Wednesday, January 28, 2015



Ack! I’m It!

I’ve been tagged for this mini-interview by Rodolfo Montalvo.

I met Rodolfo for the first time at the SCBWI-LA Summer Conference a few years ago – I’d been hearing about this talented illustrator, and there was all this chatter . . . so I was curious – Who is this guy? He must be really full of himself. (Kidding) Soon after meeting him, we joined up in an illustrating critique group, so I got to know him pretty well over the weeks of Google Hangouts. Of course, he’s the most laidback guy you’ll ever meet. During our meetings, I got to see lots of his sketches and artwork for THE AMAZING WILMER DOOLEY (the sequel to THE CONTAGIOUS COLORS OF MUMPLY MIDDLE SCHOOL, which he also illustrated).

It’s fun seeing his career progress and cheering him along. It just keeps getting better and better! His first picture book, DEAR DRAGON, (written by Josh Funk), will be published Viking in 2016.

You can see his blog tag post here.

And now, to answer the questions.

Drum roll, please….


What am I working on now?

I can’t go into too many specifics here, so I will merely allude to things. 

Today, I updated my online portfolio, if you want to know what I'm working on NOW now. ;)

I recently signed with my agent, Lara Perkins at Andrea Brown Literary Agency, and have been hard at work preparing book dummies for submission to editors. It is a LONG process.

Besides things I can’t get too specific about (as I mentioned above), I have two new projects I’m developing, as well as two book dummies that need revisions. I’ve also got drafts of a YA and a MG novel that are burning holes in my hard drive.

Right now, the key is to focus on revising and making my work stronger, rather than getting lured away by “The Shiny New Idea.” One of the benefits of having an agent  that I didn’t anticipate is that she can help me figure out which projects to focus on and in which order. After all, there’s something to be said for following one’s muse, but it’s certainly nice to have an external guiding voice.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I developed my current kidlit illustration style over the course of about 5 years, though it’s still a work in progress. ;)

I’d estimate that 90% of the physical labor is done using Photoshop. But that doesn’t mean anything is automated and easy to produce. Even though everything after the pencil sketch is done on the computer, I’m still hand drawing almost every line, and hand painting almost every splash of color. I use the computer because it gives me the ability to undo mistakes, and still capture that freedom of a quickly drawn line (even if it takes me 50 times to get the line to look just right).

All told, a full color double page spread takes me about 30 hours of solid work to complete.

Why do I write what I do?

For picture books, I write what makes me laugh, but always try to instill a little bit of myself or someone I know into the main character.

For stories for older children, I start to write about issues that troubled me at that age – they are the seed at the core of the story, and the story itself is very different from anything I have experienced. It’s a fun challenge to come up with a fresh story that can involve some of the somewhat pedestrian challenges I faced. After I start with that seed, I definitely adjust as needed to service the story, and occasionally, that seed is entirely cut out of the book. But by then, I’m invested in telling a good story, so I don’t mind at all. I need to start somewhere, and the best place to start for me is from my own experience.

I think as I gain more experience writing, I might be able to find a different starting-off point, but I want to be more confident that I can pull it off when I do.



And with that, I will tag my good buddy, Ken Min.

I met Ken Min for the first time at an SCBWI-LA Summer Conference. He was wearing a fake plastic moustache strapped over his upper lip, and I was convinced he had had surgery or a cleft lip or something and that was his cool way of covering it up. Every time I saw him after that, I made sure to make moustache references. When his illustrations for HOT, HOT ROTI FOR DADA-JI won the Picture Book Honor Award for Literature from the Asian Pacific American Librarians Association (APALA), I was down in Anaheim when he gave his acceptance speech and he played it totally cool as a cucumber. His style is so unique and different from my own. It’s fun to try and stretch my mind around his illustrating methodology.

Tag, you’re it, Ken!

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