Five Questions (Plus One) from Candlewick, and answers from me!

Um. Yes, it's me!

This very short video is a from a series, called Five Questions (Plus One), that Candlewick is doing with some of their authors and illustrators. They asked me five surprise questions (plus one), and I answered them! 

I think I like public speaking better than video speaking. But I also think the good people at Candlewick did their best to make me look at least presentable. 

It's Almost Book Launch Time!

Wheeeeeee!

It's a long journey from dream to publication, but the day has almost arrived! Two Speckled Eggs, the first book that I have both written and Illustrated, goes on sale on April 22, 2014!

If you are in the Seattle area, come have some cake with me at Secret Garden Books in Ballard on April 22, at 7 pm, or Eagle Harbor Books on Bainbridge Island, on April 27 at 3 pm. 

I'll be very happy to see you!

More elephanta.

This fella, along with several other of my elephant monotypes, is hanging at the Bainbridge Arts and Crafts gallery this month.

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People ask me, "So, do you have a thing for elephants?" And I think they want me to say, "Why yes, the elephant is my totem animal, and I see it as symbolic of the threshold between...." well, you know what I mean. But really...

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I just have a thing for this guy, who is the model for all of my elephant monotypes, which are really just about making marks with printing ink on a plate and sending it through the press. Really. This little elephant must have been carved by someone who loves elephants the same way I do. I picked him up in a shop filled with well-curated junk--my favorite!

Here are a couple more of my elephants:

I think they all look like they are on the move. Aren't we all?

Beatrice Alemagna

I really love her work, and so I was tickled to come across this very sweet little video about the making of her book What is a Child. Worth a peek, especially if you are an illustrator and love to see how others do it! True inspiration.

Moody Pachyderms

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Every now and then I find my way to the printmaking studio of my friend Wendy Orville, and I spend my time making stuff like this. Cathartic messy wonderful monotype printmaking! A small collection of my moody pachyderms will be on display at the Bainbridge Arts and Crafts Gallery during the month of March, along with the work of several other talented printmakers, including my talented friends Karen Cornell and Tracy Lang. Opening festivities are this coming Friday March 7, 6-8. Stop by and have a look!

How to Use Shrek As a Model for a Laughing Teacher

Okay, this will be quick. But it's  good lesson.

A few minutes ago, I was working on a drawing that features a lot of laughing people, including a teacher.  I was really unhappy with the way the teacher's body language looked. (I find adult body language somewhat harder to capture than kids'.) So, on a whim, I grabbed my copy of William Steig's Shrek, flipped through the many pages of expressive body language that Shrek uses, and voila! I found a laughing Shrek. Just what I needed to improve my own sketch of a laughing teacher. Better, yes?

Keep your mentors at your side at all times, people!

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Spend a Little, Get a Lot

Sometimes you have to spend a little to get a lot. That is what I tell myself every time I fork over the dough to attend another children's literature conference or a retreat. And the investment is always worth it, although the return is often completely unmeasurable. A couple of weeks ago, I was lucky enough to be a part of a warm and wonderful retreat for published authors and illustrators, and yes, I did have to fork over a little dough to attend, AND, I spent my birthday weekend away from my loving family. 

And it was worth every penny, and almost every loving complaint about my absence. Over that far too short weekend, I gained camraderie, insight, pounds (yes-the food was excellent), new titles for my to-be-read list, friends, contacts, resources, skills, and confidence. Some of these gains are measurable (unfortunately in the case of pounds) and some are not. But I am richer for all of them. And grateful. And inspired. And freshly aware of what makes my writer engine hum-which is probably the most valuable insight I could have gained. 

I also came home with a few small but HUGE new skills in photoshop and wonderful insights into digital painting, as taught to us by the very talented Christopher Denise. Just a few clicks of the mouse on his big monitor, and whole new worlds opened up to we who were watching.

Anyway, here's a little sketch experiment using one of my simple and almost dumb new photoshop skills.

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And here is the wonderful book recommended to me by a wacky Brit that I know, Hazel Mitchell. I am not an absolute beginner, but I have taught myself what I know, and that is not much. So it is wonderful to have incredibly useful new vocabulary and tools at my finger tips! Feels almost like it was written just for me, not quite a luddite, but a sort of reluctant adopter. Now less reluctant!

New Website-a work in progress!

If you have visited here in the past, you can see now that I have switched things up a little! A little spring cleaning, I guess. I consider this website a work in progress, especially as I learn to use squarespace.com. If you've got tips and hints for me, I'd love to hear them. Meanwhile, have a look around, and check back from time to time to see things improve!

