For me writing is like the time I planted poppy seeds.
I wanted a ton of red poppies on my front lawn- like The Wizard of OZ
I planted a ton of seeds. I went nuts. I waited.
No poppies grew.
I imagined all of the neighborhood squirrels ate the seeds… on tiny bagels.
3 years went by…I considered it a gardening failure. No poppies.
The 4th year…. I had 1 poppy. A big , giant red poppy.
That was it. It was pretty. It went away.
The next year, in another spot…. 1 red poppy.
That’s how writing is for me. Planting, waiting, worrying, failure… surprise.
The last three days were so much fun. This was the first year that I even had a clue what happens when BEA rolls into town. I was asked to participate in some of the events. At these events I met some really great people and got to know some I have met, even better.
It is amazing how so many people in children’s book publishing are so warm and supportive and generous. And funny. And smart. And did I mention funny?
It has been one of my favorite years in that respect. I have laughed a lot. It is so enjoyable to make one of these funny people laugh. Like a little victory. Is it the hours alone that make us so slap happy? The overworked creative side of the brain that now rapid fires silliness? I don’t know but it is some serious fun.
I do think my Reverend Jim Ignatowski face may have popped up a few times the last three days.
It happened when I met new people who knew of me. Who knew my work., had wanted me to illustrate a book but heard I was so busy. People who stopped me in the ladie’s room line. That happened. Really! ? !
In the attic for a year…working away, the emails that reached me caused this face.. but the cat was the only one to see it. Out and about this week… I tried to control it… but it still broke free. Along with the scratch of the head and the breathy.. WHAAaaah?”
I am a fortunate person.
I get that I made this happen.
I’m finding my sea legs.
I may be on the brink of getting a grip.
It sure is fun.
I don’t know who won my piece at the ABFFE auction. I would love to… I hope you (you beautiful person) reach out to me! It would be cool to know!
How did I arrive at the Javitts Center?
By pedi-cab singing the Indiana Jones theme. Cause this is an adventure. Embarrassing Video…
Busy Busy here in the studio!!
Life these days is just like that cheesey Flash Dance song:
What a feeling.
I can have it all, now I’m dancing for my life.
Take your passion
And make it happen.
Pictures come alive, now I’m dancing through my life.
What a feeling.
Where’s my off the shoulder cut off sweatshirt!!?!?? Somebody dump a bucket of water on me!!! I’m a maniac!!
What’s new here?
Elvis and the Underdogs is out in stores!!!!! Go- run to your local indie book shop and scoop it up! It will be a great summer read for your 7-10 year old!!!
I have a copy of “The Quirks,Welcome to Normal” in my hands and that is out June 4th!! – It was a lot of drawing… and seeing it in print makes me smile BIG! It will be at your local indie book store as well!
Next Wednesday I will have my first piece of art in an auction in the world of children’s books.
The American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression or ABFFE hosts an auction every year at Book Expo America. ABFFE is a wonderful organization that works hard to counter censorship and promote free speech in literature.
RIGHT NOW – there are pieces up online for bid!!! So much great art for a great cause! Follow this LINK to their facebook page, like it, browse… get some good art!
I will be there! If you are there.. find me. Come say hello- this is my first auction and I will not know many people. I am a little nervous.
I did an original watercolor of Louise and Art from my upcoming book “Louise Loves Art” – out Fall 2014. I am in the middle of finishing this book, so, drawing these characters was where my head is at right now. Part of the auction is in tribute to Maurice Sendak, who passed this year. I wanted to do something to honor him. His interview with Terry Gross on NPR’s fresh air was a huge moment for me. Life lessons, wisdom, humor, a cantankerous but loveable man. It stuck with me that he said one of the greatest compliments he ever got was from sending a child a handmade card and the Mom wrote back, “Jim loved your card so much he ate it.” I thought of little Art and his need to express himself all over other people’s things. I think Maurice would like it if kids were expressing themselves all over his books too- out of love. Here’s the piece up for auction:
So many friends have work in the auction too!
I hope I didn’t forget anyone.
There are a few pieces that I have my eye on….. so hard to leave empty handed….
