Monthly Archives: February 2017

Interview with Deborah Freedman, author/illustrator of This House Once

Deborah Freedman’s book, This House Once, comes out next Tuesday, February 28th. To help celebrate, Deborah has stopped by my blog to talk about the book and what else she’s been up to. Enjoy!

Hey Deborah! Thanks for joining me here to talk about all you have in store!

Hello, Dylan — I’m honored to be here!

Tell us a little bit about your new book, This House Once.

It is a meditation on a house and where its different parts came from. It’s very quiet and cozy, and suggests that readers be mindful of all that surrounds them.

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What inspired you to do this book? It’s quite unique- and beautiful!

Thank you, Dylan! I’ve probably had this book in my head, at least unconsciously, ever since I trained as an architect over thirty years ago and learned about how buildings come together. After my daughters were born, I started playing around with children’s books, and naturally began by drifting through ideas that had something to do with architecture. Then my husband and I eventually bought our first house — which we have since added on to and altered, a never-ending work in progress — so we have both been thinking and talking about houses and homes for a long time. Also, I’ve always loved to spend time walking in the woods, and digging and planting in my rocky New England yard…

So buildings, children, the natural world — basically those passions all simmered for years, until they finally bubbled up together and out spilled This House Once.

Have you always been into writing and illustrating?

I’ve loved to draw and make things ever since I was a kid — always the “artsy” type — which is why I eventually ended up in architecture. But making picturebooks is way more fun than designing buildings, and the audience is cooler. IMO.

What’s the most exciting part of your job?

Connecting with my young readers. Nothing in my pre-published life prepared me for how moving that could be. Or how much they would make me smile!

What inspires your creativity?

Reading… looking at art… I majored in art history in college and have always loved to spend time in museums, almost always leaving them with some sort of spark. And, of course, I’m inspired by KIDS.

What is one thing that readers don’t know about you, that only you could tell us?

I realized recently that several of my favorite childhood books have the word “house” in their titles: The Little House, by Virginia Lee Burton; A House is a House for Me, by Mary Ann Hoberman; The Dolls’ House, by Rumer Godden; the Little House books, by Laura Ingalls Wilder… it must mean something!

If you weren’t writing books, what do you think you’d be doing?

Do I have to do something else? I don’t want to do anything else!

What can readers expect from you in the future?

Hopefully, the unexpected… 🙂

COVER REVEAL: IT’S NOT JACK AND THE BEANSTALK by Josh Funk, illustrated by Edwardian Taylor PLUS Interview!

Hey Edwardian & Josh! Thanks for joining me here to talk about your new 2017 book, It’s Not Jack and the Beanstalk, and especially for the honor of revealing the cover here!

Dylan: Tell us a little bit about It’s Not Jack and the Beanstalk.

Edwardian: It’s Not Jack and the Beanstalk is a twist on its namesake fable.  However, we come in contact with characters that seem to have other ideas about how the story should be told.  It’s quite funny because we all know how the story goes, but our characters seem to take over their own story.

Josh: It’s not just a Mixed-Up Fairy Tale – it’s a META-Mixed-Up Fairy Tale – where YOU – the reader, the teacher/librarian/parent/grandparent/caregiver/2nd Cousin-three-times-removed – get to interact DIRECTLY with the characters in the book (and hopefully appear foolishly entertaining doing so).

Dylan: Tell us a little bit about your process.

Josh: As writing picture books isn’t my day job, I generally try to find time in the evenings, mornings, weekends, lunch breaks, coffee breaks, and bathroom breaks to brainstorm ideas and write. Once get an idea that really excites me, I usually make the time to write a whole first draft in the following few days, sharing with my wife, kids, and cats throughout the process. Once it’s done, I’ll share with some critique partners and revise and then share with more critique partners and revise and revise and share with my agent and revise and then send it out to some publishers to be rejected a few dozen times. Every once in a while, though, I trick a poor editor into turning one of my stories into a book… (sorry, Marilyn).

For this story, specifically, my kids played a HUGE role in building the text. There are essentially three characters with speaking roles in the story (with one slight exception): Jack, the Giant, and the Reader. As I developed the story, I often played the role of ‘Reader’ while my oldest played ‘Jack’ and my youngest played ‘the Giant.’ It was a blast to read this with my kids around the dinner table, at family gatherings, and to the cats. I can’t wait to perform it at Readers’ Theater at their school next September!

