boot camp

2013 Illustrator’s Boot Camp: Creating Characters

Originally Posted: September 2013

by Stephen Martin

There are many ways to draw a cat. It is the illustrator’s responsibility to take the author’s words and infuse that cat with traits and visual appeal to create a character that children will care for and relate to.

Patrick Collins, creative director at Henry Holt Books for Young Readers, started his morning master class by showing examples of illustrations in different styles, from the very realistic to the highly cartoony, and demonstrated how he put an illustrator’s characters and an author’s words together. (more…)

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2013 Illustrator’s Boot Camp: Finding The Joy

Originally Posted: September 2013

by Melanie Hope Greenberg

Caldecott Honor-winner Peter McCarty, like many picture book artists, fell into the publishing business as a freelance illustrator who was in the right place at the right time. He has gone on to become one of the most honored in the children’s book field. In a wide-ranging talk, McCarty described his constant quest to stay true to the kind of drawing he loves while also finding a style that is commercially appealing. (more…)

Illustrator Boot Camp 2013: Character Building With Rachael Cole

Originally Posted: September 2013

by Kristy Caldwell

Every story has characters, but not every story is character-driven. Illustrators should know that a character who is “just there to drive the plot along” will not be the focal point of the book, explained Rachael Cole, art director at Schwartz and Wade Books. When characters drive the experience the audience will “get to know who they really are.”

Development of a convincing character is a monumental undertaking because it requires unwavering attention to many details as well as to the bigger picture. Cole offered tools to encourage illustrators to keep the focus on character. (more…)

2013 Character Boot Camp: Voice Lessons With Heather Alexander

Originally Published: April 2013

by Gina Carey

photo by Jenna Ward

Writers who struggle with the concept of voice are frequently told, “You know it when you see it.” As Heather Alexander, assistant editor at Dial Books for Young Readers, pointed out, editors and agents also note when they don’t see it. Creating a strong, fresh voice is essential, she said, for making a book stand out.

In five “voice lessons,” Alexander discussed how writers can use voice to reveal character effectively. Here are the five components of voice that she recommended mastering, along with book recommendations where those elements of voice shine. (more…)

2013 Character Boot Camp: First Pages & Queries

Originally Posted: February 2013

by Emily Goodman

photo by Jenna Ward

Basing her talk on the first pages and query letters submitted by conference participants, writer and editor Anita Nolan offered advice on topics ranging from the nuts and bolts of punctuation and word choice (“Eliminate extra or weak words from your writing; you don’t really need ‘of them’ in the phrase ‘one of them’ ”) to more philosophical questions such as, “What should your first page accomplish?”

Nolan said the main job of the book’s opening is to intrigue readers and keep them reading. “It’s important to establish a bond of sympathy between the reader and your main character right away,” she said, and she suggested writers can do this by identifying what their main character needs or wants and the obstacles in the character’s way. She cautioned against depicting actions or traits that would turn readers against the main character before this sympathy has been created. Quoting Delacorte editor Michele Peploff, she said, “Give a reason to care; tantalize the reader. Explain why things happen later.” (more…)

2013 Character Boot Camp: Crafting Complex Characters

Originally Published: February 2013

by Gabriela Pereira

photo by Jenna Ward

Mary Kole, senior literary manager at Movable Type and author of the popular blog KidLit.com, gave writers practical advice on “Crafting Complex Characters” in her morning workshop, along with exercises to help writers apply her techniques.

According to Kole, kids read because they want to bond with the characters in books, and that means writers must create characters kids will love (or love to hate). In order to create these relatable characters, writers can use a tool called a “save the cat” moment, named for an incident in The Hunger Games, when a previously unlikeable character does something that redeems him- or herself in the eyes of the reader. (more…)