Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Dream Maker: Anna Todaro and a Prize!

Anna Todaro is just a magical Artist and Illustrator. Anna's canvas varies on the job. She does face painting and as you can see she does a wonderful job! I feel as though her work comes from a beautiful fairy dream. When Anna takes what she does on faces and puts them into a picture book something magical happens. The beauty Anna puts on people's faces comes to life in her books.

Anna Todaro's books are "Everyone Hoops but me..." and "Silly Face". You can get both of her books in her shop: Anna is a Self-Published Author/Illustrator.

Be sure to check out the bottom of this post for a prize!


Dani: How does face painting relate to your work in picture books?

Anna: I have been doing art fairs and independent art shows since 2004 and I love the work of creating an art booth with a world of my own making with books from that world and face painting for folks to get into costume. To answer your question, I must make sure that you know that I am an art fair artist. There are a lot of authors out there trying to promote their stories. While I would love to find the right manager or agent or publisher, not having one makes things much more difficult. Because I am a facepainter and because I do fairs, it helps me get my self published books out there where most other venues seem out of reach.

Dani: What are some of the surprises or hurdles you have to go through in self publishing?

Anna: Self publishing means you do not have a team. You are making the book yourself, words, editing, layout, cost of printing, promoting, researching. It's extremely hard. You also will find it much harder for anyone to take you seriously. Most contests are for published authors. A lot of the events for SCBWI are only for published authors (PALS). It is also hard to find a reviewer unless you want to pay hundreds of dollars for a vanity one. You need your book reviewed if you want it to end up at the library. It also needs to be hard cover for the library. The biggest hurdle for me is distribution. I sold out all three shops carrying SillyFace last month and am still in the process of trying to get over to restock them. I have thought about Amazon print on demand, researching and setting that up will also be all on me.

Dani: Tell us the best thing about self publishing your books.

Anna: You have complete control over your baby. The good, the bad, and the ugly. I suppose you also keep 100% of the profits if there are any...

Dani: What would you like other Authors and Illustrators to know if they are thinking about self publishing?

Anna: It is extremely hard to be self published. You are completely on your own.

Dani: How do you go through the process of making a book?

Anna: Me personally? Or in general? For me, it's about staying focused and organized. I write the story first. That part is easy. Next, I come up with character drawings. This process could take years. The hardest part is taking that step where I say, "ok, this is what this character is going to look like." I then photograph all of the paintings and edit them in photoshop. Sometimes I write my own lettering and scan it in, sometimes I just use a computer font like Courier New. Then I send it in to the printer and I wait and hope.

Follow Anna:

Anna Todaro

Websites and Blog




One lucky winner of Smart Dummies will win a big prize pack from Renee Kurilla! Renee has kindly donated "Be Aware!: My Tips for Personal Safety", "Move Your Body!: My Exercise Tips" and "Keep Calm!: My Stress-busting Tips". Please comment on this post so I know you want these books! These books can only be shipped to a US address.

Rene is a wonderful Illustrator with a massive list of books she's Illustrated. Her wonderful illustration work can be seen in Orangutanka: A Story in Poems written by Margarita Engle. Coming soon is Burkley the Terrible Sleeper written by Mitchell Sharamat available for pre-order now!

Visit Renee's Website:

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Smart Tips for Smart Dummies from Cyndi (Kung Pow) Marko and a Prize!

Note: This post was updated at 8:30pm PST (To the tune of the Chicken Dance thanks to DH). Half the post was missing. It has now been updated!

It's so nice to have Cyndi Marko back on my blog! If you missed the first post check it out. Cyndi Marko is one of the members of the SCBWI Canada West Illustrators. She has a wonderful chapter book series called "Kung Pow Chicken". Her series is much like a picture book in the amount of pictures she uses to create her books. If you are interested in Cyndi's books go to your local book store or check out the link here!

Be sure to check the bottom of this post for a prize!


Smart Tips for Smart Dummies!

