Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Illustration Friday: Wings

The topic this week for Illustration Friday (IF) is WINGS. 

I'd taken an IF break to work on a new project, but all is going swimmingly with that, so I thought I'd jump back into the IF pool.  Besides, the great thing about IF is that you never really know where your mind will take you when you're following a prompt.

For example, I had no idea I would make a Tooth Fairy when I first thought of wings.  But ideas develop in funny ways.

Happy Wednesday everyone!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

I'm a TWIT

Well, I finally did it.  I joined Twitter. 

I did it because I am reading a book on marketing picture books (How to Promote Your Children's Book: Tips, Tricks, and Secrets to Create a Bestseller) and the author (Katie Davis) INSISTED that I do it.

The fact is, social media is here to stay. 

Another fact is this, publishers only push so many books.  They do not spread their ad dollars out evenly.  They pick a horse. 

I'm not complaining - thems the breaks.  But if I want my book to do well, I have to be pro-active.

Therefore, I tweet.

If you're on Twitter and want to follow me, I'm @JCPhillipps.

And no, I don't really know what I'm doing yet, but I did tweet my first photo today!  Yay!

Monday, January 28, 2013

Picture Book Workshop #1

Hi.  Welcome to Picture Book Workshop where I'll be giving tips on writing/illsutrating/publishing picture books.


Well, from time to time someone asks me how they can get started.  Or, more often, someone knows someone who knows my mother/step-mother/friend who wants to get in touch with me about their picture book that they have just written.

I find that I give the same advice over and over again.  So why not just put it right here in my good ol' blog!

Before I get started, I want to make sure that everyone who reads this understands that I only have the information that I have.  I'm not claiming to be a picture book genius with 30 years of publishing experience under my belt.  No siree.  I have two picture books out (the Wink the Ninja books.)  One picture book (Monkey Ono) is coming out in March.  And (and now is the big announcement) I am currently working on a 4th that will be out Spring 2014.

I have worked with editors and designers and I have a great agent, Scott Treimel, who whips me into shape.

I have about 10 years experience - give or take - on how I produce a picture book.  So that's what I'm offering.

See below:

If you are in the Yellow Group, you know more than I do about the craft and business of creating picture books.  You are probably too busy to be on this webpage. 

If you are in the Blue Group, you know less.  Maybe you're toying with the idea of writing a picture book.  Maybe you've written one and you don't know what to do next.  Or maybe you already have a book published and you're just looking to see what's out there and garner tips.  Welcome Blue Groupers!  These Picture Book Workshop posts are for you.

Enough chatter!  Let's do this thing!


I would advise everyone who has either written a picture book story or is toying with the idea of writing a picture book story to read a full book (cover - to - cover) on the craft and business of picture books.  You need to know what you are getting into and there is a lot to know.  And you need to know what some of the big newbie mistakes are, b/c you've probably already thought of a few.  If you proceed to send your manuscript off to a publisher without knowing what you're doing, you're just wasting everyone's time, including your own.

For example, did you know that you absolutely should NOT try to hire someone to do illustrations for your manuscript before you send it to a publisher?  HUGE no-no.   If you write, you're only job is to write a really great picture book.  If a publisher wants to buy it, they'll assign an illustrator to do it.  They know a lot of illustrators.  And they pay them.  Illustrators like to be paid.

Here are some books to check out:

This is one of the books on my shelf.  It's a little out of date now, but 90% of the information holds.

Writing Children's Books for Dummies by Lisa Rojanny Buccieri
This is the most recent one I could fine.  Full disclosure: I have not read it.  But I like the Dummie series for breaking down information in a way that is clear and manageable. 

2013 Children's Writer's & Illustrator's Market by Chuck Sambuchino
This is a MUST HAVE if you are starting to submit your work.  MUST HAVE.  It lists the publishers, what they are looking for, how to submit, etc.  It is a reference book.  It also has helpful articles and tips and such.

Otherwise, go to Amazon or Barnes and Noble or your local book seller and look around.  There is a lot of information out there.  Get some.  There really aren't any short cuts.  You need to do the work yourself.

Okay good. 

Now I will plug my book that is coming out in March.   

HEY - do you have small kids who have a lot of energy, love the beach and stuffed monkeys?  Then check out MONKEY ONO by me.  Available for pre-order from many fine on-line bookstores!

