Sometimes I wish I studied cartooning along with illustration and graphic design. I would already be used to something like this new style I’m attempting. Maybe then I wouldn’t have such pesky difficulties to struggle over.
But for my early reader, I’m aspiring to a new graphic-novel-y, cartoony style for younger children—different from the odd not-quite-cartoony style used long ago for Boston Magazine and my regular realistic-but-not, children’s illustration styles.
Going for a specific level of grunge and bad drawing with over-enthusiastic claws and tiny fangs is chancey stuff. It tends to be a difficult leap from 23 years of educational, trade nonfiction, and magazine illustration work . . . most of which were done on tight schedules . . .. Actually, practically everything . . . except my own illustrations and writing . . . was done on tight schedules . . ..
Yep, there it is. I’m illusplaining. Making excuses. In case this doesn’t pan out.
But it fits the project. And I’m stubborn. For now, I’m going with a claim of “outsider’s style.” Perhaps it will be new and interesting to those jaded by looking at good cartooning.
Got to try, anyway.
Last year, five minutes of painting/drawing, using the computer, or writing made my hand go completely numb.
I had to have carpal tunnel surgery.
It was simple surgery with a painful recovery—in two ways.
1) Pain-pain. Lots of nerves in a hand, and,
2) Lots of angst.
The whole year before, I’d gradually had to reduce work, until I was only doing small projects with roomy deadlines for existing clients. So by the end of that year, I’d pretty much lost my “hand” (hand-eye coordination) and finally gave in to the idea of surgery.
After surgery . . ..
Good: Absolutely no numbness.
Bad: Absolutely no numbness.
Good: Eventually, I could draw and paint again.
Bad: Needed lots of practice to get back to my skill level.
My mom and I had been going to weekly life drawing sessions. Before the surgery, I would draw five minutes, shake my hand, rest it five minutes, then draw again. After surgery, driving to-and-from was the accomplishment. But after a month of physical therapy, I was drawing and painting again, getting used to my “new” weak, shaky and uncoordinated-but-numb-free hand.
I’m still going to life drawing. Working in my studio now, too. Getting my “hand” back—both the use of it and hand-eye coordination.
I’m working on character designs for a silly new story and just finished a week of writing/rewriting/more rewriting query letters and synopses for a #PitchWars entry.
There are countless much worse situations others are dealing with daily, I know. This is just a little plug for the good kind of stubbornness that helps a little with all sorts of trouble.
Wishing you plenty of stubbornness, as needed, too,
Nope. It's not a typo. I'm in flux. If you count novels, I'm a writer. If you count poetry, I'm an author. But I've been writing, critique-grouping and not submitting for quite a while.
Bravery came first for illustration and graphic design, so I made a living out of it. Now I'm semi-retired and working hard again on my own writing and writer/illustrator projects.
Okay, so it shouldn’t be much of a surprise that when I’m writing, I think in visual scenes. When Illustrating, I think of deepening the story.
A friend of mine who used to be my husband, still says, after I recover from something germy, “You’re not back to normal, you’re back to your usual self.”
That just about sums it up, I think, for all creative people. He’s a creative thinker, too. Scientists need to be, at least part of the time, so . . ..
When I was young, my books were well loved—sometimes doing double duty in building-block towers, other times, as a source of past-bedtime sneak-reading under the covers, one word at a time, dimly lit by the glow-in-the-dark eye of my owl puppet.
When I was old enough to write, my stories were mighty similar to those recently read by owl light. After my mom went back to college, my seaweed poem somehow ended up in a gallery window next to her artwork. It was the first time unfamiliar people could read what I wrote. I still remember that thrill plus the unexpected feeling of vulnerability.
Writing is like that. Actually all creativity is—whether it’s art, dance, music, science, math—you need to be both brave and vulnerable to create something new. Otherwise, you stick with what’s safe and you (and others around you) eventually leave or go nuts with boredom.
Kindness and Good Advice
Over twenty years ago, after reading Jane Yolen's Touch Magic, I wrote her an enthusiastic fan letter, enclosed some enthusiastic picture book manuscripts, and sent it to her publisher with a request to forward it.
Amazingly, they did that, and even more amazingly, Ms. Yolen wrote back . . . from Scotland . . . diplomatically suggesting that I might like to join the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators . . ..
I did, and still am a member. The SCBWI taught me how much I didn't know about writing and illustrating for children, how badly I wanted to learn, and inspired me to share what knowledge I had. It provided a whole world of encouragement for staying open, vulnerable—creative!
I'm shy in crowds but co-created/ran three SCBWI events with author/illustrator Carol Heyer—and even spoke in front of nearly 200 people without crying at a Writers' Day conference. My illustrations were published with the help of longtime rep, now retired, Ann Remen-Willis: five non-fiction trade books, countless educational books, and many illustrations in Ladybug, Spider, and Highlights magazines.
Okay, children’s illustration—check! I want to do more, but bravery's already there. Writing’s been my last holdout. Fear and necessity squeezed writing into the spaces between freelance work and family. I’ve only had three children's poems published. Lots was written, but almost no submitting.
It’s taken decades of experimentation, revisions, and critique group friends’ advice to write at what I’m hoping is at a professional level in a way that resonates with children. I love writing, even the frustrating parts. It unscrambles my brain, makes me laugh, and fills my heart.
Now that I’m semi-retired, I get to write. And submit. I’m no longer closeted. I'm coming out.
Hopefully, it won’t take anyone else as long as it took me. If you’re wondering, please know it doesn't matter who you are or what your initial skills are. Keep at it. Keep learning. Read new books, Read aloud. Keep being as brave as possible. Surround yourself with encouraging, funny, and open people. Listen to your own inner voice. Listen to real children. Volunteer at a school or do your own bit with sharing and be ready for surprises, chance, and change. It's never boring and it just might be what fills your heart.