Monday, March 26, 2012

Character Art: Little Raindrop's Friends!

I've been sketching up some new friends for Little Raindrop to meet as he goes along on his journey through the water cycle!

Art © 2012 Melanie Linden Chan

Art © 2012 Melanie Linden Chan 

I'm sure there will be more to come, eventually! These guys might change a little bit too as I work on the story, but these are the first sketches of the group so far.

I got this awesome book called "A Drop of Water" by Walter Wick, and it not only has lots of water and science facts, but it also had awesome microscopic photos of actual snowflakes! So you'll notice on the second page of sketches I began with learning how to draw some of these snowflakes. And then I thought of how I would like to draw them in the cartoon style, and then what they would look like as water droplets! So hopefully their unique faces and other characteristics help viewers see the difference between each drop!

My personal favorite is the big guy with the giant brow. He looks like a tough guy! (But he's more like a teddy bear.)

Oh, and I've also drawn up Little Raindrop's parents, who may or may not turn up in the story... and a special other character that you'll just have to read about when the book is done!


Thanks for reading! :D

Monday, March 19, 2012

Book Review: "Olivia Bean, Trivia Queen" by Donna Gephart!

"Olivia Bean, Trivia Queen" by Donna Gephart!
And such a pretty cover!
Don't you just love it when you love something, you feel you need to shout it from the mountaintops to let the world know?

This is how I feel about Olivia Bean, Trivia Queen, the super talented and very funny Donna Gephart's newest middle grade novel! I learned about Donna's work last year when I attended her humor workshop at the NESCBWI conference in Fitchburg, MA. She taught us how to think more like a kid and what kids think are funny. (After leaving this workshop, I found the same kinds of things that make a fourth-grader laugh also make ME laugh, and thus decided: I am still a kid. Yesssssss!)

Thinking like a kid is what Donna does best, and it shows. Olivia Bean is a brainy middle-schooler who loves Jeopardy! so much that her family knows better than to bother her between the hour... er, half hour, of 7:30 and 8:00pm. She shoots out answers as if she's on the show herself... if she could be so lucky. Turns out, she is that lucky, at least when it comes to the auditions for Kid's Week. (I won't ruin what happens next!) And though Olivia's got a lot on her shoulders for a twelve-year-old, she learns she is luckier with more than just the trivial things in life.

I really enjoyed this book, because I could not only relate to the character, I felt I was this character. Donna's writing allowed me to get out of my own head and into Olivia's in a nanosecond. Her triumphs became my triumphs, and her fears became my own. After reading this book, I found myself caring when Jeopardy! was on. (Usually that's my husband's thing.) I've never forgotten what it was like to be twelve; I guess for some reason I'm somehow stuck in that mindset. So as I read Olivia's thoughts and feelings, I just nodded my head and felt the same exact way she did.

Not only that, but many of Olivia's childhood worries were also my own: her single mom loses her job; parents are split; little brother both annoys and cheers her up; single mom is dating; a best friend loses touch. This book felt like it came from my own memories, and the imagery in my mind helped me recall all those little details that we are sometimes afraid to forget. Or afraid to remember.

What I especially loved about Olivia Bean, Trivia Queen is the endearing relationship between Olivia and her little brother, Charlie. Charlie was my second favorite character in the story, because his love for his big sister always managed to save the day and make Olivia feel better, and he totally cracked me up! She learns a lot from him though she doesn't realize it. And since the siblings are seven years apart, they don't fight as nearly as much as my little brother and I did! (Being just shy of three years apart, our sibling competition kept us all on our toes!)

Anyway, I think if I had read a book like this when I was twelve, it would have made an impact in the way I see the world. Because, though I doubt I would have noticed it back then, the underlying theme of the book is something that can be carried unto adulthood for all walks of life. And that theme is Perspective. Life isn't always what it seems, and there are more to things than what meets the eye. Someone can treat you in a mean way but truly they might be hurting inside, even more so than you. Someone can treat you nicely, but they're really sizing you up for the next battle. Someone could genuinely care about you, though you may have mistook their words to be hurtful.

It's always good to remember to step outside the box, or the Jeopardy! podium, and see the world in a different light!

Thank you, Donna, for that important reminder!

And here are some links:

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Derailed... and Getting Back on the Track

Late again! my mind screams at me. You missed your blog post and you can't draw?! You're better than this! You're supposed to stay on track, keep your eye on the prize, keep your head in the game!

It's hard to do that when you've been derailed!

Recently I've been dealing with a little personal matter. It's a problem that made my anxiety level skyrocket, my nails 'magically' disappear and my stomach curl into knots. I tried drawing through it, tried my Zen music and green tea combo, played a few games on the tablet to get my mind off things... even tried sleeping more (if I could find the time for it.) But the problem was still there, much as I tried to get over it.

The Problem became a Bigger Problem, when I tried to sit down and draw and didn't have the heart to do it. I just didn't feel like drawing. Or painting. Or  doodling, even.

But when there are deadlines and books to be illustrated, this is an even bigger Bigger Problem!

How was I going to get back on track? To get my head in the game? To stop biting my nails down to bloody stumps? I had to remember that anything worth having is worth working for. I had to address the original Problem. Of course, this takes time away from my art and blogging, and my usual work pattern. But the Problem needed work so I could get some actual work done. Otherwise, I was just wasting my own precious time. My Preciousssss!

So instead of trying to drive around the Problem, my little train drove right through and attacked it! I did everything I could in my own power to make amends and right things. I did it honestly, and without trickery or cutting corners (honesty has always been my policy.) And I felt so much better when I was done! Even though the Problem was one of those Out of My Own Control sorts of things, I changed what I could control to the best of my ability. And though things didn't turn out hunky-dory, or the way I had hoped, at least I know I did my best to try and fix it. I can accept the things I cannot change, or at least learn to.

Then I winded down a bit and needed some inspiration... a little comfort. So I picked up a book, told myself not to feel bad about this guilty pleasure when my schedule doesn't usually allow for this tomfoolery, and I read for the fun of it. For the fun of it!

So I'm filling up the train with some fresh coal right now. And I'll start chugging along and speeding ahead at my usual speed. And I'm learning sometimes it's best to sit back and watch the landscape go by for a while, to enjoy the ride a little bit more, so I don't burn out. And to address problems right away when they come up, so I don't fly off the tracks.

And I think I'm going to go paint, in a little bit. :)

Monday, March 5, 2012

Fear of Rejection! #writing #publishing #rejection #agents

I'm still working on my research for book tie-ins and classroom activities, so that's not today's topic. (I was hoping it would be, but research is research.) Instead, we shall talk of fear *gAsp!* and rejection. *boo! hisss!*

This week I received my second agent rejection of my career's history! (Lame number, I know. There will be more.) And I'm not crying about it. I'm okay with it, actually, and I'm just relieved to know the answer, and to move on to the next agent. So I sent out my second-ever set of postcard mailers to all the awesome publishers out there, refreshed my online portfolio and I started looking for my next target agent.

Why aren't I curled up in a ball, hiding? Some people really and truly get upset, or fear the rejection. For some odd reason, I don't. I get a little anxious and excited and downright buzzed, but I'm not sad or anything. If we aren't a match, then why force it? If it's not meant to be, there's a reason. And also, I've got this reminder on my binder-of-rejections:
I learned this very important lesson from my friend Marlo, teacher, book editor, author, artist, and an overall talented person. She brought in her STACKS of rejection letters and shared them with us in her class. And she told us the more we send out our work and get rejected, the better the chances will be the next time we submit. So that's why I started a binder, and I want to fill it up!

Also this week, my friend Brook posted about self sabotage and procrastination, a prevention of rejection. Except it prevents other things from happening, such as getting your work out there!

And, coincidentally, this amazing tidbit was shared on Facebook among my friends:
Ira Glass quote by Sawyer Hollenshead
Original source can be found here:  

This image led to a conversation about art, naturally:

Friend: "Wow..this really hit home with me and my design work. It's not easy being at the beginning." 
Me:  "Yeah! But it's so true, isn't it? It really helps to be aware of why we feel this way about our work! It isn't easy at the beginning, nor in the middle...and I'm guessing when we're supposed to be a 'pro' I'm betting we'll feel the same way." 
Friend:  "Ya know why it's so hard? Because it's personal. Our passion, our creativity, our ideas, are personal to us. So when there is the fear of those things not being accepted,it is a fear of not being personally accepted. And, it can be enough to paralyze. I deal with beating down the scaredy cat beast every single day." 
Me: "That is SO true! A lot of my friends deal with that too, you know. Because of this fear, many of us procrastinate or decide housework is more important, etc. See my friend's post at: And I'm not saying that I don't also feel this way, but my you know what my BIGGER fear is? People NOT seeing my work, or not seeing me for who I am. I fear more of being forgotten or lost... And if I don't put myself out there I will never be 'immortalized' by my work. My identity is so wrapped around my art and stories that I fear losing it if it isn't shared. Because if I don't share it, I'm just a waitress at a Chinese restaurant. And that is NOT all of who I am!
     Another thing I've learned is that every single one of us creative folk are on a continuous creative JOURNEY. Art is not a destination, really. You're always learning, always improving, always creating something new. I think it's important to look at it that way. Not every piece you make is set in stone. You can go back and fix it. Or toss it and make a new one. It's like an artist's life is a forest, and every once in a while it needs a fire to renew it, and it becomes lush again.
     All successful relationships have ups and downs, but it's sticking together through them that makes them blossom!"

Anyway, I thought the discussions going around this week were very important to the Creatives of the world, and it's good to share and pass along little nuggets of understanding when we find them. So if you've ever blogged, posted, wrote or thought about this topic of fear, rejection, procrastination or self-sabotage, share it with us in the comments box!

Here are a few I found just now:
"The Fast Yes and the Slow No" 
Wordy Birdy's selection of rejection posts:
And words of wisdom from Jane Yolen: