Illustrator Interview: Keika Yamaguchi

Keika Yamaguchi

PROFESSIONAL BIO:
Keika Yamaguchi is a children’s book illustrator of Sick of Being Sick written by Justin Sullivan, and Puddle Pug written by Kim Norman. Her newly illustrated book that came out this June is What About Moose? written by Corey Rosen Schwartz and Rebecca Gomez. She is a graduated from Pasadena Art Center College of Design with honors. She studied Entertainment Arts, and work for clients including Walt Disney Imagineering and Walt Disney Publishing.

1) How did you become an illustrator of children’s books or similar works?
A friend of a friend, Justin Sullivan, was looking for an illustrator for the story he wrote. He owned a children’s app company, and at the time, there were only few companies that specialized in phone apps for children. I enjoyed the story that he came up with since it allowed me to illustrate variety of environments. While working on that book, I rediscovered my passion for children’s books. After self publishing that book, I was going to bookstores to see if people will be interested in having my book in their stores. I was then referred to checkout Society of Children’s Books for Writers and Illustrators. I went to one of the events and there, I was immersed into this industry.

2) Describe your illustration style and creative process. What makes your illustrations unique and different?
It’s hard for me to identify what exactly makes my work mine and how it appears different from other people’s artwork. I enjoy placing my focus on characters, the layout of the pages, and the amount of details I place in each page. Perhaps that makes my illustration distinct.

3) When did you realise you could make a living from your talent?
When I was in highschool I have done multiple art competitions and won few awards. That games be confidence that maybe I can get somewhere with this talent. A  teacher outside of my school made living out of doing art, so convinced me that it’s probably possible to make a living pursuing art.

4) Has technology changed your trade and the way you work?
Yes, technology has changed the way I work. It has added few short cuts for me compared to illustrating traditionally that been coming in handy when under tight deadline. Sending my artwork to clients became much easier when painting or drawing using photoshop. I do not have to scan my work and alter the colors in the scanned image to match what I have in my traditional artwork. I don’t have to go to the post office, wrap my work, then send my originals to my client in NY.

5) Who are your biggest influences in your artistic career and why?
At the moment, my biggest influences are my peers at my coworking place–Kleverdog. People there are either self employed, small business owners, trying their best to maintain their business. They’re full of passion and we share openly of what’s working for us what isn’t. Every time I talk to someone I feel inspired to work harder and keep going.

6) When collaborating with an author or a client, how do you ensure you are able to translate their words into art and convey the message they are trying to portray?
Usually, before getting hired to be the illustrator, the publishing company that I would be working for would ask to draw or paint the main character in the book. The feel of the book is usually determined at that stage. If there are details that they would like for me to depict in the book, there are usually artist notes included when they provide me with the final manuscript so I make sure I put in what they asked.

7) Tell us about the proudest piece of work you have done. Did you enjoy working on Puddle Pug and its subsequent book by the same publisher?
Each illustrations within those books had it’s own challenges that I had to solve. Knowing that I’ve done my best with all of them, I’m proud of all the pieces I‘ve illustrated. I enjoyed working on all of the books I’ve illustrated too!

8) What advice do you have for aspiring illustrators?
I always feel weird giving advice since I feel like I’m still learning…Perhaps “Don’t forget to have fun! And do it for you.”

9) Please provide a short brief of each of the pictures you have submitted
A spread of Sick of Being Sick by Justin Sullivan

Sick of Being Sick

A spread of Puddle Pug by Kim Norman

Puddle Pug

A spread of What About Moose by Corey Rosen Schwartz and Rebecca J. Gomez

What About Moose

Should you wish to know more about Keika, here are her pertinent details.

Website: Keika Yamaguchi
Keika’s social media connections:

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Author Interview: Hazel Edwards

SLEUTH ASTRID; LOST VOICE OF THE GRAND FINAL BY HAZEL EDWARDS Sleuth Astrid - Lost Voice of The Grand Final by Hazel Edwards

1) Please provide a short excerpt of what your children’s book is about.
Sleuth Astrid, a hi-tech, mind-reading chook rides a Harley, plays e-games and finds lost things. Illustrated (with visual clues) by Jane Connory, this e-version of the original popular print book includes a new story The Lost Voice of the Grand Final.

