Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Stay Tuned for Worthwhile Interruptions

I think I'm the most relaxed person, until there's a deadline I'm not meeting or a goal I haven't reached. Then I struggle, stress, and beat myself up. But why? Most of the time, the deadlines are self-imposed, the goals are flexible, and life is full of worthwhile interruptions. Since when did I get caught up in the Culture of Mass Production our society is so consumed by?

Productivity is a powerful buzz-word. Am I being productive today? Am I producing enough of whatever I make so I can be valuable? But I'm not what I produce. Producing things - car parts, blog posts, art, children - isn't the reason for my existence.These things just make life more satisfying. And if they don't, I shouldn't be producing them. (I haven't produced any children, by the way, but I stand by my opinion.)

People spend so much time working to finish, to start, to gain, to lose, that they're never content with what they already have. This is why I'm trying to let go of the Mass Production Culture and just create, play, do, and be. It's what I do naturally, after all. This doesn't mean I'm going to be unfocused and lazy. It does mean I'm going to pay more attention to what I'm focusing on and learn to relax.

Not everything can be planned. Not every plan can be adherred to. What is life but a series of worthwhile interruptions?

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Progress and Poseidon

I haven't been under a rock for the past two months; I've been under the sea. I've researched so many ocean creatures, referenced so many ocean photos and paintings for my coloring book Dangerous Sea, I could practically be an oceanographer. It's been so much fun. It's very easy to get distracted by the fascinating research (such as THIS and THIS).

I draw in four stages: brainstorming/sketching, composing/sketching, final pencil, final ink. I've decided to share some pics of what I use.

This set of Microns has been with me since grad school, so I'm thinking I'll have to retire them soon. I picked up the Hahnemuhle paper at the Art Materials Trade Show when I was at SCAD. That event made me feel like a kid in a candy store!

You can see one of the coloring book pages peeking out of the mail envelope. Imagine my coy grin as I say that's all you're going to see for now.

This is a rejected Poseidon sketch that won't be making it into the book. (Which might be why he has that expression.) When I brainstormed Dangerous Sea, I knew I'd put a sea god in it, but when I thought about the greek and roman gods, I just couldn't get excited. Everyone had already done their take on Poseidon. He's in videogames such as SMITE, in Disney movies, and in popular YA literature. Pretty much everyone knows him and what he's supposed to look like. I needed a sea god that fewer people knew.

I decided on Manannan Mac Lir the celtic god of the sea and weather. My version of Manannan is a lot more aggressive than most depictions I've seen. (I really wanted a kilted, woad-painted, imposing god who carried a claymore instead of a trident.)

For Dangerous Sea, I'm going with new takes on old themes. I'm really excited to continue working on this project and see what ideas come to me next. Looking forward to sharing my progress with you!

Sunday, September 20, 2015

My MC As A Ball-Jointed Doll and Other News

Not only have I been working on the first project my agent will pitch to publishers, but I've been working on the doll incarnation of Lividia who is the main character for my YA novel (not what my agent is pitching...yet). I mailed her head to the artist for its faceup a couple months ago, and she finally returned home, beautiful and perfect. It's as though the spidery, mysterious girl from my books has stepped into this world on resin feet. Having her around really inspires me to want to write about her. (which is good, because I don't know how many book she will have yet.)

Here is Lividia Blackwell the asian ball-jointed doll version. The dress is cobbled together by me, the faceup is done by Angel Toast Aesthetics.

In case you missed my post Introducing my BJD Silvan, Lividia is the same type of doll he is. She's from a different company, and has a very different aesthetic. Her company is Doll Chateau - also a korean dollmaker. All the dolls made by Doll Chateau are waifishly thin, have unusual proportions, and have sober, uniquely-featured faces. I love this company.

I'm still working on Lividia. So far she has no clothes besides those I fashion for her (so if any of you know a dollie seamstress...). I'm not big on sewing, but I did manage to turn what used to be a shirt into a bustle skirt. All that's missing now are her black victorian shoes.

As I come off the dollie high I get from having my girl complete, I'm still working on the big first project with my agent. I'll share more info on that in a later post.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Good Fridays: I Have An Agent!

Good Fridays are a spot on my blog where I share something great that happened during the week. In this case, it's something great that happened during the month. This is a very special Good Fridays post.

I've gone dark on social media and slacked off on my blog as I focused on my art and pushed for what I've wanted for a long time - an agent to represent my illustration. I didn't think I could find one to represent both my art and my writing, but then God gave me an amazing opportunity.

One of my great writer friends K. Kazul Wolf saw the #MSWL of an agent looking for the very thing I've been working on lately, an adult underwater fantasy coloring book. It was Bree Ogden of Red Sofa Literary. Needless to say, I tweeted at her to tell her I was creating such a coloring book called Dangerous Sea. She asked I query her, so I did. Then she asked for more, including art. I sent it.

mermaid mascot of Dangerous Sea
Each step got me more excited, and she wasn't losing interest. She asked me to create a book proposal for the coloring book. Two weeks later, I emailed her the proposal, including several pages of small sketch comps of the illustrations. Within 15 minutes she emailed me back saying she loved the book proposal and wanted to set up a call!

All crazy broke loose. I bounced around my house, told everyone closest to me, ate wonderful things, and waited for the arranged day. It was the weekend, so it was a few days wait.

The day of the call (my day off), I was helping my sister move furniture. When I was able to check email again, I discovered Bree had emailed to ask if she could call sooner. She very much wanted to talk to me. I grinned from ear-to-ear. I was eager to talk to her too, but I'd been so busy it was almost 5 (the time we'd agreed upon to call).

At 5, my cell rang with a number I didn't recognize and I answered, all nerves and notes and tentative hope. I knew this call would tell me if we fit together or not. I hoped we did, worried we wouldn't, and determined
to be professional no matter what happened.

I'd printed out a sheet of questions to keep me from rambling too much, and to ground me when nerves made me forget my brain. I shouldn't have worried. The conversation soon turned into mutual admiration, with both of us gushing over each other and the project. (very good sign, in case you wondered.)We discussed everything on my list, including the novel series I'm working on. To my unexpected delight, she wanted to rep all of it!

I didn't give her an answer right away. I was leaving town for church camp in northern Ohio, which would give me time to think it over and not rush into anything. It was hard not to think about it while I was away, but I had a great time at camp with my group. As soon as I got back, I emailed a few of her clients to ask what they thought of her and how well they worked together. Praise abounded, confirming I'd found the right agent.

I emailed her the week after I got the call, letting her know I very much wanted her to represent me. She was overjoyed and very excited to start working together. After a few enthusiastic emails, I was an agented illustrator!

A few things I haven't told you:
  • I followed Bree for awhile on twitter and already suspected we might fit. I knew her taste and admired some of her clients' work. I just didn't have the right project to approach her with until now.
  •  Bree was the first agent I queried with my adult coloring book idea, and the first who showed interest in it. Sometimes the right agent and the right project come together at the right time and it's a beautiful thing (a thing I prayed about for some time beforehand).
As I celebrate finally getting an agent and about to launch into my first big project with her, I remember how I felt just a few months ago still hoping for this day. The best advice I have for those still hoping is don't stop. Take chances on that project you're not sure will take off. Trust your gut. Research agents. Make connections in the genres you write, the interests you have. Put forth your best work and your best ideas and you will find your agent. Good luck!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

IWSG: How To Make Online Writer Friendships Last

Most writers, at some point in their careers, will find it necessary to network with other writers - whether for feedback or comradery. When you network, do you easily become friends with fellow writers or do you prefer to keep it professional? And if you do become friends with a fellow writer, how do you cultivate that friendship?

It's easy to neglect an online friendship since you don't see the person face-to-face. You can forget to respond to an email, ignore a mention on Twitter, or procrastinate checking Facebook. Once, I forgot to respond to an email for months. By the time I did respond, I was thankful my writer friend was understanding and only chided me a little. She also had a great sense of humor about it. This isn't true for every friendship, however.

