Found Writing Advice #13
Let’s start with the metaphorical.
If you rush through your life, in a hurry to get to the next Interesting Thing, the next New Lover, the next Writing Project, you will miss everything on the periphery. Details live in the periphery. If they’re scattered by the rush of air you leave behind as you rush by, you will miss out. You need the details that reside in the places much slower than you may want to go. If you can study dust motes, or watch the clouds roll overhead in a storm, or if you can truly listen when you participate in a conversation rather than rushing ahead and planning the next thing you want to say, you’re probably okay. But if not, slow down.
Walk, don’t run.
Now for the practical.
Move your body. Walk whenever you can, if you are able. I walk this city from one side to the other, looking for those dust motes and storm clouds and well-paced conversations, with strangers, preferrably. Figure out which shoes you have that are most comfortable and wear those ones out. If you have a reason to go downtown from East Van, walk there. Take the viaduct while it’s still standing. Look for the everything will be alright sign about midway, through the trees. Notice the garbage, the weird new part to the south. Listen to the chuh-chuh of the cars going by on a dry day, and the sussurus on a rainy day.
Walk, don’t run.
Don’t run though your first draft. Walk. A steady pace. Don’t doddle. That’s not walking. Walk like you’re going to meet you best friend at the movies and you left a little too late. Don’t run.
Just walk with a purpose.
Review Life Every Hour
Found Writing Advice #14
Review Life Every Hour.
Writers are observers. If they aren’t, they can’t infuse their work with the life details needs to create a connection between the reader and the story that they’ve worked so hard to bring out of their imagination. This means review life every hour, or more. This does not have to be LIFE. It mostly means life. It all counts, because your ficticious would has the same elements as the one we walk in now. Even if you write steampunk fantasy or crime noire set in an alternate universe, the elements of your life are what will bring life to your fiction. This includes your running list of regrets or undone chores or going over and over what you’d wished you’d said in the heat of an argument. This is the children’s constumes that you have no time to make, the car that needs new tires, the character you want to build. The poem that is an unwritten, even while it holds your heart in its grip as you stand on this street corner and are told Review Life Every Hour.
Found Writing Advice #13
Everything you lave left is unwritten. If you are like most authors, everything that you can write — but haven’t yet — vastly outweighs that you have written. We think too much about what we’ve written. We edit it. We look to give to a good home. We’d like it to work for us. We want our readers to sit with it and give it their concentration.
But once you have written something, don’t give it too much attention.
Make space to explore all the unwritten wonders you still have to write. I don’t mean have as in “Do I have to? Sigh.” I mean it as in, “I have so many amazing projects I want to work on. I can’t wait to get started.”
Go get started on the unwritten.
You will be amazed at what you find.
If nothing else, working on your unwritten will make you a better writer, and that is always a very good thing. Writing makes writers, so go do more of it.
ps. I blurred the writing below, because we’re talking about your unwrittens, not someone else’s neon bold and arrogant pithiness upon a wall. Now, back to your writing.
Found Writing Advice #12
This is how writers communicate meaning, using images and symbols woven into their work.
Now, if you are sitting there thinking, “Geez, I need me some more semiotics,” you probably don’t. Most writers get their meaning across without thinking too hard about it. The real work of this is usually done in revisions, when you can pull back a bit and see connections where you hadn’t noticed them when you first set them down, and build up any imagery or symbolism that’s missing.
In fact, I’m going to suggest that this piece of advice is actually about avoiding semiotics. Stay away from the overt chore of any kind of inventory of symbols and images unless you need something to be up front throughout, in which case, do a little search of your document for words related to said image or symbol to check your pacing and see if you need more, or less.
My dear editor, Kelly, just told me to go through my manuscript and search for unicorn and take half of the mentions out. So, don’t be afraid to semiotics all over the place, so long as you’re willing to remove any blunt objects before publishing.
Found writing advice #11
Talk to strangers.
Ooooh, this is a good one.
Talk to strangers, and actually listen, or should I say actively listen. Make sure you’re not just formulating the next thing you’re going to say, because if you do that you’re going to miss the glimmer in the detail, and then you won’t have those genuine sparklies when you go to use them in your writing.
Found writing advice #10
Yes, we do.
We repair our writing over and over, because if you work it over and over, damage happens.
Don’t toss your project and start something new.
Don’t ignore it.
Don’t hope that some literary tow truck will arrive from off-scene and haul it away for someone else to tinker with it.
Go to your toolbox (you already have one) and find your favourite wrench and get to it.
Do not pick up the blowtorch, no matter how tempting.
Beholding a heap of charred bits might feel good for a moment, but you’ll quickly regret it.
Usually. Because sometimes murdering your darlings does in fact mean the whole damn thing. But more on that later, because, truly, it does not hurt you to keep your manuscript that needs serious repair. Tuck it somewhere out of the way if it feels too overwhelming right now, or if you can’t find your toolbox because everything is so cluttered in your head and you can’t figure out where to start because it’s not just your favourite mug smashed into smithereens on the tile floor, or even a broken wrist, or a totalled car, but in fact a complete train wreck in flames down a steep embankment.
I am not speaking from experience.
Now, where the hell is my toolbox?
Found Writerly Advice #9
Death as motivator.
Yours, or someone else’s. Either does the trick.
Faced with your own mortality, you start to panic at the thought of leaving behind unfinished projects, or you actually realize, at last, that life is absolutely finite, and so you want to get your shit done before packing it in. Or a loved one dies and you’re clearing up their leftover life bits and you’re left to ponder about the shit they didn’t get done. Or a stranger dies and you see it, or hear about it, or are perhaps even holding their hand on the side of the road after having pulled them from a burning car and suddenly mortality in general becomes MORTALITY in the biggest, loudest sense of the word and you come away from that rainy dark night with an urgency that you’ve never truly felt before.
Put that to use.
Write it down.
And then keep writing.
Your book doesn’t get written if you don’t write it.
The Author Who Doesn’t Like To Read … her own stuff. Out loud.
It’s been a very tough bunch of months. Or a few bunches of months.
And I don’t really want to talk about it.
Instead, let’s read a story. Or, I will. In this case, probably a true tale about a boy who ended up with his head smashed in on a rocky river bank about 200 feet below where he should’ve been. At least I think that’s what I’m going to read. I don’t actually like reading out loud, which makes it hard to choose.
You can come hear me, an introverted writer who never reads out loud, read out loud for the first time in YEARS.
I never read at my author appearances because I don’t particularly enjoy listening to authors read their work unless it’s an audiobook. I usually tell stories or talk about writing and books, or ask folks if they have questions. We have a chat, usually.
Also, it seems that all my “short” fiction takes about 5 minutes longer to read than I have. Which is why I am now digging through my creative non-fiction.
Last resort will be novel excerpt, which is my least favourite thing to read out loud.
WHY? Because I cannot stand not knowing the parts before and after it, and so I don’t like doing that to other people.
My copies of the brand new and very pretty German edition of “10 Things I Can See From Here” arrived!
Now, to find a good home for these lovelies . . . email me if you know of a queer youth group in Germany and I will happily donate them, except for the copy that I get to add to my collection of translations.
And if anyone knows this bookstore in Munich, let me know what it’s called, because I’d love to send them a copy. They are an easy 5 minute walk from the famous glockenspiel, along the pedestrian path. They had a big bin of English books which we dug through for ages, until Esmé came up with Twilight. Cringe. Ah, well.
Found Writerly Advice #8
Anne Lamot says that the first 100,000 words a writer produces are crap. She advises embracing that time to begin to suck less, and then to get better. After that many words, you will have one very valuable treasure. Your voice. That thing so many writers are looking for. They try out writing in this style, or in the voice of their favourite author. They try different genres.
All good. Why?
Because all of that counts towards your 100,000 words. And while it’s not as though the literary world throws you a party when you reach 100, 001 words, but you should. You should throw yourself and “End of the Crap” party. And then you should keep writing.
Or does this say sulk?
It absolutely could. And how applicable. I did a lot of sulking while I wrote and wrote and wrote in those early days, and while I collected rejection after reject. I still have my binder full of rejections letters from when they actually came in the mail as letters. Now I also have a file in my email holding tank.
Same truth applies either way.
Just keep writing.
Attention all writerly and artsy folks!
Dearest and dearest and dearest too,
I’m looking for on-line mentoring or teaching jobs. I know we hold these dear once we snag them, but I need a work-at-home gig to support my kidlets, so if you have one in your back pocket and you’re not using it, I’d love a glowing reference as you kindly toss it my way.
