Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘writing fiction’ Category

Some more art from cards and letters generated after school visits. Thanks to all the kids for the time and effort they put in on these cards!

 

From: Kora C.

Aliens and bad books. The story of my life!

kora_c

From: Edward B.

That’s a book that eats people!

edward_b

 

From: Erin S.

She captured so many of the characters from my books!

Erin_S

From: Jacob V.

Another Earthling! Fan. The inside of the card was like a comic book page too!

jacob_V_O

Read Full Post »

The Wall Street Journal has an interesting article on the film The Shawshank Redemption. It’s focus is on the continued revenue stream the film provides for the studio that owns it. What’s more interesting is how a movie is released, is pretty much ignored by the  movie going public and then lives on as one of the highest rated films of all times.

This has happened before with films like Citizen Kaen and Casablanca.  These movies came out and no one seemed to care that much. But they go on to entertain generations.

In the WSJ article they mention that the film may have been overshadowed by Forrest Gump at the box-office which was the BIG movie the year it was released. Forrest Gump was an enjoyable film, but when I watched it again a few years ago it seemed pretty forced. The truth is that Forrest Gump has not held up very well through the years, while Shawshank has.

This same situation happens with books. There are of course mega-hits right from the start.  But often those works hit so big because they channel some moment of cultural zeitgeist perfectly and it resonates. Like a flashlight bouncing off mirrors, it can light up an entire room. But ultimately it’s only got a triple A battery behind it. It doesn’t last.

The strength that comes from perfectly capturing the moment can make the work feel flat and dated in a short time. For me TV shows, especailly sitcoms, are the most obvious examples of this. (with a few notable exceptions.) If you watch the most successful shows from the past, say 1956 or 1973, it quickly becomes obvious that they are badly dated in both big and small ways. Watching the show becomes an exercise in irony.

Even the shows that were tops in 1982: Dallas, Three’s Company, Joannie Loves Chachi – ouch! Yet, at the time they commanded huge numbers of viewers.

This is just a permutation of the debate on commercial art vs. fine art. Is what we’re creating going to stand the test of time? Does that issue matter since we can’t consciously control that aspect of our work anyway? Do we too often make alterations to work to feed into the current trends and desires vs. making something that might resonate with a deeper sense of ethos, pathos and logos?

Read Full Post »

So I’ve been negligent in talking about what I’m working on right now. I think this is because it’s real work to me. Something I already focus on all day long (and often evenings) and when I get to my blog duties I like to get away from all that. I’d much rather talk about important stuff like National Chocolate Chip Cookie Day – which is May 15th.

TGTE_1

Cropped sample from The Great Thanksgiving Escape. Out Sept. 2014 from Candlewick Press.

But what AM I DOING?

Right at this moment I’m typing and – drinking tea. Really good Chinese Breakfast from Numi Tea. (no I wasn’t sponsored to say that – it’s just  that they make the best bagged black teas right now)

I am also finishing a picture book I wrote and illustrated for Penguin that will be out next year.  I’m also about a third of the way done with a picture book I’m illustrating for Hyperion.

 


gtg1

I’m starting to plan some marketing for the picture book I wrote and Illustrated coming out this Sept. called The Great Thanksgiving Escape, which is being released by Candlewick Press. (I just received the first two sample copies on Saturday!) This is a book inspired by Oregon in many ways. You’ll see when you read it and get to the end (So order it now! what are you waiting for!?) This is the first picture book I wrote and illustrated. I got to wear both hats. And a wig. And clown shoes.

gtg4

After that I have a bunch of exciting projects I will blab on about later, including three more picture books I am thrilled to be illustrating.

Now I need to walk the dogs, yet another of the quotidian that keep me from ‘real’ work.

Read Full Post »

sh2

Democracy is a loaded word. Everyone has their own working definition. Is our government system here in the U.S.A. MORE democratic than Athens in the 5th century BC? We know the ‘will’ of the people is often ugly, reactionary and short-sighted. In knowing that should we defend democracy as the best choice among bad choices?

And what does it have to do with commercial art?

Everything and nothing. As a commercial artist we can’t pretend that we live in a void where commerce doesn’t matter. People ‘vote’ by purchasing access to the ‘art’ they like. A book. An album or digital download. A film. A video game. That’s what I depend on to pay my bills.

Right now it seems what people want in their movie house is repetitious movies of super heroes fighting one another. This strikes me as an amazing turn of events for a genre of fiction relegated to the lowest levels of attention for generations. The ‘modern’ comic book genre has been around since the 1930′s in America. At the peak of comic book popularity a few titles sold millions of copies a month. Like a video game would do these days. Now the few comics that sell in any number at all are very lucky to sell 10,000 copies in a month. So it’s literally a bankrupt form of fiction from a commercial standpoint. And yet this genre is the biggest draw in the world on the movie screen.

