Where to go from here.

And no, this isn’t a political post!

You have an idea for a book (this is about a picture book but the experience is universal). You start thinking about it, a small start. A few things click. You come to believe that maybe … maybe there’s something there.

An opening scene or a few lines of dialogue line emerge. It’s working!

You start to think – maybe this is the best idea I’ve ever had!

You scribble, you write. You continue to push it, the idea evolves. It’s got legs, It’s almost walking and …

Oh-oh.

Trouble. It’s not working. That opening doesn’t make sense. The main character – what IS the main character trying to accomplish anyway and didn’t I just switch the meaning of the entire book with the last revision?

It’s a mess.

This is the difficult part and for many years it stopped me in my tracks when it came to FINISHING a book. What seemed such a promising start turns into a mess of convoluted ideas, confusing prose and crisscrossed inspirations.

The temptation is strong to end it right there and move on. Get a new inspiration. Dump this lemon.

And I have done that. But looking back at my work I realize that completing the idea, forcing yourself to solve it, getting a manuscript you can share with someone (a loved one, an agent, an editor perhaps) is vitally important. Because rarely has a manuscript fallen from my mind in perfect form. The starts-and-stops and anxiety and fear is PART of a process that is unwieldy and convoluted. But a writers job it to resolve those issues and make it work.

It took me a bit to realize but solving the problems in a story is actually what you get paid for as an author. It’s not supposed to be easy.

The time and effort you put into solving the problems in a manuscript is the work a writer does. You have to work until you have a readable manuscript. Your story has to have a clear narrative, the different ideas and forces present in the books development need to somehow work in concert. Then you can share it and gain feedback (even if not always highly positive) and THEN you start in on the next idea. That’s how you get better.

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Rejection!

Rejection.

“Passing.”

“Not a good fit here.”

“Not quite what we are looking for.”

“Not there yet.”

“Have you considered another career?”

If you are working in any commercial art words like the ones above will become familiar.

I imagine there are some people who see less of them than others. But maybe over time it all evens out. It still hurts to get them and I’ve been getting them for 15 years now when it comes to publishing. I received plenty of similar words in my years as a designer too.

What people don’t consider when they count up the inevitable rejections from publishers (lets call them external rejections) are all the internal rejections a writer/illustrator has already accumulated.

All the stories that start – and stop because you don’t like how they are going. All the time spent on things that don’t work. Narratives with problems you can’t solve. Grand ideas that aren’t what you imagined them to be once you put fingers to keyboard or paint on the canvas. The drawings that art directors and editors don’t see because you rejected them first.

Rejections aren’t all created equally.

A rejection from an editor means at least you moved beyond those internal rejections. You found something you thought ready to share.

Sometimes a rejection contains the very seeds of success. Two of the books I’ve had published came back the first time with thoughts and notes from a considerate and engaged editor. Their notes ignited a revision that resulted in the book selling.

But that’s not always the case. Finding a way to cope with rejection is still a necessary part of personal and professional life. I’m not a big fan of passing along advice on such things, but the only way I find to cope is to get back to work. Start again, find new inspiration. The rejection has to be seen as a single step, no matter how agonizing, in a very long journey.

 

 

Posted in picture books, writing fiction | 3 Comments

The quiet idea

The best story is always the simplest story. The one you almost miss because when its narrative heart begins to beat it seems – just so obvious. The idea you pass over too quickly on the way to some imagined GRAND idea. The idea that seems mostly tired and probably not worth working on is anything but.

The simple idea, the almost invisible inspiration, these are glimpses of the richest material in the universe – the primordial soup that once mixed together produces unimagined evolutions. We can’t look directly at the biggest issues, it would be like staring into the sun. But the ideas that dance around our peripheral vision – those are the good stuff.

Don’t ignore the quiet, simple idea. Don’t put it aside waiting for some awe inspiring inspiration. Take that little idea aside and be patient. Realize that it’s just a baby and it needs time to crawl before it can walk. But don’t underestimate what it can grow into.

 

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I need a new job title

I worked for more than 20 years in corporate jobs. I was a graphic designer, a senior online graphic designer, an art director, a creative director, a senior art director, an online creative director, a production manager, a current production manager…I forget all the titles I once possessed. But now I work at home writing and drawing and crying…no I don’t cry that much… but I don’t get to have a nice title. Thus my search for an appropriate job title.

Let’s start with the obvious and rather boring.

Writer & Illustrator. (says that on my website, but come-on…)

Senior Imagineer (sounds too Disney)

Sitter and Stare-er-er (I know it’s not a word but it works!)

Deadline Fearer (It’s a word, I looked it up. Maybe not used appropriately but again, it works)

Maker Upper Of Silly Things

Senior Maker Upper of Silly Things

Senior Vice President Maker Upper of Silly Things

Drawer of Chickens and Stuff

Scribbler

Junior Scribbler

Not Sure What Else I’d Ever Want To Do Doer

Drawer of Things Over and Over and OVER until it’s right gosh-darnit

Guy who wonders what clothes a skunk would wear if a skunk wore clothes

Worrier and Chief

Sketcher

Executive Dog Walker and Sketcher

Executive Vice President Sketcher

Chief Pencil Pusher

As you can see I have a lot of choices. And I’m sure I will think of a few more. I just need a good one for the next time someone asks me what I do.

Posted in Blatherings, freelancing, iBooks Author, stay at home dad | 8 Comments

Chickens arrive. A photoessay.

Today is as a big day. My copies of Chicken Story Time arrived. Seeing a new book for the first time is always a very exciting day for me… that gives you a good idea about how much excitement I have in my life but anyway…

Here’s a little photoplay on how it all happened.

Once upon a time…

A Knock on the Door (at an odd hour no less).door.jpg

Who could it be? Pulled away from my work which I was trying to avoid anyway.

whoisit1.jpg

 

whoisit.jpg

 

box.jpg

 

outdoorsrprs.jpg

 

carry.jpg

 

fear2.jpg

 

fear1.jpg

 

scissor.jpginside2.jpg

What did they send me?

scrunched.jpgrchin.jpgyeh2.jpgbook1.jpg

Yup! It’s a real book.

title.jpg

The dedication is right.

dedication.jpg

It’s even got a back cover so I feel pretty good about it now.

backtoo.jpg

Let the story begin!!!

letbegin.jpg

Maybe artists do look like their art. I’m just a chicken I guess.

Look for Chicken Story Time at fine bookstores all over, and you can also order it online. I always recommend you buy 3 copies – just in case.

lookslike.jpg

 

Posted in Chicken Story Time | 9 Comments

IndieBound Winter Kids Next List!

cst_cvr

Great to see Sandy Asher’s new picture book Chicken Story Time (that I was lucky enough to illustrate) make it onto the IndieBound Winter Kids Next List!

Posted in Chicken Story Time, picture books | Leave a comment

Go Read a Book! THEN have some turkey or tofu.

thanksgiving_escapeToday at Barnes & Nobles around the nation The Great Thanksgiving Escape is being read at story time. So head on over! Now normally I’d say “But 6 copies for friends and family and create a new Thanksgiving reading tradition!” But instead I’ll say, “Travel to a Barnes & Noble and buy ANY book and lets keep reading!”

Make the bookstore nearest you, Barnes & Noble or independent, a place you visit often.

And prepare for The Great Wall of Butts!

gwob

 

 

Posted in picture books, The Great Thanksgiving Escape | Leave a comment