Monday, January 30, 2017

Little Felt Animals

"An unexamined life is not worth living." - Plato

"An unproductive life is not worth living."  - Me 

I like to make things ... even when I'm winding down, hanging with a friend, or watching TV.
Knitting was a good activity for awhile, because I could make scarves, hats, and cowls while chilling on the couch and chatting with a friend.  But I have a lot of hats and cowls now.  So my new thing is little felt animals.

 It's perfect.  Everything is hand stitched and it's portable.  I can take it to a swim meet or a work on one at friend's house. 

I started with the book Stitched Safari learning how to put the pieces together, but now I'm into making my own patterns.  The unicorn and the fox aren't in the book.

I'm sure I'll get to the point where I've had enough, but for now, I'm really enjoying my cute little friends.

These are just some of what I've made.  If you'd like to see more, you can follow me on Instagram @jcphillipps.

Thanks so much for stopping in.  I hope you are finding the cute things in your life too.

Friday, January 27, 2017

PBJ: Submissions & Rejections

My current story - let's call it Project: Dog - is currently in submissions.  That means my agent has made a list of editors and has sent the project to them.  It's been out a week and a half.  He sent the project to eight editors, four rejections are in.

Two rejections were in within two days!  (I like a good, quick rejection.  The longer the project is under consideration, the higher my hopes get.  So if a couple people write back immediately with, "Nope.  Not for me."  I think that's great.)

The tough rejections are the ones where the editor really likes the project.  Once an editor held onto two of my projects for months.  The editor really liked them but had some other things going on that the editor had to deal with first, but wanted to hang onto the projects exclusively.  Long story short, after holding them, and giving notes on them, and receiving revisions, it all came to nothing.  That was a crushing blow.  But that which does not kill you ...

Most of the time, when you get a rejection, there will be a small note.  The editor usually lists something they like: the art, the expressions, the humor.  And then they'll say why they're not picking it up: the art, story too slight, it didn't grab them.  It's never fun to get a rejection, but any feedback from a professional is helpful. 

I've started keeping two sets of files.  One file is for the editor.  I collect all the feedback I get from that editor and then I can get a sense of what he/she likes, or if they like me at all.  Obviously, if someone just doesn't get me, it makes no sense to submit to them in the future.

The other file is on the project: where it was sent, when, and the feedback.  So far, out of the four rejections I've received for Project: Dog, there hasn't been one main criticism.  If there is - and sometimes there is - then I can do revisions and correct it before the story goes out for Round 2 of submissions. 

So that's where I'm at.  Getting a load of rejections is always arduous, but it only takes one "Yes."

Thanks so much for stopping by!
Have a great weekend!

Monday, January 23, 2017

Women's March 2017

It was a thrilling Saturday.

Photo by Phyllis Meredith.  I'm the tall one.
I had signed up for the Hartford Women's March (which was really a rally at the capitol) a few weeks earlier, when the count as 1k.  I knew people going down to Washington, but I'm not a traveler. But I still wanted to support this very important cause.  So when I saw they were having a demonstration in Hartford, I jumped at it.  (BTW - I think there were more than five thousand people there.  Some counts have us at 10k strong.)

Then, on Saturday morning, I saw all the posts on Facebook about Women's Marches around the planet.  It was global!  I can't even tell you how touched I was.  For one thing, I felt the support of the world.  We were all standing together.  For another, it made me feel very good that the rest of the world knew what we were doing -- they knew that so many of us were not OK with this president or his administration.  They knew that not all Americans stood for erecting walls, or tearing away people's rights, or revoking health care.  They knew that were we rejecting hate, xenophobia, homophobia, and misogyny.

My friends Stefanie and Phyllis stood beside me.  Stefanie made the awesome cat signs.

The atmosphere was wonderful.  So much support.  So many smiles.  We may have come to roar, but we were all filled with enthusiasm and encouragement, it was more like a really loud purr.

To me, this march said very clearly, "We have a voice.  We can organize.  And we're watching you."

Here's some of the art I made for it:

I entered a poster contest.  I didn't win, but I had fun making the art.  I'll be making prints of it.

This is the sign I carried.  The motto is not my own.  I saw it online and loved it.  But as fas as I've seen, I'm the only one who added Cyndi Lauper's face in a pussy hat.  I'm all about the visuals.

After seeing the global marches, I made this design to put on the t-shirt I wore.  Fortunately, it was a glorious day and I could show it off a bit.  (Unfortunately, it was way too warm in January and our current administration doesn't seem to have a problem with that.)

