Teen Writers Bloc

A Blog by the New School Writing for Children MFA Class of 2012

Dear John Green: An Open Letter About Diversity from a Little Brown Librarian

Posted by On February - 19 - 2013

Dear John Green*, After watching your fireside chat with President Obama, I got inspired to write you a letter. I am a middle school librarian at Harlem Village Academies in East Harlem, New York, and an up and coming MG/YA writer represented by the lovely Victoria Marini of Gelfman Schneider/ICM. My library has several copies of […]

Enter to Win a Signed ARC of Jessica Verdi’s MY LIFE AFTER NOW

Posted by On January - 15 - 2013

Hi gang! To celebrate the impending release of my contemporary YA novel MY LIFE AFTER NOW (Seriously, is it April yet? I’m tired of waiting!), I’m doing a Goodreads giveaway! The giveaway is open from now through March 1, and one winner (chosen at random by Goodreads) will get a signed advance reader copy of […]

Kid Lit Critiques — A New Venture From Two Teen Writers Bloc Members!

Posted by On September - 7 - 2012

Announcement! Announcement! Jess Verdi and I have pooled our skills together to launch Kid Lit Critiques, a manuscript critiquing business. Check out a little more about us: Dhonielle Clayton and Jessica Verdi are two girls in New York City, living the writerly life: attending kidlit events, reading the latest books and ARCs, meeting editors and literary agents… […]

Jess’s Cover Reveal for MY LIFE AFTER NOW

Posted by On September - 4 - 2012

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!! Okay, I know it’s not considered customary or proper to begin a blog post with what is essentially a scream, but I can’t help it. My book has a cover! Check it out: MY LIFE AFTER NOW, my contemporary YA novel, will be published by Sourcebooks Fire on April 1, 2013. Yes, that’s April […]

Cover Reveal: Escape from the Pipe Men!

Posted by On August - 22 - 2012

Hello, Teen Writers Bloc Readers! I’m so excited to unveil the cover for my second novel, Escape from the Pipe Men! And yes, the exclamation point is part of the title. Take that, exclamation point haters!!! The book is about a couple of kids who have grown up in an alien zoo and go on […]

THUNK WEEL CHICKEN 199x300 Thunk Weel, or Mary the Lawyer Explains the ThesisSo this is our last semester at The New School. Regular readers of this blog will already know that our sole task this semester is to complete a “thesis,” which according to New School criteria, must consist of “a manuscript of 50 to 70 pages of stories or other fiction or nonfiction, or a completed children’s book in a state appropriate for publication.” As a former attorney, I can’t help but point a few things out. First of all, what do they mean by “children’s book”? I mean, this is a “writing for children” program. All we write are children’s books. Do they mean “picture book”? If so, why don’t they just say that? Okay, let’s assume for the sake of argument (because I have to get to the argument) that by “children’s book” they mean “picture book.” That would mean that the criteria were written by people who had no idea what a children’s book was, but let’s leave that aside. Fine. If I choose to do a picture book for my thesis, I’ll make sure it’s in a state appropriate for publication. But what if I choose to do a manuscript of 50 to 70 pages?

The single comma in the above sentence indicates that there is no requirement of publishable quality for such a manuscript. If they wanted to say that such a manuscript had to be in a state appropriate for publication, they should have said: “a manuscript of 50 to 70 pages of stories or other fiction or nonfiction, or a completed children’s book, in a state appropriate for publication.” Could it be that the nice folks who wrote out the criteria didn’t know where to put their commas, even though they presumably teach writing? I wouldn’t dream of suggesting that. The only rational conclusion is that they meant exactly what they said; that’s the way the judge would see it. Are you getting my drift, readers? That means I can write absolutely anything that takes up 50 to 70 pages and consists of stories, fiction, or nonfiction. There’s nothing about word count. There isn’t even any stated requirement that such manuscript pages consist of writing for children.

Now, if you read this blog, you probably also know that most of us weren’t happy with our literature classes last semester. That was because they made us take classes that consisted solely of adult literature, and not only that, most of it was typical MFA nonsense. It seemed like most of the professors chose their books from a bin marked “Whaaaat?” Assuming that by “stories” and “fiction” they mean the kind of thing we had to read last semester, and incorporating the official thesis criteria, I’d like to share with you the first draft of my thesis project. There’s not enough space in the blog format to get the full effect, but picture one giant word per page.

