Writing Process and Illustrating!

 

Barbara Barth recently invited me to participate in the Writing Process Blog Tour.  This kind author and blogger has included me in her “tribe”. I am honored!
Barbara’s memoir, The Unfaithful Widow, placed as a finalist in the 2011 USA Best Book Awards. This book will make you smile as you follow Barabara through the trials of being a new widow. With the help of 6 dogs she makes her way through challenging times. In addition, Barbara has written Danger in Her Words. I stayed awake way past my bedtime enjoying this novel, a little detective, a little naughty, and a lot of fun. Visit her website for more information!
And now for the questions I have been posed about my writing process.

1. What am I working on?

I am working on several children’s books. One has been critiqued several times by outside sources, one has been reviewed for accuracy, but is still in phase one of editing, and there is another that is a good idea, but I just haven’t started the rewrites. I will illustrate all of them.

The first is about equine therapy based loosely on a stable where I volunteer. The second is about explaining death to children. And good old George Washington is the featured character in the third.

The calendar says July, but little children’s hearts are beating faster as they think about starting to attend a new school. With this in mind I will begin some promotions for my book Melvin Fine Mouse: First Day of School. In rhyme, Melvin’s first day at school is described in a non-threatening way. The illustrations are warm and friendly and a little quirky.

photo 3

In addition to this, I am starting a company with Leighanne Schneider, talented illustrator of Doublefly Designs. We are offering illustration for self published authors. Both of us are asked often to do this and have decided we should make it official with Lucky Cat and Friends. Our website is coming soon. Of course, you can also email me at beth@bethrommel.com for details.

2. How does my work differ from others in its genre?

Writing: While in middle school and high school in New Orleans I had the greatest English teachers. There was a lot of writing and constant reading of every type of author. After becoming a mother, working with children as a librarian, and as an editor for an elementary yearbook, I caught the “writing for children” bug. With all of that being said, I am writing books that explain scary or unfamiliar situations to children. Things that might bring unease to a child, as in Melvin Fine Mouse: First Day of School.

photo-6

Illustrating: I entered the art world with a degree in studio art with emphasis in communication design. That was in the days of cutting and pasting, nobody taught photoshop or anything remotely related to computer skills in an art department. Therefore I entered the advertising, graphic, and publishing worlds with hands on experience and dangerous skills with an exacto knife. These all served me well in the fine art world as well. I could paint with real brushes and a variety of paints. My photoshop and InDesign skills are self taught, they are my second language while fine art is my first. I use this combination of skills to illustrate.

photo 1 (2)

3. Why do I write what I do?

I enjoy writing for children and explaining things to them in a way that is kind. I aim to not preach. The brilliant agent, Marietta Zacker from the Nancy Galt Literary Agency, told us recently at a Southern Breeze/SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) event that characters need to speak with their own voice not that of the author. I hope I can do that.

photo 2

4. How does my writing process work?

I start with an idea, then mull it over for several days. If it is still interesting to me, in one crazy moment, hour, plane trip, sitting, I write everything down. I am impetuous. Often the illustrations are coming to me too so I sketch a storyboard as I write. After letting it sit for a while I go back and edit. I ask other writers, friends, artists to read it and give me input. I listen and edit again. I read it aloud to hear the sound of the words. I love the rhythm of words and enjoy when there is real music in hearing their flow. With children’s books there are suggested word counts so I keep that in mind when I edit, translates to cut cut cut.

photo 1

The storyboard is then redrawn to fit the 32 pages allowed for a picture book. I do character studies to figure out who my characters are, where they live, how they dress, how they stand, and how they interact with each other. I then begin art for each 2 page spread. It is drawn, redrawn, painted, collaged, and painted again to reach a style I am happy with. This can be done repeatedly to find the right look and to make the characters sing. Now I scan, photoshop, adjust, add copy and print the spreads to see how it looks. I often hold my artwork up to a mirror to see it from a different point of view. It may be backwards, but the elements of design will still dictate what looks right.

As this post concludes I invite you to now visit Kim L. Siegelson.

Sheis author of several fine award winning children’s books. Kim was recipient of the Coretta Scott King Award in 2000 for her book In The Time of the Drums, illustrated by Brian Pinkney.  She is also a member of SCBWI and a part of the Southern Breeze region.