In Book 1, The Mind Reading Chook, the Magician has lost his sense of humour. Astrid must find that before the 3pm show.

In Book 2, The Lost Voice of the Grand Final, Astrid has to find the Voice of the Coach in time for the Saturday Grand Final. Was the Voice captured in the TV ‘Footy’ studio? Lost down his throat? Was a Voice Coach any use? What about the Speakeasy? or the Voice-over on the TV Footy panel or on Talk-back? And then there’s the Bird Wedding of the Year. Carrot was supposed to be the MC (Master of Ceremonies) As usual, Sleuth Astrid the Mind-Reading Chook, solves the problem.

2) What inspired you to write this book?
When staying at Varuna, the writers’ retreat in the Blue Mountains, I was introduced to a ‘chook’ who used to belong to a stage magician. They said the chook could mind-read and was part of the magician’s act. I believe in observation, not mind reading,so thought the chook could become a very observant sleuth. So Astrid has unusual things to find, like a lost sense of humour.

3) What do you hope children will take away with them after reading your book?
That it’s ok to see things differently. Use your imagination.

4) With your picture books, how do you ensure the message of your book is conveyed succinctly through to the illustrations and how do you ensure it is a smooth and productive collaboration?
I choose an illustrator like Jane Connory, who has a quirky sense of humour. I don’t always have a ‘message’ but I like to encourage unusual problem-solving. Creativity depends upon putting together things which have not been in that combination before.

5) Tell us about some of your extra challenges you have experienced in pitching controversial subjects for junior books.
f2m;the boy within the YA novel about coming of age and transitioning gender from female to male has been the most controversial for the subject, not the way we wrote the book. Check out the Youtube clip which interviews us as co-authors. Ryan Kennedy, my co-author is an ftm. And a family friend.

Currently I’m writing a junior chapter series Hijabi Girl , with a Muslim children’s librarian Ozge. Our character is s feisty 8 year old girl who wears a hijab and starts an Aussie Rules girls team. Plus there’s Rastus Rastus the Reading rat, soccer-mad Zac and the new girl who cartoons everybody. Just a fun school-based  story.

Feymouse about a large and clumsy cat born into a family of highly talented mice is a different way of showing how to cope with being different. Now a picture book app on Itunes but previously a rock pop musical and a print book.

6) What is the most fulfilling thing about being an author?
That your book may go into the lives of readers and let them be a little more tolerant of others who are coping successfully with being different. PLUS be an enjoyable read.

7) Tell us about your adventure to Casey Station in the Antarctic and how that inspired you into writing your YA books.
As an expeditioner with the Australian Antarctic Division, I became beset in the polar ice when our ship got stuck en route to Casey Station. So lucky to be with some of the greatest experts on Antarctica who all wanted to talk to me and helped me plot the YA novel Antarctica’s Frozen Chosen and the other plays and books. We did get rescued after several weeks. Check out the ‘cool’ Antarctic stories here.

8) What are you working on now? 
My memoir ; Not Just a Piece of Cake: Being an Author

THHazel EdwardsANK YOU FOR LETTING US GETTING TO KNOW YOU!
Should you wish to know more about Hazel Edwards and would like to purchase her book, here are all her pertinent details.

Website: Hazel Edwards
Where to purchase her book: Hazel Edwards and Port Campbell Press
Hazel’s social media connections:

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A Brand New Day Review: by Joss Rodillo

A Brand New Day receives a 5 STAR review from book review blogger, Joss Radillo of Chapter 5. Thank you Joss for your wonderful and insightful review!

Here is what she had to say:
“Aww this is such a cute bedtime or day time reading for little kids and for some oldies like me. I feel really touched with this short story. Love how this little girl embraced the fact that their parents were separated and instead of let that take over her. She enjoyed her time with her daddy, her mum and her little step brother and all the activities they do together. She feels so loved and cherished from both of them. I think this kind of stories are able to help kids during their parents split and make them embrace this situations and have fun with it.

My mom and dad were separate when I was little and really had a hard time dealing with it, more when my step dad came to my lives but at some point I felt blessed because now I have 2 Daddies. So I totally can relate to this book and feel a bond with it, which is excited and amazing totally a gain.

Overall, I’ll highly recommend A brand new day by A.S Chung and I’ll definitely will keep an eye on her. From the cover design, the catchy title ,the fast paced story and the beautiful illustrations in this book make it a must have on your kids shelf.”

Author Interview: Beth Ferry

STICK AND STONE BY BETH FERRY Stick and Stone by Beth Ferry

1) Please provide a short excerpt of what your children’s book is about.
Stick and Stone is a short, rhyming story about friendship.

2) What inspired you to write this book? Did it take you long to translate your idea into words and subsequently into a book?
A song by the band Train, called “Drops of Jupiter” was the inspiration behind Stick and Stone. There is a line in the song about friends sticking up for one another and that sparked the idea of a stick sticking up for a friend, namely, a stone. Friendship is a common theme in picture books, but an important one. I began writing the story in prose and wasn’t having much success. When I switched to rhyme, the story developed quickly.

3) Why did you pick this genre and how did you come to be a writer?
I chose to write picture books because of their beauty and importance to the youngest of readers. I also think picture books transcend age ranges and can speak to people of every age. I love the bond they offer parent and child. I’ve always loved to write, but I became a write in 2011 when I challenged myself to write a picture book that was under 200 words. That was the genesis for Stick and Stone.

4) How do the illustrations complement your book? What was important to you as an author?
Well, the illustrations of Stick and Stone are phenomenal!! Tom Lichtenheld created characters are that sweet and cuddly and utterly perfect – quite an achievement for a stick and a stone. His illustration process shows the extreme care and time he put into making the illustrations a perfect match for the text. I couldn’t be happier!

5) As a child, what books and/or authors influenced you the most and why?
The picture books I remember loving the most are Maurice Sendak’s Nutshell Library. As a child I adored miniatures and so this tiny set of books was right up my alley. I had every story memorized. I also loved Miriam Young’s Miss Suzy. I think the dollhouse aspect also appealed to my love of miniatures.  As I grew up, I read all the classics – Nancy Drew, Little House on the Prairie, Anne of Green Gables and A Wrinkle in Time.

6) What is the most fulfilling thing about being an author? Do you have any words of wisdom for aspiring children’s authors?
Having a child tell me they love my book are some of the sweetest words I’ve heard. It floors me every time. Interacting with children at schools and bookstores is the most fulfilling aspect of being a children’s book author. The kids themselves are the best reward for being a picture book author. There are so many wonderful blogs that give advice to kidlit writers. My advice is to join SCBWI, and to check out taralazar.com, kathyteam.wordpress.com, and lauriewallmark.blogspot.com. Also, to write, write and then write some more. Don’t give up. This business requires a supreme amount of patience.

7) What do you hope children will take away with them after reading your book? What do your children think of it?
I hope they will see how good friendships require a bit of effort and that friends help each other – it’s not a one-way street. I hope they also see that we all might act like Pinecone now and again, but it’s important to forgive those prickly characters in our lives. My children are all teenagers, but happily, they love the book. There’s nothing better than overhearing them tell their friends that their mom wrote a book.

8) What are you working on now? We wait with great anticipation!
My next book, Land Shark, is being released on August 4, 2015. As I’m waiting for that, I’m working on a few stories involving a scarecrow and an alligator, but not in the same story. Although that might be interesting . . . Thanks for asking!

THBeth FerryANK YOU FOR LETTING US GETTING TO KNOW YOU!
Should you wish to know more about Beth Ferry and would like to purchase her book, here are all her pertinent details.

Website: Beth Ferry
Where to purchase her book: Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Indie Bound
Beth’s social media connections:

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A Brand New Day: Goodreads Giveaway!

