Thursday, April 5, 2018

The Penny Post

I do not want to write this post. I really really do not want to write this post.

Every time I've thought about writing this post, I'm hit with the pain of the puppy-sized hole in my heart. But here I am, and this needs to be done, and I know I'll feel better once these words have left me.

At the beginning of the year, we had to say goodbye to our beloved Penny. With her diagnosis of mitral valve disease in early 2017, we knew it was coming sooner than later. Her heart was just too big--both literally and figuratively. I'm grateful to say that she had a really wonderful final year and we enjoyed every moment of our time with her--from her last holidays and Halloween dress-up to our final family snuggles. She was wagging her tail and giving us kisses until the very end.


If you've been around my blog over the years, then you know how much my fuzzy family members mean to me. Penny was my constant companion--always by my side while I typed and illustrated late into the night, and making me laugh with her talent for burping. (I don't think a dog has ever existed that burped as much as Penny!) I could easily fill a book with memories of how wonderful she was, and how many people loved her, and what she meant to us. But instead I'll go with the old 'a picture is worth a thousand words' sentiment and let some of my favorite photos do the talking for me.

The day she came to live with us.



 
 
That time she got a bone stuck in her fur.
 
That time she got stuck trying to follow us upstairs.
 
That time we stuck her in a pillow.

 

Penny's best dog friend, Bailey. He still doesn't understand that she's gone.
 
 
 

Even if we'd had fifty years with her, I'm sure it still would have seemed far too short. I'm honored we got to call Penny our best friend and couldn't be more grateful for our time together. No dog will ever be quite like her, and I hope you enjoyed reading about her over the years. I will always love and miss my sweet Penny-pup.


Monday, March 26, 2018

The Happy New Year Blog Post

Happy (much-belated) New Year! <insert party horn noises>

I realize today is March 26. The tulip buds are poking out of the ground; Ohioans are alternating between snow boots and summer shorts on a daily basis; and we're nowhere near the "new year" anymore. But that's okay--I've never been a first-one-out-of-the-gate sort of person. Better late than never, right?

So now that we're here, what did The Very Busy Kathryn do in 2017?
 
I took a course through the Children's Book Academy. Then I took more classes through Storyteller Academy. I went to conferences, volunteered a ton with SCBWI, and hid in a cabin for several days to write by myself. Plus day-job. Critique-swapping with buddies. Family-togetherness. Spine-stupidness. Various traveling. Ate way more fast food than I should have. Kept stubbornly playing Pokemon Go. (I WILL catch them all!) 

I did so much that I honestly can't remember everything I did. My "2017 Summary of Art" looks like this:

  
I'm fairly proud of that mess.
 
2018 hasn't slowed a bit. So far I've been to Disney World, taken another Storyteller Academy class, passed my 11-year writing anniversary, and (mostly) completed an upstairs renovation of my house and Life Changing Magic of Tidying-Up clean-out.

I'm also trying to keep better track of my life with a planner. (I haven't used one since high school--eek!) Ignoring the fact that I didn't open it until February when writing pal Kristy Boyce forced me to, it has helped me feel more organized. It has also made me realize that, um, I really do do a lot.

Kristy helped me pretty it up with unicorns, too!

All my goals for 2018 can be summed up in two mottos: "Keep Moving Forward" and "Just Keep Swimming." (And yes, those are both Disney quotes.)

On the surface they may seem the same, but I look at them in different ways. To me, "Keep Moving Forward" pertains to the craft and doing of things--the aim to make better art and better stories and not get bogged down by everything else. "Just Keep Swimming" is more psychological--the will to continue working and submitting hour after hour, year after year, with the blind hope that everything will come together someday.

I'm also becoming a huge fan of the "Better Late Than Never" concept. It might just become my third motto.

What's next on the horizon? By now, I'll bet you have a pretty good guess:

More writing.

More art.

More classes.

Repeat.

Keep Moving Forward.

Just Keep Swimming.

Just Keep Swimming, Swimming, Swimming...

Note: Christmas thank yous should be going out in April. You already know my thoughts on that. ;)

Thursday, February 1, 2018

SCBWI Meeting January 2018


It's 2018, which means it's time for a new year of SCBWI meetings!

A little background for this post: as you may have read in my "About Me" section of this blog, I'm the Illustrator Coordinator for the Central and Southern Ohio Chapter of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (or SCBWI for short). I’ve been involved with the organization since 2008 (has it seriously been ten years already?!) and I love helping to plan events and projects for our members. A few years ago, I started posting summaries of the monthly meetings on my blog for any local folk who missed attending, as well as for my readers spread far and wide who are interested in children's literature topics. I hope you will enjoy reading my SCBWI posts!

The January meeting started with an overview of chapter information. The Central/Southern Ohio chapter covers a large portion of Ohio including Columbus, Cincinnati, and Dayton. To help better serve this big region, Jody Casella fills the roll of our Regional Advisor in Columbus (which is where I am, too), and Andrea Pelleschi is the Assistant Regional Advisor down in Cincinnati. Unless otherwise noted, the monthly meeting in Columbus is held on the fourth Wednesday of the month at 7:00 pm at the Upper Arlington Library, and the monthly meeting in Cincinnati is held on the 4th Monday of the month at 7:00 pm at the Sharonville Library.

Information is frequently updated and shared via the following sites and social media platforms:

Email: ohiocensouth@scbwi.org
Website: http://ohiocensouth.scbwi.org/
Twitter: @CSOhioSCBWI
Facebook: Central Southern Ohio SCBWI
Facebook Illustrator Group: Cen/South Ohio SCBWI Illustrators
(must be a chapter member to join the closed FB illustrator group)
Listserv: coscbwi@yahoogroups.com
 
Once all these details were shared with the group, Jody led everyone in a goal setting exercise from The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron. The exercise involved us imagining where we would like to be in our creative lives in five years. Then we worked backwards with stepping-stone tasks to the present, ultimately landing on what we could do over the next week to work towards those big goals.  
 
After the long-term goal exercise, Social Media Coordinator Kristy Boyce talked about a fun new game we're encouraging members to play this year: Query Bingo! Bingo sheets were passed out where the boxes are filled with common responses that writers receive from agents and editors during the query process. (Things like, "This isn't a good fit," and "The voice didn't resonate with me." There's even a square for "No response.") Querying a project can be tough on even the most resilient writers and illustrators, so the purpose of the game is to still have fun in the face of rejections and encourage everyone to keep submitting. If you'd like a bingo sheet, just ask at any of the meetings in Columbus--we'll have some on hand to keep passing out throughout the year, and members who fill out their sheet will be put in a drawing for something good at the end of the year party in November. :)
 
Lastly, members broke into smaller groups for peer critiques. It was a great opportunity to get feedback on query letters and manuscript pages, as well as meet new members and catch up with old friends!
 
This is shaping up to be a great year already! Tons of exciting plans are in the works, so keep your eye on that website for more information. I hope to see you at a meeting or event soon!
 

Friday, November 24, 2017

The Thankful Post

I always love Thanksgiving. During the October through December whirlwind of holidays, Thanksgiving is the time to pause and count your many blessings. I have a lot to be grateful for this year:

My family--both near and far--who always love me, support me, and make sure I have a full tummy.

My friends. Some of them I see weekly, and some I've never even met in person, but they are all my kindred spirits.

The kidlit community. I may not be published yet, but I've met so many wonderful people this year who have been a blessing on my writing journey.

My health. Though my spine has been up and down this year, I've still gratefully avoided surgery.

My hubby, who always makes me laugh (even when I don't want to), and reminds me of the importance of pushing the pause button--and getting a full night of sleep from time to time.

I'm also extra grateful for one more thing this year:


If you've been following my blog over the years, you'll know I have an annual tradition of dressing up my dog, Penny, in a silly costume for Halloween.  You also may have noticed that I did not make my usual Halloween post this year.

Penny was diagnosed with mitral valve disease this past January, with a prognosis of 6 months to 2 years. I didn't handle Halloween well, knowing it could be our last one with her. (I may have made hubby answer the door while I cried for the first fifteen minutes of trick-or-treaters.) She'd had a dental procedure just the day before, and the day after Halloween we rushed her back to the doggy hospital with anesthesia complications. It was touch and go, but thankfully she pulled through and is now back to her happy self a few weeks later.

We know her poor heart will give out someday, but I'm grateful for every day we get to spend with her. Penny has brought so much joy to our lives, whether she's Froggy Penny, or impersonating my favorite cartoon pony as this year's "Penny Sparkle," or just being her normal snuggly, burping, kissy self.

To end on a happier note, here's an outtake of Penny in the first version of her My Little Pony costume. It's almost as good as her annoyed expressions during the photo shoot as Hula Penny in 2012.

Penny says, "For the love of kibble, GET THIS OFF MY HEAD!"

From my little corner of the internet to yours, I wish you a wonderful Thanksgiving! Hold your friends and family close, and enjoy this season of gratitude. :)

Sunday, October 29, 2017

SCBWI Meetings (Multi-Month Edition!)



In light of the craziness of the past few months, it’s time for a multi-month SCBWI meeting summary extravaganza!

AUGUST:

The August SCBWI meeting in Columbus featured MG & YA author Liz Coley.  Liz spoke on the topic of “Hybrid Publishing.”  As an author who has experience with both traditional and self-publishing, Liz had a lot of great advice to share with the group.  She explained that each type of publishing has its pros and cons, including:

Cons
-Traditional publishers are harder to get into (often requiring an agent), and take longer to publish work.  Authors also earn royalties, ultimately sharing the book’s profits with the publishing house, their agent etc.  

-Self-publishing often requires a significant financial investment up front, including design, inventory, and advertising costs.  It can also be hard to find an audience with a lot of competition in the market.

Pros
-Traditional publishers have access to reviewers, book stores, foreign sales, media rights, etc., which often means greater distribution and sales of a book.  So even though the author gets a “piece of the pie,” the pie is usually bigger overall.

-With no middlemen involved, self-published authors get to enjoy their entire pie.  They also get to control all aspects of their project (cover, release date, content, etc.), which is great for people who like that level of control.

SEPTEMBER:

The September SCBWI meeting featured YA author Natalie Richards.  Natalie talked about the art of pacing and why it’s so important in a story.  She described stories as a road trip: the plot is the road, the pacing is the car, and the characters are the people in the car.  Just as a car can go fast or slow, so can the pacing in a book.  It’s good to have a mix of “savoring” (slower parts) and “action” (faster parts), but too much of one or the other can make the plot drag on or zip by much too quickly.  Natalie gave tips on how to speed up and slow down pacing including:

Slow Down
-Add descriptions/atmosphere, character introspections, and quiet moments for the characters (and reader) to “catch their breath”
-Cut back on dialogue

Speed Up
-Shorten sentences/paragraphs, add more dialogue, and choose “power words” (active verbs and strong adjectives)
-Be mindful of the white space on a page.  More white space = quicker reading, which is great for suspenseful, page turning moments in the story.

OCTOBER:
 
The October SCBWI meeting featured illustrator Christina Wald.  Christina has been illustrating for twenty years and discussed the many roads that artists can take throughout their careers.  In addition to children’s book illustrating, Christina’s career has included work for pop-up books, toy concepts and packaging, tabletop gaming cards and books (including Lord of the Rings and Star Wars), and magazines.  She offered great advice to artists looking to break into the business including:

-Have a strong online presence.  You never know who will see your work and what will lead to a new project.

-Show the type of work that you want to do and DON’T post things that you don’t enjoy.  It’s good to be well-rounded, but if you hate drawing bicycles, then it’s better to leave them out of your portfolio.  (Otherwise you might attract a client who wants you to draw fifty of them!) 

-Remember to include keywords on your social media posts so your art will pop up when people search for that subject matter.

-Be open-minded about opportunities that come your way.  You never know what doors might open if you give something a try!

