Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The 2014 Crystal Kite Winners: I DARE YOU NOT TO YAWN by Hélène Boudreau and SKINK ON THE BRINK by Lisa Dalrymple and illustrated by Suzanne Del Rizzo (SCBWI Canada East)

It's a TIE! This week's Crystal Kite Spotlight shines on two winning books from SCBWI Canada East, winners in the Canada division.

 I DARE YOU NOT TO YAWN by Hélène Boudreau

Crystal Kite Winning-Author Helene Boudreau
and SKINK ON THE BRINK by Lisa Dalrymple, illustrated by Suzanne Del Rizzo.

Crystal Kite Award-Winning Author Lisa Dalrymple
Crystal Kite Award-Winning Illustrator Suzanne Del Rizzo
I contacted the three winners to find out more. First, Hélène:

 Lee:  Please tell us about your book!

Hélène: I DARE YOU NOT TO YAWN is an anti-bedtime picture book about the perils of yawning when the last thing you want to do is go to bed. It was inspired by my daughter when she’d let out big (fake) yawns at the dinner table to get us all to yawn as well. When it dawned on me that she was using the fact that yawning is contagious for her personal entertainment, I thought ‘aha!’ what a fun concept for a picture book.

Here’s the book description from Candlewick Press: A yawn can land you in your pj’s and under the covers before you can blink and say “Baa baa black sheep.” So clamp your mouth shut and look away from your sleepy dog, stay away from your cuddly blanket, and whatever you do, don’t think of baby orangutans stretching their long arms out for a snuggly hug. Otherwise, you might find your mouth opening wide and letting out a great big yawny yaaaaaawn — hey, you were supposed hold it in! 

A hilarious read-aloud that is so much fun, kids will beg for it again and again, whatever the consequences. Just try to resist this comical — and infectious — cautionary fable that will have even bedtime-avoiders gladly snuggling up for a nightly challenge.

Lee: How long have you been involved with SCBWI, and can you share what you feel you've gained by being a member?

Hélène: I have been a member of the Verla Kay Blueboards (now merged with the SCBWI message boards) for about eight years and a SCBWI member for about four years to date. SCBWI and its membership has really expanded my horizons in terms of the children’s book industry. It has been a go-to place for me to learn about the art and business of writing, not to mention all the fun, like-minded friends I’ve met in the process. It really is a wonderful community. 

Lee: Do you have any advice to share with other children's book writers and illustrators?

Hélène: Something I’ve come to learn is that, to be successful in this business, desire will get you started but grit is what gets it done. There’s a certain amount of work required to see a concept through from idea to creation to publication and for some, talent will get them halfway there right out of the gate but it’s not a golden ticket and not a guarantee of success. For others (admittedly, me) it’s only by sheer practice, restarting, refining, pride-swallowing, and stick-to-itiveness in the face of rejection, that books finally get published. That may take years (5 for me), it may take many ‘practice’ books (too many to count), it may take loads of rejections (like hundreds) but where there is a will there is a way.

Thanks, Hélène!

Now, the creators of SKINK ON THE BRINK, here's Lisa and Suzanne:

Lee: Lisa, please tell us about this book and your inspiration for the story!

Lisa: Honestly, my original desire to write Skink on the Brink came from the fact that the word ‘skink’ just made me giggle. If you live in the eastern states, skinks may be relatively commonplace (after all, Stewie is known as a Common Five-lined Skink) but, up here in Canada, they are incredibly rare. Kids love hearing about them, not only because their name is so much fun to say, but because skinks can do all sorts of amazing things: they’re lizards, so they can pop off their tails; juvenile skinks have the most astonishing blue tails I have ever seen; and adult males develop a red head in the spring (to make other skinks fall in love with them. Ewww!) 

So, it’s not surprising that Stewie is a lizard with an identity crisis. He prides himself on his shockingly bright blue tail, on the songs and poems he loves to make up, and on his name (because it rhymes with blue-y.) But, as Stewie is growing up, his blue tail is fading to gray and, to make matters worse, he’s developing a red head! He’s no longer inspired to make up the rhymes that he loves. He needs to discover who Stewie the skink is if he can no longer call himself “Stewie the Blue.” 

Lee: Suzanne, tell us about the illustration inspiration and process.

Suzanne: When I first found out I would be illustrating Skink on the Brink, I knew I had some prep work to do before I even got cracking on my initial sketches. This book would be part of the Tell-Me-More Storybook series at Fitzhenry and Whiteside- stand-alone storybooks which have 2 pages of cross-curricular back matter, full of great non-fiction information. Coming from a science background, I must admit I do love the initial researching phase of any picture book project. I began by collecting loads of reference photos from the internet, library, and Lisa provided me with some super shots from her trip to Pinery Park where she managed to photograph a Five-lined Skink up-close and in person. 

I envisioned having lots of secondary animals and vegetation to make Stewie’s habitat rich and authentic, so I also familiarized myself with the various animals and plant life that co-exist in his natural habitat. Luckily, my family cottage just happened to border the geographical region of their habitat. After many nature walks I had all the photo reference I needed. Perfect! 