Pigeonhole Books is giving away a free copy of award-winning book A Brand New Day! Click here to enter!

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A Brand New Day: A Banana Split Story is a children’s picture book about divorce. It tells the story of a little girl who has to split her time between two homes so that she can spend time with her mother and father throughout the week. The book is written in gentle rhyme accompanied by beautiful artwork with a muted colour palette.

The story also introduced the concept of a blended family as the little girl inherits a step brother. The story never once mentions the word “divorce” and presents this life challenge in a positive light. The book was written to demonstrate that despite being in divorce family, the child can still create special moments with each parent and still be very loved.

A Brand New Day has recently won awards in the 2015 National Indie Excellence Awards, Purple Dragonfly Book Award and the 2015 Readers’ Favorite Award Contest.

Pigeonhole Books creates children’s picture books for blended, divorced, multicultural and same-sex families. It is a gentle resource that aims to deal with life’s challenges through beautiful illustrations and loving words.

Illustrator Interview: Stephen Macquignon

Stephen MacquignonPROFESSIONAL BIO:
Stephen Macquignon has illustrated eleven picture books. The first one he worked on was Angeline Jellybean published in 2008 by 4RV Publishing and a chapter book called The Art of Science. He was a contributing illustrator with Berry Blue Haiku Magazine and also Stories for Children Magazine, working alongside some very talented editors, art directors, and writers. More recently he illustrated Tea with the Queen an eBook/ paperback for Xist Publishing.

He has had the privilege of working for Michael Sporn Animation Inc. on many different titles including, The Little Match Girl, Ira Sleeps Over, Abel’s Island and many more. He also has a Bachelor degree from The School of Visual Arts NY and is a proud member of SCBWI.

1) How did you become an illustrator of children’s books or similar works despite never having read a picture book when you were a child?
Well I did look at the pictures. It happened while attending The School of Visual Arts in NYC. I was planning to be a cartoonist like Charles Shultz, but I was short on credits in my last year of college and a class on creating art for picture books fit into my schedule. And that was it

2) Describe your illustration style and creative process. What makes your illustrations unique and different? 
I have been told that my ink line is unique that it’s easy to pick out my artwork because of it. I like to think it’s a classic style using brush on watercolour paper, India ink, watercolours and Photoshop.

3) When did you realise you could make a living from your talent? 
I still work full- time as a New York State licenced massage therapist. It is not easy to make a living from your artwork.

4) Has technology changed your trade and the way you work? 
I have been moving away from creating art digitally and have been embracing more traditional mediums. I still use Photoshop on the production end; cleaning up or adjusting the size, splicing images together, maybe adding some kind of text or effect

5) Who are your biggest influences in your artistic career and why?
It all began with my High School art teachers. I can say with 100% certainty that without them I would not have even gone to college, let alone pursued a career in art. At SVA, Will Eisner was a huge influence. My first job as an artist was working with Animation Director Michael Sporn; both taught me how to tell a story using images. Maurice Sendak and Dr Theodore Geisel Seuss are early influences.

6) When collaborating with an author or a client, how do you ensure you are able to translate their words into art and convey the message they are trying to portray?
Trial and error! I sketch, sketch, sketch, submit, feedback, sketch, sketch, sketch…

7) Tell us about the proudest piece of work you have done.
Not an easy one to answer. It is usually the most recent piece.  However, I was a semi-finalist for the 2014Tomie dePaola award. I was one of fifteen selected for the semi-finals. It was an unforgettable moment .

8) What advice do you have for aspiring illustrators who are trying to break into a highly competitive market?
Keep trying and don’t give up. Don’t go chasing trends; they come as quickly as they go.

9) Please provide a short brief of each of the pictures you have submitted
Mouse Falling Down the Waterfall was chosen for the Tomie dePaola semi-finals. Pen and ink, watercolour and Photoshop.

 Mouse Falling Down the Waterfall

Winter Has Come. First of three illustrations I did with the fox and rabbit theme. Watercolour and India ink and Photoshop.

Winter Has Come

Found Red Mitten is part of the same fox and rabbit theme. Watercolour, India ink and Photoshop.

