Archive for September, 2011

A nice write-up about the latest picture book I illustrated at Tor.

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Yes, you can enter now, and yes, I’ve recieved a few emails asking about the right email address to submit to.

Just submit an email to: aliencontest@gmail.com.

Submit it between now and 12:30 a.m on October 3rd and you could win the prizes discussed in the previous blog posting. If you like rules, check them out in the longer post below.

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To celebrate the release of the picture book I Illustrated, The Three Little Aliens and the Big Bad Robot, I’m having a contest!

I’ve been thinking about this for weeks. How exactly do I want the contest to work?

I thought about asking people to draw a character from the book and mail it in, or scan a drawing and email it to me. I even considered some sort of outer space trivia game. But, as Steve pointed out in an email, there’s something kind of gonzo-1970’s-FM-radio about just giving stuff away to the 9th caller, or in this case, the person whose email comes in at a particular position.

So here are the rules, and they must be followed, as they are THE rules…

Rule 1- Your email must have the subject line:”The Three Little Aliens and the Big Bad Robot is an awesome book!”

Rule 2- You can only enter from a particular email address twice (two times). Any emails from a particular email address that comes in after the second one will be deleted by my staff of trained circus bears.

Rule 3- You CAN enter from multiple email addresses. So if you have a Yahoo email and a Google email and a Comcast email address, you could enter twice from each account. Why you would spend your valuable time doing that, well, speak to your psychiatrist about that…

Rule 4- All ages may play. Heck, you can even enter for your nephew. I don’t care.

Rule 5- All emails must be received between 12:00 AM on September 28th and 12:00 AM, October 3rd.

PS. All emails will be deleted after the contest. I won’t sell them, trade them for tea or give them to the folks who keep emailing me about social service jobs.


The 10th email received wins – A new car! Wait. No. That’s from my previous job working on The Price is Right. The email I receive 10th wins – the one of a kind statue I made of the adorable character Nklxwcyz from the book. (and no, that’s not a spelling mistake, that’s the way his name is spelled!) The statue is made from sculpey, oven cured and hand painted by me. I’ll sign the bottom and include an original pencil sketch from the book.

The email I receive 35th wins- a copy of the book signed by me and an original pencil sketch from the book.

And if I get this many emails… The email I receive 125th wins – an approximately 13×11 Epson art print from the book, signed by me. And whatever old DVD’s I have laying around and want to get rid of.

So when the time is right, send away to: aliencontest@gmail.com.

My trained circus bears made me add this legal jargon.
All decisions final. I will personally count the emails and be the decider and chief. If I do not receive enough emails to give anything away, that just means I get to save the postage. What I mean to say is, I will give away the items as long as I reach whatever total sets the gift gears in action. So as long as I get 35 qualifying emails, I will award the prize for the 35th. If I don’t get 125 emails, I will not give away the prize for the 125th email, as I won’t have one.

The pencil sketches mentioned above are development art I do for the books. I draw in pencil, work out character designs ETC before scanning them in and finishing them digitally. They are a peculiar artifact of an otherwise digital methodology. ( I did get a BFA so I can write stuff like that about how I work…).

I look forward to seeing your emails!

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The picture book, The Three Little Aliens and the Big Bad Robot will magically appear in stores and on book shelves on September 27th. It always seems like ‘so long ago’ when a book you work on finally comes out. But I guess that’s because it was about a year ago that I finished it up. I was so young WAY back then.

Speaking of things that take a long time, I get the final proof from the printer for my graphic novel this week. Really, any minute now. That’s been about 3 years of work with Chronicle Books and two years before they were involved! I’m very happy that Jarrett Krosoczka provided a back-of-book-blurb for Earthling! Jarrett K. is of course, the mastermind behind the hilarious Lunch Lady series of graphic novels and many distinguished picture books. And he has an awesome website, so visit it.


I will be announcing a contest, I think, or a giveaway shortly for a statue I made of one of the characters from The Three Little Aliens book and a signed copy of the book with one of the original pencil sketches I used to build the digital final art. I just need to decide what exactly I will ask of people to be involved. It may be as simple as emailing me and I will pick the 25th email.

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I’ve always enjoyed picture books and hoped to be able to draw and write them as a career. I was buying new picture books, even before I had a child who I could read them too. Moving apartments always meant moving boxes of picture books.
Now I have a 4 year old and I read more picture books than ever. I read picture books to my daughter at bedtime of course, but also throughout the day between activities. I read A LOT of picture books now and have a very different understanding of how they work (or don’t) with their intended consumers.

My favorites are almost never my daughters favorites. She doesn’t respond to the same illustrations I do. She doesn’t love the stories I love. A lot of that ‘thinking’ we adults are supposed to be putting into these things is meaningless to a child’s enjoyment of a book.

Of course this is not a scientific survey, or (shudder) a focus group. It’s just my kids reaction to material meant for her.

But it’s made me much more (I want to write careful, but that’s the really true) …aware of how images or wordplay can be interpreted by a child.

Certain levels of abstraction are very confusing to a young reader, while an adult reader brings a lifetime of experience.

I’m not arguing that the best books slavishly stick to realistic illustrations and stories that are simply meditations of day-to-day life.But I am more aware when I make leaps in storytelling, either visual or written, that are based on an adult readers ability to call on past literary and life experiences.

But I think the best kids books are also written with an adult reader in mind. Just as the best ‘children’s movies’ (I’m thinking Pixar productions especially) have plenty of entertainment for, shall we say, more seasoned viewers too. But the story has to remain assessable to the youngest reader/viewer, while aspects of character and motivation, and humor can come from a widely cast net.

I think there was a trend in the past 3 or 4 years where there were more ‘kids’ books that had decidedly adult sensibilities to them. I’m guessing that they are selling more to adults than kids. I wonder if kids even enjoy them. The notion of appealing to the buyer of a product, not the final consumer of the product, is something I remember from marketing classes. And that may partially account for the trend. A marketing decision perhaps.

And as kids learn to read younger than ever we are facing a double edged sword. On one hand we can make picture books that are appropriate and interesting to even younger kids, but we also have an opportunity to try and lure these reading 4 and 5 year olds back to illustrated books with intriguing content. Trying to get kids who may have a year or more reading experience by age 7 to give illustrated books a chance, even if some adults feel picture books are ‘little kid’ books. And these adults may say, “My 7 year old is no little kid.” To which I can only say; That’s too bad you feel that way.

But reading several picture books a day to my daughter has me looking much more carefully at what I create and how it interacts with a child. It’s a little discombobulating because an artist has to follow the path their ideas lead or risk losing their energy and vitality. But I’m looking much harder at the core of the stories and characters that interest me and how that will translate into something interesting and invigorating for an early reader. I’m more deeply considering my work and trying to see how it can make a connection with a child and not just entertain my interests.

The art that accompanies this posting a page from my sketch book which I take with me when my daughter plays at the park.

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