My illustration process always begins with lots of loose thumbnail sketches. At this stage I play around with perspective, pacing, and flow. I also went through a few rounds of character sketches, all the while checking in with my editor, Christie Harkin. Christie encouraged Lisa and me to get in touch and bounce ideas around. It’s not always standard for authors and illustrators to discuss a project, but in this case, I think it really helped us achieve something special with this book. It was a fantastic collaboration.

My illustrations are basically low relief plasticine sculptures pressed onto illustration board, which are professionally photographed for print. Because I work in plasticine (and sometimes polymer clay and mixed media), I prefer to create very detailed, full-sized pencil drawings to show my AD/editor, and ideally make changes at this phase of the project. Each illustration can take from 20-40+ hours to create, depending on its size and complexity, so it’s much easier to erase a few pencil strokes at this point than to peel off/redo the plasticine final art. Creating the final art is similar to making a pizza where you begin with the background and gradually add layer upon layer working toward the foreground. I really enjoy adding lots of different textures and little details for children to explore, enjoy, and discover, even after multiple readings. 

Lisa’s Stewie was such fun to bring to life. From the vibrant blue-ness of his tail to the dapper and oh-so-handsome red of his head, he was the perfect character to render in plasticine. And to top it off he’s also a singing skink! I knew early on he’d need to back up those songs with some equally cool moves, so I had him dancing, foot-tapping, and finger snapping, in many of the illustrations- he’s one groovy skink. I think we found just the right balance of anthropomorphism while maintaining most of his awesome natural physical characteristics.

Lee: How long have you each been involved with SCBWI, and can you share what you feel you've gained by being a member?

Lisa: I feel like I’ve been a member of SCBWI for a long time. The friendships and connections I’ve made through SCBWI, either online or at regional and international conferences, seem to go back much further than the couple of years that my membership profile insists must be true. For me, my involvement in SCBWI can be distilled down to three concepts: the support of experienced mentors and friends, the inspiration kindled by conversation and informative presentations, and the passion for children’s writing and illustration that we all share.

Suzanne: I’ve been a member of SCBWI since 2011. Joining SCBWI was one of the first things I did when I decided to pursue a career in illustration. It is an invaluable resource, and its members are a continual source of inspiration. I joined a critique group through my regional SCBWI chapter. In August 2013 I attended my first LA conference. A personal highlight was hearing David Wiesner- one of my all-time favorite illustrators - talk about his process. This October I’m attending my first regional conference in Ottawa. I am super excited to meet many of my fellow CANEASTers in person for the first time, many of whom I’ve gotten to know online. Being a member of such a supportive and encouraging group has helped me grow as an illustrator and author. SCBWI’s resources, such as their submissions guidelines and school visit tips are just some of the tools which I utilize year after year.

When Lisa and I heard that Skink on the Brink was chosen by our fellow SCBWI peers to win the Crystal Kite award for Canada, we were honored and beyond thrilled. 

Lee: Do you have any advice to share with other children's book writers and illustrators?

Lisa: I’m always uncomfortable at being asked for advice when there is so much good advice out there from other writers far more qualified to give it. That’s probably why my advice is always to go to conferences, join associations, meet those other writers, listen and learn–not only to what they have to say about craft or ‘the writing life,’ but about what’s going on in the business of writing and publishing too. I also cannot recommend a critique group enough. Even if your writing is awesome, I think there’s much value in receiving feedback from others and in developing your own analytical eye. And… finding a critique group that’s a good fit is another fringe benefit of getting out there and meeting other creators.

Suzanne: We creative types tend to be rather introverted and shy; at least I know I am. We tend to work away quietly, isolated in our studio. Don’t be afraid to get out there and meet others in the kidlit community through conferences, or monthly meet-ups. Get online and connect. Every Thursday at 9pm EST on Twitter there is a #kidlitart Tweet Chat of kidlit creators. It’s always fun and they cover lots of awesome topics- check it out. Join a critique group. I belong to the Illustrators’ Union, a networking/critique group, as well as my SCBWI CANEAST PB group. Invest time in your craft. Set aside time to experiment and play, push the boundaries of your artwork to grow as an artist and further develop your individual style. I have found the kidlit community to be such a receptive and supportive bunch. Be a “sponge” and soak up all the wisdom and knowledge that is shared from other kidlit writers, illustrators, editors, and art directors may offer you, it’s golden!

Thanks, Lisa and Suzanne!

I also heard from Alma Fullerton, Regional Advisor of SCBWI Canada East, who wrote:
In Canada East if a picture book wins the Crystal Kite there’s a huge chance that we will have two winners as both author and illustrator may reside in our region. This year we were lucky to have THREE winners as two books tied for the award. Two of the winners were able to attend our fall conference to receive their awards and the third will attend our spring conference.
Thanks to Hélène, Lisa, Suzanne and Alma, and cheers to Hélène for her I DARE YOU NOT TO YAWN, and to Lisa and Suzanne for their SKINK ON THE BRINK winning the 2014 Crystal Kite Award!

You can find out more about Hélène Boudreau at her website here.

Learn more about Lisa Dalrymple at this online home, and here's the link for Suzanne Del Rizzo's site.

And there's lots more info on SCBWI Canada East and their events at their region's home page.

Illustrate and Write On,

1 comment:

Sue Todd said...

Thanks for the great interview, Lee! It is full of insight and good advice. Well deserved awards to three talented authors and illustrators!