Found Red Mitten

Should you wish to know more about Stephen Macquignon, here are his pertinent details.

Website: Stephen Macquignon
Stephen’s social media connections:

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Author Interview: Pat Zietlow Miller

WHEREVER YOU GO BY PAT ZIETLOW MILLER Wherever You Go by Pat Zietlow Miller

1) Please provide a short excerpt of what your children’s book is about.
Wherever You Go is about all the paths you can take in life and finding joy in the journey.

2) What inspired you to write this book and why did you pick this genre?
I wrote this book as a love letter to my oldest daughter. It contains some of the things I want her to take with her as she leaves for college and moves further into the world.

3) How do the illustrations complement your book? What was important to you as an author?
Eliza Wheeler did a magnificent job with the illustrations. I couldn’t be more pleased. I think they make the book something you want to walk across the room to see. In picture books, words are only half the story. And, the illustrations are often what first catches a potential reader’s eye. So they have to be good.

4) All your books have very different themes and subject matters. How do these stories come to you and how do you know they will be well received?
I write about topics that interest me. Things I find curious or noteworthy or funny. I hope that if I write a story I’d like to read, others will find it appealing too. But I never know if what I write will be well received. All I can do is give a story everything I have, send it off into the world and then hope it will find its audience.

5) As a child, what books and/or authors influenced you the most and why?
I loved THE WESTING GAME and other books by Ellen Raskin. It was a great story set in Wisconsin, where I lived, and I just adored it. I read it many, many times.

6) What is the most fulfilling thing about being an author?
To know that kids and teachers and parents and booksellers and librarians are reading your book, and that sometimes they think enough of it that they reach out to you to tell you why it’s their favorite or how they used it in their classroom or to see what else you’re working on.

7) What do you hope children will take away with them after reading your book?
That life isn’t a straight line. It can take you on a lot of unexpected journeys – some fun and others not so much – but that no matter where you are, you have the ability to make choices and head toward where you’d really like to be.

8) What advice can you give to aspiring children’s picture book authors that you have learned over the years?
Success is a combination of writing skill, perseverance and luck. You can control two of these factors. And, if you focus on improving your skill and increasing your perseverance, luck often takes care of itself. You may have to recalibrate your definition of perseverance, though. I’ve heard writers say, “I’ve spent weeks on this manuscript and it keeps getting rejected!” If you wanted to be a professional athlete or musician or surgeon, you’d need to spend more than weeks honing your skills if you expected to be hired. The same is true with writing at a professional level. It may take years of practice and perseverance.

9) What are you working on now?
An early middle grade novel set in Wisconsin. Its plot involves Harry Houdini, Tony Bennett, basketball, cooking and the weather. Will it ever see the light of day? I’m not sure, but I’m working on making it as good as it can be.

THPat Zietlow MillerANK YOU FOR LETTING US GETTING TO KNOW YOU!
Should you wish to know more about Pat Zietlow Miller and would like to purchase her book, here are all her pertinent details.

Website: Pat Zietlow Miller
Where to purchase her book: Amazon, Barnes & Noble & Mystery To Me
Pat’s social media connections:

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A Brand New Day Review by Lost in a Good Book

A Brand New Day is reviewed by book blog, Lost in a Good Book. Founder of the blog Amy had this to say: “I love to read and I love to write, and I have a wonderful and terribly addictive habit of book collecting. My book reviews vary from the funny and jovial, to the straightforward and serious. It certainly depends on how I have enjoyed the book and how much emotion I can get out.” Thank you Amy for this lovely review!

Lost in a Good Book

Published: 1st July 2014Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Pigeonhole Books
Pages: 32
Format: ebook
Genre: Childrens Picture Book
★   ★   ★   ★  – 4 Stars

Mondays and Tuesdays are fun, going on cooking adventures with Dad. We look forward to Wednesdays and Thursday too when we get to be a green thumb with Mum. Don’t forget the holidays! Spring breaks with Mum and hot summer camping with Dad. Each day is a truly special day!

