Thursday, January 28, 2010

Do YOU Have an Elevator Speech?

For my homework this week I need to polish up on my elevator speech. An elevator speech is a summary or an introduction of yourself, stating who you are, what your business is all about, etc.

Why is it so important? Well, let's use my own situation as an example. I have a few stories I would like to get published, and in order to do so I need to have established some sort of a relationship with an editor. In order to meet an editor, I would have to do some social networking at conferences, gatherings, retreats, and other places where I would find those who work in the same field. Through this networking I will end up meeting someone, who knows someone else, and that someone else could be my ticket to gaining some sort of contact with the right people, or even the editor him/herself!

That's all fine and dandy, until you begin to talk to all these important people and realize you have nothing good to say, and you end up chatting about the weather. This kind of talk is not productive! You need a plan! Words of action!

And that is why YOU need an elevator speech!

(In case you've been's called an elevator speech because it must be quick, just in case you find yourself in an elevator next to the President, and you might only have until the next floor to say the most vital of information. The guideline is about a minute.)

Some good things to include in your elevator speech, as we have learned through trial and error in class:

  • This seems a bit obvious, but state your name, your business, and CLEARLY. Make them remember it!

  • State what you are as if you are already it. Give your words conviction! (Don't say things like "I will be a children's book illustrator," or "I hope to..." You don't need to say what other job you are working at right now if you are in the middle of a career change: "I'm a server at Restaurant Q, but I want to be...")

  • Show passion for what you do. This should happen around the time you do the next bullet, listed below:

  • Say what project(s) you are currently working on. This shows the listener that you are actively working in your field, even if it isn't necessarily within the professional world. It doesn't matter that you don't actually have a job in that field, just show that you are doing. You don't need to graduate first to be able to design or create!

  • Give a CALL TO ACTION! This is important! People have a natural tendency to want to help someone else. If they hear you are "looking for a position" or "if you know anyone who needs services like my own," then their minds begin to process the information and they might actually be able to help you. They might happen to be best friends with the person you are dying to work for!

  • Have marketing materials handy at all times. You never know when an opportunity to hand out a business card will arise.
So with all this talk and tips, what does an elevator speech sound like? Here's mine so far, though I haven't perfected it just yet:

"Hello, my name is Melanie Linden Chan and I am an illustrator and author of children's books. My goal is to create books that teach children how to live in harmony with nature and with each other. I have a few stories that I am working on at the moment, and I am currently looking for a publisher who is willing to take my ideas and make them real. In the meantime, I am studying at the Rhode Island School of Design, where I am learning as much as I can about the world of children's books. If you know anyone who is interested in having their book illustrated, kindly pass on my information."

Hmmm. Well, it's not too bad, but I'm sure it needs some work! But that is the general idea of how an elevator speech should sound anyway. So give it a try, and get yourself one! I'll let you know how my speech goes in class!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Two Awesome Things

Hey there!

Guess what? Two really awesome things happened today!

First awesome thing? My portfolio class at RISD, specifically designed for children's book illustrators, and taught by the AMAZING Mary Jane Begin. I walked into the classroom to see an array of original illustrations, done in watercolor and colored pencil, layed out on the table, and my jaw dropped. I must say this:


Not to offend anyone out there, but since I have such a limited scope of what original art should look like, this was by far the most beautiful collection of work I have ever seen. Now this comment may or not be something of value, considering my lack of experience, but I know this for sure- I want to, one glorious day, be as talented as Mary Jane Begin.

Instead of witnessing my cyber-drooling, why not go to her site instead?

Did you check it out? That's what I thought. Here, let me give you a tissue, you're drooling worse than I am.

But, the bigger point I'd like to make, besides the fact that she's amazingly talented, is that she has been through it all in the world of children's book publishing. Mary Jane gave us an indispensible amount of information, tips, and tricks from the industry, and I will be eternally grateful for her knowledge on the subject. On top of that, each and every thing she went over in class helped me to confirm to myself that I am indeed going in the right direction. One example: this website I stumbled across during my mission to finding exemplary blogs and sites of other artists,, was Mary Jane's new favorite website that she recommends all her students to learn from. Another example: Mary Jane referred to quite a few things I already have put in my Top Ten Goals for the year. Woot woot!

Self-doubt is real kicker, and it totally dries up my artistic passion and excitement when I'm wondering if I had chosen the correct path. And, YES, I can undoubtedly say that I have chosen the correct path! I also find it interesting how reinforcement of my career choice has fueled my fire even more than before, so if I'm starting to act a little giddy...well... get over it.

Thing Number Two that was awesome today? Well, while I was rushing around the house getting ready for class (I was almost late...big surprise there), a little story idea popped into my head. And then all of a sudden, it was rushing out of my brain, totally rhyming and charming all on its own, and I ran to the kitchen table (ahem, I mean my studio) and wrote it down before it got caught in the ventilation and sent out to space. So when I got back to work, I polished it up a bit (in between waiting on tables) and I am extremely pleased to say that I wrote a story in just ONE DAY. Can you believe it? Neither can I. I wish I could just post the thing here, but I really can't if I want to give it a fighting chance at being a real published book, so I will tell you this:

It's about a bakery...

...and I'm so friggin excited about it! (Is it kosher to use 'friggin' in a sentence on a blog? Well, I've just done it, and if it was wrong, kindly let me know of my transgression.) I was actually torn between doing sketches for the new story idea, sketches for Illustration Friday, or writing in my blog. I chose the blog, obviously, because it's the fastest outlet for me at my current location.

Oh wait, I didn't tell you about that...

I found out about Illustration Friday when I noticed how many illustrators were participating in it. So my pal Google and I took a little cyber-walk, and we found this neato place to hang out: Every Friday there is a new topic for illustrators like me who need to build up their portfolio work, and every Friday these illustrators create an original piece of work that reflects the topic given. It's a great tool, and I plan to use it as much as I can! This ought to give me the practice I need to improve my skills, and attain Goal #1: PERFECT MY CRAFT. Yessirree!

Well it's time to go, so lata!

Testing 123!

I have learned that I can blog from just about anywhere, as long as I have my smarty-pants phone! Yep, this little message is being typed on my tiny keyboard.

Let's see if this entry goes where it should!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Step One...

First things first, I must set myself some goals. The point of my blogging is that it will hold me accountable so that I may achieve my goals, take the appropriate steps needed to do so, all while recording my progress so that one day I may look back proudly at all of my accomplishments.

In the business course I'm taking one of the assignments was to fill out a "Goal Sheet." It's primarily a questionnaire about where we want to be in our lives 20 years from now, and it goes backwards through time, asking "what will you have to do in 'x' amount of years to achieve that goal?" It's slogan?
"A Goal Without A Plan Is Just A Wish."

Hmm, sounds about right, doesn't it?

It's a rather lengthy thing, so I'm not going to write it all down here. Instead, I will skip to the last part, where the timeline has caught up with today's time, and it asks:


Being the over-achiever that I am, and anxious to begin my journey, I have come up with a list of ten:

  1. Create more illustrations to put into my portfolio. PERFECT MY CRAFT and don’t submit my work until it is at its BEST!

  2. Update and re-do website and business cards to make them more professional

  3. Research possible publishing companies, reading their websites and catalogs

  4. Make tear sheets and postcards to send to potential publishers. Use art work that really represents who I am as an artist and what talents I can offer them.

  5. Get a subscription to the Horn Book magazine (known to be a top magazine for those wishing to become author/illustrators in the children’s book world, it contains invaluable tips and other information)

  6. Submit pieces for Cricket magazine and its affiliates.

  7. Research and read new books in the market, books that have won awards, etc. Subscribe to Publisher’s Weekly to stay updated in market trends and upcoming events.

  8. Do some social networking- become a member of SCBWI,,,, and start a blog. Read other’s blogs to meet new people, go to conferences and lectures, and talk to those who are in my field.

  9. Learn other illustrator’s styles - what I like and what I don’t like. Practice mimicking their work as a personal exercise to find which mediums and processes work best for me. Keep in mind these pieces should not be part of my portfolio if they are in any way replica-like.

  10. Join a critique group. I won’t be in school forever, and getting other artists’ input is a very valuable tool. This will help me to PERFECT MY CRAFT, my number one goal

Of course, I have yet to receive the inevitable comments from my professor, and I'm sure she will have found some better things I could be doing with my time. But until then, this will be my starting point, and these will be my goals. I didn't write down "finish CE program at RISD" because I think it's pretty much assumed, at least from my own point of view. I bet you a nickel she'll probably pick up on that one!
My next goal will now consist of figuring out how to un-do this blockquote setting I had put on my little blue paragraph, which is now continuing throughout the rest of my current posting. I just LOVE technology, don't you??

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Just the Beginning...

Well, Hello!

You must be wondering what I am doing here on this blog. Well it's this new thing I am trying as a way to further my development as an artist, and as a way to keep track of my goals as I go along. Mostly, it was recommended by this awesome book I own, which the majority of you out there in the market already know about: The Children's Writer's & Illustrator's Market. It is serving as my Bible these days, along with a new business class I am taking at RISD. (It's awesome, by the way. If you're a visual artist, and you live in RI, then Yes, Virginia, You Do Need To Take This Course.)

First off, please forgive my blathering on. I feel sort of put on the spot at the moment, and I'm not sure what to write.

I guess I should start at the beginning.

I have been an artist since the young age of...birth. Yes, it sounds corny (and for those of you who know me personally, this isn't nearly as corny as it can get), but I was pretty much born with a crayon in my hand. My mother saved just about everything- so I have the proof if you need it. I would doodle and draw, write little stories, poems, draw comics, diagrams of tree houses and castles I wanted to build, and make cards for family members' birthdays. I even had a knack for making little homes for my toys out of empty cereal boxes. It was pretty much known in both my parents households that if the tape was missing, you could find it by finding ME.

I also grew up LOVING Disney animated movies, (although what kid didn't?). And I don't just mean their catchy musical numbers and cute furry characters. I wanted to be a part of the magic, to draw and animate them. I would sit for hours in my room, just doing sketch after sketch of my favorite characters. I can remember specifically one year, when I was in the fourth grade, when someone asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, and my answer was: "I am going to RISD and then I will become a Disney animator!" That trend continued until one year in High School, Reality scared me off by telling me exactly how much it would cost to go to RISD as a full time student. Oh, and that Disney tended to accept graduates from art schools in California, not Lil' Rhody.

Of course you must be thinking, "Oh, Honey, that's so not true!" But I was in High School you see, and I of course knew absolutely everything, so I let go of that idea, being too chicken to move away from home, and lacking the funds to go to my dream school. Although I let go of the Disney idea, I never, ever let go of my talent, and I continued to develop my portfolio through high school, achieving a Silver Key Scholastic Art & Writing award for one of my pieces. I graduated with a finished AP portfolio, and then...fell in love.

"Love??" you say, "But what does that have to do with your art??" Ahh, but it has everything to do with my art, and any artist out there will be nodding their heads along with me. Art and creativity are outlets for feelings, which vary for each person. When I'm insanely happy, it is sometimes very hard to just sit down and draw. I'm easily distracted from my work, although I can't live without it. Go figure!

So, there I was, happily distracted, and without a proper goal sheet (you can get one in that awesome business class I mentioned before), I settled for our local Community College, winning myself a two-year scholarship, and then transferred to URI. I finally finished my Fine Arts degree in December of 2005. And then...

And then I got myself stuck.

I say stuck because that was, and still partially is, how I felt about my situation. I was not prepared, whatsoever, for the Real World. Oh, I was very trained in the visual arts, and very good at it, too. But I didn't know how to turn it into a paycheck. So I just worked at the job where I had been working since I was 16, the very same place where I met my sweetheart, and now husband, and the very same place where I am still working now. Did I mention that I will be turning 28 this year?

Yes, you may detect a slight bitterness in my tone, but not for long. I have worked and daydreamed enough to finally know what it is I want to do, and how I am going to achieve it. But, Oh! I forgot to tell you about my Aha Moment! That is by far the very best part (except for the getting married part... I like that part a lot!).

It was a few years ago, right before I got married, that I got this awesome idea for a story. This story, turned fantasy novel for young adults, completely consumed me, and I just kept writing and writing. I would think of different plot ideas and characters as I worked at my regular job, and researched how to do it during my time off. But my biggest Aha! moment was the summer of 2009, when after reading the Percy Jackson & the Olympians series to get a better idea how to write for my future audience, I checked out the author's website. Guess what was on it?

You guys are going to totally think I am the biggest idiot on the planet when you hear this one...

Illustrations. Yep, I saw the cover art. Yes, yes, I know it was on the books I read, too. But to see the images zoomed in up close on the website, it made me really notice them. I was ashamed, believe me, to realize I had been so consumed by words that I had forgotten about the pictures. But I think the mental sabbatical helped me to see a bit clearer, and I thought, "Well, heck, if I can write a novel and achieve that life's goal, I sure could at least look at RISD's website to see if I can achieve that goal, too." So I did. And let me tell you, I nearly peed my pants when I found that not only does RISD have a Continuing Education program, but they also had one for Children's Book Illustration.


So I signed up for classes, finished a semester and started another one. And here I am again, full circle, following the instructions given to me by professionals. Did I happen to mention that I am absolutely THRILLED about this? Yeah, I'm psyched! Woot woot for me!

Thanks for reading my little story. If you haven't read it, I really don't mind that you didn't. I just needed to get it out there, to record it's history so I can move on from the past and move into the future. That's all that matters to me right now.

"Mooovin right along, budda-bump, budda-bump...footloose and fancy free..."

Until next time, my dears...