Please share freely, especially with the ones who do the hiring. I make a mean batch of gingersnaps as a finders fee. And my kids will thank you too.
ps. I will ship cookies pretty much anywhere. Along with cute thank you cards from my adorable children.
Libraries everywhere . . .
I’ve done the math and I think my children and I (and sometimes my mom) have visited about 150 libraries all over the States, in Mexico, and in Europe.
Yesterday we visited Prague City Library. The Prague City Library (Mestska Knihovna in Czech) is in a big, beautiful old building, there’s lots of light, you can just walk in and use the resources, the wifi is free–not even a password–and the librarians are helpful.
And there are beanbag chairs. My children would like to point out that there are beanbag chairs. And Garfield comics in English.
We did have to pay to use the bathroom. If we’d had a library card, we could’ve swiped in for free.
This is in stark contrast to most of the other town libraries so far. Even in London they wanted me to fill out a long form just to register for the wifi. In others they had security at the door making sure no one who didn’t ‘belong’ there got in to say, use the bathroom, look for a job on a computer, or even just stay warm for an hour. That was Budapest, where it took me twenty minutes and a whole lot of backbone to ‘register’ and pay to be a guest. The dour-faced librarian corrected my form three times before giving me a temporary card that would swipe us through the metro-style turnstiles to get in, but would still not connect me to the internet.
The selection of books in English for kids? Paltry.
Sometimes the library decor was lovely, but there was practically nothing on the shelves.
I am a fierce advocate for barrier-free libraries, so this has been disappointing.
Libraries should welcome everyone, no matter if they think they’re just a homeless person looking to get warm, or an immigrant who doesn’t have enough English to fill out the form, and so stays away rather than ask the gatekeepers.
Just open the doors, and have an information desk. With a helpful person sitting behind it, ready to welcome strangers and regulars alike.
But then we got to Prague. Sweet Prague, our Central European library oasis. Know this, you are doing all the things right.
(Except for the paying-for-the-bathroom-if-you-don’t-have-a-card thing. But we forgive you for that, because we’ve been paying to use toilets since England.
finding something to read
Esmé and I both acquired eReaders for this trip, after finally giving up carrying the amount of books we’d like to have around at any given time.
We don’t love them. Not yet, anyway. We still go into every bookstore and just be amongst the books, knowing that even if we did find something in English, we don’t have the room to carry it in our backpacks, save for one.
Esmé found a bin of books in English in Munich and she came up with one. One
Twilight. Well, okay. It’s printed on cheap paper, so it’s pretty light.
As for me, today I saw a copy of Alice Munro’s Lying Under the Apple Tree here in Ljubljana, Slovenia, in a store with about a dozen books in English.
I might go get it.
Maybe I’ll ask if I can trade the eReader for it to make room in my pack.
books in airports
I love books in airports.
I especially love MY books in airports.
I truly, madly, deeply love 10 Things I Can See From Here in airports.
— Kelly Delaney (@kellyunderwater) April 2, 2017
Aime ta prochaine.
Love your neighbor.
Les Deux Magots
Yesterday morning I walked from our flat on Montparnasse up to the famously literary Les Deux Magots where Simone de Beauvoir wrote and thought and drank coffee and smoked cigarettes.
I didn’t smoke any cigarettes, but I did work on my new novel, drank coffee that was served with wee chocolates, and thought about Ms. Beauvoir perhaps sitting in my very seat, all of which has been a dream of mine since I was about sixteen-years-old and first read The Mandarins.
ps. Some other famous writer guys wrote there too.
When the book Paris Was a Woman by Andrea Weiss came out in 1995, my twenty-year-old world expanded by ten times to suddenly understand the culture and relationships of the group that became known as the “women of the Left Bank.”
To be so queer, so long ago? When I was coming out, it seemed impossible that such a vibrant, creative, queer scene could’ve been happening in the 20’s.
I have always said that if I could go back in time, it would be to Paris, Left Bank, 1920.
10 THINGS audiobook giveaway
The Audible version of 10 THINGS I CAN SEE FROM HERE is out now!
To celebrate, I’m going a giveaway over at twitter. Come twittleipishly partwitterpate over there.
