Wednesday, September 24, 2008

First Draft

The first draft does not have to be perfect.

The first draft can have misspelled words.

The first draft can have no periods or commas or capital letters.

The first draft can be jumbled, with run on sentences, fragments.

The first draft can be just thoughts, ideas, even nonsense.

But I have to get the first draft down.

So I keep telling myself this when I'm stressing over a sentence, trying to make it perfect.

This is the first draft.

Many more will come.

Don't stress.

(And don't show it to anyone.)

Friday, September 19, 2008

Monsters Under the Bed - An Interview

Does your child have a monster under his/her bed? Does your monster have a child over his bed? If so, or even if they don’t, you must read Trockle, the delightful story of one young boy’s monster, and the monster’s boy. One look at the illustrations and you’ll fall in love with Trockle, the way I have. It is my pleasure to interview Holly Jahangiri, the author, and Jordan M. Vinyard, the artist about their new picture book.

Hello, Holly and Jordan. Thanks for taking the time out of your busy schedule to answer my questions.

Beverly: Let's begin by learning a bit about each of you. How did you get started writing or illustrating and anything else you'd like your fans to know?

Holly: My mom used to make up writing prompts and pin them to a corkboard in my room. One day, it might be a picture. Another day, a newspaper headline or a word on an index card. It was something to do; my mother had no tolerance for a child whining, "I'm bored!" In middle school, I wrote a long essay. My teacher, Mrs. Thorsten, liked it – she scribbled notes in the margins, but it wasn't the critique I remember, it was the fact that someone - a busy adult, a teacher, someone outside the family who didn't have to read it, let alone like it, liked it. I learned to love the red pen. My teacher took time to critique every one of them. The ability to communicate my thoughts and ideas to someone else, to form pictures in their minds using nothing but words - that was heady, powerful stuff. I was hooked. It wasn't until years later that I really saw writing as a viable career option, though - I had this picture of starving artists and writers, and I knew that I would never be happy in a cold-water flat eating rice and beans. Fortunately, I landed a job as a technical writer, and that allows me to write fiction and keep a roof over my head.

Jordan: Art has always been a big part of my life. I have been a studio artist for a few years now including painting and drawing. Illustration came into play when one of my professors saw a posting by 4RVPublishing and suggested that I give it a shot. Needless to say, I was hired to do Trockle, and it worked out wonderfully.

B: What was the inspiration for Trockle, your new picture book, Holly? And give us your process on illustrating the story, Jordan?

H: One night, my son, William, decided there was a monster under his bed. Now, we all know how hard it is to sleep with monsters under the bed...right? Right. So, I got out the Febree--er, Monster Repellent--and started spraying. It smelled good, but it didn't have much effect at all on the monster under the bed. I think he may have sneezed, once or twice, but that might've just been the old box springs creaking. So what's a mom to do? It's pointless to argue with a child who's certain there are monsters under the bed - absolutely pointless. And William was just starting to read, at the time, so realizing that it was going to be a long, probably sleepless night - with the light on, to boot - I went off and wrote him a story. I figured he could at least be practicing his reading skills. About halfway in, the monster - who told me his name was Trockle - demanded equal time. He wasn't too happy about that big, funny looking monster--er, boy--OVER the bed. I could empathize with Trockle's mom (and I so envy her her dust-bunny slippers!) so I had to write their side of the story, too.

J: The illustration process actual came quite naturally to me. I’m an extremely meticulous worker concerning my art. I have always had to think about concept and technique. With a children’s book it is a matter of getting into the author’s head. I wanted it to become an accurate representation of her work, as well as really connect with the readers. I would go to any lengths to achieve this. I studied gestures, thought about color according to the mood of the particular scene. There is really a lot of process involved, and it is multifaceted.

B: What is your schedule like when working on a new story? Do you work mornings, evenings? How long does it take you to finish a manuscript or to complete the illustrations?

H: It's a juggling act, between work, family, other things I want to do (I really don't have many "hobbies" besides writing, but I delight in finding other creative ways to waste time and put off housecleaning), and writing. But if the characters start knocking on my brain, I write - and when it's good, when it flows, it's almost like taking dictation. I just watch and write what they show me and tell me. I've written whole stories in twenty, thirty minutes. Some take hours. Some take days. A few are languishing at the back of a desk drawer, unfinished.

J: My schedule has been pretty intense this last year. I have had several exhibitions, I paint murals all over the state, plus the illustration. As far as a consistent schedule, there isn’t one. I am working constantly at all hours.

Completing an illustration can take as much time as a day to a week. The cover is by far the most time consuming. Also, before I even get to the actual and finalized illustration I may do anywhere from 3 to 20 sketches just for one scene.

B: Tell us about your forthcoming projects.

