If you missed it, Hazel did a wonderful interview with Mark G. Mitchell. If you missed the interview you can see Mark's blog post here: http://howtobeachildrensbookillustrator.com/hazels-new-picture-book/ There is a link to the 90 minute Google Hangout recording there as well!
Dani: When did you decide to create picture books?
Hazel: I always wanted to make books, or had it in my head to so do, since I was about seven. I didn't get round to doing much about it until 2009 when I hit my mid 40's. I worked was a graphic designer for many years and then as a commercial illustrator. I'd no idea about the children's publishing world. For years I'd noodled around with stories and illustrating self published books for people, but I wanted to be in trade publishing, but had no idea how. Thankfully I found the SCBWI.org, which is most people's entry into the professional aspect of publishing. Actually my first workshop was not SCBWI. I attended a locally organized event in Maine with the awesome author Lisa Wheeler and I was hooked and inspired. In 2010 I went to my first major SCBWI conference in NYC and began the steep and long learning curve to getting published.
Dani: In the past you've mostly been an illustrator. How do you feel about writing Toby as well as illustrating the story?
Dani: How does planning a story change when you are working from actual events?
Hazel: It's interesting. When I first decided to write about Toby I knew I'd place him in a fictional setting. (There was no story arc with me and my husband as the secondary characters!). So just what was going to happen to Toby? Who'd adopt him? What'd they be like and what was THEIR story. I already knew Toby's - fearful, adopted dog learning trust and friendship. Toby's adoptive family turned out to be a young boy and his Dad who've just moved house. Originally it was going to be Mom and Dad, but a single parent was more interesting. I really like the emotional triangle between the three of them. I took a lot of the things that Toby did in real life and inserted them into the story (not eating treats, messing in the house, hiding under the table, collecting shoes!). That part was fairly easy; I had lots of content. The story arc was harder, figuring out the problem, how to fix the problem and how not to have the adult as the person fixing the problem! The other thing that's different in Toby's fictional journey, from fearful dog to trusting dog, is the time scale. Toby's still on his journey in real life, but for a picture book it would have been difficult for a young child to comprehend, especially reading alone, so we spread it over a season (fall).
Dani: What's the story behind the story of Toby?
Dani: Do you have more stories you plan to write and illustrate?
Hazel: I do! I have a couple of picture books in progress. And I have a sequel to 'Toby in mind' (he has an adopted sister now, Lucy, a white standard poodle). Besides that I am also venturing into the world of middle grade novels, that's a whole different world for me!
Dani: Is there anything else you want to share with those creating their dummies?
Hazel: Don't get too set in your ideas. Be flexible and open. Keep your work loose so you can make changes easily if you get feedback. (If you work in a very tight manner, sometimes the thought of even attempting changes can be daunting and put an editor or agent off asking you to do it and therefore possibly not acquiring the book). I would also say don't look for too much crit or look for it too early in a story. Let things sit. Look at them again. I guarantee you will have changed your mind! Crit is great, but too much can 'distill' your ideas. Protect your creative bubble. Write about what you love .. yep we hear it all the time .. and chasing trends is tempting. Do your thing. It's YOUR thing and no one else can do it. If your heart is in your work, with persistence and effort you WILL touch someone else's heart and they won't be able to live without buying your story. And, lastly, don't give up!
When a young boy and his father move from one house to another, they decide to adopt a dog from the local rescue shelter. But their chosen dog, Toby, is having a tough time adjusting to his new life outside the shelter—howling all night, hiding fearfully from his new humans, forgetting where to go to the bathroom, and chasing a ball through the flower bed. The boy has promised to train his new companion, and he’s trying his best, but Dad is starting to get exasperated. Will Toby ever feel comfortable with his new family and settle into his forever home, or will Dad decide he’s not the right dog for them after all?
A heartwarming story about the growing bond between a child and a new pet—inspired by the author’s experience with a rescue dog of the same name.
Book Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9TgIF-6Yo1o
Buy it here http://www.indiebound.org/book/9780763680930 and here http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/toby-hazel-mitchell/1123282586.
One lucky winner will receive a review copy of "Toby"
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Toby would love if you shared this post with the dog owners/pet lovers in your life