Wednesday, June 29, 2005

The Caldecott

The Caldecott is the Holy Grail of Children's Books. It's the Academy Award of Picture Books.

And by God, I WANT ONE!

And the great thing about it, is that anyone talented can win it! It's an American Library Assc. ALA award, so it doesn't matter if a small press or big press publishes it. In fact, sometimes stores have a hard time stocking the book if a small press wins, they have to run off and print lots more to meet the huge overnight demand. There's one gold medal, and sometimes up to 5 silver medal runner-ups. Even winning a silver is huge.

So.... I'm going to go for it!

Maybe it's the buzz off the publisher meeting, but I've read at least 1500 picture books (that's tallied when I consider I've read about 6 books a week for storytime over several years), so I have a good idea of what's out there, and what books win. I've gotten to where I can predict who'll at least get honored. And my book is really good: it's theme, the look, the design, the characters... I think it has a real shot!

Here's the criteria from the Caldecott site:

marked by eminence and distinction: noted for significant achievement
marked by excellence in quality
marked by conspicuous excellence or eminence
individually distinct

And the review committee has to keep in mind:

Excellence of execution in the artistic technique employed;
Excellence of pictorial interpretation of story, theme, or concept; of appropriateness of style of illustration to the story, theme or concept; of delineation of plot, theme, characters, setting mood or information through the pictures.

Maybe I'm just a proud Mama Bunny, but I'm going to submit my book... Heck, it's been a dream of mine to HAVE a book I COULD submit...

Oh, but what if I won? That's the Willy Wonka Golden Ticket! That's Movie adaptations, and video games, and theme parks! LITTLE BUNNY KUNG FU LOG RIDE!!!

*deep breaths, deep breaths*

And consider my image of the other recent Caldecott winners. Notice any similarities? Yes, they are not afraid to award the medal to black and white books! And there lots more then the ones I'm showing here. The Olivia book has a huge toy and collectible line out now...

*sigh* it's a cool dream :)

Three recent Caldecott Medal Winners... and maybe one future one! Posted by Hello

To Be Printed! Posted by Hello

Little Bunny Kung Fu Greenlighted!

All we're waiting for is the paperwork, but Little Bunny Kung Fu is ready and raring to go get published!

Blooming Tree Press is going to be printing it, and they were pleased as punch to have it all done for them! And I mean all done. Finished in fact. We did hammer out a better rhyme meter, but that didn't change the story at all.

Typically this isn't the way a kid's book gets done. Usually you do a couple of finished pieces then hope someone pays you finish the book. Well, I hired myself to finish the book as an exercise in character development and book design. I even thought I would have to print it myself for kicks. This turned out much, much better than I ever thought!

We're hoping for a fall release, in time for the holidays and in time for the Texas Library Assc. meeting in October. Oh, it'll be great!

There's even talk that there might be a toy Little Bunny Kung Fu! That's when it kind of started to hit me... I've got quite a collection of story book plush toys (Toot and Puddle, Babar, Lily and Wemberly, all the wild things...), and the thought of a little white bunny with black ears joining them.... eeeeeeek, I'm all choked up!

Talk amongst yourselves...

I'll give you a topic:

"Little Bunny Kung Fu will win the 2006 Caldecott Medal" discuss!

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Harry Potter Crash Course!


The problem with volunteering my parents for the Midnight Magic Party (Harry Potter is a registered trademark, yaddayadda, so we have to say Midnight Magic, isn't that typical?), the problem is... I get to throw my unsuspecting parents smack dab in the middle of Harry Pot-head central!

I mean about 500 people are going to be passing by them all in costumes, giddy to the extreme about the next book, and wanting to show off their knowledge of the most famous of kid wizards... only, I don't think my parents know too much about him!

So, I'll try assigning a movie rental of the first three movies, and hopefully that will be enough to get by on... Kind of like knowing how to say "Where is the bathroom" and "Take me to the train station" in Spanish or something...

Now, the other thing I get to thrust on my wonderful parents is that they'll be manning the owl table. The owl table will have all this stuff on owls basically, so I suppose they need a crash course in owl ornathology, too.

The up side is that around 5-600 people will be ooo-ing and ahhh-ing over their daughter's artwork, and well, they've had the Regan Johnson trivia crash course. They're really in for a good time, and Mom loves a good party, especially one she didn't have to put together!

As long as they come and have fun I'll be happy, but I just have visions of an 11 year old grilling my dad over who the half blood prince will be :)

Friday, June 24, 2005

Goo Goo Ga-Choo...

I'm working on the educational elements of the Owl Art Show which, dear God, is going to go up in about a week!