 

Thunk Weel

We thunk a thunk weel thusly. Under the broad sky

of diamond silver gems and then

the little children, of which I was one

dreamed

in the field next to the weel.

The weel the weel!

I thunk it thusly, thunk I did!

Those dreams of weels and thunking which

therefore THE END IS NEAR REPENT!

 

To any publishers who are desperate to acquire “Thunk Weel”: Please contact my agent, Kate McKean.

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Better Late Than Never?!

Posted by On January - 15 - 20121 COMMENT

Devon Delaney Better Late Than Never?!I hate change. More than anything. More than zits and top sheets, greasy hand-cream, walnut raisin cream cheese (yuck), lukewarm coffee that has been microwaved, and dirty sinks. Change is my arch-nemesis. It makes me want to stomp my right foot and pout. I do that sometimes. Okay, I do that a lot of the time. How do I feel about next semester? Classes coming to an end? The impending changes to my schedule and life? I am having a temper tantrum about it.

I need structure. It’s one of the super dorky reasons I love school. Having a regular schedule, deadlines, and consistent feedback over the past three semesters has made me a stronger and more efficient writer and reader. I’ve made so much progress that I don’t want to come to an end with classes. So other than stomping my foot, I have done a few things to deal with the newness of next semester.

I bought fancy highlighters and notebooks, because what’s better than new school supplies? Not a whole lot. I made two reading lists—a YA and a Middle Grade and started working my way through the books over break. Fiction that made it to the top of my self-prescribed syllabus: Tim Wynne-Jones’ Blink & Caution, Michelle Cooper’s A Brief History Of Montmaray and The Fitzosbornes In Exile, Lauren Barnholdt’s Fake Me A Match and Devon Delaney Should Totally Know Better, Gary D. Schmidt’s Okay For Now, and Kirby Larson’s The Friendship Doll. Since I am working on a revision of my middle grade novel with my amazing advisor, I started plotting out a new tween series that I am so excited about and planning to workshop in my thesis group.

I will definitely pout and whine about not seeing all of my TeenWritersBloc peeps twice a week. I will hate all of the changes, even the smallest ones. I will miss alternating between BLT Burger and French Roast before class. I will miss the stupid vending machine in the basement that dispenses Mountain Dew when I press Aquafina. But I guess maybe this time I’m ready for it.

Book cover image courtesy of Aladdin.
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 After an Unbeatable 2011, Caela Looks AheadWell, the biggest year of my life is officially over.  I seriously doubt I will have a more life-changing and monumental year than 2011 in the future, and I know I never have in the past (discounting, perhaps, 1981, as being born was probably pretty monumental, but I don’t remember much of that year).

2011 brought my 30th birthday, quickly followed by the news of my first book deal, quickly followed by a diamond.  I get to be an adult, an author, and a wife, woo-hoo!

(And obviously these things point at other monumental events like the book actually being published–2013–and Greg and I actually getting married–2012–but since those events will not be in the same year, I think it’s safe to say that 2011 can keep the award).

I’ve got a lot of great things going on in my life. So, what do I need in 2012? (Besides to hit the gym, of course.)

Here’s what I think I need to work on the most: a positive attitude.

People talk about the stress of wedding planning and the fear and cold feet that come with the committment of marriage and I’m happy to report that I’m expirencing none of those symptoms in my personal life. But it begs the question, why then, in my writing life, am I still such a scardy-cat?

I’ve never planned a wedding. I’ve never been married or shared property or planned a future with someone else.  Yet all of these ideas seem accomplishable. My to-do list on this side of the paper is pure happiness.

And the other side of the paper should match, right? Because I’ve been a writer for my entire life.  I’ve been putting words on paper since I learned to spell and spinning stories since I learned to speak.  I’ve been in love with words for decades longer that I’ve been in love with Greg (sorry, Babe).  So why does this new career bring on so many terrifying thoughts?

Like this:

What if no one reads my book?

What if everyone who loves me reads my book and hates it?

What if it’s not as good as I sometimes think it is? What if it’s just as bad as I sometimes think it is?

What if no one hears about it? What if no one even knows there’s a book to read?

And the most terrifying:

What if I can’t ever write a book that good again?

