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This is an old post, but it is magically made new because I am posting it again!

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The Three Keys to Kids’ Lit. Success!

I imagine you are pretty excited to read this. I mean, THREE KEYS to success! Even I can count that high and I’m an artist.

Ok, here we go…number one…. numero uno…I’ve been thinking, maybe it’s more like 8 Keys to success. So, how about  ‘Eight Keys Kids’ Lit. Success’. That way I have enough room to get to issues like – ‘Make sure you run spell check’.

8 Keys to Kids’ Lit. Success:

1. I was going to start with, ‘Stay focused’. But I keep stopping to check emails and deleted part of the list by accident.

I just realized I have more like 13 Keys. So I could call it something like “The 13 Keys to Fabulous Kids’ Lit.” And that gives me room to include items like ‘Smile more.’

But 13 is a horrible number. Bad luck. I mean many buildings skip that number. It’s not small enough to be catchy and not long enough to sell as a How To Book.

Actually, I keep thinking of more Keys.  So, the title should be, ’23 Magic Steps for Success in Kids Lit.’

You don’t want to deal with 23 KEYS. Keys are heavy, they jingle, they jangle, after awhile you forget what they open or why you have them. They end up collecting dust in the drawer with spare change and nearly empty Tic-Tac containers…but 23 STEPS seems like reasonably good exercise, especially if you are like me and sit in front of a computer for 11 months of the year.

But I can easily break the 23rd step into 4 additional steps…So –

The 27 Steps To Be Successful In Children’s Lit.

1. Name your book Harry Potter.

2…OK. That first one doesn’t really work, as I seem to remember that name being used already in a TV show or a movie. Or a game. Or a theme park. Or on a package of jelly beans.

You know, I’m going to regroup here because the list just keeps getting longer, which is ironic, as number 11 on the list is, ‘Keep things simple’ and I number 19 is ‘Keep getting better’ which isn’t very helpful because it’s too broad.

So there you have it. My Three Keys to Kids’ Lit Success (copyright Mark Fearing, 2015) has turned into 27 Steps to Be Successful in Children’s Lit. and even that’s not enough. It keeps getting more complicated, I have at least 130 enumerated now. But I’m on deadline so I need to get back to drawing. But if I can’t break this down to under a hundred steps, I don’t deserve to write step-based or key-based lists at all.

And yes, you could interpret this list as a sideways glance at any How To Succeed list. But I am working on a new post called – ’42 Awkward Lurches to Kids’ Lit. Success’. I think 42 is exactly the right number.

reading

Recently I was asked, “What’s it like to illustrate someone else’s words?”

More or less they were asking –  “What is it like to illustrate someones else’s story/vision/book?”

With picture books, it’s a wonderful challenge. Usually when the story arrives it is completely different from what I have been struggling with/writing/revising or working on and it’s a welcome change of pace.

Honestly, when I get a manuscript from my agent to consider, I put off reading it for a day or so. It’s exciting to get a call from a major publisher, why chew through the experience quickly? Who knows how many of these opportunities one will get in life!?

When I read it, I take my time. I read it 3 or 4 times in one sitting. At this point I usually have a pretty good idea if I want to illustrate it.

Sometimes I forward it to my daughter to get her opinion. She has a visceral take on material, as anyone who spends time with an 8 year old knows. They don’t mask their feelings up and it’s interesting to get her perspective. Her feelings don’t make me accept or not accept a manuscript, it just gives me another POV.

If I don’t quite know what to think about a manuscript I’ll ask my wife to read it and I don’t tell her how I feel about it.

In the past year or so she read a manuscript I was a bit confused about. I liked it, saw potential in the illustration but the story fell a bit flat for me. She brought attention to a relationship in the story that I hadn’t considered and this made the story work much better for me.

Of course I also discuss it with my agent. He has a business perspective on it: how the book fits with my other work (schedule wise and content wise), if the material lets me do what I do best (or don’t do well!) and how good of a fit I am with the publisher on a personality level.

These different opinions rarely change my mind on whether or not to accept a book. What they do give me is a different perspective on finding potential in the material. But the final decision on if I illustrate the book or not is usually (99% of the time) the same decision I would make after my first read.

In my career, I guess that’s what it is now (scary!) I have turned down between a half dozen and a dozen manuscripts for various reasons but the most import reason is that I just didn’t ‘feel it’. I didn’t find anything in the manuscript that I thought I could execute on especially well. I didn’t see a reason why I was the right person to illustrate that book. And when I took my first kids lit class from Marla Frazee she pointed out that when you accept a book – it’s a huge commitment and you better very much love the book. It’s not something you dash off. You might work for 2 years on a book, which is about my limit for being able to pay attention to anything. That’s why feature films seemed like slow death to me. 4 or 5 or 6 years on a project would be exceptionally difficult for me.

So if I like the manuscript, decide I can bring something special to it, it fits into my schedule and the contract is negotiated successfully THEN the fun begins. And because I sometimes alter my style a bit from book to book, I start to get an idea about how I can make the book more than just the words on the page. And this is the learning curve with picture books. It took me a long time to fully understand that the words are JUST THE BEGINNING to what you can do with a picture book. And the best picture books go way beyond the words and create a completely unique experience from endpapers to back cover.

I’m still learning.

Sad Bigfoot.

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Markets go down too!?

stocks

oil

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A new review from The Garden State popped up for a picture book I know a lot about.

Check it out on by clicking here.

From the review:

“She’s a creative child, painting with her hairbrush, wearing multiple hats — literally and simultaneously.

She frustrates her mom and creates havoc. Yet having a Dilly Dally Daisy in your life makes you see life differently, which you realize because you are given the time to think about it.

This book is perfect for the parent of every child who misses buses because she is changing a stuffed animal’s clothes. And, it’s fun for the dilly dalliers, too.”

 – Jacqueline Cutler

90% of my time is spent writing and or drawing picture books, the other 10% includes a bit of animation writing and design, my much talked about attempts to write a middle grade novel and that’s about it. I tend to have no more time.

But once in awhile a project is intriguing enough to get my attention. I’ve been doing some illustrations for Nikki Finke’s new website, Hollywood Dementia. I’m one of many illustrators for the site.

The website is a collection of stories about Hollywood, written by Hollywood insiders. And if you like your fiction glamorous and star studded and all the while exposing the ugly truths of life behind the red carpet  (and the red carpet is just 3D and shot on a green screen now days) this is fiction for you.

I’m illustrated a few stories on the site and it lets me explore a different style of work with a different focus.

Below is a sample illustration I did for the the site. Some of the pieces are short stories, some essays, some excerpts from novels.

Go visit and read. NOTE: It is a paid site where some of the content requires payment. Imagine that!? Artists getting paid for their writing on THE INTERNET. The internet will be all confused about that I’m sure…

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