A Banana Split Story is a series within the Pigeonhole Books collection that features stories about children from separated and divorced families.

Note: I was provided with a copy of this book from the author for review.

This is a sweet story about one child’s experience with divorce, making it into a fun adventure and showing that having two houses, two families, and being apart doesn’t have to be a terrible experience.

The narrative rhymes but in a…

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Author Interview: Karen Kaufman Orloff

I WANNA GO HOME BY KAREN KAUFMAN ORLOFF I Wanna Go Home by Karen Kaufman Orloff

1) Please provide a short excerpt of what your children’s book is about
Alex is not happy about being sent to his grandparents’ retirement community while his parents go on a fabulous vacation. What could be worse than tagging along to Grandma’s boring bridge game or enduring the sight of Grandpa’s dentures?  But as the week goes on, Alex’s desperate emails to his parents turn into stories about ice cream before dinner and stickball with Grandpa. Before he knows it, Alex has made a surprising discovery: grandparents are way cooler than he thought!

2) What inspired you to write this book? 
I guess I was thinking about my own experiences visiting my grandparents in their retirement village in Florida back in the Seventies.  There were so many activities for the residents to do!  I thought it would be fun to put Alex (and his siblings) there, and to have Alex slowly come around to the idea that his grandparents are pretty fun to hang around with.

3) Why did you pick this genre? 
I love writing for kids. I write for older children as well as toddlers and elementary age kids. Probably because I’m a kid a heart, myself! And kids are the best audience.

4) How do the illustrations complement your book? What was important to you as an author?
The illustrations, done by the wonderful David Catrow, really add another dimension to all the “I Wanna” books. Dave just seems to know how to be funny and he makes my words look good!  The right illustrator can make or break a book, and I feel very lucky.

5) What is the most fulfilling thing about being an author?
I love knowing that people — especially kids, parents and grandparents — are enjoying my books together.

6) What do you hope children will take away with them after reading your book?
I hope they learn that people don’t get boring just because they age. Maybe they will enjoy time with their own grandparents.

7) What advice do you give to aspiring writers at your adult workshops on how to succeed in this highly competitive market? 
I always tell people to just keep writing, learning, and improving.  If you stay at it and learn your craft (and keep submitting) you will eventually find success.

8) School visits are a big part of your writing career. What are the benefits for you personally and professionally?
It’s so great going into the schools and meeting the kids and teachers. It’s really my core audience! I have learned what they like and what they don’t; what they laugh at and what they don’t laugh at.  I’ve learned so much by visiting and I’m always humbled when they applaud me! I would encourage every children’s author to get out and meet the kids in the schools.

9) What are you working on now?
I am working on a series of middle grade novels that I hope to get published.  I also have a new rhyming picture book coming out next spring from Sterling Publishing. It’s called “Miles of Smiles.”

Karen Kaufman OrloffTHANK YOU FOR LETTING US GETTING TO KNOW YOU!
Should you wish to know more about Karen Kaufman Orloff and would like to purchase her book, here are all her pertinent details.

Website: Karen Kaufman Orloff
Where to purchase her book: AmazonBarnes & Noble and Merritt Books
Karen’s social media connections:

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A Brand New Day Review: My Little Book Blog

A Brand New Day, children’s picture book about divorce is reviewed by My Little Book Blog! Thank you Lizzy for the wonderful review!

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Hellllllo readers, another day another book to bring you; I have honestly read some wonderful books recently. I’ve been adding them to Goodreads and Amazon and although I don’t personally do stars you have to on such websites and so many of them are four or five stars. I’m starting to feel a little like a broken record with all the praise however bringing you excellent books is all part of my job. Today a delightful children’s book, that looks at the silver lining of parents separating.

Mondays and Tuesdays are fun, going on cooking adventures with Dad. We look forward to Wednesdays and Thursday too when we get to be a green thumb with Mum. Don’t forget the holidays! Spring breaks with Mum and hot summer camping with Dad. Each day is a truly special day! A Banana Split Story is a series within the Pigeonhole Books collection that…

View original post 424 more words