It was a wonderful day and I'm proud to have been a part of it.

Hope you all had a wonderful weekend!
Thank you so much for stopping by.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Getting An Agent

One of my goals in 2017 is to use the Friday slot on the blog to write about making picture books.  I'll either just fill you in one what I'm up to or maybe I'll offer tips to aspiring writers.  Who knows!  Apart from the day, the place, and the broad topic, I've got nothing else planned.

My big news is that I'm starting off 2017 with a new agent.  Yay!  His name is Michael Bourret of Dystel, Goderich & Bourret Literary Management.   You can check him out here.  I'm thrilled that he's representing me and my work!

Sometimes people ask me, Do I need an agent to get published?  

The answer is no-ish, but it certainly helps.
Not all publishers require an agent to accept submissions.  You can send your work out to any publisher that allows unsolicited submissions, or, if you attended a writing conference, some editors will allow people who were in their workshops to submit directly to them.

But many editors do require an agent to submit manuscripts to them.  You see, the problem is LOTS of people have an idea for a picture book and very few of those people actually put the work in to learn how to write a picture book.  They think because it is short and children read it, that it must be easy to write and it doesn't have to be good.  But the truth is, writing a picture book is just like any other art or craft.  People - or rather artists - spend years learning their craft.  If a writer is able to acquire an agent, that means they are a step beyond the average person who just has an idea.  They actually wrote the idea down, crafted it, and found a professional who thinks it has potential.  This is HUGE!

So having an agent will absolutely help you find a publisher because a publisher is a lot more willing to look at a project that comes from an agent.

Having an agent also has the benefit of adding someone to your team.  An agent believes in you and your work and can give you feedback on it.  They're like a coach and a cheerleader all rolled into one. 

The next question I get is, How did you get your agent?

Well, I compiled a list of agents based on some recommendations that other writers had made for me, and I slowly started going through their online submission forms.  Then my friend, writer Anna-Lisa Cox, suggested her agent.  I thought she was nuts because Anna-Lisa is a historian who writes non-fiction about turn-of-the-century integrated communities. (Check out her wonderful book, A Stronger Kindship.)  I figured there was no way her agent would be interested in representing picture books.  But I said, "Sure," and as it turned out, he was looking to expand into children's literature.  Two phone conversations later, we decided to give it a go.

So, how did I get my agent?  Connections.

If you are a writer looking to get an agent (and  don't yet have connections) I would strongly recommend joining SCBWI - the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators.  They have great resources online.  Also, go to a conference.  They hold them all over the country.  It's so important to meet people and get face-to-face crits and attend the workshops - especially in the early days.  Also, have more than one project ready to show.  Editors pick up the project, not the author, but an agent will want to know what else you have.  They have to sell your work, so they have to love your work.  And it's a lot of work to acquire an agent, so before you dive in, have a few stories ready to roll.

Thanks so much for stopping in!
Good luck!

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Let's go 2017! Swim, swim, swim!

Hello!  Happy New Year! 

My blog resolution for 2017 is to post twice a week.  Monday (or sometimes Tuesday) I will post more about my personal life activities.  Friday, I will post something professional - mainly picture book related.  Although, potentially, it might be art related depending on what's going on.  Really - the art stuff could fall on either day.

OK.  Let's go.

Swimmers warm up in the pool.
 This past weekend, Magoo competed in a USA swimming competition.  This swim-a-thon was a separate event from his regular swim team, the Waves.  These kids were pretty hard core.  Coach Julie wanted to give her Waves swimmers another opportunity to step-up their game and challenge themselves. 

Cheering on his teammates

Magoo looks pretty hulking here next to the younger swimmers, but there were plenty of big swimmers there too.  When he stood next to those kids, he looked more like my cute little guy from years ago.

Magoo had his first event on Friday night, the 500.  He swam 20 laps. TWENTY!  He did great!  I would have barfed in the pool and drowned after thirteen.

Saturday he swam the 50 Free (which meant that he was at that pool from 7am-11am for a warm-up and a 30 second event.)  And Sunday he swam the 200 IM.  (Two laps butterfly, two laps back stroke, two laps breast stroke, and two laps free.)

Magoo's wingspan

This was a higher level of competition than he's used to and we're really proud of him for doing it.  One of the main things his father and I try to impress on him is that things are worth trying and doing, even if you don't get a ribbon, even if you don't succeed.  And with every thing he tries, he feels a little more confident and a little more proud of himself. 

High five from Coach Julie

Wishing you all a great week and a very Happy New Year!
Thanks so much for stopping in.