Thursday, October 23, 2014

It's Time to Start Taking Myself Seriously!

I decided to pursue my dream of becoming a children’s book author/illustrator approximately two years ago as a recent college graduate staying at home with my one-year old son. I was researching how I might go about publishing a little “cat in a flowerpot” story I wrote. The more I researched the more my ambitions caught fire. I joined SCBWI, was counseled for a brief time by author and illustrator Vuthy Kuon, and did a great deal submitting, writing, and illustrating.

It can be a challenge to find time for these things when you are a stay at home mom. My studio became wherever my son happened to be: on the toilet seat next to the bathtub, on a park bench, and on the living room floor amidst legos and dinosaurs. For a time I managed my mom’s business, Attic Light Studios, where I would work on my illustrations while transferring VHS’s, 8 mm reels, and audio cassette tapes to digital files and DVD’s. It really didn’t matter where I was, if I had an idea my life would suddenly go on hold until it was complete.

I learned that making it as a children’s book author/illustrator isn’t something that just happens overnight. I put the “Cat in the Flowerpot” story on the back burner and started writing newer and better stories. The children’s section in the library has become my second home. Sam and I visit there at least 3 times a week and that is not just so he can play with the library toys. I’ve poured over hundreds and hundreds of picture books. They are my research. I come home from each library visit with an armful of them. Sometimes the pile is so big I barely make it to the car without dropping them. Perhaps I should invest in a wagon.

In addition to my picture book research I have also been extremely busy with illustrating for other people. In fact I just finished illustrating a cute little picture book about a llama named Lucy for my Aunt. In the past year I have been commissioned for multiple projects including a Human’s vs. Zombies poster, a book cover for my friend Victoria’s YA novella Re'and, multiple caricatures, and my Aunt’s 32 page picture book. Guess how much I’ve earned?! Not even enough to pay one month’s rent for our apartment. Ha! It’s a good thing I love what I do.

As much as I love making other people happy with my artwork I think it’s now time for me to start thinking about myself. Now that I feel confident in my abilities it’s time to start charging more and accepting less job offers. I need to focus on becoming professional. I need to make my own projects come to life. I do not regret the work I have done for others. Each has been a terrific learning experience and helped me develop confidence in myself. I have grown an unbelievable amount as an illustrator in this past year. However, now it’s time for me to start taking myself seriously, and recognize my own worth. My time is valuable and I need to spend it wisely. I’ve learned this the hard way.

Thank you everyone who has supported me in my struggles as new artist. Even though it can be scary, frustrating, and financially straining, it is an absolute joy for me to walk down a career path I love.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Picture Book Picks of the Week

My Pick

Title:  Wag!
Author and Illustrator:  Patrick McDonnell
Review:You have all read the comic strip "Mutts" in the Sunday paper right?  Well the creator of those comics also wrote this incredibly adorable book. If you are a dog lover than this book is definitely a must read.

                       Sam's Pick

Title:  How do Dinosaurs Eat Their Food?
Author:  Jane Yolen
Illustrator:  Mark Teague
Review:  This is the second book illustrated by Mark Teague to make it into our batch of favorites. The guy really is a master at what he does.  Anyway Samuel completely adores this book as well as all of the "How do Dinosaurs..." books.  I think I am seeing a trend here with his favorites.  Most of them tend to involve dinosaurs!  

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Best Halloween Movie List

6 weeks before Halloween I posted a Facebook status declaring I would watch at least one new Halloween/horror film every week before Halloween. I received a wonderful variety of recommendations and tried to watch as many of them as I could. I’ve already surpassed my goal having watched 10 movies with 13 days left before Halloween, although after watching “The Orphanage” (which I now consider the most terrifying movie on the face of the earth) I had to stop watching the straight up horror films and stick more to the family friendly genre.

Anyway I have compiled a list of what I consider all the best Halloween movies (not just the ones I’ve seen in the past month.) I have highlighted my top two favorites in each genre. I hope this lists helps you all as you decide what to watch for Halloween this year. Enjoy!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Halloween for Kids

I have done a lot of research on this topic lately and read about 30-40 of what I consider to be Halloween picture books.  It was tough, but I narrowed them down to my top 10 favorites.

1.  Big Pumpkin - Written by Erica Silverman and illustrated by S. D. Schindler.

I am a bit nostalgic about this book since it's one of my dad's all time favorites and he read it to me many many times as a kid. Now I'm carrying on the tradition and reading it to my own son. The rhythm of this book is delightful and it's fun to read all the character's voices in different accents.  It is a most enjoyable book to read aloud.

2.  The Monster's Monster - Written and illustrated by Patrick McDonnell

This author is the creator of the daily comic strip Mutts.  His comics are adorable, but not quite as adorable as this book!  I guarantee that you will not find a sweeter Halloween picture book than this one or at the very least you won't find a more adorable spin off Frankenstein.  

3.  The Hallo-Wiener - Written and illustrated by Dav Pilkey

This is a terrific Halloween book if you are looking for a laugh.  It's funny for the kids plus there are a few hidden jokes for the parents to enjoy as well.

4.  The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything - Written by Linda Williams and illustrated by Megan Lloyd

I remember reading this book back in elementary school.  It has just the right amount of scariness for little kids.  It's enough to make them feel slightly uneasy, but all turns out well in the end and it leaves you with an overall good feeling. 

5.  Ghost in the House - Written by Ammi Joan Paquette and illustrated by Adam Record

Not only is this an adorable Halloween book, it's also a great counting book!  It begins with 1 ghost exploring a house and as he stumbles upon new friends the numbers in the group increase.  The characters are lovable and the rhythm and rhyming in this book is terrific.  

6.  The Ghost of Nicholas Greebe - Written by Tony Johnston and Illustrated by S. D. Schindler

 My 3 year old son is still a bit too young for this book, but I would highly recommend it to kids 5 and up.  The plot is excellent, the illustrations are awesome, and it is the perfect ghost story for kids!

7.  I'm Going to Eat You!  - Written by Matt Mitter and illustrated by Jimmy Pickering

This is definitely one of my son's favorites.  It's a  delightful pop up book full of fun Halloween monsters and an interesting twist at the end. This is one of those books Samuel asks me to read again and again and again.

8.  Vampirina Ballerina - Written by Annie Marie Pace and illustrated by LeUyen Pham

I was so excited when I stumbled across this book at the library because LeUyen Pham is one of my all time favorite illustrators and I was delighted to see she had done a Halloween book! The story is sweet and the illustrations are lovely.  

9.  Go Away Big Green Monster! - By Ed Emberley

I was first introduced to this book when a librarian read it to my son and I and a room full of toddlers during "Baby Time."  The book fascinated Samuel and when the librarian had finished he insisted on reading it again himself.  It is a delightful book and I think it's great in teaching kids confidence to face their fears.

10.  Room on the Broom - Written by Julia Donaldson and illustrated by Alex Scheffler

I have saved the best book for last.  This one is my son's favorite as well as mine.  We were introduced to it when we watched short film version of it.  I liked it so much that my husband got me the book for my birthday.  Samuel often likes to play act this entire book.  He has the lines memorized and everything.  

Thanks letting me share my favorite Halloween book list with you.  Please feel free to share your favorites as well.  I'm always looking for new books to read.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

My Kid Watches TV and That's Okay!

A few years ago when I took my son in for his 24 month check up and was sitting in the pediatricians office I read a poster that said children under the age of 2 should not be allowed to watch more than half an hour of television a day.

Well shit. My son had been watching a movie a day (sometimes even two on really bad days when he woke up at 4 in the morning and wouldn’t go back to sleep.) Did this make me a bad parent? I felt incredibly guilty. I depended on the time Sam watched movies to complete an illustration, or work on a piece I’d been writing, or maybe even wash the gigantic pile of dishes collecting in the sink. I went home and asked my dad (who happens to have his doctorate in child and family studies) what he thought. He said a movie a day was not going to hurt anything and told me not to worry. But I did worry. I still let him watch movies, but that stupid poster kept nagging at me and I felt as though I was doing something wrong.

Talking to other parents didn’t help. Some moms would admit they occasionally let their kids watch TV, but then add defensively “They are all educational shows like Sesame Street and Magic School Bus.” Other parents didn’t let their kids watch any TV at all. I continued to feel guilty even though Sam averaged out only 1½ to 2 hours of TV a day. I often found myself taking an apologetic or defensive tone when I explained this to other people saying things like, “I know I shouldn’t let him watch so much TV” and “Movie time is the only time I can work on what I need to get done.”