So why did a genre of story that existed for 80 years and only at the edge of most people’s awareness, grow into the global phenomena and dominate the moving pictures business? Why now?

Is it a perfect storm of demographics? Young people are still going out to movies in fairly impressive numbers. They have more money to spend and they want spectacle. Is this the result of the Nickelodeon and Disney TV generations looking for a rapid series of cuts and bright colors, obvious bad guys and non-threatening narratives? Good guys win. Bad guys die. Unless they don’t so there can be a sequel. And isn’t that really what Hollywood has always, mostly made anyway?

Granted they made Batman serials in the and 40′s, but they never found great success. And they never became feature films with big stars. There were also TV shows and cartoons through the years. But again, nothing that indicated they were anything more than a niche within entertainment programming. And after Tim Burton’s Batman in the 1980′s and the spawned sequels, the genre seemed to run out of gas and become something of an after thought.

I’m not interested in being a critic of the current films. Some are better than others. I just find the their success in cinema astounding. I don’t understand why superheroes are such big bushiness in films right now. But there is no doubt that a genre all but laughed at for generations now dominates the box office. The ‘Movie Democracy’ has spoken.

More tomorrow.

Read Full Post »

fly

The book below looks like a great read. Creativity, INC. by Ed Catmull, he of Pixar fame, talks about the need to make mistakes.

No, it’s more than that, he talks about how making mistakes means you’re pushing yourself and looking for new solutions. After all, if we don’t try anything new and only do what’s been done before and how it’s been done before – we guarantee we don’t do anything new.

cvr3

I like advice like this, but I’m always a bit suspicious of advice and UNLOCK your creativity type books. The cynic in my head says things like, “I’m better at the mistake making part of life. Just not good at the doing it right part.” or “Great advice. But I don’t want you to be a pilot of a plane I’m on.” But I will be getting a copy of this book.

Here’s a link to the Brain Pickings site and an article by Maria Popova.

From the book about mistakes:

“[Many people] think it means accept failure with dignity and move on. The better, more subtle interpretation is that failure is a manifestation of learning and exploration. If you aren’t experiencing failure, then you are making a far worse mistake: You are being driven by the desire to avoid it. And, for leaders especially, this strategy — trying to avoid failure by out-thinking it — dooms you to fail.”

Below is an interesting quote which speaks to me as I like to keep my work evolving as I do it. I don’t like planning out that one tight, super specific sketch. I like to discover and react as I paint a page in a book. This is a more difficult route no doubt, as I never have a point where I just turn off my brain and ‘color’ or ink lines. I’m reworking the whole thing as I work. At times I think I make doing picture books as hard as I can…

From the book: “If you seek to plot out all your moves before you make them — if you put your faith in slow, deliberative planning in the hopes it will spare you failure down the line — well, you’re deluding yourself. For one thing, it’s easier to plan derivative work — things that copy or repeat something already out there. So if your primary goal is to have a fully worked out, set-in-stone plan, you are only upping your chances of being unoriginal. Moreover, you cannot plan your way out of problems. While planning is very important, and we do a lot of it, there is only so much you can control in a creative environment. In general, I have found that people who pour their energy into thinking about an approach and insisting that it is too early to act are wrong just as often as people who dive in and work quickly. The overplanners just take longer to be wrong (and, when things inevitably go awry, are more crushed by the feeling that they have failed). There’s a corollary to this, as well: The more time you spend mapping out an approach, the more likely you are to get attached to it. The nonworking idea gets worn into your brain, like a rut in the mud. It can be difficult to get free of it and head in a different direction. Which, more often than not, is exactly what you must do.”

Thanks George for sending me the link!

Read Full Post »

jlf2

I had a great time visiting Jacksonville Elementary School. They have a literary festival each year (4th annual I believe) and the students share their writing with groups of mentors and have it posted in the gym for everyone to read. One student read his story in front of the audience of about 140 people. He did great!

bjb

They collect the student writing in a bound book (a big book!) so these students are already published authors. Very cool. I received a copy of it and have been reading the short prose, essays and poems. The kindergartens wrote and drew about ideas inspired by How Martha Saved Her Parents from Green Beans and from The Book That Eats People.

jp2

jp1

bksdsply

Jacksonville is a wonderful small town whose main street is just about identical to how it looked starting in 1850. No big box stores or fast food places. I had a great dinner and delicious bakery in the morning – fresh strawberry coffeecake! The baker in me was happy too!

jcknsvl

 

jcknsvl1

 




Read Full Post »

Some more cards from school visits. I have to explain that I am positing the art from cards, but I also get many letters and cards with no art. I don’t scan those, but I do read and appreciate them.

