Blog Visitor – Megan Higginson on Writing and Illustrating

Today’s writing guest is Megan Higginson who loves to write and illustrate stories of monsters, aliens, and mind-blowing places and asking questions like, ‘What if?’ She hopes her stories and illustrations will help readers to look at their life and the world around them with new eyes. 

I have come to know Megan through the Duck Pond community, of Jen Storer and also through Creative Kids Tales. I was thrilled when she illustrated one of my poems for the Creative Kid Tales Story Collection 2.   I am delighted to have her as a special guest on my blog.

1) What motivates you to write? What keeps you writing?

I always have characters talking to me and wanting to go on adventures. When I was a kid it took me until I was seven or eight to learn to read. After I learned to read, I was a total bookworm but never thought I was a writer as I have dyslexia and thought I was too stupid to write stories. In class I would write a story for a class assignment (primary and secondary) and it would be so different to everyone else’s I always thought I did something wrong. And the class usually ended up laughing at my story too. I realise that I just approached life differently and my stories where actually offbeat and funny.

As I child, sometimes, I would close the last page of a book and all these different characters would talk to me and we would go on adventures. I never told anyone as I thought I was nuts. For me it was another form of escapism. Yet, I’ve since found out that this is what writer’s do. In answer to your question, I have so many characters chatting to me about this adventure and that adventure they’d like to go on, I think I’ll be writing until the day I die and still have another story begging to be written.

 

2 a) You illustrate also? How long have you been doing that for? How do you prepare for your illustrating jobs?

In 2017 I joined the 52 Week Illustration Challenge at the encouragement of Giuseppe Poli. In fact, you can read about my journey to this point in a blog post, How I Overcame My Fears and Dived into the World of Illustration.  At that stage it was about practicing and learning about illustration, so I also took Nina Rycroft’s inaugural Illustration eCourse in 2017. I’m friends with an illustrator as well, so Ester de Boer has helped me immensely by giving me feedback on my art pieces, areas to improve, and different exercises to enable to me to get better. I’m a member of Creative Kids Tales. Therefore, when Vol.2 of The Creative Kids Tales Story Collection was announced, I decided I was ready to put myself out there as an illustrator. All nine of my illustrations were accepted and now published in the collection available now, including one I did for your poem.

For June Perkins, ‘Sleipnir’s Children’

 2 b) So, how do you prepare?

For the collection I read over the story and then I pretty much just dumped whatever came to mind onto the page. Lots of really scribbly pictures, and half-formed ideas. From there I weeded out what I thought would work and what didn’t. Then I moved onto planning the piece and getting it down onto the page in pencil, and gradually worked it up in layers of paint/pencil/ fine liner, whatever medium I’ve decided was best for that story, until I was happy. And then I finished them off in Photoshop. If I’m stuck on something and can see it’s not working, I ask Ester and she can always spot the little details that are problematic which I’ve missed. She always knows a work around. I fix it and then the picture pops.

I’m about to illustrate my first picture book and I’m doing the same sort of thing. However, in addition to my usual dumping, scribbling and refining the characters and composition, I will be mentored through the process of illustrating my first picture book by well-known illustrator Nina Rycroft, along with Ester de Boer. So, lots of support.

3) Tell me about your self published book?  Why did you choose to self publish?

‘Raymund and the Fear Monster,’ was originally written for some children in a Philippine orphanage whom I’d met while on a mission trip in 2013. However, I realised it had broader appeal. About the same time, I started writing other stories and decided that this was what I wanted to do seriously. In 2015 I took a Writing Picture Book course with Cathie Tasker at the Australian Writer’s Centre. I tried to make ‘Raymund’ fit within the parameters of a picture book. I tried to shove it under 600 words. It was like trying to shove a huge fluffy pillow into a tiny box. It just didn’t work. I did come up with a shorter different version which is now published as Freya and the Fear Monster in the Creative Kids Tales Story Collection Vol 2. Things that Go Bump. Yet, I knew Raymund’s story still needed to be told. I kept reworking it. It kept popping out everywhere until I wanted to throw up on it, burn it, and never see it again.

In 2016 three things happened within a week. 1) I read Jen Storer’s blog post, Right Story, Wrong Format. Why it’s important to stay true to the story. I also attended my writer’s group where we did a dialogue workshop. I played around with some dialogue from Raymund and I finally didn’t want to throw up on it anymore. I actually felt excited about it again. And then I read a picture book about a dragon who ate children (I know. Weird right. Fun story though) and realised I had started the story in the wrong place. I went and rewrote Raymund and it was so much better. I submitted it to one publisher who I thought if anyone would take it, they would. They didn’t. Probably because it is waaaay over the current trend in word count and a rather niche topic. So, Ester and I decided to partner up and do it ourselves. Penny Springbrook at Bookcover Café helped me polish ‘Raymund’ and I am so happy with how the story ended up.

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4) What have been the highlights of the journey?

I think watching my story come to life under the skilled hands and creative brain of my illustrator has been a major highlight. It’s a different style to what is normally used in picture books. However, when we’ve taken the illustrations and even the mock-up into schools, it’s been warmly received by the students and teachers. And that’s before it was published

5) What have been the challenges?

I think for me personally, has been the wait. We started this journey in late 2016 and it’s now 2019. Ester was busy illustrating other picture books she’d been contracted to at the time. She started planning December 2017 and began the illustrations in January 2018. However, having said that, I was happy to not be a pushy author and just leave her be and work at her own pace. Ester’s work is incredible and the amount of research she put in, and the details of her illustrations are amazing. I thought our book would look wonderful. But, not in my wildest dreams did I think it would look this incredible.

I think it’s also been a highlight, as well as a challenge working with a graphic designer. Ester and I had very clear ideas as to how we wanted our book to look and I’ve discovered it can be hard work putting a picture book together. However, it’s finished and it’s how we envisioned our book would look like. It’s a fun book.      

 6) What/Who are your major creative influences?

Writing: I love Anne McCaffrey, Frank Perretti, Wendy Orr, Jen Storer, Tony DiTerlizzi, Adam Wallace, Dee White, Jackie French, Alison Reynolds, Allison Tait… well you get the picture. Each of them has influenced me in various ways.

Illustration: As a child I loved the impressionist era (Of course, I didn’t know that it was called this at the time). As a child I loved the bush and was captivated by the artworks people like Tom Roberts, and how they captured the light of the Australian bush. I thought it was incredible and I always wanted to paint like that. I’m learning.

I didn’t know it as a child, but I loved Arthur Rackham’s illustrations. I would pour over his work for hours, studying his line work and detail and wishing I could draw like that. Tony DiTerlizzi is another one. I love his imagination and I love that he’s current and I can get online and see videos of him working on an illustration.

Aaron Pocock is another artist whose work I love. Hmmm. I’m sensing a theme. Fantasy. Anyway, Aaron is so versatile. He does cartoons, and huge gorgeous oil landscapes. However, it’s his fantasy artwork I adore. So, from him I endeavour to use colour well and think how to use colour to portray emotion. Ester de Boer’s work I admire. Her imagination is insane, as are her detailed line work. So, from her I’m learning to let my imagination run wild, to play and have fun, and to always add little details to my illustrations.

Thanks Megan for sharing your story!

How to Illustrate a Children’s Novel

Captain Astra

Regular visitors to my blog have met Karen, today’s guest, before but for those who haven’t I’ll introduce her.

Karen Tyrrell, is an award winning children’s resilience author who recently launched her second book in the Super Space Kids series, Jo-Kin vs Lord Terra, an action-packed FUN space adventure for kids 7-12 into the cosmos.

We first met at Writelinks a writing group for Children and Young Adults which we both attend; I have been following her writing and publishing journey ever since, as well as attending her fabulous workshops on writing, distribution, and publishing.

Karen is a dynamo, and her outlook on life infectious.  She inspires children, teachers, writers and countless more with her stories and I am proud to know her.

Today I was really interested in asking Karen how she found and worked with the illustrator of her Super Space Kids Series.

1.June: How did you locate a suitable illustrator for Jo-Kin vs Lord Terra?

Karen:  Luckily for me, Trevor Salter illustrated the animated cover of my children’s novel STOP the Bully.

AND he created the cover and the internal illustrations for Jo-Kin Battles the It , Book 1 in the Super Space Kids series. Kids loved these illustrations so much, I begged Trevor to illustrate Book 2, Jo-Kin vs Lord Terra, Trevor loves illustrating robots, monsters and aliens so he was keen to create my next heroes and villains.

If you are searching for a new illustrator, you can follow a process. First research what illustrative style suits your novel. Discover which illustrators portray your style and genre. Ask those in the know to recommend the most suitable and talented illustrators. Seek quotes from two or three illustrators by sending your brief of the intended project (details of the timeline and what you want the illustrator to do).

2.June: How did you choose which scenes to illustrate for Jo-Kin vs Lord Terra?

Karen: Select scenes that children will love and will add extra pizazz to your story. Children love to see what their favourite characters, monsters, robots and aliens look like. Choose scenes bursting with humour, action or on the brink of an exciting turning point.

Pic 1 Commander Nova pressures reluctant hero, Jo-Kin to leave school and to save his little sister Pandora and the galaxy.

Commander Nova & Jo-Kin

Pic 2 Meet Joshua’s embarrassing family: Dad, Mum, sister Stella and brother Marty.

Jo-Kin's wacky family

Pic 3 Meet Lord Terra in one of his evil disguises and his stinky side-kick Prince Poison.

Lord Terra ( in disguise) & Prince Poison

3. June: What’s the illustrative process from brief to publishing for Jo-Kin vs Lord Terra?

Karen: I created a detailed brief describing each scene and characters in detail so the illustrator had a clear picture of what to draw.

The illustrator roughly sketched each drawing, requesting my feedback. I then commented on how to improve the drawings so they reach my vision goal. When I was satisfied, the illustrator created a final high definition version.

4. June: What are your top tips to create the best illustrations?  

Karen:  1-Find the BEST illustrator you can afford, who suits your style and genre. 2-Choose the most exciting scenes to illustrate the text. Ones which will bring your story to life. 3- Visualise each scene.  4-Describe the characters and their emotions …and the scene in precise detail in the brief.

 

Terra OUT NOW

Jo-Kin vs Lord Terra, an illustrated humorous novel for kids 7-12 r is eceiving *5 STAR reviews. Jo-Kin vs Lord Terra, is available at Dymocks, Riverbend, The Book Garden, Angus & Robertson Mary Ryans, Amazon and selected stores.

Connect with Karen Tyrrell here:

Website Facebook  Twitter

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Jo-Kin vs Lord Terra Blog Tour 23 May–I June

To celebrate Jo-Kin vs Lord Terra  launch Karen is hosting Jo-Kin vs Lord Terra Blog Tour and Book Giveaway. Co-hosts will share out-of-this-world book reviews, interviews and blog posts.

Karen will zoom away signed copies of her book Jo-Kin vs Lord Terra and galactic prizes via the websites below. Please leave a comment on the websites to WIN.

23 May Amazon & Blog Tour Launch www.karentyrrell.com

24 May Writing Kids Comedy, Melissa Wray http://melissawray.blogspot.com.au

25 May Create a Powerful Hero Character, Alison Stegert https://ali-stegert.com

Katrin Dreiling – Diving into her Creative World

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Katrin Dreiling, – Attic for “Music Box” winner second place CYA conference 2015

Today’s blog is an introduction to the delightful illustration work of Katrin Dreiling. I first met Katrin through Writelinks, who hold monthly meetings for writers and illustrator/ writers for children and young adults.

Katrin is one of a community of illustrators residing in Brisbane, and I, as an emerging children’s book writer who can’t draw, just love her quirky and often hilarious characters.

As writers we have a lot we can learn from illustrators; by understanding their creative processes hopefully we can write better picture books for children. But more on that another time.  Let’s dive into the creative world of Katrin.

1. June: Katrin can you introduce yourself to my blog readers:

Katrin:  Sure. Like most illustrators, I’ve always been drawing, doodling and just love being creative in any way possible. While still working as a language teacher I used to explain boring grammar problems with the help of quirky characters on the board, coming to life for my students.

When I had my own children I felt an immense rush of creative energy – all of a sudden the things I’d been drawing made sense – there was not only an audience for my art but also inspiration!

Step by step I ventured into this industry until one and a half years ago I decided to stop working as a teacher and pursue my illustration dream.

My first big and paid job was illustrating animated lectures at QUT (Queensland University of Technology). This was a fantastic and very fulfilling experience. I’m entirely self-taught so this makes me very proud.

2. June: Your latest work is Princess and the Pea – what made you want to illustrate this classic story?

Katrin: The Princess and the Pea interpretation proved to have a life of its own. I originally started work on this fairy tale just for practice purposes and to build a portfolio. I especially love the classics. I wanted it to reflect as much of my style as possible and just have fun.

It was very well received and I sold one of the originals to a very dear ‘fan’, which meant a lot to me. Later on I created a book dummy to show an editor at CYA and since then I’ve been taking orders to put it into print.

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Interior Sample of Princess and the Pea

3. June: What are your favourite things to illustrate (some illustrators like, people, some animals, and some both).

Katrin: It really depends on the day. I love to create quirky characters but if I want to get my hands messy I enjoy nothing more than creating landscapes or architecture with collages made of lots of paints and prints and papers.

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Courtesy of Peter Allert – CYA Official Photographer

4.  June: Do you think your illustrations are for children, adults, or both?

Katrin: This is a hard one. Let me just say that in the past, and still today, I get a lot of funny looks for some drawing ideas from grown ups. This has never happened with children. I think they just get me.

5.  June: What things do you do differently when illustrating for children?
 
Katrin: My work is always for children first. I try to touch their lives by either seeing things through their eyes or introducing them to classic themes. My illustrations are meant to take them by the hand and we dive together into a crazy-and beautiful-fun world.

 
6. June: Can you tell me a little about  your plans to publish Princess and the Pea and why Wybble was formed?

Katrin: Wybble was formed because I wanted my first story How to get a fat fairy flying printed and dedicated to my three children. Along the way I realised that there were many aspiring authors and illustrators and the idea evolved to offer Wybble’s services to them. This business still exists, although I’m predominantly focused on my illustrator’s career. I’m planning to publish my Princess and the Pea interpretation with Wybble.

Due to overwhelmingly positive feedback I decided to do a print run for The Princess and the Pea through Wybble Publishing. I’m in the process of trying to get around 100 pre-orders as I need to sell at least that many to justify the cost and work of setting up this book.

If you are interested, please head over to KATRIN’S Facebook page to place an order on the wall or by private message.

FACEBOOK KATRIN ART WORKS

(Editor’s note: I’ve already ordered my copy!  Thanks so much for the interview Katrin and the insight into your world. This is the beginning of a regular feature on illustrators, and writer/illustrators for children on Pearlz Dreaming. )

THROW YOUR SUPPORT BEHIND PRINCESS AND THE PEA . . . order a copy at FACEBOOK KATRIN ART WORKS