Wednesday, May 31, 2017

My Mom - By Barbara DiLorenzo

When I was in ninth grade, influenced by my mother's journey to publication, I made my first picture book dummy. She and I had taken summer courses together at our local art college–Montserrat, in Beverly MA. While she was already skilled in writing and illustration, I was just learning. Those courses lit a fire within her, and I watched her begin to pursue picture book publication. She told me that once a radio personality read her fortune and said she would one day write a children's book. I think that's what she said. Maybe it was someone else's prophetic words that helped her follow through, even when the journey seemed bleak. Bleak to her, anyways. To me, it was a magical journey. I watched her form a critique group with writers–some published, some not. The women who were published had an air of achievement that made them more beautiful to me. Stacks of postcards with her illustrations printed on the front would occasionally collect on the dining room table, addressed to editors and art directors. Magical! And in high school, she brought me to my first SCBWI conference, where I met Jane Yolen and had her sign my sketchbook–a magical moment I will never forget, though I met her again years later.

The only aspect of her journey I didn't enjoy was when she asked my brother, step-father and I to critique her work. I didn't think my opinion should hold much weight as she could clearly draw and write far better than me. She didn't let any of us off the hook when we praised her work–she had to know what needed adjustment. I delicately explored the work, trying to find the line where I was helpful, but not too critical. If she hadn't been persuasive about finding flaws, all of us would have been in awe of her work as it was. I saw firsthand the torturous life of a creative person–even if people around you think your work is awesome, you can never really rest or trust that it is.

Her first book was HURRICANE, written by Corinne Demas. She took photographs of my brother and I around our family's house for illustration reference, and dedicated it to my grandmother, who passed away right before it was published. I was so proud of her accomplishing a lifelong dream. But she went above and beyond–and had a second book contract in no time! She sold her manuscript MINGO, which was illustrated by Bill Farnsworth. She told this story to my brother and I numerous times when we were growing up. Sometimes when we drove by a particular ocean view, she would remind us about the story of Mingo, the slave who was promised his freedom when the tide held back enough for a person to walk out to Aunt Becky's Ledge. It was a haunting story to hear. But to see it in print, incredible. I think that's where my love of combining history with a fictional narrative was born.

I'm not sure why my mother stopped after MINGO. I know she had numerous other stories in various stages of development–some I thought were definitely ready to send out. She had a great story about Van Gogh. I thought she would keep going, but somehow, maybe seeing the other side of being published, she stopped submitting her work. She taught watercolor painting for years, so I don't think author visits would have daunted her. The feedback and reviews were positive, but maybe she was hoping for more. I can understand that–this is the first time I'm facing reviews, and it's a whole new aspect to publishing that I hadn't paid attention to before. And reviews, even glowing ones, can still include words that sting.

I have questions for her, but she and I have had a long history of a troubled relationship. We have not spoken since 2009. Prior to that, there were clumps of years that we didn't speak, interspersed with years that we did. At this point, I think both of us, and our family, feel that somehow the two of us are better off cooly existing in separate worlds. It's lonelier, but it's more peaceful. No one needs their blood pressure raised after so many years of heartache. But. At this point in time, reflecting on the eve of my own books being published, I honor all that my mother taught me. She sat with my brother and I at the kitchen table when we were tiny, and showed us how to sculpt in clay and paint and draw. She was and is talented in so many different mediums. As was her mother, my grandmother, who passed away before she ever got to see her daughter or granddaughter published. Both my mother and my grandmother wanted to go to art school, but were discouraged. Though I applied to six liberal arts schools and only one art school, the day my acceptance to RISD arrived, my mom was the person who cheered me on, and made sure I felt supported in the decision to pursue art. That support dropped away once I moved into my dorm, but that is the nature of our dark relationship.

