Archive for January, 2009

Random Illustrator Feature:
Meghan McCarthy’s Seabiscuit

h1 Wednesday, January 14th, 2009

I’m stopping in briefly today to share some art work from Meghan McCarthy’s newest picture book title, Seabiscuit: The Wonder Horse (Simon & Schuster; October, 2008). I love Meghan’s ramped-up cartoon style, what with her bold acrylic illustrations and wide-eyed characters. I’m tellin’ ya, you can spot one of her highly stylized illustrations from precisely seven skerjillion miles away. Does she not put the very “signature” in signature style? Why, yes, I think she does. Am I talking to myself? Why, yes, I think I am.

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Seven Questions Over Breakfast with
R. Gregory Christie

h1 Tuesday, January 13th, 2009

I can’t even BEGIN to tell you how pleased I am that my first breakfast illustrator interview of ’09 is with artist R. Gregory Christie. He had me at hello a long time ago with this statement on this page of his web site: “The disproportionate compositions and elongated figures {of my art} are meant to be a directional device for the viewer, my own natural inclination, and a challenge for the viewer to break away from the established fundamental belief that all children’s books must be realistic or cute” {Ed. Note: Emphasis all mine.} Since I’ve always been such a fan — and Eisha, too — I think this is one pretty kickin’ way to bring in the new year here at 7-Imp. Christie, who goes by Greg, is here for some pancakes, eggs, and sausage, which is what he says he eats when he’s “eating badly,” but I say his visit calls for a big ‘ol matutinal feast. I’ll gladly provide the pancakes and other dishes, since he decided to come talk to us about his work and share gobs of great images of his energetic art. We’re just all going to indulge ourselves here. Deal? Deal. Besides, great art + pancakes? Score.

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7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #97: Featuring Vivienne Flesher

h1 Sunday, January 11th, 2009

Jules: This is Alfred.

This is not:

More on Alfred in a minute. But first . . .

Welcome to our weekly meeting ground for taking some time to reflect on Seven(ish) Exceptionally Fabulous, Beautiful, Interesting, Hilarious, or Otherwise Positive Noteworthy Things from the past week, whether book-related or not, that happened to you. (Absolutely anyone, of course, is welcome to list kicks — even if, or especially if, you’ve never done so before.)

What you see up there under Alfred is new art work from artist and photographer Vivienne Flesher, who is here to share images from her new children’s title—involving Alfred, as you’ve probably guessed—but who also sent some new stuff, not aimed at the child audience. And that would be the bottom image opening the post, as well as the one pictured below (each actually six feet tall and eight feet wide). They are from Vivienne’s upcoming Spring exhibit (photographs and paintings) at Stir Gallery in Shanghai, based on a series of images she created for the Kennedy Center’s JAPAN! event in February of last year, in which more than 450 artists, more than forty performances, and more than a dozen free events converged there in D.C. to showcase the best Japanese theatre and dance, music and fashion, architecture and sculpture, poetry and literature, photography and film. (Vivienne also did the poster for that event, also pictured here.) Read the rest of this entry �

Poetry Friday: Sorry, but this won’t be pleasant, or clever, or funny.

h1 Friday, January 9th, 2009

hopeRecently a friend’s entire life got turned upside down by domestic violence. I don’t know a lot of details, and obviously it’d be uncool to share them here without her permission, but I know that she was very seriously afraid of someone she lived with, and had to get away from him in a hurry. I haven’t known her all that long, but I’m still so shaken by what happened, so sorry that I had no idea what she must have been going through. I wish I could have helped.

I wish I could say this is the first time I’ve ever seen anything like this happen to someone I care about. But it’s not.

She’s better off than some people who end up in this kind of situation. She has relatives she can live with. She has friends who are willing to risk their own safety to stand between her and a dangerous man. But still… I’m worried for her.

So, to my friend (and anyone else who might need it), I want to say: Do not be ashamed. You do not deserve this. It’s not your fault. But you can live through this, and it will get better. You’ve already done the hardest part. And you have friends, and family. Don’t be too proud to lean on them. They care about you, and they want to help.

There’s no poem that’s going to fit here, but I thought some words of hope would be useful. So here’s a few from the Patron Saint of Oppressed Women, Emily Dickinson:

“Hope” is the thing with feathers—
That perches in the soul—
And sings the tune without the words—
And never stops—at all—

And sweetest—in the Gale—is heard—
And sore must be the storm—
That could abash the little Bird—
That kept so many warm—

I’ve heard it in the chillest land—
And on the strangest Sea—
Yet, never, in Extremity,
It asked a crumb—of Me.

Also, if anyone should happen to need it or know someone who does, here’s contact info for the National Domestic Violence Hotline, which can provide crisis intervention, safety planning, information and referrals to agencies in all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands: (warning: computers can be monitored – don’t click on the link unless you feel secure on the computer you’re using), 1-800-799-SAFE (7233), or 1-800-787-3224 (TTY).

Seven-Hundred and Seventy-Seven
Skerjillion Questions Over Breakfast With…
Or: A 2008 7-Imp Retrospective

h1 Monday, January 5th, 2009

Hi there. Jules here. And Alice. (Just for fun.)

Well, because I think I might possibly be crazy (not to mention all the free time I had during the holidays), I decided to offer our devoted readers the below post in which 7-Imp looks back at the many talented authors and illustrators who stopped by in 2008 for a chat, many with breakfast in tow. I pulled a quote from each interview, I compiled my favorite Pivot responses from the year into one singular questionnaire, and I pulled a handful of favorite illustrations from the year from the many artists who have stopped by for a visit (or whose publisher sent my favorite spreads from a title after I begged and pleaded). Many thanks are due to all the book-makers who have stopped by to chat with me and Eisha and the publishers who granted 7-Imp permission to share art.

And, yes, do I hear you saying this is the LONGEST POST IN THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD? Why, it is at that, but it’s oh-so skim-able — and mostly full of wonderful stuff at which to look. Sit back and enjoy. Pick your favorite interview and read a snippet. Find your favorite illustrator and kick back to soak in their skills. Choose your own adventure.

Many thanks to Bruce at wordswimmer, who inspired this post with his own retrospective, “Beacons of Light — 2008,” posted a couple weeks ago. His post is well-worth your time, and it got me thinking about how the mass media will turn Hollywood celebrities who turn to writing (often picture books) into bonafide stars, give them all the attention, etcetera etcetera and I know, I know, everyone likes to complain about that, but really. It happens. But the real literary celebrities are…well, many of who I think are the real rock stars stopped by this year, so take a look.

Thanks to everyone who stopped by to chat with 7-Imp and to share their passions and talent. Here’s to the conversations to come in ’09 . . .

* * * * * * *

David AlmondAuthor David Almond (interviewed May 19, 2008): “I see young people all around the world who are fascinated by books, by stories, by language, and who ask serious and perceptive questions about my work. It encourages me in my belief that young people form a wonderful readership, and that the children’s book world offers writers all kinds of opportunities for exploration and experimentation. Children accept stories in all kinds of forms, often in forms that might be seen by adults as too difficult, too whacky, too strange. I love writing illustrated fiction, for instance. There are very few options for a writer to work in such a form in adult books.”

Author/Illustrator Elisha Cooper (interviewed September 22): “I’d like to take this random opportunity to throw-down and say that if you’re an actor or a celebrity, stay the hell out of our business. It’s a free country, fine. But here’s the deal: you can write children’s books as long as we can star in movies.”

Author/Illustrator Julie Paschkis (interviewed May 14), pictured below: “Every book has something about it that is hard for me -– there is always a moment when I am terrified that I can’t do it or there is some aspect that feels overwhelming. There is usually a turning point where I can turn that fear into creativity -– I can figure out how to approach the problem in a way that is interesting.”

Julie Paschkis

Author Kerry Madden (interviewed May 29) on one thing most people don’t know about her: “Every time I start a book, I am terrified I won’t be able to pull it off.”

Author/Illustrator Mini Grey (interviewed October 8) on one thing most people don’t know about her: “I am programmed to self-destruct if I tell you.”

Mini's sketchbooks

Mini’s sketchbooks

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7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #96: Featuring Up-and-Coming Illustrator, Mashanda Scott

h1 Sunday, January 4th, 2009

Jules: Happy new year to all, and welcome to our weekly meeting ground for taking some time to reflect on Seven(ish) Exceptionally Fabulous, Beautiful, Interesting, Hilarious, or Otherwise Positive Noteworthy Things from the past week, whether book-related or not, that happened to you. (Absolutely anyone, of course, is welcome to list kicks — even if, or especially if, you’ve never done so before.)

Guess what, dear readers? It’s the one-year anniversary (thereabouts) of 7-Imp’s up-and-coming illustrator features, in which—on the first Sunday of each month—we feature someone currently studying illustration or someone newly-graduated from the field (or otherwise new to illustration). I have to say, this has been one of my favorite features; I always look forward to hearing from illustration students. I’m not gonna break into an overwrought Whitney Houston tune here (did I really just link to that? Blech), but I do think it’s fun to hear from the voices of the future of illustration. Some of my favorite student or brand-spankin’-new illustrators we featured last year include Ashley Smith, Chris Eliopoulos (a.k.a. “Elio”), Kali Ciesemier, James Hindle, Maris Wicks, and Lauren Minco. (Eric Orchard goes without saying, as we featured him just last month, but really, he rocks.) Remember any of those folks? I hope we see more of them, and I think it’d be fun to follow up and find out what they’re up to now, but, well…then someone would have to add some more hours to my day.

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Happy New Year/Poetry Friday (A Bit Early):
In Praise of Zeroes

h1 Thursday, January 1st, 2009

Happy New Year to our devoted readers out there! I hope each and every one of you spent New Year’s Eve just as you wanted to spend it and with someone you love.

What better way to usher in the new year than with Naomi Shihab Nye, pictured here, a poet to whom I give my great adoration. I love what she captures in this poem I’m sharing below. Perhaps for some this would be a source of stress, the mass of Only the Things I Didn’t Do’s, as you look back on a year. To me, it’s very freeing. As one of my other favorite poets once wrote (well, singer/songwriter, but I’d argue she’s a poet, too): “The zero in my hand / is nothing to lose / it’s hard to confuse power with love / love with power / everything that I’m not is all that I’ve got.” Hey, you never know when you might need a zero (or simply a big sunny field). I say the first day of a new year is a good time for one. I love how its absence—and those sudden zeroes—shout and leave us a space, as Naomi puts it in “Burning the Old Year,” originally published in 1995’s Words Under the Words: Selected Poems (also mentioned before and once upon a time at 7-Imp). I’ll take those spaces—and what they offer us— over a list of resolutions any ‘ol day. And with gratitude.

Letters swallow themselves in seconds.
Notes friends tied to the doorknob,
transparent scarlet paper,
sizzle like moth wings,
marry the air.

So much of any year is flammable,
lists of vegetables, partial poems.
Orange swirling flame of days,
so little is a stone.

You can read the rest here.

Tomorrow’s Poetry Friday round-up will be handled by the dynamic duo over at A Year of Reading.

Here’s to beginning again with the smallest of numbers . . .