I’ve learned a lot about creating dummies since I first started writing and illustrating books for kids eight years ago. Back then it took me six or seven months to make a dummy. Now I can complete a forty-page dummy, complete with covers, endpapers, and color samples, in about a week. No, I didn’t make a deal with the devil (but I am open to it if he’s got something awesome to offer, just saying); I simply drew so much that over time I got pretty good and pretty fast at it.

I’ve compiled some tips I hope will help you to create smart dummies!


I write picture books spread by spread. I have even created a picture book template in Scrivener that is separated into sixteen spreads. (I use a 40 page format that has 32 interior pages as well as front matter and front and back endpapers.) This helps me make the most of pacing and page turns. As a picture book writer, page turns are your friend! Think of some of your favorite picture books. How have they used page turns to add suspense, humor, or drama to the story? You can learn to do this, too! (If you’d like to see more about how I use Scrivener to write picture books, you can see my template and process here: )

I also see the pictures in my head as I write. I make a lot of illustration notes for myself in the manuscript. (I remove most of them later on if I need to send the text to a crit partner or my agent, and only leave the ones that are needed to make sense of the text. If I send a text document with a dummy I remove all of them.)


If you don’t write in spreads like I do, make sure you know your spreads BEFORE you begin sketching. The easiest way for me is to print off the ms and divide the text up using pencil to mark spreads.

But even being as prepared as possible, sometimes adjustments to spreads need to be made mid-dummy as the story and sketches evolve. Be flexible! (and know that changes are imminent once an agent or editor becomes involved!)


I like to do a page or two of character sketches before I start the dummy. Once I have a character design I’m happy with, I draw them from a few different angles. Have you ever drawn a character that looked great in frontal view, and then realized they didn’t work in ¾ or profile? Yeah, me too. Also, make sure you can draw your character consistently each time. This skill takes practice. I used to find this challenging, but after drawing the characters from my KPC books several hundred thousand times *twitches*, I can do this easily now.

As I mentioned above, I use a lot of illustration notes. Sometimes these are to illustrate the words I’ve written, and sometimes these are to illustrate the words I DIDN’T write. Let your story be fluid and evolve. As I sketch, I make changes to the text. Sometimes I find a line of text has become redundant and I’ll remove it. Sometimes an illustration means I can remove descriptions from the text. And sometimes I find adding a line enhances what the illustration is showing. Let the art and text work together.


Before starting your dummy, decide how many pages you think it will be. There are several formats for picture books. The most common are 24, 32, and 40 pages. (See how they are multiples of eight? That has to do with how printed pages are folded and cut.)

When designing your compositions, be mindful of where the gutter lies. Try not to put anything important in the gutter, like faces or important objects. (The gutter is the space on either side of where two pages are joined.) Also, leave plenty of room on the page to place the text. This might sound like obvious advice, but trust me, it isn’t! (Says the lady who has made this mistake a time or two.)


I like to use a lot of variety in my dummies. If the scenes are all from the same angle, with the characters the same size, the dummy risks being boring and predictable. But variation needs to be deliberate and purposeful! For example, if your character feels sad and alone in a scene, showing them from a great distance in a sparse background helps to illustrate isolation.

I have a standard view I use throughout that acts as sort of a visual normal or a starting point. From there I zoom in for a close up, zoom out to tiny silhouettes, look down from bird’s eye view, look up from worm’s eye view, but I always come back to visual normal. Think of yourself as a director and you get to tell the camera where to go…er, what shots to take!

I also vary the type of illustrations I use. I like to mix things up with spots (an object or character with no background), scenes-for lack of better terminology (an object or character with a background that is surrounded by white page), and bleeds (where the illustration fills the entire page.) I also like to incorporate at least two full spreads if I can (a single illustration that fills both pages of a spread, also known as a double-page spread.)


I keep an illustration journal. When I do a color sample for a dummy (and as I worked through the KPC books), I write down what color I used for each aspect of the illustration. Don’t rely on your brain to remember this information! I have a special notebook I keep on my work table and the only information I write in it is colors used for projects.

I also buy lots of those plastic palettes from the dollar store for my tube watercolors. I use a different one(s) for each project. I write the name of the color on each color well, and the project name on the back. When not in use I stack them (when the paints are dry), put the cover on the top one, and wrap an elastic around them. They are ready for use when you come back to that project later on. There are many ways to keep organized to maintain consistency as you work on color. Do whatever works for you!

SMART TIP: KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE (hint: it’s not kids!)

Well okay, yes, *grumbles* we write picture books for kids. BUT we make dummies for agents and editors. Sell your work by helping them see the big picture. The more your dummy looks like a real book, the more agents and editors will be able to picture it on bookstore shelves. The more professional your dummy looks, the more professional they will think you are! (so far I’ve hoodwinked my amazing agent and at least a couple of savvy editors!)

I include front and back covers, I write (hopefully) clever back cover copy. I include creative endpapers. I make use of typography. I create copyright/dedication and title pages. The announcement from my latest sale actually borrows a phrase to describe the book that I wrote as a funny dedication!

Having a design background definitely helps when designing a picture book, but it’s a learnable skill. Look at lots of picture books and study their design. Read design books. (I recommend this one, The Non-designers Design Book by Robin Williams: )

Once acquired, an art director or designer will design the cover and title, pick the fonts, and design the interior layout. The editor will likely write the cover copy. But at the submitting stage it’s all about presentation. Make yours the best you can make it.


Learning to write and illustrate well enough for publication is hard. Twice as hard as doing either of those things separately. Be patient with yourself as you learn your craft and don’t feel pressured to send queries before you think you are ready. (I waited four years!) And have fun!

Follow Cyndi:




One lucky entrant to the Smart Dummies challenge will receive a book from the Freddy Frogcaster series. Kindly donated by the Illustrator Russ Cox!  Series written by Janice Dean. Please comment below so I know you want this book!

Monday, September 28, 2015

The Lovely Lisa (Lionheart) Cinar and a Prize!

I met Lisa Cinar at the SCBWI Canada West conference last year. She had a fantastic intensive workshop for the Illustrators. I don't think I've ever worked that hard in two hours, but I learned and did more in that time that I had that entire week! If you need to hire someone for a workshop or presentation then she is the person to hire.

Lisa is educator at Emily Carr University (Vancouver BC) for both Writing and Illustrating picture books. She both wrote and illustrated Paulina P.(for Petersen) and The Day It All Blew Away which won the BC Book Prize!

She has lots of great samples of her work on her website, plus some fun coloring pages. If you haven't seen Lisa's Shop "Draw Me a Lion" then you have to go! It's a lot of fun to explore. While you're at it-- buy me a Lion!

Check the end of this interview for a great prize from Russ Cox!


Dani: How did you get started in Picture Books?

Lisa: I was always drawn to beautifully illustrated books since as far back as I can remember. Not just books either, I was just a big fan of any images that I really liked from when I was a little kid to now being a 'grown up', whatever that means. I remember taking a class taught by the talented Celia King at Emily Carr Institute of Art & Design in Book Art Media. We made books that were one-of-a-kind art objects and learned different binding techniques, but we also briefly talked about publishing. Celia was a great teacher and I think it was in her class that I realized that I had always been drawn to picture books and that I wanted to try making one.

After I graduated school I wrote & illustrated my first picture book and then showed it to her for advise how to go about the publishing process. She suggested I look at books that I love and check out who publishes them. I did that and then I submitted my dummy book. When the publisher I had sent it to got back to me I was above the moon!

Dani: What is the most important thing you've learned in the PB industry?

Lisa: Determination! I think it's really easy for people to get discouraged because there is a lot of rejection in this field. The important thing is to realize that just because you haven't heard back from a publisher or art director doesn't necessarily mean that they aren't interested in your work. There are so many other factors to consider such as the timing of your submission in their publishing cycle, the fact that publishers only publish so many books a year and also something really obvious but easily forgotten... They are super busy people. They might just not have the time to shoot you an email back. Just dust yourself off, and try again. Get some thick skin! ;)

Dani: Has teaching changed how you approach Picture Books?