While I can't change the turmoil of the past, I do honor the good parts. And in my newborn daughter, (a surprise in my life now that I'm 41-years old), I see my mom's blue eyes. And unlike my son, at only two months old, this child stares at the paintings on our walls, and the picture books that I show her. She is fascinated by books and art already–something my son didn't notice until many months later, and with a lot of encouragement. I wonder if she will carry the creative writing and painting spirit that has traveled through the generations of women in my family. My only prayer is that no matter what I teach her, that my mother taught me, that her mother taught her–we remain friends. When my daughter achieves her lifelong dream, I want to be there to celebrate alongside her.

by Barbara DiLorenzo
Come by and celebrate on June 25, 2017
From 1-3pm at Books of Wonder
18 W 18th St, New York, NY 10011

Barbara is represented by Rachel Orr of the Prospect Agency.
Twitter: @wavepaint
Facebook: @BarbaraWillcoxDiLorenzo

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

What is Book Expo America? by Patricia Keeler

Yay! My picture book, LIZZIE AND LOU SEAL, Sky Pony Press, has just been published. Yep! I'm going to show at Book Expo America to promote it.

Book Expo America, BEA, is the largest annual book trade fair held in the United States. This year, it takes place at the Jacob Javits Convention Center May 31st through June 3rd. Jacob Javits Center is so big it goes from 34th street to 40th street along 11th Avenue in Manhattan.  

Anyone can go to BEA. Last year, in Chicago, about 10,000 librarians, bookstore people, book bloggers, teachers, museum people and people who just love books paid $100.00 or more to attend for three days. People came from every state in the US, plus nearly 70 countries.  

There are large displays by the big publishing houses like HarperCollins and Wiley. The booths are run by the editors and salepeople. It's a monster big show!

HarperCollins Publishers has an entire aisle.
But I find it a most confusing show from the get-go. BEA's website is hard to navigate. It's slow to load, hard to read, and in black and white. The show is so big, I can never find the booth I'm looking for, and the concrete floors are hard to walk on all day. You can't buy any books, although on the afternoon of the last day publishing houses may give away their books so they don't have to pay to ship them back. It can be frowned upon to show editors artwork or a book dummy, as the houses are there to sell books, not buy them.

The worst section at BEA is near the back wall, where a row of lonely home-made authors pay over $1,000 to sit behind a card table with their slight pile of books. I've been to BEA a couple of times and avoided this row of the hoi polloi.  
A tiny section of Book Expo America floor
But this year I'm Hoi Polloi Booth AM34

Actually, I'm 'Spot' AM34, because it's 4 feet x 4 feet. Do you realize how small that is?

Why would I do this? Let's go back to the top of this blog where I say 10,000 book buyers! I couldn't go to ten thousand libraries and bookstores in my lifetime if I went every day! And they are all going to be right there, for three days, walking around looking for books for their libraries and bookstores.

I know, I know. They will be looking for major publishing house booths, not mine. So I'm going to set up my easel and sketch librarians and book sellers as children's book characters.

Here's a card I made.
I have earring and necklace giveaways. Also, BEA has something I think that is new, and it's really helpful. Guests sign up for your booth on your own BEA site before the show. So far I've had over 50 people signed up, including folks from New York Public Library and Barnes and Noble. One man emailed and said he was looking to buy 5,000 books -- I think he got me mixed up with the real Sky Pony Press booth -- but he's really looking forward to meeting me!

So I'm excited to get the opportunity to present at the same show as the major houses! I could make amazing contacts! I could do amazing sales! 

Or this could be the worst idea I've ever had.

Yikes! I can't step off the mat!

  Facebook:  PatriciaKeelerBooks
Twitter: @patriciakeeler
Instagram: @patriciakeeler

represented by Liza Royce Agency

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Art Shows, by Mike Ciccotello

I've been showing my art for over 15 years, everything from basements to corporate galleries. Take whatever chance you get to show your work, you'll grow from it, trust me. To me, showing my work has always been a social event. I love being at the opening, talking to people, sharing an experience. It's an important part of the process for me. I'd like to share a quick look at some of the shows along my journey, but I don't want to talk about the art. I'd like to focus on the events.