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Happy New Year's Birds

Not sure what my ongoing fascination with birds is all about.

My perceptive son made the comment that perhaps I should channel this fascination into a picture book project. Just might try that on for size.

Usually these are tiny advent birds, for my own children's advent calendar. This year they are bigger New Year's birds. (I did still make tiny advent paintings, just not birds.)

Great Blue Heron

Quail (and yes she is wearing pearls, because they go with her hat)

Sandpiper

Merganser

And here are some of the little tiny paintings I made to fit into the tiny little pockets of my children's advent calendar. These are just about 1 1/4" by 1 1/4". My children are now teenagers, and they still love these little surprises.

Happy New Year, all!

XO

Jen

 

Here is a book I love.


It is called Jane, the fox & me, written by Fanny Britt, and illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault.


It is beautiful in so many ways. It is visually arresting, first of all. Most of the images are moody, highly textured, almost black and white with lots left to the imagination. 



The words are spare and the voice is accurate--an adolescent girl struggling with changed friendships, a changing body, a fragile self-image. A wonderful book and a loving mother are her anchors.


And, you will see, the story ends well. In full color. Just beautiful.

WOOT! WOOT!

More exciting new book news: my upcoming picture book TWO SPECKLED EGGS is on the "What's New" page of the Candlewick Press Spring/Summer 2014 Catalog, which you can browse at your leisure here. What a thrill to see the cover image there, and in such great company! Thanks Candlewick!!


Book launch!

George Shannon and I launched our picture book, Turkey Tot, on November 3 at Eagle Harbor books!

It was a blast! 
I was so lucky to be able to learn from a master--George entertained kids and grown-ups alike with his funny turkey hat, his wonderful reading of Turkey Tot, and a give away: two huge cans of hominy (and I mean HUGE) plus some rope and instructions for making the same stilts that Turkey Tot made in order to pick the juicy blackberries! 
We sold every copy of Turkey Tot in the store; I experienced the absolute thrill of signing my very first book; we ate cake and cookies (and even sipped a little prosecco when the crowds were gone!)
Big thanks to Eagle Harbor Books for hosting our book birthday party! And to all who came out to celebrate with us!




Finally, a blog post.


Hello! And welcome back to The Blog That Time Forgot.

Or that Jen forgot.

I really haven't forgotten. I've just been feeling really shy! It's funny how when you finally get a chance to toot your horn because your efforts have resulted in something worth tooting about, you (I) get all tongue tied and pigeon toed. Hands behind your back, toe in the dirt. Nothing to write about. Nothing to report on. It's tough to be a horn-tooter! I know you know what I mean.

But toot my horn I must.  Because it would be a shame to hide the fact that I have finally realized a long held dream! And because it would be a shame to keep the end result of the hard work and the long hours, and the blood, sweat and tears, a secret.

Biggest and most exciting on my horizon is my very first ever book launch party with George Shannon for our picture book, Turkey Tot! George and I will be celebrating on November 3, at 3 pm at Eagle Harbor Books. If you are in the area, stop by for some blackberry treats, and maybe you will even learn how to make your very own blackberry picking stilts!

Kirkus Reviews had some nice things to say about Turkey Tot, which is a picture book for the preschool set:

"A determined turkey gets the sweet, juicy, high-hanging berries.
Turkey Tot is wandering about the bucolic farmstead—the reader winningly transported there via Mann’s easy-handed, dark-lined, watercolor-washed artwork—where he lives with his friends Chick, Pig and Hen, in search of something to eat. Blackberries beckon, but they are too high to reach. So Turkey Tot looks about for some way to access the berries. His friends think all his ideas are cockamamie—and repeatedly so in Shannon’s polyphonic refrain: “You’re talking silly talk.” “We can’t reach the berries, and that is that.” “He’s been different since the day he hatched.” They decide to take a nap by the pond. But Turkey Tot will not be discouraged. Perhaps his first few ideas are a little off note—one has him finding a ball of string to which, he figures, he will tie a balloon and float Pig up to berryland—but he finally manages to wire all his different schemes together and snag the berries. Then he shares them with his uninspired comrades, which is more than the Little Red Hen would have done. Good for Turkey Tot: freethinking, resolved, generous.
Let’s hope that when November rolls around, Turkey Tot has become the farm’s mascot, not its dinner."