What to wear..what to wear… I suppose the Flash Dance outfit will do!
My Big brother Ralph is a teacher. Mr. Rocha as they call him. Can I possibly say anything else that makes me feel more awe and pride? A 3rd grade teacher in St. Charles, Illinois at the Richmond Intermediate Elementary School.
Every school day begins with his news cast. Every night he makes a video to show the kids the next morning and it is always themed to the curriculum. He is an outstanding teacher who fills his kid’s educations with art and history and books and science and every bit of wonder that we all wish our kids were getting in school. I have seen a lot of these news casts and they put a lot of book trailers to shame… my favorite was his Swedish Chef one!
Last week was their school’s “Lit Fest”… They were graced with wonderful authors like Dan Gutman!! At the end of the week, the author of “The Quirks, Welcome to Normal”, Erin Soderberg was featured. She had sent hundreds of bookmarks to the kids along with a letter about the book.
This Wednesday, I will skype with the students of Richmond Elementary. My first ever school visit. My first ever skype visit! I am so excited. I promise my big brother I will not embarrass him….(much).
Here is the link to the video Ralph made about me. It’s pretty cool. Thanks Bro!!!
“In every line that I draw lives every cartoon I ever watched, every comic book I ever read and every funny page I ever enjoyed while slurping my cereal on a Sunday morning. From Mickey to Snoopy to Pogo Possum, if it is drawn in a line and makes people smile or laugh out loud… it’s the art form that makes my heart skip a beat… cartooning. Hanna Barbera and Jay Ward and Walter Lantz and Warner Bros characters filled my head and my early sketch pads. I loved Richard Scarry and Dr. Seuss as well but more than books…I claim cartoons as my biggest influence. As I have been working feverishly on my first books…I have had a few moments that felt like an anvil dropping on my head..that made me realize… my influences were pouring right out the end of my pencil. I was a huge reader and collector of Archie Comics. A few months ago, I found I had drawn the feet and legs of a Mom in a chapter book…exactly the way I learned to draw Betty and Veronica’s feet. I designed a character for my picture book who looked half “Gerald McBoing Boing” a UPA cartoon from the 1950′s and half “Reggie Van Pelt” from Richie Rich, very 1970′s Harvey Comics. The decision to embrace and not deny my cartoonist self took up a few years of my pursuit of children’s book publishing. When I finally stopped listening to every voice that said I was too “cartoony” for kid’s books… and only listened to that world of humor and line that ignited my imagination and love of drawing as a small kid, I suddenly became magically delicious to art directors. I hope everyone can learn from my experience – listen to that kid inside you. That kid’s got a lot to tell you.”
That is an excerpt from something that I was asked to contribute to a workshop on drawing from your childhood influences by illustrator Hazel Mitchell. She will be giving the workshop at the upcoming New England SCBWI Spring conference. I am sure it’s gonna be great, I hope you all take advantage of enjoying Hazel’s wit and charm!!
At Christmas, my Mom gave me an amazing gift. She gave me something I had written….at 17.
It was the end of senior year, May 17, 1988. We were asked to write our “Philosophy of Life”. When I prepared to read this a few months ago, I groaned.
“Oh no.” “How embarrassing is this going to be?”
(I don’t have a scanner right now, so I’m gonna type it out. )
“Philosophy of Life” Kelly Rocha May 17, 1988 p7
I don’t think anyone can really have a philosophy of life. They have basic ideas of morals and dreams for how to live their lives but that changes. Everyday life changes, for better or for worse. So, as of now I suppose this is my “Idea of how I live my life.”
I try to be the best person I can be. I know where my interests lie and I work hard at them. I try to be a decent, nice, good person. One that people like to be around. I feel that everyone should work at this but it seems that little do. So, while I try this, I have a hard time dealing with all of the schmucks in the world. And there are so many. This school is jammed packed with them.
Whether it sounds conceded or not, I am a little more mature than most kids my age. I do not find it necessary to use lewd language, drink until I pass out, or use drugs. I have never found it necessary to ridicule others. To point out people are supposedly “lower than” myself. To think of people as “popular” or “less popular”. What does that mean? Who decides who is popular and who is not? The “popular” kids? Who are they? Who picked them? Themselves? I give them six months from graduation. It’s all a fallacy.
