Wednesday, July 31, 2013

SCBWI Team Blog Exclusive Interview with Art Director Juan Fresca

Late breaking news, guys, there's an addition to the SCBWI Conference Faculty. A well-seasoned art director by the name of Juan Fresca. Juan's so talented and prolific, he doesn't work for any one publishing house, but rather floats around like a natural gas, or a cloud of locusts.

Jaime: Hi, Juan. This may be a really tough question for you since you have your fingers in so many publishing house design department pies, but it's one I love to ask art directors: What book covers have caught your eye this year (not any you've worked on)?

Juan: Some people call my style "Old School". I take that as a compliment. 
(Though I prefer to be called "O.G.")

Follow Your Heart #7
Numbers 1-6 were good, but not this good.

Pumping Iron
The most powerful cover. Ever.

And what is better than a ceramic doll on a little wicker chair? Nothing.

Jaime: What's your favorite Pantone color?

Juan: My color passion cannot be contained in a single color. My 3 favorites are:

Pink Bubblegum

Rock 'n Pop Swirl

Wild 'n Reckless

Though I may have confused my Pantone and Baskin Robbins charts.

Jaime: Do you have an intern that brings you Campari?

Juan: No! That is so last year.

My new intern is only allowed to bring me an Aperol spritz or a St. Germain Elderflower and Champagne.

Jaime: Have you ever killed a man?

Juan: See above.
Take note of the adjective "new".

Jaime: Are you answering these from your hot air balloon? Send pictures.

Juan: No, but you were close – I am answering these from my Design Zeppelin. 
Photos of:
The S.S. Scieszka

The bridge our new publishing company recently purchased.

Our Feed Monkey Landing Pad

Jaime: I see, to achieve a level of anonymity you're using your pen name on your zeppelin, smart thinking. Is it true that in the event of a nuclear threat there is an underground bunker set aside for you, Juan Fresca, and Rosemary Wells, Jeff Kinney, and JK Rowling for your safe keeping/repopulating the planet?

Juan: Yes. But don't let Zelinsky or Barnett or Laurie Halse Anderson or Henry Winkler or Steve Malk or Lin Oliver know about this. Because then they are going to be all like Can I get in the bunker? and I'm going to have to be like Gosh, let me check the maximum capacity rating on that and get back to you...  And then it just gets awkward, you know?

Jaime: No, I don't know. In the event of a zombie takeover I'm contractually obligated to let Justin Chanda and Ruta Rimas eat my brains—publishing agreements have gotten really specific in the last few years. Thanks anyway, Juan. 

Folks, Catch Juan at the conference this weekend—on Friday morning he's delivering the second keynote. Juan's also doing a workshop Saturday with Mark Barnard and a solo talk on Sunday. He is not allowed in the Hyatt on Monday, however, so if you see Juan at any of the Intensives please call hotel security immediately (310) 228-1234.

Juan and Mark's new book!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

SCBWI Team Blog Exclusive Interview with Art Director Kristen Nobles

Eeee! Only a few days left until the sold out summer conference begins. I'm excited, and this interview will for sure get you revved up if you aren't already. This summer conference may have the most art directors in attendance than ever before, too, us illustrators are so lucky that SCBWI HQ brings us amazing eyeballs to look at our portfolios, pupils in point, art director Kristen Nobles of Candlewick:

Jaime: Hi Kristen! 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 2013?

Kristen: This is from 2012, but I can't shake the graphic appeal of Wonder by R.J. Palacio

Oliver Jeffers' covers tend to make me smile so The Day the Crayons Quit was a success in that I actually chuckled out loud; 

and finally, Greg Pizzoli's The Watermelon Seed screams summer from the shelf with its green and pink, uncoated jacket.

Jaime: YOU ARE DARN TOOTIN' IT SCREAMS SUMMER! It's also an excellent book, his artwork kills me in a good way. Speaking of killing, but in a bad way—

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

Kristen: You made this too easy! Kiss Baskerville/Marry Helvetica/Kill Comic Sans.

Jaime: You are correct! Favorite Pantone color? 

Kristen: PMS 369 –  A fresh spring day.

Jaime: Did you know THE Carson Ellis will be at the conference?! Do you have a favorite image of hers?

Kristen: I am in the know... Thrilled to be working with Carson on her author/illustrator debut book Home right now! Like many fans, I came to know Carson's work through her album covers and show posters for The Decemberists. The couple on The Crane Wife album stands out. As does all the stunning lettering she's done over the years. Also the badger with a rickshaw that was on her website and from Wildwood is so unique and memorable. There's a whole narrative in that one image and it draws you into the story with the badger's stare.

Jaime: HOLY BADGER BALLS! I am so excited to hear there is a Carson/Candlewick book in the works, best news of the week. Final question, are you willing to share some snapshots of your office?

Kristen: Certainly. We moved into a new, open warehouse-like space about five years ago in the heart of Davis Square, Somerville, Massachusetts, and share the area with Tufts University students, start-up companies, and an old theater. There are lots of sky lights, we look onto a park on my side of the building, and we joke about rollerskating around the office on the cement floors. Some day...

