Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Time to Catch Up!

Kay Kay launched in August! Hmm, I guess it really HAS been awhile since my last post. Kay Kay's Alphabet Safari launch at Secret Garden Books was a VERY fun party. Thanks to Secret Garden and all of my friends who came out to cheer Kay Kay on and support bookstores. You can see a video of the launch here. Meanwhile, Kay Kay's been on a bit of a roll, winning the 2014 Creative Child Preferred Choice Award AND getting a nice review from Kirkus ("The loosely energetic, cartoon illustrations are lively with capricious details ... Kids will enjoy the silliness, and there’s lots of potential for the classroom.") Hey, did I mention that 10% of my profits from Kay Kay go to the Star of Hope Centre in Kenya? And that Secret Garden Books donated 10% of my sales on launch night to Star of Hope? And that we're right in the middle of our annual holiday fund raiser? Check out the real story behind this story!

Let's hear it for Victober! Many of you know that Vicki gets a whole month to celebrate her birthday. Can you believe she's 64? Me neither! All the animals in her life turned out to sing.

And then in November... Vicki's right eye, over the course of three days, went BLIND! That's just not funny, but I still made fun of her with some stickies. Thankfully, massive doses of the steroid Prednisone have been clearing up her sight pretty darned well. She sees about 95% normal out of that eye and is still taking her meds. Some kind of post-viral neuropathy of the optic nerve (which means "gerbils chewed up your eye bones") is the culprit.
we got to know our health provider very well

I learned what was funny to her and what wasn't

I still think this is funny

I think it was sister Linda who said this. Vicki couldn't drive for awhile.

She hasn't gone all 'roid rage on me, but she kicks butt on the hills

You know what helps with the Prednisone jitters? Medical marijuana, that's what. Helps you sleep through the night, too. Vicki can hook you up.
Rats! After weeks (months?) of denial, I had to admit that we had more rats in the basement and that we needed to seal up the hole in the back wall. Turns out Vicki has a real Pioneer Spirit and wields a mean cement trowel! And Bennie has a hidden talent as well.

the rats got cocky, which, of course, was their downfall.

Little Bennie has a talent for killing rats! Well, at least one. Digger and Daisy were amazed.

Word to the wise. Don't ask

Happy Thanksgiving! We went to Bill and Marsha's, who are vegetarian. Everything was delicious, including the kale salad! And I found that you can eat yourself sick without turkey. So that's settled. We're Thankful for more than I can list here, but Bill and Marsha are on our list.

Christmas wishes. Bennie might be deadly to rats, but squirrels are still just a dream.

Sign up for Intro to Graphic Novels! I'm teaching a 6-week Monday night at Bellevue College, starting January 5! This is your chance to rock that Manga! Or reveal your inner Captain Underpants. Get the details here. Hope to see you.
Actually, the working title is "Smell Her Butt, Advice from My Dead Dog"

Make your own picture book! I'm teaching another Picture Book class at Kirkland Arts Center, Tuesday nights, starting January 20. Some of my past students will be joining me again, so I'm being forced to up my game. The goal will still be to complete a picture book dummy, but we'll also be exploring different media and writing. So come on and sign up here!

Happy Holidays from Star of Ho Ho Hope! Did I mention we're in the middle of our annual fundraiser? Please help us reach our goal! A little or a lot, every dollar goes a LONG way and is a big, big help. Star of Hope board member Marsha Donaldson visited the kids in November and took LOTs of pictures, which you can see here. Our push this holiday is to provide more desks for the class rooms and new outfits for the kids. You can see more and DONATE here! Thanks and a very Satisfying Solstice, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Cool Kwanza, Festivus and Happy Holidays and New Year to all!

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Kay Kay's Alphabet Safari Launch August 8!