Lisa: Yes, I definitely think so! I have been teaching for five years now and having had the opportunity to share my enthusiasm for picture books with other like minded folks has nourished my love for the medium even more. I hope to inspire my students, but my students also inspire me. It's great that w

Also breaking down aspects of the creative process of creating a dummy book for my class really makes me understand my own processes even more than before. On the other hand I always stress in my class that while people's end results (ie. a physical dummy book) might look very much the same in terms of it's layout etc, everyone's creative process will vary. So far every time I have approached a story or book project the process has been slightly different. I think that realizing that this is a normal part of the process and in fact an important part of making each book unique is a great thing to have under your wing, instead of second doubting yourself for never being able to stick to a 'more regimented how-to-manual' so to speak.

Dani: What is the biggest challenge you find your students have with creating Dummies or Illustrations?

Lisa: I think the biggest challenge most students have is a mental hurdle vs a technical one. I see a lot people approach picture books assignments in a stereotypical 'kid-style'. I try to stress in my classes that instead of making illustrations that you think 'look like picture book illustrations for kids' you should just focus on making beautiful illustrations that you enjoy creating and looking at. I think that if you try to develop a 'kid-style' before you have actually developed a personal style of any sorts to start with, it can look forced. In order to achieve this I try to get them to have fun with the assignments. If you aren't having fun creating the illustrations try a different medium, scale, character or subject matter and start over. The love you have for your work shines through! Sounds cheesy but I really believe it's true!

Dani: Do you have any tips for those finishing up their Dummies?


A) Yes! Be PROUD! It's hard work to make and finish a dummy book from scratch and stay committed! Make someone buy you a drink! You deserve it! :)

B) Be smart about who you send it to! Do your research on publishers and don't just blindly send it out. Look at and closely follow their submission guidelines. Every publishers is slightly different.

C) This is probably the most obvious sounding advise, but having followed up with a lot of my students I know that it's also the BEST advise I am going to give you! It's simply this: Don't forget to actually SUBMIT your dummy book! So many times once all the work has been done and the course is over, students start to second guess themselves. "What if it's not good enough"? "What if they don't like it?" "What if I never hear back?". Sure, there is always a chance you don't hear back, but the only way you're guaranteed to never hear back is if you never send it in the first place! So your chances are really muuuuuch better if you do;)

Make yourself a submission deadline in your calendar and then make that friend who bought you a drink for making a dummy book buy you another one for mailing it;) Best of luck to all of you and have fun!


All Illustrations in this blog post were created lovingly by THE Lisa Cinar!

Follow Lisa:

Blog Lisa Created for Her Illustration Class:
Lisa's Shop: "Draw Me a Lion" 
Lisa's Books:



One lucky winner of Smart Dummies will receive two SIGNED books in Puppy Pirates Series Illustrated and donated by Russ Cox! (Written by Erin Soderberg Downing. These can only be mailed in the US. Please comment on this post so I know you want these books!

Sunday, September 27, 2015

The Magnificent, Marvelous and Methodical Maple Lam and a Prize!

Maple Lam has both moody styles and fun styles in her portfolio, but no matter the coloring her work is all fun! Mapel has received several awards for her work. It's really no surprise she's won these awards, her work is so cute and beautiful. Maple Lam is here today to show her process on making promotional postcards. This will help those of you who are now thinking about creating final images to go along with your dummy artwork (this is not required for finishing Smart Dummies).

Be sure to check the bottom of this post to see how you can win this book!


My Promotional Postcard Process

By Maple Lam

I like to think of postcard promo as a Kodak moment: What is the story? What is happening? How can I construct that moment in an interesting composition within the postcard size constraint?

First, I search for an ideal Kodak moment through doodles.

My thumbnails are tiny and at times illegible to others, but the composition slowly takes shape. Once I land on something, I use it as a base for the draft.

The draft help me refine the composition. Here, I added a gated archway in the composition to break the forced perspective wall and to highlight the fox character at the bottom – a theatre trick I learned through Tomie dePaola's brilliant artwork.
I then redraw the piece on watercolor paper and start coloring my final artwork.

Sometimes I do additional color studies. For this piece, I dived straight into final with a pretty clear vision in my head how the color should look like. (Sometimes I screw up too when I do this without color studies, and I will have to start over by redrawing the piece on a new sheet of watercolor paper.)
Aaaaand here is the final artwork.