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Magoo's First Swim Meet

Magoo is involved with a Saturday afternoon swim group called Swim & Fitness.  It's not really a team.  It's team-lite.  They work on strokes and races and flip-turns and all that jazz, but it's not nearly as intense as the local swim team, The Waves.  (That's two hour-long practices a week plus a weekly meet.)

But Swim & Fitness likes to give their kids a taste of what a swim meet is like so we had a friendly competition against The Waves last night.

This was the warm-up in the pool.

Here's Magoo getting ready for the breast stroke - which he CRUSHED!

Mike and I both made it very clear that our only hope was for Magoo to try something new, do his best, and have fun.  And he certainly did not win every race he was in - but he did win the breast stroke.  Winning isn't the point, but ... yanno, it feels mighty good.

Here's a shot of some Wave swimmers gathering by the side of the pool.  I love all their colorful swim caps.

At the end of the evening, Magoo was pretty tired so we headed straight home.  It was good to see a bright smile on his face and pride in his performance.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Monday, January 21, 2013

Winter Wonderland

This weekend we were lucky enough to be invited up to Woodstock, Vermont for some winter fun.
It started with sledding.  There's a lovely sledding hill behind Charlie & Larry's condo.  I guess very little sledding goes on there regularly, but another family with kids was visiting, and they packed the snow down good!  Vroom!

Saturday and Sunday were both lovely sunny days.  I guess the good folks at Suicide Six (the ski mountain) would have liked it colder to help solidify the snow base, but if you're skiing and it's sunny and warm, well, that's just lovely.

We opted out of ski lessons for Magoo.  He said he thought he remembered the basics from his lessons last year.  We took a few runs on the training hill to make sure, and yeppers - he seemed good to good.

As a mother and as a person who's broken her leg skiing (when I was 10 - Magoo's age) I admit to being nervous watching him ski.  He's good, but he doesn't have complete control.  Most of the time I lead the way down the path, turning my head and shouting, "Control your speed!"  "Make zig zags!"

 By the end of the second day, he said he wanted to do Bunny Boulevard, which is a blue square path.  My immediate response was "No way!"  But then I stopped myself, because he should be allowed to try things.  Or - at the very least - Mama shouldn't let her anxiety stop him from trying things he's prepared for.  So I didn't.  And we made it down. 

No broken bones = good ski trip.

On a side note, there's a store called Unicorn in Woodstock, so you know I had to snap a pic of this:

Thanks to Charlie and Larry for your gracious hospitality!

Hope you all had a great weekend!

Friday, January 18, 2013

Magoo Concert Series: Skip To My Loo

This is a little video of Magoo and his clarinet teacher, Linda, playing Skip To My Loo.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Simple Pleasures

I'm working on a new project and it requires a small bologna sandwich in a ziploc bag.  Isn't it cute?

One of the perks of my job is in the details.  How does one make a tiny ziploc bag?  I looked at a few plastics in my house but none of them were quite right.  Then I pulled out some packing tape.  Perfecto! 

And the tape holds everything in place nicely.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Fun Time with Hipstamatic

Sorry I haven't been blogging much.  I've been busy doing things that aren't particularly blog-worthy.  Like, sure, I could tell you about shopping for paper at Michaels or that guys came to work on the basement on Friday - but that's all rather boring for a blog post IMO. 

Thursday - however - I did do something kinda fun.  I treated myself to an iPod!  I'd been a good little saving monkey and had a bit of cashola.  Santa got us a Kindle for Christmas, but the downside is you have to have an internet connection to watch shows on it, so if we're in the car - no streaming Netflix.  I wanted to have a device that had shows stored in it.  Then I thought iPod!

But here's the thing: it has a camera!

Some of you are probably saying 'Duh!' but I'm so late on the technology train that I didn't realize this.  In fact, it's basically a small computer.  I can send an email, check things online, watch my shows, listen to my music, and TAKE PICTURES!  And now I can FINALLY take fun pics with the Hipstamatic app!