I'm finding owls make a lot more noise than "Hoot"

There's "Geru-geruuuuu" and "Wheeeeyoooo" and "What?" no really it's "What?" even with the question inflection at the end! So now all we need is "When", "Where", and "Why" and we got the whole "W" question thing down pat...

I'm also having fun designing a word search and other kid's activities for the Harry Potter party. I've ordered about 20 different owl related books and storybooks that will also be part of the show. I'll be emailing the Nature/Science center and see if they have some reproduceable sheets, too.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Here Mike, Mom #2, and I are in front of Mack & Manco pizza where we had a great Jersey style pizza, which is thin crust, tangy marinara and cheese... it was simple, but one of the best slices I've had in a long while! Oh, and Dad #2 is trying out his new and improved hip on the climbing wall behind us there... ;) Posted by Hello

Scenes from Atlantic City, NJ Posted by Hello

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

New Jersey

Mike and I jetted up to NJ for Mom in law's big birthday, which I think she'd like me to remain hazy on details like the number of candles :)

She was so surprised, as we and the party were an orchestrated surprise. Luckily I'd brought my out dated CPR license, just in case the shock was too much. I was so surprised with how many people just had to come to the party, it was close to a hundred!

Now... I did a mental tally, and if included all of my close schoolgirl friends, their moms, my Sunday school teachers, my babysitters, my coaches, my basketball team, I dunno, the staff of Delicious Temptations my favorite eatery as a high schooler, I STILL don't think I'd have the turn out Sally did! She and Dad in law Bill are the social butterflies of Egg Harbor, NJ!

And as an early anniversary gift they got Mike and I a web camera so we can all get linked and watch each other in "real time" while we talk and instant message. We've played around with it, and it's neato! Of course, the backdrop behind the camera is MY desk, so guess who got a new incentive not to leave her desk a mess? (Hey biological parents, if this sounds cool, and it is, we'll have to figure how we can get linked up!)

Meeting, work, meeting, crit, meeting...

Well... this is the life, and by that, I mean I've become successful enough to realize I don't really have one outside my work! But that's ok, so long as I'm working at what I love right? Kinda like alcoholics, they've only got a problem if they aren't having fun? (that was not intended to make fun of a serious *hic* addiction).

I can see I'm at the point where stars collide and new star systems are born, and by that I mean I hope to someday run with the illustration full time. I'm not there yet, but I can see it from here... sort of... it's foggy, but there... it beckons... like the Lady of the Lake holding a paintbrush for me to take hold of and go- oh wait... it was just a weed... hmmm... foggy indeed... and now my shoes are all wet...

Point is, I'm making lots of meetings, emailing people for business not just "hey, how are ya"s, and I'm considering a more serious briefcase type case, ect...

I may actually need that weekly agenda calendar I always buy and never use!

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

They Look Great!

Got the bookmarks and postcards in and they look just like I wanted them!

It's just a happy feeling seeing something I drew, then painted while I watched cartoons and listened to the radio, then scanned into the computer while spinning in the chair and eating fruit cocktail... seeing them all printed and professional, no one would know I did it all while wearing my little pink beaver pajama bottoms!

...that is unless I mention that on my blog! hehe...

Here's a sneak peak at "Kichi in Jungle Jeopardy" This scene will most likely become an inside illustration, but it was one of my favorite scenes so I wanted to do a test of it in color... Posted by Hello

Monday, June 13, 2005

Can't always be the shiny happy stuff...

Well, lots of good stuff is happening that's been just a blast to record, but to be "fair and balanced" I should also include those hair pulling moments of late:

  • I know not to experiment with a new fangled, untried writing utensil when I'm working on the finish of a painting... and what did I do? Exactly that! So I got a huge black blob of ink on a watercolor that I had to fix by covering up with a separate panel... grr...
  • I'm on revision number 4 for a simple f-ing business card, and usually that means either A. the customer doesn't know what they want or B. the artist isn't getting it right or C. the customer may have a creepy crush and is afraid to see the business relationship come to a close... I, understandably, don't think it's B, and I sure hope it isn't C... grrrrrrr...
  • Either through a mixup in emails or some foul play, the Austin Fall SCBWI conference crit spots may or may not be taken. This is the big local shindig, and the spots go super fast, and I can't find in any of the newsletters any mention of it and it's coming up in October... I'm not alone in my blundering confusion, but it's annoying! grrrrrrrrr....
  • I think I sold a historical encyclopedia to the half price bookstore, because I thought "Hey... when will I ever need any information on the Mayans?" -now I'm doing a book set in Mayan empire... grrrrrrrrrdangitgrrrrrrr....

Ok, so that's in the record...

But I'm still so shiny happy! :)

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Check out this link...