Edwardian: For this book, I was given Josh’s manuscript to read.  This is to me the most important phase because of the exploration needed to figure out the characters and the world they live in.  My background is in animation, so I treated my rough sketches like storyboards, but keeping in mind the text would also play a part like a character in the story.  When you read the book, you’ll see that the reader is a part of the story so its text is purposely considered and placed within each composition. One thing I enjoyed at this stage was seeing what worked or didn’t work within the context of the story once the visuals were in place.  Josh was always open to ways to improve the story or to edit things as I was illustrating the pages.  I think that kind of collaboration is a fantastic motivator to me as an illustrator, because I feel like I’m contributing more to the story instead of just being limited as just the illustrator.

After the rough sketch phase, we dive into the rendering (color) pass.  This part tends to take the longest.  Since I also have to figure out the general colors for object, characters, environment there is lots of decision making I have to do make sure color pallets make sense and are still fun and whimsical.  Something I was mindful too was the use of lighting to tell time.  Since we are experiencing the story in a single day, having these differences in lighting to tell time helped aid to move the story along.

Once the color phase is finished, we move into final adjustments after the designer places the text in the illustrations.  Then Voila!  It’s Not Jack and the Beanstalk is born.

Dylan: Edwardian, have you always been into Illustration?

Edwardian: Actually, to be honest, I kind of fell into it. I’ve always loved children’s books, but I had always thought it was something you had to go to school for.  But what I do as a visual development artist for animation is very similar in how I approach working on illustrations.  After having been let go at my last full time studio job, I had taken this as an opportunity to cast my net wide and see where else my art could take me besides animation.  I had applied to several illustration agencies, and I was fortunate to find my current agency The Bright Group.  I had been with them a couple weeks before I got my first book gig.  And each book I’ve worked on has been such a labor of love, especially It’s Not Jack and the Beanstalk.   I knew then that this was going to be an adventure into something I never imagined I could get to do.  But boy am I glad I had been let go from my old job, cause now (along with freelancing for animation studios), I get to do this rewarding and fun job of illustrating children’s books.

Dylan: Josh, have you always been into writing?

Josh: No! At least I never thought I was. I wasn’t a huge reader as a kid. But I married a voracious one (reader, not kid). While we dated, we read books out loud to each other (often kidlit, like Harry Potter and Lemony Snicket). I started listened to lots of audio books on my long day job commute in the early to mid-2000’s. And when I had kids, I read a ton of books to them. It was only about five and a half years ago when I wrote my first really really REALLY bad picture book manuscript.

However, ever since becoming an author, I’ve looked back and realized that I actually did enjoy writing. In middle school, B.J. Novak and I wrote a 150 page radio show script together, along with a few short stories. I also wrote some goofy editorials for the Newton South High School student—run newspaper (The Lion’s Roar). And in college I learned to play guitar and I wrote lots of songs (more They Might Be Giants-quirky than Eddie Vedder-poetic rock). So maybe the answer is ‘Yes?’

Dylan: What’s the most exciting part of your job?

Josh: There are so many exciting things about being an author, it’s hard to pick just one. The first time seeing an artist’s illustrations of something I wrote is amazing! Having my name on the spine of a book on a library shelf is surreal. And sometimes, just cracking myself up with a silly joke that I’m writing into a story is exciting. But the most exciting? It’s got to be interacting with readers; whether it’s via skype or in person, talking to kids about reading and writing is my favorite favorite.

Edwardian: That’s easy, when I’m designing a new character for the book.  You’ll notice in this one that I took liberties on fairy tale character cameos in it.  There is even a kind of “Where’s Waldo” game to find all the fairy tale characters I’ve placed throughout the book.  It was my fun way of doing little Easter Eggs to make people go back and really look through the illustrations.

Dylan: What inspires your creativity?

Edwardian: When someone on social media tells me how much they look forward to seeing my posts every week and that it brightens their day, is gratifying.  I don’t need to be the most popular artist with the most followers, but having people that let me know I bring them joy is enough and makes me want to make more art.

Josh: Yes! I love Edwardian’s weekly posts from all the illustration challenges he does! If you don’t already follow Edwardian Taylor on Instagram, you MUST! Edwardian’s and other artist’s illustrations always inspire me! I love scanning through illustrators to see what they’re up to on social media. There is so much talent out there in the kidlit art world, it’s incredible!

Other things that inspire me include my kids, spying on people in coffee shops, reading other amazing picture books, and lots and lots of coffee!

Dylan: What is one thing that readers don’t know about you, that only you could tell us?

Edwardian: I’m a huge Meatloaf fan.  Not the meal (which is still good), but the actual rock star Meatloaf.  He actually lives in his hometown of Dallas, Texas.  But I’ve yet to have any run-ins with him.  I remember when I was little, my dad had Meatloaf’s “Bat out of Hell” on cassette tape.  I had kept it for myself, and would listen to it all the time on my boom box.  When I was in junior high my first CD purchase was Meatloaf’s Bat out of Hell 2. I can’t help to sing along when one of his songs comes on.

Josh: Hmm… I’m kind of a sharer and don’t really hold much back (that’s not what readers don’t know – they probably already do – I’m just saying it’s hard to think of things that I haven’t already shared before). To stick with Edwardian’s theme, the first cassette tape I ever bought was The Coasters’ Greatest Hits (I was a big Yakkety Yak (Don’t Talk Back) fan in 2nd grade. The first CD I ever bought was DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince’s Homebase. And now I think I might have overshared…

Dylan: If you weren’t writing or illustrating books, what do you think you’d be doing?

Josh: Sitting in a cubicle (which I do do). Or maybe teaching ballet.

Edwardian: I’d probably still be working as a visual development artist for tv, games, and feature films.

Josh: Hee hee … I said ‘do do.’

Dylan: What can readers expect from you in the future?

Edwardian: My first book RACE! written by Sue Douglass Fliess comes out this year.  And I’m currently working on an unannounced book series with the writer of “Secret Life of Pets” and the “Minions” movies, Brian Lynch. I’ve also been working on studio projects with Sesame Street, Dreamworks TV, Universal Studios, and Out of Order Studios, so keep a look out for any announcements on social media for those.

Josh: Before It’s Not Jack and the Beanstalk releases on September 19, 2017, THE CASE OF THE STINKY STENCH (sequel to Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast) will be served to readers on May 2! Have you ever opened the fridge and noticed that something didn’t quite smell right? In this episode, Inspector Croissant recruits the help of his uncle, Sir French Toast, and Lady Pancake to search for a mysteriously stinky culprit and save the fridge from destruction. And while nothing is announced yet, 2018 might be my busiest year so far …

Dylan: Anything else you’d like to share with readers of this blog?

Josh: At this point, I think I’ve shared too much.

Edwardian: If you want to follow me on social media, I’m on Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr @edwardiantaylor  I also have my blog/website www.edwardiantaylor.com.  And finally my online store, where I sell various prints, stickers and art books www.edwardiantaylor.storenvy.com

Josh: Oh, yeah, you can follow me, too on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook @joshfunkbooks or on my website at www.joshfunkbooks.com. Thanks for reminding me, Edwardian! And thank you, Dylan for inviting us to reveal the cover of It’s Not Jack and the Beanstalk.

Edwardian: Yeah. Thanks, Dylan!

And NOW…. here’s the cover!

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Stacy McAnulty Interview and GIVEAWAY!

Hey Stacy! Thanks for joining me here to talk about all you have in store!

Absolutely. Let’s do this.

Tell us a little bit about your new book, Mr. Fuzzbuster Knows He’s The Favorite.

Mr. Fuzzbuster was Lily’s first pet. It’s always been Lily and Fuzzbuster, Fuzzbuster and Lily. But now, there are new pets in the house, and they all think they’re Lily’s favorite. Fuzzbuster wants Lily to decide once and for all. Who is the favorite?

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What inspired you to do this book?

My mom and my brother. I’ve always been my mom’s favorite, even if she’s never actually said, “Stacy you are my favorite.” I just know it to be true. My brother probably disagrees. When we were younger, we used to torment my mom, begging her to declare one of us the favorite. She would joke and say to me, “You are my favorite… (insert looooooong pause) daughter.” And of course, she’d say to my brother, “You are my favorite… son.”

Have you always been into writing?

Yes and no. I loved writing in 4th, 6th, 11th, and 12th grade. But I’ve always struggled with the basics of writing like spelling, grammar, and typing. That’s right. I’m admitting it here to you. I can’t type. So if I had English teachers who appreciated creativity, I was in heaven. If the class centered on sentence structure and spelling, I suffered through. I was naturally better at math, though writing has always been in my first love. To keep with the theme, I guess I should say, writing is my FAVORITE.

What’s the most exciting part of your job?

Selling a new manuscript is the heart-pounding, jump-up-and-down, all-7’s-on-the-slot-machine exciting part. What author doesn’t love to hear, “We want to publish your book!” And this doesn’t happen all that often. I get at least ten no’s to every yes. And some manuscripts never get a yes. The sale is the most exciting part, but it’s not necessarily my favorite part. (It’s in the top three.) I also love that moment when a story comes together. Whether it’s finally nailing the ending or rewriting the beginning. That’s an incredibly satisfying feeling. I also love when a reader connects with one of my books. Positive reviews are nice. Stars are great. But when a kid says “This is my favorite book,” or when they send you a letter begging for a sequel, my heart melts.

What inspires your creativity?

  1. My kids.
  2. A general curiosity about life.

First, having kids has given me a new perspective on the world. Children see things differently and think all things are possible. Blow a big bubble, maybe I can fly. Kids imagine and believe.

Second, I think I’m a naturally curious person. I want to learn how the brain works. I want to know if dinosaurs had feathers. I want to try all the hot sauces at the taco bar. Curiosity leads to creativity in all things—writing, engineering, science, cooking, EVERYTHING.

What is one thing that readers don’t know about you, that only you could tell us?

When I visit bookstores, I like to rearrange shelves. I’ll move one of my books or one of my friends’ books to a more prime location. Don’t tell the store owners. This is our little secret. (Also, I always buy a book—or three—when I go to a bookstore. I think it’s good karma. And I LOVE books.)

If you weren’t writing books, what do you think you’d be doing?

I used to be a mechanical engineer. I designed first class airline seats. Engineering, like writing, calls for creativity. I would consider returning to engineering. Maybe I could work for Pampered Chef or OXO. I’d love to design kitchen gadgets. Other careers I’d consider: middle school science teacher, a writer for a late-night TV show, a neurologist (seriously, we know so little about the brain), a dog trainer, a paleontologist, or a bookstore owner. Life is too short, isn’t it?

Is 2017 as busy of a year for you as 2016 was?

I had six books hit shelves last year. This year, I only have five. I’m slowing down in my old age. I’m also working on my books that publish in 2018, including my first novel. Lots going on behind the scenes. I’m fortunate to be doing what I love.

What can readers expect from you in the future?

Well, I just got a puppy in January, so I imagine a puppy book will be forthcoming.

More concretely, I have three chapter books in the Goldie Blox series coming out in 2017 (two in May and one in September). And a picture book titled Brave, illustrated by Joanne Lew-Vriethoff, will be available in October.

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Anything else you’d like to share with readers of this blog?

I think the world would be a better place if we all could…

* Read More Books

* Adopt a Dog or Two

* Volunteer for a Cause

* And Eat Doughnuts Every Friday with Someone Special

Maybe not the secret of life, but these activities can bring joy and grow our hearts.

Also, did you know Mr. Fuzzbuster loves writing notes? He wants to send cards to young readers across the country. Maybe he will be your favorite.

More information can be found at http://www.stacymcanulty.com/fuzzbuster-email

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STACY MCANULTY is certain she’s her mom’s favorite. Her younger brother disagrees. She’s the author of Beautiful, illustrated by Joanne Lew-Vriethoff; Excellent Ed, illustrated by Julia Sarcone-Roach; and 101 Reasons Why I’m Not Taking a Bath, illustrated by Joy Ang. Originally from upstate New York, she now lives in Kernersville, North Carolina, with her three children, two dogs, and one husband. She doesn’t have a favorite. You can find her online at www.stacymcanulty.com.

EDWARD HEMINGWAY is certain he’s Stacy McAnulty’s favorite illustrator, although the illustrators of Stacy’s other books may disagree. Edward himself is the author and illustrator of the children’s books Bump in the Night, Bad Apple: A Tale of Friendship, Bad Apple’s Perfect Day, and Field Guide to the Grumpasaurus. Originally from Bozeman, Montana, he now lives in Brooklyn where he teaches creative writing at the master’s level at SVA in Manhattan. If he has any favorite students, he’ll never tell. Learn more about him online at www.edwardhemingway.com.

Giveaway!

Two Lions is offering a copy of MR. FUZZBUSTER KNOWS HE’S THE FAVORITE to one lucky winner (U.S. addresses). All you need to do is retweet this blog post with the hashtag #MrFuzzbuster and you’ll be entered to win! Retweet by 10 PM  CST on February 10th!