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MUZA’S TOP CREATIVE TIPS: Practise, practise and practise your craft. There is always something you can improve on. Never give up. Take up all opportunities offered. You never know where th…
The Genius of Muza Ulasowski – Her stunning animal images are walk off page lifelike! But her genius is giving them unique ‘talk to me’ live personalities!:)
MUZA’S TOP CREATIVE TIPS: Practise, practise and practise your craft. There is always something you can improve on. Never give up. Take up all opportunities offered. You never know where they may lead you.
Muza Ulasowski is a graphic designer and children’s book illustrator based in the leafy western suburb of Brookfield in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. She is inspired and surrounded by a vast array of local birds and animals who tend to make their appearances in her book illustrations. She shares her life with her wonderfully patient husband, their charismatic bulldog called Charlie and a black magic cat named Basil.
In 2010, she was invited to illustrate her first children’s picture book and enjoyed it so much that she has been collaborating ever since with Australian and international authors. To date she has illustrated 10 children’s picture books and is currently illustrating several more which will be published in…
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Some time last year, Erica Wagner, Publisher at Allen and Unwin, was reported as having said, in relation to graphic novels, that there was a lot to be gained by submitting a text already illustrated or mostly illustrated [Allen & Unwin publish purely commission only picture books]. Perhaps this may signal a change in direction that may even extend to those other illustrated tomes – picture books and picture book/graphic novel crossovers.
Some writers/illustrators I know have recently signed contracts for ‘print ready’ books. This is not self-publishing, nor submission to a print-on-demand house but submission to a traditional, royalty paying publisher of a book that is ‘ready to go’ in publishing terms.
What constitutes a ‘print ready’ book? It is a book that has been –
- professionally edited,
- designed to industry standards,
- professionally designed cover and,
- if illustrated, has all images appropriately set.
This is a great way to go for authors who are able to pay illustrators and book designers up front. Most authors are not able to do this. This then means all creators involved in a book project agreeing to royalty share and working between paid projects to collaborate on their book.
What have I gleaned about such ‘print ready’ deals? One company, smaller and reasonably new, offered a small advance and a good contract, by industry standards, with higher than regular royalty share for creators. An offer of help with promotion was also part of the deal. Another company, medium sized and established, offered no advance but better than average royalty shares for creators and help with promotion and marketing of the book.
How does this stack up against what is generally on offer now?
- Small and middle range publishers, in general, do not offer advances.
- Larger publishers offer advances depending on the book, depending on the author, and depending on the agent involved.
- Smaller and middle range publishers often [there are exceptions] expect the author to do it all in relation to promotion, even requiring the submission of a marketing plan.
- Larger publishers vary greatly as to how much promotion they will give a book.
- Generally, publishers will submit copies of their publishing output for major awards, such as the CBCA, and to a selection of leading review outlets.
What’s the down side for author, illustrator, book designer, [often the illustrator], to go down the ‘print ready’ publishing path?
- It IS a lot of extra work for all creators involved to ensure the book is ‘professional’ standard even before it is submitted.
- There is no money upfront.
Are the rewards worth the effort?
- If you love collaborative work, it is a big plus.
- Creators have much more project control to create the book they have collaboratively envisaged.
- A quality product, ‘print ready’, is a major bargaining point for creators/agents. ‘Print ready’ saves the publisher heaps!
The first company mentioned does small print runs, sells out their print runs, reprints and even sells out reprints and so it seems to be gradually snowballing.
It is too early to know in the second instance. [I’ll keep you posted!]
My feeling is that, if Erica Wagner was sensing a ‘trend’ and if these companies make a success of it, we will see more such deals. It’s something to think about!
My own news –
Reading – we all recognise it as a core skill. By ‘intelligent reading’, I mean reading with a level of comprehension commensurate with the child’s experience of the world they inhabit. Fortunately, reading to children is now encouraged as being supportive of reading literacy and as a sound foundation for future learning.
Not that long ago, children were seen as passive recipients of the eager parent’s input via the quality time spent in ‘read to me’ and ‘bedtime story’ sessions.
I always felt sure my children were taking in much more than the professional opinion allowed.
Recently, I borrowed a copy of Dr. Virginia Lowe’s very excellent book, “Stories, Pictures and Reality: Two children tell” (Routlege 2007) based on the record of her own two children’s responses to books from birth to adolescence. Dr. Lowe’s book vindicates what I felt all along as a parent! This book should be set reading for students of primary, early childhood and remedial teaching, child and family psychology and for anyone with an interest in literacy or children’s literature!
