My Books

Friday, January 29, 2010

Powell's Books Q & A

Early in December, Powell's Books asked me to do an author Q & A for their website. I was super excited because I LOVE Powell's. Just in case you might not know (which I didn't until a few years ago), Powell's City of Books, in Portland Oregon, is the largest new and used bookstore in the world, and it's independently owned too. Let's just say this: in my one short visit to explore Portland, I went to the big, downtown Powell's bookstore (which takes up an entire city block) 3 times. Yep, it is THAT cool.

It was a fun Q & A because I actually got to pick from a big list of questions. Anyway, click here for the Q & A.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

today's the day!

My newest book, Sweet Dreams Lullaby, is here, officially out today! For anyone in the Ohio area, I would love it if you came to one of my book signings in Cleveland, Cincinnati, or Dayton (see the info attached or at the left). It's always nice to see some familiar faces and meet some newcomers as well!

What a dream come true for me (please excuse the pun). This is the first picture book (32 pages) that I've written–I can't believe this time last year I was still working away on it, and now it's a REAL book. This one is dedicated to my little (and only) brother Mike, who is in his first year of grad school at Berkeley right now...I'm so proud of him for following his dreams since I know it has been hard for him to be so far away from home. Thank you to everyone that has helped me along the way–Random House (my publisher), Heidi (my editor), Tracy (my art director), Emily (my publicity guru), Lori (my agent), Mom (my coach), ALL of my family and friends (my cheerleaders), and especially Jeff (my heart).

Well, now that it sounds like I have given my acceptance speech at the Academy Awards, I thought it might be fun to share some of my process:

First comes the manuscript. I write, and re-write, and work with my editor until we are all happy and the story and the mood is "just right." Sometimes, I have a clear vision for the image before I have the words in my head. In that case, I draw some quick sketches first, and then write to that image. I work back and forth with words and images until I'm happy with the balance. It's a messy, jumbled process but eventually things start to come together, like pieces of a puzzle.

Once the manuscript is approved, I officially move on to the sketches (here's me working at the dining room table before we had our new office). I always start with thumbnail sketches, which are really small, quick doodles that help me play around with composition, poses, perspective, settings, text placement, etc. I keep doing thumbnails until I come up with one or two options for each spread that I really like. This is also where the character starts to come to life.

This is a thumbnail sketch for a spread about fireflies like nature's night-lights.

During the sketch phase, it's not just thinking about how each sketch works on its own, but also the sequence of how they all work together to tell a story. Hanging sketches on a wall helps me see the flow of the book better.

This is the final sketch for the firefly scene. You can see that I made some changes from the original thumbnail above, but the basic idea is still there. When all the sketches are approved by the editor and art director, it's time to move on to the final art. I scan in all my sketches and compose my final art on the computer. Using my sketch as a guide, and working with lots of textures I paint by hand and later scan, I slowly layer up all the colors, shapes and textures into a "digital collage" (at least that's what I call it). This way, I am able to move things around, adjust colors and make changes. And after a lot of noodling, the art comes to life. Color mood was especially important with this lullaby book, since it starts in early evening and ends later at night. I needed to think about how the sky colors would slowly transition as the sun set and the moon rose.

So, here's the final piece for the firefly scene, which reads:
dream of tiptoes through the grass
and fireflies that blink and flash,
catching night-lights floating by–

then sending them into the sky.

And one more finished piece:
dream of eggs wrapped in a nest
where mama bird has come to rest.
imagine blossoms, soft as snow,

that blanket flower beds below.

To see more, you'll have to buy the book:) Happy reading!