Author/Illustrator Mary Zisk Presents: The Art Behind THE ART OF BEING REMMY.

I am thrilled to have children’s book author and illustrator Mary Zisk to talk about her debut middle grade novel THE ART OF BEING REMMY. I had the pleasure of reading this delightful time travel adventure back to 1965 and will share my review at the end of this post.

Mary will talk about the art she created for the book and her inspiration for writing it.  Here’s Mary:

The Art Behind The Art of Being Remmy

Mary-Oliver-Remmy-web

The most exciting event of my junior high life inspired my new middle grade novel, The Art of Being Remmy. When I was 13, I won a Draw-the-Beatles contest and tickets to a Beatles concert. The BEATLES! My best friend and I could barely hear the Fab Four singing with all the screaming, but the event was electric and so memorable.

The Art of Being Remmy

When I decided to write my novel, I used the pride and thrill I had felt from winning the contest to mold my main character, Remmy Rinaldi—a twelve-year-old girl who dreams of being an artist in spite of the objections from her father, the rivalry with a knucklehead boy, and the possibility of losing her best friend to a rat fink. I also reconnected with the remembrance that there were unwritten rules keeping girls in their place in the mid-sixties—sports are for boys, limited career options with the preferred being homemaker, dress codes, etc.

During draft number six, I came to a realization: how can I write a novel called The Art of Being Remmy and not have any art in it? I first drew an illustration that helped me define the premise of the book and create a possible visual direction.

Remmy_overview

As I continued rewriting drafts, I drew more cartoons—Remmy’s Wow Wall, best friend Debbie’s bedroom with matching canopy twin beds, and Suzanne The Rat Fink.

The Art of Being Remmy

But as my text drafts got deeper into Remmy’s emotions, I put myself in her place and felt that any artwork in the novel would be most meaningful and impactful if Remmy did all the illustrations from her point of view in her Super Secret Sketchbook—like illustrating in first person, instead of third person.

Layout 1

But what if readers of illustrated or graphic novels expected to see Remmy and all the characters acting out the narrative in scenes? I could be taking a big risk. As an experiment, I illustrated Remmy’s dream of the Beatles in NYC, influenced by her favorite painting, The Starry Night, by Vincent Van Gogh. Creating that illustration felt so right and natural to Remmy’s inner feelings and to my artistic process, I knew that was the direction I had to take.

The Art of Being Remmy

I continued by doing a full-page illustration for each of the 35 chapters of the book (plus a small spot illustration for each chapter opening).

The Art of Being Remmy

The Art of Being Remmy

The Art of Being Remmy

It has taken nine years to bring Remmy out into the world. I hope her story will now entertain middle grade girls as well as give them inspiration and feelings of empowerment as they create their own life journeys. Follow your Spark!

Mary Zisk is a graphic designer (mostly of magazines), an author/illustrator, and an artist with a passion for capturing foreign destinations in watercolor. She is the author and illustrator of the picture book, The Best Single Mom in the World: How I Was Adopted, and the illustrated middle grade novel, The Art of Being Remmy. Mary lives in New Jersey with her daughter and four white fluffy rescue mutts.

To learn more about Mary (and Remmy), please visit www.MaryZisk.com. She blogs about her many eclectic collections at www.TheClutterChronicles.com.

The Art of Being Remmy is available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

As promised, here is my (Darlene’s) review for THE ART OF BEING REMMY:

The Art Of Being Remmy by Mary Zisk is a delightful time travel trip back to 1965 when the Beatles reigned supreme. Remmy Rinaldi and her best friend Debbie ADORE all things Beatles and make a plan to one day meet their idols. Remmy also loves art and has a second secret plan to develop her Spark as an artist, even though it means going against her father’s wishes. Girls in the 1960’s need to know their place and follow the path men have set for them. A path that includes being housewives, mothers, maybe teachers, nurses , secretaries or stewardesses. But artists? NEVER!

Remmy is determined to prove her father and everyone else – including her once friend Bill – that she can be a great artist. Good enough to win a contest. She keeps her drawings in Super Secret Sketchbooks and earns her own money to take painting lessons so she can enter the Art Awards Contest.

