Monday, October 31, 2016

The Wrap Up Post

So this is the wrap up post for the event. Nothing fancy here -- just a post to let you know what's happening the next few days.

You do not need to turn in your Dummy to me. Tomorrow there will be a Smart Dummies Oath that you will need to comment on if you completed your dummy. This gives you the eligibility to win some big prizes. There are also prizes available to everyone who entered the event this month.

There are a lot of people who worked hard to write their posts. It's very important that you make everyone feel like their post is important. Please comment on the posts so that the guests can feel your love!

BTW: I have not forgotten about the Amazon gift card prize. I will be announcing that in November as well!

Here is the list of prizes. You MUST comment on the prize posts to win that prize! The link to each post is under the prize. You have a few days to comment if you missed out.

Photoshop or Hero's Art Journey course (your choice) - Mira Reisberg 

Make your Marks & Splashes course. Mark G Mitchell

A one-year subscription to Guest Group Critiques - Mark G Mitchell

A Full Dummy Critique - Traci Van Wagoner

A review copy of "Toby"Hazel Mitchell

Torn tissue illustration - Toni Yuly

"Get the Wiggles Out" and "Let's Cooperate" books and a signed A4 print. - Tom Heard 

"Ring Around the Rosie", and an original Buddha painting on paper Gina Perry

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Denis Alenti Talks Apps

Mary, Vjekoslav Zivkovic, and Denis Alenti work together at Foo Foo kids to create wonderful apps for kids. Their work caught my eye while I was browsing Twitter. The artwork in their apps is absolutely stunning. I've downloaded a lot of kids apps, and these are some of the best I've seen.
Denis Alenti does a lot of the illustration work for Foo Foo Kids apps. Since technology is vital in today's world, I knew it would be interesting to hear from the perspective of an app creator. Denis has so much good information about apps. Hopefully this post will give you great insight and maybe even help you learn how you can develop your own apps to complement your kidlit work.


Dani: How did you get started in making apps for children?

Denis: We were in between animation projects and someone suggested we should try making an app. I was only one who had superficial contact with programing languages so I ended up taking lead developer role. Six months later we where hocked on this "new & shiny" interactive world and our first app was done.

I was pretty scared taking development role and not having any real prior programing experience but as it turns out programing is not that hard at all. Programing community is really big and fortunately they love to share knowledge. Some of great free and paid tutorial sites are or Especially great one is where you can ask questions and get answers really fast.

Dani: What's the most important part of creating apps?

Denis: I don’t think that there is “most important part” it’s more a process with equally important stages of production. Being a complete newbies in app development we approached making an app same way we did with animation or movies. When story is defined screenplay is written and this document contains everything in fine detail, narrative, voice over, music cues, sound effects and interactive elements (when you click this that happens). In parallel the first visuals start to happen and this is done mainly in Adobe PS. After characters are chosen they are prepared and exported for animation in Spine At that stage all elements end up in development software, for iOS environment I use Xcode After that composers start making music and voice artists are recorded. When everything is working and is tested you open an account on app store (unfortunately it’s charged $100 annually) and you can upload your new app and start selling. All in all if you ever did any movie/animation production you are well prepared for apps development because you have to be patient and schedule realistically. A minimum of 6 to 12 months per app is doable with small team of three with little to no budget.

Dani: How do you think or computers will change the future of Children's Literature?

Denis: In my opinion computers influenced production process a lot, from printing to producing artworks, but I don’t think they’ll change kidlit too much. I love tablets and all interactive stuff. Kids love to play with tablets but printed and digital are completely different experiences. Books are tactile, slow, usually shared and with lots of space for readers imaginations to fill in blanks. And computers/tablets usually offer too much defined worlds with sound, music, interaction, all bells and whistles, not leaving much space for participation. So I’m not afraid for printed books at all, we're gonna have them around for a long, long time.

Dani: What (or who) inspires you?

Denis: My main inspiration comes from art and illustration. So so many gorgeous artists out there to see. I devour lots of independant animations but also love commercial things like Pixar/Disney or Dreamworks stuff.

Dani: Do you have anything else you want to share?

Denis: If you come from creative/art world don’t be afraid of development or programing because of any preconceived notions (like you have to be a genius math/programer before you can develop your own stuff). You can learn any programing language in six months or less and you're gonna love it, I promise. :)


Follow Denis and Foo Foo Kids:

Denis on Pintrest:

Foo Foo Kids Website:

Get the apps:

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Patricia Pinsk Illustrates the Importance of Contracts -- Plus a Prize!

Patricia Pinsk is not only a wonderful illustrator, but she also has fantastic insight into design and the business side of illustration. Patricia has written many fantastic articles for the SCBWI Bulletin (check out the archives or your old issues for a great read). She is one of the few posters that is in the SCBWI Canada West chapter with me! This is Patricia's second year of being a part of Smart Dummies and once again she has priceless information to share with you.


Illustrators and contracts

By Patricia Pinsk

The business side of illustration is something you need to embrace if you are to make money doing what you love: creating art. A contract helps keep things simple. It’s good to have one - regardless of whether you know the client or not.

Why do you need one?

Add caption
Like any business, doing work for someone requires a lot of discussion. The main reason for a contract is to outline the project expectations, fees due, copyright and so forth. Contracts help open the dialogue around these project elements.

Think of having a contract as a way to force yourself along with the client into a project plan. A contract helps both parties understand what resources are required, if any. It also helps (through discussion) determine any unforeseen obstacles.

What is in it?

If you are freelancing, your contract doesn’t have to be complex or written in legal jargon. You can determine what kind of contract you want to use. Publishers however, usually provide their standard contract.

Some of the things to look for in a contract are as follows:

Project overview – sum up in a few sentences what the project is about

Client and illustrator contact information – include preferred methods of communication

Project scope – include start and end dates, and the project details

Project price and payment terms – state payment requirements, types accepted, late fees

Revision allotment – include the number of revisions included in the price (state additional costs when the client exceeds the limit)

Ownership of artwork – state who owns what, in what medium, and when publishing rights expire – if at all

Will a contract prevent bad clients?

A contract shows that you are serious about your work. It helps ward off bad clients, but it’s not foolproof. Clients that don’t like to pay for work or request ridiculous amounts of revisions are not as likely to sign a contract as someone that understands this is work, not play.

If someone gives you grief prior to a contract signing, they are likely to cause issues throughout the project. Part of good business is in understanding the kind of people you want to work with. Try to not get caught up in the excitement of having a project. You need to also question the integrity of the client, and whether the project is likely to be a pleasant experience.

Do your research. Usually bad clients have a history that can easily be found on the Internet. If your gut says “no”, listen to that. Otherwise, you risk working for free, as well as jeopardizing your reputation. Some resources that can help include the following:

Canadian Writers union can help you with your contract

Sample contract for designers (one-off projects)

Why creative workers and freelancers need contracts

Contracts for designers who hate contracts (PDF 4.1 MB)

Preditors and editors

SCBWI Blueboard (members only)

Good luck with your projects!

Patricia Pinsk lives in Vancouver B.C. She holds a BFA from Vancouver’s Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design (now called Emily Carr University of Art and Design), a Certificate in New Media from Vancouver Film School, and a Certificate in Technical Writing from Simon Fraser University. 


Follow Patricia:





Mark Mitchell is giving out one last prize: A one-year subscription to Guest Group Critiques! In order to win this prize you must complete the Smart Dummies challenge. 

To win this prize you must comment on this post. I need to know that you want this prize!

It would also be lovely if you could share this post with your friends!

Friday, October 28, 2016

Lots of Love From Selena Alko

When Selina Alko was young she lived in Vancouver, BC and now she lives in New York. When I was young I lived in Ohio, and now I live near Vancouver. Ironic? No. It is a great coincidence.

Selina's work is steeped in diversity. She works with her husband Sean Qualls in a lot of her projects (including the book below). In her post Selina uses her artwork instead of words to tell her story.


Summer was an especially busy one with my husband Sean Qualls and I collaborating on the art for another book together. Here are some sneak peaks... But, shhhhh, it's top secret!!! I think you can get the sense though, that it's another project celebrating diversity and promoting human understanding.

Our other books to date: Two Friends; Susan B Anthony and Frederick Douglass and The Case For Loving; The Fight for Interracial Marriage.

I'm very excited that this fall the movie LOVING is coming out based on the same story of Richard and Mildred Loving's struggle to help legalize interracial marriage that we tell in our picture book, The Case For Loving.

Please visit my website to learn more about me and my work with Sean and to see a schedule of upcoming events:

Happy Fall!


Follow Selina:





Sean Qualls:

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Mike Herrod Hits it Home -- Plus a Prize!

Mike Herrod has been posting a lot of his illustration process on Twitter lately. It's this artwork that made me want to give him a shout. I didn't know what to expect when I asked Mike to write a post for Smart Dummies. It should be noted that I'm a bit thick in the head. If I would have thought about it, I wouldn't have been so surprised when I got back a process post (especially since we agreed to a process post via email). There is a lot of great information here, so I hope you won't be too surprised when you read it. Spoiler alert: It's a process post!


Taking it Home – Preparing Your Sketches to go to Finals

You finished your dummy! Congratulations! Now what?

As daunting as creating a full picture book dummy can be, making final illustrations poses a whole new set of challenges. But once you get the process down, this can be the most fun part of making book. After all that work, you finally get to see your art in full-color, just like a real picture book. (I consider this part the “dessert”).

The process below is by no means the way you MUST do things. It’s just what’s worked for me. But hopefully this post will give some tips and ideas that will help you out, no matter how you work.

Sounds good? Let’s go! Very Rough Rough’s

As shown here, my dummy drawings tend to be a little… rough. But that’s OK, really. The dummy doesn’t have to be perfect, as long it gets your ideas across. Here’s how to turn that messiness into a final piece.

Consistency is key!

If you’ve been working on your dummy for some time, there are things you might stop noticing. Maybe your characters look the same person from picture to picture. Or maybe the relative sizes of each character have changed. These things are easy to overlook. Your editor might spot some of these, but it’s really up to you to make sure everything is right. You don’t want to get notes after you’re done painting and waste hours of work.

I make a couple of special drawings to help me double-check my art. One is called the character “turnaround”. The other I call the character “lineup”.

Character turnarounds are an idea borrowed from animation. Basically, you spin your character around and draw them from all angles. I usually do this before making the dummy, and it does two things: First, it makes sure that your character looks like the same person (or animal), no matter how you view them. Second, it makes your pictures more exciting. (You don’t want to draw every character looking right at the reader, or in a straight profile. That’s boring!)

To keep the relative sizes of my characters the same, I like to use a character “lineup”. Draw all your characters right next to each other, and make sure their heights are correct. I like to use the “head” of the main character to measure everyone else. The farmer is four “heads” high, the donkey is two, and the chickens are one. Use this sheet to test all your pictures and your sizes should be all set.

To Resize or not to resize, that is the question…

Let’s face it, we’re not making picture books because we love math. You don’t need to do functions to draw fuzzy bunnies riding bicycles. But now it’s unavoidable – numbers are rearing their ugly heads.

Your dummy can be any size, really. Some people make small dummies. Some are the exact dimensions of the book.

Final images, however, MUST be proportionate to the final book size, and CANNOT be smaller. They can be bigger, however. Much bigger. So if your book will be 10” x 10”, your final art can be 15” x 15”, or 20” x 20”, etc. etc.

The size you choose for your final art depends on how you work. Maybe the final book size is perfect for your art. Or maybe you artwork is busier or has a lot of characters, and you need a bigger canvas to paint the details well.

If you need to resize your images, you have a couple options. You can scan the sketch, resize in Photoshop, and print out the page. Or, you can just redraw the images at the larger dimensions. Either way works fine.

Holy moly, we forgot the words!

Unless this is a wordless book (which is way, way easier), you need to make sure you can fit the words. Your dummy probably included these, but now you need to make sure the words fit in the finals.

I like to print out the words (resized if necessary), cut them out, and paste them on the final sketch. Make sure the font and font-size are correct (the art director can send those if you’re working with a publisher).

Now you can do your last, final check (Eek!) and start to paint.

Almost there!

How you create your final pieces will of course depend upon your medium and your style or art. If you’re working digitally, just load your drawing into your digital painting or vector program of choice, and get going! If you work traditionally, like me, there are a few more steps.

OK, say your drawing is ready to go – finished, checked and approved. But it’s on drawing paper. How to get it on your canvas or on a paper suitable for painting? Well, you have a few choices. You can redraw the entire picture, but that’s hard and could introduce errors. Or you could use transfer paper, which is fine, but can get expensive. For me, the light box is the best and easiest technique, by far. Light boxes are pretty cheap, and you just need a small one. Tape your drawing to the bottom of your art paper, put in on the light box and trace away. If you use ink, like me, you can draw with the ink right on the light box.

Beautiful! Now you’re ready to paint. Personally, I use pen and ink with watercolor. For more information on that technique, visit my blog here.

That’s it! If you’re preparing a dummy for submitting to publishers, remember you’ll need to include two prints of final art from the book (not originals). Or if doing a whole book, just keep going and going until those 32 pages are all done.

I hope this was helpful. Good luck with your art!


Follow Mike:

Website :


The envelope from Tim Egan

PRIZES find out more about Tim Egan!

One lucky winner will win a copy of "The Trial of Cardigan Jones" by Tim Egan and an original Piece of artwork that never made it into the book! If you are the winner of this artwork you have to promise to take care of it!

Since this is a really big prize it will have to go to someone who has completed the Smart Dummies Challenge!

You must comment on this post to win.

It would be nice if you share this post with your friends!

Sorry, I'm keeping the letter and envelope. ^_^

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Friendly Bear Diana Toledano -- Plus a Prize!

I fell in love with Diana Toledano's blog at first site. She has absolutely wonderful advice for both illustrators and writers. The information isn't just available for English readers. Diana writes her posts in both English and Spanish!

The artwork that Diana creates is absolutely wonderful. It's like something out of a dream. Even when her work is based in the real world it still has magic. Much like the way a child sees the world!


Hello fellow picture book lovers! My name is Diana Toledano, and I'm glad to be here with you (in spirit) sharing some basic (but usually overlooked) tips on how to create a dummy book. All the images of the article are taken from the making of my last book: a picture book called “Une Place Pour Edouard” (A Place for Edouard).

Let’s fast forward: you’ve had a great idea for a picture book, you've written the story, you’ve edited the manuscript, you’ve developed your characters, and you’ve drawn a storyboard. Now what? It’s time to create your first dummy! (and I say “first" because you probably should do a couple more before finishing the book).

Since making books is such a long and lonely process, you might need some help making it through. So I’ve gathered up some friends you can count on while making the best dummy on earth:

- Stick figures are your friend.

I'm sure you can draw a proper kid/bear/koala. After all, you're a fantastic illustrator! But while you’re making a dummy book, try to forget you have drawing skills at all.
I know, you’ve seen X illustrator’s dummy and it was beautiful. You want yours to look just like it. If you are one of those super talented human beings who draw as easily and fast as they breathe (like most animators), your dummies might indeed look great… Mine don’t (I’m not *that* cool).

Remember: by making a dummy you are trying to figure out the composition of the illustrations, the rhythm of the book, and where the text will go; you are NOT trying to create a work of art that art historians will compare to the Sistine Chapel. Don't make it pretty, it doesn't need to be.

- Photocopies are your friend.

You've drawn a tiny storyboard. You love it, it's working. You decide to take the next step: making a real dummy. So you take a pencil and... Stop right there! Don't redraw it. Instead, make a copy and blow it up. I'll give you three reasons:
  1. Drawing the same stick figures twice is a waste of time (it's also quite boring).
  2. If you draw the same thing twice you'll feel the need to add details, correct the shapes, etc. You'll be making it pretty, and that will make the editing process a lot harder. Your favorite drawing might be the one page that doesn't work. Will you tear up a beautiful rendering of the night sky that took you 6 hours to make? Probably not.
  3. It's amazingly hard to keep the proportions right when changing paper sizes. Try this: 1. take one spread from your small (and simple) storyboard, 2. blow it up to the size you want your final dummy to be, 3. hide that copy and redraw the spread for the dummy, 4. put the photocopy on top of the redrawn spread and look at them on a light table or through a window. Did the composition change at all? 

- Glue is your friend. Double-sided tape is a great pal too.

Make an actual dummy book. You need to see what happens when you physically turn the page. You won't know what it isn't working until you do. Also, it's a fantastic feeling to hold your own book, even a fake one with circles and blobs.

So take those photocopies, cut them out, fold
them in half and stick the pages together with glue or doble-sided tape (I prefer the tape). Cut the cover a little bigger so it can go over the inside pages that you previously stuck together.

- Friends are your friend. 

What is obvious for you might not be obvious for everyone else. So find some friends to look over your dummy once it's done. Ideally, you should get someone who works in a creative field and someone who doesn't.

In my case, I always bother my husband (he's a computer programer) and a couple of my illustrator friends. Why? Well, fellow illustrators will tell you what's not working and how to fix it. But they are biased because they understand why you did things *that* way. Someone who knows nothing about books won't solve your creative problems, but they'll see your story as most people out there will. And that insight is incredibly valuable.

I hope these tips were helpful! Making books is an amazing experience, but it’s also hard. Know that the light is at the end of the tunnel. Be patient and enjoy ALL parts of the process… I know book dummies aren’t glamorous, but they get the job done!

Follow Diana:
Diana Toledano's website (blog & portfolio):



One lucky winner will win "Manners Are Not For Monkeys" by David Huyck! (This book is up for a 2017 Rainforest of Reading Award.)

In order to win this book you must comment on this post.

It would also be lovely if you shared this post with your friends!

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Fairy Friendly Rebecca Jordan-Glum

I love a good fairy tale. There are a lot of artists that do create art for fairy tales, but few do it so well as Rebecca Jordan-Glum. Rebecca creates vividly magical scenes in her illustrations. When she's not doing fantasy, Rebecca still creates magic in her wonderfully expressive illustrations.

Dani: What would the child you think about the work you are doing today?

Rebecca: I think the child me would be quite surprised! I grew up in a house full of bookworms and have always been an avid reader but it never really crossed my mind to want to actually make books. I've always felt that books were a bit magical and I enjoyed being the reader so much that it has been a bit of a switch to have to learn the nuts and bolts of constructing a book myself. I enjoy it tremendously, but it IS work. I think as I child I thought that books just appeared, fully formed and perfect. Nothing could be farther from the truth. There are a LOT of people involved in creating a book and the amount of editing that goes on is enormous. I spend a lot of time doing revisions and rewrites and there is nothing magical about that.

Dani: What are your favorite fairy tales and which one would you most want to illustrate?

Rebecca: Perhaps Hansel and Gretel, which was one of my favorite fairy tales as a child. The contrast of the little children lost in a dark wood and the allure of the candy house is quite striking. It's very Willy Wonka-ish now that I think about it...
I'd enjoy illustrating any of the Grimm or Hans Christian Andersen tales, really.

Dani: How did you prepare for the illustrations you did for "A Fairy Tale"?

Rebecca: A Fairy Tale is a Fairy Tale about... Fairies. My initial preparation involved me sketching out a lot of different fairies and doing some color studies of bedrooms. I wasn't sure what I wanted the book to look like but after I did my initial studies of character and scene, I discovered two things that I knew I DIDN'T want. I try and stay away from stereotypes, so I didn't want the book to be done in blues (as I discovered almost every nighttime bedroom picture book is done in) and I didn't want my fairies to be ultra-thin pale little waifs. After I knew what I didn't want the book to include, I set about coming up with characters that reflected the beautiful and ethnically diverse children that I see around me every day, and designing a non-stereotyped room that celebrated the brilliant minds of girls. I don't really approve of all the princess-worship that our culture participates in. I think girls are bold, powerful, and curious— so I included a fairy reading a book about Sacajawea, a bookshelf that includes books on physics, and I tacked up a homemade kite and a poster on the aerodynamics of flight.

Dani: What is it that inspires you?

Rebecca: Great work from other people. Interesting ideas. My family.
I am driven to connect with people through my work. As an artist, art truly is my most effective form of communication. I find that I always feel a bit misunderstood until I draw or paint a picture of what I am thinking. People can take one look and instantly understand something that I was struggling to get across through other means.

Dani: Is there anything more you'd like to share with those creating their dummies?

Rebecca: Prepare to edit, edit and EDIT! Creating a dummy is just the beginning of the journey. Get your ideas down and then be open to changes. You'll be asked to revise it by agents and/or editors and then even after it is sold, it will need to be revised again and again at the publishing house.


Follow Rebecca:




Monday, October 24, 2016

Woodland Wonder Shirley Ng-Benitez

There are some artists that create characters so distinct and so wonderful that you can't imagine that you've never seen that character before. That's what I feel like when I see Shirley Ng-Benitez's illustrations. I know that her characters aren't characters I've seen before, but I can't imagine the world without Shirley's wonderful characters.


Dani: You have a distinct style in your artwork. How did you arrive at this style?

Shirley: In my illustration courses in college, I was able to try different mediums: watercolor, charcoal, colored pencil, gouache, oil, pen and ink, etc. I remember distinctly feeling overwhelmed in my bedroom/studio while painting with oils because of the smell of the turpentine. I thought, wow, I don’t think I can do this much without endangering my health! This was many, many years ago, and I suppose that really pushed me to find a medium that I could add color to my pencil drawings. Watercolor fit the bill and I would say about five years ago, I’ve been experimenting with different approaches with my watercolor work, i.e. starting with waterproof inks, using digital layering, and various papers and mixes of watercolor and gouache. It’s still definitely a work-in-progress, and I’m now tempted to try oils again!

Dani: What is the worst/hardest part of starting on a new project?

Shirley: If it’s for a client, I’m actually really excited about starting the new project as usually there is a manuscript that I’ll read that just starts generating images in my head. I really love to sketch, so things pop in and I jot them down..sometimes words, sometimes sketches. If it’s for a personal project though, the hard part for me is coming up with something truly interesting and compositionally interesting. I have been trying very hard to focus on the narrative of the illustration and so telling that specific story in one image is really challenging. It’s exciting when it starts coming together but it sure is hard sometimes at the start.

Dani: How does your Agent help you in your career?

Shirley: My agent has helped move my work to focus on picture book work. I’ve loved how she (Nicole Tugeau continues to ask her artists to produce new pieces throughout the year so that she has fresh work to show. She also produces promos for the group as well as shows our work at different events throughout the year. She’s been great to discuss contract issues with; work-progress issues that might come up with specific clients; and she’s a great sounding board for all kinds of issues that come up regarding my artwork and writing.

Dani: What's your favorite part of illustration? 

Shirley: My favorite part is also the hardest part for me, which is coming up with a narrative for the piece. I find works that draw me in emotionally and pique my curiosity are so amazing and I shoot for that when sketching. It’s a big, wonderful journey. I also do very much love being in the “play” zone when creating personal pieces..trying new mediums and how they work with one another, as well as messing around on the computer and playing with layers and transparencies is always fun.

Dani: Any words of wisdom you can give for people finishing up their dummies?

Shirley: Enjoy the process. I think we so often hope for this ultra-great, awesome, perfect end point, and that blocks you from enjoying the work you’re doing. I had a BIG birthday this year and so I’ve been reflecting a lot about this career and what I’ve gone through and the things I’d go back and re-do. I must say that with a lot of confidence, that it’s truly wonderful when you hit that sweet spot of moving a piece of art in a direction that delights you, and that doesn’t happen as easily if you’re too worried about the end result. It’s not easy for me too, as I am completely a planner and an end-result kind of gal, but I’m more conscious of making sure that I open myself up to “play” when creating (getting messy, trying new things, focusing on something else vs. worrying about the perfection of a piece) while working on any project. If you can build in some time to play during the work needed for a dummy to be completed, I highly recommend it. Best to everyone!


Illustration site:
Graphic Design site:

Twitter: @shirleysillos
Instagram: @shirleysillos

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Lauren Gallegos Champion of Hope

Sometimes it's not just artwork that grabs me about an artist. Sure, I'll see pretty artwork and do more research based on that, but this isn't the whole of what makes me fall for an artist. With Lauren it was her story about how she gained her agent that made me want her to come to Smart Dummies (link to story below). Her story is important because it shows how important it is to have hope and stay the course as a picture book creator. If you work hard that agent could just be right around the corner!


Dani: What is the hardest part about your job as an illustrator?

Lauren: For me, the hardest thing is not knowing when, and from where, my next job will come. In fact, this is practically impossible, which is difficult for me as someone who likes to have things planned out and organized. Unfortunately, this is the curse of the freelance artist. The best you can do is consistently put your work out there (whether on social media, through postcard mailings, attending conferences, etc.) and hope that it catches someone’s attention enough to hire you. This situation has occasionally caused some times of stress, but I have been fortunate enough so far to stay pretty busy.

Dani: How did you break into illustration?

Lauren: It has been a very slow breakthrough. There hasn’t ever been “that one moment” where all of a sudden everything fell into place for me. It has been a lot of hard work and persevering through the bad drawings and few opportunities. When I finished school with a degree in Illustration I jumped in and took almost any project I could get. Even if it was low pay or something I didn’t really want to work on. I did it because it was practice and experience. And when I was working on something I wasn’t all that interested in, I would work on personal projects on the side. Slowly I built up my portfolio, worked on my drawing skills and technique, and slowly, new and better working opportunities would come up. I attended conferences and took all the advice I got. I sent out postcards regularly and got active on social media. Sometimes the idea of “fake it ‘til you make it” really rings true. If you treat yourself as a professional then eventually you will learn to be one. I never presented myself as an “aspiring” illustrator or an amateur. If you don’t believe you are a professional, no one else will either.

Dani: What do you wish you had known about the Picture Book industry before you got started in this field?

Lauren: Something I wish I had known about was the “Slush Pile”. I was aware of what it was, but I didn’t realize how BIG it could be! As I attended conferences and read blogs about it, I saw pictures and read about how Publishers literally get mountains of submissions. This Slush Pile exists in email form too. I’ve heard people talk about getting over 1,000 submissions every day! Of course knowing this wouldn’t have changed much on my end, but knowing about it now gives me a better idea of what I am up against when submitting. It shows how many people are out there doing exactly what I am doing. If you want to rise to the top of that pile you really need to have work that shines!

One other thing I have recently become more aware of as I start my writing journey is what is expected from an author (or author/illustrator) when it comes to promoting your own book. Doing book launches parties, school visits and all of those things is something I know nothing about. To be completely honest it is a bit terrifying to me as a quiet, shy person to think about getting up in front of people (even kids!) because I have never been that great at verbalizing my thoughts, and especially not doing that in front of a crowd of people. What I love so much about art is being able to express myself with an image instead of having to put it into words. I suppose when the time comes it will just be another learning experience!

Dani: I loved the post on your blog about how you got your agent. What are some of the things you learned from that journey?

Lauren: For anyone who doesn’t know my journey of getting an agent, you can read about it here.

I really learned so much! I learned that you need to take every small victory that you can, and sometimes a victory comes in the form of a rejection. Some agents were very kind and even though they weren’t interested in my work, they were generous enough to offer their thoughts as to WHY they weren’t interested, which was invaluable to me! Those moments were great opportunities to know where to improve my work for the next agent I submitted to. I also learned to not get too excited too quickly. I had a few instances where an agent showed some interest and I got really excited. Those connections ended up going nowhere and that made the rejection sting even more because I worked myself up beforehand. Even when I got some interest from the agent I ended up with, it took a year and a half of conversations, working on my technique, and building up my portfolio before finally signing with her. So just be aware of how much time it could take.

Dani: Do you have any words of inspiration for those working to complete their dummy?

Lauren: Don’t give up! It can be daunting to create a full picture book dummy, but it is worth the experience at least once. I have made 2 dummies so far and each one has helped me grow in huge ways! And even if you get to the end and it ends up not getting much response, that’s ok. This might not sound very inspiring, but the reality is that if this is your first dummy, it might not be your best. Of course it could also be incredible and get you an agent and a book deal right away! I unfortunately wasn’t that lucky. My first dummy was (and still is) very special to me, but I see where the problems are. I don’t know if it is worth revisiting (maybe in the future), but I wouldn’t have traded that experience for anything! I needed to try my hand at it and see what it was like. And in my case, I will probably need to do it a few more times to get something that I think is really, really great. Just like when you are sketching in your sketchbook. The first drawing you do is usually pretty awful. It looks all wrong and the idea behind it is weak. So you try it again, or try something else and it’s a little better. And you do it again, and again, and again, and eventually you have a great idea and a great drawing! You really need to get the bad drawings and ideas out of your systems to get to the good stuff. Same thing goes for PB dummies. So keep going! – not just with this one dummy, but with more and more afterward!

Follow Lauren:


Twitter: @laurengallegos

Facebook: Facebook Page