Let's start with 2003, my first show after art school. A group of artists put together a show in my backyard. We called it Art in the Garden. It was really a bunch of young local artists showing their work to each other. I think we had wine too. We put up easels in the backyard and around the house. It was a blast, and I learned that my work all over the place, but I didn't care. I enjoyed the social aspect of the show and sharing my work with friends. I was hooked.

Original invite to Art in the Garden

Next is Streets2k5, with Albus Cavus, and artist collective I worked with for many years, starting this show. It took place in New Brunswick, NJ. The show was at eight different venues, with over 100 international artists (most mailed in their work) It included outdoor painting, musical performance, and a radio interview. This was a HUGE event that created incredible memories, lasting friendships, and fuel to continue pursuing my art. I'm still in touch with many of the artists I met from this show.

Streets 2k5, Showing the Harvest Moon, Feaster Park, TheCORE, New Brunswick NJ

Right around the same time I felt I could hold a solo show. I had three successful solo shows over three years, at The Harvest Moon, New Brunswick, NJ. I started to look at the solo show as more of an experience I was creating for the viewer. It wasn't just about the art on the walls. It was also the announcements, the promotions, and the environment.

Commuter, Harvest Moon Brewery, New Brunswick, NJ

In 2011, Hinterland, was a group show at Aristeia Metro, in the NY Design Center. Four artists of varying style, brought together by a super cool interior design company, to show work and have a party for their clients. This group can throw a fun party. They had an amazing DJ, passed hors d'oeuvres, bartenders, dessert trays. I learned that passed hors d'oeuvres REALLY makes a difference. An upscale event can change perception for your audience. It's not necessary, but it's something nice to offer your guests.

Hinterland, Aristeia Metro, NY Design Center, NY

Daydreams, Solo show at Salon Concrete, Red Bank, NJ, in the fall of 2014. Our twin boys were born in February, 2015, so I knew I wanted to take a break. I also knew that after that show I would be switching gears to get into the world of children's literature. This was a CRAZY show. The salon based a collection of style, cut, and color, on my work. Click here to see styles. We had a live photo shoot in the front space of the Salon. You could see the photo shoot from the street through a nice big window. Inside you were greeted by a wall my original skateboard designs, and a whole bunch of people. Once you walked into the space, we had two tables of hot and cold food, passed hors d'oeuvres, and an amazing DJ. My art filled the walls, both framed work and line art paintings directly on the walls. It was jam packed with people. What a night!

Daydreams, Salon Concrete, Red Bank, NJ

Why am I telling you all of this? I'm starting to understand that creating picture books, for the most part, is a quiet, solitary journey. It's easy to get caught up in that, but what happens when you have a book launch, or need to promote your book? There may be long breaks between those books. How can you maintain a following? Hold events with your art. Socialize. Join group shows, promote your work, gain a following. Put yourself out there. You work so hard on this process, you should share the work that you create. Do it for yourself. Trust me, if you've never shown your work, you don't need a corporate art gallery or fancy design center. You can show at a library or restaurant. Just try it. Invite some friends and have a good time. See what happens.

After a short hiatus, (our twin boys are now two yrs old) I am getting back to showing my work... and I have two coming up.

The Wondrous World of Children’s Book Illustrators

The Interchurch Center
475 Riverside Drive, Suite #240
New York, New York 10115

Opening reception, June 22, 5:30 - 7:30 pm

The Illustration of Mike Ciccotello
Main Gallery
Johnson & Johnson, Corporate Headquarters 
New Brunswick, NJ 
August 28 - October 6th. 
Viewing is by appointment only (it's easy to do)
Contact - Stacey Hecht, Exhibitions Coordinator 
Corporate Art Program, Johnson & Johnson


Represented by Rachel Orr
For more info contact 

Twitter: @ciccotello 
Instagram: @ciccotello