— Carrie Mac (@CarrieMacWrites) March 1, 2017
10 things …
— Angela Reynolds (@annavalley) March 16, 2017
— Marisa DiNovis (@dinovisms) February 28, 2017
— Katherine Harrison (@KidlitKat) March 2, 2017
— Jess Regel (@jessregel) March 3, 2017
— YA Bookers (@YABookers) March 3, 2017
— Shauna 🖤✨🌙 (@b00kstorebabe) March 4, 2017
— Sara Davidson (@sarafdavidson) March 5, 2017
— Brittany T (@RubyTuesday89) March 5, 2017
— PRH International (@PRHGlobal) March 8, 2017
Happy Book Birthday to me!
Found Writing Advice #7:
Not romance for your characters–although that is always fun to write–but romance between you and your writing project. Woo it, buy nice things for it, take it for a walk on the beach, say nice things about it to your friends. Imagine a future together. Daydream about how perfect you are for each other. xo
It’s almost time!
A box of 10 Things I Can See From Here came! I love imagining boxes full of pink, shiny goodness arriving at bookstores. I can’t wait for the book birthday! February 28th. That means that10 Things is a Pisces. Just like me. That makes sense. Especially if that makes Maeve a Pisces too. Wait a minute … when is her birthday? Must go check notes.
You know that it’s getting close to a book’s birthday when it starts showing up at all the parties dressed in fancy clothes and looking fabulous. What a great list to be on!
Thank you to Signature and Meghan McCullough for putting it together.
10 THINGS is on the CBC Spring 2017 Books Preview List!
So exciting to see 10 THINGS I CAN SEE FROM HERE get attention already. I can’t wait for the book birthday. Cake for everyone!
Found Writing Advice #6
Chicken processing plant lunchroom, 530am.
On a roll?
Your words are behaving and the story is truly happening?
But don’t forget to eat.
If you’re lucky, you have a snack within arm’s reach.
But if not, combine your trips.
Get up, stretch, walk the dog, go to the bathroom, refill your coffee or tea or water, and — most importantly — get something to eat before you return to the literary awesomeness.
You will thank yourself later, when you’re not spinning from low blood sugar.
Or your family will.
Mine does. Especially because I often forget this advice.
Found writing advice #5:
A starred review from Kirkus!
What an absolutely brilliant way to start the week! I am so grateful.
And so excited for everyone read 10 Things I Can See From Here!
Anxious queer girls unite!
Kirkus Reviews, November 15, 2016:
«10 THINGS I CAN SEE FROM HERE
Author: Carrie Mac
Review Issue Date: November 15, 2016
Online Publish Date: November 2, 2016
A white teen with severe anxiety struggles to manage her mental health and finds joy in a budding relationship with a new girlfriend. Most people worry, but Maeve has always done so to the extreme. With her severe anxiety and panic disorder, she is constantly working to balance her spiraling, catastrophizing thoughts—without the help of any medication. When her mom decides to spend six months in Haiti, Maeve is forced to move to live with her father and his family in Vancouver, disrupting her otherwise relatively stable life. In Vancouver, Maeve feels she has plenty to be anxious about: from her pregnant stepmother’s home-birth plan to the possibility her father might start drinking and using again. But when already-out Maeve meets Salix, a violin-busking “friend of Dorothy,” and their mutual attraction grows, she begins to find unexpected happiness in Vancouver. Mac crafts a beautifully awkward and affecting budding relationship between Maeve and Salix—one that neither miraculously cures Maeve nor leaves her entirely unchanged. With Maeve, Mac provides a realistic portrayal of the ways that anxiety can affect all relationships and permeate every aspect of life—demonstrated at times with humor through sardonic obituaries regularly composed by Maeve throughout the first-person narrative. With Maeve, Mac delivers a character who’s heartwarmingly real and sympathetic, and her story provides a much needed mirror for anxious queer girls everywhere. (Fiction. 14 & up)
Found Writing Advice #4
5am. Powell Street, by the shipping yards. Dark and raining.
Stuck? Go outside and do the same.
Anxious? Slow it down.
Need to think something through? Frustrated with a character? Can’t find a way to write through a scene? Find a quiet place. Close your eyes. Breathe.
Need more than that? Walk faster. Run. Swim until your lungs ache.
open 24 hours
Found writing advice #3
This is you, as a writer.
Perhaps this is you as a person?
Some writers are very good and shutting the operations down when they want. That comes easy for some, requires discipline practiced for others, is next to impossible for a large group, and absolutely impossible for an unfortunate group, which is thankfully quite small.