I'm pretty darned excited about Kay Kay's Alphabet Safari, the book inspired by the Star of Hope School and Orphanage in Kenya. Hard to believe that our then-19 year old son, Kyle's, trip to Kenya ten years ago would lead to our being so involved in Star of Hope and a book! The launch is Friday, August 8, 7 p.m. at Secret Garden Books in Seattle and I want EVERYBODY to come! Those Secret Garden sweeties will be donating a portion of my book sales from that evening to Star of Hope, so come buy a lot of books! (Ten percent of my profits from the book will go to Star of Hope, even if you can't come to the launch) If you want to see some great dance moves from Bungoma, Kenya, take a look at the video I made for our recent fundraiser dance here. And then come to the launch, prepared to dance!
The full cover (front and back) of Kay Kay's Alphabet Safari
the REAL Kay Kay paints Bungoma county on a wall

The kids love to watch Kay Kay work

Kay Kay paints the USA - showing the kids where we live

Kay Kay holds an early version of the cover of his book

Me, teaching?

Well, yes, I have been! I just finished a week long Graphic Novel class for teens at Bellevue College. These kids were really talented and put a lot of work into their comics. But intimidating? I had never taught teens before and had trouble reading if I was getting through to them or if they were enjoying the class. Plus, they all had cool tee shirts and I only have two, which just added to the stress. But they all came through with amazing comics, which you can see by clicking here. And their evaluations proved they didn't hate me, which is what every teacher strives for.
Gotta get me some cooler T shirts

Next time I'll take Max along to class
Upcoming Classes: I'll be teaching a Graphic Novel class for adults at Bellevue College, starting September 19. Stay tuned for details.

And a Picture Book illustration class at Kirkland Arts Center, starting September 30. Click here for details. You wanna actually get a picture book dummy created? This is your class.

Random Sticky Notes

Bennie does like his hikes

That squirrel's days are numbered

Look, I've started on a sequel for Ozzie!

Our neighbors have been regretting giving us a key to their house

Vicki in Giverny, France. Is this a cute photo, or what?

Vicki was very sad to realize she had left her Italian leather jacket in the Charles De Gaulle airport. But I know it's being well cared for.

Captain Underpants and ME!

A few weeks ago I took the ferry to Bainbridge to kick off a Kid's Graphic Novel Reading Club at Eagle Harbor Books by teaching a mini-lesson in making your own graphic novel. I knew that my hero, Dav Pilkey (YES, THAT Dav Pilkey, creator of Captain UNDERPANTS!!!) lives part of the year on Bainbridge, but didn't know until I got there that he was going to show up for a few minutes to help out. Was I nervous? Hoo boy. I had met Dav at his own book event earlier in the year and HE REMEMBERED ME. He stuck around for the whole hour and we really had a great time with the kids. We made a short graphic novel on the fly from yelled suggestions from the 13 kids (6-10 years old) there. What a day!
We came up with an episode of Pie Man!

Dav with his first sketch of Ook and Gluk as cavemen ambulance drivers, which turned into the Ook and Gluk series.

There may have been some creative differences, but we worked them out in an adult fashion.

Bob Books, First Stories

I'm halfway through the final artwork for the next set of Bob Books, written by Lynn Maslen Kertell and published by Scholastic. It's been pretty smooth going so far and I've been having fun with the characters of Mat and Sam. Vicki keeps calling Sam "Triangle Boy," which is just wrong, since he's more of a cone. I'll let you know when this box set is due to be on the shelves. But first things first (like finishing).
That's Sam on the left and Mat on the right. And Bennie, of course.

Mat and Vicki were having fun. But I can assure you that Sam was not.

Digger and Daisy Go To The City

August is also the month to create the final art for Digger and Daisy Go To The City, the fourth in what I hope is an endless series of books about these two canine scamps. Judy Young writes such fun adventures for D&D and I have a lot of fun drawing them. Here are two of my favorite sketches for the book, due out sometime in 2015. Remember that Digger and Daisy Go To The Doctor is due for release in September from Sleeping Bear Press!

Monday, June 16, 2014

The Writing Process Blog Tour!

Children's non-fiction lit writer Laurie Thompson writes a mean blog and tagged me to answer some bookish questions this week. The deal is, she answered three questions, then asked fellow kid lit writer Dan Richards and me to do the same. You can see what she wrote here, but please wait because she writes really well. Dan too. Let's get started with

Question 1) What am I currently working on?