Lots of challenges get in the way of Remmy’s plan, including problems with her best friend and a devious French Rat Fink. Along the bumpy road of 7th grade, Remmy learns that some rules are worth challenging and fairness for girls in all aspects of life is one of them.

This illustrated middle grade book is a funny and charming peek into the days when the Beatles took the world by storm and the force of female protest was at their heels. An entertaining read that celebrates creativity and girl power.

 

 

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PB Author/Illustrator Barbara DiLorenzo Presents – QUINCY:The Chameleon Who Couldn’t Blend In.

I recently had the pleasure of reading a new PB by one of my favorite author/illustrators Barbara DiLorenzo, QUINCY:The Chameleon Who Couldn’t Blend In.

Here’s my review of this delightful story that makes a perfect read aloud for young children worrying about how they’ll do on their first day of school:

20180716_083354.jpg

QUINCY THE CHAMELEON WHO COULDN’T BLEND IN by Barbara DiLorenzo (Little Bee Books 2018) is a sweet and delightful picture book about a chameleon who wants to like school and tries hard to blend in.  But, unlike other chameleons, Quincy can’t hide his thoughts or feelings. Everything he thinks about or gets excited about shows up on his skin.  It isn’t until he discovers art class, where self-expression is expected, that he realizes he can be happy just being himself.

The illustrations add whimsy and humor to a story that readers of all ages will find themselves reading over and over again. Quincy is destined to become a new classroom favorite.

     Barbara DiLorenzo is the author/illustrator of RENATO AND THE LION (2017) and QUINCY THE CHAMELEON WHO COULDN’T BLEND IN (2018).  She is an art teacher at the Arts Council in Princeton, NJ and lives in New Jersey with her family and her active imagination.

RENATO AND THE LION (Viking Children’s Books)
QUINCY: The Chameleon Who Couldn’t Blend In (Little Bee Books)

Represented by Rachel Orr of the Prospect Agency 
Co-President of the Children’s Book Illustrators Group (CBIG)
Instructor & Outreach Program Coordinator for the Arts Council of Princeton
Co-Assistant Regional Manager for New Jersey SCBWI

Deborah Zemke Presents: TALE OF A SCAREDY DOG.

Author/Illustrator Deborah Zemke has just released the third book in her popular BEA GARCIA Chapter Book Series.  I am thrilled to be able to spread the word.  Here’s Deborah:
The third book of my Bea Garcia chapter book series, 
Tale of a Scaredy Dog,is out!
BeaandSophieBea Garcia’s beloved dog, Sophie, is smart, sweet, loyal, and brave—until she meets the monster cat who lives next door. 
sophieandbk
chasedtop
* “Bea Garcia is an honest and funny protagonist with whom readers will identify and want to check back with regularly.” —School Library Journal, starred review.
My Life in Pictures strikes me as the best of the new crop (of chapter books).”–New York Times

Here’s what other critics have to say about this award-winning series:

 

“There isn’t anything real or imaginary that the endearing Bea cannot draw…Readers will find inspiration to write, draw, explore, and imagine.” —Kirkus Reviews

“[Zemke] clearly shows how art, self-expression, and humor can be solid allies when life doesn’t go as planned.”  —Publishers Weekly

“The everyday ups and downs of Bea’s life will be familiar to readers, who are sure to appreciate Bea’s perky humor.” —Booklist

“Zemke has a gift for portraying the trials and tribulations of elementary school…. A promising launch to this new series. Pass this one to aspiring artists, those missing a friend, or anyone who could use a laugh as she navigates childhood.”  —BCCB

You can find Bea and Sophie at your favorite store or online at:
​Help celebrate Bea Day by calling your legislator to fight for liberty and justice for ALL.        Thanks, Deborah
deborah zemke

Deborah Zemke has written and/or illustrated more than fifty books for young readers. She grew up reading, drawing, writing, and climbing trees near Detroit, Michigan and now, many years later, does exactly the same thing in Columbia, Missouri.  

For more about the Bea Garcia series: http://www.bookolage.com/bea-garcia-tale-of-a-scaredy-dog-by-deborah-zemke/

Tasty Colors in SCOOP THE ICE CREAM TRUCK by Patricia Keeler + Give-Away.

SCOOP is about a retro ice cream truck. For lots of summers, children came running to buy his small vanilla cones. But now, Scoop is having a hard time competing with the new ice cream trucks that sell fancy flavors like rum-raisin and bubblegum. They even have new types of ice cream like dots and flash frozen.

For the art in SCOOP, I wanted to highlight the original flavors of ice cream—to give the art a taste of the retro colors in ice cream flavors like vanilla, chocolate and strawberry. Spunky’s red ball suggests a cherry.

Here is the mint-flavored page!

MINT

I think of this spread as being minty-fresh. This is the moment when Scoop meets Spunky and his life is soon to be refreshed.

Here is the creamsicle page— orange on the outside, and vanilla inside. Getting to play with a joyful little girl after all his years of working is like a dream come true for Scoop.

CREAMSICLE

 

There is chocolate fudge sauce running down, when Scoop’s world comes apart. Scoop is in a sticky situation.

 

CHOCOLATE

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At one point Scoop transforms himself into a ‘cool’ truck with neon cones that zoom around. First, I created a watercolor explosion of ice cream flavors — lemon, cherry and raspberry.

WATERCOLOR

Then I used Photoshop to apply this watercolor explosion to the big new cones on Scoop’s roof.

NEON CONES

On the final page spread, when Scoop and Spunky get to the mountains, I dropped this same watercolor explosion into the trees. The fall trees become brilliant with ice cream colors. Then I placed the cherry on top!

FALL TREES

Here is a SCOOP seek-and-find for you! One of my favorite pages is the coffee-flavored page. There is a pattern on the coffee page that gives it away! Can you find it?

SCOOP, original illustration & pin

Enter to win the fabulous prize package above: A copy of SCOOP, a Scoop framed sketch and pin. Leave a comment on this post and your name will be entered in the random drawing.  Share on FB or Twitter or reblog the post and you’ll get another chance to win.  One winner will be announced here on WEDNESDAY, 4-25-18.

Here is Darlene’s review of SCOOP:

“Scoop, the old and reliable ice cream truck has been around the city blocks many summers selling his vanilla ice cream cones.  Things are changing though.  Newer, fancier, flashier ice cream trucks are moving in.  How can Scoop compete with waffle cones, jumbo sundaes and twenty-seven flavors?  Is it time for Scoop to put away his cones and head for the mountains?  Young readers will enjoy the lively and colorful illustrations that enhance the story’s message: We all have a place and being yourself is an awesome thing.”

P KEELERPatricia Keeler is the author-illustrator of SCOOP THE ICE CREAM TRUCK and LIZZIE AND LOU SEAL, both published by Sky Pony Press. She is the Christopher Award winner for her illustrations in WOULD YOU STILL LOVE ME IF and first place winner of New York Book Festival.

SCOOP THE ICE CREAM TRUCK   Coming April 3

patriciakeeler-author-illustrator.com

Facebook – PatriciaKeelerBooks

Instagram – @patriciakeeler

Twitter       – @patriciakeelerbooks

 

Getting Squirrely With Debbie Ridpath Ohi.

It’s my delight and honor to have recently gotten a copy of Author/Illustrator DEBBIE RIDPATH OHI’s newest picture book: SAM & EVA (Simon and Schuster 2017).  It’s pitched as HAROLD THE PURPLE CRAYON meets TOM & JERRY.  “A sweet and funny picture book about a boy and girl who must balance their creativity and learn how to cooperate after their drawings come to life.”   

Instead of the usual interview with an author, Debbie has agreed to do something completely unique:  She will teach us how to DRAW A SQUIRREL.  So grab your pencil and paper and LET’S GET SQUIRRELY!

HOW TO DRAW A SQUIRREL
by Debbie Ridpath Ohi
I put squirrels in a lot of my picture books, so I thought some young readers might enjoy learning how to draw one. Here’s how to draw the squirrel from WHERE ARE MY BOOKS? and SAM & EVA.      
 
 
 
    
Please note that these are just rough guidelines! When young readers are drawing for fun, there is no such thing as making a mistake. Feel free to change the shape of the head or the body, use different colors, change the details. 
Another idea: make the squirrel an ALIEN SQUIRREL! Purposely experiment with crazy additions:
You find more free, print-ready activities as well as free posters and classroom activity guides athttp://debbieohi.com/printready).

Debbie Ridpath Ohi –  Twitter: @inkyelbows – DebbieOhi.com

Launching in 2017: SAM & EVA by Debbie Ridpath Ohi (Simon & Schuster,    Oct.17), SEA MONKEY & BOB by Aaron Reynolds & Debbie (Simon & Schuster, Apr.25), MITZI TULANE, PRESCHOOL DETECTIVE in THE SECRET INGREDIENT by Lauren McLaughlin & Debbie (Random House, July 11), RUBY ROSE, BIG BRAVOS by Rob Sanders & Debbie (HarperCollins, Aug.9).   

Darlene here:  This was such fun, I had to try my own squirrel: 

SAM & EVA  is a delight.  Here’s my 5 star review:

“A clever story of creative conflict and co-operation that will be sure to delight budding artists who can watch the drawings take on personalities Sam and Eva never imagined.  Like the creative “muse” in all of us…you never know where your pen  – or brush – will take you.”

Barbara DiLorenzo Presents: RENATO AND THE LION + Enter to Win a Free Copy

I met Author/Illustrator Barbara DiLorenzo at a NJSCBWI Fall Craft weekend in Princeton, NJ.  I was immediately captivated by the watercolor illustration she shared – in postcard form – from an upcoming PB.  (The postcard hangs on the wall above my desk, like beautiful art should).

 

Illustration by Barbara DiLorenzo

As we talked, we discovered a shared interest in research and making stories as authentic as possible.  Hearing about her journey toward that goal blew me away.  Here’s Barbara with that story:

After a decade of hard work, I sold my first picture book in September of 2014. Viking Children’s Books bought RENATO AND THE LION (Viking Children’s Books) I was elated, but I knew there was still so much work ahead. My editor acquired a wordless dummy, but the story needed text to clarify the time period and the events connecting Renato to his lion. The editor asked me to wait while her team ushered the next round of books to publication. There was no timeline given, and it ended up being many months. I could have worked on other projects until she was ready for me. But I knew that although I had my plot and characters, there was so much of the actual history I was unsure of. Since the lion statue comes to life in the story, the rules of pure historical fiction didn’t seem to apply. Nevertheless, I felt a duty to paint a believable world that children could learn from and historians would accept as accurate.      

I began this unstructured time by sketching the characters, trying to get to know them better so I could maintain consistency throughout the illustrations. At the same time, I attended a local SCBWI event in Princeton, NJ, known as the Fall Craft Weekend. This annual event includes intensive workshops for writers and illustrators, as well as panels and workshops led by industry professionals and established book makers. One of the workshops I attended was by Darlene Beck-Jacobson, author of WHEELS OF CHANGE. The theme of the workshop was the research process for historical fiction projects. I dutifully took notes, but as I listened to Darlene, I couldn’t believe how thoroughly she researched her book’s world. She mentioned calling a museum to ask about which streets were dirt and which were cobble-stoned in the time period of her piece. That blew me away, as her book about a horse-carriage maker would need to know something like that. It occurred to me that the research process was fun for Darlene. I was only accustomed to research projects for school–something I had never enjoyed. But her eyes were bright as she talked about verifying facts and details for her book. That workshop changed the trajectory of RENATO AND THE LION. 

Like a sweater with a loose thread, tugging at the facts of the time period unraveled an entire world for me. I started with one request from my editor–to make sure that Renato and his family could have taken a boat from Italy to New York during the height of World War II. I started searching online, then pulling books from the local library. It only took a few days to learn that there was just ONE boat that carried passengers from Naples to New York in 1944. President Roosevelt had authorized a military ship, the U.S.A.T. Henry Gibbins to bring 1000 Jewish refugees to our coast. At first I wondered if this meant Renato had to be Jewish. I wasn’t opposed to this, but I wanted the story line to be true for either a Jewish family fleeing persecution, or a Catholic family that was perhaps anti-fascist. As it turns out, the boat carried 100 non-Jewish refugees. And there were two Renatas and two Renates on board! Research was indeed fun, and I was hooked! 