No matter what your shop hours are, use them well. If you are keyed in best in the morning, then don’t squander it. If you work better at night, have your tea and fuzzy slippers at the ready. If you word whenever the hell you want (good for you), then plan accordingly. If you work any time, any where, beware. Beware of over-stimulation, exhaustion, an overwhelming barrage of potential storylines, characters, locations, atmospheres, images and ideas.
Be sure to get some sleep.
Writers are open 24 hours a day, even if they deny it.
It can be a superpower and it can be a curse.
Use it wisely, and see what you come up with.
Found Writing Advice #2
Keep your goals within reach, but not too close. Spitting distance is too close. Need binoculars? Too far.
If your writer-gut tells you it sucks, listen.
If it needs chopping, sharpen your ax.
If your smart people read it and give similar advice, listen.
If you get rejected, send it out again.
If you don’t like it, write something else.
If you’re tired of it, put it to bed and wake up something else.
Found Writing Advice #1
You don’t need to know anything for sure.
You don’t need to know everything about your characters, your plot, the arc, the climax, the ending, the theme, the atmosphere, any recurring images, motifs, or ideas. You don’t need to know where, when or if your story will be published.
Get an idea, and go with it.
Powell Street. 5am.
Timeline Cut & Paste
I had to use an actual calendar, scrap paper, scissors, my 400-page printed manuscript and my computer to untangle a piece of plot. Done. Phew.
This is is what it felt like when I started:
The ARCs arrived for 10 Things I Can See From Here!
The book is due out in February . . .
That’s SO LONG FROM NOW.
I’m not sure which, but I’m so excited either way. Excited. Excited.
EXCLAMATION MARK EXCITED.
Prepare for the wow!
the query project
What an honour it is to be included in Plenitude’s The Query Project this week.
The Query Project invites queer Canadian authors to recommend writing that has had a deep, personal impact on them. It was very, very, very, very hard to come up with just one. In fact, it was impossible. I thought about it for so long that Brett had to nudge me more than once to get my submission together.
I love getting mail.
I especially loving getting the author copies of literary journals that have published my stories.
Three copies of Grain arrived today. It looks great, and is full of writing that I cannot wait to read.
Thanks go out to editor Alice Kuipers for her deft touch and keen eye. Her edits helped make my story shimmer.
Who’s Reading What?
I have a story in issue #136 of The New Quarterly!
I’ve been working on fireworks for about twelve years, so it is truly divine that it has a home. TNQ put up a nifty list of what books the contributors are reading to go along with the issue. I love lists like that. I feel like I’m sneaking a peek at what’s on someone’s bedside table.
I am absolutely thrilled to announced that my next YA novel will be born in the States!
My brilliant and savvy agent Emily Brown at Foundry Media in New York did an incredible job of brokering a home for Closer to Fine with Knopf, and more specifically with Kelly Delaney there. I can’t wait to get the edits going. So far Kelly is smart, firm, creative, and funny. All good things. Emily, Kelly and I have been tossing around new title ideas, and once we land on the keeper, I’ll let you know. The book will be out Spring 2017, and it will be AWESOME.
The announcement in Publisher’s Weekly.
Also, SHUT THE FRONT DOOR.
I won the CBC Literary Prize for Creative Nonfiction!
Shortlisted for CBC’s Creative Nonfiction Prize!
A story I wrote is on the shortlist for CBC’s Creative Nonfiction Prize.
A story I wrote is on the SHORTLIST FOR CBC’s CREATIVE NONFICTION PRIZE!
What an honour. Read the story on CBC’s site, along with the other four authors on the shortlist. I am in very, very good company.
A story that I lived and then wrote and wrote and wrote and wrote and wrote and edited and edited and edited is on the shortlist for the … well, you get the idea. The winner is announced next Monday. Engage all crossable body parts, do all the lucky dances, sprinkle the sparkle power, invoke the gods and fairies, and pocket all the talismans.
