Thank you, Robin Wiesneth, for your comment. You win the first giveaway! I’ll send you a copy of Now, Louie! I’ll decorate the envelope with the last of my 2001 USPS American Illustrator postage stamps and maybe a Young Elvis.
For this installment, I wanted to share how I made Now, Louie! I’ll start with the writing even though as an author-slash-illustrator the writing and illustrating happens more or less simultaneously.
The idea for Now, Louie! came from a game I’d play with my nephew. I’d tell him to not do something, he’d do it, then I’d grimace, pace, shake my fists at the sky, bury my face in my hands and so on. The routine had the makings of a story so the jump from that game to a picture book wasn’t hard. I never had a single document with the full Now, Louie! story on it but a script more or less existed on several different pieces of paper.
What was a constant was that Louie was a cat. He was never anything but a cat. Why, I’m not sure. It might have to do with one of my earliest memories. I can remember pretending I was cat meowing and crawling up my parents’ bed. I want to say I was nine or ten at the time. Joking. Based on the house in my memory, I was between three and four.
Here’s the first drawing of Louie as he would appear in the final book.
I must have felt this drawing was pivotal because I signed and dated it. I don’t do that nearly enough. In fact, hardly ever.
I started with some thumbnail sketches. Then, because I never learn, I beat myself up for a day or two trying to duplicate the spontaneity in that doodle on a larger scale. Eventually, I did what I should have done from the beginning and scanned the little drawing, scaled it up to final art size and inked it over a light table.
The inking was done with Winsor and Newton black India ink and a size 1 brush.
And here is some of the finished art:
You can see white out where I cleaned up some of my lines. In the case where I needed a bigger fix, I would cut and paste a fix over the original.
I haven’t looked at these drawings in over ten years and I have to say I like them (I’ve come to realize it takes at least that long for me to become comfortable with my work). My favorite in this set were the last two drawings I inked. These were for the endpapers.
All the drawings were scanned and colored digitally.
3. Mocking up
After finishing the artwork, I printed up and assembled a dummy.
In retrospect, I should have done that at the sketch stage but I had probably made enough thumbnails to envision how the book would work. Still, working on a dummy is my favorite part of the picture book process.
3b. A Word on Page Count
I knew that books were assembled in sets of 8 pages and I think I knew that 32 pages was ‘the usual’. I didn’t realize that 32 was an industry standard and artistic form (explained very well here) and I didn’t know the difference between a self-ended and separate-ended book (difference detailed here). All this time I’ve been calling Now, Louie! a 32-page book but in fact it’s a 40-page self-ended book.
I never joined a critique group, informal or professional. But I did go for dinner with a friend I respected and asked her to read my story. Her only suggestion was to replace “What the?!” on the cake page with something less… potentially controversial. That was tough. I didn’t want to let What The go but I trusted her advice. My next favorite expletive was “Desi Arnaz!” followed closely by “Holy Moley!”
In the end I settled on this:
Ay ay ay.
And that’s how I wrote and illustrated Now, Louie! That post was more fun than I thought it would be. I hope you enjoyed it. Next up, I’ll talk about my choice to self-publish.
Last time I did this I got one comment which is one more than you can expect for not broadcasting the blog post. Same deal this time. Comment below and be entered to get a free book.
The story is about a teacher. It takes place on a world of magic in a magical part of our universe. The crux of the story involves someone taking a bath. A major element of this story is when technology becomes indistinguishable from magic.
I missed the first line, there’s no teacher in my story. But there is a wizard trying to give his dragon a bath. Here they are:
I didn’t give myself as much time on this one as I did on the last two challenges. I did clean it up a bit by pasting it into a new version of my thumbnail template.
Last week when I was working on the sea turtle story, this line popped into my head:
Bogberry blue, bogberry green
Bogberry biggest one you’ve ever seen.
My brain tried to run with the rhyme, but I knew I was going to want to use it as a starter for this week. So, I fought hard to keep from carrying on and when I finally sat down to start the challenge on Friday I let it all out. I wrote about three pages (not realizing until about halfway through the second page that I was cribbing from “Peas Porridge Hot”) and then started on a storyboard. Here it is:
It was at the top of the second page where the characters and setting took shape. I see the protagonists being three characters who live in a swamp. Maybe a bayou? They’re definitely part of North American mythology. Maybe these guys use human artifacts for tools like the Borrowers do–and I only just realized I drew one of the characters with a tail in one panel. That’s all stuff to figure out. For now, I’m liking the dynamic between the characters and am particularly fond of the pacing in these three spreads.
And this sketch, a direct reference to Roy McKie, pleases me.
Alright, that’s the second #bookeveryfriday.
I must be excited for this challenge, I was up at 4:30 this morning. I didn’t let myself out of bed, though, it’s the first day of summer and I knew I’d want to be well rested for the afternoon.
Here’s a peek at what I made in the morning.
And here’s what I helped make in the afternoon.
I tried to take a nap in that tent but it didn’t happen. Then home, then dinner, then back to the drawing table.
Not as complete as the sea turtle story but I think it qualifies for a legit #bookeveryfriday. Usual scan and post coming in the next couple of days.
So, why this challenge? For fun, really. But also because I’m trying to break out of a bad habit.
I let ideas sit in my mind too long. Far too long. I work and rework these ideas in my mind until I get to where I see a finished book. It’s a book with a proper beginning, middle and end, with catchy refrains, delightful page turns and unexpected twists. It’s a book with a snazzy cover, a cute dedication and maybe even a hidden reference to classic kid lit. But it’s only in my mind. And then, instead of being a welcome and exciting creative experience, the prospect of getting the story, this picture book that’s already finished, out onto paper becomes a tedious chore.
In order to Marie Kondo my brain space (spark joy!), I’ve committed myself to getting a number of those stories out and onto paper this year and have made headway on a few titles. Still, my progress has been unreliable and I realized I need to do something important: change my outlook and remind myself that making books is fun. And that’s why this challenge.
So, on the morning I decided to go with this I saw a post on my Instagram feed that was tagged #worldseaturtleday and I thought, “I like turtles.”
I started with a sketch.
It’s always gotten me down that seagulls, scavengers that can and will eat anything, feast on turtle hatchlings. I remember watching nature documentaries as a kid and feeling a sense of gross injustice as the little turtles scrambled desperately for the water while seagulls sauntered lazily along the beach and picked them off. In this drawing, the protagonist is telling the seagull to lay off the turtles.
That led to this:
There was a lot I liked about this, but it wasn’t feeling right. So, I switched it up.
I would actually like to read a non-fiction story about the sea turtle life cycle from a turtle’s eye view and I really liked the two two-page spreads of the turtles coming out of the sand but I wasn’t so sure I wanted to write that book. At least not during this challenge. I stopped again and went back to the idea of a human protagonist, two protagonists, actually. Two penpals. I worked this time directly in a little book I cut and folded out of copy paper.
It took me the remainder of the day to draw the story. I mapped it out on the fly and had a couple stops and starts while I tried to balance the idea that while wildlife conservation is complicated and often disheartening, it’s not impossible and can have a happy ending. I wrote the story as pictures and only jotted down a few lines. Most of the text was in my head, it wasn’t until I scanned the drawings that I forced myself to put those ideas to paper. It feels a bit like filler, but I needed to start somewhere.
All that’s left is to share it with you. Here it is:
I set myself a challenge to see if I could make a book in a day. I mean, I figured I could, I wanted to see if I could have fun making a book in a day.
I did. It took a better part of the day and it’s going to take me a while yet to scan the pages but once I do, I’ll post it here.
Jerrold "Meng" Connors is an author/illustrator making fun things for kids.
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