The next big topic I wanted to figure out was whether or not the lion was ever covered. This took a lot longer, with trips to the Princeton University libraries and the help of their researchers. All I had to do was ask, and I was granted permission to see the Pennoyer Collection–where I sketched from photos taken from the 1940’s. I requested books off site, through their art history library, the Marquand–which was incredible. I felt like a detective, racing to find out if the story I had imagined could actually have existed. My stomach was in knots more than once when I thought I had discovered contradictory information, or a lead fell through. I don’t know how it is if someone starts with research before building a story. But for me, researching after the story was assembled, was nerve-wracking. 

I got as far as I could get stateside, when I decided to use my book advance for a solo trip to Florence. For ten days in 2015, I wandered around Florence, frantically sketching, taking tours, and trying to learn from people who had lived through the war. I met a bookseller, Enrico Rossi, who was 7-years old in 1944. I hired a local guide to translate while I interviewed him. I learned enough to make a few more books out of his information! Where to stop!? It was dizzyingly exciting. I also found a rare book at the Florence Library that the Marquand had, which I desperately wanted to own. I asked the library where I could find the book to buy, and one person said I could check the book out and go around the corner to make copies. I appreciated the thought, but I didn’t want to do that. Unbelievably, they gave me a library card, and I checked the book out. In the front of the book, I saw that it was published through the Pitti Palace, only a short walk across the Arno River.

Excitedly, I ran over to the Pitti Palace. I waited in line with other tourists, who had passes for the gardens. But for some reason, the attendant kept telling them their pass was incorrect, and they would have to go to the office. Having no pass, and speaking terrible Italian, I just showed him the book and the words “Pitti Palace” and gestured towards the gift shop. To my surprise, he waved me in! I took a look in the shop, but realized there were no books like mine there.

I slowly walked back to the gate, passing offices along the way. My bravery got the better of me, and I knocked on a random office door. Again, with atrocious Italian, I showed the book and my sketches, and tried to explain I wanted to find a copy. They understood, and asked me to wait. A gentleman made a phone call, then disappeared for awhile. When he came back, he brought two books to me. The one I wanted, and a new one–its companion! I was so excited, and pulled out my wallet to pay. He looked at his co-workers, and waved me away saying not to worry. My eyes got misty at his generosity. 

When I left Italy, I only had one carry on bag–filled to the brim with 15 books and loads of sketches and paintings. On the last day, when I checked out of the nunnery where I was staying, I had one last surprise that only a research trip could have brought me. When I tried to pay with my credit card, the nuns explained it was cash only. The bill was about 570Euro. I only had 30 on me. I had put a deposit on my credit card at home, but the nuns explained this was done by a different company. For them, it was cash only. I panicked. They let me leave to see what I could withdraw from the ATM. Thankfully my bank card and my savings card allowed 250Euro to be withdrawn each. But I was still short–plus the added taxes. I was so upset. But then I remembered all my paintings. I gave them the cash, then asked if I could pay the remainder with a painting. The nuns agreed, and I parted with the first night painting I did during my trip. This experience brought home the feeling that I had when making the book–Italians revere art in a way that our culture may or may not. I was embarrassed to leave without paying in full, but in retrospect, I’m happy to tell this story. 

Once I was home, and the work with my editor began in earnest, I shared all my research. I collected everything on a webpage, so she could spend time looking at it and referencing outside links. I cleaned up some of the research, and put it up on www.renatoandthelion.com. There you can find Easter eggs of hidden portraits and street names, of war time heroes and real artwork that was covered and protected during the war. And the storyline works whether the reader envisions Renato as a Jewish boy, a Catholic boy, or a boy of mixed descent. For in meeting Enrico Rossi, I learned that his Jewish grandmother lived on the same street as his Catholic family members, and no one cared. 

