Friday, March 24, 2017

PBJ: Fan Mail, A Perk of the Job

I don't always get fan mail, but when I do, it's a real treat.  Some kids draw excellent pictures, like the one of me doing a presentation, above.  Some write cards or letters.   Sometimes there is clearly a form that the teachers have written on the board, but sometimes the kids just write whatever they want.  Those are the best!  I mean, they're all great.  It's so nice that teachers and students take the time out of their day to thank me, but when a kid can just tell me whatever they want, it's usually pretty fun.

I just did an author visit in Colchester, CT.  About a week later, I got a big, fat envelope in the mail. Inside was a big packet of joy.  I'll share some of my favorites.

Above.  I really like this drawing because the artist captured something that a lot of kids don't, my short hair.  In many drawings like this, they will see me and draw a symbol of a woman, which usually includes long hair.  This artist paid attention to detail.  I also find it interesting that I have mere sticks for legs, but there is detail in the microphone.

Below.  The Flying Ninja.  My publisher does not want a third ninja book, but if they did, don't you think Wink: The Ninja Who Wanted to Fly would be pretty darn cool?  I do!

This note is hilarious to me.  At first I did a "good" job, but apparently "good" was not the right word.  No, no.  It was better than good.  I did a God job!  Oh yeah!  Thank you.

And this one might be my favorite.

The last line reads (I'll translate to adult) You are soooooo cool that I convinced my sister to like you.

That's pretty great, right?  I mean, if there is one thing that I am not, it's cool.
I'm a super dork.  But in this job, I can be a total dweeb and my target audience thinks
I'm so cool that they are urging their family members to also think I am cool.

Big thanks to Colchester Elementary School!  You guys rock!  And I loved the fan mail.

Thanks for stopping by.  I just finished revisions on my latest picture book project and it's going back out to editors next week.  Fingers crossed for a book deal!

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

March Storm

Uuuuuuh yup.  We got hammered.  They said we were going to get hammered, and they were right.

This was the kind of storm that would have been welcome in January.  It's oh-so-pretty.  And, in general, I don't really mind shoveling that much.  I kinda like being outside in the winter.  It's brisk.  And shoveling is a good arm workout.

But in March ... not loving it as much.
Around 18" of snow on March 14th, 2017

This was the kind of storm where I had to shovel out the end of my driveway three times.
The first time was yesterday around 2 pm, after a majority of snow.  The plow had come by once, but it would definitely be back.  Magoo, Mike, and I all shoveled.

The second time was yesterday closer to 6:00.  We'd eaten dinner (fortunately the power stayed on and the chili was hot.) The plow had indeed come back, so this snow was heavy and packed.  Magoo and I shoveled.

The third time was this morning around 7:30am.  There wasn't a large amount of snow blocking the driveway, but it had frozen solid overnight.  I had to get the metal shovel out to break it up and then toss icy boulders out of the way.  UNPLEASANT!  I did it solo.

But the power stayed on.  We were able to stay in.  And now the sun is out.

I covered my daffodils.  So, hopefully, when this passes, I will still be able to enjoy some pops of yellow and then get on with Spring.

In other news:
Mad Science in the basement
Magoo and Mike went to a robotics workshop and came home with a crate full of goodies for tinkering with.   It's time for mad science!  Perhaps someday, he will invent a robot that will shovel the end of the driveway for me.  :)

Thanks for stopping in.
I hope you are safe and warm wherever you are! 

Friday, March 3, 2017

PBJ: Author Visits


Today, I am spending some time preparing for an author visit on Monday.  I thought I'd share what a J. C. Phillipps author visit is like.

An author visit is when an author comes to a school.  They may talk to the entire school or they may work with one grade.  It's a very fluid, flexible process that depends on what the author is most comfortable doing and what the school wants to get out of the visit.

Most of the time, I'll do one or two large group presentations that last about an hour, and then spend the rest of my day doing art or writing workshops with individual classrooms.  Those last 35-45 minutes each.  Add in lunch and some bathroom breaks and possibly some time to sign books, if the school has been kind enough to do a book sale, and that's my day.

When I started out with my first book and my first presentation, things were pretty simple.  I did a large group presentation on Wink: The Ninja Who Wanted to Be Noticed and talked about how the idea for the book grew into an actual book.  It chronicled my experience.  Then I'd jump into classroom and taught students to make Wink collages. 

But, as I made more books and I visited more schools, my menu of presentations and workshops has increased.  I now offer about eight different large group presentations, four art workshops, and several writing workshops.  These days, I find out what the school wants me to focus on and the grades I'll be with, and I cater an activity just for them.

School visits are great because I really enjoy spending time with kids and teaching them.  But they can be challenging too. There can be technical difficulties, long distances in traffic, and scheduling nightmares.  And sometimes, I'm just plain exhausted by the end of the day.

But, it's a part of the job and I get paid.  Cha-ching!  And it's an excellent way for me to connect my target readership.

So that's what I'm doing today.

Thanks so much for stopping in!  Have a great weekend!

Monday, February 20, 2017

The Birds and the Bees Series

I have a show coming up in March and the theme is fás - which is a Gaelic word for green, or grow.  So everything in the show is either supposed to be green in color or have a nature/plant aspect to it.
I created this series of small painting for this show.