I hope you have fun constructing your postcard promos too!

Here are more wonderful blog posts on promo postcards:

• Art Director Giuseppe Castellano, on the importance of postcards:

• Author-illustrator Jen Betton, on Self-Promotion: &

Hope you enjoy reading my process


Maple Lam loves creating characters and constructing worlds around them. When she is not illustrating or writing children's book, she is either reading books in a local Los Angeles library, or playing badminton with good friends. You can check out more of Maple's work via her website at You can also find her on Twitter at @MapleLam and Instagram at @MapleLam.

Maple’s latest illustrated picture book, TWO GIRLS WANT A PUPPY, published by HarperCollins Children’s Book, is now available at all major booksellers!



Barnes and Nobles:



One lucky winner will receive a copy of "Two Girls and a Puppy" by Evie and Ryan Cordell and Illustrated by Maple Lam! You must complete your dummy in order to win.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Julie Hedlund 12x the Awesome and 12x the Fun. Plus a Prize!

Julie Hedlund is a fantastic writer too inspired to stick with a regular day job. Out of her need to create she has made some fabulous books. Recently she has started a fabulous course (I've taken it so feel free to ask me questions) for picture book submissions here and her course for Making Money as a Writer here. There are also a number of other great courses here.

One of the biggest picture book events (if not the biggest) came from her beautiful mind. The 12x12 is a yearly challenge to create 12 picture book drafts in 12 months. This is the third year I've competed in the challenge and I love every minute! Registration for this year is done, but you can sign up here so you can be sure to know the second registration is open! I love all that Julie has done for this event. It keeps me going with my career. Not only is Julie inspiring, but she actually cares about helping other writers to succeed.

Be sure to look at the end of this post for an awesome prize from Russ Cox!



First, I have to say that as an "author exclusively" (a term Stacy Jensen came up with recently as an alternative to the negative sounding, "author only"), I have so much admiration and awe for you author/illustrators. Knowing precisely how difficult it is to get the words of a story "just right," I can't even imagine the pressure of being responsible for both the words and the pictures.

Picture book authors are often told to leave room for the illustrations to tell at least half of the story. As a result, I've tried to think more and more visually over the years. But recently, I had what Oprah would call an "Aha moment."

At a conference, just this very weekend, I read one of my picture book manuscripts at a roundtable session and found it was almost impossible because the second half had only three words. It's true in this case that the illustrations carry most of the story, but when I tried to read it aloud, it had no rhythm at all. I found myself droning on "explaining" what happens. I know now I need to (GASP) add words to keep the rhythm consistent and to make it fun to read aloud!!

Remember that any time there are wordless spreads in your manuscript, the reader either has to trust the child to fill in the story him or herself, OR, more likely, they'll fill in words as they read to make the transition from one part of the story to the next. Some people are more self-conscious about doing this than others. It's important to make sure the wordless spreads are either obvious enough that in the silence the child will "get" what is happening OR that they're theatrical enough that the reader is enabled to fill in those spots by simple ad-libbing or acting out the story.

Take these examples from two of my favorite author/illustrators. The first is from MR. TIGER GOES WILD, by Peter Brown. In this spread, he could have easily left the words out because the picture shows what Mr. Tiger is doing and thinking. But if he had, some of the tension and anticipation would have been lost.

Later, however, when we get to the "centerfold" of the book, it's such a dramatic, funny, even naughty, moment, that words would have taken away the shock value.

The second is from John Rocco's BLACKOUT. The pictures in this spread show the lights going out well enough, but it's so juicy and fun to read, "And the lights... went... out... All of them." It gives me goose bumps every time. I don't think the images alone would have the same impact.

It's a tricky balance, and one I struggle with in reverse by erring on the side of taking words out. As illustrators, however, I think sometimes there's the need to evaluate whether you need to add words back in. At the end of the day, a picture book is a dance between pictures and text. If they are in sync, they sing.