And School Library Journal had some great things to say as well:


"Turkey Tot thinks outside the box. He’s hopeful, imaginative, and persistent, refusing to let his Debbie Downer friends in the farmyard discourage him. He’s determined to retrieve juicy blackberries that hang just out of reach, but he needs a little help to implement the plans he makes to get within range. His enthusiastic schemes include floating up to the berries via a bunch of balloons and being flung at them from a teeter-totter. Naysayers Pig, Hen, and Chick tell him no way, no how. No matter, because Turkey Tot pulls together materials to make a pair of stilts from tin cans, and he fills a basket with the plump berries on his own. Now, his detractors sing a different tune. Hen’s observation that Turkey Tot has been “different since the day he hatched” is no longer a criticism but a compliment. Shannon’s writing is simple, clean, and cheerful, and his message of stick-to-itiveness is delivered perfectly. He also incorporates refrains that kids will have fun repeating during storytimes. Mann’s illustrations, a blend of watercolor, pencil, and digital collage, pop against ample white space, and the four characters are depicted in a wonderfully silly and endearing style. This picture book, like its protagonist, is a bona fide winner.–Alyson Low, Fayetteville Public Library, AR

I am pretty thrilled with these reviews! And I think all kinds of kids will love Turkey Tot, too!

Meanwhile, I am about to travel to NYC for some festive KidLit related events, including a 15th anniversary party at Pippin Properties, a visit to the Society of Illustrators to see the Original Art Show, and a chance to visit with some editors and art directors. I'll swing through Massachusetts for a long overdue visit with family, and then spend a little time with the wonderful Kate Fletcher and Heather McGee at Candlewick Press. They've invited me to read to their staff from my own picture book, Two Speckled Eggs, which they are publishing next spring! Talk about feeling a little shy! Yikes!! I wish I could share the cover of Two Speckled Eggs with you, but it's still a little early. It's release date is April 8, 2014!

And in between and all around these other things, I am busy working on the final art for another project for Candlewick, a second book of my own, called I Definitely Will Never Get a Star on Mrs. Benson's Blackboard.

And I am daydreaming and doodling on a few other things as well. Stay tuned! I'll try to be less shy from now on.

It's a book!

I just returned home from an unforgettably great week of camping and swimming and eating paella with dear family and friends, to be happily surprised to find this on my doorstep:


These are my illustrator's copies of TURKEY TOT! What better incentive to finally clean up my dreadfully messy studio, than to make room for copies of one's VERY FIRST published book! And now I think I can safely share the cute cover of the book, because we are very close to the official pub date of October 15! (and if you just can't wait, you can order TURKEY TOT by George Shannon from amazon.com now). Inside you will find a cheerful undaunted Turkey Tot, and his silly, doubting companions, Hen, Pig and Chick.

Meanwhile, TWO SPECKLED EGGS is busy transforming itself into pages and covers, somewhere far away in another part of the world...

Tomorrow I head south to L.A. for the SCBWI International Conference. I am now the Illustrator Coordinator for our Western Washington chapter of SCBWI, so I will be diving headfirst into a day packed with meetings for people like me! I can endure a day of meetings when they are with my tribe! Then workshops and keynote speeches for three days, all about everything related to making books for kids. Then a day of Illustrator Intensive, which is just as it sounds. Then home.

And then summer is nearly over, and I have a few more fun things to do with my kids before they head back to school. Then I head back to the studio to power through the final art for the next picture book in line: I DEFINITELY WILL NEVER GET A STAR ON MRS BENSON'S BLACKBOARD.

And just because I can't resist, here's a peek at the camping, swimming (...well, floating), and campfire paella of last week. YUM!




Hey Ho!

I was lucky enough to spend a few days rocking out and catching up with dear friends (who happen to be the organizers) at BottleRock Napa Valley last week, and in the hubbub of it all, I did not have a chance to squeak about this exciting package that arrived on my doorstep.

This is the real deal: Turkey Tot, written by George Shannon, illustrated by me!! My very first published work as an illustrator! I am tickled pink, proud to be George Shannon's friend, and giddy with the feeling of a very significant FIRST! And, so mindful of how lucky I am to have this wonderful job. I couldn't love what I do more.

Tell me your birthday party stories!

Today, I am a guest blogger over at my wonderful literary agency, Pippin Properties!
As ever, I am so so tickled to be in such good company among the many awesome Pips.
Head on over there, and have a read! And then come back here, and tell me your birthday party stories!