This so much awesome already.
manuscript under construction
Write. Edit. Revise. Read. Write. Edit. Revise. Read. Write. Edit. Revise. Read.Write. Edit. Revise. Read. Write. Edit. Revise. Read. Write. Edit. Revise. Read.Write. Edit. Revise. Read. Write. Edit. Revise. Read. Write. Edit. Revise. Read.Write. Edit. Revise. Read. Write. Edit. Revise. Read. Write. Edit. Revise. Read.Write. Edit. Revise. Read. Write. Edit. Revise. Read. Write. Edit. Revise. Read.Write. Edit. Revise. Read. Write. Edit. Revise. Read. Write. Edit. Revise. Read.
ps. The bird is Bob. He hangs out with us each year at Porteau Cove. This year he was my editing companion.
from “pfffft” to “fabulous” – my Filofax hack
I’ve been working on the massive renovation and reconstruction of a novel in progress, but sometimes a writer has to come up for air and do a little cutting and pasting of immediately prettier things instead. SO SATISFYING TO MAKE SOMETHING COME TOGETHER IN A MATTER OF HOURS INSTEAD OF YEARS. This is why I love visual art. I can SEE it happening, instead of the years it takes to bring a book into its final shape.
I love book-hacking (is that the badass cousin of scrapbooking?), and was just about to list my little, ancient Filofax on Craigslist due to dedicated neglect, but then I got excited about making it appealing to use again (or in the first place), because dates and months and little boxes per day and to-do lists with pre-printed lines and tick boxes just do not rock my every-lovin’ no-idea-what-day-of-the-week-it-is and gloriously flakey and unscheduled life.
As someone who has spent more days in pyjamas making stuff than working at a ‘real job’, let me tell you, I do not need an organizer. I need sections for ideas about what to write, what to draw, notes on family life (Who needs new rainboots? Which Value Villages have we checked so far?), and random pockets and tags and nooks and crannies for tiny word-ish treasures and soothing bits of text, or just a picture of my grandma, because she remains one of my dearest friends long after her death. And she is gorgeous. Isn’t she gorgeous? (She’s the one leaning against the car, not the illustrated bathing beauty.)
Behold, the Filofax hack, now a hub for creative jotting and think-y thoughts, and stashing all the sparkly things, which satisfies the magpie in me. Also, and enthusiastically noted, this was proudly done for zero dollars and zero cents, because after decades of cutting and pasting, I have amassed quite the supply of all manner of deliciously crafty goodness and all that it entails.
Some details for you artsy lookyloos:
- I covered the Filofax standard issue dividers, using papers from an old calendar and a glue stick. All the way to the edges, kids. That’s how we roll.
- I used some papers that I absolutely love, such as a vintage postcard of a bathing beauty, and another old postcard that I cut down for a more interesting shape. I’ll put my address on one (if found, please return … that sort of thing) and a favourite quote on the other (haven’t decided yet). Also, a little paper tag, and pieces cut from cards or harvested from the kids’ collage box. And a brown paper envelope that is just begging for a tiny precious something to be put inside.
- Speaking of that little brown paper envelope, I decorated it with washi tape bunting, which makes complete sense if you know me and my current obsession with bunting. (For the camper van! For my friend’s camper van! For the new screen door! For my submissions binder! Bunting, bunting, bunting!)
- Heck, I’ve even put a few of my own illustrations in there. And speaking of creaky ol’ camper vans (see above), I’ve put in the card that inspired the colour scheme of our gawdy early-90’s Dodge recently christened as “Harriet Van Chariot.” It’s the ruby/orange/lime green/turquoise pretty in front of the nifty Filofax-issue ruler.
- I didn’t bother trying to make the holes smaller in papers that I cute from scratch. I did reinforce some with washi tape before I used a standard hole punch and a good ol’ pencil to line up the holes.
- There’s even a little clipboard in there, people. With the cutest little bulldog clip! And behind that? A eensy weensy Moleskine notebook for the win! In lime green. Sigh. Swoon. Yes, it’s true, I have these sorts of things lying around just waiting to be put together.
So for all you stationery lovers and book-hack fans, this one is for you. Or, for me, because I’m not letting anyone near this thing. And did I mention that is also works as my wallet? Why yes, yes it does. Boom.
And now … BUNNIES!
After the last post and its comments featuring sex and violence and censorship, I decided it was time for some bunnies. Nobody wants to censor bunnies, right? Well, I guess they might, depending on what they’re getting up to.
I have a commissioned illustration in the works (BUNNIES!), and so I sat down yesterday to do some sketching and research, and seeing as so many of you love to hear about the inner workings of an illustration, let’s get started. (BUNNIES!)