Budding friendships can be snuffed out by too little contact. With how fast the internet moves, a week can seem like a month and a month like a year if you're inactive on social platforms, and especially if those platforms are the only means a friend has of contacting you.

There are friends I've grown to miss because they're seldom on the platforms where I used to talk to them. I hate to lose contact with those people simply because they've grown tired of Twitter or Facebook. So how do I keep contact?

Email is an option, but not the best for me, because I get caught in the long email trap. When I don't correspond with a friend often enough, I want to stuff all my news into one message and it overwhelms me. This causes me to stop emailing. So, what's the alternative?

I have Skype, but I reserve it for friends I know well or have met in real life. That leaves live chat - or twitter, which is as close as I get most days. The problem with Twitter is not knowing when your friend is active or inactive. That, and your messages are constrained to 140 characters.

I love live chat. If I had my way, I'd open a chatroom where all my online friends could meet me, since each one prefers a different social platform.

Have you found a way to grow a friendship with a fellow writer online? What works best for you?

Monday, June 29, 2015

Sometimes The Cat You Need Is Not Always The Cat You Want

This is Squirrel. She's a rescue I took in four or five years ago. At the time, she was a bedraggled, sickly, love-starved little hairball less than a year old. She's filled out quite a bit since then.

Squirrel is not the cat I would've chosen for myself. She's a gray tabby - ordinary in every way, shape and form. Compared to my older cat, she's not as smart, not as graceful, and not as pretty. Also, she's female and I prefer male cats.

This is Figaro. He's a 13-year-old black manx I hand-picked from a litter of fluffy, healthy farm cats. Figaro is very smart, very patient (most of the time), and very independent. He owns me as much as I own him and has been with me through college, grad school, and many other life stages. While he's a beautiful, healthy, active kitty, he's never been a lap cat and he's not about to start now.

The closest he comes to sharing my space is perching on the back of the couch above me, or on the back of my chair when I'm sitting in it. He often nudges me for a belly rub when he's curled up next to me on the couch.

Though Figaro is particular about the attention he gets, he's social and likes to be around when visitors (including nephews) are over. Squirrel is not social. When visitors come by, they'll never see her, because she hides. She can spend whole days hidden, and only comes out when the voices and footsteps of strangers have gone.

For as shy as Squirrel is, she's very much a lap cat, and has adopted me as her human. This means only I can pet and cuddle her. Only I can call her and she'll come. When I'm around, she sticks to me like glue, and showers me with all the kitty affection in her furry body. I make her feel safe, and I'm very glad I do.

When I rescued Squirrel, she had acquired a disease that attacked her immune system, made her fur fall out and her coat greasy. It made her gums sore, and eventually made all her teeth fall out. I took her to different vets, paid quite a bit of money, but they all said the same thing. The only thing they could do was give her steroid shots, and when those caused her to become diabetic, I'd have to put her down.

I began to pray for Squirrel. When she'd paw at her face because of the pain, when she'd drool smelly saliva over my blankets, when her jaws were so swollen her tongue poked out of her mouth, I'd pray for her. I kept praying and I started seeing improvements.

First, she stopped shedding so much. Then she stopped drooling. Her jaws weren't swollen anymore, and she stopped pawing at her face. Eventually, she was as healthy as you see her in that picture.

However God touched my cat, I'm thankful. I didn't choose her, but she chose me, and loves me unconditionally. While my manx boy is protective, my tabby girl is loving. I'm glad I have both - the cat I wanted, and the cat I need.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Why I Stopped Praying To Get An Agent This Year

What I discovered in a year that made me come to this conclusion:

  • There is no one way to become a successful author/illustrator.
  • Flash and short stories are quick, fun little nuggets of entertainment, and the market for them is nothing to sneeze at. 
  • Maybe I'd rather be an illustrator first.
  • My novel needs revising.
  • I don't like revising larger works and need to learn how to motivate myself
  • Procrastinating results in a lot of valid work that is not a novel. 
  • I can submit that work to magazines.
  • I don't need pressure from editors right now.
  • Balancing my drawing and writing is not easy and I need time to figure it out.
  • I have a million things to do outside of working on my novel.
  • There's something better for me than what I thought I wanted.