H: I've finished a second children's book - the working title is A Puppy, Not a Guppy - which is scheduled to come out with 4RV Publishing next year. Jordan has promised to do the illustrations for that one, as well. And I'm mulling ideas for a young adult novel.

J: I am currently working on Prarie Dog Cowboy. It has a wonderful historical content, which is really exciting to me. After that I will begin working on Spider in Our Mailbox der. On top of the illustrations I am working on a drawing for a show, working on two murals, and other commissioned paintings. It is a very hectic schedule these days, but I love every second of it.

B: Now for some fun stuff. What kind of music do you listen to?

H: Oldies. Strange, eclectic stuff. Some of my favorites: Transfusion, by Nervous Norvus. The Mummy, by Bobby McFadden and Dor. ("Dor" was actually Rod McKuen.) New Math, by Tom Lehrer. Just about anything from 1957 to 1962, then 1974 through the mid-1980s. Or Tchaikovsky - anything by Tchaikovsky. Ballet music. Any soundtrack by Maurice Jarre, John Williams, or Hans Zimmer. Bond - have you heard Bond? My daughter played violin for eight years and loved Bond. One of the first things she bought with her own money was an electric violin.

J: Music! Oh Goodness! I love anything from Buddy Rich to Nirvana, soul to grunge. Many of my good friends have made comments as to my strange and eclectic tastes.

B: Do you have a favorite TV show or shows? A favorite movie?

H: My favorite TV shows - IF I watch TV at all - are CSI, Criminal Minds, Law & Order. Favorite movie? The Sound of Music.

J: I’m not much of a television person. As far as movies, I actually really like animated films. My favorite is Triplets of Bellville by a french artist named Sylvain Chomet.

B: Do you have words of advice for aspiring writers and illustrators?

H: Find a balance between letting your mind and creativity loose - no rules, no structure, no inner critic - and learning how to use the tools of your chosen trade. You wouldn't buy a cabinet from a carpenter who couldn't be bothered to learn how to properly use a saw or miter a corner. Why should readers buy a book from someone who thinks spelling, grammar, and punctuation are irrelevant? It's all part of the package - don't mess up a beautiful idea by wrapping it in shoddy packaging, but don't pay such close attention to the packaging that you smother the ideas in it. If you want to sell your work, develop a professional - caring - attitude towards it.

J: My only advice to other illustrators or any kind of artist for that matter would be to love every second of it, you are in essence recording your process and your life, and displaying that in your finished product.

B: Where might your fans learn more about you? Your Websites, blogs?

H: My personal Web site is at Trockle has his own, too: And of course you should check out 4RV Publishing - not only for news of Trockle and upcoming books, but to learn about all the terrific new authors and books they're publishing! It's very exciting.

J: The best place to find more information about my work would be on the Independent Artist of Oklahoma website, 4RVPublishing website, Multiply and Myspace, and actually if you just google my name there are several sites that have my studio work and mural projects. I have been a part of several projects so my name is kind of floating around in cyberspace

B: Thank you again for sharing your journey to publication with us.

H: Thank you for giving us the opportunity to be a guest on your blog and share with your readers.

· Hardcover: 30 pages
· Publisher: 4RV Publishing LLC (April 19, 2008)
· ISBN-10: 0979751322
· ISBN-13: 978-0979751325

For more, go to

Friday, September 12, 2008

Good News X Three

First, I've signed a contract with 4VR Publishing for my MG story, Just Breeze. I am excited about this.

Second, the big scene in my current MG WIP ghost story that I've been working on for two weeks and couldn't get it right finally came together today. I think I like it. Now for the denoument and I can begin revisions. Yay!

Third, the publisher is working on my contract. I can't say who yet, but I've been waiting on this one a long time. More excitement.

Have a super weekend.

Monday, September 8, 2008

I Can't Believe It's Been So Long

since I posted on this blog. The past weeks have been busy. Here's what I've been up to:

Querying for my YA contemporary "Life on Hold."

Working on my Muse Online Writing Conference workshop, "The Rest of the Story, Writing Middles and Endings for children and Teens."

Trying to finish my MG paranormal story, which is stuck at the most important part and my characers are as clueless as I am as to what to do next.

Stumbling through the rough draft of another YA contemporary story, meeting the characters and learning their troubles.
Thinking about a third YA idea that's locked away in my brain, waiting for time to get to know those characters, who so far have names and that's all.

Waiting for word on a story.

Waiting for Rebel in Blue Jeans to be published. At least she's posting on her blog.

Watching the hummingbirds for Texas Parks and Wildlife. (See above picture.)Lately, they've been putting on quite a show. We have a pair of ruby-throated and a pair of black-chinned hummers. I tried to put them on video but those little guys are too fast for me to keep up with.

And of course I've been reading.

So what have you been up to?