1. Research bunnies. Find pictures of real bunnies. Or if you’re in Vancouver, you could also take some carrots and apples to Jericho and wait for sunset and behold the multiplying multitude of bunnies and sketch from life. (BUNNIES!) Oh, maybe I shouldn’t make reference to bunnies procreating? Whatever. Moving on. I did not go to Jericho and sketch from life because it was raining and it was cold, and, well, Google. I remember going to libraries to photocopy pictures way back when. I had binders and binders full of reference pictures. Sometimes I want to hug the Google.
2. Mess around in your sketchbook. Oh, how I despise showing my rough sketches here, but in the name of honesty, behold:
2. I reworked an old idea, and it bombed. Hello, Giant Zombie Bunny of Doom frolicking cluelessly whilst large, green scaly monster roils up from below. Run, Giant Zombie Bunny of Doom … RUN!
3. Scrap that. Move on. Hello, adorable gender neutral sweetheart bunnies. Watch out for the Giant Zombie of Doom, you cutest things ever.
4. Pick your paper, your medium, your layout. Fail again. Can’t stand it. Hate the grass (What the heck with the bumps, already?), hate the jumpers, hate the paper. I can’t stand that paper. It’s too soft and toothy and it is entirely unforgiving. If you make a line and want to erase it, well too bad, the groove will live on, messing everything up and making you think about Photoshop, which is not at all helpful when the end product is going to be an original.
5. Scrap that.
Jack: “What’s wrong with that one?”
Me: “It’s all wrong.”
Jack: “I like it. It’s way better than the monster rabbit.”
Esmé: “I don’t like their clothes.”
Me: “Me either.”
Hawk: “Can you put my safety goggles over my pirate patch, but leave my hardhat on? And this cape won’t fit over my dinosaur costume. Can you make it bigger?”
6. Ah, that’s better. I really do love my Strathmore Toned Tan paper. So, this one will be the banner, and now I know how to move forward on the custom illustration.
Censorship is so last century.
I had a chat with an irate teacher at a high school the other day. She’s mad because one of my queer characters in The Way Back “got his straight best friend pregnant.” She thinks this is wrong and messy for a couple of reasons, the first being that my teen characters are having sex, but also because I’m messing with her whole notion of who is supposed be having said not-okay sex with whom.
So, on the subject of censorship, let’s all move this party over to Write all the Words! where I did a guest post during Banned Books Month, and have another read. There will be fancy drinks with little paper umbrellas, and pigs in a blanket. Enjoy.
Read whatever you want. Write whatever you want. Have sex with whoever you want. It’s that simple.
When we were in Sayulita recently, I did a workshop with the secundaria students at Costa Verde International School, and part of what talked about was story mapping. I never map a story. Whenever I’ve tried to outline a book or a story, the characters kick my ass and do what they want anyway, and then I get anxious that I’ve betrayed my outline. And while I know that outlines can be flexible, I still get anxious and weird when they don’t work out. And because they never (ever) have worked for me before, I’ve never use them as a tool.
I’ve always been curious about how it works though and–more importantly–if it works. So I’m trying it with one of the projects that I’m working on. It’s a big story, with lots of moving parts, and characters that I love very much and who have been very patient over the last decade while I’ve worked on every other story except the one they’re in.
I’ll let you know how it goes.
It’s December, which is my month to hide from the madness that is the standard holiday season. We’re happily hibernating and staying out of stores and off the roads. We’re making lots of art and listening to every version of every Christmas carol that was ever made, except for the easy listening mush that makes my teeth hurt.
So, artful goodness … look at what Esmé made (see awesome heart above)! It joins our wall of heart art. Wall of heart art, you say? I’ll go take a picture. Hold on, I’ll be right back.
Okay, here you go:
The kids decorated the tree. Most of the ornaments were bunched on one bottom quarter section, so when they were all hung, it’s not surprising that the tree promptly toppled over.
A snowman in the window, with a Santa hats and glitter snow. Oh, the mess that is glitter. Sigh.
The Christmas books are on display! (Not including Esmé’s math book. That isn’t remotely Christmas-y.)
Paper snowflake bunting! Esmé and I are getting really good at paper snowflakes, thanks to a paper snowflake intensive at Auntie Ruth’s house. She has really good scissors, and even sent us home with a brand-new pair. We’re on a paper-cutting roll now.
It’s not all seasonal art happening. Hawk is way into creatures of the deep sea, with a special interest in Angler fish. He asked me to draw one for him this morning. It was ridiculously fun to draw.