Maybe I like it in the background of life. I get to watch people. I understand them. I draw them. I’d much rather be here than in the limelight where one gets blinded.
I find judging people by their looks, clothes, hair, etc… to be the philosophy of the phony. It does seem to be the rule of this school. I hope as I leave, the rest of society is different. Needless to say, I am more than happy to leave. The last four years have not been my “Best of Times”. They were rough. They did give me a clear idea of what I want to be and what I do not want to be. They focused me and showed me where I am going.
I want to be a successful artist and make people happy. I want to help the world to be a better place. (and that’s not just “fluff” , it’s true!) If we don’t start repairing the world, we are in for disaster. I’d like to help people realize that they are worth more than they think or that other people tell them they are. That they can accomplish so much if they focus. And that they can help others do the same. People shouldn’t just worry about themselves. This may seem far fetched, but I am not a 17 year old girl who sits around thinking about nail polish colors.
I just want the world that I am going into to be a happier, safer, more peaceful place. I always have a head full of ideas.. these are just a few that came out while writing this. Basically I want my life to go on to be lived artistically, happily, helpfully and peacefully. I think it’s a big order to fill, but if anyone deserves it, it’s me.
As I read this, it was like that 17 year old girl was reading over my shoulder. She was still here. She gets forgotten in the hustle and bustle. But she never left. What smacked me in the face was that I am pretty much the same – right down to the use of the word SCHMUCK.
It’s a rare thing to know who you are. If there is any one thing I have always known, it’s that. It got me through the bullying in 6-9th grade. It kept my head held high, even after it was dunked in the boy’s bathroom toilet.
I still want the same things.
A lot of people write online about “What would you tell your 17 year old self?”
My 17 year old self told the 42 year old me – “You’re good.”
Janis Ian needs a new verse… from further ahead, looking back. Her song is true at 17. Just sing it again…at 42, when you can see how you were really always – good.
I’ll be talking about a chapter book that I illustrated, written by Erin Soderberg that is coming out this June! “The Quirks! Welcome to Normal” published by Bloomsbury.
Where did the idea come from for the book?
It came from Erin Soderberg, the author. She is tagged, so you can follow her link and find out how she dreamed up the Quirky Family!
What genre does your book fall under?
Middle Grade chapter book
What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
The main characters are two twin, fourth grade girls, Molly and Penelope. Like Hayley Mills in “The Parent Trap” it would be one girl playing both…. hmm…. would be a new face.. with really curly hair. I see cross country “Annie” like auditions! Erin?? Let’s see if she has any thoughts.. I’d say- a fresh faced new comer.
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
A funny, heart warming story of a family of outsiders who are trying to find a place to call home… with a touch of quirky magic.
Who is publishing your book?
How long did it take you to illustrate the book?
The process start to finish took about 9 months.
What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
The thing that I love about this book is that it is cross-genre. It’s magical, but that’s not the over arching theme. It’s about family. It’s about sisters. It’s about belonging or not belonging. It’s about finding out what is special about you may just be the thing you think makes you different. The inability to control one’s magic hints at the problems a kid on the spectrum might face as well. I know the knee jerk place is to put it into fantasy… but this is not a wizardy book. Maybe Ivy and Bean by Annie Barrows or The Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z by Kate Messner.
Who or what inspired you in illustrating this book?
Erin writes the BEST visual clues!! “the girls limbs look like stretched taffy…with hair like curly parsley”.. I mean, c’mon.. made my pencil dance.
What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?
There’s a SEQUEL….. out later this year ……..
Now, to tag a few incredible writer/illustrators who have books coming out in the near future, check their blogs next week for their answers!:
As I mentioned before.. my author extraordinaire:
Erin Soderberg – Author of “The Quirks-Welcome to Normal” and so many other great titles
I am tickled to tag Gerald Kelley - who just finished the spine tingling tale.. “The Legend of the Jersey Devil”
A Great new book is coming out called Betsy’s Day at the Game by my pal, Katherine Blackmore :
This is my iphone case.
