Category Archives: Illustrators & Illustrations

Word Shark Art by Janice Phelps Williams

A special thank you

You may have seen this Word Shark artwork by Janice Phelps Williams on my Facebook page. Isn’t it cool?

About Janice

Janice Phelps Williams has worked in publishing since the early 1990s and has brought over 250 books “to life.” In addition to designing, illustrating, and editing books for others, she is also the author of Open Your Heart with Pets: Mastering Life Through Love of Animals and is working on a middle-grade novel called Finding Pletonia. When not working on books, she likes to create altered books and take photographs.

Janice blogs about creativity at Appalachian Morning.

Find Janice’s book design business here. Book design, blog, editorial services, fine art, illustrations, photographs, and more!

Janice contributed to my Kids’ Week theme week. Her blog article includes a step-by-step list for working with an experienced illustrator. You can see Janice’s Kids’ Week article here.

Janice and her husband, Mark Van Aken Williams (a writer and a poet) live in Northern Michigan.

About Mark

Mark blogs at Shakes, Shivers, and Dithers. Read about his collection of poetry, Book Circus by Moonlight, and his novella, The Prophet of Sorrow, here.

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Filed under Guest Writers & Bloggers, Illustrators & Illustrations, Special Events

Kids’ Week – Writer Allyn Stotz

Article by Allyn Stotz

I am so pleased to be guest blogging today and would like to thank Karen for allowing me to do so. She has asked me to talk a little bit about my road to publication. It’s not a very exciting story, but it’s MY story!

My road to publication began about four years ago; I am now 55 yrs. old. As a child, I enjoyed writing stories, inventing them, and playing them out with my siblings. We were always putting on some type of skit for our parents. They were so patient and tolerant! Until now, my career mostly consisted of administrative jobs and/or working in human resources. On those jobs, I wrote several procedures manuals, created newsletters, and did lots of memo writing. Those were always my favorite parts of the job. My husband’s company has transferred us many times so I’ve lived in several cities in Louisiana, Texas, and Mississippi; therefore that led to me having quite a few different jobs along the way.

My family is made up of several journalists. First is my father, who owned and wrote our town newspaper. My mother helped him with that newspaper and wrote a weekly column. One of my sisters majored in journalism and is now a freelance editor and writer. So I believe that writing was always in my blood, it just never screamed out to me in volume.

The Wow Moment. Then one day while reading my brother’s blog, I came across a story he was toying around with. My brother is not a writer per say, but you wouldn’t have known that by reading his descriptions of a computer game he loved playing. After reading his descriptions of that fantasy game world, I had the big “wow” moment go off in my brain. My first thought was, “Wow, he can really write!” Then I thought to myself how fun it would be to write a fantasy story and I decided to investigate it further.

I did a little research about the subject of writing for children and then sat down to begin. The words just began to flow from my fingertips and have not stopped since!

Submissions and Rejections. My road to actual publication took a little over 1 ½ years, which in retrospect, was pretty quick. Some authors have to wait years before they are fortunate enough to become published. I did a good year of research on writing children’s picture books and enrolled in the Institute of Children’s Literature. After doing both of those, I finally became confident enough to send out my first submission. I was one of the lucky ones and had that first submission accepted by an online children’s magazine. From there, I spent the next ten months sending out more manuscripts and receiving many rejections. Then to my surprise, I finally heard back from FutureWord Publishing who wanted to publish my story The Pea in Peanut Butter. Talk about thrilling!

Getting published is not an easy process and most times, not quick but it is a journey that is well worth the time and effort. There is nothing more satisfying to me than hearing that a child or their parent enjoyed the words that I wrote.  But everyone’s journey is different and so is the outcome. If you are one of those people contemplating becoming a children’s writer I would say to you that your first step should be to find your truth. Dig deep into your soul and find the real reason you want to write. Then never forget those reasons, get out that pen and write, write, write! Always remember that you can’t get published if you don’t submit your work. But most importantly, never give up.

And on that note, I’d like to tell you all that after my 83 yr. old mother watched me get published, she decided to work on making her dream of writing a novel come true. She and my editor sister have written a book together and the first of the series will be published soon! So if we can do it, so can you!

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Allyn Stotz

Allyn’s first children’s picture book titled The Pea in Peanut Butter was published by FutureWord Publishing in June 2011. Allyn graduated from the Institute of Children’s Literature and is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.

The Pea in Peanut Butter is available in paperback, Kindle, and coloring book format on Amazon as well as other online retail stores. It is also available at Cavalier House Books in Denham Springs, LA, Barnes and Noble, Mandeville, LA, Bible and Book Store and Learning Express, both in the Baton Rouge, LA area. Allyn lives in Baton Rouge, LA with her husband, two crazy dogs and one fat cat.

Connect with Allyn on her blog, Twitter, or on Facebook.

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Filed under Guest Writers & Bloggers, Illustrators & Illustrations, Kid Stuff & Children's Books

Kids’ Week – Illustrator, Book Designer, Janice Phelps Williams

Creating a Children’s Book!

Article by Janice Phelps Williams

As a child I spent most of my time taking dance lessons and practicing ballet. I loved Swan Lake and my toe shoes. But when I reached junior high my best friend and dance partner moved away, and I made the choice to discontinue lessons. I started playing guitar instead, and then I discovered drawing and crafts when I was 14 years old. I had to spend a lot of time in bed due to an illness, so I would gather my papers, pencils, sewing basket, small TV, and toy poodle all up on my bed and draw for hours. I was lucky to have a friendly art teacher, Mrs. Lotze, and she shared with me her love of watercolor paints and taught me how to draw.

I also loved to read and when I was healthy again, I went to the library and checked out all kinds of books. This is a love that has continued throughout my life.

When it came time for me to graduate from high school and go to college, the only thing I wanted to study was art. I was always happiest when I was creating something, so I did study art and graduated from Kent State University in Ohio.

As life went on, I found many opportunities to keep drawing and creating things through a variety of media. Sometimes I was paid for my work, at other times I worked just for the joy of creating.

In 1997, I started working as a book designer. In 1999, I started my own company and began designing book covers, designing the pages of books (layout), and editing books. I was also given the opportunity to illustrate books. A few of the books I illustrated were novels for adults: the books in the Will Turner Novels series by British author Chris Davey, for instance (www.turnerlogs.com).

Then, I was given the chance to illustrate a picture book by Kidzpoetz author, Robert W. Kurkela. The book is Still Her Spirit Sings and is about a wonderful real-life dog named Spirit. Here are two illustrations from the book. They were done in Sharpie and Prismacolor permanent markers.

Last year I was very excited to work on creating the illustrations for a book written by David Boyce: Two True Blue Dragons. I presented the author with pencil sketches, then black and white ink drawings for approval. Once those were approved, I colored the drawings in with Prismacolor colored pencils. I loved drawing these friendly dragons!

I have just finished illustrating a fun picture book for kids of all ages. If you check my website in September, you’ll be able to learn more about this surprising book. Below are a few little watercolor “snippets” from the new book.

My work for authors and publishers involves many steps:

1) The author provides me with the electronic file for the text of the book.

2) I then begin thinking about the story, how it will flow on the book’s pages, where the breaks in the text will be and what scenes should be illustrated. At this point I begin making a storyboard, which is a map for how the book’s pages will be laid out.

3) I send the author sketches of the main characters so that he or she can approve the look of these important figures.

4) I then draw two or three illustrations in pencil and send to the author for approval. (All of this is done using email.)

5) When approved, I then complete these two or three illustrations as they will establish the look and style of the book.

6) I refine the storyboard and come up with basic looks and illustrations for each page.

7) I send the pencil drawings for each illustration to the author for approval. If any changes are requested, I make them.

8) Then, I finish each drawing and send to the author for approval. Changes are difficult at this point, but if any are needed, I make them.

9) I then design each book page, importing the author’s story and my illustrations. At this point, it begins to look like a real book! We also work on any editing to the story that might be needed.

10) While all this is going on, I am also creating the book’s cover. Some books are paperback, others are hardcover, others have dust jackets, and others are also in ebook format. Each format has special issues to consider.

11) When everything is approved, I then consider the printer’s requirements and prepare PDF files for the printer, following their guidelines very carefully.

12) The day the books arrive from the printer is a very happy day.

Designing, illustrating, and editing books has been a wonderful way to earn living. I have met so many interesting people through my work and I am happy that I studied art and had the opportunity to work in publishing.

When I am not illustrating books for authors and publishers, or designing book covers, I am at work on personal projects such as a book I am writing called “Finding Pletonia.” It will be for 10-12 year olds and will be illustrated with drawings of all sorts of fantastic imaginary animals. Like this “elusive poplyn!”

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Janice Phelps Williams

Janice Phelps Williams has worked in publishing since the early 1990s and has brought over 250 books “to life.” In addition to designing, illustrating, and editing books for others, she is also the author of Open Your Heart with Pets: Mastering Life through Love of Animals and is working on a middle-grade novel called Finding Pletonia. When not working on books, she likes to create altered books and take photographs.

Janice blogs about creativity at Appalachian Morning.

Find her book design business here.

Janice and her husband, Mark Van Aken Williams (a writer and a poet) live in Northern Michigan.

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Filed under Guest Writers & Bloggers, Illustrators & Illustrations, Kid Stuff & Children's Books

Kids’ Week – Author Jessica Messinger

Article by Jessica Messinger, author of Stinky Feet

Thank you, Karen, for asking me to guest blog about children’s books during Kids’ Week. I’m glad to be here.

I think every children’s book author has to deal with the question, “What makes you think you can be a writer of children’s books?”

I hear voices.

My writing began with my love for stories. My mother used to tell me stories about the mice that lived in my hair to get me to sit still while she combed the snarls out of my long, fine, blonde hair. My grandfather and my childhood babysitter read stories to me, and I can still hear their voices when I read those same stories. Stories are a huge part of our lives, and I suppose writing stories grew out of my love for hearing them, and then thinking, “Hey, I could write something like that.”

What did I do to research writing children’s books?

Though I have a BA in English, the research that helped me the most was reading to children. I learned what kinds of books they like, and I learned what I liked and didn’t like about children’s books.

I paid attention to how children looked at the world. Kids will spend hours looking at ants, bugs, worms and spiders. I got down on the ground and the floor with them and listened to what they had to say about the world.

I think it is imperative to spend time with children in the age group for your book, and it helps if you ask them questions or find out what they think about your book topic. With my book, I began to write it when my daughter was in second or third grade and she wouldn’t wear socks with her shoes. When she took off her shoes in the car it smelled like something had died. I knew this problem of stinky feet inside and out by the time I wrote the book.

What books, if any, did I use to help me?

I read Ray Bradbury’s Zen in the Art of Writing, parts of Ann Whitford Paul’s book Writing Picture Books, and many children’s books. I also like to read grammar, usage, and punctuation books.

What audience do I hope to attract with my book?

I hope children will enjoy my book, but I hope that the readers of my book will enjoy it as well. If my book becomes a favorite that is asked for over and over again that would be nice too. Some people have told me that my book is definitely a “read-to” book. I do not believe that just because my book is a children’s book, all the words should be simple! Though I like simply-written books to help early readers, when people read my book, I want the child to ask, “What does this word mean,” so their vocabulary expands.

As so many authors do now, I added some thought questions at the end of the story, to encourage discussion about the book between the reader and the listener. I believe this is an important aspect of reading together.

Since you’re self-published, what did you do for your beta-reading and editing?

I sent pdf files to a few friends and asked for their feedback. I tweaked it a little and then I printed five copies and handed them out at my book group for people to see. They looked at the books for a few minutes and loved it. It is a nice book to look at, the illustrations “read” very well, and the colors are fabulous! I learned that beta-reading even a simple children’s book should take time. Next time I’ll print out a few more copies, give them to people to read, and ask specific questions.

I paid to have my book edited (Thank you, Karen, you do fantastic work!) and I would encourage any writer to have their book professionally edited!

What is your writing schedule?

I don’t have one. Maybe that’s why it took me seven years to publish this book. With a toddler and two busy teenagers (our third teenager is currently on a two-year mission for our church) it’s hard to find time to write. Most books about writing say that writing isn’t so much working on your story as it is honing your writing skills, so I have a blog for my book, and a blog for my son, which give me specific writing deadlines.

I love to write letters too! I think we’re losing the art of letter-writing to the convenience of instant messages. Because our family can’t call our son while he’s on his mission, we take time to write letters and lengthy emails to him. Sometimes I get creative and email him a letter written from the perspective of the three-year old, the cat, or the dog. It’s fun to watch my daughter and the animals and to think about how their perspectives might sound. My son loves to get those letters!

What is it like working with your husband?

I’m not sure if most children’s books are written and illustrated the way we did it, but it worked for us. Todd is one of those rare, gifted, fine artists who can also illustrate. When I wrote the story I had ideas in my mind of what the illustrations would look like, so I described them and put them in the manuscript where I wanted them. Todd took those descriptions and worked his magic into the illustrations we have now – which are fabulous! For the last 20 years, I have seen his work on other projects and he still surprised me with these illustrations.

Do you have another project in the works?

Yes! StoryCub has done a video reading of my book, which will be available for free on iTunes and their web site soon. I have a notebook full of ideas and I can’t wait to see which project will jump out at me next.

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Jessica Messinger

Jessica Messinger has a BA in English with a minor in French from Brigham Young University. She lives with her husband Todd and their four children in upstate New York. They live in a teeny house with a yellow lab, Bailey, and a black cat, Midnight. Stinky Feet is Jessica’s first children’s book. She has a lot of ideas for more children’s books and hopes to have enough time to write them all.

Check out Jessica’s children’s book Stinky Feet via CreateSpace, on Facebook, or on her blog.

You can buy Stinky Feet on Amazon here.

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Interesting information about StoryCub

StoryCub produces videos of children’s books being read while the camera pans through a few illustrations from the book. If you click on the YouTube icon on StoryCub’s home page, you’ll go to their videos on YouTube. Jessica’s book will be there soon!

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Filed under Guest Writers & Bloggers, Illustrators & Illustrations, Kid Stuff & Children's Books