Long story short (ha!), my advice is to read your stories aloud. Even the wordless spreads. Is it easy, or do you need to describe the action or the images in order for the story to be understood and appreciated? If so, you may need to (GASP!), add in a few well-placed words. :-)

Follow Julie:

Julie Hedlund is an award-winning picture book author and founder of the 12 x 12 Picture Book Writing Challenge, which boasts 800+ members. As a "pioneer of publishing," Julie worked with publisher Little Bahalia to fund the publication of her latest book, MY LOVE FOR YOU IS THE SUN (2014). She also published two award-winning and critically-acclaimed storybook apps for the iPad with Little Bahalia. The apps were also published in print under the title, A TROOP IS A GROUP OF MONKEYS (2013).

Julie speaks regularly at industry events, and channels her passion for helping other authors into courses such as How to Make Money as a Writer.  

Julie's Awesome Courses: 

The Complete Picture Book Submissions System:
How to Make Money as a Writer:

Follow Julie:

12x12 Picture Book Challenge:

Julie's Books:

My Love For You is the Sun



Russ Cox is generously giving one lucky winner of the competition a copy of one of his drawings! Please comment on this post to win!

Friday, September 25, 2015

Delicious Dummy Direction by Diandra (Wonder Woman) Mae

I am delighted to have Diandra Mae on my blog today. Diandra is such a wonderful person to chat with. She does so much for the kidlit community. Diandra is the Illustrator Coordinator for the Houston SCBWI. She has created the unofficial Tomie dePaola Award gallery and she co-hosts #kidlitart chat for Illustrators Thursday nights on Twitter at 6pm PST/ 9pm EST.

Both #PBDummy and #Writedummy was created through the #kidlitart group. If you are interested in writing a dummy join the #Writedummy challenge (Details here). Keep tabs on because the #PBDummy Challenge will start in January. Unlike Smart Dummies, this challenge lasts longer, but includes every single part of picture book dummy creation from thumbnails to submission! This Challenge was another inspiration for Smart Dummies. I'm going to participate so I hope you do too!


Growing a Delicious Dummy
I think one of the biggest misconceptions about creating a picture book is how ‘easy’ it all must be. A bunch of pictures, and a few words? How hard could that be?

But the thing is, every step in the process of creating a picture book counts. Every one. Just what could possibly be so important about these steps? Well, let’s take a look at laying the groundwork for the making of a dummy.

Building a Garden

-I can’t begin to tell you how important reading is to your creation process, so I’ll let a master storyteller do it for me.

-Making yourself familiar with the field you hope to work in is just common sense. This is where your friendly neighborhood library comes in. Check out as many picture books as possible. Get the classics

 and the hot new contemporaries 

-And look, Lauren Eldridge wrote a fantastic post on how to critically consider the illustrations in the books you read.

Planting the seed

-You have to come up with an idea for a story. Inspiration is found all around us and as a creative your job is to be an observer. See what’s around you and ask questions.

-Don’t limit yourself. Don’t think about the market, or the latest best seller. Don’t even think about your favorite childhood title. Just imagine and suggest and let your brain go a-wanderin’.

Digging for Ideas

-Create an extensive list of ideas, because the fact is that many times our first inclination for a story isn’t always the best or strongest. Many times we have to dig past the easy-to-reach top soil in our creative garden to get to the really juicy ideas deep down. Sometimes this means writing a list of 50 ideas. Sometimes it means we fill a sheet with characters of all shapes and sizes until we find the one we’re looking for.

-If you’re working with a manuscript written by someone else, consider this the version of going to the nursery and picking up a starter plant. ;)


-This is the time to head BACK to the library. Some people say you should grab comparable titles to your story, but personally I find that there can be too much influence (and really, if you’re reading extensively, you’re already aware of those titles). I like to look for books related to the world of my story. Books about trees, or folklore, or desert photos. Books that will help inform my illustrations, palette, and my sense of where I take the story. Research can lead you to pleasant surprises and inform your work in unexpected ways.

-Pinterest is also a great resource of inspiration/reference images. Use the search wisely, and you’ll be delighted by what you find there.

Gathering the Harvest

-Now that you’ve done all of this. Now is the time to DRAW. Gather your pens and pencils, styluses and brushes, close to you and put them to work. You need to figure out who your characters are. How they interact with each other. What each of them has to say. What each of them is repulsed by/attracted to. How do they express themselves? How do they move? How do they a range of emotions? This is where you put your characters through their paces. And you do it as many times as is necessary, sometimes more, until you find those characters that have that special spark. You’ll know them when you see them.

-This is also the time for you to build the world these characters will inhabit. Are they in the woods? On a farm? In a city? On a spaceship? Do you have reference images for these places or are you so into drawing these that they are part of your illustrative vocabulary? Do you have any idea what a character’s home is going to look like? What clothes they wear? Their favorite toy or belonging? What are the rules of this world? Do animals talk? Do they have jobs? Are kids romping about on their own or is family nearby? You should KNOW your character’s world inside-out.

Writing the Recipe

-As creators of picture books, it is so easy to get caught up in the numbers: page count (usually 32, but can be 40, or even 48) word-count, how many spreads or spot illustrations, etc. when what really matters most is the STORY. And in order to get to the story, you have to do the work. You have to put in the time and effort, over and over and over again, to get the best results for what you’ve created.

-This means when you create your character sketches, setting studies, and thumbnails there is no limit on the number of times you must draw. You draw it until you get it right. You must be willing to draw not just one set of 32 pages of thumbnails, but multiple sets. Consider that some pages deserve to be considered in multiple ways.

-And in order to make the most of your thumbnails, be sure you have an understanding of how the pages break down and how your story will fall on the page. Stephanie Ruble has a link to Tara Lazar’s fabulous layout post here:

-Check each set of thumbnails multiple times: check page turns, flow, visual variety, and composition. Don’t forget words will be falling on most of those pages! A standard resource that is a little outdated, but contains wonderful information on fundamentals is this book.

Tweaking the Seasoning

-Once you get the main flow of your book down, it’s time to move into roughs and final art. A dummy book is expected to be mostly unfinished art, but the art should still be refined. Your pencils should be clean and the illustrations clear.
ou’ll have a chance to show what the feel of the entire book will be when you complete a couple of spreads in full, finished color in the medium of your choice.

Plating the Meal for Serving

And finally, once you have the art drawn, the text laid out on the pages, a mocked up cover and title page, your dummy will be ready to be sent out to the world. Whether it’s headed to an agent or an editor, The dummy should be a reflection of what the final book intends to be. Now you can sit back and enjoy a job well done.

Bon Appetit!


Follow Diandra:


Join Diandra and the rest of the Kidlitart group on Twitter Thursday nights at 9pm EST/6pm PST. Search #kidlitart on Twitter to follow along!

Kidlitart Blog:

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Visionary of the Arts: Ryan Sias and a Prize!

I have a special place in my heart for people that work to educate children in the arts. It's true that all Writers and Illustrators do this, but Ryan Sias is a special, special. Ryan not only works to develop educational apps for children but he also has created Sias Studios to help keep children interested in the arts. Sias Studios sends out a weekly art project that encourages kids to write, doodle and learn to draw. These are absolutely wonderful projects for kids aged four and up!

There is a prize today donated by Renee Kurilla so scroll down to find out more!


Dani: Who or what most influences your work?

Ryan: My goal is to use my creativity to help others become more creative. I want to find wants to help people unleash their creative spirits. Not just for writing and drawing but in all aspects of life. Problem solving, music, and being able to express yourself however you want.
Ryan and Peter Reynolds

Currently I'm really into Peter Reynolds and his fantastic books. “ The Dot” and “Ish”. I got to hang out with him a few weeks ago and it was inspirational. I'm also really digging Taro Gomi books, especially his Doodle books. They are so simple and leave room to be creative.

Dani: What was it that prompted you to start Sias Studios?

Ryan: Sias Studios free weekly emails are designed to promote creative thinking and foster children’s imaginations. Our original art projects encourage kids to invent their own stories and make art without boundaries. We provide a springboard for you child to dive into artistic discovery!
This is aimed to help kids be creative. With school cutting all arts, this is a serious problem. We are not training our kids for the future. As we move away from the industrial age and move into the information age, the most powerful thing you can have is ideas. Ideas make money, and help change the world. You all know the problem with cutting arts, but instead of just compiling about it I decided to do something to help kids and help their future, That is why every week I send out these free emails with PDF that you can use at home.
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Dani: Tell us about your new book "SNIFF! SNIFF!"