A few months ago I went looking for one
and saw this and it hit me.
I GOT THE GOLDEN TICKET.
Everyone wanted to go to the Chocolate Factory. They all bought a lot of Wonka bars too. They ate a lot of chocolate.
Only a small number of kids get a golden ticket.
(I’ve met an Augustus, a few Violets and a handful of Mikes.)
Once you get into the chocolate factory, the trials start.
The golden ticket only gets you in. The rest you have to earn.
Just ask Charlie.
Ya might drink the Fizzy Lifting Drink or sneak a gobstopper along the way…
take a psychedelic boat ride …
The reality is, at every turn, you have to make the right choices. The right decision will lead to another choice… and another….
get to ride in that glass elevator.
That’s when Mr. Wonka passes his hat.
“You’ve won Charlie.”
Then you realize, there is even more work ahead. He feels you are up to the task. You’ve earned it.
You wanted this. More with every trial. More with every decision.
You get the factory.
You get to make a lot of chocolate. For years to come. With your name on the label.
Perhaps heavy is the head that wears that lovely pumpkin colored top hat,
but hard work and passion make good chocolate.
Here in the Chocolate Factory… the days blend into one another.
Busy is good. Busier and wiser every day.
We get by by taking breaks in the chocolate room, eating a tea cup or two
and singing this song…
I had a photo shoot. Just a few weeks back.
I hate having my picture taken.
I hate seeing pictures of me.
I love photographs. I collect them. Drawers and drawers and albums and albums of old photographs. Photographs are tangible memories. Moments that come and go so quickly are preserved- for us to revisit thru an image taken in a split second. I think of myself as a rescuer of memories… and moments and I treasure these old pictures as if they were priceless.
And they are not of me.
I didn’t mind having my picture taken as a child. I was actually a bit of a ham.
It all changed in middle and high school. I had too many kids tell me that I was fat. I had too many boys tease me. Far too much cruelty for my sensitive soul and I listened to them.
I believed them. I decided I was not pretty.
I remember moments that I felt pretty, my wedding day… one day in my 20′s when I wore this little black dress. Another day when I was 33 and a cute guy followed me out of a bar calling me “Little red headed girl” and asked me out like his life depended on it and when I told him I was married, he looked wounded. I had never had that happen to me.
But these moments have been really rare in my life. Mostly I thought life handed me lemons in the looks department… short, rounder than the preferred female shape… I’ve told myself, do your best… make lemonade with what you got.
This has gone on too long. My fear of having my picture taken shows up in the pictures. A tight jaw. A smirk. A grimace. A goofy look on my face. All of it says “Take it quick and end my misery.”
I miss out on the moments.
So, going in to the photo shoot, I was a mess. A nervous wreck.
The photographer Sophie Spinelle is awesome. Amazing. Lovely. Kind. Thoughtful. Inspiring. Talented. She made the day very relaxed and validating.
The first part of the day was my author photo shoot.
I think my nerves got the best of me. I was not relaxed. I think it showed in the pictures. There is only one shot that I like. This is it:
There are things that I like about it. The confidence in my face- the mischief. But I pick it apart knowing it will go in the book and everywhere else it’ll pop up as my books come out. It’s growing on me though.
After the author shots were taken they glammed me up and we did a Pin UP shoot. There was a moment they walked me, eyes closed, in front of a mirror. They told me to open my eyes and I saw this.
I took this with my i phone.
I had to capture that moment.
When I felt pretty.
I wore things. Girly, frilly, revealing, sexy things.
I can not show many of these pictures. Trust me, they are cool.
The best shots are the ones in which I am relaxed. I look happy.
I usually don’t go with in a mile of Pink. I may have to rethink Pink.
And then there is a picture that says it all:
I think that day was about way more than looks. It was about life and where I am at. I could regret that it took me until 42 to get to this place of happiness and feeling pretty and fulfilled. But I’d rather not spoil the moment.
I’d rather treasure it- cause it’s priceless.
Thanks to Sophie Spinelle and her team. You gals rock.
(These are just low res proofs. There are a few others I will show when I get the finals.)