2001 – In the Library with Melvin

I have launched Melvin Fine Mouse: First Day of School. He is now available through Amazon for $7.95. Yes, a shameless commercial plug. (You can click here to see more information.)

Melvin Fine Mouse: First Day of School
Melvin Fine Mouse: First Day of School

I first drew and wrote Melvin in 2001 when I was a librarian at an elementary school in the Orlando area. Each week I taught every child from age 4 to fifth grade.

I knew the first day in my first class when the first grade entered the little library that I was in for the ride of a lifetime, and it might be a bumpy ride. My crowd control skills were nonexistent.

I was a young mom with an art degree. I loved books, was very good at organizing, and I had to drive  40 minutes to take my son to school each day. I may as well stay for the day. So I did.

Reading to the children was my favorite part of the day. Computers were just making their presence known in the library. This was becoming the media center and I was becoming the media specialist.

My incredible volunteers worked hard to get the reading programs on-line and each child registered. The powers that be thought I was an arty misguided soul, but the children LOVED library and it wasn’t because there were computers in the room. There were great books.

Books are what make a library a library. The students enjoyed shelves of shark and dinosaur books,  American Girl books, dog books, cat books, Captain Underpants books, histories of inventions, and true stories of three little pigs. They were reading and loving it.

I could understand this. Children plus books equals a focused thinking young mind.

Melvin is out and about searching for young minds with his rhymes and bright colors.

Melvin and a new friend. copyright ECR 2013
Melvin and a new friend.
copyright ECR 2013

People who didn’t know he existed are welcoming him into their homes. Thank you so much for giving him the opportunity. Like the opportunity that was given me so many years ago in that little library.

And thank you to Will’s fifth grade class who heard this story in that little library and cheered me on. I will never forget their smiles and encouragement.

And my family who cajoled and loved me into pushing Melvin out the studio door.

What to take to an art conference.

It is time to attend an SCBWI conference. (In other words, the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Conference.)

Many years ago, when we lived in San Antonio, I met an artist named Joy Hein. Joy created the most captivating detailed artwork I had ever seen. I was an instant fan. She is a very kind and generous person. Joy encouraged me and made suggestions to further my artwork while I was juggling young motherhood and the desire to paint.

In one of our conversations Joy responded to my interest in children’s illustration with the suggestion to join SCBWI. I did. Years passed, my membership was sporadic. I raised my children and worked as a librarian and graphic designer.

Meanwhile, Joy was illustrating beautiful books about Lady Bird Johnson, Texas Wildflowers, David Crockett, and Sam Houston. She knew what she was talking about.

Time has passed, the nest is empty, and the call of children’s literature has returned in full voice. I have courted it with attendance at several SCBWI events over the last two years and produced a few pieces for competitions, like P.J. which won first place last year in an SCBWI regional event.

P.J. Tried and Tried to Make Friends with the Horses
P.J. Tried and Tried to Make Friends with the Horses

Pretty soon I will pack the car and drive to Birmingham, Alabama for a conference of the Southern Breeze region of SCBWI.

I will take a stack of business cards.

Business card
Business card
Another business card.
Another business card.

And a stack of assorted postcards.

Sailor
Sailor
Lady of the Stars
Lady of the Stars
Couple
Couple
Big Chicken was Back
Big Chicken was Back
Good-Bye Lady
Good-Bye Lady
Assorted artwork Card
Several images on this one.

To display these cards I will take my decorated suitcase.

Decorated Suitcase
Decorated Suitcase

To display samples of my work I will take my portfolio and set it on the table designated for artists to show their creations.

Portfolio
Portfolio

And last, but certainly not least I will bring the proof for my first children’s book, Melvin Fine Mouse: First Day of School.

Melvin Fine Mouse: First Day of School
Melvin Fine Mouse: First Day of School

It is always educational and fulfilling to be with children’s illustrators and writers. The camaraderie is warm. The senses of humor a little quirky. These are, after all, people I can talk to about a mouse that wears pants. Not everybody is cut from the cloth that can share a dedicated conversation about things such as how to draw a mouse on a school bus.

And that is what I will take to the SCBWI conference.

By the way, Melvin is available for you to check out at Amazon.