Initial sketches for two books. These are like rough drafts to submit to my art directors for approval (or edits) before going to final art. It’s a balancing act: I want to work fast and loose, to let the ideas flow without getting too tight - especially when I know I’m going to be making changes. But sometimes it feels so right that I get carried away and get too finished - never a good idea. I didn’t write either of these projects. Digger and Daisy Go To The City is the fourth in the series written by Judy Young and published by Sleeping Bear Press (due Friday!) and Bob Books - First Stories, another in the Bob Books series is written by Lynn Maslen Kertell and published by Scholastic (due Wednesday - ack!) I’m sketching directly on my Wacom tablet for Digger and Daisy, something I’ve never done before. I usually draw with pencil on paper, scan that and color in photoshop. I will still do that for the final, but want to get better drawing with a stylus, so I’m giving that a try. 
You're seeing this before Melinda Milward, my wonderful and patient art director at Sleeping Bear Press. Don't tell.

That little muggins Digger can't stand shopping for shoes. Daisy evidently does. Who knew?

These Bob Book sketches are much tighter because I never learn and am quite the optimist. My other wonderful and patient art director, Angela Jun at Scholastic, HAS seen these and called my crab "adorable." I LIVE for "adorables," fyi.

Question 2): How does my work differ from others of its genre?

You know, I got a degree in Comparative Literature and still never really figured out what they meant by “genre.” I guess I either liked a book or didn’t.  And my critique group can verify that I have a hard time  remembering if I write “fiction” or “non-fiction.” I know that one is making up stories and one is truth, but can’t remember which is which. I guess that’s a long-winded way of trying to avoid this question. Let’s move on.

Question 3): Why do I write what I write?

Revenge! At first. (we’re supposed to be honest, right? I think that’s non-fiction) Ozzie and the Art Contest was a reaction to losing out on a contest that I was sure I was going to win and didn’t. I was really surprised at how disappointed I was - even a little angry. Okay, a lot angry. I thought I would turn all this tsuris into something positive and funny - plus, if I got published, then I would show those misguided souls how wrong they were! Unfortunately, the lesson I went for in the book - that we should do things because we like to do them, not just to win - worked on me too. So now I’m thankful I lost and grateful for the lesson. Don’t you hate being hoisted on your own petard? (I told you I got a Comp Lit degree). I’ve learned a lot from Ozzie. He’s really quite a positive little guy and doesn’t take himself too seriously. In fact, my favorite scene is when he realizes his mistake and gets a big, roaring laugh out of it. I’m trying to be more like Ozzie.
This would be my book. Find your independent book store here if you want to buy it!

Look at that guy laugh. Still my favorite picture. At a recent school visit, a kid pointed out that Principal Polkadot and the goldfish, Bubs and Goldy, were also laughing. I love school visits.

My other book, Kay Kay’s Alphabet Safari, was written about the Star of Hope Centre, a real school and orphanage in Kenya. Our son got us involved by volunteering at an orphanage in Kenya when he was 19. We visited a few years ago and I knew these beautiful children and their loving caregivers needed a book telling the world (and themselves!) about them and where they lived. I was really wrestling with how I could write a picture book about orphans in a very poor country, with all kinds of problems most of us in the U.S. can hardly imagine. When I walked into the classroom the villagers had built and saw the walls covered in beautiful paintings of animals and things to help the kids learn their alphabet, I started crying (“like a little girl,” says my sweet Vicki) and knew what my book would be about. Kay Kay is a very real man who drives a taxi and is a wonderful artist, dedicated to the kids and the school. I’m very excited about this book, which launches August 8 at Secret Garden Books in Seattle. But if you need to see an advance copy, want to help the kids of Star of Hope OR just want to have a great night of dancing and eating, come to our Fifth Annual Star of Hope Fundraiser Dance July 12! (That’s the “Shameless Commerce” genre)
come to my launch August 8!

Kay Kay is quite an artist
The real Kay Kay, on the right, with Leonard Muyelele, founder and director of Star of Hope

Okay, YOU look at these kids and the art on the walls and don't cry.