Her children had a smorgasbord of stories proffered continuously, both Dr Lowe and her husband being librarians who were passionate advocates of children’s literature. The children’s reactions to and responses concerning elements of story and illustrations provide a wonderfully insightful peek into the psyche of the child. Both Lowe children clearly had a blessed and privileged childhood, but being ‘read to’ is within the reach of most children. Public libraries and school libraries are accessible to most families. Even if parental work commitments make a nightly ‘reading’ impossible, there are weekends and visits to grandparents when a ‘storytelling’ session can be included in the agenda.
There are other options.
And online resources such as “Ripple Reader” and “A Story Before Bed” provide a way for even absent grandparents and parents to read to their children. In the USA and Israel, ‘bedtime stories’ are part of official early education policy. Programmes like “Reach Out and Read” and “Read to Me” do a monumental job in promoting literacy and the power of storytime to be a deeply meaningful and bonding time in families.
The Untangled Tales website is the best of the Summer Reading sites. Going over the site, was like being in one of the famous ‘But WAIT, there’s more!’ advertisements! At every click of the mouse, there was more and all of it FREE! There is something here for children of all ages [preschool, primary, secondary], for their parents, teachers and librarians. The site is gorgeous [literally] to look at, easy to navigate, entertaining in content and layout and engagingly informative!
The Celebrity Corner questions brought out the creative quirkiness of authors and illustrators in a very entertaining way and featured a very diverse group of creatives!
The Untangled Tales game is a blast – great fun! It challenges memory and prods research capabilities and informs about other cultures, their customs and attitudes as reflected in their fairytales and legends.
Check out the side tabs and their drop down menus – there is heaps and heaps of fun activity, fantastic tales, playful poetry and fanciful stories, arty opportunities, creative competitions in writing and art activities and painless learning along the way!!
I’m thrilled to be part of this year’s Summer Reading Club. I’m in Celebrity Corner with Kerry Brown, Christian Bocquee [with whom I am collaborating in our own Fractured Fairytales collection], Terry Denton, Lucia Masciullo and numbers of other wonderfully creative folk!
Personalising your story by J.R.Poulter
Are you seeking an additional paying outlet for you work?
A personalized version might be the answer!
Various companies take the illustrated text for children’ stories and modify them to create a ‘personalised’ version. The company will do the personalizing for you but, in my case, I chose to submit my own ‘personalised’ version’. Some of my ‘personalised’ books are coming out with Frecklebox, who have also published personalised versions of books by friends.
Having a ‘personalized’ edition does not prevent you from still seeking out publication of your original text. Contracts are non-exclusive.
If you are publishing with a small company, they might be interested in adding the option of a personalized version of your story for sale digitally.
How do you do it?
“The little boy clapped his hands gleefully! The thing in the grass glittered up at him in rainbow colours. He tried to grab it! “Oh!” he exclaimed, the beautiful thing had moved, just out of reach…” [JRP]
Becomes: “Edward clapped his hands gleefully! The thing in the grass glittered up at him in rainbow colours. He tried to grab it! “Oh!” Edward exclaimed, the beautiful thing had moved, just out of reach…” [JRP]
For rhyming stories, a refrain can be added in to provide the ‘personalised’ element. An example from an upcoming ‘personalised’ version “Ten Little Heroes”, a picture book with a counting element, illustrated by UK illustrator/animator, Alex Slack:
FOUR Little Heroes flying to the moon,
One said, “I’m Space-man!
See you SOOOooon! ”
Oops a doops, a whoopsie there!
Mike to the rescue! Mike is here!
Once you have the hang of the text conversion process, you might choose to offer personalized versions of your digital books [e.g. on the App Store, Utales.com, Kindle, Nook, Adobe Digital editions, etc], or self-published children’s books from your own website/store.
The wonderful people of Nami Island Concours have created another outstanding opportunity for illustrators all over the world! The dream of these folk, who are so passionately devoted to children’s literature, is to turn Nami Island into a library! Angela Kim is the Assistant Manager and the person to contact if you wish to know more – her contact details are on the website.
These are the links – Nami Island Concours, Guidelines and information
Lists can be extremely useful, especially when they are constantly being updated!
Here are SIX such.
The first, compiled by the enterprising and enthusiastic Brain Grove, is a list of US publishers who are currently accepting submissions for children’s books – http://j.mp/SVbnCk – he also, very helpfully, adds links to each entry to take you straight to the site. I also recommend his ebook on query /submission letter writing.
A second list, an international one, that is regularly updated is on Lou Treleaven’s Blog:
The third, a veritable database of bloggers who interview and/or review, is continuously being updated by the very proactive authors, Delin Colon and Lisa Kalner Williams – http://bit.ly/writerinterviewopps …
Fourth – a database of legends and folktales – if you are looking for inspiration for twists on fairytales or legends, fables etc – here is a whole swag!
Fifth – oh this one is an essential! The inimitable Katie Davis’s Tool Kit is linked out under 5 ‘HEADLINE’ headings!!
If you haven’t joined www.jacketflap.com, I highly recommend it – an excellent networking site for all things related to children’s literature and books.
