Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Unread - Interview with Marci Dunn

Marci Dunn is a writer in the heart of the Bluegrass State. She's a single mom to an amazing nine year old artist. (His work is featured as her Twitter background.) She loves to travel. Her favorite city is New Orleans for its historical beauty. Her favorite moment (outside anything to do with her son) was sitting at Glacier Point, in Yosemite, looking out at Half Dome where she realized how incredibly small we really are and how beautiful the world we live in is. I met Marci on Twitter, where we tend to hang out just a little too much I dare say. I wanted to know more about her writing so I asked her to be this month's victim for the Unread.

When did you start writing and why in the world would you want to do such a thing?

I started seriously putting words on paper about four years ago and I don’t know why I didn’t do it sooner. It is so freeing to get the stories out of my head and stored somewhere else. You might say I have an over-active imagination.

How do you make the time to write? Don’t you have other things to do?

I write whenever I have a spare second: my son’s tutoring lessons, football practice, soccer practice, basketball practice…you get the picture. Right now I get some of my best stuff done at night after he goes to bed.

Since completing my first NaNoWriMo last November, I’ve been training myself to write at home, butt firmly planed in chair. In the past I’ve had to leave my house to write, too many distractions at home. But if NaNo taught me anything it was that I can write at home. I can block out distractions or at least learn to move through them.

What sorts of stories do you write?

I write YA Fantasy. I’ve been making up stories in my head ever since I first saw PETER PAN as a child. I love creating new worlds totally different than the normal hum drum one I live in. I guess you could say I love the escapism… it is very freeing.

Do you do much submitting?

I’ve not submitted anything yet. I hope to finish revisions on my current WIP by summer so that I can begin the submitting process. The thought of writing a query letter makes me break out in hives. Summarizing 75K words on one page is very overwhelming to me.

There’s little glory for unpublished writers. What keeps you going?

I was talking with friend about this just last night. Yes there may be little glory for most, but if I could spend the rest of my life creating my art and possibly making others happy by sharing it with them then that is all the glory I need. I make very little money now so there is big deal there.

What do you enjoy most about writing?

It is mine and mine alone. I love the fact that I create something that was not there before. I love watching my characters come to life. They seem so real to me... they are real to me. I can remember, I cried when I finished my WIP. It was as if I took the journey with them. I shared their joy, their sadness, their exhaustion. I was so happy to see them to the end of their journey.

What are your writing goals and what have you done to further them?

My first “big girl goal” was to finish my current WIP, and I have done that. I now am suffering through revisions. They are nowhere near as fun as the initial writing process, but necessary. I’ve got to get a thicker skin to handle the criticism needed to make my story better. I’m getting better… I realize it is all part of the process.

Do you have any favorite writing websites?

I would have to say Twitter is my favorite. I say this because through Twitter I am introduced to so much knowledge. I have learned so much in the last nine months about the publishing industry. There are so many helpful people.

Care to tell us a bit about what you’re working on now?

My current project is a four part YA Fantasy called the CISTINE MEDALLION. The first book is THE GREAT PROPHECY. It is a total adventure story set in my little world of Armor. Three teens run for their lives and attempt to answer the age old question of destiny vs. choice.

How far would you go to get your book published?

I’m not sure how to answer this. I know being a writer is what I’m meant to do…nothing else has ever felt this right.

(Marci! You're just supposed to say you'll eat raw fish guts or would jump off a diving board into a pool of cheese whiz or something like that. ;-)

And here’s what I really want to know, if you could live in any book which one would it be and why?

Oh I’m going to get mushy here… Pride & Prejudice. I would so be Elizabeth Bennet in a heartbeat.

You can connect with Marci on Twitter where she's MRDunn12. She also has a blog she shows little love to at But hey, writing has to come first!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Picture Perfection

It occurred to me the other night as I opened up Otto Grows Down, illustrated by Scott Magoon and written by Michael Sussman, to read it for the hundredth time or so, that the opening illustration is perfect. The first illustration is on the endpapers so the instant you open the book, there is baby Anna, bigger than life-size, mouth wide open, wailing.

When that picture stares you in the face, you can feel it. The way Otto feels about his baby sister. She's loud and annoying and taking over everything. It sets up the book perfectly. It gets you ready to symphathize with Otto and the problem of his baby sister being born. It's picture perfection.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

It's Been a While

Oh my goodness, it's been a while since I blogged. So what have I been up to?

I got my submission in for the SCBWI Work-in-Progress grant. It took me a while to get my synopsis to a point where I was happy with it, but I'm glad I finally got it done. Of course, I ran out of ink and had to make the hour-and-a-half trip to go get some and I saved mailing it off until the last minute, but it got there on time and that's what matters.

I've been planning projects and ordering books for the Summer Reading Program at the library. The theme this year is Make A Splash! Read! so there are all sorts of fun water activities we can do. I really want to add in some clean water education as our town is a lake town with a huge, popular lake and lots of rivers. I also want to make little terrariums. I LOVED doing that when I was a kid. Lots to figure out still. Tomorrow I get to go to the Summer Reading Program training they have for librarians every year so I'm sure I'll come back with more great ideas.

