Friday, January 30, 2015

PICTURE PROMPT: Sara Lynn Cramb





 




Welcome to PICTURE PROMPTS! This is my way of 'paying it forward' for all the beautiful illustrations found in picture books all around the world. For the next year you will see me visit with guest illustrators, spotlighting their beautiful artwork and sharing their answers to a few questions I thought my readers might want to know about these illustrators. On the Friday when an illustrator hasn't stopped by for a visit and a hot cup of green tea, I will put up a random PICTURE PROMPT that has inspired me to write a little flash fiction to share with you!


If you are an illustrator, established or just starting out, and would like to participate in my PICTURE PROMPT series, just shoot me an email over to donasdays (at) gmail (dot) com and I will send you the information on how to join the fun!


Please welcome talented illustrator, Sara Lynn Cramb and check out her answers to my interview questions...




Why did you decide to become an illustrator?
 
I’ve loved children’s books from a very young age and have collected them for years. After graduating college, and working as a designer for a number of years, I found that something was missing, I really missed illustration. I decided to get serious about pursuing illustration as a career a little over two years ago and have really enjoyed making my childhood dream become a reality. 

 





Where do you get your inspiration?
 
I find a lot of inspiration in my work from the natural world, including both living and extinct animals,  I’ve always loved observing nature and the daily lives of animals. Vintage picture books (especially anything including maps) are also a huge influence on me, as well as indie and web comics.
 





Do you have a favorite illustration of yours? Why is it your favorite?
 
That’s a tough one! My current favorite would have to be “The Squid and the Whale: An Unlikely Love Story” [http://www.saralynncreative.com/353675/3170721/storybook/the-squid-and-the-whale-an-unlikely-love-story]. It’s my first piece telling a story through a series of panels, I had lots of fun breaking the panels to lead the viewer's eye through the piece. I created a number of digital brushes and developed several new techniques to make something that was a bit different in style from my previous work.  

If you could invite five other illustrators (alive or deceased) to dinner, who would you invite and why?
 
That would have to be Charley Harper, Jan Brett, Jon Klassen, Marc Simont, and Bill Watterson. Jan Brett and Bill Watterson were huge influences on me as a child, I would spend hours pouring over their work, absorbing every detail. Bill Watterson’s integrity throughout the run of Calvin and Hobbes made me think seriously about what it means to be a working artist. 

Charley Harper, Jon Klassen, and Marc Simont are fairly recent discoveries for me. Charley Harper’s ability to break the shapes of animals down into simple, yet beautiful forms, and work with a diverse range of clients, is something I really admire. I love the deceptive simplicity of Marc Simont’s work, I have a soft spot for flat color and subtle textures. Jon Klassen is a master at making digital art look very organic.
 




What are you currently working on?
 
I’m working on a series of illustrations for a short story about a snake that escapes from a zoo to take a vacation in the city, and a t-shirt illustration for an animal charity. I’m also working on a number of personal pieces delving into earth science, astronomy, maps, and more animal illustrations focusing on species I haven’t drawn before.
Do you work in different mediums? If so, which style is the most challenging?
 
I primarily work digitally, using Adobe Illustrator for most of my pieces. I’ve started teaching myself Sketchbook Pro as well. I have a “flat” style and a more “textured” style. They both have their own challenges, but the “textured” style is a bit more time consuming as I spend a fair amount of time making sure the brushes and other effects I add to the work are in balance and don’t compete for attention with the main focus of the image.
What advice would you give to someone thinking about trying to become an illustrator?
 
Do your research, figure out which market will be a good match for your work. There are plenty of good resources, both in print and online, that will help you gain the knowledge you need early on, and will continue to be helpful later in your career. Seek out other artists with similar interests and join a critique group. That will help give you valuable feedback on the strengths and weaknesses of your work and help you improve your skills more quickly than you could on our own. Once you’ve got a body of work that you are proud of, build yourself a simple portfolio website and start showing your work to people. No one will hire you if they can’t see your work!
Do you have another job in addition to being an illustrator?
 
I also work as a freelance graphic designer. It’s nice to have something that’s still creative to work on in between my illustration jobs. Being a designer has helped a lot with putting my website together and creating promotional materials for myself.

Thanks Donna!






 
Bio:

 
Sara Lynn Cramb is an illustrator and designer with a love of visual storytelling. She specializes in creating images that feature maps, animals, and monsters, as well as fun and engaging educational illustrations for children's books, magazines, novelty books, and signage. She currently lives in Athens, GA with her husband, two turtles, and a pair of mischievous cats.


