Monthly Archives: March 2010

I Lego NY

For those of you who think that board books are only for babies, think again! Between my published lift-the-flaps and my current preoccupation at work transforming favorite classics into board books, I suppose I pay a bit more attention to board books than the average kids’ lit nerd.

Then I saw I Lego NY by Christoph Niemann (Abrams Image), released this month, and I knew that board books had just gone to a whole new level.

This witty homage to New York City started as a contribution on Abstract City for the New York Times last year, acting as a bit of nostalgia for the now Berlin-based designer, and a bit of entertainment for some hip New York parents.  I love the reductive look at urban life, and it translates amazingly into something that both kids and adults can find fun and insightful.  Whoever decided to turn this post into a board book is a genius!

Check out the links for more of the Lego creations, or better yet, just buy the book (it’s at the Pratt store, go figure)!


Be A Literary Hipster Helpster

Growing up, service to others was a big part of my values – and my life.  Even in college, it was important to me to stay a part of organizations that support philanthropy and are active in the community.  It’s easy to participate and feel like a good person when you have a built-in support system like church or school, but once you’re thrown out into the great, self-involved NYC world . . . how to you stay involved?

This article from the NY Press shows how, in the midst of gentrification and hipster indifference, a new generation of “helpsters” is emerging.  It’s an interesting dichotomy – the young, mostly white ex-suburban-children move into the ‘hoods of Brooklyn, only to fight to preserve the diversity that brought them there.  It strikes a bit of an uncomfortable spot with me (I know I’m the stereotype of a 20-something S.W.F. in Brooklyn, escaping my New England roots for a creative, urban vibe and a stroller/brownstone package in Park Slope!  Yikes.).  But regardless of how you feel on the issue, the article and its subjects bring up some great causes, like New York Cares.

Bibliophiles, want to support a cause, but mostly from the comfort of your own home?  Consider these options . . .

1.  Buy Books

Literary prowess, stunning typography, edgy Penguin design . . . oh, and supporting the (RED) Aids Awareness Foundation? I can’t remember the last time I got this hot and bothered over a series of book covers.

2.  Read Books

One of my favorite personal projects is working with my pen pal over at!  In2Books is an amazing program that hooks up 3rd – 5th graders in classrooms with adult pen pals who read books with them and get them discussing.  Think of it as an online book club of two.  Best of all, you get to read and write letters on your own time!

3.  Sort Books

If you’re in the NYC area, consider volunteering for Project Cicero, an annual non-profit book drive create to help under-budgeted NYC public schools fill their classrooms with reading.  My sorority went last year, and we were awed by the sheer volume of donated material (1.5 million books so far), all needing to be sorted by volunteers, and then given to 8,500 classrooms and libraries.  The event is next March, so put it on your calendar for 2011!

4.  Share Books

Do you remember the magic of your first book?  I bet everyone has a few extra lying around that no one is reading . . . so donate them to First Books and give the gift of literacy to children without access to the books we love most.

The 10 Best Things You Can Do For Your Illustrations

an old promo of mine . . . I’m siiiinging in the rain! © 2009

Last week, one of my most entertaining publishing blog reads, the INTERN, posted a piece called “The Ten Best Things You Can Do For Your Manuscript“.  There are some similarities between the teeming slush piles of art and word, but a lot of the process is actually very different.  So, artists, let’s hear it for your list:

The Ten Best Things You Can Do For Your Illustrations

1.  Find your style

Not to get all “follow your bliss” from the beginning, but there is nothing more important than being amazing at your own personal style – the way that characters and actions come to you naturally. Trying to show an art director that you can do every style just leaves them unsure of how you would approach a project. Instead, let them come to you for what you do best!

2.  Hang out with other artists

You’ll be motivated by association, gain more constructive critiques than your grandma telling you how “darling” your illustrations are, and share insights on the industry as you get rich and famous – together.

3.  Be in three places at once

Don’t just focus on one opportunity.  Share your art everywhere – your local coffee shop, an illustration annual, your friend’s neighbor’s band’s show’s posters… everywhere you can.  You never know when the right person might see your work!

4.  Draw in stories

In children’s books, it’s not enough to create one epic piece.  You have to be able to keep the characters animated and flowing, with the same level of quality, for 6 months and 32 pages of your life. Whenever you begin a new character, draw them in at least 3-5 complete scenes, with different expressions, so an art director has everything they need to know to sign you.  A dummy book of sketches (with at least 2 finished pieces!) is even better.

5.  Bring your portfolio to the local bookstore

No, don’t show it to the clerk eyeing you behind their Buddy Holly glasses!  Put your portfolio under your arm and, literally, put it side by side with art that is actually being published.  Are your stylized cartoons as naturally clever as Mo Willems‘?  Or do you think your colored-pencil portraits of your dogs just aren’t as action-packed and engaging as the rest of the picture books about puppies?  Be honest with yourself!