I have to admit that one of the reasons I let Sam watch movies and TV is that I want him to become a movie buff like me. I hope to spend many future evenings watching Star Wars, It’s a Wonderful Life, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, and Much Ado About Nothing with my son on the couch. This is the future I want. I know there are plenty of people out there who don’t care for movies and that’s okay. I just don’t want to be judged for choosing to raise my son in this movie connoisseur lifestyle I have chosen.

My dad was right to tell me not to worry. My son is 3½ now and I couldn’t be more pleased with the way he is turning out. He is a smart, healthy, kind-hearted little boy with a wildly active imagination. I’ve decided to stop caring so much about what other people think of my parenting style. There are so many recommendations and rules that parents are supposed to follow in raising their kids, and it’s impossible to meet them all. Every family is different. Every child is different. Yes, I let my child watch movies. I let him watch TV shows on Netflix. Occasionally I even let him watch over 3 hours worth and that’s okay! Parenting should not be judged on whether or not we follow all the Pediatric rules and guidelines. The kids themselves are the best reflection of good or bad parenting. In the end it doesn’t matter how many vegetables your kids eat or how much TV they watch. It’s the time you spend with them, and the example you set that counts.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Picture Book Picks of the Week

My Pick

Author and Illustrator:  Ezra Jack Keats
Title:  Peter's Chair
Review:  I found this on one of the shelves in the library and a wave of nostalgia washed over me.  I remember reading this book as a little girl and it truly captured my imagination.  In this book the little boy decides t run away and he gathers what he considered his prized possessions.  It got me thinking about what I would take with me if I decided to run away.  Anyway it was fun to read this book again as an adult.  I was pleased to find that I liked it just as much as I did when I was a kid.  

Sam's Pick

Author and Illustrator:  Molly Idle
Title:  Tea Rex
Review:  I think this book must have been written for Sam.  He loves tea parties and he loves dinosaurs so it couldn't have been more perfect.  The illustrations are so pleasant to look at.  It was done entirely with prisma colored pencils and now I am inspired to take up colored pencils again.  It's so refreshing to see this style when so many books these days are illustrated digitally via photoshop.    

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Don't Go to the Light!

I was challenged by my friend Catherine to write a piece of horror flash fiction centered around an insect.  I gladly took on the challenge.  As I was writing this I realized I may need to try writing outside of the picture book genre more often because even my horror stories come out sounding like a picture book. Enjoy!

Don't Go to the Light!

Four lunar moths: Lucinda, Laramie, Latisha, and Lou flitted together through the woods at night.

They came upon a clearing where the full moon glowed brilliantly in the sky. “Look at that!” Cried Lucinda, and she took off toward the beautiful orb of light.

CHOMP! The three other moths looked on in horror as a giant bat came out of no where and put an end to Lucinda’s flight to the moon. He smirked as a piece of her dainty wing jutted lifelessly from the corner of his mouth and then disappeared into the night.

Laramie, Latisha, and Lou pressed on, resisting with all their might the pull of the sinister moon. They passed children catching fireflies, and Laramie paused to admire the jar of multiple blinking lights.

“No Laramie!” Cried Lou. “Don’t follow the lights!” But it was too late. Laramie had already started flying to the jar.

“AH HA!” yelled a child as he cupped Laramie in his hands. “A fine specimen for our collection.” And he placed Laramie in the jar of prisoners. He beat frantically against the glass pleading for help, but Latisha and Lou were powerless so they left him there.

They came to a small farmhouse where a great light beckoned to them on the front porch. Lou averted his gaze, but Latisha could not look away.

“Latisha no!” cried Lou, but she was already gravitating toward doom.

ZAP! An electric shock pelted through her small, unsuspecting body and she fell to the ground. 

“Latisha!” Lou dove down to his last and only friend, but she was gone. The sun began to rise.  Lou cursed the light found shelter in the darkest corner of an empty cardboard box to wait for it to pass. Darkness was his only friend now.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

It's Finally October!

I love October, and I love lists.  So you can expect a lot of Halloween/fall related lists from me this month.  Today I made a list of my favorite Halloween songs.  I'm always looking for new songs so if you have a favorite Halloween song that's not on the list let me know!