That last one is the biggest of all.

Recently, I submitted a story only to later discover a higher-paying opportunity I couldn't take. This taught me not to be hasty and not to assume the first thing I see is the best thing out there. Taking hits from query rejections and stressing over finding an agent isn't the only way to become traditionally published. That's not to say I won't ever query again, but I'm going to be smarter about it when I do.

Have you changed your mind about a big goal you once had?

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

IWSG: Stop Putting Yourself In A Box

It's that time again! Insecure Writers Support Group time! My post this time is about boxes and why we shouldn't put ourselves in them.

Humans like to categorize things. They like to label and organize, in hopes they'll understand and have some control. The only trouble is a lot of things can't be labeled or even understood. We have a lot less control than we imagine, and that's not a bad thing. When we have no control we're forced to trust something bigger than ourselves. When we don't understand we're nudged into learning about the subject we question.

One of the things humans like to categorize is other humans. That means you. We like to paste on labels like "teacher", "lawyer", "sewage plant worker" as if that can sum a person up. I don't know what we do when someone changes jobs.

Men have a harder time with career as identity than women. This can leave them directionless and empty when they lose a job. For those without careers, their hobby is their identity. "Todd is a Reds fan. He's always sporting team colors during the season. Frank is a downhill skier. He won gold in the last olympics."

But what happens if Todd stops watching baseball or Frank is injured and can't skii anymore? They don't simply disappear or shrivel up, but they might feel like it. They lose confidence and begin searching for a new identity, something to latch onto that will say "This is who I am."

I've encountered so many labels throughout my life, and moreso now that I'm trying to build a career in freelance illustration. While I want to do everything, marketing dictates I choose one thing and push that as hard as I can. Only once you've made your mark at one thing will they let you push something else. This is very hard for me to accept. All my heroes dabble in multiple subjects, spread themselves across a variety of platforms. They are writers, artists, animators, directors, character designers, but they all had to start with one thing. They had to fit in society's box before they could break out of it.

What keeps me determined when I feel I'm being stuffed into boxes is a fluid identity. I know I'm not just an artist, writer, library clerk, art teacher, blogger or whatever I happen to be working as. Each of those are things I do, but they all spring from the same source. It's creative, adaptive, playful, imaginative, childlike, intelligent, patient, and sharing. No matter what my job is, it will involve those traits. As long as I connect to that source I will never be unhappy.

This is why individuals shouldn't put themselves in boxes. Society will always categorize, label, and cattle-prod you into a little cube of what it thinks you are, but you were born to be fluid, to be adaptive. As long as you keep in touch with the source of who you are and find a way to express it, no matter what your job is, you'll be happy.

So what're you waiting for?

Saturday, April 4, 2015

IWSG: Have You Always Liked Writing?

Everyone needs young impressionable minds who admire you simply because you've gotten further than they have and you're willing to share your experience. I'm talking about students, mentees, child fans, any or all of the above. They are a wonderful, wonderful thing. They remind you of your passions and your abilities when you're so busy working toward your next goal you forget to appreciate where you already are.

art class 2013
Recently, a student from my little art class asked me, "Have you always liked art, or did your passion for it develop gradually?" At first I was surprised at the question. I was surprised someone really wanted to know, and that she really was interested. I thought back to when I first started drawing recognizable things and my parents took pictures of them (I drew on my dad's chalkboard). I honestly couldn't think of a time I didn't like art, so I told her "I've always liked it," and she said "That's so cool! I wish I was as good as you." I said all she really needed to do was keep drawing and push herself further. Mentally, I was beaming all over the place because she asked me that question, and because she reminded me of what I love.

The question was one of those little nudges right in my middle that now I'm not only an artist but a teacher. A real one. No longer just a person haphazardly throwing together lesson plans and playing all this by ear. Someone is looking to me for answers to questions, for demonstrations of technique, and for encouragement. That same someone (or someones) is offering up encouragement and answers right back.

Now I ask a similar question to you. Have you always liked writing or did your passion for it develop gradually?
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