The only mystery I never solved was whether or not the lion was ever covered, even for a day. The great flood in 1966 damaged nearby buildings and destroyed tons of paper documents about what happened to artwork during the war. In the spirit of the book, I choose to believe that although he probably wasn’t covered for long, a little boy could have done his part to keep his beloved lion safe. 

I am forever grateful to Darlene for turning me on to the power of research. She may not have intended to influence me as much as she did–since my travels had shades of an Indiana Jones adventure. But without her, I wouldn’t have had this much fun making my first picture book, RENATO AND THE LION. Grazie, Darlene!

“This love letter to Florence should spur diverse conversations, from art to history to the plight of refugees.”—Booklist, starred review

Barbara DiLorenzo is the author/illustrator of RENATO AND THE LION (Viking, June 20, 2017) and QUINCY (Little Bee Books, February 8, 2018). She received her BFA in illustration at the Rhode Island School of Design and studied painting at the Art Students League of New York under Mary Beth McKenzie. In 2014 she received the Dorothy Markinko Scholarship Award from the Rutgers University Council on Children’s Literature. She is a signature member in the New England Watercolor Society as well as the Society of Illustrators. Currently she teaches at the Arts Council of Princeton, and is co-president of the Children’s Book Illustrators Group of New York. Barbara is represented by Rachel Orr of the Prospect Agency.

Outside of art and writing, Barbara has gone skydiving, hang gliding, and whitewater rafting. She loves to surf, and has driven across the U.S. with her son so he could earn Junior Ranger badges from various National Parks. She has traveled to Italy several times, and lived in Bolivia for six months during college in order to work in a school for the deaf. Currently, Barbara lives in Hopewell, New Jersey with her wonderful family–who constantly inspire new stories. Her amazing 14-year-old son is the inspiration for many of her book ideas, including RENATO AND THE LION. More inspiration is on the way, as Barbara welcomed her second child–a daughter–in March 2017. She already seems to have a sense of humor–like her big brother. 🙂     

www.barbaradilorenzo.com

Represented by Rachel Orr of the Prospect Agency.
Co-President of the Children’s Book Illustrators Group (CBIG).
Instructor & Outreach Program Coordinator for the Arts Council of Princeton.

 Barbara is giving one random viewer of this post an opportunity to win a signed copy of her gorgeous book.  To enter, leave a comment for one entry.  Post it on FB for a second entry. Tweet it or reblog it for a third entry.  I will draw a name out of my writing “hat” and announce the winner here on Wednesday, 10-11-2017.

NJSCBWI 2017: Another Rocking Weekend of Writing Inspiration.

I spent this past weekend attending the Annual Conference for the New Jersey Chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (NJSCBWI) and came away inspired, enlightened and filled with a new desire to write stories for children.  So many wonderful workshops and a chance to see some amazing writers and illustrators.  Here are the workshops I attended:

  1. Biographies: Finding Subject and Focus: by Laurie Wallmark
  2. How to Market Non-Fiction Books: by Jennifer Swanson
  3. Using Subtext to Add Depth to Stories: by Laurie Calkhoven
  4. 7 Steps to Stronger MG and YA Novels: by Gabriela Pereira
  5. Breaking Down Barriers – How to Write and Critique Across Racial Lines: by Kelly Calabrese and Tami Charles

There was also first page and round table critiques,  and catching up with old friends while making new ones.

Natalie Zaman, Laurie Wallmark

 

Browsing the Book Fair and enjoying a fabulous Keynote address by author/illustrator Stephen Savage on Saturday morning:

 

 

Here are some photo highlights:

With PB author Annie Silvestro

 

 

 

Cocktails with Katie Howes, Jody Staton, Kathy Temean, Robin Newman and Colleen Kosinski

 

The LRA Tribe: Yvonne Ventresca, Robin Newman, Me, Agent Liza Fleissig, Laurie Wallmark, Leslie Santamara

 

With Carole Lindstrom

 

 

Leeza Hernandez, Linda, Char Bennardo