Friday, July 7, 2017

Safety Star, Sue Irwin, Returns!

I had Sue Irwin first on my blog back in 2015. Sue is doing great things for children, safety and the world of hockey.  Sue's book "Safety Stars" talks about the journey that's happened just so that hockey can be a safe game for everyone. The book features hockey greats like Jacques Plante, Mario Lemieux, and Sidney Crosby and an 11 year old boy on a mission. This is the kind of book I personally want my son to read before he starts hockey, because safety is so important in sports.

Sue is so inspirational and I'm glad she could make it back to my blog. I love everything Sue is doing because she wrote this wonderful book. So now let's talk about all the wonderful things that have happened since 2015!

Here is the link to the last interview if you want to take a look, but first read this interview (so you don't forget)!


Dani: You were nominated for the Silver Birch Non-fiction award with the Forest of Reading. Why is this an important award? How has this changed how you view your own book? 

Sue: From the Blue Spruce (targeting children in Junior Kindergarten to Grade 2), right on up to the Evergreen (for adults of any age), the Forest of Reading is “Canada’s largest recreational reading program.” Unlike many other programs, this one gives readers the power to choose the winner. That’s what makes it so meaningful.

The Festival of Trees, the big award ceremonies in Toronto, is a three-day “celebration of reading.” I’d heard that writers and illustrators are treated like “rock stars” at the Festival. And it’s true! One boy told me that he read my book twice. “The first time,” he said, “I thought it was exciting.” I braced myself for what he was going to say next. “The second time, it was even
more exciting.” Whew, what a compliment!

Another nominated author told me about his relative, who as a teen was a “non-reader” – not a reluctant reader, but a non-reader. That was until the kid picked up a book about sports and read it from cover to cover. This individual is now grown up and... get this, he teaches English!

This experience showed me that when the right book (not just Safety Stars, but any book) makes it into the hands of a reader and connects with them, it can lead to great things. It can hook them on reading, and from there, anything is possible. It’s wonderful!

Dani: What's changed for you since I interviewed you back in 2015? 

Sue: Over the last few months, I’ve begun meeting and speaking with kids – along with their parents, teachers, and librarians – in schools and libraries. These visits have become a new favourite part of the job, and this nomination has given me that opportunity. Time spent with children is so much fun and so valuable. Author visits give kids the chance to see that authors and illustrators are real people. And I hope to inspire them to aim high and work hard as they follow their dream. They ask great questions.

Dani: Who do you think is the greatest Safety Star?
Sue: Most of the athletes featured in Safety Stars are famous hockey pros, and you might expect me to name one of them. But I would choose 11-year-old Chase McEachern. He proved that anyone can do something to make a difference in the lives of others. Now, because of his determination and courage, arenas and schools across Canada
are safer. His story is inspiring to people of all ages, and his dream lives on.

Dani: Can you give us a fact about Hockey or Ice Skating safety (or both) that you think is important for everyone to know? 

Sue: When we all respect ourselves and others on the ice, this can help to reduce injuries – and keep the sport fun – for everyone.

Dani: Are there other books you are planning? 

Sue: Yes! I’ve got three on-the-go, all at various stages. I’m just beginning to research one. My editor at Lorimer and I are talking about another. And I’ve just sent out a third. The manuscript received “Honourable Mention” in the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators’ 2013 “Work in Progress” grant for its “creativity and promise,” as well as two 2015 grants from the Ontario Arts Council and another from the Canadian Council for the Arts. Having worked on this project for about ten years, I’m as passionate as ever about the subject, eager to share the story with readers, and hopeful that a publisher will scoop it up.

Dani: What's next for you? 

Sue: A BIG party – when that third book is published. You’ll be invited to the celebration. I promise!

Saturday, May 13, 2017

My Personal Website

A few days ago I started something that I haven't done in a long time: I updated my website. It doesn't seem like that big of deal, but it's something that's pretty important for illustrators.