Ryan reading "Sniff, Sniff"

Many years ago I was at a book convention and dog came up and smelled me. I thought it would be fun to have a book where a dog is following smells, or looking for a great smell. It could be a very different way to tell a story. So I started working on the book, after a few drafts of the dummy, we keep taking out words, and telling more with the pictures. By the end I only had 12 words in the book, the rest was all visual story telling. Kids love this because it allows them to create their own words, and make up part of the book themselves. I do interactive readings, which is tons of fun and after the readings I give out doodle pages so they can create their own stores. (Check out the doodle pages here) 

Dani: How does your work in Children's Entertainment influence your illustration?

Ryan: I create educational apps for pre-school kids. This work is not designed by me, so I have to copy other artist styles. An example would be Sesame street, I follow their style guide and that it LOOKs like Sesame street and not my work. Which means my personal style has to go away and I copy another style. Which is great, because getting paid to learn a new style is helpful.

So when I get to draw my own work, I use pieces of these other successful styles and blend them with my own work. After working in animation for 18 years I've got a little bits from all over the place.

In addition its great to have my job be drawing. My belief is the more you draw the better you get. I am always grateful and feel lucky that my jobs have me draw.

Dani: Tell us your approach to Picture Book Dummies.

Ryan: As an Author/Illustrator my approach is slightly different than some one who only writes or only draws. When starting a dummy I write and draw it at the same time.

1. Normally I have an idea for a story and I talk it out with my fiance and friends. We work out what the major theme is and what the point of the book is. My new book “SNIFF SNIFF” is about smells and going on an adventure with a dog.

2. Then I sit down with a lined notebook from the dollar store and start doodling. I try to draw what I discussed with my friends, but at the same time I let the pencil wander. Something happens when I doodle, things come out that I would never consciously think about. Which to me is the good stuff.

3. I doodle around for a week, then using my iPhone I take photos of all the drawings I like and bring them into Photoshop and start to build up the book. Around this time I sit down and write out a formal draft of the book.
4. Once all the sketches of photos are in Photoshop on the correct page, I use a Wacom tablet and redraw or completely change the drawings.
Then I go back to the script and take out most descriptive words. (this is one major note I give writers, take out MOST of your descriptive words, this leaves room for illustrators to do their best work, and its what editors are looking for. 

My example is if you are writing a cowboy book, DONT say, the cowboy has a yellow hat, a red bandanna, and shiny brown cowboy boots. DONT say anything about what they are wearing UNLESS its important to the story. If the cow boy is going to loose his yellow hat among other hats, then that's important. Other wise leave out all descriptions. That's the job for the illustrator)
I continue to go back and forth with writing and drawings, trying to find the simplest way to say what I'm wanting to say. Then I share it with friends and see what they think.
Once I’m happy with it I send it off to my agent and try to forget about it.

I love making dummies, I work very fast So I can do it in a few weeks. I like the dummies more than the finished book because I like the rawness of the sketches and the discovery of what the book is super fun!

Dani: Do you have any last words of wisdom to share?

Ryan: My advice is keep cranking out dummies! The more you have the better your odds of getting published are. I believe each book you create you get better and better at it. So while your first book might not get published the 4 or 5th might. This market is very competitive right now, so its about determination. Just keep working on it and perfecting you're craft. Join SCBWI, go to conferences, joining a critique group, keep making more books and express your true feelings. You can do it!

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Illustrated by Rene Kurilla

One lucky winner will win a copy of "SPF 40" (Zebrafish Book 2) illustrated and kindly donated by the wonderful Renee Kurilla!

Rene is a wonderful Illustrator with a massive list of books she's Illustrated. Her wonderful illustration work can be seen in Orangutanka: A Story in Poems written by Margarita Engle. Coming soon is Burkley the Terrible Sleeper written by Mitchell Sharamat available for pre-order now!

Visit Renee's Website: