Come With Me To Inclement….And Pack A Bag!

Today, I’m taking Inclement on the road.  Not in a big way, but still, I’m going to be out there talking to kids about my town, reading a book to them, and doing a couple illustrations.

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This isn’t one of our Creative Collaborations that I do with BETWIXT–gosh, I REALLY have to do a blog post on those guys.

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No, this is just a simple half hour at a Family Fun Night at a school nearby.  But although I will be there just half-an-hour, it is an important night.  You see, not only is Inclement just about my favorite place in the world to spend my time, and a place that provides so many ideas I don’t have time to write about them, it is also business for me.  And an important rule in business is that you have to get the word out that you ARE in business.  You have to let people KNOW what you do.  In half an hour, over the course of maybe two books, I hope to say something or do something or read something that sticks in those parents’ and childrens’ and teachers’ minds.  Perhaps they will buy some books.  Perhaps they will hire BETWIXT and me to do a Creative Collaboration at the school.  Perhaps a Mom or a Dad somewhere will sit down and draw something with their child instead of telling them to go play video games.  Whatever happens, whatever the outcome of half an hour, it can’t be bad.

Half an hour is a very short time.  In the scheme of the universe, it is like a baby-biscuit nano-second.  But the process for preparing for that half an hour is huge.

Here is my list today:

1. Pack computer equipment.  When I read to large groups, I do so with a laptop and a digital projector.  Makes it MUCH easier for everyone to see the illustrations in the books.

2. Pack the cords for computer equipment.  This is a biggie.  If I forget the cords, what is the point of having the computer?

3. Pack my illustration supplies–easel, BIG PAPER (sheets of 3 feet x 4 feet), chalk pastels.

4. Trim 150 bookmarks to hand out.  I printed them yesterday, and today, I have to trim them.  I hate trimming.  Oh, and I have to pack these, so I don’t forget them.

5. Money.  I have to get change and pack the cash box.  People may want to purchase books.  Can’t forget this.

Wonder how it will work for MY fiscal crisis...

Wonder how it will work for MY fiscal crisis…

6.  BOOKS.  I can’t forget books.  This is probably the biggest pain as far as packing goes.  I have 7 book titles now, and I’m going to take some of each.  Which leads to 7 different boxes of books, and I never know how many to take of each, so I always bring more than I need….

7. I forgot this in the first part of the list–check to make sure all the book presentations WORK on my computer BEFORE I pack it up.  If the book doesn’t run on the computer, there is NO POINT in bringing the computer.

8. Babywipes.  No, I don’t have a baby.  But, they are very handy in cleaning my hands after I use chalk pastels for 10 minutes or so.

9. Water.  I always get thirsty.

10. Carry everything out to the truck.  This is where my 14 year old son comes in, AND his father, after he gets home from work.

11. Get ready myself.  See, I have to tell myself to do this, because I get out of the house so infrequently.  I planned my wardrobe last night, fortunately.

12.  Oh, another thing I forgot–my camera.  I have to pack the camera so I can get pictures of me doing what I do, so I can BLOG about it tomorrow to whomever might be reading this.

13.  Eat.  When I get busy like this, I forget to eat.  Then I get really hungry during my presentation, and sometimes I feel like I’m going to “lose my cookies”, and that isn’t fun when I’m reading to families.  So, I must eat before I leave.

Tastes just like chicken...

Tastes just like chicken…

I think that is it.  Lucky 13.  All of this, to get Inclement out there, in front of families, to hopefully enchant them a little bit, to make people see what I see when I visit that little place in Southwest Iowa, from which all magic and wonder flows–at least for me.

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So, tomorrow, I may have a tale to tell about my brief half hour.  Perhaps I’ll have a booking for a Creative Collaboration for next fall.  Perhaps I’ll have a new idea for a book.  I will definitely be working on Soda’s Valentine.  Finishing layout, so I can turn the file into a pdf and upload it!  Yay, getting closer.  But for today, my focus has to be on this half hour that occurs around suppertime tonight.  Think happy thoughts for me!  And pray I don’t forget anything.

Tracy Lovett is an artist, author, illustrator, photographer, wife, mom, and all around creative gal trying to spread the message that creativity is one of our most important qualities.  She uses her books, photographs, and writings to encourage others to just take the chance and be creative. This BLOG is about her creative journey into all her creative endeavors, including writing for children and adults, art and illustration, photography and photo-illustration, and book-building from beginning to end.  There may be other “sidetrips” that can’t be predicted–so hop in and enjoy the ride!  You may learn more about Tracy here.  You may follow her on Facebook here.

What Should I Write About?

As I am busily designing pages for Soda’s Valentine (and you can learn about that process here) I reflect upon the most difficult question posed to me by both children and adults–“What should I write about?”.  I have 4 kids myself, and they are often-times stumped by what to write about.  Factual reports and papers are actually pretty easy, because they are assignments, and usually, the topic is assigned as well, so that takes away all the work of coming up with a subject.  But for writing a children’s book, or an adult’s book, or a poem, or even a blog, figuring out what to write about is sometimes the hardest part. Ultimately, this question is best rephrased as “How can I come up with ideas?”

For me, it is usually about what I see in the world. Visual things flip the switch in my brain, and make me generate ideas.  I am a visual-spatial learner, and I need visual input to activate the writing parts of my brain.  Which, in many ways is a bit contradictory.  Speech is a left-brained activity, and image processing is a right-brained activity.  So, creative writing is an interesting mix of right and left-brained activities that don’t always mesh well.  I am a compulsive doodler, for instance, and when I went to school, back in the dark ages, I doodled through every lecture, at least on the corner of my page.  My children tell me now, that this is often frowned upon severely.  But for me, when I doodle, it makes my brain much more able to handle the verbal concepts that are being presented to me.  So, that’s what I did, and I did pretty well in school.  It makes me wonder if we should be teaching a doodling class in school, for children who are visual learners instead of auditory learners–kids who learn by visualizing instead of by listening.  Anyway…

Some people process information–and come up with ideas for their writing in other ways.  Listening to music will spur some folks to come up with ideas, and other people need to take a walk or a run, do yoga, have a shower–these are all reflective of the way your brain learns and processes information.  Everyone’s brain is different.  Use what works for you.

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If a bike ride with the dog works, go for it.

 

Today, I’m talking about what works for me.  However, the list at the end of the blog is good for anyone, regardless of HOW they get their brain to turn on.

Sometimes I have a very striking, visual dream.  Now, usually, the dream doesn’t TELL me a story (although that HAS happened, and I scribbled down the high points in my notebook for later use) but rather, there is an IMAGE in the dream that really gets me going.  For Sylvia McBye Learns To Fly, I had a dream about….you guessed it….flying.  And when I woke up, I knew I wanted to write about a little girl who wanted to fly.  Then, we went for a drive on a windy day in April.  You know the kind of day–you can smell the springtime in the air, and the wind rolls across the treetops, bouncing all the new, baby-green leaves.  My brain lept to flying kites, a memory I carried from my childhood.  I put those concepts together—the dream of flying, and the memory of kite-flying, and the story began to percolate.  I needed a name for my character, and I briefly thought of naming it after my daughter Sailor, who was kind of the inspiration for the character, but, I rejected that.  I just don’t like to borrow THAT freely from my real life.  So, my brain offered up the name Sylvia, and coincidentally, I have a photography client named Sylvia, who, coincidentally again, I photographed in my Studio wearing wings as a very small infant.  The pieces began to fall together.  During this ride in the car, I wrote about 80% of the book in my brain–I made some notes on paper, but no real sense of anything.  Then, we got home, I sat down, and two hours later I had the completed story written–it almost wrote itself.  It took me an additional 6 weeks to do the 24 illustrations inside.

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Bug Summer is a bit different.  For those of you unfamiliar, my Bug Summer series of books is all about the insects my main character Zack, and his dog, Flash, encounter during their wanderings in Inclement, Iowa.  The books are heavily illustrated with art and macro-photography of insects–extreme close-up work, for those of you unfamiliar with the “macro” prefix.

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A giant spider….

 

I actually started photographing bugs roughly 6 years before I had a story written to go along with the photos.  I didn’t know WHAT the story would be, but I knew there would be a story.  So, I collected images.  And I drew sketches of who I thought the main character could be.  But I didn’t really DO anything with all this stuff for many years–I just kept the ideas, the images, and the concepts.

Bug Summer--Raining Ladybugs

Bug Summer–Raining Ladybugs

So, what does all this mean?  Does it mean anything?  Personally, I believe that it tells us that creative writing is a process of following breadcrumbs through a forest, just like Hansel and Gretel.  And what is important here—following the trail even though it doesn’t seem to lead anywhere.  I pick up the breadcrumbs that are there before me, and store them in my pocket (brain, or, preferably, I write them down in a notebook) and I don’t worry about how they all connect.  But those breadcrumbs that seem to lead in random directions, they accumulate.  And eventually, some of them make sense, some of them form stories, and, if I’m lucky, they form books!  So, maybe more than a writer and an artist, I am a collector of breadcrumbs (ideas). And I note them down–random stuff that appeals to me for whatever reason.  I do illustrations that way too.  In the same notebook, I have scritches and scratches of drawings (doodles!) that many times turn into pieces of real illustrations for books.

I also pick ideas that I know something about, that I really like, or that I want to learn about. I think most people do this naturally, but it is important to mention that you won’t be successful writing about a subject you just don’t care about.  I like childhood, art, science fiction, photography, insects, things that are a little bit mysterious, friendships, the environment, music, nature, magical things, wonder, Halloween, animals….the list really goes on and on.

Sometimes I am really brainstorming without knowing it, and a whole bunch of ideas will come to me at once.  This often happens early in the morning, when the sun is just peeping over the horizon and everyone else is asleep.  Writing things down is crucial–if you don’t get it down, it gets away.

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This is magic idea time for me…

Read a lot.  I read every day.  I read things I love.  I don’t read as many children’s books as I used to, because my kids all read themselves, but I do try to sample what’s out there.  It really doesn’t matter though.  Find an author or two or five that you love, that makes you want to be like them, and read their stuff.  Ideas will flow from what they have written, and HOW they have written it.

So, how do you figure out what to write about?

1. Keep a notebook of ideas and sketches and words that you like.  Add to it daily.

2. Be a lifelong collector.  Your notebooks should be a storage place for all the weird stuff that strikes you as interesting or funny or scary or inspirational.  It may take YEARS for a unifying idea to help you make sense of all the “junk” you have stored away in your notebooks.  Don’t throw them away, don’t think they are stupid, and don’t feel you have to share them.  Your notebooks are for mental hoarding…keep them well.

3. Write it down.  Write down ANYTHING.  If you don’t get it down, it gets away.

4. Make a habit of putting something down every day, maybe at the same time.  Pretty soon, your brain will associate that time with creative idea-building time, and it will get easier.

5. Write about things you know about, things you love, things you want to learn more about.  Keep a running list of what those things are, so you know when you are on track.

6. Read every day, things that you love.  Reading and writing are inseparable.

7.  Do things that activate your brain.  I doodle.  I scribble.  Some people run, or move, or dance or listen to music.  Do whatever works for you.  Then record your ideas somehow!

8.   When you feel inspired, when the lightbulb goes off in your head, write.  Write your story, your poem, your paper.  If you are in the middle of something else, at least make NOTES for you to write from later.  This is very important!  Do it when the moment strikes!

9.  This is also important—there will be ideas you have that you will never use.  Just like there are trails of breadcrumbs that you follow and they never take you anywhere.  This is okay.  Just keep moving forward with ideas, keep picking up the breadcrumbs.  Something will come together.

So, I am back to page design for today.  Hopefully, I will have a bunch more pages to share over the course of this week, as well as other projects I am working on!  For now, start generating ideas!

Tracy Lovett is an artist, author, illustrator, photographer, wife, mom, and all around creative gal trying to spread the message that creativity is one of our most important qualities.  She uses her books, photographs, and writings to encourage others to just take the chance and be creative. This BLOG is about her creative journey into all her creative endeavors, including writing for children and adults, art and illustration, photography and photo-illustration, and book-building from beginning to end.  There may be other “sidetrips” that can’t be predicted–so hop in and enjoy the ride!  You may learn more about Tracy here.  You may follow her on Facebook here.

A Soda’s Valentine Coloring Page

Just finished this line drawing for Soda’s Valentine, and I think it makes an excellent coloring page!  So, I’m posting this afternoon.  This illustration will be in the new book as well, but I will probably alter it a bit….

Have fun!soda val

 

Tracy Lovett is an artist, author, illustrator, photographer, wife, mom, and all around creative gal trying to spread the message that creativity is one of our most important qualities.  She uses her books, photographs, and writings to encourage others to just take the chance and be creative. This BLOG is about her creative journey into all her creative endeavors, including writing for children and adults, art and illustration, photography and photo-illustration, and book-building from beginning to end.  There may be other “sidetrips” that can’t be predicted–so hop in and enjoy the ride!  You may learn more about Tracy here.  You may follow her on Facebook here.