My website on a PC
Updating my website was more work than I thought. I have a wordpress website and it's a lot of work to make a wordpress blog look like a portfolio website. The moral to this part of the story is that wordpress is evil for website building. Especially when I know what I want!

My website is if you want to see more!

I wanted a bit of my artwork at the top. This image will likely change soon, but I wanted something at the top to fill that space until I design something different.

It's really important to have easy navigation on a website from one part of a website to another. It may seem silly to have a "home" button on my landing page, but it's important to have the same navigation on every page. This makes for easier navigation and less distraction when exploring a website.
Website navigation

It seems to be standard practice to have a white background on portfolio websites. (Mine was brown before and I hated it.) White is used so the images become the focus of the webpage. Using other colors in the background can distract from the art. Black can be used as well, however white allows the eyes to have a bit more rest.

One of the hardest things about creating the portfolio is pruning the images. I had more than 18 images in two portfolios before I started. This isn't hideously awful, but I wanted to get rid of most of my older work. I'm now down to 10 images in my portfolio. It's small, but I feel confident with each image in the portfolio. Something I didn't feel before the pruning. Honestly, I hate having so few images in my portfolio, but I think it gives a better feel overall.
My website on a Smart Phone
When designing any website it's important for a webpage to look good on all devices. If I were to create a webpage from scratch, then I'd have to design code that will make my webpage look good no matter where it's viewed. When using a template (like I did) one still has to design the website to look good on different devices.

Don't depend on a website builder tool to give  accurate information on how a website will look on  all devices. I know for a fact that mine looks different on my cell phone than GoDaddy (my website builder) says it will look. Make sure the webpage can be viewed properly on a PCs, Tablet and Smart Phones. Check out the website on as many different devices and web browsers as possible (borrow from a friend!). Sometimes a device or web browser won't be compatible with the template that was used. It's impossible to know which device an editor, agent or art director will view my work, so I try to make my website as accessible as possible!
My website on a Tablet.

The reason my name is so small on a PC is because it has to be that small so my full name can be seen on a Smart Phone. I'm sure there is a way to edit each page separately, but I don't think I want to be that picky (plus I hate messing with code. It's boring).

My website is far from perfect, but I feel like I finally have something that looks professional. I welcome any questions or comments on my website. Please let me know if anything looks horribly wrong!

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Why I'm a Failure

I totally and completely failed over the past few months. One thing you may have noticed is that I haven't been posting much. I've been completely overwhelmed with everything.

The following is a list of things that I've failed doing:

1. I failed to blog. I've been meaning to do this, but I just haven't had time.

2. I failed to finish my story for the Chapter Book Challenge.

3. I failed to write my March story for the 12x12.

4. I'm way behind in critiquing the April stories from my critique group.

5. I haven't updated my website in forever.

6. All of my personal projects are at a stand still right now.

The list could go on forever, but these are the main problems.

Failure is the first way I tend to look at things when I don't get to complete all the tasks I want to get done. There are reasons I haven't been able to do the above tasks. I'm still experiencing pain/fatigue/sleeplessness from my car accident. My whole family has been sick for over a month. I have an illustration job. I have two kids, one of those kids are under 2 years old (and is refusing naps). I have family and friends I spend time with. I also have to do the laundry and dishes once in a while.

Often I feel like the above things are excuses instead of legitimate reasons for not getting things done. They would be excuses if I was letting them take over my life and not getting anything done. It's important to look at the positives when then negatives seem to outweigh the positives in your life. I don't do this enough, so I'm going to do it now.

Here is the list of things I've accomplished over the last few months:

1. I worked on Smart Dummies (with the Smart Dummies Planning Group) and we came up with some good leads for the event. Also some great ideas to make the event better.

2. I got over 10,000 words written in March for a new story thanks to the Chapter Book Challenge.

3. I wrote a new story in both January and Febuary for the 12x12 and April is not yet over!

4. I feel like I gave the best feedback I could for my critique group January-March. I will be able to do the critiques for April -- just late.