I try to keep these doubts on mute but they’re still hidden in my veins, laying dormant until they can attack me during a bout of writer’s block or a frustrated moment when I can’t figure out just how to design a background for my website. Suddenly, my brain becomes an earth-shaking flurry of terrifying questions that I have to stop with my first love, Words.

I tell myself: “Stop. You are where always wanted to be.”

I guess sometimes that’s a scary place.

But I’m still glad I’m here.  Bring it on, 2012, bring it on.

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IMG 20110521 00069 300x225 This Semester, Amber Has a Long Road Ahead Of HerMoving into our final semester I only have one thing on my mind and that’s getting as much writing done as possible. You might have noticed that this is a constant goal of mine that isn’t always easy to execute. While I recognize its importance, that hasn’t stopped me from getting distracted by work, class and other aspects of life.  So this semester, I’m looking forward to working with my peer group—Mary, Kevin, Jane and Molly—to help make writing more of a priority in my life. As I reflect on the last three semesters, I find the thing that has been most valuable to me has been the relationships that I’ve built over the course of the program with my classmates. Watching them evolve as writers and begin to treat writing like a full time job has made me put into perspective what it is really going to take for me to reach my ultimate goal of completing a manuscript by the end of the semester. Each semester has brought an entire new set of challenges for me but with the support of my peer group, I’m hoping that I’ll continue to overcome whatever issues may come my way.

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index cards For Thesis Semester, Outlining Will Help Jane Get to the EndWhen the Fall semester finally ended, I was relieved. For some reason, I felt that it lasted longer than it should have, although I wasn’t sure why it seemed to feel that way. Maybe it was because I had to take a non-children’s lit seminar. Or I was submitting a story for workshop that I wasn’t completely into. While time was dragging, I felt like it was pulling my writing along. In other words, my story was going nowhere. I didn’t feel the drive to work on it and find out where it could go.

But towards the end of the term, things changed. I came up with another story idea that I was really excited about. As I mentioned in my last post, I met up with Dhonielle Clayton, who shared her wonderful methods on outlining and this fueled me even further. For part of a 14-hour plane ride to Asia over Thanksgiving break, I sat and outlined the first five chapters of my new book.

And it got even better. Another classmate, Kevin Joinville, had a fantastic system of using index cards to map out his stories that he shared with me as well. I recently sat with Amber Hyppolite, another TBWer, in Barnes and Noble while Kevin demonstrated how he used his index cards to revise and refine his writing.

My goal for the New Year is to finish a first draft of my latest story. I not only have the means and the motivation, but I also have a great peer group to support me through the process. I have a feeling that this new semester is going to fly by, but I also know it’s going to be a great year.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles

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Soup Jess’s Musings on the New Year, the Last Three Semesters, and Writing In General
  1. It’s 2012 now, and the Mayans say we’re going to die. So we might as well live it up while we still can. For me, “living it up” includes watching lots of Vampire Diaries, reading lots of YA books (next up on the reading queue: Lauren Myracle’s Shine), and making lots of soup in my slow cooker.
  2. Writing (fiction in particular) is awesome. In what other career do you get to be creative, use your brain, and live in a total fantasy world all at once, all while sitting at home in your pajamas?
  3. Just thinking about your story isn’t enough — you actually have to sit down and put the words on the page. This holiday season was a major reminder of this for me. I justified all the slacking, eating, procrastinating, and vegging to myself by saying I was thinking about my story and spending all those days/weeks letting the story build in my head. Which was true. But it’s still no substitution for actually putting in the writing hours. Brains make up stories, but fingers-on-keyboards write books.
  4. Time flies. We’ve blasted through three semesters in the blink of an eye, and now we’re down to one: our class-free thesis semester. Crazy. Also proof that time flies: I just turned 30 at the end of December. How the frak did that happen? For suggestions on how to use your fleeting time wisely, see #1 above: “living it up.”
  5. Biggest writing-related lesson I learned this year: people’s tastes in literature are as different as the people themselves. So write what you love, tell the story you want to tell, and there will be someone out there who loves it as much as you do. Even if you get a lot of thumbs-downs along the way.

Happy New Year, everyone!

