Thursday, August 20, 2015

My Children's Book Academy Experience

The beginning of August I enrolled in an exciting children's picture book course offered by Dr. Mira Reisberg. Her Children's Book Academy course gave me the opportunity to study children's books and perfect my writing skills. Is this course worth the time and expense? Yes, I think so. Dr. Reisberg and her team of professionals put together a course rich in content consisting of webinars, critique groups and reference materials.

When I made my payment for $437.00 I received an email with a password and links to the course content. I paid an extra $100. for a personal critique for my script. I thought this was well worth the price for an evaluation from a professional editor. I was able to select either Dr. Reisberg or Kelly Delaney (Random House editor) for a critique.

Accessing the website class material was available during the week each day for five weeks. Mira is such a generous and giving person that the course material is available up to six months for review. This was another factor I considered when enrolling in this course. Of course, not everyone has this kind of money to spend and I can understand that. Mira, Kelly and many well known author/illustrators do a fabulous job in explaining various aspects of children's picture book writing. I especially enjoyed listening to "Just A Minute" by Yuyi Morales and "What If" by Jim Averbeck. Course content discussions included, what is narration, point of view, theme, plot, character development, pacing, setting and so much more as to what makes a picture book. Various levels of professionals are invited to increase their children's writing development. My writing for children is improving and I feel more confident in having the writing tools offered from Mira's course. I found it helpful before taking this course that I was familiar with the internet, have some social media skills and a general idea for my script. The class material can be overwhelming and I am sure some students became stressed out. Remember, you have six months to review this material at your own pace.

Mira's class content is organized for easy understanding, is logical and inspiring. I found Mira's assistants Jen and Mindy helpful in answering questions that were asked. Critique  groups were valuable in offering comments about my script in progress. Homework assignments were available for most lectures so I was able to identify, understand and reinforce picture book concepts. I was encouraged to explore libraries and bookstores and become familiar with many children's books at my local bookstores. Lecture material made me aware of different categories of children's picture books such as board books, novelty books, young adult books, concept books, fiction, non-fiction and more. Mira presents material that is clear, inspirational and well thought out. Live webinars are integral in this course. After finishing my assignment, I turned it in for evaluation on the linked website. Instructors offered comments and suggestions for improving my writing skills. I listened to their comments and evaluations. I was encouraged to go at my own pace and get what I thought was beneficial.

Well, this is just some of what I experienced with Mira's exciting, motivational and creative course at Children's Book Academy. This was an amazing experience that I will always remember. I encourage you to go to the Children's Book Academy website if you are serious about your children's writing skills. One caveat, this may be the last time she offers this course so check out her website and see if it's available. The website is Think of the cost as an investment in your career. You will not regret it. Dr. Mira Reisberg is a generous, energetic and warm person. She made me feel part of the creativeness that exist's all around us.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Time to Draw a Monster

Drawing rocketships, robots and monsters is a lot of fun but creating monsters is what I really enjoy. I suppose it has to do with the subtle shapes required for drawing a monster rather than a robot or a rocketship. Robots and rocketships are mechanical and pretty much require solid defined lines.
When creating monsters I start out with a simple shape and think in 3-D. As I draw, the lines become more subtle and I start to bring out the characteristics of arms, legs, and the head if the monster has these features. What makes my monster different from a robot or rocketship is the overall shape. Monsters may have claws, horns and even a tail but this is my choice. Robots and rocketships have solid lines and are mechanical. Coloring adds to the final appeal for my monster. Until next time have a monster of a day. Sorry I had to say that.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Latest PostCard Illustration 2015

Created a new illustration for my postcards that I am mailing out to potential clients. I had a lot of fun creating this image with Manga Studio 5. I enjoy the natural feel of the brushes and how easy it is to blend colors. This is a departure from using Photoshop because my brush work is becoming looser and natural.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Attending NESCBWI Conference 2015

These are my thoughts about this years NESCBWI 2015 Conference held in Springfield, MA. There were many friends, colleagues and organizers who made this years conference a success.  When you attend a SCBWI conference there is barely enough time to catch  your breath. The conference organizers wanted to make sure you were busy and receive your moneys worth.

I started my workshops as early as 7:30 am and some probably didn't end until around 6pm. I selected workshops that would improve my picture book career. One of my favorite workshops was "Where Picture Book Illustration Is Today" organized by Laurent Linn. Mr. Linn emphasized that kids are important and storytelling requires using your emotions. Illustrating for children is important and we shouldn't take our responsibility lightly. Children are important and impressionable and require our best work.
I also enjoyed another workshop that used the theme for this year's illustration challenge, "Don't Worry-I Fixed It." Three art directors Matha Rago, Jim Hoover, and Laurent Linn gave a critique of illustrators who submitted their finished illustrations. The critique showed why some samples satisfied the theme or did not. I found the art directors comments inspired me for my next promotion card.

Emma Ledbetter had a workshop titled,"Lights, Camera, Picture Book!". It was fascinating to hear Ms Ledbetter's views about structuring a picture book. She introduced the idea of music flowing for picture books until it ends with a surprise.This flow should contain a beginning, middle and end. She used several movie stills from Pixar's movie,"Monsters Inc." to illustrate whether the picture book moves along or not.

I heard many speakers at this year's conference but found Dan Santat, Caldecott winner for this year's picture book, really amazing. I thought Mr Santat to be organized, and motivated creatives to be serious about their craft. He discussed his life growing up and how it influenced where he was today. Mr. Santat really knows how to tell a story and keeps you listening to the very end.

A couple of events that I didn't take part in and would encourage you to consider are the Illustrator's Challenge, Peer Critiques and The Portfolio Showcase. I didn't attend the Illustration Challenge because of commitments to client projects. I missed my peer critique because of an illustration meeting. Peer critiques are important because you receive comments about your work from another set of eyes. You need criticism in order to grow. Placing your portfolio in the Portfolio Showcase goes without saying. You never know who might see your work and want to contact you. I really enjoyed placing my book anywhere on available tables. I attended this past New York conference and they took my book and place it in a location I didn't feel was advantageous. Don't count on going to a SCBWI conference expecting to pickup a project. It does happen but not likely. Enjoy yourself and have fun.

Once the day activities, workshops and speeches are over it's time to wine and dine with your fellow colleagues. This can be a lot of fun and a great way to discuss the children's publishing industry and pickup inside information.

The bookstore is fabulous and you can purchase books from your favorite speakers at the conference. This is how I purchased Dan Santat's book "Beekle". I also picked up Marvin Terban's "checking Your Grammar" since I am in the process of writing my own picture book. This book will help me brush up on my sentence structure.

I found the NESCBWI conference not as expensive as traveling to the New York or Los Angeles SCBWI Conference. Save up your money and make an effort to attend the  NESCBWI conference. You won't regret it. I had a great time and was inspired returning to Boston. I look forward to my next NESCBWI conference.