 

From: Anneliese

Love the expression on the sun and the robot with single red balloon!

anneliese

 

From: Connor D.

An Earthling! inspired card that also references The Big Bad Robot and Martha and those pesky green beans!

connor_d

From: Skylar S.

Aliens galore! And the fear of missing that bus.

skylar_s

From: Jordan S.

Super colorful references to many of my books. And the inside was heavily illustrated too!

jordan_s

Read Full Post »

metraveling

 

I’m looking forward to speaking at the 2014 Jackson Elementary Writer’s Festival on May 7th. One of the goals of the event is to give young writers an audience. Student writing is shared and displayed in the school and local writers and writing enthusiasts are invited to mentor small groups.

Every time I visit a school I meet several kids who are already dedicated writers and illustrators. They are looking for readers (aren’t we all!) and searching for more information about the process. If you read this blog regularly you know my feelings on ‘process’. Everyone has one. And mine isn’t yours and yours isn’t right for me.

But writing is best practiced by – writing. (same goes for illustration) Writing is more important than reading if you want to write professionally. You can be a great reader – by reading. And no doubt it helps your writing. But to be a good writer you can’t just read. You need to make all those mistakes you will make while you write. And then fix them.

At least you have to try and fix them.

 

Read Full Post »

ideas

One of the most common questions an author, cartoonist or illustrator receives is, ‘Where do you get your ideas?’

This is somewhat straightforward to answer when you are contracted to illustrate a manuscript. I literally was handed a story to illustrate. Granted all the visuals must be created, so you are definitely generating visual ideas that must come from somewhere, but you have the architecture plans in hand – the manuscript.

John Cleese has lots of great quotes about creativity and ideas.

“We get our ideas from what I’m going to call for a moment our unconscious — the part of our mind that goes on working, for example, when we’re asleep. So what I’m saying is that if you get into the right mood, then your mode of thinking will become much more creative. But if you’re racing around all day, ticking things off a list, looking at your watch, making phone calls and generally just keeping all the balls in the air, you are not going to have any creative ideas.” ~ John Cleese

I recite an answer to the question of where I get my ideas when I give talks, which sounds much like every other author’s answers I’ve ever heard. And I think I began to believe it. It makes it sound likes it’s a discipline. Like you can take Idea Generation 101 at a university where you practice and develop and study and craft creating ideas. NO. You craft and refine and revise a manuscript or a sketch – which is based on an idea that comes from…????

When looking back on things it’s easy to think we see dots connecting to create an outcome. I think we mostly create those dots to fulfill a preconceived notion of ourselves. For those very same ‘dots’ could produce an infinite number of different outcomes. That they resulted in any particular event is simply a product of odds. So the looking back and pretending to know where an idea generated from is a comforting fiction we tell ourselves so that the world continues to unfold in an orderly action-reaction state.

A few weeks back I was sitting in the waiting room of a local athletic club. I was tired, a little bored, thinking about what I was going to make for dinner while I waited for my daughter to get done with swim team practice. And I was writing/doodling in my sketchbook, which I do all the time. And a story simply developed from a few sentences and a quick sketch.

I have NO idea where it came from. And of course no idea if it’s any good. But if I continue to revise it and if it is submitted to editors one day, I will follow up on this post.

But the fact is – I see no logical reason for that story to have appeared in my head at that moment. I hadn’t been working on it. It doesn’t have to do with swimming… it was totally random.

So much for knowing where ideas come from.

Read Full Post »

hair

Anxiety dogs me. Will anyone like my work, why are my drawings so tight/or too lose? You’d think I’d be a better speller by now, will anyone like my new manuscript, will I need another root canal soon?

Much of my anxiety is about work. Maybe its the same for you. I guess it’s an issue of control.

I don’t feel like I control much. Even my hair on my head. I mean, it’s MY hair on MY head. But it pretty much does as it pleases.

True I can resort to extremes when I need to – I can have it cut. That’s how I wrestle it under control.

When I comb it – it just laughs at me. I can put Dapper Dan in it. That may work for a short bit. But my hair still does what it wants. Everyone who knows me is used to seeing me and wondering if I ever comb my hair. I do. I try to get it to behave. But short of shaving it all off, it will do what it wants to do. So if I can’t even control the hair on my head, what hope do I have in controlling ‘real’ issues?

Many times it’s best to just go with it.

And that’s how to keep anxiety at bay.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 488 other followers

%d bloggers like this: