Amy Fuller, one of my talented friends at Friends Work Here, connected me with Chris O'Falt of Gowanus Houses Art Collective. This organization brings arts programming to children of all ages living in Gowanus Houses in Brooklyn. I had the pleasure of working with them last weekend by leading a workshop for ages 4-9. We read two of my favorite concept picture books, PERFECT SQUARE by Michael Hall and BEAUTIFUL OOPS! by Barney Saltzberg, and then created our own artwork based on the books. These kids (and their parents!) were so creative and enthusiastic. They quickly got to ripping, tearing, coloring, gluing, drawing, and crumpling to create some wonderful OOPS! art pieces.
I just started teaching a drawing workshop at PS372 in Brooklyn. These lucky 4th and 5th graders get to choose an elective studio taught by an outside expert and attend every Friday for 14 weeks. I am paired with a certified teacher who is in charge of the all-important kid-wrangling, but I get to develop all of the curriculum and teach the class. I have TEN BOYS (a total coincidence) and they were all so engaged the first session. Our first project is illustrated notes -- I can't wait to see how their creations turn out!! Here are some examples and worksheets I brought to the first session. Once we're finished, I'll publish the lessons here with PDFs you can download.
Your book birthday is finally here and it’s time put on your promoter hat. With a little hard work, you’ll book appearances as a conference speaker, panelist, or voice on a podcast — and the thought of that might make you want to crawl into a hole. But don’t worry — you got this! I’m here to help with some pro media training tricks I learned doing dozens of TV segments as a spokesperson for pregnancy and parenting brand, The Bump:
1. Really know your pitch
Can you tell someone what your book is about in two sentences or less, with confidence, and without pause or umms and uhhs? It’s not as easy as it sounds. Practice your pitch over and over again. Commit to saying it out loud, 5 times, every day. Over time, you'll develop muscle memory and the pitch will just flow out of you without much thought, even when you’re nervous. It works!
2. Familiarize yourself with the format
As soon as you book an appearance, do your research. Many conferences post videos of past speakers on YouTube, and, of course, you can easily find podcasts online. Knowing what to expect with the environment and format will make you feel more prepared. Talking to the interviewer or organizer in advance, if you’re able to, will dramatically help your prep.
3. Listen to your own voice
We never like the sound of our own voice! But, recording yourself and listening to it will help you tweak your delivery. Do you sound confident? Are you speaking clearly? As a listener, does it feel the same to HEAR your pitch, as it does when you SAY it? You’ll know when you listen to yourself, and you can change accordingly.
4. Ladies, invest in some solid jewel tones
Clothing in solid jewel tones — emerald green, cranberry pink, or royal blue, for example — look flattering on everyone. They help you stand out in a crowded conference and look great in photos and on camera. Unlike patterns, solid colors will work with most backgrounds you may be photographed in front of and won’t look dated when that photo of your book launch shows up on a website years later.
5. Take a moment
If your appearance involves a Q&A session, you might get thrown a random question that you’re totally unprepared for. It’s better to take an extra few seconds to compose a thought before speaking than it is to answer quickly and stumble your way through. As the speaker, those extra seconds will feel like a silent, painful eternity… but your audience won’t even notice.
Remember, everyone is rooting for you. Now go get 'em!
YAY! YAY! All the YAYS! I'm so thrilled to finally announce my 2-book deal with Scholastic, starring BUNNY'S STAYCATION coming in 2017! This story is so special to me and I can't wait to share it with children and parents everywhere. Read the full announcement at Publishers Weekly.
My boys and I were inspired by a street art project we saw online. I loved it so much, I insisted we do our own version... IMMEDIATELY. Armed with Ziploc bags, we walked around the neighborhood collecting rocks, sticks, and leaves. We then painted them in bright colors and added silly faces and eyeballs. But the most fun part? Returning them BACK to the neighborhood and leaving them in unexpected places! The boys got a thrill of hiding these little treasures around town and thinking about how many smiles our work would cause.
We had so much fun, we're going to make this a "thing." Stay tuned for more #familystreetart in October!
...while on the phone.
At the studio.
This is the first in a series of posts about my journey to publication. My goal is to write regularly and in chronological order up to the publication of my first picture books in 2016 and 2017... I hope you find inspiration and maybe some of yourself in my experience!
I always loved to draw as a kid. Legend has it that I was drawing and writing my name by scraping rocks on cement, kind of like a tiny cave woman, before I could even talk.
Admittedly, I don’t have many memories of my elementary school art career. But I vividly remember making life-like pencil renderings in middle school and high school — some old favorites include my silver wristwatch and an Oreo cookie. I drew anything that was sitting still. I loved studying objects and really “seeing” them for what felt like the first time. I created still life compositions and lit them with a goose-neck desk lamp in my parents’ basement. I drew a self-portrait of my reflection in a spoon. I tried charcoals and pastels. I loved how meditative drawing was, and how I could just lose myself in the process.
During those years, Mrs. Fogelman and Mr. Foo were two teachers and accomplished artists who believed in me and encouraged me to create. I loved the intoxicating smell of their classrooms… the specific scent of art supplies like graphite, conte crayons, pastels, and paints, mixed with the faintest touch of fixative spray (which I probably shouldn’t have been inhaling.) I learned about fashion illustration (a love of Mrs. Fogelman) and about the nuances of painting Chinese characters (courtesy of Mr. Foo.) It was within the walls of their classrooms that I found the inspiration to lock myself in my room at night and draw… and draw… and draw. I would prop up and stare at my finished pieces. Sometimes I’d stare at them for an hour. I would study them, thinking about the lights and the darks and how I had placed them, and what I could have done to make each drawing better. I felt a tremendous sense of satisfaction, completion, and peace. I could hold those spiral bound sketch books in my hands and say, “I made this."
NEXT UP: When people tell you that you’re good at art, you major in graphic design!
Last night I had the pleasure of taking illustrated notes (live!) at The Lost Lectures with Moleskine and Hyperallergic. Here are some highlights from this great lineup of speakers!
A piece I did for the Consulate General of Switzerland.
Great event at New School about the picture books we don't get to see in the US.
Love this lamp post...
This time from class at SVA - the fabulous Jim Hoover of Viking, and my agent extraordinaire, Lori Kilkelly of Rodeen Literary!
Here are some of my sketchnotes I drew during the conference talks. So many talented and charismatic folks giving out great info... I do have a sweet spot for Kwame and Kami! Also loved seeing the fabulous Laura Vaccaro Seeger and learning more about her process.
An oldie but goodie of my happy place!
Scenes from Bay Ridge.
I'm so, so, soooo excited to finally announce my picture book debut illustration deal for A HOP IS UP written by the insanely talented Kristy Dempsey and published by Bloomsbury USA. Our pub date is slated for Fall 2016! Someone pinch me… so. much. YAY!
Read the full announcement on Publishers Weekly.
What a wonderful thing it is to connect with a charity whose mission you agree with whole-heartedly! Lulu & Leo Fund believes that art should be accessible to all children, and families should engage in meaningful, creative bonding. I was so honored to be asked to illustrate a map for their annual benefit held at the Museum of the City of New York this November. I designed the map like a game in order to encourage guests to visit all of the amazing hands-on art stations at the event (one of which, graffiti subway cars, was led by me and the husband!) See more photos of this wonderful night here.