Latest addition, number six, Rachelle Burk has a wonderful resource site – http://www.resourcesforchildrenswriters.com/ – her awarded list of wonderfully helpful links is truly encyclopaedic!
Get busy and good luck!
Muza Ulasowski, my wonderful collaborator, has created a fabulous FB page for our picture book, “The Sea Cat Dreams”! Muza’s wonderfully life like illustrations have perfectly captured the story in a way I could never have envisaged! She has truly captured the story’s essence! Here are some samples:
The story is about coping with life impacting change something that can happen planned [as in a house move] or completely unplanned [as with a natural disaster, accident, death etc]. Coping with change, as child/family psychologists and counselors all say, is something that has a profound impact, especially on the young. As with grief, adults are often too preoccupied with the change and its ramifications to be able to take in how the children, who are being impacted by change, are managing or not managing in the new setting/situation.
The cat in the story moves, accidently, from one environment & family on a farm, to another very different one, aboard a fishing boat. He is then impacted further by the loss of a master he has come to love. But this is not the end. He moves through his life’s dramatic changes; firstly, by grieving, something we need to encourage each other and especially children, to do. He then reaches out to, shares with and cares for others also affected by loss, in this case, the fisherman’s widow. He gradually accepts his new life situation, not for a moment forgetting what has happened, but treasuring the wonderful memories he has.
The process of grieving must be acknowledged and the grieving child/adult be allowed to express their grief or sense of loss at the change in their lives and encouraged to do so. Let them talk, let them share as much as they need to. Highlight the constructive aspects, positive elements, e.g, wonderful memories of a dead friend, relative or pet. If the impacting change has involved a move – be it to a different school, to another suburb, another state, another country – encourage the keeping of contacts where possible, assist with the making of new contacts and the sharing of the process of moving and resettling, especially any humorous incidents.
The hope in writing this book, was to help children talk about their own stories of life changing events and to recognise, that whilst change is not always pleasant, we can become stronger for it and be better able to reach out and empathise with others experiencing its many faceted impact on their own lives.
Reviews and recommendations:
The Sea Cat Dreams is a beautifully written and illustrated book for children. In today’s world with so many young people facing loss and change, this important resource supports a child’s journey through grief and separation.
I am adding it as a good resource in my new book, the third edition of “Life and Loss”.
Author, Children Also Grieve, Life and Loss
Fellow in Thanantology: Death, Dying, and Bereavement (FT), MS degree Counseling, Master’s Equivalency in early childhood education, LCPC and NBCC. She worked as a teacher and counselor in the school system for almost twenty years.
I’ve just lost a dear friend to cancer and I felt refreshed after reading the Sea Cat’s Dreams story.
I found myself identifying with the Sea Cat in the story and this metaphor provided a comforting space from the painful loss, but it also normalized it. Like the cat’s life, our life is often interrupted by hurtful events. Through the cat’s eyes I witnessed my sorrow and of those around me but in the midst of it all there is a safe, calm place on our heart’s sill where we know we shall be well, allowing the sorrow to run its course while cherishing the memories.
I would definitely use it with my clients, young and old.
Youla Overbey, MA, LLPC
Behavioral Health Counselor at Catholic Charities West Michigan; Professional Counselor at Muskegon Counseling & Educational Services
The Sea Cat Dreams is the latest bibliotherapy book penned by JR Poulter. The story, recounted in beautiful poetic form, centres around the life transitions of a cat and the devastating loss it has to bear, rendering it a very versatile bibliotherapy tool which can be used with children who have experienced different types of life transitions including change and loss in different dimensions. The slogan for the book is “Coping with change…” and this is an apt choice as change is paradoxically the constant in the cat’s life resulting in losses borne on lots of levels. The losses associated with the first transition in the cat’s life pale into insignificance compared to the devastating loss associated with the second and this bears out the author’s sensitivity to different losses having different impacts. The contrast is rendered starker by the positivity of the first transition in the cat’s life and this also shows awareness on the author’s part that not all life changes are unsettling. These observations lend further testimony to the nature of the author’s outlook on life which is both realistic and positive and shines through her work. Poulter focuses on coping with change and all its ramifications. She highlights the relational aspect of coping with bereavement in caring for and comforting one another and gives prominence to the importance of memories and fantasy in coping with changes and loss. The book is illustrated by Muza Ulasowski with delightful romantic imagery in hues that evoke comfort and warmth, blending seamlessly with the overarching theme of resilience in the face of tragedy. The Sea Cat Dreams is a book I would wholeheartedly recommend.
Claire Casha is a psychology graduate with over ten years’ experience of family therapy work. She is currently working as a research officer and reading for a Master in Family Studies at the University of Malta.
Preview and purchase: http://utales.com/books/the-sea-cat-dreams