Friday, December 12, 2014

Interview with author/illustrator: VANESSA BRANTLEY-NEWTON

My series of interviews with artists who have been in my SVA class continues with Vanessa Brantley-Newton. Her interview is brimming over with her talent, generosity and energy, just like when she was in class. I hope you enjoy hearing about how she got started and how she works on her beautiful books - she is a real inspiration!

Vanessa's first book was Let Freedom Sing published in 2009.  Since then she has been incredibly hard working and dedicated, and has illustrated about 20 books, several of which she have also written. Her recent book We Shall Overcome has won the 2014 The Jane Addams Peace Foundation for Children’s Books Honor, amongst other prestigious awards, and it is in the Original Art Show at the Society of Illustrators.


We Shall Overcome was written by Debbie Levy and you are the illustrator. How did this book get started for you?
I had met Joann Hill of Disney-Hyperion quite sometime ago. After Monica's class I was taking another course on Children's Book Illustrations with Sergio Ruzzier. I had already done some illustration work and writing for Scholastic. Sergio took the whole class over to visit a publishing house where Joann was working at the time. She took a look at our portfolios that day.  He really encouraged everyone to bring theirs. Some people didn't listen. Lesson one:  When you get a chance to put your portfolio in front of an Editor or Art Director you make sure you do it!!!  Some people where quite upset when Joann asked me to come back for a possible interview for a project.  Be prepared!  I didn't get to work right away with Joann Hill, but a few years later, when I got an agent, she told me that Joann Hill remembered my work and has seen a couple of the books that I had done and wanted me to come in for a little interview, that they had a story that they thought I was perfect for.

So I was off to NYC to meet the people over at Disney! It was a great visit. As soon as they told me about the story I wanted to illustrate the book. Debbie's beautiful words seem to paint pictures for me. I worked with two wonderful editors and a great art director. I enjoyed and loved working on We Shall Overcome.

After the visit to NYC to the offices of Disney, they knew pretty much that they wanted to hire me and it was only a few weeks later I was asked to start working on sketches.

What were some the stages? 
Talking is one of the stages. They needed to get a feel for me and I needed to do the same.  Contracts take time and this one did take time, but not much. They gave me a generous signing fee and really worked very closely with me.  They did give me all the room I needed to create my work. Which I was very grateful for because sometimes you just don't get that. You can be overly art directed in some cases. They left me alone to do what I do.
There was much research. I looked online and found a lot of things. I interviewed family members who had lived through the Civil rights movement. I collected books and images to work into my illustrations.

What was your favorite part of working on this book? And the most difficult part?
Working on We Shall Overcome was emotional and that was very hard. I remember things as a child of the 60's and 70's. Not being able to do certain places or go to the same bathrooms and stores or restaurants as whites. The other was capturing the right moments to tell the story. Writers do their part and then as the illustrator we get to do our part of telling the story and so we are stretched because it's much more than illustrating what is being said. You also want to illustrate what is not being said. Telling your side of the story if you will.  

Tell us about your relationship with the author? Do you know her or have you met?
We met only after the book was done. Debbie and I have quickly become very, very close. We have spent wonderful time together. We visit her in Maryland and she has even cooked dinner for me. I call her my Sisterfriend!  

Where do you live and what is your studio like?
I lived in East Orange, NJ for many years. Now I happily live in Charlotte, NC in a little section called Sherwood Forest with my husband of 21 years and our daughter and fat cat named Stripes. I share my home with my talented sister Coy and her family. I use to have a wonderful room that double as my studio. Now my little studio is in the corner of our dining room. I hope to have my own space back again soon. This works however for now. It is filled with many, many books and three computers.   

What are your art materials? 
I adore and love art supplies!!! I am always looking for the next hot thing! I have tons of paper and collage elements. I have watercolor paper and paints and gouache and ink and pencils! I have it all. I am looking forward to getting back into traditional media very soon. I have done most of my books digitally. While I love digital illustration, I still love putting my hand and creative spirit to paper and feel the paint, pens, paper and such.  I work on 3 imacs with Corel Painter and Photoshop.

I did We Shall Overcome in Corel Painter 12, but I did the collage part with Photoshop. First I do a really rough sketch of the piece on copy paper or whatever I have and then I scan it into my computer. I then bring it into Photoshop and size the piece and put it into a layer. I lighten my sketch layer and draw over the top of it. After I finish drawing the illustration I begin to color it and place anything that needs to be on a layer. After I am happy with my illustration I bring it over to Photoshop and collage takes place. I collect papers from all over the world. I also sew so I have a closet of fabric that I use as well.  I even did a study on clothing from the 50's and 60's. I look for patterns and anything that has a retro flair to it!  After everything is placed just so I go back to corel and finish the piece.

Here is the book open to the page of the illustration at the Original Art show.
And I know people are very curious about each artist's journey to publication. When you were getting started, how did you find your publisher, editor, or art director who you first worked with? Have you had an agent since you started writing and illustrating books? At the very start I didn't an agent. I didn't even know you might, should or could have one.  I went to a SCBWI conference in NYC and I heard them speaking about having an agent and what they could do for you. I was working on some small projects with Scholastic when one of the really nice editors that I was working with said, " I really think you need to find a agent now Vanessa.  Your work is that good and I have a few that I can put you in touch with." Well, I started reading up on agents and I got my sister Coy involved.  She is excellent at putting letters and things together and so I worked on putting a great portfolio together and Coy started working on my letter. She put together for me a wonderful package that I sent out and actually got 5 agents that wanted to sign me.  I picked Painted-Words. Lori Nowicki.  I have been with her for 8 years now.

Telling you my little story as fast as I can.  Okay, My husband was out of work as an Aerospace Engineer.  He couldn't find work anywhere. We had no money. Seriously NO MONEY coming in.  I tried to find work and found some small jobs that brought in a little money, but bills where piling up and it got really ugly.  I started working for a Reproductive Medicine Center. They hated me! LOL! , But I went to work every single day and when I got home from work I would read and study everything I could get my hands on about Children's books and illustration. I put enough money together and took Monica's illustration class. I honed and worked on my portfolio just hoping and praying that something good would happen. Then I took Sergio's course all the while building a portfolio. I created a blog where I could show my work and I made friends with other writers and illustrators. I joined SCBWI and honed my illustration skills even more.  My dining room table was not used for eating only. It was my creative space as well. My family was pretty upset because it was filled with my work. Everywhere was some kind of illustration I was working on. My next project. Something.  My husband got so upset with me and begged me to clean the table off.  I got a call from a friend who said she wanted to pop in for a second.  She and I had been friends for many years. I knew her to be a dancer and I was singing at the time.  We decided to get together on a Sunday afternoon just to meet for a bit.  My husband asked again. " Please, Please Vanessa! Clean off the table!!!!"  I tried. I really did. I couldn't get everything cleaned up. Karen showed up and there was my table still covered with artwork.  Karen asked," V, who did all the wonderful illustration work??" We had been friends for many years, but we never talked about what each others did besides singing and dancing. I told her, " I did." She said, " Vanessa in all the years we have known each others I didn't know that you had this talent! Do you know who I work for??" "No," I said shamefully.  "Vanessa I work for Scholastic Books and YOU ARE HIRED!!" I have been working in publishing every since.  Blue Apple Books is where I got to do my first picture book that I wrote and illustrated. It was hard work, but I still cherish those hard and scary days.

Did you have some rejections along the way?
I did get some rejections along the way. I think it keeps us grounded in a lot of ways.  I am every grateful to be doing what I do. Only 1% of people get to do what we do.  Rejection pushed me to  really find my own voice in illustration.  I found that multiculturalism was at the heart of my illustration style and work.  I knew that I could draw all cultures and that was valuable to me.  I wanted to be diverse when I illustrated.  It was very important to me that ALL children see themselves in picture books!  

What are some of the difficulties? 
Picture books are hard work and sometimes we are not given the time it takes to produce the work anymore. It use to take a year to do a book now they want it in less than 6 months. Sometimes the crazy deadlines can really get to you. Being overly art directed is very frustrating and can leave one doubting ones ability to create. I work from home so long hours can take from you. I have to remember that I am not single, but I have a family that needs me. Critics are sometimes not very nice.

Do you have any special words of advice or encouragement for illustrators/writers starting out now?
Hone your craft! Develop your signature style by trying all kinds of media. Digital, traditional, watercolor, ink, chalk, grease pencil.  If you are wanting to do children's books, take a course or 3 and collect children's books from the past and present. Create your own library if you will. Create a blog or post your illustrations to facebook, Instragram, Twitter. Join SCBWI.org and then find the chapter nearest you and be a part of it. They always have critique groups to join and publishers and agents are found there as they do visits! Rejection is a part of the process. Embrace it as best you can. ONLY SHOW the work YOU LOVE. Please don't put anything out there that you are not proud of.  Be positive. Seriously, stop saying what you are afraid of and what won't happen for you or others. Start saying to yourself what you wish other to say about your work. " Your work is amazing and quirky! We would like to hire you."  Surround yourself with encouraging and creative people. Believe in your creative self and what you bring to the creative table. No one can do what you do so bring your A game. And remember that there is no competition, because no one can illustrate like you do. No one has your illustrative style.


Looking forward to many more wonderful books from Vanessa! Here is her next book due out in January 2015
For more of Vanessa's work at her agent's website: Painted Words
Here is her blog: OohlalaDesignsStudio

Friday, November 28, 2014

MY BALLET JOURNAL: for young ballerinas!


My first ballet project: an activity book to help inspire, motivate and encourage young ballet students. I made this with alot of help from my dancing daughter, Lydia, corps de ballet member of New York City Ballet.

My Ballet Journal is aimed for girls ages 6 and up. There are pages about ballet class, steps and positions (with space for corrections and goals of course!) and lots more: my performances, my hair, my make-up, tutus, and ... "Oops! Everyone make mistakes sometimes."

I have always loved going to NYCB.  And I started bringing Lydia to performances when she was very young. She didn't want to just watch, she wanted to dance herself, and so she started ballet classes when she was seven at the School of American Ballet. Now she is 24 years old and is in her seventh year with the company.

Tonight the annual run of the Nutcracker opens here in New York at Lincoln Center. After many years in NYCB's production as a student and now as a company member, Lydia is getting close to dancing in 400 performances of Balanchine's Nutcracker. Hard work and the need for encouragement never stops!

We hope young ballet students have fun keeping this journal - that they will fill it with their experiences and special memories of dancing, and keep it for years to come. We hope they pirouette to their dreams!

Here is the link directly to Dover Publications online store - where you can find My Ballet Journal and other projects I have done for them.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Interview with author/illustrator CLARE PERNICE

My interview series with children's book illustrators who have been in my class at one time or another at The School of Visual Arts continues with CLARE PERNICE.  Her first book CIRCUS GIRL was recently published by Simply Read Books.  Here she is at a book signing: Congratulations!



The heroine of Circus Girl is "daring and dazzling and Oh! so dramatic...outrageous...plucky...sensational...stupendous" and full of imagination.
How did she come into being? Read on!

Can you tell us about the process of working on Circus Girl, from first idea to publication? How did this book get started? What were some the stages? What was your favorite part?

The idea for Circus Girl came from my childhood memories, my daughter dressing up and performing and from all children’s love of dressing up. I wanted the book to have exuberant and expressive words conveying different circus acts.  I made long lists of all these words and doodled images beside them. It’s fun playing with concepts and characters but my favorite part is making a final book dummy, as this is when the idea comes to life and looks like a real book.





You are both the author and illustrator. Which came first the words or the pictures?

I think that both come together. It usually begins with an idea that I write down, I start drawing characters and I write some words and then more images spring to mind, back and forth. It is definitely a partnership of words and pictures.

The design and typography are also very important in this book. Did you work closely with the art director on that?

My book dummy was accepted by my publisher and followed almost precisely the way I designed it. One spread changed and I had input on that. We went with a more vibrant book jacket design but a nod to my original cover concept is printed on the actual book under the jacket. It is fantastic that my published book is how I visualized it.

What is your studio like? What are your art materials?


A lovely room over the garage that was designed as a studio by the previous owner, is my special work space. There are windows looking out onto the woods where I live and Milo the Magical our miniature Dachshund likes to curl up on his pillow at my feet while I work.
The upside of a studio at home is being able to work in the middle of the night, however there are an incredible amount of distractions. I wear a lot of different hats during a typical day.  Art supplies and paper make me happy and I love to collect books and all sorts of miscellanea. Sketches, ideas and inspirational material build up when I’m working on a book. I'm not eager to throw anything away but eventually I have to do a big clear up!  I mostly work in colored pencils and watercolor. My pencils are grouped by color. I’m a fan of Faber-Castell.

 


If you were going to be an animal, what animal would you be and why?


Our dog Milo. I’m sure his favorite expression is "Yes I can!” I’d be him because he's always up for anything, he’s an adventurer and he loves everyone and everything!


And I know people are very curious about each illustrator's journey to publication. How did you find your publisher and your editor?


I have been lucky to meet some wonderful editors and art directors who’ve shown interest in my books along the way and it was really a matter of timing.  I met my publisher at Book Expo. Simply Read Books small booth drew me in. I felt a wonderful connection to their style. The publisher and I chatted and I was invited to meet them after the expo. They took two of my book dummies to show their editor and she loved them. They decided to publish Circus Girl first and I just did a few color illustration samples but no changes to the words before they signed me on. It was serendipitous.

Did you have some rejections along the way? What were some of the ups and downs?

I’ve had a couple of near misses. Simon and Schuster had my Mother Goose book dummy for 3 months, the reason for not taking it was that another editor had a Mother Goose book already under contract. Sterling were divided over Circus Girl, the art director loved it but the editor felt it was too conceptual for their house. It is a great feeling to have interest in your books but it takes timing and grit. Try not to be discouraged and here’s a tip which comes from experience, don’t get distracted!



Do you have any special words of advice or encouragement for illustrators/writers starting out?

Getting published doesn’t usually work out super quickly but try not to get side tracked into knitting socks for your Etsy shop. If you want to be a children’s book author and illustrator keep focused, immerse yourself, discover blogs and join illustration groups, try out some competitions, make some fun cards at moo.com. Create stories and make book dummies. Take classes.  Go to book stores and libraries and find books that appeal to you as your book could be a good fit for that publisher too. Scbwi conferences and panels at the New School are good to go to as you will be able to submit your work to the participating editors, ad’s and agents.  A great inspiration for me was taking Monica’s wonderful class twice!  I’m a member of Scbwi and Cbig.

Thank you Monica for interviewing me. Your animal question got me thinking and penguin was a close second. I think penguins go “Whee!” as they slide into the water, they are such happy birds and on that note happy picture book creating to all your readers!

To learn more about Clare and her work, check out her website:

www.clarepernice.com



Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Interview with author/illustrator JENNIFER MERZ


I am going to start up a series of interviews with children's book illustrators who have been in my class at one time or another at The School of Visual Arts. Everybody has their own process of working and their own journey to publication. I hope their stories will be instructional and inspirational. It is with great pleasure that I start off with Jennifer Merz - Enjoy!

I’m delighted to be interviewed for your blog! It’s great fun to be able to tell you all about my creative process. I’m especially proud to discuss my picture book “Playground Day!” released by Clarion Books. 

 Can you tell us about the process of working on Playground Day, from first idea to publication? To begin with, how did this book get started, what was the first trigger?

My creative process started with just the germ of an idea. I knew I wanted to do pictures of happy, active children on the playground, and I was inspired by long, wonderful days at the playground with my now-grown daughters, Lesley and Julia. I love the sheer joy of outdoor, imaginative play, and wanted to capture that feeling – the universal sense of fun from a day outside at the park.

Did you work on the manuscript first, or the pictures?

For this book, the pictures definitely came first – the visual images that I wanted to create were much clearer to me than the words. I remember very early on in the process wanting to tie the children’s activities to animal actions. For example, I wanted to link climbing on the jungle gym with a monkey’s climbing, or draw a parallel between the joy of being high up on a swing with a bird’s flight.

My vision for the manuscript was not as sharp, so the words went through many, many different stages….and different styles….before I decided to tell the story with rhymed couplets.

You make your sketches and your dummy with torn brown paper, instead of drawing with pencil. Can you show us a page? Why do you work this way?

Yes, I often “sketch” with brown paper! After I envision the entire book with small pencil thumbnails, I use brown paper bags to create collage “sketches”. I rip out the shapes that I need and adhere them with a glue stick. Then I put them all together for my dummy book. I find that working this way keeps my dummy pictures very loose. It also keeps me focused on collage, the medium for my finished pictures, so that I don’t get too preoccupied with the drawing itself.

Although it takes awhile to make a “sketch” this way, I think that my compositions are stronger when I’m dealing with silhouetted forms; this method helps me guard against my tendency to get bogged down in too many details too early in the process.

Here’s the brown paper sketch that I did for the swing picture:


.
…. And here is the final picture: I love the tactile effects I can achieve by tearing or cutting the papers. In this book, I also used fabric and other trimmings in my final illustrations. I’m currently experimenting with including my own photographs and other found objects in my pictures, too, and find this way of working very rewarding, and a great way to layer meaning into my pictures.

 You make your illustrations with collage. From looking at your pictures, you seem very organized, is that true?

Yes, I think I’m a very organized person. I think you need to be in this business. While there is plenty of fun and creativity in the work, there is also a need to have a plan for the project you are working on.

Can you tell us a bit about how you work?

I like to work in the daytime, when the light is good and I’m at my most creative, and I enjoy listening to music (jazz or classical are my favorites) while I’m working on the art.
But I often do my best writing out at my local Starbucks. At least, it’s a good excuse for a mocha latte.

Do you have a big collection of papers?

I have a fairly large collection of collage papers, though I always want more! I like using rice papers and papers with interesting patterns or textures. Lately, I’m incorporating my own photographs, as well. 

When you were a child, did you have favorite animals? Did you have pets? Favorite stuffed animals?

When I was a little girl I had a black cat named Mitty, whom I loved very much. In more recent times, we have had a dog – a pug – named Gatsby.

As for stuffed animals, YES! I had loads of them, and so did my daughters. My girls would set up elaborate parties for them, or bring them on outings, or to school. They figured so prominently in our house, that I wanted to put them into “Playground Day!” The little girl in my picturebook brings ten of them to the playground in her red wagon.

If you were going to be an animal, what animal would you be and why?

Definitely a bird ~~ I like the idea of soaring freely through the skies!

Can you tell us about the process of finding your publisher and your editor?
You had some rejections along the way, but then finally happy outcomes for your first two books. What were some of the ups and downs? 

Yes, both of my books were held up at various publishers for a long time prior to their acceptance for publication. At times, I almost gave up! But I persisted, having faith in my work and in the process. I think it’s important to understand that persistence, luck, and patience are key ingredients in the whole process of being published. 
 
For my first book, That Dancin’ Dolly, a series of happy, serendipitous moments pointed me towards my editor at Dutton Children’s Books, even though it took a long time to get there. For Playground Day! I am proud that I made it through the slush pile!

My process of finding a publisher is just about to change: I have recently signed on with Steven Chudney of The Chudney Agency. I’m so excited about this step! Steven fell in love with my new manuscript and book dummy entitled Sew Strong, The Legacy of the Triangle Factory Fire. It’s a nonfiction picture book for middle grade children about the events surrounding the 1911 historical fire. Steven is currently submitting it to major publishers – we’ll see what happens next! Wish me luck!

You've taken a number of illustration classes including with the master artist, Ed Young, and recently you have also taught a children's book class yourself. Do you have any special words of advice or encouragement for illustrators/writers starting out?

Yes, I love learning. In fact, in May 2014, I completed my MFA Degree in Illustration from FIT. I’m happy that I was able to immerse myself in illustration…all kinds of illustration, not just children’s...for the past three years, and fulfill my lifelong dream of attaining this terminal degree.

One piece of advice that has helped me to create successful picture books is to make believe you are making a movie. You are the director, the cinematographer, the casting director, the set and costume designer! Think of your book as one unit. In other words, it must work from start to finish. It’s sometimes easy to forget that the book is one total unit, and not a series of pictures.

I’d also advise new students to try to be patient, not only in terms of waiting for responses from publishers, but with yourself as you develop your work. Making books is not an easy task! Sometimes you need to do something over and over again until it looks right. It’s important to seek out opinions of your work ~ but only from those people whom you trust. Listen to your own “inner ear” when you get advice: sift through the information to find out what works for you and what is not true to your vision.

Also keep reading: visit your local bookstore and library frequently. Study as you read. Ask yourself: what makes this picture book effective?

Lastly, join the SCBWI for camaraderie and support! It’s a great organization. www.scbwi.org.

Thank you so much for interviewing me, Monica!
It’s a pleasure to be part of your blog!

All my best to you, your students, and your readers.

And good luck to Jennifer! Her newest project sounds very exciting and hopefully we will hear more good news! To learn more about Jennifer and her books, check out her website:
www.jennifermerz.com


Saturday, September 06, 2014

Pictures at an Exhibition

On the same day that I heard my Crêpes by Suzette app is getting closer to completion (!!!), I went to see the Toulouse-Lautrec exhibition at MoMA and was excited to see this poster:


It was the inspiration for one of Suzette's crêpe customers in my book - here they are at Place Vendôme:


Coming in close to another poster in the exhibition, is that me?! - I'm eager for the New York City Ballet season to start on September 23.

I'm especially looking forward to the premiere of Ratmansky's ballet to the beautiful music of Pictures at an Exhibition by Mussorgsky. And there are great programs coming up with favorite ballets such as Serenade, La Sonnambula, Chaconne, Tombeau de Couperin, Square Dance and The Concert and more!

Perhaps my favorite picture of all at the Toulouse-Lautrec Exhibition:

The Paris of Toulouse-Lautrec: Prints and Posters is on until March 22, 2015 at the Museum of Modern Art.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Hiking in New Hampshire


and I saw an amazing little purple jewel of a mushroom.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Ludwig Bemelmans' MADELINE

 Having fun at the New York Historical Society's MADELINE exhibition:

I organized a visit with my SVA students, followed by a picnic across the street in Central Park. We were a dozen or so.
 

 "In an old house in Paris
That was covered with vines
Lived twelve little girls
In two straight lines."
 
 A quote I wrote down from Mr Bemelmans: "I sketch with facility and speed. The drawing has to sit on the paper as if you smacked a spoon of whipped cream on a plate."

The exhibition was an inspiration for us all.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

A taste of Paris









































at Maison Kayser. Some days there are reasons for such things. The cassis eclair was delicious!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Zoe by Lydia









































My city cat by my city daughter

Thursday, April 03, 2014

PIZZA and SCHOOL go together

When I wrote and illustrated my book PIZZA AT SALLY'S I didn't know there was a famous Sally making pizza in New Haven, Connecticut. But as soon as the book was published I started hearing about it and finally this past week I had the chance to visit - and eat some of the BEST pizza ever!

Sally's Pizzeria has been on Wooster Street since 1938 and when you step through the door, you step back in time.



And out of the coal-fired oven comes the pizza with the most delicious thin crispy crust. 

This was all part of a school visit the next day to Hamden, close to New Haven.

I was told that I was the first author and illustrator to ever visit the school. The children were super excited about me coming. It was a very busy and very special day. Here is one of nine K-2 classes I spent time with talking about books:

 

And afterwards I was so happy to receive this note via one of the teachers: "Thank you for bringing the Author to the classroom..(My daughter) now is inspired to be a writer herself..it's good to see the light bulb go on for why learning is so key to life to be able to achieve your goals and dreams."

Wow! This is what it is all about! Thank you!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Mona Lisa? The Scream? Art in NIGHT HOUSE BRIGHT HOUSE?

I have been asked about this by readers. Yes, in "Night House Bright House", sprinkled through the various rooms, are miniature versions of some of my favorite famous paintings and sculpture.

Here are images of the artworks with museum links

(And in the the studio there is also another painting by Matisse: the Dream but it is a private collection)













 




 There are also mentions of artwork in my other books: Crepes by Suzette, Night City, and Squeaking of Art. I'll post about those another time, In the meantime, hope you have some fun playing "I spy"!

You can find NIGHT HOUSE BRIGHT Find and Color here at Dover Publications,


 

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

NIGHT HOUSE BRIGHT HOUSE - news!


Night House Bright House is available again! It's an activity book! 
First published in 1997 but out-of-print for the last few years (except for some book club editions) I'm happy to announce that it is back - in a new form!

10 mice and one cat run around the house all night creating havoc and everything in each room comes alive with fun rhymes, such as:

"Get ready" said the spaghetti.
"Ziggity-zag," said the bag.
"Gobbledygook," said the book.
"Spells trouble," said the bubble.
"You rock," said the polka-dot sock.

Plus, for those who know the original book, you will notice I added some new rooms and new rhymes. I hope readers get out their color pencils and crayons and have fun with this one.

Here is the link to Dover where you can find it, as well as my Color and Cook series of coloring books with favorite recipes!

Friday, November 01, 2013

COLORS FOR ZENA (and more) giveaway!

O-MAZING giveaway and review of some of my books HERE And I love the yoga suggestions that go along with this all!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Starting with children:

Children are the best reviewers!
 COLORS FOR ZENA was reviewed at: CityBookReview
"I love this book. I want to read it again and again and again." Coming from a 2 year old, this means so much to me! Thank you for 5 stars!

And mom reviewers are great too! Read here at MomColoredGlasses

I'm hoping to meet lots of families at the Princeton Children's Book Festival this Saturday, September 21st. I will be there along with something like 80 other authors and illustrators!!!


Wednesday, August 07, 2013

A Brooklyn Day of Books and Art

After reading my new book COLORS FOR ZENA at Book Court here we are mixing colors with my paints, brushes and paper I brought along. It was fun and not too messy at all!









































Then later I had the great pleasure of going to an exhibition of illustrations by Ruth Chan, Sandra Javera and Violet Paek, all former students in my SVA Class.
I would say rush to go see their show but it was a one day event only. So instead, take a look at the websites of these talented artists:
Ruth Chan 
Violet Paek
Sandra Javera

And I was thrilled to see Tori Corn, also from class: Congratulations on the recent publication of her first book, What Will It Be, Penelope!



Tuesday, July 23, 2013

COLOR for ZENA updates




Book event at Book Court in Brooklyn on Saturday August 3 at 11am!

Reading, signing, and painting with COLOR!

 
Nice review from Booklist for Colors for Zena:

"An energetic introduction to primary colors—red, blue, and yellow—and what happens when they are mixed. Minimal line drawing places the emphasis on color, which is boldly shown on every page once Zena, accompanied by her puppy, races off a subdued page of black and white and shades of gray to find out where the colors have gone. Encountering yellow in a school bus, taxi, sun, and building design, she next sees red and combines them into orange. A blue experience of water and sky combines with yellow to create green. These combinations continue until the secondary colors are created, reflected both in the landscapes and friendly animals whose faces appear on pages of the book in surprising ways. Zena’s initial bland bedroom is replaced at the conclusion with an abundance of colors and animal friends everywhere. Added to this charming introduction are endnotes that explain the color wheel and provide suggestions for activities related to color."

And a blog interview at Robin Newman Books

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The Next Big Thing (Blog Tour) continues:

 with several illustrators who I all know from my SVA Class:

Selina Alko  discusses her next book, A Case for Loving; The Fight for Interracial Marriage. She is working on it together with her husband, Sean Qualls. It will be a beautiful collaboration - I love this sample picture!



Mike Herrod  has a new book, Hiccup! Congratulations - this looks like a lot of fun!


And here is a link to Melissa Iwai  who previously did the blog tour about Truck Stop



and Susanna Pitzer and Rebecca Solow did the blog tour about their new projects.
Such talented people from SVA!

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

My Next Big Thing: COLORS FOR ZENA

The Next Big Thing is a global blog tour, started in Australia, to showcase authors and illustrators and their current work. I was tagged by the talented Rebecca Solow (I teach at SVA and she was in my class a little while ago). It is great to see what she has been up to here. I'll answer some questions about my newest book, then pass the Q & A along to several others (who were all in my SVA class at one time or another!) They will continue the tour on their blogs - so stay tuned!


What is the working title of your next book?
Who is publishing your book?

Colors for Zena” is my newest book, out this July. My publisher is Dial, a division of Penguin. (My previous publisher, Dutton and Dial combined into one and now Penguin and Random House have combined into one - Lots of changes!)

In what genre does your book fall?

Zena is a picturebook for young children (age 2-6)

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Zena's black and white world becomes more and more colorful as she discovers how colors work.
And the longer summary: A little girl named Zena has a big imagination. She has an adventure with her dog and her toy animals to discover the three primary colors and how they mix together to make all the colors in the world. She first seems to see the world through a yellow lens. Next she turns the corner and sees her world through a red lens. This monochrome world looks strange and she wants more colors. Her toy lion shows her how red and yellow mix together to make orange. And so the discovery of colors continues with the green frog and the purple monster. And at the end there is a way Zena brings all the colors together in her own creative way!
Where did the idea come from for the book?
Who or what inspired you to write this book?

When my daughter was little we played color games. Walking down the street, we would pick out everything that we saw that was red, and then blue, and so on. When we were in London one summer she loved spotting the red double decker buses for example. (Actually she made up her own word for red - “decker decker”. Back in New York she continued to say “decker decker” instead of red and it even caught on with her friends at preschool! I remember a mother was confused as to why her daughter was no longer identifying red correctly and was saying “decker decker”. I can explain, I said!) It was fun to focus in on different colors and to notice how there were so many shades of each one. Was that blue or was that purple, we would ask? At home we always had many different art materials and my daughter loved mixing and discovering for herself how colors worked.

What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition? 

I love dance so much that my dream would be for my book to be acted out by dancers! And since my daughter inspired the book and is a ballet dancer, who better than her and her friends at New York City Ballet! I would love to see what movements they would come up with for Zena and the various creatures in the book.


How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

I usually start a book visually, with ideas of pictures I want to paint. I start making sketches and then try to write a first draft. Both the pictures and words go through many revisions, and I am often still working on the words after I finish the pictures. From start to finish, from first idea to sketches, revisions, and final art and manuscript, Zena took about 1 ½ years.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre? 

The Color Kittens by Margaret Wise Brown, illustrated by two of my favorite illustrators: Alice and Martin Provensen

What else about the book might pique the reader's interest? 

At the end of the book, on the last page there is a color wheel and suggestions of some fun things to do with color. I hope readers will be inspired to be creative and paint colorful pictures themselves!

I'd like to end with the first question again!
What is the working title of your next book?
The book that I'm currently working on is about a little girl collecting leaves in the fall. I've been working on the sketches for awhile but I don't have a title yet - sometimes that is the last thing!

A BIG Congratulations to Mike Herrod on his new book Hiccup! He continues the blog tour here.

Selina Alko  discusses here her next book, A Case for Loving; The Fight for Interracial Marriage. 

I was just getting ready to ask Susanna Pitzer - who was once in SVA class and author of Not Afraid of Dogs - to do the interview when I saw she did the blog tour in April: here is her interview. She came to my SVA class as a guest speaker last term and here are her wise words!

Sunday, June 30, 2013

CREPES BY SUZETTE progress report!


I'm getting my photos ready for my Crepes by Suzette APP project.
I'm missing Paris!

Monday, April 08, 2013

NYCB in Copenhagen


My daughter is dancing in Copenhagen and took this picture.
Wishing I was there!