Here are a few:

Java and Me                   2013

Swanky Julie                    2013

Funtime Christensens               2013
Boy Pyramid                 2013
It's a fu little app and I can change the lenses and film with a swipe of my finger.  The only downside is that it's rather cumbersome to get the photos from my iPod to iPhoto.  It doesn't seem like it should be and I don't know why it is, but I researched online for quite awhile before I read some other mom's post and she emails them to herself and them opens them up on the computer.  (This is also boring but perhaps informative.  So if anyone else in the world is having problems with getting Hipstamatic photos from the iPod to iPhoto on a Mac, here's what I do: 1. Find the pic you like on your iPod and email it to yourself.  2.  Go to your computer and open that email.  Save the image to your desktop.  3.  Open iPhoto.  Drag the image from the desktop into iPhoto.)  It's FAR too many steps and I can only do one photo at a time, but at least it works.

In other news:

The snow has melted.  It is raining.  And Magoo's new sled should arrive today.  Hopefully we'll get more snow soon.

Anyone watching Downton Abbey?  Poor Lady Edith.  But honestly I saw it coming.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Building a Presentation

I already have a few author visits booked for Monkey Ono in the Spring, so it's time to build another presentation.

When Wink, the Ninja Who Wanted to Be Noticed came out, it was easy enough.  I just told the story of how I made the book from idea-to-publication.  Also, because it was my first book, I had a ton of rough drafts and unused art lying around to illustrate the progression of story and art.

Since I do repeat visits to many schools, I don't want repeat presentations.  For Wink the Ninja Who Wanted to Nap, my presentation centered on what it was like to work as an author/illustrator,  a "Day in my Life" kind of thing.

For Monkey Ono, I'm working on a presentation about building stories.  That's my main project this fine Monday.

Monkey Ono is a book for a younger set, so, in order to make a presentation appealing to all elementary school kids, I have to make the presentation bigger than the story.  By the time the kids are getting into 3rd grade, they do a lot of writing.  So I'm making writing the focus.  I'm going to break down my process of simple plotting:

        Character wants something.
        Character runs into obstacles.
        Character makes choices to conquer obstacles.
        Character achieves goal.

I'm going to show how this process works in a couple classic stories.  And I'll even show it in an early story of Magoo's, NO GAS, so they can see how a student can use it.

Then I'll read Monkey Ono and they can take what they've just learned to define what Monkey Ono's goals and obstacles are.

Then it's quiz time, because THE KEY to author visits, I think, is including the students as much as possible.  If you just talk at them, they'll zone out.  You have to entertain and include.  That's why I always bring fireworks. 

KIDDING!  No fireworks! 
Well, at least not this time.  ;)

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

I'm a Good Little Monkey in 2013 ...

... because I've started making a MONKEY ONO marketing plan.

I have this lovely big, thick book that scares the beejezus out of me called, The Frugal Book Promoter by Carolyn Howard-Johnson.

Writers, in most cases, are cave people.  We enjoy being alone with a keyboard and doing our thing.  If we did not, we would not be writers.  So the idea of having to contact people on the outside and promote ourselves is often an unpleasant thought.

But it is a necessary evil because your book sales help a publisher determine if they want to publish you.  And to get book sales, one must not only write a good book, but also make sure people know about it.  It also helps for a publisher to know that a writer is willing to do some of the marketing themselves.  It's all about the budgets, people.

I have a few ideas so far:

One: Have a blog.  Mission accomplished.

Two: Put a link to Monkey Ono on my blog.  Check.

Three: When writing about book promotion, make sure I sneak my new book into the photograph. (See above.)

Four: Start compiling a list of contacts.  That's what I was doing this morning.  So far I have two press contacts, 2 library contacts, 1 bookstore contact, and 1 museum contact.  These are all people I have either met or worked with.  I need to get the contacts for all my school publications and local papers and anything else I can think of.  I guess you can purchase contact lists.  I'll look into that.

Five: Classroom activities.  This is my brilliant idea that I am very proud of.  I sell my clip art on a site called Teachers Pay Teachers, and I have spent some of the break working on worksheets that correspond with the Common Core Standards that will be offered as free downloads to teachers.  The hope being that if I provide meaningful lessons that are fun and educational for the kiddos, then the teachers or school libraries might buy the book.  I think it's a really good idea, but it is untested.

Six: Media Kit.  Haven't started yet.

Seven: Update my webpage.  Need to do it.

It's a start.  My goal is to do a little bit 2 or 3 days a week.  Building, building, stone by stone.  Then, hopefully, I will learn a few things, organize a few things, and be more productive in getting Monkey Ono out to the world.