More paper snowflakes! So many paper snowflakes!
a mulonkey for Susan Juby
Just a sec.
Okay, I’m back. Thanks, Googleoracle. A mule is the offspring of a male donkey and a female horse. Who knew? Susan Juby. That’s who. She knows these things. She knows.
If you’re so inclined to draw or paint one for her too, send it to her at her website (or to her via twitter: @thejuby) by November 15th, and you could win an ARC for her next book, Republic of Dirt, which is the sequel to The Woefield Poultry Collective, which I loved very, very much.
The Woefield Poulty Collective is called Home to Woefield in the US, so if you’re wondering why there are two books that sound so similar, it’s not a terrible case of plagiarism.
Call it what you want, I loved it. And I can’t wait to read Republic of Dirt, which comes out from HarperCollins in January.
There’s been some discussion on twitter about what to call this
donkey mule. Charlotte Gray’s “Big Ears” was categorically turned down, what with recent events at the CBC (which I am not even going to link to … consult the Googleoracle if you must.) So Susan suggested “Majestic Ears.” But then Charotte redeemed herself entirely by coming up with “Madge Yesteryears,” which happens to be a spectacular name for this mulonkey.
But he needed more of a tilt to his head.
Then a quick crop and white background in Photoshop, and Madge is ready for her admirers.
Edited to add:
Apparently I can’t leave well enough alone. I can’t unknow what I know now about the difference between mules and donkeys, so here’s proper mule for Susan:
owl always read to you
One of our favourite knock-knock jokes goes like this:
Owl always love you.
Once Esmé understood how ‘owl’ is a play on ‘I’ll,’ she ran with it. One of the ones she came up with had the very sweet punchline of “Owl always read to you.”
Which inspired this illustration, which now hangs above one of the bookshelves we keep for library books.
I don’t pull a radio flyer wagon to the library, and I don’t have an apron that cute, and I don’t let Esmé perch atop the 100 books we take out each week, and I don’t make Hawk push it home either. But I do pull a really ugly Rosler, and yes it can carry 100 books. And Esmé does often read on the walk home. And Hawk is usually quite eager to help push.
I experimented with butcher paper for this illustration, and used Micron pens and Prismacolour pencils.
anatomy of an illustration
I love seeing how artists work, so here’s a glimpse into my process for all of you studio snoops and creative-process junkies.
See you later, excavator! is a commissioned illustration, and because the customer wanted the text incorporated onto the image and a finished image “like it’s out of a picture book,” I finished it in Photoshop, which is handy for this post, so that I can show you an illustration from start to polished-for-print finished. A lot of my work is sold as originals, and never gets surgically operated on in Photoshop, so this is a good one for show-and-tell.
Some of the tools I used:
- mechanical pencils
- Rexel Cumberland pencils: 5H, HB, 2B
- my trusty Staedler mars plastic eraser … so much erasing
- Moleskine sketchbooks (small one and big one)
- design vellum (for tracing)
- light table (the ever so useful light table)
- Prismacolor Premier coloured pencils
- Derwent burnisher
- Micron Pigma pens (05 & 08, to be specific)
- Pentel brush pen (decided against that effect … see below)
- Epson scanner, MacBook Pro, Wacom table (WHOOT!), and Photoshop.
- Strathmore Bristol smooth surface artists paper, 400 series
- Scissors, glue stick, coffee & McVities biscuits. Not kidding.
First, research. Thank you, Google images.
Very rough sketches in the little sketchbook.
More sketching and messing about in the big sketchbook. Played with profiles, positioning, googly-eyes, expressions. Cut and paste, erase, erase, erase. Did I mention that I love my erasers? I have a whole jar of them in various sizes and compositions.
Then out comes the vellum so that I can play with the final layout, and try out any changes I might make. For example, the crawler tracks were WAY different in the first sketches. This is when I tried out the ink brush, and decided that I didn’t like it for this illustration.
Here is the completed rough sketch. This is when I test various colours, and get an idea of how the finished image will look.
Then I traced the image onto vellum, and used the light table to lightly sketch the image onto the Bristol.
Then I apply the colour, working from light to dark.
Almost done. This is when I do the final outlining, if there is to be any.
Scanned and opened in Photoshop. Adjusted canvas size, isolated the background, added text.
Saved as a 600 dpi TIFF and emailed to the print shop!