Jaime: Oh, man, if you had a butter beer spigot in one of the photos I would think this was Hogwarts, your new office is magical. Thank you so much, Kristen, for sharing! And folks! Kristen is a great example of why you want to do the Intensives! She is like a DVD Easter Egg, only those illustrators attending the Intensive on Monday will get to hear from Kristen as part of the first look panel with some other, awesome first lookers.

Check out the Candlewick office photos below. And see some of you on Friday! Don't forget to tune your blog tuners to THE OFFICIAL CONFERENCE BLOG where all five team bloggers will be typing up a storm. We'll also be tweeting, look for the #LA13SCBWI tag.

Art Department!




Receptive looking reception!

Friday, July 26, 2013

SCBWI Team Blog Exclusive: Interview with Art Director Laurent Linn

Oh, boy, few people are like Laurent Linn: consistently wonderful allll the time. He's a super nice guy with groovy shirts and talent up the yingyang—we are so lucky to have him in our children's book community. 
From the About Me page of Laurent's awesome website

Please enjoy this Art Director Interview in the style of past art director interviews, but now with more Muppets!

Jaime: HI LAURENT!!! 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 2013?

Laurent: That's so difficult because I like many covers for different reasons. I'd say, in general, a cover (we'll talk middle-grade and YA fiction here) needs to:
* appeal to a reader of a certain genre by suggesting a general mood representing that genre (like fantasy or sports or humor or zombies, etc.), BUT
* should not be derivative of other covers in that genre — it should stand out on it's own in both image and title treatment/font.
* I'm a bit bored of, well, images of bored models. If you're depicting a character(s) from the story within, there needs to be a spark of emotion and personality in the character(s). Story is all about emotion after all.

Jaime: That's all good to know! Here's a fun one: Kill, kiss or marry: Helvetica, Baskerville or Comic Sans?

Laurent: Well, Helvetica may be overused and almost invisible now since it's such a standard, but I think we're married to it for life. It can be just right for some things! Baskerville falls in there, too, but is worth perhaps a kiss once in a while. And, alas, Comic Sans . . . poor comic sans is but a haunting ghost now (and I'm not sad about that.) Overall, having standard faves (for body text, etc.) is essential, but there are SOOOO many wonderful fonts out there to choose from for title type and such, that I always explore hundreds (literally) when finding just the right one.

Jaime: I love that art directors are always committed to such great details. I would just print out text for a picture book on a label maker and call it good. Let's get down to the really important question: What does a Simon & Schusterer such as yourself snack on? Does Justin Chanda make you cotton candy every day from his portable candy floss machine?

Laurent: If only! All I'll say is there's a Magnolia Bakery dangerously across the street, with it's insanely made-on-premises cupcakes.
Photo of Justin Chanda after he's eaten a cupcake made of cotton candy

Jaime: Before I forget I have to ask if you've heard of a book called Creepy Carrots?

Laurent: Indeed I have, and the carrots are indeed creepy (and clever), and their tale should be shared with many-a-child.

Jaime: Thanks for that, Laurent. As Peter Brown's friend one is contractually obligated to mention Creepy Carrots at least once a week via social media. Luckily it's a great, Caldecott Honor-winning, totally recommendable book (out from Simon & Schuster BFYR!) or things could start getting awkward. It's not really Peter's fault, the Carrot Growers of America mafia is super vicious... Oh, no! I've said to much.
Peter Brown before winning the Caldecott Honor, but after finding a decapitated horseradish root in his bed.

Jaime: Forget everything you read in the above paragraph, Laurent. 

Laurent: Sure! 

Jaime: Laurent, are you willing to share some snapshots of your office? 

Laurent: Here are a few . . .On my door, I like to display and swap-out book covers I've recently designed:

Jaime: Ooh, I see some good covers up there!

Laurent: Characters abound:

Laurent: Hmm, what is that bear reading?

Jaime: That bear's a genius! What is your favorite Pantone color?

Laurent: Easy. 109 C solid, which is Big Bird's yellow. No happier Pantone I know of  :-)

Jaime: Aww, that reminds me of the Muppets! Is there any similarity between working with Muppets and working with children's book author and illustrators?

Laurent: I'd say you and Meryl Sheep from Sesame Street could be related . . .

Jaime: Is that baa-a-a-a-d? Meryl Sheep looks like she might be a bit of a dingleberry.

Laurent: ...

Jaime: ...

Laurent: ...

Jaime: Um, which Muppet temperaments most closely resemble Lin Oliver and Stephen Mooser? 

Laurent: Not for physical resemblance but temperament, for Steve I'd say Scooter. Like Steve, Scooter is always even tempered, positive, smart, and holds things together in a calm way. And they're both enthusiastic about what they love. 

For Lin, the wonderful Rosita, from Sesame Street. Rosita and Lin are both free spirits with a great (and sometimes wicked) sense of humor, boundless passion for life and art, and always know how to make everything work out just right.

Jaime: That's lovely stuff. Thanks, Laurent, for being such a good sport and answering all these questions. Check out Laurent's website and he's on Twitter, too! @laurentlinn

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

SCBWI Team Blog Exclusive: Interview with Kirby Larson

Hey friends,

A few pre-conference interviews to get you even more excited about the SCBWI summer conference coming up in no time! Still time to sign up if you haven't yet! One reason to do so below:

First up, our Lady of the Lake Washington, the always amazing Kirby Larson. Though it's a few years old, this is is my favorite photo of Kirby, not because I am in it, but because I think I made her snort, and that's something to remember forever, photo stolen from lovely Laini's blog 

If you haven't checked out Kirby's books, I will come find you in your house where you sleep and stand over you and... read all of her books to you, in the order in which they were published.

Jaime: Hi Kirby! Did you know you won the Crystal Kite?

Kirby: I did know that! (Do you want to come over and polish it for me?)

Jaime: Yes, I am actually looking for part-time work and would enjoy polishing all of your many medals, but I would do that for free since you are a national treasure. This question was asked only to point readers to Lee Wind's profile of you in which our region happily waxed Kirb-eticYou are doing some amazing profiles of teachers, librarians and authors/illustrators on your blog. In fact, you have 74 people signed up to guest blog soon, what's that all about?
A lovely fan of Kirby's books
Kirby: As you know, Jaime, it's all your fault I'm blogging in the first place! I started out with a personal, writerly focus but ran out of steam. Last summer, I took a hiatus to re-evaluate, telling myself I would start up again only if I could think of a way to contribute something new to the blogosphere. My friend Barbara O'Connor writes wonderfully about revision and character development, Cynthia Lord shares personal insights and writing struggles and Cynthia Leitich Smith covers everything else a writer might want to know. What could I offer that they didn't? Then I got an email from my 6th grade teacher, Mr. Craig, who had made such a difference in my life and with whom I've stayed in touch all these years. Eureka! Teacher Tuesday was born: I would shine a spotlight on the amazing teachers/librarians/reading teachers of this country and how they work so hard to connect kids with books. I began posting weekly interviews which proved to be the most wonderful thing I've ever done. But I couldn't keep it up. . and couldn't give it up. I wondered if teachers might be willing to be guest posters on my blog, so made a plea on the Nerdy Book Club. Within 48 hours, nearly 80 teachers had signed on. So many in fact that I will be hosting teachers/librarians twice a week beginning in September (and don't forget Friend Friday which celebrates writing friends' new books!).

Jaime: I love Friend Friday! Can't wait until you profile Monica, Ross, Chandler, and Rachel. That needs to happen soon, please. Do you know you have an adorable dog? What has Winston brought to your writing, and did you know you've now done a number of amazing dog books?

Winston at his MENSA meeting
Kirby: It was after writing two books (with my dear friend Mary Nethery) featuring dogs that I decided I wanted to be owned by one. It took only a  little bit of whining to get my husband to agree to invite Winston B. Larson to join our household. One of the best things Winston's done for my writing is make me get out and walk, every day, rain or shine -- good walks are essential to solving writing problems. Winston is also a herder and does his darnedest to get me up to my office as soon after breakfast as he can. He wanted me to mention, however, that he is quite peeved that I've yet to write about him.

Jaime: How many pictures of your first grandchild would you like the conference to see ahead of time?

Kirby: A zillion. And rumor has it that one might have slipped into my keynote presentation.

Jaime: I will be kind and not steal the other royal baby's thunder by putting up baby pictures of your grandchild cuter than said royal baby. We can make conferencegoers wait. What is on you summer reading pile? Adult books or children's books or safety manuals?

Kirby: Mostly I have been re-reading my own manuscript, the final revision of which is due much too soon. I have managed to squeeze in Kent Haruf's Benediction (adult), Kathryn Erskine's Seeing Red (MG), and several thousand readings of Leslie Patricelli's Huggy/Kissy (board book).

Jaime: I'm sure we're all happy to hear that another Kirby book is in the works! In addition to having kept your Bottom In Chair for many years with writing, you've also kept your Bottom In The X Bar for a number of years. As a past-attendee (now a keynoter!!!) at the LA Summer conference, what do you love about this particular conference?

The X Bar's infamous fire pit. A great place to meet a loose man...uscript or burn your rejection letters.
Kirby: I would not have a writing career had I not attended that first conference, lo those many years ago. Not only did I discover my tribe, I landed a job ghost-writing for a popular series, thanks a break-out session on the topic of writing for hire. Most importantly, I heard my hero, Karen Cushman,  exhort us conference attendees to find our passion and go after it. And when Karen exhorts, you act. Or at least, I do. Her words inspired me to follow my heart into historical fiction.

Jaime: One more thing to adore Karen Cushman for, inspiring our great Kirby. KIRBY! I love your quotes, let's end this interview with a favorite from your last few quote posts?

Kirby: I post those so far ahead of time, that I can't remember one of the last few but here's a new favorite: "If you're not failing, you're not trying hard enough." Gretchen Rubin.

Jaime: THANK YOU, Kirby! Kirby will wake us up with her keynote on Saturday morning. Be sure to check out her Sunday workshop, too!