The kids of Star of Hope, Bungoma, Kenya

Next up for me is a middle grade novel, heavily illustrated (by me, I’m thinking) about a  kid who gets advice from his dead dog on everything from girls, to art, to dealing with his alcoholic mom. Sounds hilarious, yeah? I’m working on that. I guess the shorter answer to why I write what I write is to possibly give kids (and me) encouragement, to show them they’re not alone with their problems and that there are adults who care. But that short answer wouldn’t plug my books.
Max was the inspiration for Ozzie and the Art Contest and will figure heavily in my middle grade novel. It's always uplifting to have an ex dog who lives in an urn in your book.
And he's getting a bit impatient

Question 4): How does my individual process work?

I usually start with a character and a problem. I use a “clustering,” a technique I learned from Suzanne Morgan Williams at an SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) meeting a few years ago. You draw a crude, stick figurish picture and write a word or two about what it means, then circle them both. That’s your first idea and you keep at it, giving the character more problems and moving the story along until you’ve filled up a page or two and think you might have a story. It’s really important to draw and write and circle, because it tells your brain to relax, that you’re engaging both sides (I think they’re called the “Fiction” and “Non-fiction” sides). 
This is a real cluster start for a possible Ozzie sequel. You don't need to be able to read it, but I do.

Most importantly, it’s crucial that you don’t edit yourself or criticize your ideas. I think writer’s block is really a case of criticizing your ideas before you can put them on paper. Put them on paper! Paper’s cheap and you don’t have to show it to anybody. Then I dummy out a 32 page book. This is a vital step, because you really don’t know where things happen until you see them on the page. My dummies are very crude things, because that’s when I’m still coming up with ideas. Once I spend time on a drawing, I don’t want to change it, because I’m lazy. So I keep it loose. Looking at my finished work, some people might wonder if these are still my sketches. Some kid at a school visit observed that I’m kind of messy. I told him that was to inspire all the kids who don’t think they can draw to keep at it, but he fell asleep halfway through my Important Life Lesson. Oh yeah, then I draw it out on real paper and color it with real watercolors or real photoshop and send it to my real art director with my fingers crossed.

Dana, quick, before you keep writing, who's next on the blog tour? And are they as long-winded as you?

Great question! Margaret Peot and Kate Sullivan (no concrete relation) have agreed to take up the blog tour a week from now. Megs, who lives in NYC and is a painter, printmaker and writer, has written all kinds of things, most recently Ink Blot: Drip, Splat, and Squish Your Way to Creativity  and Kate, who lives in Newburyport, MA, is the author/illustrator of On Linden Square. She's got a past life longer than an English mile and plays the musical saw. Check both of these women out next week and it will make you stop regretting reading all the way to this point.

Question 5): What else do you want to drone on about?

Another great question! Vicki and I went to Paris for two weeks in May! Some wonderful friends lent us their lovely and amazing apartment and we can’t thank them enough, so we won’t even try (ha!). But two of my favorite people in the world, Agent Anna O and sister Cait, refuse to Facebook (you go, girls!), which means they haven’t seen the sketches from my trip. So here they are. Wonderful city, Paris. And such lovely people who tried to help us with our French, god love ‘em. Thanks, everybody. And thanks Laurie!
In the Musee L'Orangerie, which means  The Orangerie

We heard Vivaldi in Ste. Chapelle, which was magic

If you're in the Morais district, buy a scarf from Couteur & Cachmire

the Metro is full of beautiful women!

When you get tired of looking at art in the D'Orsay, draw something

This woman just walked up to me for a hug! I love Paris.

The secret to good sketching is finding a view from a nice outdoor bar

Or a park bench

Or across the street from a bar

also important: stay in an apartment with a great view

if you're in the Loire Valley, stay at the Auberge De Launay

another bar scene. Seeing a pattern?

these motorcycles were parked near a... bar

The train home from Giverny had a lot of sleepy passengers

Vicki went INTO  the Louvre. I sat outside at a (guess?) bar and sketched it instead.

Man, did I miss Bennie.