Denise's Q & A


Q & A

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I feel I have to write, but I'm not sure how to get started. I keep a "Writer's Notebook" and I write down ideas, but do I just write something and send it in to a publisher? —R.W., New York

Write, write, write, and read. Check out the SCBWI website for particulars about submission. Familiarize yourself with the structure and form of the type of book you want to write. A picture book is usually 32 pages and approximately 100 words.

When creating a book, do you first develop the art or the written story? —L.N., Maryland

Usually I have a rough story idea first. Then I start sketching. I may change the text as I develop the visuals in the book. The idea for Time to Sleep started with an image of a bear; I love their solid shape and I wanted to create a book with a bear, so I wrote the story.

I have read your books and I loved the art. They are great. I also have three children and I go to the library a lot and come back with so many books including yours. I am an artist at heart and I also would like to illustrate and write children's books. But I don't know how to get started and how to approach a publishing company. Also what do the publishers look for? Is it the illustration or the story? —A.K., Illinois

I'm not sure what ages you are interested in writing for, but I'm going to assume picture books or maybe early chapter books. Definitely you have to write, but I would suggest checking out a how-to book or two at the library so as to familiarize yourself with the structure and form that a picture book takes and simple submission requirements. For example, a picture book is traditionally 32 pages and approximately 100 words or less. As for story/subject—I love language, certain words are fun to say and create strong action; I choose to create a mood more than tell a straightforward story. You have to write about what interests you—if you are excited about your subject that will be reflected in your work. About submitting: there is a great reference book at the library that lists all the publishers and their addresses. Also visit the website for SCBWI, the organization for writers and illustrators of children's books. Good luck!

How long does it take you to make a book? How long does it take to make one picture? —K.S., Rhode Island

I work on a book for about a year. Now, I don't work each and every day and at certain points I may put the book away for a week or two so that i can look at what I have done with fresh eyes, but from start to finish a year passes. Some pictures I do quite quickly—3 or 4 days, other pictures may take longer. Making a picture requires quite a few steps: design the page, transfer the design to foam board for the stencils, cut the stencils, dye the cotton fiber, pour the picture using cotton fiber, flip off the finished picture, sponge excess moisture from the picture, put picture in vacuum table to get out even more moisture, then put the picture in the drying press for 3-5 days, once a day I change the blotter paper in the drying press…WHEW, I am exhausted just thinking about it! P. S. and of course I have to write the book…that comes first :-)

What kind of pigment do you use to achieve the bright colors in your illustrations? I have experimented with a few ways to color my pulp but I have never been able to get mine to dry as bright as yours. (If this is a classified artist's secret, I understand!) Do you paint on your paper sheets? If so, what kind of paint do you use? I have been disappointed with the supplies available in our local art stores, and I have found a couple of decent web sites for paper makers, but I have no idea what to buy for color, so any advice you can give will be much appreciated. —K.D., Iowa ION

I do not paint on the paper. I use universal pigments to color the cotton fiber and saturate the fiber with color. I purchase all of my papermaking supplies from Twinrocker.

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