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may b Book Review: Charming Prairie Novel in Verse May B. by Caroline RoseIf you were a reader who loved Laura Ingalls Wilder, you’ll love Caroline Rose’s charming novel-in-verse May B. set in a sod-house on the Kansas prairie. May B. is a sweet girl, full of moxie, who has been sent to help another Kansas prairie family, the Oblingers. Mr. Oblinger’s wife is having trouble adjusting to life on the prairie and in a sodhouse. Mavis Elizabeth Betterly, or “May B” arrives to  help Mrs. Oblinger, who is only a few years older than her, complete chores and to keep her company. May is angry that she has to leave Ma, Pa, and her brother Hiram, as well as give up her schooling, which is of the upmost importance to her. She worries about falling behind in her lessons, since she already has trouble with reading, and her unfriendly and strict Teacher has been hard on her. The letters in her reader jump all over the page and she must memorize them in order to read successfully. But her life changes drastically when Mrs. Oblinger decides to go for a ride on her horse — things change for May. Mrs. Oblinger has flown the coop and now Mr. Oblinger is headed after her, and May is left in the soddy all alone as winter steadily approaches.

This book is told in verse with lovely spare language that invokes both place and sentiment. I love what Caroline Rose does with May’s difficulties with schooling and reading. We get to see what she’s reading and experience her struggles manifest on the page. We read the words as she reads them, and we can identify how the words are jumping around and she’s not slow or stupid like her mean Teacher had said.

During the days May spends alone, we also get to see what she does and doesn’t do with her time. We get to experience what it feels like to run out of food and to have no one to talk to and what that loneliness does to the human psyche. As a teacher and an academic tutor, this is a perfect book to use in conjunction with learning about those brave souls who ventured out to the Plains during the early years of America.

I have a million wonderful things to say about this book, and another thing is the pacing. Oftentimes, I struggle with pacing. It is not my strong suit. Most of my narratives have issues with forward movement; it’s something I need help with from fellow critique partners. But Caroline Rose’s May B. sails along. Split into three parts, the first one sets up the relationship dynamics, May’s new life and the one she left behind, and hints at the trouble in the horizon. Part two opens up after the trouble has hit and we get to see how May adapts and struggles, and part three finishes to a satisfying conclusion with the resolution of the conflict. I finished this book feeling like I wanted another one because I just love historical fiction like this: sweeping, emotional, and full of story.

May B. will release on 1/10/2012 from Random House Children’s Books

Cover art courtesy of Random House

 

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nycview Writers Conferences 2012: Where Will You Spend Your 2012 Marketing Dollars?

Writer’s conferences are like a quick fix of creative adrenaline. A concentrated take on the craft and business of writing, they can really get the creative juices flowing, and get you right into the thick of things, whether or not you’re a natural-born networker, like our own Dhonielle.

But there is a right time to go — and not every conference is a great fit for everyone. That’s why, when you’re budgeting your networking dollars, it’s a smart idea to take a really close look at what your options are. Especially given that, these days, you could probably find a writers’ conference in your area any given weekend. But which are worth the investment? And when should you go?

It all depends on you and where you are with your writing. A few of us here at Teen Writers Bloc, for example, are gearing up for the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators conference in New York City this month. But others among us know that, as much as we’d like to go, we’re nowhere near ready. Perhaps a summer conference would be a better bet for those folks.

What writers conference will give you the most bang for your buck? Only you can decide. But since it’s a new year (and hopefully, new budget!), we’ve rounded up a few of the best bets for your perusal — and we’ve tried to stick to conferences that would be fruitful for teen and middle grade writers. Maybe we’ll see you there!

Writers Digest Conference
New York, New York; January 20 – 22
Cost: $525 for the full conference, $375 for Saturday only — and there’s even a $275 student option
With lots of big picture overview, including keynotes on the where publishing is headed, e-publishing, author-entrepreneurship,  self-publishing and marketing yourself and your work online, this conference, sponsored by industry magazine Writer’s Digest, is taking writers’ straight into the future of the book business. There’s also an intensive three-hour pitch slam, a sort of speed dating with agents, including YA and kid lit champions Brandi Bowles (Foundry), Susan Hawk (The Bent Agency), Molly Jaffa (Folio Literary Management), Mary Kole (Andrea Brown Lit), Sarah LaPolla (Curtis Brown) and Holly McGhee (Pippin Properties), amongst many others.

Society of Children’s Book Writers And Illustrators
New York, New York; January 27 – 29
Cost: $385 for members, $485 for non-members
Highlights: The SCBWI annual winter conference is the scene and be seen event for children’s book writers. This year, teen favorites like Cassandra Clare, National Book Award winner Kathryn Erskine and Sophie Blackall are amongst the speakers, and there are plenty of big agent and editor names on the panels on craft and marketing, too. But conference vet Dhonielle says the best part of doing the SCBWI events is meeting like-minded writers. She’s found critique group members — and life-long friends — at these events. If you can’t make this one, SCBWI has mini-events across the country — and another biggie in L.A. this summer.

San Diego State University Writers’ Conference
San Diego, Ca.; January 27 – 29
Cost: $435; one-on-one consult appointments are $50 each
If you’re working it on the West coast (or trying to get out of the snow here on the East Coast), then you can’t beat the San Diego State University Writers’ Conference at the end of January. The event seems chock full of opportunities for teen fiction writers, including meet-n-greets with editors looking for YA at Harper, Tor Teen, and St. Martin’s, amongst others.

Algonkian NYC Pitch and Shop
New York, New York; March 22 – 25
Cost: $595 before March 1, $695 after
This quarterly, application-only conference, held in New York City every spring, summer, fall and winter, is focused on getting writers in strong shape to sell their novels, offering novel deconstruction and analysis from agents and editors from major houses (including ICM YA champion Tina Wexler). Writers refine their works via panels and intimate workshop groups, then have the opportunity to pitch up to four industry professionals, including editors from Grand Central, Random House, Broadway Books and others.

Backspace Writers Conference
New York, NY; May 24 – 26
Cost: Early Bird registration (pre-Feb 1) $595 for Conference and Agent-Author Day
The conference spin-off of the stellar online writers’ community BKSP.org, this three-day event is super-focused on making connections with agents, with panels on querying, crafting stellar opening pages, and what agents are looking for. So if that’s the stage you’re approaching, it might just be the perfect way to network yourself into a deal. YA and women’s fiction star Lauren Baratz-Logsted is the keynote this year, and given the NYC location, the publishing industry insiders will no doubt turn up in spades.

Rutgers University Council on Children’s Literature One-On-One Plus Conference
Piscataway, New Jersey; October 2012
Cost: $195 for the one-day event, including breakfast and lunch
This application-only event pairs a small number of skilled writers one-on-one with a children’s writing professional — agent, editor, or writer. The plus? Each writer and mentor pair gets to network with several others at round-table discussions about writing, editing and publishing — a great, low-pressure way to network, and it’s very likely you’ll come out of the event with long-term relationships. As an attending at the 2011, I met editors and agents and authors — plus, many of my fellow aspiring writers, too.

What writer’s conferences will you be attending this year? What are your best tips for getting the most bang for your buck at these networking events?

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Neil Swaab 300x199 Super Special Interview: Wuftoom Cover Illustrator Neil SwaabWhen I saw the cover for my first novel, Wuftoom, I immediately fell in love. I had to find out who was responsible for this piece of art that represents my book so perfectly. Recently, I was fortunate enough to get in touch with Neil Swaab, and he graciously agreed to answer a few questions about his creative process. Thank you, Neil!

1. Tell us a little bit about your background. How did you begin doing book covers?

I graduated from Syracuse University with a BFA in Illustration. Immediately after, I started illustrating for newspapers and magazines as well as working at HarperCollins as a fulltime book designer, where I got the opportunity to create and art direct many jackets for children’s books and young adult books. Since then, I’ve gone freelance where I act as an illustrator and/or art director for a variety of projects in the publishing and media sphere.

2. As a group of new authors, we’re dying to know how the process of creating a cover works. First of all, do you read the book?

Of course! Not all designers do, but I try to read every book I’m assigned. It’s just so much more helpful. Sometimes, though, the book may not even be written yet when we have to make a cover, so we’ll just have to work off of a synopsis. On the few occasions that I’m just too busy to read an entire manuscript, I’ll at least read several chapters to get a feel for the tone.

Wuftoom Cover 199x300 Super Special Interview: Wuftoom Cover Illustrator Neil SwaabCover creation is a long and drawn out process and my work on it depends on what my role is. If I’m just illustrating, it’s far less work than if I’m art directing, which is far less work than if I’m art directing AND illustrating, which I’ll do from time to time. As an art director, I’ll read the book, talk with the editors about initial things we feel are important to convey on the cover, and then go off on my own for a week or two and mock up concepts and ideas and include any relevant artist or photographer samples. We’ll then try to get everyone onboard in-house and then the author as well. Once that’s all set, we’ll commission the illustration or photography and start designing.

