Monday, February 25, 2013

Recharge: Day One

I'm participating in Sara Biren's Recharge Winter Writing Retreat

I'm happy to say that I'm getting a late start on introducing myself because I've actually been busy writing today.


What is your name?
Carrie Monroe

What do you write?
I write for kids. I am currently working on a YA manuscript but I also try to write a picture book draft every month and shorter pieces for children's magazines. I also like Middle Grade fiction and have written poetry in the past.

How long have you been writing?
I've wanted to be a writer for a long time. I wrote for my high school newspaper and spent most of my teen years dreaming of someday working for Sassy magazine. I went to college where I studied theater but the desire to write never really left me and I started writing poems and stories a little over ten years ago. I wrote a novel for NaNoWriMo in 2007 and that was the beginning of the idea that I could write a novel.

What location have you chosen for your retreat?
Minnesota winter, no offense but I am tired of you. I've decided to spend my writing retreat on a houseboat in Sausalito. 

How did you come up with the idea or find inspiration for your current WIP?  
My inspiration for my current WIP came from feeling stuck. I felt stuck in my previous WIP, I also sometimes feel like I haven't seen enough of the world. My business is full of meeting new people but also goodbyes when shows are over. I think I was feeling like I was always saying goodbye and never getting to go places so I started writing about a character who leaves her small town in Minnesota to go to New York City.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Interview with Illustrator, Emmeline Hall

On Tuesday I sat down with my friend,  Emmeline Hall, to interview her because her first book came out this month.

The book, Voices Across the Lakes by Anita Pinson is a collection of folk songs about the Great Lakes with stories to accompany them. Music for each song is in the book and readers can go to the website to listen to the songs as well.

Here is a link to Emmeline's Illustration page on Facebook as well as the book's page on Facebook.  Like her page then come back. Don't worry, we'll wait.
Emmeline's Illustration Page on Facebook

Voices Across the Lakes Facebook page

When did you know you wanted to be a children's book illustrator?
"I always liked to draw. I have a theater, costume design degree, even while working on this I kept thinking I'd like to be an illustrator."  "I had a lot of false starts but I kept at it"

You won the Minnesota SCBWI 2011-12 Illustrator Mentorship Award, how did that help your career?
"It was huge. This book wouldn't be here. David Geister mentioned me to the editor otherwise I never would have been introduced to her."
She does remind people that seeing a book published is not part of the award "Every experience with the mentorship is different. My goal was getting my name out there and getting my first book published. I was a success." Her other goals for the award include building and online presence and building her portfolio.

Do authors need to find their own illustrators?
"So many people tell me they are writing a children's book when they find out I'm an illustrator."
"The editor and/or art director make the match between author and illustrator. It's handed to you, like an assignment. If you're a writer don't worry about finding and illustrator. They(editors) have a vision for the book, trust that their vision is right."

What is your illustrating work day like?
Emmeline is a busy mom to four girls. She also works full time at a theater so no day is typical.

"I start with emailing, the business side of things. I have a calendar and a running to do list. I have a couple things going at once. I'm working on writing my own picture book. I'm working on a picture book dummy with my mom."
"I have a lot of lines in the water, you can't just focus on one thing, you have to have a lot of things going at once."
Art Cabinet-photo by Emmeline Hall

Art Cabinet- photo by Emmeline Hall

   Tools of the trade- photos by Emmeline Hall

With a full house her artwork day ends at 3 when the kids get home from school although sometimes she is able to go back to a project after the kids are in bed.

Since she has a full house she does most of her work at the kitchen table, keeping her supplies in an art cabinet. When she's drawing or sketching at the table she wears a Drawing Hat. When she's wearing the drawing hat the kids know she is working.
The Drawing Hat-photo by Emmeline Hall

"My youngest now wears a drawing hat when she's drawing."

"They are all into books and illustrating books, cartoons, or journals. It's really a family thing. They are all working on a book."

What is your favorite part of the process?
"I love researching. It's easy to do too much so you have to know when to stop."

While researching the song Follow the Drinking Gourd she learned about Quilt Code. Much like songs this was used by escaping slaves on the underground railroad.  "Each symbol means something like safe place, or water nearby."

Quilt code spot art
Spot art sketches- photo and art by Emmeline Hall

Advice to writers and illustrators who are just starting out.
"Meet as many people as you can who are doing the same thing and who have the same goal."
"Learn how the industry works so you don't waste time submitting the wrong thing to the wrong place."

"Spend as much time looking at children's books as you can!  Study how the artwork and text play off of each other in the layout.  When creating art for books you need to be mindful of details that you wouldn't need to in fine art, such as leaving blank space for text and avoiding the 'gutter' (the seam in the middle of the book where the pages are bound---details get lost here!)."

Are there revisions in illustrations?
"There are changes with the process. You go into it knowing you'll have to do several versions before the final. But sometimes it's hard not to get emotionally attached."

Below are samples of sketches side by side with their finished product. All art and photos from Emmeline Hall.

Art and photo by Emmeline Hall

Art and photo by Emmeline Hall

Art and photo by Emmeline Hall

art and photo by Emmeline Hall

Photo by Emmeline Hall
"I realized that my bible is still labeled with our working title, 'Voices of the Great Lakes.'. The published title is 'Voices Across the Lakes.'. A great example of just how much can change during the creation of a book!"

Favorite Illustrators: Trina Schart Hyman, Edward Gorey, Quentin Blake

Illustrating music: Classical Christmas music in the early stages, Rap near the end of the project

To learn more about Emmeline follow her illustrator page on Facebook

To lean more about the book Voices Across the Lake including information on buying the book visit the books website here.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

RTW- In love with writing

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question that begs to be answered.

This Week's Topic is: It's (the day before) Valentine's Day! Let's jumpstart the lovefest by blogging about what you love most about writing (and/or reading)!

The thing I love most about writing is the chance to tell a story. I love making myself smile, laugh, or cry with the stories I'm writing. I love getting to know a character and seeing what adventures they will go on when I sit down to write that day. 

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Fat Tuesday Musings

Happy Mardi Gras!

I'm not an overly religious person. I consider myself Catholic but I don't agree with the Pope on lots of things. I don't regularly attend Mass because I work on Sundays. I don't always give up something for Lent.

This year however I feel compelled to give up Facebook for Lent. So starting tomorrow until Easter there will be no Facebook for me.

I confess that I'm actually looking forward to it. As a single person who works in the evenings I probably spend more time on Facebook than say a person who works a 9-5 job or a busy mom, although some of my mom friends are on FB a lot.

But I wonder if the time I spend on Facebook isn't one of the biggest hurdles to my writing success. I mean how many times have I logged on only to lose a half hour or an hour of time?

I didn't attend the Winter SCBWI conference in New York City but I followed the hashtag on twitter. I wish I had thought to save the tweet but there was a quote about getting off Facebook and writing more so maybe that is what sparked the idea of this or me.

I'm really excited for what this could mean for my writing. I have a couple projects that I really, really like. I'm excited to work on them. I think they have legs. I'm looking forward to the time I'll be able to spend on them during my Facebreak.

I think it's hard for aspiring writers. We all hear that we need to have some sort of social media presence  but at the same time we know that time spent on these things can be one of the biggest thieves of our writing time.

I'm not giving up all social media.  I'll still use Twitter, I don't spend nearly as much time on Twitter as I do on Facebook. I'll still blog, instagram, pinterest, and use goodreads.

I'm interviewing an illustrator friend today and I'll post the interview on Friday so be sure to come back on Friday and check it out.

How do you balance Facebook and other social media in your life and writing?

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

RTW- Best book of January

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question that begs to be answered. 

This Week's Topic is: What's the best book you read in January?

The end of the holidays and the really cold weather meant that I read a lot of books in January.

My favorite was Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi. I had it on my kindle forever but hadn't read it because I just wasn't ready for another dystopia YA book but then I started reading it and omg people I could not put it down. I actually forgot to plug in my Kindle and ran out of battery in the middle of a really intense part and I was seriously panicking.

 Shatter Me (Shatter Me, #1)

I also loved The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart. It's been sitting on my shelf for a couple years. I started reading it and I was seriously thinking "Why did I wait so long to read this? That was obviously a mistake." Don't make the same mistake I did if you haven't read this one you should probably read it. 

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks

What was your best book of January?