Links:
Portfolio Website: http://www.saralynncreative.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/saralynncreativ
Blog: http://saralynn-creative.tumblr.com/
Instagram: http://instagram.com/saralynncreative



Thursday, January 29, 2015

WHY WRITING MENTORS ARE IMPORTANT






As a child I always loved playing follow the leader. Sometime I was in the front and sometimes I followed but I always learned something. Now that I'm grown up and a children's book author, I still get the opportunity to follow the leader with my writing mentors.

Write mentors are those hard working and published authors who are generous with their writerly wisdom. They remember what is was like to be new to the writing industry and innocent to the ways of the publishing path. These writing mentors overcame the obstacles and put in the months, if not years, of hard word necessary to rise to the top of heap. Writing mentors are special people who still find the time, despite the deadlines and chaos sometimes surrounding them, to reach out to writing newbies to help them achieve their own writing goals.

Here are three areas a good writing mentor will shine in:

A LITTLE TOUGH LOVE

Writing mentors are nice people but know being "nice" when offering advice doesn't really help that novice writer. My friends and family might be "nice" and say nice things about my writing, but a writing mentor is more concerned with my growth as a writer and my work actually getting published some day. A little tough love goes a long way to strengthening my stories and helping me to develop a skin thick enough to withstand the numerous rejections I know I will go through just to get one YES!

A LITTLE LIFE LINE

Sometimes the what-ifs and what-might-have-beens of writing can become too much to handle. If just for a little while a writer will need to know that they are not alone. That there is someone else out there who has felt the frustration they are feeling and might have a way to help them fight the urge to walk away from their dream. Writing is hard work. Getting published is even harder. Writing mentors are that life line to help encourage a struggling writer to get back in the saddle and live to write again.
 

A LITTLE HAPPY DANCE

The best job a writing mentor can do is be there when it comes time to celebrate all the successes to be found on that path to publication. Dance with the newbie writer when they complete their first story. Dance with the newbie author when their first book is released. And dance with the established individual in celebration of a job well done.

Writing mentors are like the literary gods we wish we could be and maybe, one day, we will look behind us and see the same admiration and wonder in the eyes of the newer writers coming up the ranks. And we will thank our writing mentors for helping prepare us to join the community of people willing to share the love of writing with the world.

In case you are looking for a writing mentor yourself, here are a few resources to check out. Make sure you study each site carefully to see if they are right for you...

Association of Writers and Writing Programs...https://www.awpwriter.org/community_calendar/mentorship_program_overview
CBS Corporation...http://diversity.cbscorporation.com/page.php?id=23
Creative Nonfiction...https://www.creativenonfiction.org/mentoring-program
Hugo House... http://hugohouse.org/teen/young-writers-mentorship-program/
Writer's Relief...http://writersrelief.com/blog/2014/01/find-writing-mentor/
Dzanc Books... http://www.dzancbooks.org/creative-writing-mentorships/
The NSW Writers Centre...http://www.nswwc.org.au/support-for-writers/mentorship-program/
Make A Living Writing...http://www.makealivingwriting.com/mentoring/

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I hope you learned something new today and be sure to check back tomorrow for the next post in my month long celebration!










Blurb:



Addie comes from a long line of readers, or “story catchers,” as her family likes to call themselves. Every time Addie tries to catch a story on her own, though, the words play tricks on her. Addie tries everything she can think of to corral those wiggly letters, but it  will take a little faith to become the next STORY CATCHER.


Buy Links:
 
THE STORY CATCHER FAN CLUB: 
 
Fan club membership includes:
 
Membership Certificate
Bi-monthly Newsletter full of mazes, puzzles, games, news and other goodies
Reading log for earning Story Catcher Award
Short story starring YOU!
Book Trailer: 








Wednesday, January 28, 2015

BOOK NOOK REVIEWS: Jane Yolen






Title: A Plague of Unicorns

Author: Jane Yolen
Illustrators: Jody Langley, John Rowe, Tom McGrath, Matthew Van Zomeren

Publisher: Zonderkidz

Ages: 9-11

Synopsis: Monks, unicorns, and a duke's son come together in an epic battle over delicious apples. James, who is almost nine years old, has more questions than his family can handle so he is shipped off to the local Abby. Abbot Aelian has more unicorns in his golden apple orchards that he would like, and needs help to save the Abby from ruin. Will the Abby fall or will a local hero come to save the day?

Why you should read it: Jane Yolen has been called the Hans Christian Anderson by Newsweek or the Aesop of the Twentieth Century by the New York Times. After I read this book I could understand why. It's not so much that Ms. Yolen tells a great story appealing to readers young and old. More the way she weaves an enchanting web of sights and sounds to draw her readers back in time to a simpler place where unicorns still exist. It's this suspension of disbelief which allows me to entertain the possibility unicorns are real and heroes can come in all shapes and sizes.
Like-o-meter Rating: 5 out of 5...grab it!






(Disclaimer: Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers http://booklookbloggers.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx 03/16cfr255 03.html ("Guides Concerning the use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.")

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

3 MISTAKES TO AVOID WHEN SENDING QUERY LETTERS





Now that everyone is back from their holiday celebrations, agents will start seeing an increase in their submission stacks.  If you have been working hard to get your manuscript ready, you might want to take a moment to make sure you don't make any of these common mistakes when querying agents...

1. DEAR EDITOR OR TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN

Whether you are submitting your manuscript to an agency or directly to a publisher, you want to make sure you address your query to the correct person. Take time to check out the submissions guidelines on their websites. Check out the websites of the authors working with these companies to determine an actual contact name to attach to your query. Statistics show people LOVE hearing their names and taking the time to address your query letter to the right person instead of simply tacking a "to whom it may concern" or a "dear editor" as a header to your query will show the person considering your manuscript that you are a professional who did their homework.

2. I WROTE A YOUNG ADULT, HIGH FANTASY MEDIEVAL HISTORICAL FICTION MYSTERY LOVE STORY ADVENTURE QUEST

There is nothing that will make an editor or publisher's head spin faster than a writer who can't decide what they've actually written. How can you submit to the correct person if you don't know what you wrote? Your manuscript might have elements from different genres, but you need to decide what is the MAIN focus of your story line. There will be people out there who cover a variety of genres but as a writer, your manuscript identification can't be convoluted. If you're not sure, have your critique group or some beta readers help you to identify exactly WHAT you wrote before sending out that query letter.

3.  I KNOW YOU'RE CLOSED TO SUBMISSIONS, BUT YOU'LL WANT TO READ MY BEST SELLING MANUSCRIPT

Agents and publishers LOVE discovering heart stopping, page turning manuscripts. What they DON'T like are writers who try to force their manuscripts on them without having enough respect for the querying process. Make sure to check their guidelines first to see if they are currently accepting submissions. This would also be a good time to make sure you are sending your query to the right individual.

As a writer, you've poured your heart and soul into your story. Now make sure you give it the best chance of being requested by an agent or publisher by avoiding some common mistakes on the road to publication.

************

I hope you learned something new today and be sure to check back tomorrow for the next post in my month long celebration!






Blurb:


Addie comes from a long line of readers, or “story catchers,” as her family likes to call themselves. Every time Addie tries to catch a story on her own, though, the words play tricks on her. Addie tries everything she can think of to corral those wiggly letters, but it  will take a little faith to become the next STORY CATCHER.

Buy Links:
 
THE STORY CATCHER FAN CLUB: 
 
Fan club membership includes:
 
Membership Certificate
Bi-monthly Newsletter full of mazes, puzzles, games, news and other goodies
Reading log for earning Story Catcher Award
Short story starring YOU!
Book Trailer:




Monday, January 26, 2015

A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO GETTING PUBLISHED







I want to tell you a little story I don't think I've told anyone yet. It's about when I when I was offered a book deal for THE STORY CATCHER.

I'd pitched my story during a Twitter pitch party and received a message from my future editor, Jessica Schmeidler. A number of emails soon followed where she expressed her interest in wanting to offer me a book contract. I was so naive to the whole publishing process back then I didn't even understand what she was offering. I had to ask her to repeat herself to make sure I had heard what I thought I was hearing. I'm sure she was probably laughing at me (in a good way) and I can't blame her. It was funny when you think about it.

Here I'd been writing for more than 40 years. Most of those years were just for me but for the past 5 years I focused all my efforts on having one of my books published and now Jessica was offering to fulfill my dream of becoming an author.

But do you know what is even funnier?

Just how much I've grown as a writer and what I'm capable of doing going forward with my career.

I never realized just the fact that one book being printed by an independent publisher would give me credibility with people in the writing community outside of my friends. Less experienced writers are now asking ME for advice and I have to laugh because it was not too long ago I was in their shoes. I can still feel what it's like to be overwhelmed with everything involved and while in no way do I consider myself an expert at this whole publishing thing, there are now people out there who do and that concept is very funny to me.

I've learned handling all aspects of marketing and promoting my book may not be beyond my ability to do and again, people are coming out of the woodwork asking my advice about things like they think I know what I'm doing which makes me laugh.

I'm also learning that my book, THE STORY CATCHER, has a special meaning to many people and I think that surprises me most of all. I was fortunate. I never had trouble reading and my son was blessed with the ability to read at a very young age. Addie's journey, however, is similar to many children today who struggle to corral those wiggly words long enough to catch their own stories. People are already beginning to tell me stories of either their own struggle with learning to read or how their children currently are struggling. THE STORY CATCHER reaches out to all generations and may end up touching more hearts than I ever imagined possible.

But you know what? My amazing editor, Jessica, knew it all along. She told me people would like the wonderful illustrations and they have. She told me people would connect with my story more than I would realize and they are.

It's funny how we writers think writing is a solitary business where we're never sure if someone will like what we write. The reality of it all is we are just creating a canvas of words where everyone knows how to use the colors but we just got to them first. And THAT'S the funniest thing of all...

*************

I hope you learned something new today and be sure to check back tomorrow for the next post in my month long celebration!






Blurb:


Addie comes from a long line of readers, or “story catchers,” as her family likes to call themselves. Every time Addie tries to catch a story on her own, though, the words play tricks on her. Addie tries everything she can think of to corral those wiggly letters, but it  will take a little faith to become the next STORY CATCHER.


Buy Links:

Amazon Kindle ¦ Paperback ¦ B&N ¦ Smashwords

 
THE STORY CATCHER FAN CLUB: Fan club membership includes:
Membership Certificate
Bi-monthly Newsletter full of mazes, puzzles, games, news and other goodies
Reading log for earning Story Catcher Award
Short story starring YOU!




Book Trailer:




 

 

Sunday, January 25, 2015

DO YOU REALLY NEED AN AGENT TO PUBLISH A BOOK?





Actors have agents. So do athletes. Why even a circus clown can have an agent so why not writers? But maybe the bigger question should be...do writers NEED an agent to publish a book?

Maybe not.

It's going to depend on what your end goal is. Have you put together some favorite family recipes and just need a few copies printed? Then you definitely don't need an agent. Maybe you've self-published quite a few titles on your own and feel fairly confident about the whole publishing thing but now want to consider expanding into a more traditional market? You might do just fine without an agent when subbing that next manuscript to a larger publishing house if you have decent books sales, like in the thousands, to back up the titles already out there.

I feel I was lucky since I didn't have an agent at the time Anaiah Press offered me a book contract for THE STORY CATCHER. Maybe it was because my manuscript was simply that compelling that it didn't need an agent to sing it's praises. Or maybe it was because Anaiah is a small press just starting out and was willing to give my book a chance. No matter the reason my book is proof that at least for one writer, an agent wasn't needed to get a book deal.

But for the majority of writers out there, if you have long term goals (like I do) of really wanting to make a career out of your writing, then securing an agent is probably the best way to increase your chances of receiving a contract offer.

Look at it this way. I can either cast my fishing line in my backyard pond where there might be one or two fishies to take a nibble at what I'm offering. Or...I can hop on that agent's charter boat that's willing to take me out in the middle of the ocean to help me land a whale of an offer. Which do you think I would want to go with??

And just in case you aren't sure where to start, here are some newer agents who are actively seeking new clients. They just might cover the genres you write in. Check them out by clicking on their agency links listed below:


Caitie Flum... http://www.lizadawsonassociates.com/

Amanda Panitch...http://www.lmqlit.com/

Kirsten Carleton... http://www.waxmanleavell.com/

Cynthia Kane...http://capitaltalentagency.com/

Leon Husock...http://www.lperkinsagency.com/

Lane Heymont... http://www.theseymouragency.com/

Lydia Blyfield... https://carolmannagency.wordpress.com/

Kerry D'Agostino... http://www.curtisbrown.com/

Mary C Moore... http://www.kimberleycameron.com/



Blurb:

Addie comes from a long line of readers, or “story catchers,” as her family likes to call themselves. Every time Addie tries to catch a story on her own, though, the words play tricks on her. Addie tries everything she can think of to corral those wiggly letters, but it  will take a little faith to become the next STORY CATCHER.


Buy Links:

Amazon Kindle ¦ Paperback ¦ B&N ¦ Smashwords


THE STORY CATCHER FAN CLUB 
Fan club membership includes:
Membership Certificate
Bi-monthly Newsletter full of mazes, puzzles, games, news and other goodies
Reading log for earning Story Catcher Award
Short story starring YOU!



Book Trailer: