Thursday, December 16, 2010

My life is a clown car

My life lately is a clown car: Distracting, too much crammed into an impossibly small space, entertaining but likely to crash and burn if someone isn't steering carefully.

A competition held by SCBWI ( ends this week and I desperately wanted to enter. The prize is hugely enticing. The judge is Tomie dePaola!!! The challenge: Draw the opening scene from HEIDI, a book written in 1872, subsequently replotted into films that etched their directors' visions on my brain. How to update Heidi and make her fun for today's kids?
To really do well I had to start weeks ago -- which I did.
Amid all my crazy deadlines and events in November, I sketched out a few ideas.
Nothing seemed original and fun to me. I did some research. Sketched out a few more ideas.

One of my illustrator friends set the bar *very* high with her entry. I didn't have a shot at the prize, so why bother with an entry? Especially with my clown car life crammed with a zillion deadlines.
It haunted me, though. I finished all the other deadlines (except the Ellie book 4 -- that's more long-term) and yesterday at 7 pm as Charlie and I sat in the warmth of a writers' cafe, getting ready for the drive home, I said to him I wanted to try to enter the contest. Even though it ended at midnight. And the drive home was an hour. And I only had parts of ideas that I liked.

Since I didn't have the supplies necessary to create the art at the cafe, we got into the car and headed home. On the way I was smacked by a flash of an idea.
Charlie turned on the interior ceiling light so I could sketch.I protested -- the bright light was very distracting to drivers, not to mention to Charlie!
But he insisted.
And, amazingly, the sketches turned out pretty well. I'm used to sketching in the car -- I do it on almost every school visit trip we take.
The ride was smoother than it's been, because we splurged on new tires a couple weeks ago (one tire had been egg-shaped; you can imagine the bumpety drawings that produced).
I sketched a few versions of my brain flash -- I was excited because it seemed original and fun (my two rules for bothering to enter).
The only question: Could I possibly get it colored and sent to the contest in time? In fact, might the contest have ended at midnight *yesterday*? My brain is good at playing tricks on me.

We arrived home. I gathered up my piles of papers and books, and raced to my studio. Pulled up the contest website. I still had time! Three hours and 40 minutes!
I scanned in the art and tweaked it. Added the lettering. Tweak, tweak, tweak. Color.
The phone rang. It was my mom. Charlie handed me the phone! Nooo!!! I have to work!!! Balancing the phone on one shoulder, talking to Mom, I colored the art. More tweaks. Scanned the final art into the computer -- Oh, no!!! It's garish!! The subtle art turned garish in my evil scanner! Tweaked it some more. Kept reducing the file size until it fit the contest guidelines, and emailed it to Charlie's computer to see if the garish was gone. It was! Victory dance!!
Mailed it to the judges.
I'm happy with it. If it doesn't win, I'm okay with that too -- I have already seen some uber-fabulous entries by other illustrators. May the best Heidi win!

My wish list for gifts:
- a little booklight to keep in the car, for sketching
- a better scanner
- art supplies!
- a little more confidence, please

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Maybe I've "arrived"

If you're an author you should subscribe to Google Alerts, regular notices which tell you who is talking about your work (and, more importantly, whether it's happy talk).
I subscribe, and that is how I found out about a promotional book catalog quote by a well-connected English teacher which starts out, "Greg Heffley and Ellie McDoodle, move over—".
Maybe I should be annoyed.
Ellie doesn't want to move over.
She wants all the sales she can get, and she doesn't want to be edged out by snotty-nosed newcomers.
But there's plenty of room for lots of good books, and maybe strong competition keeps me on my toes.
I'd definitely rather see lots of great books in the Ellie McDoodle format than lots of copycats -- even if it means fewer sales.
Ellie McDoodle won't move over, but she's okay with sharing the limelight.
I can't speak for Greg Heffley, though.