6.  Target your audience

There is no point soliciting 100 different imprints if the imprint wouldn’t publish the kind of work that you do. Do research on what kind of books are already out there, and be specific to whom you submit. Tell them why, briefly, in your cover letter why your book would be perfect for them.

7.   Read submission guidelines carefully

For instance, at our imprint (but not for others, mind), if a submission does not include a self-addressed, stamped envelope, it is almost guaranteed to get thrown away. Give them the opportunity to send the dummy back to you, and at least you could get helpful feedback from the rejection letter.

8.  Present your work like a graphic designer

You don’t need to spend a lot of money to submit a dummy that is clean and neatly printed and presented (just order a paperback from Lulu or even make your own). A designer is more likely to pass along a book that has a great design than one that was garish, messy, or worst of all, had typos!  Are you amazing at acrylics but can’t typeset to save your life?  Coerce a designer-friend to help you out!

9.  Drop off your portfolio

Postcards are a great start to reach a lot of contacts, and you’re not even a real person these days without an online presence.  On the flip side, repeatedly cold-calling designers and insisting you won’t hang up until you’re published is the fastest way to get on their imaginary blacklist.  But with the flood of emails and cards, what will get you that extra 3 minutes of their time to actually have someone look at your work?  I hesitate to say this for fear of finding 15 portfolios on my desk next week, but setting up a time for a portfolio drop-off, if the publisher still does that kind of thing, might be the trick to get a timely and informed response from someone in publishing.

10.   Never stop learning to draw

Even the most accomplished illustrators still spend their free time practicing their craft, learning the latest technique and lounging around the Society’s Sketch Nights.  Don’t get discouraged because your art isn’t yet the awe of every art director in town, and don’t get complacent when it is!  Just keep drawing, okay?

photo credit – this artist/Pratt alum’s  postcard (not shown, too lazy to scan) is my favorite ever, and has sat in my cube since before my time.  But check out Evah Fan’s awesome 3-D work!

Book Spine Poetry Friday

Still poking around on this rainy Friday afternoon? I haven’t been one for posting under the ubiquitous kids’ lit “Poetry Fridays“, but I did enjoy this new little art form called Book Spine Poetry.  This kind of poetry, mostly practiced by Nina Katchadourian, consists of stacks of books, arranged so that the titles form new phrases and meaningful lyrics.  Some are silly, some profound, but the general consensus is that this simple activity is much more difficult than it appears.

My poem (above) and others are featured over at 100 Scope Notes, so go check it out!  You won’t be able to help trying your own.

Students @Pratt Interview

photo credit – Tina Fey, my definition of success, ready for her close-up

Feel like being a success story? Then head on over to the Institute’s Career Services’ Pratt Success blog.  Not only did they just interview me about the Star Bright Books titles (as a Peer Counselor, I regularly contribute there so it’s not a big surprise…), but they also have TONS of great interviews and advice from Pratt alumni who are truly makin’ it in their fields.  I especially recommend watching the Career Coffee Break videos, and maybe getting yourself a cup of joe – and success – while you’re at it.

One Parrot Got LOST

Okay, okay . . . two weeks and 5 full seasons on Netflix later . . . I’m obsessed.

Me and 16 million other Americans (and parrots)!



Best Reasons To Go To DUMBO This Week – Part 2

After breezing by Superfine gallery to look at some original artwork, I noticed an adorable little shop across the street called P.S. Bookstore, full of rare, used and otherwise interesting adult and children’s books.  The independent bookstore may not be the place to locate a specific book, exactly, but it’s a wonderful treat to browse shelf after shelf of literature, past and present.  They even have a staircase for reaching the top shelves like in Beauty and the Beast!

Half an hour later, I emerged a  few dollars lighter, but with some very delightful purchases . . .

Purchase #1:  Fun little postcards of vintage Israeli posters, courtesy of the Farkash Gallery in Tel-Aviv

Aaaand it’s Hippo #25 for the win!

I call this one: For the Israelis, peace seems to have gotten away from them . . .

Purchase #2: Told Under The Blue Umbrella (1933, Macmillan), a darling compilation of short stories for “the children of today for their enjoyment” (or, at least, the children of the early 20th century).  I love the line drawings by Marguerite Davis, and I always find interesting the rhythm, movement and poetry that even a classic book can have built into the type.

One story, though, seems a bit familiar . . . remember the story of the little scotty dog, Angus and the Ducks? It’s in here, too!  While Angus was always a chilly reminder for me of a particularly mean little terrier that lived downstairs when I was a child, it’s still a great story.  I’d recommend it in color or black and white.