 

Soda’s Valentine–More Visuals

Quick blog today, heavy on images, light on words–which is sometimes a blessing for both of us, Dear Readers.  Worked hard last night to complete pages for the upcoming book Soda’s Valentine, and digitally “altered” photos are my main style.  Here are some samples of what I have done thus far, before and after things.  Feel free to print the “before” pix and use them as the basis for your OWN altered photographs.  Colored pencils and pastels work really well for this–you can see the process on this Halloween blog post here.  Children and adults really find coloring on photographs a fun, freeing activity.  Art is involved in the project, but no one is looking at your actual drawing skills when you do this–it is about having FUN without feeling intimidated by a blank piece of paper.  Instead, you are decorating a photograph!

Okay, here we go with a few of the photos I’ve worked on for the book!

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Before…

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After…

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Before….

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Before….

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After….

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After…

Three out of….like 26 or so pages, I know…..LOTS MORE to be done!  But, it is happening.  Next blog will be about actual illustrations I am doing for any “empty” page space there is between and around the photo illustrations.  So, arty-art-art is coming atcha!

In the meantime, print out the BW images above and do some Soda art on them!  Have fun!  Back to work I go….

Tracy Lovett is an artist, author, illustrator, photographer, wife, mom, and all around creative gal trying to spread the message that creativity is one of our most important qualities.  She uses her books, photographs, and writings to encourage others to just take the chance and be creative. This BLOG is about her creative journey into all her creative endeavors, including writing for children and adults, art and illustration, photography and photo-illustration, and book-building from beginning to end.  There may be other “sidetrips” that can’t be predicted–so hop in and enjoy the ride!  You may learn more about Tracy here.  You may follow her on Facebook here.

 

The Great Soda Motivator

So, finished shooting the book Soda’s Valentine!  Thought I would recap all the action in one post, so we can get on with the next step in illustrating, which I will come to in a moment.  But, first thing is first.  We need to talk about chicken.

Soda is ready to do another book.  All because of chicken.  He has found his reason for living.  And that is….chicken.  For those of you mailing him Valentines this week, make sure they are made of…you guessed it…chicken.

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I agree….not my idea of a great meal, but beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

There were 4 different shot “sets” I needed to get for the remainder of the book.  And chicken factored heavily in all of them.  First, Soda needed to “eat” a box of candy.  Now, I’m not going to feed my cat chocolate for 2 very big reasons.

1.  Chocolate can kill cats.  So, that one is out.  He’s not eating a heart-shaped box of candy.

2.  I love chocolate.  So, Soda is not eating a heart-shaped box of candy because I’m going to eat that candy.

Instead, to make it look like he ate the candy, me and my kids ate the candy (most of it) and put some tidbits of chicken in the holes where the chocolates were in the box.  Then, we scattered a couple chocolates around, and even bit into a couple so it looked like he HAD eaten them.  Of course, with chicken around, he completely ignored the chocolates.  And we got the pictures pretty quickly.

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He didn’t even GLANCE at the chocolates once.  Clearly, he and I are going to get along famously, because, as a vegetarian, I don’t eat chicken.  So, all chicken goes to the cat, all chocolate to me.  It works.

The next shot set was one with Soda and candy again, but this time, those little conversation hearts.  I just wanted a shot of the cat reclining on the hearts–a close-up.  This one didn’t even require chicken.  We simply spread the hearts out, and my husband petted Soda on his tummy while I shot the pics.  Easy peasy.

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Then we moved on to Soda and the high heels.  Chicken was again required.  I wanted pix of him messing around with the shoes in whatever way cats mess around with anything.  So, I pulled out a pair of red high heels, concealed some chicken in the toes, and let him have at it.  Now, Soda is adorable, but he isn’t a great ball of fire in the brains department.  He is pretty catered to in our house–he isn’t allowed to be outside, so he doesn’t exercise his hunting “problem-solving skills” very often, and his food appears in a bowl every morning.  We had to show him where we placed the chicken to get him going.  But after a few minutes, he got into the act in a big way, and pushed the shoes all over the floor, stuck his paws inside them, and generally used all his rusty brain synapses to figure out the puzzle of the chicken in the shoes.  We got some cute shots.

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By the time we got to the last set, Soda was actively demanding chicken by attempting to paw it out of our fingers.  I wanted a shot of him wearing a pair of cupid’s wings, sitting next to an arrow and a bow.  The wings are a prop I keep in the Studio for children’s portraiture.  The bow and arrow were easy–sticks from the yard, construction paper, string and hot glue.  So, we set Soda up on the pretty red loveseat, put the bow and arrow next to him, and promptly realized the feather wings were going to be too large.

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In the process of discussing this with my husband Mike, Soda Pop did a very cute thing….he sorta jumped on the wings.  And in my mind, I got the hilarious picture of a cat pouncing on Cupid.

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Now, I know I write children’s books, but I also have a fairly black sense of humor at times….So, I felt I had to put this little image collage together….simply because it made me laugh.

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But I don’t know if I will use these images in the book.  I will have to think about it, and make that decision probably the day before I submit the digital book file for printing.  So, I needed to make the images I intended to make, which is Soda with the wings ON.  In order for that to work, I had to take pictures of Soda in the correct position, AND pictures of the wings separately.

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Then, I could digitally combine the wings with Soda, and shrink the wings down so they fit the cat.

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Here is the result.  And sorry, but I still like the one of him jumping on the wings better.  Oh well, it will require a bit of rewriting too.  We will see.

So, today we learned a few things.

1. Chicken is important.  It makes all Soda Pop photo sessions just FLOW.

2. Building your own props is an easy solution–and they don’t have to be that fancy.  The bow and arrow took about 5 minutes.

3. Sometimes the props won’t work exactly as planned.  Our angel wings are too large for Soda.  So, I had the choice of getting smaller wings, or digitally altering the ones I had.  Digital alteration is easier and quicker, so that was the route I chose.

4. Sometimes, you get something unplanned that you like better than what you originally had in mind.  I am undecided about which Cupid shot to use, but I’m going to prepare them both so I can choose.  I am also facing the possibility of some rewrites.  But that is okay.  Projects grow and change during execution.  I am still on track for finishing, I am just not entirely sure what the finished project will be like.  That’s okay.  Be open to changes.  Good ideas strike at strange times!

So, we are pretty much done with the shooting.  Now, I am on to page design for the next step!

Tracy Lovett is an artist, author, illustrator, photographer, wife, mom, and all around creative gal trying to spread the message that creativity is one of our most important qualities.  She uses her books, photographs, and writings to encourage others to just take the chance and be creative. This BLOG is about her creative journey into all her creative endeavors, including writing for children and adults, art and illustration, photography and photo-illustration, and book-building from beginning to end.  There may be other “sidetrips” that can’t be predicted–so hop in and enjoy the ride!  You may learn more about Tracy here.  You may follow her on Facebook here.

A Break For Snow Angels–The Redux

Tomorrow, I’m back on the Soda Pop Valentine book, but today, I need to make a quick post about my new “old” book, Snow Angels.

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Its a story I wrote several years ago–actually, it started out as a bit of verse I wrote for a Christmas card, along with a photograph I took of my kids making snow angels in the yard.

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I went to the trouble of writing the verse, which happened in about 10 minutes–it literally wrote itself–and then designed and printed the cards, but for some reason, I never got them mailed out.  However, I always thought it would make a nice book.  Then, a couple years later, during a very snowy winter, I decided I would write and illustrate a complete book over the course of a month.  Snow Angels, Edition 1 was born.  It was 12 pages long, and the unique thing about it was that I did the WHOLE book from scratch.  That’s right–I didn’t have it printed.  I PRINTED IT.  From beginning to end.  I created “page pockets” and stuffed them full of photos of winter scenes and other little goodies.  I put them all together and made my entire family crazy.

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That’s us….and we were CRAZIER than normal.

See, they were my labor.  We turned the entire kitchen into a book factory.  We trimmed, we spiral bound, we ordered pages and stuffed the pockets and packed them all.  And wow…the book was great, but WOW, IT WAS TEDIOUS.  My family would make maybe 30 books a day.  They loved the book, but hated making it.  And I knew, that even though it was a cute book with a lot going for it, I was never going to be able to mass-market it, because I simply couldn’t make enough of them and stay sane.

Sanity is important.

So, from the beginning, I knew I was going to have to rework this thing.  And I finally did.  Luckily, last winter, we had one really freaky snow in an otherwise snowless winter, and I took my boys out to one of my most favorite places in the world–Waubonsie State Park in Southwest Iowa.  The snow was one of those that stuck to every twig on every branch on every tree.  It clung thickly to everything.

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It was magical, beautiful, like a crystal-encrusted wonderland.  And I took loads of photographs.  And it occurred to me….why not rework Snow Angels with some additional pages and some additional photos.  Then, I would outsource the printing and get it out there in a big way.

A year later, the project is done.  And it is different, yes.  There are no pockets, or stuff filling the pockets.  But, there ARE more pages, a more complete story, and visuals that will knock your socks off.  And I’m going to post many of the things that were in the page pockets of the old version of the book online for free download, so that content isn’t lost.  But if you are one of the few that purchased a handmade Snow Angels book, well, you are the proud owner of a collector’s item.  And you can get it here, right now!

So, here is my advice when coming up with a “cool idea”…

1.  Make sure it won’t make you crazy-nuts to execute.

2. If it does make you crazy-nuts, you must charge more for it.  But realize, you may not sell ANY if you price it what it is actually worth.  In which case, see Rule #1.

3. If a project isn’t working the way you thought, don’t be afraid to rework it.  Change the format.  Add to it.  Make it more enjoyable.  Make it more sellable.

4.  Sometimes, it is okay if a project just remains a personal thing.  I have many book ideas and many stories that I have loved writing, but that, for one reason or another, just won’t work as a commercial, for-sale item.  That’s fine.  I still love those things.

5.  After you make your changes, execute it.  Get it out there while the project feels new, while you are still excited about it.  Then, promotion is easy AND fun.

So, here is the link where you can purchase my book Snow Angels.  It will be available on Amazon in this version soon.  And coming after that–a Kindle version.

Tomorrow–Soda’s Valentine.  Can’t wait!  Nearly finished!

Tracy Lovett is an artist, author, illustrator, photographer, wife, mom, and all around creative gal trying to spread the message that creativity is one of our most important qualities.  She uses her books, photographs, and writings to encourage others to just take the chance and be creative. This BLOG is about her creative journey into all her creative endeavors, including writing for children and adults, art and illustration, photography and photo-illustration, and book-building from beginning to end.  There may be other “sidetrips” that can’t be predicted–so hop in and enjoy the ride!  You may learn more about Tracy here.  You may follow her on Facebook here.

 

Soda’s Valentine—The Beginning and The Book Cover

So, last Sunday morning (a week ago) I woke rather early, but stayed in bed and let my thoughts just wander.  Early morning is my favorite time of day for creativity.  I come up with my best ideas before 7 am, usually in a semi-conscious state.  My brain drifts from one subject to another with an ease that is well-nigh impossible during my normally busy days.  Insights happen.  Problems my brain has been grinding on, in the background, solve themselves simply and clearly.  My thoughts have a flow to them that just can’t be replicated once the sun comes up.

Primary creative time….

So it was on that Sunday morning.  An entire Soda Pop book “wrote” itself for me in that dreamlike version of consciousness, rhymes and all.  In fact, I believe I had about 20 pages pictured in my brain, and all the ending words in the entire book rhymed with one another.  For those of you unfamiliar, my Soda Pop books are fully illustrated with art and photographs, and up until Sunday morning, none of them rhyme.  When I finally stirred into fully functioning life, I grabbed a piece of paper and jotted down some ideas for this book, which would celebrate Valentines day.  I decided I would illustrate most of it with photographs this time, simply because I felt like the real Soda Pop would be fine with the scenes I had in my brain, AND I wanted to get this book finished rather quickly, perhaps in time for a Valentine’s preview on this blog, Facebook, etc.  I would have liked to have actual paperback copies in my hands by Valentine’s day, ideally, but, I realized that type of shooting and production schedule would not likely work for the rest of my family and my other responsibilities.  However, I also wanted to hand-draw the cover design as much as possible.  I had a strong image in my mind, and I just wanted to get my hands dirty again.  Many times, I draw on my Wacom Tablet and computer, so my drawings are digitized immediately.  This time, I went old school, at least to start.

First off, I organized my tools.

Paper–I used 14×17 drawing paper.

Pencil–I favor Ticonderoga #2’s for a lot of drawing tasks.

Then, I sat down under good light and proceeded to draw.  As you can see, I started with a cut-out of a heart, which I made before I sat down.

 

I traced it in the center of the paper, and began to sketch what I had “seen” in my brain.

After 45 minutes or so, I had the basic shapes down where I wanted them, and I began to ink-in the image with a fine-tipped black art marker.

I spent a great deal of time working this drawing, being very careful with the black marker.

 

I used a lot of detail, and in all, I have about 6 hours of work to get the drawing to this point.

