Book Every Friday: Untitled Sea Turtle Story

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.

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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:

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turtleboy2

turtleboy3

turtleboy4

There was a lot I liked about this, but it wasn’t feeling right. So, I switched it up.

brewsterleatherback

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.

turtle-dummy

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:

Book Every Friday!

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.

bookeveryfriday

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.

#bookeveryfriday

Adventures in Self-Publishing Part 1: Now, Louie!

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A little over eleven years ago I wrote, illustrated and self-published a picture book. It was Now, Louie!, a story about a mischievous cat who does exactly the opposite of what he is told. I got the idea sometime around 2000, thought on it for a few years, decided to go for it in September of 2005, knocked out the production in a few months, ordered a thousand copies, carried them up to my attic, packed them away and then promptly moved on to something else.

Well, that’s not entirely true. I did hawk them around town and online for a few months and did manage to sell a hundred or so copies. But despite the fact that I researched everything from ISBNs to competitive pricing to the recycled paper content of my paper stock, I failed to anticipate an obvious obstacle: self-promotion–I have a pathological distaste for talking about my work. Combine that with a pre-Twitter/proto-Facebook world where networking took a lot more time and effort and you’re left with eight-hundred-and-some-odd books in your attic.

Which is really a shame because I believe Now, Louie! is a good book. It’s a fun, solid 32-page picture book. It’s a quick read and young kids, those just coming out of board books, appreciate Louie’s antics. I’ve had parents tell me Now, Louie! affected positive behavior changes in everything from eating broccoli to brushing teeth by making a fun game of those same chores. I was reminded of all these things when I pulled a box out of the attic in preparation for attending my first SCBWI conference last summer.

Now, Louie! at the SCBWI LA conference.
Now, Louie! at the 2016 SCBWI LA conference.

Looking at it again eleven years later, there’s very little I’d do differently. Except maybe the part where I actually tell people I published a book.

So! To celebrate a (belated) 10th birthday for the book, to give it the attention I didn’t the first time around and just to share with anyone interested in self-publishing a picture book, I’m going to do a four-part post about how Now, Louie! came to be. And, as what seems to be the custom with this kind of thing, I’m going to do a giveaway. I’ll randomly pick one comment out of each of these “Adventures in Self-Publishing” posts and send that person a personalized Now, Louie! book. Maybe two. My attic is full of them.

nowlouie-giveaway

Alright! Thanks for reading! Comment below.

BIGFOOT! Summer Reading Challenge

In the summers during middle school, I would to ride the cross-town bus to get from my dad’s place on the outskirts of Napa to the downtown terminal then walk a few blocks to the main library. I used to love doing this–no surprise as I was drawn to anything that afforded me independence and books.

librarycard

I don’t know if there was a summer reading program going on at the Napa Public Library at the time. There probably was but I doubt I would have made any headway on it. I read John D. Fitzgerald’s The Great Brain series and then found Daniel Pinkwater’s The Snarkout Boys and the Baconburg Horror and then read that and only that over and again for the remainder of the summer.

Anyway, I do love summer reading challenges. Our local library rewards the kids with a choice from the prize bin and then an ice cream cone. The ice cream parlor, in turn, rewards the kids with adding a photo of them eating their cone to their wall. I mean, come on! How can you not feel great about being a reader? I did it for nothing. These kids are getting prizes, ice cream and fame.

Well, I wanted to add something to the summer reading experience so I made this chart. You’ll get nothing at the end of it except a high five from Bigfoot.

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Actually, if you’re a library and you want to use this for your summer reading program, please feel free (download here). You could white out where it says “Bigfoot” and stamp your branch’s logo. Let me know if you do.

As a side note, as I type this, I’m remembering vividly a smell associated with that library. In fact, it’s the smell of all the libraries of my childhood. Was there something in the composition of paper or colored inks back then?

The Story Files

I thought briefly of doing to my story file what I did to this blog. That is, wiping it clean and starting over.

But I know I never could. Although a majority of these stories exist as only a quick sketch and a single line (or single word, in some cases), they are in my mind pretty complete worlds.

I do wish I had these in a sketchbook or journal instead of in two filing cabinets worth of loose leaf and scrap paper, though.

Goodbye.

A couple months ago I hit delete on my old blog. Gone! It’s all gone but I held on to one piece, my old header.

frog-old-full

I’m attaching it to this post less for sentimental reasons than for a symbolic one. You see, if you look closely at the image, you’ll see it’s unfinished. This drawing has sat in this state on or somewhere near my drawing table for the last 13 years.

I had the good luck to work on some fun projects last year and I am motivated to take all my frog drawings–the various sketches, half-finished dummies, snippets of stories–sitting on or somewhere near my drawing table and see them through. Starting this spring I’m going to devote myself full-time to doing that.

So here I am, posting the frog drawing to formally close down the sketch blog. See you on the other side.