Here's my bio on the Austin SCBWI website:

(Note to self, do not write bibliography material while insanely giddy)

However, I think Bloomingtree Press found me through this page, so maybe I was on to something, hmmmmm.... was it crazy, or just crazy enough to work!?!

Here's a lemur painting I did looooong ago. The snapping one will look more stylized and less realistic probably... Posted by Hello

Wrote another story!

While I can predict and plan for creating art, it's totally random when I write. Like today, I just got a bee in my bonnet, started thinking in rhyme and WHAMO I had a cute story called "Animal Dance."

Granted... it's not as plot heavy as LBKF or my When I Won the Zoo, but it'll be an illustrative feast, showing animals dancing by themselves, with other animals and with a few lucky/unlucky kids.

The one phrase that locked in the effort to bang out a story was:

"Now snap your fingers,
With the ring-tailed lemurs"

The bee might've left if I hadn't come up with that phrase! After that I was like, "Ok, where's the pen and paper..."

This is the first story I've written as more of a song. It has three verses with a chorus repeating.

I won't write the whole story on my blog, but the chorus is too fun:

"Animals dance,
Do-si-do, and prance,
By themselves, and two by two

Animals dance,
and given the chance,
They might even dance with you!"

Won't that be fun?!

Friday, June 10, 2005

Shrinkwrap Master!

For my July Owl Spectacular (not the real name of the show), I'm trying to come up with economical ways to package/present my owl prints so that if kids would like to purchase one with their own money they won't go into hock with their parents.

So, I dusted off the shrinkwrap machine at work, and low and behold, this might be the solution! I can cut cardboard backings, print the art, and shrinkwrap it to sell. Tadaaa! They look like the posters you see at Michaels in the big bins, and while you wouldn't want to keep them in the shrinkwrap, they do look presentable enough to sell and be bought I think. I'll have some nicely framed to show parents how they can clean up at home.

I may be able to go up to 11x14" with the shrinkwrap, but mostly I was hoping to sell the kiddies little 8x10's of different owls to "adopt."

Which reminds me if this show is to live up to the expectations only I in my unattainable goal reaching mind could make, I have about 4 pages of things to get done! AHHH!

Thursday, June 09, 2005

I remember Mom always liking the otters at the zoo, and so do I, and his expression just needed to be seen up close. He's a river otter, and looks a little more weaslely then the sea otters... Posted by Hello

Does she look more like a female vixen up close? I tried to make her a cute little vixen, and I think the overall piece did need a bit of reddish orange in that corner... Posted by Hello

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Here is the finished alphabet minus "U" and "X" (I needed to cut two so I could get a nice shape for the design, and what animal begins with those letters?) I'll do some neato promo stuff with this one... Posted by Hello

First Reading!

Well, my picture book Little Bunny Kung Fu had it's first storytime debut!

I had taken my "dummy book" (mock up of the book to be printed), and since today was storytime, I was encouraged by my friends and fellow employees to go ahead and read it to the kiddies. I was planning on doing it once it was printed, but they felt my mock up book was storytime worthy, and I was happy to read it.

I told the kids at the beginning that they were the very first kids on the planet to get to hear and see the book. That worked! Then again... I did have stickers for them since they were being my guinea piglets. Stickers aside, I do think they loved the book!

I had much more success asking them if they knew the song "Little Bunny Foo Foo." I've asked adults and it's dimly remembered, but the kids knew the song and were all ready to sing the new Little Bunny Kung Fu, who we decided as a group, must be Foo Foo's Eastern cousin. hehe...

The best reaction was when the Tigress came down to talk to LBKF, and one little boy stood up, eyes wide as saucers and yelled "SHE'S GONNA EAT HIM!" It was like the whole process was worth it just to hear and see him say that! It was so funny and cute... just like I want my books to be: funny and cute.

The kids also liked finding the semi-hidden animals that witness LBKF's destructive habit and destroying bamboo. They also liked the Dragon, as kids do, and the message was simple enough that they "got it."

I even got some reactions from the parents. They liked the ways LBKF had to be restrained to listen, and how he gets around the last warning by doing the same thing in a slightly different manner (I got several laughs when they saw him use throwing stars).

So, it was an unexpected treat, and I look forward to having more storytellings where we can have color sheets and maybe even games.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

The Tally Is

Well... Artweek is coming to an end, and I do feel I got quite a lot accomplished.

I redid the business card design, and I'm waiting to hear back about it (and waiting for payment... this whole thing won't go much further unless I'm paid)

I designed a postcard and bookmark and ordered them. They should arrive early next month

I finished all artwork for LBKF (Little Bunny Kung Fu)

Scanned in all LBKF art and added text

Laid out the book in Quark, ready to become a PDF file (waiting now on ISBN developments)

Printed out a dummy book and put together (this step was really the most work intesive... I had to hand feed paper for over an hour, trim all the pages, cut down some bossa wood, buy fabric, make a book cover -which didn't come out exactly perfect grrrrr-, and put the book all together!)