In the case of your book, I was just an illustrator. I was contacted by the art director to create the cover image based on the work in my portfolio that she was responding to. After reading the manuscript, I went to work sketching out various concepts and mocking them up in a way that would show what I was getting at. The art director picked one of the concepts and, with some slight tweaking based on her feedback, I went and created the final art.

3. How much instruction does the publisher typically give you? Do you have free reign to create a cover that fits your interpretation of the story?

It really depends. Some publishers have no idea what they want and give you free reign while others may have an extremely narrow focus. The more freedom, usually the more fun the project will be. In general, though, publishers will have a particular audience they’re trying to reach and will want the book to be compared to others in the market and that may influence a lot of choices like whether to use photography or an illustration, for instance.

For your book, I’m sure the art director had a lot of those conversations before I came on board. When I was commissioned, I was told very specifically, that they wanted the silhouette style of art I had in my portfolio and that the book was a Kafka-esque middle grade story about a boy who turns into a worm-like creature. Other than that, I wasn’t given any other direction, which is actually pretty rare. More often than not, they’ll tell you exactly what they want on the cover. So, for this book, I just went off on my own and let my imagination work.

wuftoom.ns22 200x300 Super Special Interview: Wuftoom Cover Illustrator Neil Swaab4. What medium or computer program do you work in?

Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign are my main tools. I also combine those programs with a lot of hand-drawing. For your cover, I drew the entire thing by hand in pen and ink and then scanned it, imported it into Photoshop and then arranged it and added flourishes and textures.

5. Do you typically work alone, or in collaboration with an employee or partner?

I work alone. I share a studio, though, with three other illustrators and always have them to turn to if I need another set of eyes. Sometimes, I even work at the publisher’s office when I’m doing a long-term gig.

6. How long does it typically take you to create a cover?

It really depends. Every cover is different and has its own unique set of challenges. Your cover actually went very easily and only took a week and a half from beginning to end. Most covers, though, tend to live with you for months as you’re going through rounds of sketches, approvals, tweaks, final art, and revisions.

7. For Wuftoom, was the final cover the first idea you came up with?

It wasn’t the first idea, but was in the round of initial concepts I sent off to the art director.

wuftoom.ns3  200x300 Super Special Interview: Wuftoom Cover Illustrator Neil Swaab8. Can you share some of your other ideas?

Sure! I’ve attached some in the email. These are all rough mockups of concepts that I would take further based off of the art director’s reaction. [At left, see the final cover and a few of Neil's mockups!]

9. Why did you choose this particular idea to run with? Did you consult with the publisher during this process?

That part of the process is all up to the art director, the publisher, and the sales staff. They let me know which one they responded to best.

10. What other book covers have you done recently?

I just finished up illustrating the cover to Paolo Bacigalupi’s novel THE DROWNED CITIES, a few Lois Duncan novels, and art directed and designed a children’s book by Karma Wilson and Jim McMulllan called HORSEPLAY! (none of those are on sale yet). I’m currently doing some illustration cover concepting work on a middle grade James Patterson book.

11. Aside from book covers, what other projects are you known for? Where else can we find your work?

I animated the first season of the show SUPERJAIL! on Adult Swim and the pilot of UGLY AMERICANS on Comedy Central; I do a weekly alternative comic strip called REHABILITATING MR. WIGGLES that runs in a bunch of newspapers and magazines around the world; and I contribute illustrations for various clients when the opportunity arises. You can see my work at neilswaab.com and my weekly comics at mrwiggleslovesyou.com.

wuftoom.ns4  200x300 Super Special Interview: Wuftoom Cover Illustrator Neil SwaabNeil Swaab is a freelance illustrator, art director, cartoonist, animator, writer, and educator based in Brooklyn, NY. As an illustrator, Neil’s work has graced the covers and interiors of magazines, CD’s, newspapers, and books for clients throughout the world including The NY Times, The Utne Reader, The Village Voice, and Little, Brown. As an art director, Neil worked for years at HarperCollins Publishers where he oversaw the design of many bestselling children’s books and young adult novels for Laura Geringer Books and Joanna Cotler Books and continues to freelance art direct for them and other book clients on a regular basis. As a cartoonist, his weekly alternative comic strip, Rehabilitating Mr. Wiggles, has been published in newspapers in over six countries and has been collected into books in America, Russia, and Italy. As an animator, Neil served as a character layout artist on the shows Superjail! for Adult Swim and Ugly Americans for Comedy Central where he created and drew many characters and key frame poses for the first season and pilot respectively. Additionally, as a writer, Neil’s first screenplay, Eddie Fantastic!, was a finalist for the prestigious Nicholl Fellowhsip and he’s currently hard at work on its follow-up. Finally, Neil is an adjunct professor at Parsons The New School For Design, where he teaches in the illustration program. Neil’s work has been recognized by The Society of Illustrators, Print Magazine, Communication Arts, American Illustration, and The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

All images © Neil Swaab

 

 

 

wuftoom.ns5  200x300 Super Special Interview: Wuftoom Cover Illustrator Neil Swaab

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dragonyear The Year of the Dragon: Dhonielles Ready To Take Risks!This time last year, the Year of the Rabbit was upon us all and I made a list of lofty goals. And the year 2012 is the Year of the Dragon. Chinese astrologists say that the year of the dragon will be marked by excitement, unpredictability, exhilaration, intensity. The spirit of the ancient Chinese dragon can imbue people with the dragon’s notable vitality, sparking untamed enthusiasm to take risks and throw caution to the wind.

The year of the dragon is fitting for the end of my career in grad school. This is my second (and last) masters, and it is time to be out in the real world for an extended period of time without the shield and shelter of school. No more school books, no more homework, no more classes. It’s time to do something ambitious and new. (Well, until I plan to go to culinary school at age 35) icon smile The Year of the Dragon: Dhonielles Ready To Take Risks! .

I am excited for the year 2012 and taking a gamble with new projects and new endeavors. But I think it’s fitting to look back to the Year of the Rabbit, and see how I did.

Was I rabbit-like — fruitful, speedy, and cautiously optimistic?

Here were my top 10 lofty goals for 2011:

  1. Finish my current MG historical steampunk W-I-P before the end of January, plus prelimiary revisions! CHECK! Novel done, in drawer to be revised, but I just finished a brand new MG historical steampunk.
  2. Get a new agent since mine left the business this past spring. CHECK! I am repped by the lovely and beautiful Emily van Beek of FOLIO.
  3. Plot out and write complete synopses for the next two books in my MG historical steampunk series. WELL… this one changed a bit, and I decided the MG historical is a stand alone. I have just finished a book that has series potential.
  4. Attend the Society of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrators Winter Conference in New York City and the Summer Conference in California. WELL… I attended the winter one in NYC, but was too busy for the summer one in California.
  5. Stay on top of all my critiques AND my reading and writing assignments for next semester.  WELL… I did okay in the spring with the reading and writing assignments for Susan van Metre’s class, but as soon as I was forced by the New School to take an adult fiction class, I failed this goal miserably. My boring fall Lit seminar, “The Use of Setting”, has not kept my attention. I have been better about critiques, but fell off in the online world a little bit.
  6. Ghostwrite my cousin’s autobiogrpahical adult novel as well as YA novel. NOPE! Did not get to do this, but hope it comes to fruition in another way in the year 2012.
  7. Blog more! YES!
  8. Embrace writing as a full-time job with full-time responsibilities and commitments. Create a schedule like I am in an office.  YES! 
  9. Design a new author website! NOPE! On the list to be revamped early this year. Did start a blogspot blog though.
  10. Rewrite the first YA novel I wrote. NOPE! Started something new…

Okay Year of the Dragon I am going to ride the tide of your vitality….

Here are my top 10 2012 goals:

  1. Continue to do collaborative projects, especially ones with the following individuals: Corey Ann Haydu, Kate Milford, Lisa Amowitz, and Alyson Gerber
  2. Sell a book!
  3. Find work and life balance — definitely cut down on tutoring so my creative work can take more of a precedent
  4. Have my website professionally created
  5. Launch a new endeavor successfully!
  6. Get an intern! — YES, I want an intern.
  7. Stay on top of my critiques and maintain my critique group.
  8. Finish a whole novel in my thesis semester.
  9. Continue to blog!
  10. Go on a research trip!

I am already tired just looking at the list, but the Year of the Rabbit was successful for me, so I expect the Year of the Dragon to be even better. Wish me luck!

Happy New Year!

Happy Writing!

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