Birds and Bees: Bee        2017    j.c. phillipps

Birds and Bees: Blue Bird           2017            j. c. phillipps

Birds and Bees: Flying Bee       2017    j. c. phillipps

Birds and Bees: Red Bird              2017              j. c. phillipps

They are smaller pieces.  I've found that when we do shows at restaurants, pieces under $100 will sell.  The closer to $50 you get, the more likely you are to have a sale.   So I do my big paintings for myself and for galleries and other shows, but smaller shows like this get a different type of piece.

I'm very pleased with how they turned out.  They're very open.  Very Spring.  I hope someone sitting down and enjoying a sandwich will look up and say, "Yes.  I will buy some art today."

I'll let you know.

In other news: Magoo and I got all gussied up to see The Book of Mormon on Friday night.  Loved it!
I'm so glad my son enjoys the theater as much as I do.

Thanks for stopping in.  Have a great week!


Tuesday, February 14, 2017


It snowed.
The new normal seems to be a brown December and January and then we get slammed in February.
The photo above is from Thursday.  I think we got about 15 inches.  It snowed pretty much all day, so we all stayed in and did our thing and enjoyed watching the snow fall outside.

Then, around 3:30, it let up. Between two neighbors with snow blowers and a fourteen-year-old boy, the shoveling was not too bad.

Friday was a regular school day - although it probably should have been a delay.  Around 10 am I drove to Whole Foods, which is about a mile away from my house on a well traveled street, and it was white.  No pavement to be seen.  And slushy.

There was little traffic and everyone was driving slow, but I couldn't believe how bad the roads were.  And I'm not driving around in a truck with snow tires, either.  It was slick.  But I needed hummus, so I soldiered on.

On Sunday, we had another day of snow.  The accumulation was not as much - I think we got 8 inches, but it meant Magoo's swim championship was postponed.  Still, he found time to get a little exercise.  He and his father went outside to make a snow man.  The branches made it look like it's dabbing.

It was supposed to be a very busy weekend.  I had planned to attend the Defend Planned Parenthood Rally on Saturday as well as go to an art show, then Sunday we had the swim meet.  But the weather screwed with most of it, so the husband and I only made it to the art show.

So it turned out to be a rather restful weekend.  And now it's very pretty and wintery.

Thanks for stopping in!

Friday, February 10, 2017

PBJ: Dummy Books

Hello.  I hope everyone is well this bright snowy morning.  We got creamed yesterday with about a foot of snow, so I have bright, white windows next to me as I type.

This week I put together a dummy book for the project I'm working on with my critique group.   We'll call it Project: Fun! I've been working on it for a little while now.  It has a very simple text and a majority of the story is told through illustrations, so a solid dummy book is a must.

If you don't know, a dummy book is basically an outline of the book as I see it.  The book is broken up into the correct number of pages, the manuscript is layed out as I imagine it, and there are sketches.  When I started with Wink, the dummy book was an actual physical book that I had made a Staples.  Now, it's a pdf.  (I like that, because it saves time and money.)

 I draw all the pictures by hand, with a pencil, and then scan them into my computer.  Then I add the text and assemble the pages.  Usually I do a 2-page spread for each pfd page, but here you can see 4 book pages lumped together.

See, just pencil sketches.  Nothing fancy.  But they still have to be neat.  Editors need to be able to tell what is going on.

An illustrator will usually do 3 - 4 pieces of finished art, so editors can really see what their intentions are.  You don't want to do more than that, because A.) It work that you're not being paid for yet, and B.) Editors might want to change things - like the trim size or the colors or cut a character.

Here I've inserted a couple of pieces of full-color finished art into the dummy.

I would love to say I have the story and the words all worked out before I get to the sketching process, but more often than not, the pictures and the words grow together and change together.  As a result, I could fill a small museum with all the of sketches, prep-work, and test art I have done for my published books and my unpublished projects.  Oh my word!

It's great being an author-illustrator because I think it really helps an editor to see the whole story, but having to add the visuals also adds a very timely layer to the work.  Fun.  But timely.

So that's what I was doing this week.

Thanks so much for stopping in!
Have a great weekend.

Friday, February 3, 2017

PBJ: Setting up a Skype Visit

I'm going to be honest with you.  I hate setting up Skype visits.

I don't hate the visits.  I like talking with the kids over my computer.  It's very Jetsons.  But I hate the amount of time that goes into the back-and-forth emails of setting one up.

A quick correspondence is about six emails.  But sometimes there are hassles, or dates need to be moved around, or confusion, and then you can get up to fourteen emails.  Each email takes a few minutes to compose.  I have to make sure to check two calendars, that takes a minute or two.  I proof read my response for accuracy and for errors (I'm writing to teachers, after all.) All the little minutes adds up.  It's tedious.  And not fun.

Normally, throughout the year, I get a request here and request there.  No big whoop.  But with World Read Aloud Day coming up (which I have long since been booked for) I've been getting about 8-12 requests a week!  It's nice to feel the love, but this is what interns are for.

This is how I keep track of everything.  It's my super sophisticated system.  (Har, har.)  I write the visit up on a post-it with the date, time, and teacher info.  Then I mark the Skype on my wall calendar and highlight the day.  Then I write it on two other flat calendars.  A lot of coordination goes into making sure I am where I need to be - even if it's on my computer in my studio.

That's what I've been doing today.  I'm tired.  I'm going to have an afternoon pick-me-up cocoa.

Thanks for stopping in and enduring my whiny author post.
Have a great weekend!