Created two owl face sculptures out of Super Sculpey (a clay you shape then bake and it hardens and you can paint it). One head I hope to make into a puppet... we'll see...

Got to "I" on alphabet painting

Started conceptual sketches for a nifty orchid/faerie/butterfly piece (trying to up the fantasy stuff for July show and the HP fans)

The only stuff I didn't get to:

Getting CafePress store site all Kung Fu-ed out, but I can do that during normally allotted "my time"

Get files ready for Website update: ok, really wish I'd gotten this far, but I need to finish the artwork currently on the drawing board so I can update it. New due date: July 1st... 'ish...

Monday, June 06, 2005

Sometimes to get someone's attention, you just need to sit on them! (Notice the claw marks from the squirming bunny). The forest background was added in the computer... I feel like a park ranger now, building forests around my characters... Posted by Hello

You know that page?

That page at the beginning of a book that you only read if you're in school and need to get the info for that stupid bibliography you're doing? Well, it's just about as much fun to write as it is to read...

I know Mom'll read it, right? C'mon, Virginia... read about what font I used! Someone has to!

Little Bunny Kung Fu slicing bamboo with his "Di Fu" (long handle battle ax). I just love the gesture and his expression. The cross section of the bamboo he's just split is nice, too. This has been fun to put together! Posted by Hello

Saturday, June 04, 2005

This looks a little fat around the edges because it includes the "bleed" (the extra added so the cropping won't show white...) Posted by Hello

here's the postcard, I picked the Victorian Ark because it has all three categories I like to work in (children's, fantasy, and wildlife art) Posted by Hello

And it's Regan's Postcard and Bookmark in the 9th...

Ordering bookmarks and postcards totally online is in fact just as ( if not more) exciting then a day at the races... I feel like I just put down a hunk of money on a horse named Johnson Order 193829 and the horse better arrive here in full glorious color and cropped exactly like it should be!

Granted, I do appreciate not having to go find a printer, get an estimate, laugh in his face, get back in the car, go to the next printer, realize I'd laughed too soon 'cause this guy's price is criminal, ect... However, if they come in screwed up, I have a nice automated helpline to scream at, and well, that's just not as gratifying as seeing your spittle shoot toward a living being (I don't really scream at people... outwardly... does mental spittle count?).

Here's hoping and crossing fingers that my order will win, or at least place or show...

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Art Week Has Started!

Woohoo! Six full days of me being an artist and getting my own book done and catching up on some other artistic endeavors.

By next Wed., I hope to:

  1. Have all artwork for Little Bunny Kung Fu done and scanned into computer
  2. Have the book laid out in Quark with type and ready to become a PDF file
  3. Have a top notch dummy book printed from here just to show people
  4. Have finished the business card design and ready to find printer... oh, and get paid for it!
  5. Get files ready for my website update
  6. Get CafePress spruced up and ready for LBKF
  7. Get ready for my art show in July, and order posters and bookmarks for it

I think this list is doable. Some items take more precident then others, but it's a good goal. I have a feeling I'll get spoiled and resent having to go back to my day job, but soon, hopefully, I'll be able to go to a design job that I'll enjoy just as much.

Here we are in color. I experimented with several skin tones and texturing. The color was added digitally in Photoshop. Posted by Hello

sketches for the Alphabet project. Note: They aren't in order here, and we're missing F for Frog (V is going to be Vixen, because I don't think Virginia, my mom, would want a vulture or a viper for V). Posted by Hello

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Possums Change Policy

Associate Press:

Formerly known as meek and timid animals, possums have adopted a new defense strategy.

"Well," one possum expounded, "The old policy of playing dead just wasn't cutting it. Sometimes we just got eaten, and it was really ineffective against cars and trucks."

Their new strategy is a more traditional intimidation maneuver meant to scare a potential enemy and discourage an attack.

"At first," says a shaky husky, "I thought it was a cat in my back yard, so I went to investigate, and it scurried real fast under the deck stairs. It didn't smell like a cat, so I called for backup."

First on the scene was lady of the house.

"I knew something was up because our dog just doesn't bark hardly at all. It was close to midnight, and I thought maybe she'd seen a possum in a tree so I went outside and saw her sticking her nose under the stairs. And that's when I heard it."

The sound was later described as a raccoon caught in a blender.

"No domesticated animal has ever made that sound," the dog owner claims.

So what will happen to the old saying "Playing Possum?" Could it in fact be used for turrets syndrome? Time will tell.