5. I am working on an illustration commission. I feel like I'm not over the biggest hurdle for this and will be able to finish up soon.

6. I have tons of ideas thanks to Storystorm. I may not have times to work on those ideas, but they are written down and will be stored for later.

7. I have a wonderful family. My house isn't clean, but no one died. Having kids that live is relatively important.

Think about all the things you did since the beginning of the year. How many failures did you have? What was the reasons behind those failures? Write down the things you accomplished and focus on those. Life will get in the way, but you can still get things done.

I had an art teacher who use to say that with art you are always getting better even when you aren't creating. If you stopped creating art for many years you still would be better than you were when you stopped because you bring all your experiences into your work. The same goes for writing. If you can't work, then absorb as much of the world as possible. You can use it later in your craft!

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Are Your Dreams Worth it?

I was at the local McDonalds today chatting with my friend and letting the kid's play. Just as we are about to leave the words "I'm worth it." start blaring on the radio. Something about me and this song don't mix and I happily leave the restaurant without hearing the end.

Even though it's a song I like the words keep repeating in my head. I've been meaning to write a blog post anyway, and I know that the subject of worth often comes up when working in a creative field. I can tell you, without a doubt, you are worth it. I don't even have to know who you are to say this. I could not, however, tell you if your dreams are worth pursuing.

In general I could say that dreams are worth pursuing. When you get more specific by saying: "Is _____ worth it to _____, then the answer is much less clear. For the purposes of this blog I feel as though the question is "Is it worth it to become a Children's Writer or Illustrator." The answer to this is an undeniable yes and no.

Let's be specific by answering some questions Would the journey be worth it if:

I never get a book published?
It makes me hate my work?
I never become famous?
It means my house is a mess?
I never get any work?
It affects my health?
I become estranged from my family?
Someone else raises my kids?
It makes me feel bad about myself?
No one likes my work?

Think of the worst thing that could happen. Could you live with this?

The list could go on forever. There is no right or wrong answers, only what is right for you. Think now and see if you could be happy if some or most of these were true.

It takes a special kind of person to be a writer or illustrator. Take moment look at all these scary possible outcomes and tell yourself (out loud) it's worth it to follow the dreams you love.  You are worth it.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Coffee for Smart Dummies 2017

It's nice to see the words in print even though the actual event is still a ways off! Right now I'm early in the planning stages of the event. I'm hoping to add new features to the event and make the event more accessible to writers. I want to keep the event free to enter, so I could use a bit of help keeping everything going. This is where you come in.

If you have enjoyed being a part of Smart Dummies in the past, please consider buying me a coffee. This is a low cost way to help keep the event going. I spend $25 out of my own pocket for the Amazon gift card each year. I also spend a lot of time planning and hosting this event. I have 2 kids (1 and 6 years old) so it's not always easy to find the time. It's much easier justifying a babysitter (or asking family for help) if I have a bit of money coming in.

I would much rather make money off of my own picture books (or other creations) than off of Smart Dummies. I do, however, want it to continue to run even if I'm not able to physically do the work myself. I will keep the coffee button on my blog, so even if you can't donate now, maybe you'll be able to do so in the future!

Please donate a cup of coffee to keep Smart Dummies going!

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

There is no Such Thing as a Bad Idea: Day 30

I hope you all enjoyed participating in Tara Lazar's Storystorm! I also hope you enjoyed my bad ideas this month. How did you do for ideas this month?

Bad Idea 30:

GLITTER BOOK. A book that shoots out glitter every time you turn each page. 

Want help generating good ideas? Check out Storystorm to help you out!

Monday, January 30, 2017

There is no Such Thing as a Bad Idea: Day 29

Thanks to Tara Lazar for creating Storystorm!

Bad Idea 29:

A book written by a baby for babies. 

Want help generating good ideas? Check out Storystorm to help you out!