I’ve Written a Children’s Story… Now What?

Children reading children books

I often get requests from people who have a collection of stories, or spent months writing a tale and are now unsure of what the next step is.

The first thing you need to do is, give your story to a child. Even if you do stick figures for the illustrations, or whatever, if the child doesn’t get it, then you know you need to go back to the drawing board. The second thing you need to decide is: do I want to publish through a publishing house, or do you want to self-publish?

Publishing Houses

If you want to publish through a publishing house then I suggest doing a bit of research on the internet as well as checking other children books that you think are similar to your own story and  see who they published with. Go to those publishing houses websites and see what their submission guidelines are (it’s usually somewhere on the website). Check if they take manuscripts from authors, or if they only accept through agents. If you want to be published in the UK and USA – most of these publishing houses only take from agents. Here in South Africa, however, they are usually open to accepting straight from the author. If you are interested in getting an agent, then I suggest doing a bit of research in this area. Check who other authors are using, compile a list and then submit to them. Read more

She said Yes!

For weeks I have had a secret project. It all started a few weeks ago when a romantic gentleman, Carlos, contacted me. He informed me that after several years of dating his girlfriend, Zanri, he thought it would be time to propose. He didn’t want to just drop to his knee though. Instead he wanted to pull together a romantic stunt and he needed my help.

Knowing his girlfriend was a huge fan of children’s illustrations (she works as a children’s book publisher) he sought out to have several illustrations drawn of their time together. He wanted to have them depicted as animals (him a monkey, her a snake) doing all the adventures that they had together, including the night they meet at a German October Festival, to parachuting, moving in together, travelling and meeting each other’s families.

Of course I immediately wanted to be involved. It was a different ball game to the usual book illustrations that I do and so I took the project on with great excitement. It was about three weeks into the project that I attended an open studio day with Alex. I was sitting there, making notes and taking photos for my blog post later, when one of the of ladies at the event looked incredible familiar. Read more

Tips on Blogging for Illustrators

So many illustrators often fill their blog with waffles about what they did during the day (went down to the post office, had a coffee) as well as starting off their post with “Sorry it’s been so long, but I’ve been busy”

Toss all of that out your window and think, what is it you would want to read about.

As a creative, as an illustrator, what are things that draw you? Do you want other illustrators to read your work? What audience are you attracting?

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Marketing Book for Illustrators

You might have remembered that last year I was planning on launching a course around using social media for illustrators and creatives. I created notes, worksheets and even a few hours worth of video. But then I discovered that while online courses try have the best interests for everyone, the people using them are incredible sly. They purposely give bad reviews to courses and then good reviews to their own, in a bid for the top slots. They employ others to spend their days creating accounts and just ruining it for everyone. So I decided against it. I deleted my videos and worksheets and moved on.

For months I sat, doing other projects, working on other things, when I came across my notes. I looked at them. Over 40 pages of information, already typed up and ready to go.

That’s when I thought – why don’t I just convert this into an eBook?

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Time for a Polka Dot Antagonist

Pink Camels and Floating GranniesIn Pink Camels and Floating Grannies I stayed away from having a villain type character. The story was based around Monkey’s grandparents coming to visit and spending the weekend with her, so I didn’t feel like it needed a direct conflict character. It was more a series of family events that everyone could relate to (well – at least a little). My grandmother was a main character and she created a lot of explosive interactions which I felt was enough. The feedback I have been getting from children who have/are reading my story confirmed that I was correct. They are all adequately embarrassed about my Grandmother.

In the second book, my feeling are a little different. In this book, my focus is around Monkey and her friends as they embark on a school camp. All my favourite teachers will be there, including Mrs Pelliot and maybe even Mr Trousers. I have also included a new teacher, Mr Mefer, who is the gym teacher (with a large moustache, of course). During the trip to their camp, Monkey, her friends and Mr Mefer stop for a lunch at a petrol station.

It was at this point that I felt like something needed to happen. I stopped writing.

I didn’t know what needed to happen. Did Mr Mefer relate an interesting story? Did something happen at the gas station? Did something happen to the Kombi they were driving in? I let these ideas float around in my head as I carried on my day.

At 5:30am on Sunday, my youngest cat – Gandalf – started scratching at the bedroom door wanting to get out, which my husband does.  Of course then I am now awake. I could toss and turn till a decent hour, but that’s just going to irritate everybody. It then hits me.

Grandma and Grandpa
Grandma and Grandpa from Pink Camels and Floating Grannies

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Visiting Alex Latimer at his Studio

Last week I got an email from the Society of Children Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) announcing that they were going to have a an open studio day with Alex Latimer. I can’t honestly say that I knew who Alex was before that email. After meeting him, seeing his studio and his work, I am so glad that I now do.

I will admit that in the rush to get to Alex’s studio in the morning, I actually forgot his name (this is a common thing that happens – especially if I haven’t met a person, so it didn’t even bother me that I was going to a person’s house whose name I had forgotten). I was five minutes late when I arrived and had to yell around his house until eventually I found his wife who guided me up the stairs to his studio. I still hadn’t remembered what his name was, as I quickly nodded and did mini waves to everyone apologetically, as I made my way to the back of the room. I had missed the introduction to the open day and just decided that I was going to have to check my emails on my phone at some point to get this guy’s name. As I was standing there my eyes began to wonder to the shelving on the wall.

There were all these books that were written and illustrated by some person called ‘Alex Latimer.’ I thought to myself ‘I need to Google that when I get home – maybe it’s up-coming illustrator or something that this guy is drawing inspiration from.’

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Sketch Prompts – Autumn

A friend of mine is a writer and every Thursday we get together with another writer, to basically, well, write. This was how my first book Pink Camels and Floating Grannies came about. This interaction also exposed a little something called ‘Prompts’ to me. I knew about prompts already, as I follow the #DailySketch and #FridayIllustration on Twitter.  There was something a little more special, however, when someone pulls out a container and slips a little piece of paper that has a word, a sentence, a phrase written on. That little piece of paper was something you pulled out, just for you. It was what your body had chosen, your fingers had sussed out from the container.

I experienced this again, a few weeks ago at the Bodhi Khaya Retreat, where Michelle did a writing workshop. She brought her prompt jar for writing along and it was passed around the table, like sweets or treasures. I realised that the art world was greatly missing out with our short-changed twitter version. I also wanted a special jar with words just for me to draw.  I wanted to whisper out a piece of sketching inspiration for a warm-up illustration before the day started.

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Being Focused and New Products!

Last year I tried a lot of things. I launched products, checked out craft markets and tried to find my niche in the world of freelancing. I also did a yoga teacher training course that ended with me at a fire ceremony, with turmeric on my forehead, coughing from the smoke created by everyone throwing strange looking spices into a pot of fire (yes – you read right- a pot with a fire in it) surrounded by palm leaves, multiple fire-hazards and a circle of people chanting endless Sanskrit. This was supposed to be meditative and calming exercise. Maybe it was calming. I don’t know. It was a little hard to tell, as before this whole thing had began, I had various ‘yoga people’ complaining for about an hour on politics, traffic, global warming and the best place to get lye for their home-made laundry detergent.

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