 

Then, I stopped for the day.  The next morning, I wrote the story in pencil on white copy paper.  I realized that I couldn’t rhyme every line exactly the same, although it seemed to my brain that I had succeeded with that when the book had come to me that early Sunday morning.  After spending an hour or so of writing, I felt I had the story where it needed to be, and I was ready to start photographing Soda Pop for the photo-illustrations.  I also needed to photograph the inked illustration I had spent so much time on the afternoon before in order to create a digital file of the image so I could work with it on my computer.  Normally, this would be a job for my scanner, but I drew this larger than the 8×11 scanner bed.  So, I set up a tripod and my studio lights and took the photos of the artwork very carefully.

Download this for a nifty coloring page…

I then downloaded the pictures and imported them to Photoshop to tweak them a bit, and I decided I liked the image in reverse, meaning, I used the software to flip everything to it’s exact opposite color value–all blacks became white, and all whites became black.

Pretty cool…..

 

After that, I imported the image into Corel Painter, and, using my digital pad and pen, I picked colors and, very carefully, colored the image exactly like you would color in a coloring book.  Last, I added text.  I still need to add the written-by and illustrated by lines on the cover, but I will leave that for the end.

Okay, so, that is the beginning of THIS particular children’s book.  All of them, like people, have slightly different birth-stories, but there are several constants here for me.

1. Idea generation happens fast, usually when I’m in a dreamlike state.  Doesn’t matter where you are, when you get an idea or an inspiration, WRITE IT DOWN in some way.  Even if you don’t have a complete mental picture of how it will end up, write it down.  Write down MORE ideas if you have them.  For lots of people, it is either feast-or famine with ideas.  Write them down, so, when you are in the middle of an idea-famine, you can go back to your lists and have something to work with.

2. Imagery is very important to me.  It sets the tone.  The cover came first this time, but it doesn’t always.  However, just like the words, I try to get whatever imagery I have down as quickly as possible.

3. Have the correct tools for the job.  For me, always, it starts with pencil and paper–even for NOVELS.  It’s the nuts and bolts of how I take notes and how I generate art.  Then, after the basics are there, I digitize it all, and drop it into whatever programs I need to in order to get the look I want.  You don’t need to have professional software to do this, but I find, for illustration, that my digital pad and pen are invaluable.

Next post—for this book, I’m illustrating primarily with photographs.  So, I will give you the scoop on my process, and of course, the reactions of my star, Soda Pop.

Tracy Lovett is an artist, author, illustrator, photographer, wife, mom, and all around creative gal trying to spread the message that creativity is one of our most important qualities.  She uses her books, photographs, and writings to encourage others to just take the chance and be creative.  You may learn more about her here.  You may follow her on Facebook here.

 

He’s not incredibly impressed. But man, he loves candy! (Not really.)

Wired For Wonder

So, people ask me “What’s the new book about?” and they’re talking about Buck’s Rodeo. Well, this is a toughie for me. All my other books were 36 pages long–at the most. They were filled with pictures and fun, rhyming text (most of them) and I could encapsulate the story in like, 20 seconds. But they were sure pretty to look at. So, when someone asks me the same thing about Buck’s, I have to consider deeply how much time I have to answer. It’s some 458 pages long, and I could talk for an hour. Most people don’t want to listen for an hour. They want a sound byte or two so they can decide if they want to buy the thing or not, and that’s it. Last night, I spent considerable time thinking about what my sound bytes are. And I DON’T want to memorize the back cover of the book and regurgitate it upon demand. Uck.

This is what happened when I tried to make her memorize the text on the back of the book.

 

So, I thought about ALL my books, including the novel. Is there a theme in all of them? And, it turns out, that as diverse as all the stories are and as LONG as the last one is, there IS a theme running through the whole dealio. (Sorry. Watched Napoleon Dynamite yesterday, and Uncle Rico says that. I love Uncle Rico.) So, here it comes. My sound byte. And I got it down to ONE WORD: Wonder.

I love wonder.....

That’s it. Wonder. You know, that amazing feeling you have nearly all the time when you are below 12 years of age? The world is big, the world is unknown, the world is magical, and you don’t have the experience yet to be sarcastic and crappy about life because, for the most part, life is pretty good. Life is about chocolate and chasing lightning bugs and cooking hotdogs over the fire and swimming in a crystal blue lake with your friends. Now, I know that this isn’t true for everyone. There are some really crappy deals out there for children. Child poverty is higher than it has ever been. Schools are oftentimes subpar. Parents are crazy/drunk/high/violent. There’s cancer. You can’t even quantify how awful that is. To quote the visuals in that Van Halen video: “Right now, God is killing Moms and dogs….because he has to.” Kids listen to the news, and listen to all sorts of discussions from the adults around them about politics and gas prices and people killing other people and they get the feeling that the world is not safe (which it ain’t. As the master, Stephen King said, “You can’t be safe on a skateboard…”) Then there’s that whole KONY 2012 thing, (and not only is that horrible, but I think the guy who set the whole thing up has lost his happy thoughts as well. Oh well. Another blog.) The world can be a HORRIBLE place for the little things, and that includes the little folks.

But, I don’t think that’s our natural state. I don’t think that’s how our brains are supposed to be wired. I think we are wired for Wonder. I think we want to look at the world through virgin eyes, just marvelling at the way the stars spread across the sky, at the sunset on the water, at the ladybugs on the flowers. I think there is a part of our hearts or our spirits or whatever, if we are a bit lucky, and if we have managed to hold onto it tightly enough, protecting it from the world, that will ALWAYS be 12 or 10 or 8 or 5.

EVERYTHING is magic when you're a kid.....

See, I go into schools and talk about my books to all ages of people, from the little kids struggling to make it to the bathroom before they have an accident to the teachers that have been there so long they are doing the same thing–trying to make it to the bathroom. We read my books–I blow up the illustrations on the big screen, and wow, it is WONDERFUL.

Bug Summer--Raining Ladybugs

I see it on their faces. I do art for them, on my Wacom pad, and on this huge paper with pastels.

Yes, that's me, with my back to the camera....

Again, wonder. We do hands-on art projects, where they get in on all the creativity, while they listen to some great tunes by the folk/rock band, BETWIXT(blog post coming about them).

My Boys, TJ and Jared---AKA BETWIXT

Wonder everywhere. But here’s the dealio: you can just see the kids that don’t feel comfortable with themselves. Maybe they’re wearing shabby clothes. Maybe their hair isn’t combed, or maybe (and this is somehow the most disturbing) they have a look to their eyes that says I have seen too much. I’m not supposed to see this much, I’m just a kid, but the grownups around me just don’t get it. I have seen too much. I see them, and it kills me a little bit. I want to help each of them. I want to roll back time and place them in a better situation. But, I can’t. I’m one person. The only thing I can do is try to make them forget about all the adult-created crap and give them their sense of WONDER back for a few minutes. It doesn’t matter how rich or how poor you are, where you live, the clothes you wear. If you can live each day as if it were really NEW, as if there is always something to be interested in….that is being rich.

And the cool thing is, usually, with the kids that are having a tough time, well, it doesn’t take that much to give them that wonder. A smile. Some encouragement. Their wiring for wonder may be buried a bit, but it is still intact.

They draw me pictures for me to take home. Sometimes they mail them to me. I know I’m not changing their situation. Except, maybe, for a little while, I am. Maybe, if they can read a story, if they can look at some art, if they can grasp a crayon in their fist and make magical marks on paper, maybe it gives them wonder, for just a bit. Maybe they can get lost in their own imagination for a while instead of drowning in the ocean of issues they didn’t ask for. And that is all I can do. It’s small magic, and in many ways, it is inconsequential, especially for adult problems foisted into children’s lives. But, as individuals, small magic is all that we have to give, most of the time.

This makes me EXTREMELY HAPPY....

But imagine, if all of us adults retained our sense of wonder, and encouraged it in the children with whom we are entrusted. If we all did that, one little instance at a time….incremental change, baby. My mind reels with wonder at what might actually happen then.

So, that’s it. Wonder.

In Buck’s Rodeo, there are four 12 year old middle class boys with issues that a lot of kids have–one of them has lost his dad. Another lives with a grandparent. Another has a divorced mom who is remarrying. The fourth has those crazy “helicopter” parents. They all live in Inclement, Iowa. They are friends, and they hang out in the lake in the summertime. They camp around a fire on the beach. There is an unexplained light in the woods, Grampa tells them a story about what that light is. They have adventures. There is danger and love and sneaking out the window after dark, and there is loss and death and friendship and hope. There is magic, of a sort. And there is Wonder.

Oh. And there is a beagle named Flash.

Flash splashin' in the mud....from Bug Summer--Raining Ladybugs....