Whenever I am starting a new story or illustration, my first thought is: Who will the characters be? An animal? A creature? A person? And my second thought is: Where do the characters come from? What do they look like? Then I have a list of personality traits in my head that I check off, such as:
Why? Because diversity is all around us. It's the world we live in.
At least it's the world I've always lived in.
As mentioned in previous posts, I grew up in New Jersey in a suburban area that had a mix of races. I was two hours away from New York, the diversity capital of the world. I've taught in urban and suburban areas and have seen children from all different backgrounds, ethnicities and races learn and play together. So in my mind, I always think of ways to make my stories and illustrations diverse because that's what I see - that's what most kids nowadays see every day. And the literature they read should reflect such diversity.
Recently I entered the SCBWI Tomie de Paola illustration contest where the task was to illustrate an except from "Little Red Riding Hood." Tomie was looking for "something different", for us to "think outside the box" and not to make the characters look too typical. The idea that popped into my mind was to make Red from India. I don't know why but I just felt like setting the story in a different place than I had seen with this story before.
I wanted to be sure to portray Red in the correct clothing and scene, though. So I turned to a friend of mine who is from India. She asked me great questions, starting with "Where do you want Red to come from, the city or the village?"
Why? Because girls wear different clothing or garb, depending on where they live in India.
We decided most likely Red would live in the village, especially if she were coming from her home and traveling through the woods. So I researched photo references of girls who might live in an Indian village, as well as the different types of trees (banyan) that might exist in a wood near a village.
And "What will Red be carrying to Grandma's (I mean, "Dadima's) home?" she asked. My friend explained to me what a typical village girl might have in such a basket (a jar of pickles, and a potli bag for example). She provided me with so much information, I felt like I was not only creating a new piece but learning about a culture.
Although I didn't win the contest, I was very happy with the finished piece. I feel like it fits in with the rest of my diverse portfolio of characters and illustrations. It also allowed me to continue experimenting with my new crayon batik/Photoshop style, which provides a lot of textures and interesting patterns in the finished piece. And of course, it allows me to add another diverse piece to my portfolio.
So whether you are writing a story, developing a new character, or illustrating a spread, try to keep diversity in mind. You never know what you might learn!
Angela Padron is a published illustrator of two books, including "The Hero in You" by Ellis Paul, as well as a Star Wars geek and chocolate chip cookie connoisseur. She also writes and illustrates her own picture books, board books, and chapter books. When she's not teaching, Angela works as a freelance writer and editor for educational publishers and spends weekends enjoying walks along the beach with her family. View her online portfolio at www.angelapadron.com. You can also "like" her facebook page, follow her on Twitter @angela_padron, and follow her own blog called "Show and Tell" with weekly posts about teaching, writing and illustrating books for children.
In January 2015, each member of my Cliffhangers' writing group shared writing resolutions. At the end of 2015, we checked in. Some of us had done better than others. I won the prize for Worst Resolution Keeper. I’m not proud. Of my ten resolutions, I kept one.
I’ve resolved to do better this year. Perhaps that should be my one and only resolution.
Reflections and resolves don't need to happen in January. New Year’s is simply a convenient time to reflect on our journey through space and time, to think about how things are going, and how things would be if they went differently. Resolutions can happen in the middle of summer, on Halloween, or your birthday. Your birthday’s actually a good time to take a look at your life and think about how you'd like it to go on your next trip around the sun. A year is quite a long time, so checking in once a month on your resolutions seems a good idea. That’s what I’ll be recommending to the Cliffhangers when we meet next week: a one-month check-in to keep us on track.
Whether we write a mission or vision statement, goal set, resolve, or choose a special word to guide our year, it’s always beneficial to stop and contemplate our life journey.
As writers we not only get to reflect on our lives but on our characters’ lives as well. What is their journey? What is the transformation they make in their story? If they chose a special word to guide them, what would it be?
I like the idea of choosing a word to keep before me in the coming year. At first I thought about choosing “play” because I think we’re our most creative when we’re playing. Then I decided to choose “fun,” in honor of my granddaughter. At two-and-one-half she’s perpetually happy. She wakes up from a nap and shouts, “Fun!” She kicks a ball: “This is fun!” She pounds the piano: “This is fun!” I’ve seen her fall on our hard tile floor and knew it had to sting, but she didn’t cry or whine. Why? It would interrupt her fun. Onward she goes, to have more fun.
Recently, Seth Godin wrote, “Life is more fun when you don’t compare.” Ah. Those comparisons. They can bring us down daily. “Why isn’t my book on that Best of 2015 list? Why wasn’t my story considered for that award?”
If I want to be true to my word, “fun”, I must stop the comparisons. Let’s follow my granddaughter’s lead. Don’t cry over comparisons. Don’t interrupt your fun with whining when you fall down. Just pick yourself up and shout, “Fun.”
As Helen Hunt says in the movie As Good As It Gets, “Who needs these thoughts?” partially in reference to comparisons, jealousy, panicky feelings, self-absorption. We don’t. Get them out of your head. Don’t let them in again.
In the spirit of no comparisons, for this January blog I’m not posting pictures from others’ books or mine. I want you to think about your book, your story, your next trip around the sun.
My word for the year is “fun.” What’s yours?
People have many different opinions about book trailers. Some say they are useful, while others say they aren’t needed. Today we’re going to discuss why book trailers are extremely important when building your author marketing plan, especially with picture books.
I have been making book trailers for several years now. The first book trailers I made were for my mentor Dr. Anthony L. Manna for his picture books Mr. Semolina Semolinus and The Orphan, both illustrated by Giselle Potter.
My third picture book trailer made for the renowned author Salina Yoon for her book Be A Friend, premiered on Watch. Connect. Read on November 12, 2015. Watch. Connect. Read is run by John Schumacher, Ambassador of School Libraries for Scholastic, who knows how important book trailers are. You can find many book trailer premieres on Watch. Connect. Read. from some of your favorite children’s book authors.
What Are Book Trailers?
When you watch television do you ever see the movie previews that are about one to two minutes long flash across your screen? These are called movie trailers or movie teasers that give you a short telling of what the movie is about. The preview is short and simple and gives you a kind of cliffhanger. Book trailers are similar to movie teasers. They are short and simple and always end with a “What’s to happen next” suspense.
Type of Book Trailers
There are several types of book trailers for numerous book genres:
Original Book Trailers
Original Book Trailers are usually created when working with a picture book author. The videographer/animator takes the original illustrations from the book and creates a sequence of events that tell a “teaser” story based on the book’s theme or plot. A good example of this is the book trailer by Josh Funk who used the original illustrations from his book Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast without changing or masking out the characters from the original prints.
Live Action Book Trailers
A Live Action Book Trailer is when the videographer films real life actions and prepares a cast of characters representing the characters in the book. These trailers are usually used for middle grade, young adult or nonfiction books. A book trailer that premiered on KidLit TV by Mighty Media Press called The Peculiar Haunting of Thelma Bee is a wonderful example of Live Action Book Trailers. Another example is Tara Altebrando’s book trailer for ‘My Life in Dioramas’ created by an all girl team of young filmmakers called the TeenyTinyFilmworks. These Live Action Book Trailers are similar to short, Indie films made by aspiring filmmakers.
Animated Book Trailers
Animated Book Trailers are the closest to movie teasers because they take the plot from the story, the characters and the settings, but use originally animated characters without manipulating the book’s illustrations. This type of book trailer is the most creative because you go outside the box with your own ideas, but stay true to the author’s visions.
My favorite type of book trailer is the Animated Book Trailer because not only do you create your own work, but you also build a storyboard and work like a true animator. In fact, because I am an animator, will be working on several animated book trailers that can be as long as three to five minutes long!
What You’ll Need to Make a Book Trailer
While I’m always persistent for authors and illustrators to hire a professional animator or videographer to create a book trailer, you can surely try it for yourself. But it will be costly and will take a lot of practice.
Many of the video editing software today is extremely expensive, but you pay for what you get. A few free and easy to use programs recommended for beginners are:
You can find a numerous amount of video editing program recommendations on KidLit TV such as:
Every book trailer needs music because it captures the emotion of your story. You wouldn’t want to listen to happy music if your story is a tragedy, or dramatic music if your hero is simply eating a sandwich (even though lunchtime can be an epic moment of the day). The best advice I can give to any book trailer maker is to find Royalty Free Music such as YouTube’s Audio Library or Incompetech.
Materials to Work With
Every book trailer needs materials, such as illustrations or footage. Be sure your materials stay true to your story. And never, ever steal someone else’s work or take images found on Google or Pinterest. There are many Free Stock Image websites such as Canva or iStockphoto.
To learn more about Canva be sure to watch the video below as I teach the Children's Book Academy founder, Mira Reisberg how to use the program:
Always keep in mind; making book trailers is an art, just like animating a favorite Disney film or creating an Indie film for your school. It takes time, money and effort to create a book trailer that represents your book the best way it can. Many times book trailers are overlooked, but they truly are small works of art. And it’s always a joy to bring characters to life, especially when telling a story.
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