Mud! I've been doing a lot with mud. Since the snow is melting off I've been taking my little one to squish around in the mud and float things down the streams of melting snow. It's also the time for road work. We have to drag the dirt road with this big metal beam to cut down the center and smooth out the ruts. It kicks up a lot of rocks. Someones gotta move them off the road.

I wrote up some activities for the Raven Tree Press website to go along with Bedtime Monster. My friend Terry Hunt helped me--she has great ideas! I can't wait to see them online.

I've even managed to write up a picture book I've been thinking about for-ever. I hate to ignore ideas like that, but I was trying to only work on my YA. I will have to get right back on it!

Of course, I've been doing lots of other boring stuff you don't want to hear about. I haven't forgotten about my blog. Sometimes it just has to come after everything else.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Illustrator of the Month -- Stephanie Ruble

Stephanie Ruble (a.k.a. sruble) has been drawing and painting ever since she could hold a crayon. She's been making up stories since she learned how to talk! Now that she's a grownup she's writing a YA novel and making art for her portfolio.

I love Stephanie's artwork. It's so fun. Really, it's a perfect fit for children's books. I would love to see her illustrations brought together in a book I could read to my little ones (perhaps the skateboard riding chicken--that's got kid appeal!) So, I asked Stephanie if she'd like to frolic over and be my featured Illustrator of the Month, and I'm so happy to have her because I have questions!

Stephanie, when did you decide you wanted to become an illustrator?

I’ve always wanted to be an artist. In first grade, I used to love drawing Snoopy. In third or fourth grade, we saw a film about an artist creating a picture book, which is when I decided I wanted to be a picture book artist. I didn’t find out until many, many years later that picture book artists were called illustrators. So, it was only within the last ten years or so that I decided I wanted to be an illustrator … even if I had wanted to be one since grade school.

Unfortunately, I don’t remember the title of the book in the film, but it was about the ocean. After seeing the film, I made a picture and wrote a poem, both titled, “The Fish with a Smile like a Crocodile.” I was so proud of that picture! Then my teacher stapled the poem on top of my painting, FOUR TIMES! She covered up my art and poked holes into it! (Yes, I am still upset about it. I took the staples out recently so I could scan the painting and was lucky the painting didn’t rip.)

What types of books do you hope to illustrate?

I hope to illustrate picture books (written by me or by someone else) and novels. I have a completed picture book dummy I’m sending out now. I’m working on another dummy and black and white images for my portfolio.

Do you feel you have found your illustration style, or is it still developing?

I have a very strong flat color style in my portfolio that I keep playing with so it doesn’t get static. I also have a more painterly style that’s always developing. No matter what style I use, it still looks like my art, because the drawing underneath starts the same way.

Do you have a favorite subject to draw?

Animals are my favorite subjects now. Cows were in the top spot for many years, but were recently replaced by chickens. Elephants are vying for the top spot in the future.

In high school and college, my favorite subject was people. I created lots of abstract figural paintings, mostly on large canvases. Sometimes I painted on a smaller scale or made drawings.

Have you had any artistic training?

Yes. I have a BFA in painting from Mankato State (a.k.a. MN State University, Mankato). I loved art school! I miss being able to paint on huge canvases; I just don’t have the space anymore.

Do you specialize in any one medium?

The artwork in my portfolio is digital. I still love to paint in acrylics and I do that as often as I can. Sometimes I play with watercolor, colored pencil, ink, and mixed media too.

Are there any illustrators whose work inspires you?

There are way too many to list! Here are some old favorites and some new ones too: Mark Teague, Lois Lenski, Ruth Carrol, Clare Turlay Newberry, Peter McCarty, Arthur Howard, Brian Selznick, Kazu Kibuishi, Raina Telgemeier, Lynn Johnston … and many, many more!

Do you write you stories for your illustrations as well?

I write stories for some of my illustrations, but my writing voice tends to be older. I’m writing a YA zombie novel now and have several other ideas to choose from for my next project.

How are you getting your work out there right now?

Postcards, my website, online portfolio sites, CBIG - my local illustrator’s group , conference critiques and portfolio shows, Watercolor Wednesdays , Illustration Friday, and anything else I can think of.

Do you belong to SCBWI? If so, how has being a member helped you?

Yes. SCBWI has helped me in lots of ways. The most helpful part of SCBWI for me so far has been going to conferences. I’ve learned about the business and craft of children’s books (including that picture book artists are illustrators) and had critiques that have helped me get to the next level with my art and writing.

If you could live in any book, which one would it be?

The first book that came to my mind was Harry Potter, but I’d only want to live there if I could be magical. It wouldn’t be any fun if I were a muggle.

Stephanie posts new art regularly on her blog, usually before it goes into her online portfolios. On her blog she also posts art that she did just for fun. You can learn more about her projects and see more of her art by visiting her website. you should definitely check out Sheila the Zombie Cheerleader. She's super fun!
You can also find Stephanie on Twitter.