Wednesday, June 29, 2016

NJSCBWI 2016 Approaches - by Diana Ting Delosh

It's almost been a month since the 2016 NJ SCBWI June Conference a good time for me to reflect on my experience and what worked.

Jabberwocky, Boy Meets Octopus - Final Illustrator Intensive Art
© Diana Ting Delosh
Ink, Watercolor, Digital
Lists & Plans help. I marked out the prep weeks and the deadlines for the illustrator's Intensive sketch and the Manuscript for my 1-on-1 with an editor and any items like getting my postcard printed a month ahead in my Moleskine Weekly Notebook. This year I swore I wasn't going to the conference zombified although the last few weeks I was lucky if I got more than 5 hours sleep a night. Still all in all not totally zombified. There are degrees of zombification.

I want to draw momraths gyre and gimble in the wabe  - © Diana Ting Delosh
 Find the Joy. My illustrator's Intensive was with Annie Ericsson, Designer for G.P. Putnam & Sons and Nancy Paulsen Books, Penguin Young Readers Group and the assignment was to illustrate a passage from C. S. Lewis' nonsense poem, The Jabberwocky. As per my usual process, I doodled a few ideas and concepts and was originally going to go with a more conventional approach. But I wasn't feeling the love. I reviewed my doodles and changed course and went with my idea of treating it as a boy's dream sequence. I believe my joy shows in the final illustration.

Boy & Sea critters on my desk.
Photo © Diana Ting Delosh
Always Have a Plan B or C... because things go awry and time keeps ticking. Sometimes I approach my illustrations like a traditional painting and sometimes I approach them more like a collage.  In this case I was glad I created my Jabberwocky illustration as separate icons as I was able to rearrange them for my Juried Art show Piece. I had planned on doing another illustration for the JAS theme, "Arise and Go Forth..." but time was running out. Plan B was to use some element from the Jabberwocky but add a mermaid and a whale and a gull or just the mermaid and a gull or... Plan C - rearrange what I had already created.

Juried Art Show  - Arise © Diana Ting Delosh
Conferences are like Christmas. You plan and prep and create like crazy. Finally the Conference weekend happens - it's amazing Good FUN, Info Overload time and then it's over and you go home. I didn't want it to end but all good things must. And like after Christmas blues I had a bit of post conference malaise. Back home, you catch up on your sleep, sort through all your conference notes, handouts, cards. Do your follow-ups. Ease back into your studio routine: create, promote, submit.

It's an Investment. Back home you may ask yourself the pragmatic question, Can you quantify it? Don't, unless you happen to have gotten lucky and landed a contract, agent, etc. Aside from the wealth of info crammed into two days there are a lot of intangibles. There's a lot of really good networking and submission opportunities at this conference but you need to follow up. Remember it's cumulative. Create. Promote. Submit. And every now and then leave the studio to practice your people skills.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Multitasking - by Deborah Cuneo

I've heard more than a handful of kid-lit industry leaders mention,  that you should always have a steady  source of income (or two) in place, as you navigate your way through becoming a working professional in this industry.  If that supplemental income  happens to come from your own freelance studio,  multitasking, time management and self discipline become paramount!

My Studio

Prior to my decision to get into  kid-lit, I taught elementary school art and on the side, painted house and pet portraits and created custom artwork for a variety of applications. When I made the final leap into full time freelance it became clear that to make it all work, I would have to proceed in a more organized way.

House Portraits - Acrylic

First thing was to have a business mindset and as with any business, there needs to be a dedicated amount of time during the day to address  all the needs of the business. This was not an easy adjustment ,but a necessary one.

Second,  I discovered that once I started pursuing a career in children's publishing, making some of the art do double duty (when I could), was to my benefit  and a better use of my time. 

(From top, L to R): Birth Announcement to Portfolio, NJSCBWI JAS to Greeting Card

Aside from my work life, there was also my share of the daily, family responsibilities,  my volunteer work and possibly a little down time (still working on that!) that needed to be worked into the mix. The hours are long and It's exhausting at times, but staying organized and keeping pretty strictly to a daily work schedule has been helpful in making this all far,ha, ha! 

Inspired by Koko and Harambe - Digital

The best part that came out of all of this multitasking, was that it forced me to develop  fairly disciplined work habits that help me to stay productive, not only with my freelance work, but in my home life as well .  (Can't say the same for my studio mate though!)


What seemed overwhelming at first, is manageable, I can do this, but it's definitely a series of conscious choices every day! I have to maintain the ability to resist the temptations that exist, while working in a home studio situation and that's not always easy. There are going to be those occasional days that you  feel like it's all just too much and you can't focus, but as one of my illustrative idols, David Wiesner , stated at the recent NJSCBWI conference lunch...

" can't allow yourself to get distracted by the laundry, errands,  the telephone, social media, or having a bad have to just sit down and do the work, no matter're a PROFESSIONAL!"


Wednesday, June 15, 2016

The Reward - by Jason Kirschner

    So…I wrote this book.

It's a total mess. I know.
    I spent hours and days and months writing and revising in my little attic studio until I had the text exactly as I wanted it.  And then I started to draw. And draw. And draw until the illustrations were just as I envisioned them.  We sold the book (yay!) and then I began to revise and revise and — you see where this is going.  There was a LOT of time up there alone in the attic with only my cats for company and, quite frankly, they’re not the friendliest.  We didn’t get into Wilson the volleyball territory but I wasn’t that far off.  Then, one day not too long ago, the book was released into the wild.  There were social media posts and tags and tweets and someone opened the door to the attic and said “Come on out buddy.”

    And I did.  I made it out of the attic, had a shower and a shave, and moved on to promoting the book.  This largely meant book signings and school visits. I was nervous. Would I read the book well? What if I lose my place on the page. Would I keep their attention?  Do you banter with kids? Which shirt in my closet looked friendliest? Plaid seemed wrong somehow.  And what if no-one came?

    But all the hand wringing was for naught.  People did show.*  Plaid turned out to be ok. Some kids do banter and I had no reason to be nervous.  Why?  Because kids are great!! That’s why we write for them.  After months of talking only to cats, I had forgotten.  I forgot about the random comments and questions.  The utterly astonishing non-sequiturs.  Their absolute need to tell you about their pets and grandparents.  The tidal wave of sound that occurs when you ask a group of kids ages 2-9 any hypothetical question. Most of all, I forgot that I LOVE those things. 

See? Plaid was ok. @ Little City Books.
    So now I sit up there on my little stool and read my book. I ask lots of questions along the way and provide many many points of audience participation.  If you have a question, don’t save it until the end — I almost encourage the interruptions now. And except for the one kid that brought me his booger mid-book, (not making it up) I’ve not been disappointed. 

Kid-made superhero banners.
    This is the reward, people. The kids are the reward.  I did a school visit today (shout out to Slackwood School!) for 200+ kids that made banners and superhero signs for me.  They listened and laughed and cheered at my story.  Some asked me about how they can become authors too. Others asked about character creations and plot points. One kid asked what a rutabaga was.  SO MANY questions. All about my book…the one from the attic, with the cats and the volleyball.  The book I doubted myself about regularly.  They loved it. It made my heart happy.

    I can’t wait to get back to my attic and write another one.

*Full Disclosure: There was one book signing where no one except my grown cousins showed up. But we went out for burgers so it was all good.  Thick skin people. Thick skin.

And fine -- I did have a volleyball friend.  His name is Pierre and he accepts me for who I am. Happy now?

Jason Kirschner is the author and illustrator of Mr. Particular: The World's Choosiest Champion from Sterling which you can now find on shelves in bookstores everywhere. Get your own copy by clicking here and see more of Jason's work at

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

NJSCBWI - by Mike Ciccotello

Photo by Tara Lazar
WOWZERS! I just got back from the 2016 NJSCBWI conference. 

The best time for me to review how I prepare and promote my work is right after a major event. The ideas are fresh in my mind and I can find ways to improve my workflow. Maybe this will help a new illustrator that wants to tackle a conference. Maybe it will show a seasoned conference attendee a different view. 

Social Media/Website/Promotional Materials
        Five weeks prior to the conference I updated all of my social media. I created a new profile picture and matched it across all of my social media. I decided to go with Business Cards & Postcards from The quality is fantastic. I designed and ordered my cards about a month prior to the conference. I wound up going with Five different pieces of art for the back, and coordinated those pieces on both business and postcards, as well as my website. The side that had my contact information coordinated with my social media and website.

Postcards Printed at

        I saved all of my workshop documents, SCBWI scheduling information, and digital version of my portfolio as pdfs and put them on my iPad. This worked really well. I was able to have all of my documentation in one spot. If the opportunity presented itself to show my portfolio, and it did, I had it on me at all times.

My iPad with all of my SCBWI documents, portfolio, and sketches for the conference

Print Portfolio
        I went with a 14”x11” screw post portfolio. I originally had 18 illustrations, but cut it down to 14 illustrations, plus a beginning and end page that has my contact information. The images broke down to: 3 pen and ink, 1 black & white value, 10 full color. There was a blend of diverse children and animals, interior and exterior, character designs, and a couple sequential images. To see the post about my portfolio transition from last year, click here.

My Pina Zangaro Screw Post Portfolio

        At the time of registration, I didn't have a manuscript, so I decided to only purchase a portfolio review. I sat with an associate art director from Viking, Nancy Brennan. She had some great suggestions for my portfolio. I learned that having facing images that feel similar is great, but if the character expressions are the same, you aren’t showing emotional range. I will be creating a few new images and moving a couple illustrations around.

        I made sure to keep refreshing my postcards with my portfolio and with my juried art show piece. I also kept a small stack with me in case I needed to give one out. I was able to meet a whole bunch of new people in the children’s literature community. I even met a few editors, and agents. I’m looking forward to submitting my work soon.

The Saturday Night NJSCBWI Faculty Social

Illustrator’s Intensive
        I attended Nancy Brennan’s illustrator’s intensive. We had a special guest, David Wiesner. I asked everyone about the lighting and perspective. The major points that we discussed were the lighting and contrast. Everyone thought I could go a little darker. Mr. Wiesner pointed out some lighting considerations. I will be adjusting the lighting to improve the focus of the characters and the overall look of the room.
My original illustration from Nancy Brennan's Illustrator's Intensive workshop

Juried Art Show
        The theme was the first 6 words of W.B. Yeats’ poem, The Lake Isle of Innisfree, “I will arise and go now.” I took the theme quite literally and illustrated the whole poem. Where I believe that wound up limiting the amount of people that understood what I was illustrating, I learned so much about myself. I really enjoyed researching and world building. I enjoyed hiding clues that could make the viewer appreciate the piece at another level. That will be invaluable as my storytelling and illustration begin to intertwine.

My entry for the Juried Art Show, "I will Arise and Go Now"
For me, the NJSCBWI 2016 conference was all about improving my craft, putting my best foot forward to launch a long career in children's literature, and spending time with friends in the kidlit community. Thank you NJSCBWI, for organizing a spectacular event. I can't wait until next year. 

Twitter: @ciccotello
Instagram: @ciccotello