for over 50 publishers. (It helps a little if you know someone in the field. Use contacts to try to find someone...anyone in the publishing field)
3. Where do you get your inspiration?
• My early ideas all came from my daughter when she was a baby. I collect toys, pages from magazines, greeting cards, napkins I've scribbled on, ...and just about anything you can think of that has an idea connected to it.
• Every project starts as a doodle or a scrap of paper. I gather and collect ideas as I go along and save them for...Well...I'm never sure when I will use them.
• I must own about 1000 children's books. Some great illustrator is always influencing me. I love kids art, folk art, and outsider art.
4. What were some of your first rejections, and what made you keep going?
I did two books called NO BITING! and NO BURPING! early on in my career. Simon and Schuster passed on them, but I later sold them to Grosset and Dunlap. That taught me to keep moving forward no matter what. I have had a bunch of books rejected and it taught me what I was good at and what I wasn't so good at. I never let rejection stop me, and I always just got back out there and knocked on another door. I kept my expectations low, so any acceptance felt great. My career has been filled with an amazing amount of good fortune. I haven't spent too much time being rejected. I am so lucky.
5. What advice would you give to someone just starting out as an author?
• Get the words down on paper.
• Write the manuscript and watch out for putting too many words in it.
• Keep your age group in mind.
• You do not need an illustrator to illustrate your manuscript (as a creative director, I completely agree...this can often hinder your submission unless it is dead on!)
• Get the book: Children's Writers and Illustrators Market. This book told me everything I needed to know.
• Read, read, read other peoples books.
• Make time to write and do the work...there will never be a perfect time.
6. What advice would you give to someone just starting out as an illustrator?
• Make a portfolio of at least 15 excellent pieces of art in a consistent style
• Make sure you have children in some of the art
• Look at what is being done by other illustrators (you can see many on-line)
• Keep at it!
And, lastly she says, "I encourage everyone to write books. Lots of publishers will read manuscripts without an agent submitting it."
If you go to Karen's adorable website, there is additional information about her, and helpful hints for illustrators and authors. I love the photos of Karen in her studio! It's always fun to see where people create!
Good luck everyone, and thank you to Karen for sharing her experience! I hope to be reading your books soon!
Saturday, March 28, 2009
I WANT WANT WANT these fun metal letters from Urban Outfitters for Jake's playroom. But, I want them to spell P-L-A-Y. And, there are several letters that are sadly unavailable, so I guess it's not going to happen. Unless perhaps I get my nice next door neighbor to saw some wood into letters w/ his cool power saw. So, if you can find what you want to spell...go for it. They're on sale now for only $4.99.
Friday, March 27, 2009
I'm always on the look out for a great fabric store. There seem to be fewer and fewer stores where you can go in and wander around to see exactly what you want. So, I set my sights online. I've come across a number of amazing online resources, but my favorite to look at by far is Volksfaden, a German-based on-line shop owned by Linda Gaylord. She offers a great range of fabrics from some of the most popular fabric designers...Joel Dewberry, Amy Butler, Heather Bailey, and Mod Green Pod to name a few. I love(!) these collages she has created with the fabric she sells, and I also love the fact that the fabric samples are LARGE so you can see what it actually looks like!
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
The ABC's have become more and more popular over the past year! Here are some cool prints for kids rooms that I've come across lately...
2. and 3. ModernPop: High quality digital print
4. Bread and Butter: hand silk-screened
5. Penny People Designs: Personalized high quality digital prints
6. Petite Collage by Lorena Siminovich: Limited edition prints (photos © Lorena Siminovich)
7. Ink + Wit: Letterpress
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
As the creative director of a gift book publishing company, freelance designer, and published author, I have had the wonderful opportunity to work with countless illustrators and authors over my career. Many people ask me such questions as:
• How to get their book published
• How to get hired as an illustrator on a gift or book project
• What an art director looks for when hiring an artist, or spotting trends
• How I come up with product development ideas and how these ideas develop from concept through production.
As part of this blog...in addition to my rantings about such things as butt paste as a new mother, I thought it would be interesting to share my experiences with you, and to contact some of the illustrators and authors that I admire and/or have worked with to share their experiences with us. I have drafted some basic questions to start the discussions, and will begin posting soon.
Really? For real? This is the SECOND time we've brought Jake to the drs about super-bad diaper rash, and this is the SECOND time the dr. has suggested mixing up this ridiculous concoction:
1 tube Lotramin
1 tube Cortaid
1 tube Desitin
Can't I just get a prescription please? Does the poor little guy have to suffer while I go through this ritual again, only to tell the dumb doctor that this is a liquidy mess that doesn't work?
Sometimes I wish I was a Berkeley mom because I think they know all sorts of organic secrets that work, and whatever they do, their kids wouldn't be getting diaper rash in the first place, and if they did, they would have 80 other new mommy friends to ask.
We'll be going back tomorrow, and I'm not happy. Jerk.
Monday, March 23, 2009
Kim, a new blogging friend has recently started TomKat Studio which custom designs adorable invitations and party sets for children. She recently made her first sale on her Etsy store. I totally admire the fact that she has opened her own shop, and gone forth with her idea. The enthusiasm with which she has approached this project is fun to read about on her blog. I love to see someone pursuing their dreams and actually taking the steps to go ahead and do it. Many good ideas (my own included) fall by the wayside due to lack of execution. So, three cheers for Kim, and Happy Birthday to her new company, and congratulations on her first sale...may there be thousands more to come!
My new blog has been tagged by my new friend Kim at TomKat Studio as "fabulous!" I am so incredibly flattered! As a newcomer to blogging I often feel like I'm writing into a void, so her compliment was very kind. It's funny, Ricardo and I were just talking about that word, "fabulous". I'm not someone who laces that word into everyday conversation, and I wish I could...I was kidding around about HOW I would use that word. Manicured hands (they're not) outstretched, eyes rolled up to the right, and say with authority, "It was FABULOUS". It exudes such confidence!
Having said all that, here are 5 things I find FABULOUS (besides of course, my family and friends)...
1. New York City: the energy, the excitement, and the sheer magnitude of the creativity that lives, eats, and breathes in the city. It never ceases to stimulate my mind.
2. Cape Cod: Still such a wonderful, preserved place... especially due to the fact that Kennedy had the forethought to create the National Park there.
3. The power of the internet: And all the wonderful connections it can make...friends, lovers, contacts, travels, shopping, and so on and on...
4. Candy. I think it's one of the best things about being an adult.
5. OK, I fold! My friends and family!
Five Fabulous Blogs:
1. Little Green Notebook: an interior designer living in Boston. Tons of great ideas!
2. The Style Files: lots of great interior design photos
3. Making It Lovely: A designer making her lovely home lovelier all the time. About to be a mom!
4. Becoming Mom: Ariana's new experiences as a new mom...and a really great photographer. Her other blog Becoming Home was fun too, but seems like mom-hood has given her (rightfully so!) new priorities
5. Two Ellie: a new blog to me full of daily inspirations about design.
Friday, March 20, 2009
Sometimes the brownie mix just calls to you...and there's not much you can do to stop the voices in your head luring you to the kitchen, other than just give up and make the brownies. Of course, if you were smart (unlike me), you wouldn't HAVE extra boxes of brownie mix in the house. While looking up my good friend Betty online, I came across these fun cakes. I especially like the pirate. I think the duck cake kind of looks like a Peep.
I would like to add, that they should never tamper w/ the Betty Crocker packaging in an attempt to update it. I like it just the way it is. Have you seen what they've done w/ the Tropicana orange juice packaging? I do not like...
Thursday, March 19, 2009
shopping makes us happy. I'm so much happier today after purchasing my new happy green i-pod. The THIEVES stole my old i-pod (which was in just fine condition, thank you very much), and I've been missing it at the gym ever since. In fact, I've only gone on the treadmill about 5 times since the robbery because running on the treadmill sans i-pod has very little incentive for me. And, of course NOT wanting to go on the treadmill has made me mad because then I remember the robbery and all the turmoil that it caused me. But, now onto the rest of my happy post shopping day!
I've come across some really beautiful family trees. I really like the imaginative ways these artists have created unique ways to incorporate family names, photos and/or personal touches.
1. The first is a Martha Stewart DIY craft project. You could add as much, or little as you want to make it look great. I like the idea that it is three-dimensional and includes photos.
2. This colorful print from Etsy store owner Pixel and Post would be perfect for a child's room. Available in different color combinations.
3. This print from Etsy store Simple Sweet Design with beautiful calligraphy, the words "true", "unconditional", "constant", and "love" are incorporated into the tree design.
4. The last is a beautiful custom-made painting by artist Jo Ann Kelly. She works from photos and personal family interests to personalize each painting.
I came across these fun paintings by Eric Rewitzer and Annie Galvin from 3 Fish Studios based in San Francisco. Their motto is "little luxuries make a big difference". They're having a spring sale, selling some of their original art called "small originals" for $15. They have monthly gatherings with a linocut workshop. If I lived in San Fran, I'd want to join them for a fun day of creating!
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
I love this silly joke, and my friends and family get to hear it every year. As the weather is warming up...I'm starting to think about our lovely backyard which needs work. After much searching, we got a great table and chair set from Room and Board last year (top photo). It was worth the wait, and I even like the way the chairs look inside when we've need to bring some extras in.
Here are other patio options to get you thinking about spring! (second from top: Smith and Hawken; third from top: Pottery Barn; fourth from top: Restoration Hardware)
Happy St. Paddy's day!
Friday, March 13, 2009
Holly from Decor8, as part of her "creativity series" has written a great post on "developing a sense of humor" to inspire creativity. Her post immediately reminded me of a movie called "Happy Go Lucky" from Academy Award Nominee Mike Leigh that I saw last fall. Although I didn't love the movie when it started, by the end, I was hooked, and it really resonated with me. It's about a woman named Poppy (played by Sally Hawkins) who, despite the many ups and downs in her life, remains truly, deeply, happy, and yet very caring about others. She is not flip, or shallow. Just, simply happy.
Maintaining this sense of happiness in everyday life is a lot tougher than it seems, and I've found myself thinking back to this movie many times. Given the doom and gloom on the news, and the economy affecting not just my family, but soooo many other people, it can be very hard to remember that life IS short. Having a ONE YEAR OLD, and having lost my father to cancer too soon are two very good reminders for me that the time goes by very quickly and can't be taken back. I try to say to myself...despite all the difficulties I've been faced with...just to start with the moment and be happy in it. Jake is growing up quickly, and I don't want to miss a second of the joy that he is, and that I am helping to create. I deserve it, and most importantly, so does he.
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
Monday, March 9, 2009
In a quick, cheap attempt to cover up some cracking paint in our upstairs hallway I found these great paper butterflies from Etsy store Almost Sunday based in Somerville, MA. They're so cute, and you can just stick them on with poster putty. So, when we get the bigger problem fixed, they can come off, and be placed right back on again! In the meantime, I won't have to look at the cracking paint every time I walk into my bedroom!