Wednesday, December 29, 2010

SCBWI Team Blog Interview with Art Director Denise Cronin

These interview questions came in pre-blizzard, but still, there're a lot of similarities between what postmen and art directors slog through to get to work. Thanks to Denise for taking the time to chat with SCBWI Team Blog!

Jaime: Denise, did you know not only are you an Art Director, you're a flipping Vice President? What is your average day like?

Denise: If you count time spent on the train, checking files and reading manuscripts, my day is about 9 hours. We are usually juggling about 60 books at various points of development. I work very closely with the editors and the designers in my department from start to finish. Making books is very collaborative. Rarely do I work alone.

Jaime: I'm always interested to hear what catches an art director's eye in a bookstore—do you have any favorite covers (not from your publishing house) for 2010?

Denise: Some favorite book covers for 2010 are THE DREAMER, illustrated by Peter Sis and written by Pam Muñoz Ryan (designed by David Saylor and Charles Kreloff);

THE BOSS BABY, illustrated by Marla Frazee (designed by Ann Bobco);

IT’S A BOOK, illustrated by Lane Smith (designed by Molly Leach);

and CATS’ NIGHT OUT, illustrated by Jon Klassen and written by Caroline Stutson (designed by Lucy Ruth Cummins).

Jaime: Nice! We heard a bit about Jon Klassen thanks to your fellow conference faculty member Lucy Cummins. Let's get down to the really important question: What does a VP/AD snack on?

Denise: When I am successful in avoiding the vending machines down the hall, my favorite snack is herbal tea with honey. When I cave, it’s usually chips or strawberry Twizzlers.

Jaime: Kill, kiss or marry: Helvetica, Baskerville or Comic Sans?

Kiss Helvetica, marry Baskerville, and (of course) KILL Comic Sans!

Jaime: Favorite Pantone color?

Denise: I’m fond of the “mutes”: 611, 535.

Jaime: What can out-of-towners look forward to doing in New York in late January if it gets less blizzardy?

Denise: I love to take long walks exploring the city, with strategic stops for hot cocoa. I hope to go ice skating in Bryant Park this winter.

Jaime: Fantastic ideas! Final question, are you willing to share some snapshots of your office?

Denise: Office toys and a bulletin board!

Jaime: KILLER! Thanks, Denise! Illustrators, can you spot your postcard on Denise's bulletin board?!? I am loving those top four animals. Meet Denise at the upcoming SCBWI International Winter Conference—and there's still room in the Illustrators' Intensive!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

SCBWI TEAM BLOG Interview with Art Director Lucy Ruth Cummins

We're only a month or so away from the 12th Annual Winter Conference, can you smell it?

Illustrators, we have some fabulous art directors speaking at this year's conference (not that we've ever had a non-fabulous one.) Lucy Ruth Cummins, associate art director at Simon & Schuster was kind enough to do a wee interview before the new year:

Jaime: Hi, Lucy! Word at the Caldecott meetings is Justin Chanda is a real bear to work for. Rumor has it he keeps the Art Directors chained to their desks for 20+ hour work days. What's your average day like?

Lucy: I tend not to have an average length of work day - some run long and some finish on the dot. Often if I'm totally "in the zone" working on a book, I'll have a hard time checking out the moment the whistle blows. Really flowing with a project is such a wonderful feeling, and squandering that flow is something I try never to do.

Jaime: Okay, I can read between the lines. Justin is in your office, isn't he? I'm going to ask you how many books you are currently art directing/designing. If you answer "six picture books," we'll know he's listening in on things.

Lucy: I'm currently actively working on approximately six picture books, and about twelve novels. Many other projects are at various final stages - once we've sent them off to the printer, picture books generally return for proofs (and occasional corrections) over the course of another two or more months. Same goes for novels.

My executive art director Lizzy Bromley does a wonderful job of pairing her staff's talents with projects, so generally as a new season comes up, she and I will meet and she'll give me a slate of new titles that will be at the very beginning stages - frequently just a manuscript (for both novels and picture books) - and often there are no illustrators attached at this stage for picture book projects. Then I'll meet with the editor of each project to discuss directions and possible artists and move forward from there. When we are developing our projects, we often have meetings which include all the other designers within my imprint, and other times meetings which include all designers and editors from my imprint. These are great brainstorming sessions and it's neat to have feedback from fresh eyes.

Jaime: Oh, man, Chanda's in the room?!? I'm going to ask you about your favorite working snack next. If you want us to send help, mention a Coca-Cola product.

Lucy: I could never choose just one favorite working snack, but I'd have to say I'm frequently munching on something delicious that's been baked by someone on the editorial side of things. That field seems to be a magnet for wonderful bakers! I am a big coffee drinker in the AM and I'd be nothing without a Diet Coke (preferably bottled) in the afternoon.

Jaime: Okay, help is on the way. In the meantime, I'm having my people send Justin a bunch of emails so he'll be distracted and hopefully you'll be able to answer a few more questions. Illustrators will definitely want to know if you are currently acquiring?

Lucy: We are always acquiring new talent. I'm always keeping my eyes peeled. Even if I can't place someone on a project immediately (and it is true that some parts of publisher's lists are shrinking!) I'll often keep them on hand waiting for the right project. An example of this is the debut book from illustrator Jon Klassen, CATS' NIGHT OUT by Caroline Stutson - Jon just received the Governor General's Award for this project, and I had had his work on hand for several years before I was able to pair him with the perfect project. Although we may not always be able to immediately put the rubber to the road with new folks, good artwork makes a strong impression and the quest for a winning collaboration is always on my mind.

As for what I'm looking for - there's never anything specific. I love such a range of things, but I'm mainly looking for things I'm touched by. I love cute. I love simple. But I also love creepy and detailed! There's no one thing I'm looking for and I'm always happy to be surprised.

At this point in the conversation, I could hear a commotion coming from the Simon & Schuster end. Justin Chanda was taken into custody by the Newbery Committee and we were able to conduct the rest of the interview in relative privacy.

Jaime: Oh, I'm a huge Jon Klassen fan. And that CATS' NIGHT OUT cover is lovely, it reminds me of 1930's romantic comedy opening titles. What's your favorite children's book cover of 2010 not done by your publishing house?

Lucy: Nothing made me giggle more than the cover for CHILDREN MAKE TERRIBLE PETS by Peter Brown (designed by Patti Ann Harris.) There's so much to love about it, and the title is so grabbing.

Jaime: Kill, kiss, or marry: Helvetica, Baskerville, or Comic Sans?
Lucy: I suspect you'll get the same answer from every one who's ever graphically designed - kill: Comic Sans, kiss: Helvetica, marry: Baskerville. (Although maybe Comic Sans is so darn unlovable that it would make a really grateful spouse...?)

Jaime: Favorite Pantone color?

Lucy: Pantone Red 032 PC - a poppy red color with no hint of blue. Divine!

Jaime: The Winter Conference brings in lots of out-of-towners. What is your favorite thing to do in late January in New York?

Lucy: There are so many wonderful things about January in New York - hot chocolate from Jacques Torres (so thick it's nearly solid, worthy of a last meal), post-holiday sales at all the stores, and just walking through Central Park while well bundled up.

Jaime: Any illustrator-centric activities?

Lucy: I feel so spoiled by this city - there are so many epic cultural institutions that I feel I could visit one a day for the next 100 years and not run out of options. Despite the steep price, the Museum of Modern Art is not to be missed. It's free on Fridays but I think it's worth the price of admission to avoid the crowds that form that day and go any other time.

The Metropolitan Museum is fun to walk around and recall scenes from FROM THE MIXED UP FILES OF MRS. BASIL E. FRANKWEILER. 

The American Museum of Natural History has always been one of my favorites - the dioramas are breathtaking and they have a life-sized blue whale replica that will stun you on sight.

And the Whitney currently has a well-reviewed retrospective of Edward Hopper that I'm dying to check out.

Jaime: Wow, awesome suggestions, thanks, Lucy! One final kicker and then you and all the other art directors can run free: The format of this year's art show has changed, can you tell us how this change positively impacts your experience with the art show?

This will be my first SCBWI (and I'm beyond excited!) so I can't speak to the previous structure of reviews. I can say, however, that I think really trying to hone in on one stunning piece is a great way of developing one's ability to edit work and presentations. I can't wait to see illustrator's personalities oozing out of the piece they've selected for this purpose - it seems like it will be very telling!

Check out Lucy's site to see more of the books she's worked on—including her own—THE TAKING TREE.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Shop Local: University Book Store Mill Creek

It's not too late to keep shopping locally—no outrageous shipping fees, the chance to score a donut while you browse. Especially if you visit University Book Store's gorgeous Mill Creek location.

Look at their lovely collection of ornaments and holiday kid books
 Holiday doodads and cards
 CANDY! CANDY. Candy. candy
 Their sweet window display

Jessica Perez, children's bookseller extraordinaire, gave me the scoop on holiday books:
We have a TON of fantastic holiday books for adults & children!  My personal holiday favorite, DUCK & GOOSE: IT'S TIME FOR CHRISTMAS.  Tad Hills does such amazing illustrations and this glittery little board book makes you feel all warm & fuzzy about the holidays.  I'm also currently reading David Levithan and Rachel Cohn's DASH & LILY'S BOOK OF DARES (set during the Christmas season in New York) and, so far, I'm totally loving it!  I was literally laughing out loud last night and had to stop reading because I couldn't keep the book still in my hands.  For the adult crowd, Amanda (our book buyer) is really excited about TINSEL TALES, an audio collection of NPR's favorite Christmas stories from the past 30 years.
I asked about gift books, and UBS has a theme even! Says Jessica:
Our theme this year is "Giving Season: Something for Everyone on Your List" and it can't be more true.  Our book staff has been extra busy collecting their favorites and writing them up for our Staff Favorites wall.  They cover everything - fiction, non-fiction, children's, art, cooking, etc.  And we all, of course, love gushing over our favorite books so we'll happily escort our customers to what we consider the best of the year. 
In addition to books, we also have so many amazing Husky items (Go Dawgs!!!) and beautiful, unique, gifts that are sure to please anyone this holiday season. Plus, as always, we do complimentary gift wrapping and free book shipping.  I would also like to encourage people to visit our website and sign up to "Be in the Know" and receive all the most recent event info, deals, coupons, and specials!

Finally, and maybe, most importantly, there is a donut shop in the bookstore. Jessica took all these photos, and I have to say the one below is my favorite. She says Top Pot is also making Salted Caramel Mochas for the holidays. So I have no idea why we aren't all in Mill Creek right now.

Thanks, Jessica! If you ever have a chance to attend one of her story times at the store, do it, they're terrific. She's a Toddler Whisperer.

University Book Store Mill Creek
Mill Creek Town Center
15311 Main Street
Mill Creek, WA 98012

Saturday, December 4 – Friday, December 24
  • Monday – Saturday:  7am – 9pm
  • Sunday:  8am – 6pm
  • Friday, December 24:  7am – 5pm
  • Saturday, December 25:  CLOSED

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Cocoastomp Gift Guide: Hanukkah Books and Bites

You might remember some of these from last year's holiday gift guides, but I've added in some new favorites PLUS SNACKS. Do you need Hanukkah books or treats? All but THE WINTER BOOK are Hanukkah-centric. If I missed anything wonderful, correct me, please. You'll notice all the book links go to Indiebound—shop local!

Hanukkah Lights by David Martin, illustrated by Melissa Sweet
The Winter Book by Rotraut Susanne Berner
Theo Chocolates is selling a holiday box of eight, chocolate-covered confections, one for each night, in these droolable flavors:  Apple Cider Caramel, Burnt Sugar, Cardamom Caramel, Chinese Five Spice, Fig Fennel, Hazelnut Gianduja, Mint, Peppermint Caramel.

The Latke Who Couldn't Stop Screaming by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Lisa Brown
Celebrate Hanukkah by Deborah Heiligman
Light the Menorah illustrated by Jannie Ho 

On Etsy, there are some Hanukkah treats, Guilt Candy or The Nosh from the craquerockshop (same item, different bags)

Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins by Eric Kimmel, illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman
I Have a Little Dreidel by Maxie Baum, illustrated by Julie Paschkis
Chanukah Lights Everywhere by Michael Rosen, illustrated by Melissa Iwai

Plus there're the terrifically traditional Hanukkah fondant cupcake toppers from KidsCakes on Etsy:

There's nothing that smacks of menorah about Fran's Chocolates Hanukkah selections, but they are so yummy, you won't really care.

And finally, I don't know if latkes should only be served with applesauce or not, but I'd bet anything from The Girl and the Fig could be a worthy alternative.