OTHER FUN!

In addition to hosting these three great speakers, Central/Southern Ohio SCBWI also held the 2018 Notecard Contest this fall.  (Which has kept yours truly quite busy!)  This year’s theme was “Classic Children’s Books” and the winners were chosen by a guest judge in the publishing industry.  The five winning pieces (seen below) are available for purchase in a one-of-a-kind notecard set at https://ohiocensouth.scbwi.org/.


All contest participants were also invited to display their illustrations in a gallery at the Upper Arlington Library.  The gallery is currently up and will be available for viewing through the end of November.  If you’re in the Columbus area, be sure to stop by the library and see everyone’s talented work!

I think that’s everything for Central/Southern Ohio SCBWI happenings!  If you want to learn more about SCBWI, please visit the website at https://ohiocensouth.scbwi.org/.  I hope to see you at the end of the year celebration (and last meeting of 2017) on November 29!

Note: For more information about our guest speakers and their books, visit:
Natalie Richards- http://nataliedrichards.com/

Monday, September 25, 2017

Tornado Wrangling 2017

Oh man, I am behind on blog posts!  Remember this post back in 2014 about tornado wrangling?  Yeah, that's becoming an annual thing.  In fact, this year might have been even crazier than the aforementioned Storm of 2014.  (And that one was a doozy!)

But have no fear!  The forecast is calling for clearer skies soon, and then I can catch up on my AWOL posts <cough--August SCBWI summary--cough> AND share all about the exciting stuff that's been keeping me busy. 

Now excuse me; gotta grab my lasso and tame some more twisters!  Yee-haw!    


Monday, July 31, 2017

SCBWI Meeting July 2017


The July SCBWI meeting in Columbus featured Kathryn Powers, Illustrator Coordinator for Cen/South Ohio SCBWI.  (That's me!)  Well, it was supposed to.  Then things went kerplooey.

The plan was to do a Photoshop demonstration similar to my "Photoshop 101 Workshop" from 2016, including tips and tricks for how to spiff up author/illustrator photos for websites.  I brought all my tech equipment for attendees to test out.  I doctored celebrity photos to use as my guinea pigs, including giving poor Chris Hemsworth a face full of  greasy pimples.  The room was full of eager SCBWI members...

But technology failed us.  As in, none of the meeting room's A/V stuff was working, and therefore no one could see what I had planned to demonstrate and share on my equipment.

Alas.

Alack.

#@($&*

This was actually a perfect example of the biggest downfall of digital art: when technology goes wrong, you're sunk.  (Think of it as if a traditional painter suddenly had every tube of paint they own dry up.  Yeah.  They are not going to be a happy camper.)  Tech issues do happen from time to time for digital artists.  I've had some lovely experiences with my computer screen dying before a deadline; Photoshop crashing in the middle of illustrations; and power outages that have wiped out my work.  But those instances are few and far between.  Overall, I love the digital medium.  This was just an unlucky night for all of us.

The meeting was also a perfect example of why you should always have a backup plan.  (Who is going to be looking into buying their own mini-projector?  Me!)

Membership Coordinator, Kristy Boyce, helped me turn our lemon-situation into lemonade.  (Thank you again, Kristy!)  We talked about all the exciting events happening in our chapter and nearby regions, like our September workshop with agent Danielle Chiotti (https://ohiocensouth.scbwi.org/); had a Q&A for the 2017 Notecard Contest (which is due August 30--instructions are also on the website); and did a short picture book exercise for members who wanted to stay.  But mostly, we all had fun and tried to laugh at our misfortune.  That really is the best thing about kidlit folk: even when things go wrong, we still have a great time.  :)

Come rain or shine, we have the best time!

We're doing our best to reschedule the presentation, so hopefully we can try again before too long!  (And for anyone reading this who attended the meeting, thank YOU for being so understanding!)

If you want to learn more about COSCBWI, be sure to visit the group website at https://ohiocensouth.scbwi.org/.  I hope to see you at the next meeting!

Note: Duck doodle is by me, Kathryn Powers.