Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Meet our 2017 SCBWI Europolitan Mentee Tara O'Dowd

by Patti Buff

Taking part in a mentor program is a wonderful opportunity to "up your game" by working intensively with a publishing professional. Joining us on the blog today is Tara O'Dowd, a writer from The Netherlands to talk about her work and why she chose to apply for a mentorship with Janet Fox.

2017 SCBWI Europolitan Mentee
Tara O'Dowd

Welcome Tara! We’d love to get to know you a little bit, so please tell us a bit about how you got into writing, how long you’ve been writing and what your preferred genre is to write? 

I’ve been writing since I was a child, sometimes inspired by history, by my beloved dog, or by my cousins. Three years ago when I moved from the US to the Netherlands, I went back to fiction for the first time in many years. Middle Grade feels like my sweet spot as far as age range goes, but I’m not ready to stick with one genre.

A college of images used for inspiration

Where do you like to write? What does a typical writing session look like for you? 

I write in my bed, with chocolate and coffee nearby, or on the train. I usually start with an idea of what I want to write or revise. I may stop in the middle to look at images online or to research. I end when I feel as though I can’t sit still any longer. Sometimes that’s after one hour, other times I can work for eight hours.

Zombie Tara and son as a result of a
scene in her book.

Can you tell us about the story you submitted to the mentorship program and the reason why you thought a mentor would be able to help you?

Think The Princess Diaries meets MacGyver. My son and I have spent hours trying to convince my daughter that being a princess would be horrible—the worst thing ever. This story is my counter-argument in favor of princesses. (It has nothing to do with makeovers, if you’re wondering.) When I learned about this program, I knew I wanted to apply, if any of the mentors seemed to suit me. I felt that I would be better able to see where I need to go with this story and my craft with the help of a thoughtful mentor.

What attracted you to Janet Fox, the mentor you chose? Out of the other three mentors available, what was it about her that made you think ‘that’s the mentor for me’?

I was excited as soon as I read Janet Fox’s bio, particularly by the description of her forthcoming book THE LAST TRUE KNIGHT, described as “a tale of alternative facts and gender identity set in a magical Elizabethan England.” That description covers a number of my obsessions, as well as sounding as though it could go on the same shelf with my story. So I read one of her books, The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle, and I knew she was the one.

And finally, what do you expect to achieve by the end of this mentorship? 

I’d like to be done with all the big picture work. I suspect that my story still contains too many sub-plots and too many characters, and at times deviates from its strongest points. I’m also hoping to be better at analyzing my work, both at the scene level and overall.

Thank you for joining us, Tara! We wish you lots of luck on your new adventure and we'll check in with you again next Spring.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Wien SCBWI September Meet: Coffee, writing and common love

from left to right: Paul Malone, Devon Brown,
Keith McGowan and Elary Wakfield

Our little clutch of writers managed to meet up in Cafe Prückel just as a brilliant storm was rolling in. The wonderful old style romantics of the little cafe meshed beautifully with the sound of the pattering rain outside. Inside, it was filled with the smell of fresh pastries, hot coffee and buzzing with banter from all over the world.

Our group has a wide range of talents, from published to first time novel writers. Myself and Devon Brown are pre-published, working hard toward seeing our first books go to print. Keith McGowan, who has two published books; The Witch's Guide to Cooking with Children and The Witch's Curse, will be an amazing resource for all of us. Our grand leader is Paul Malone, who holds a wealth of knowledge about publishing short stores in newspapers and magazines. We are trying to egg him in to his first novel. It’s working.

Surprisingly, the majority of us come from the New York and Boston area, except for Paul who is from Australia. Everyone seems to have come to the beautiful city of Vienna with two common goals: Love and writing. There can be nothing better than that.

We are still open to new members if you are in the area of Vienna. Please contact Paul at paul(dot)malone(at)chello(dot)at if interested. We’ll be having our next meeting on October 7th.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Meet our 2017 SCBWI Europolitan Mentee Kerry Dwyer

by Patti Buff

Taking part in a mentor program is a wonderful opportunity to "up your game" by working intensively with a publishing professional. Joining us on the blog today is Kerry Dwyer, an illustrator from Switzerland to talk about her work and why she chose to apply for a mentorship with Bridget Marzo.

2017 SCBWI Europolitan Mentee
Kerry Dwyer

Tell us a little bit about yourself. When did you start taking your art seriously and thinking that you wanted to illustrate for children? Do you have a preferred theme or topic you love to illustrate?

I am originally from Massachusetts and I lived for many years in California where I worked in television animation and other areas of illustration. I moved to the land of the Alps some years ago where I now live with my husband and two step-children. I always liked to draw, kept sketch books at an early age and used to create my own children’s books, as many children do, in very 1980’s wallpaper. I am really drawn to funny stories and would even like to illustrate more dry-ish humor; but at the same time I love very emotional sweet stories. I like to draw people-they tend to be the focus of my work and am interested in stories that reflect humanity’s quirkiness. Non-fiction and historical fiction content also interests me a great deal.

Sample from Kerry's portfolio
What is your preferred method of creating your illustrations? And how long does it take you to go from a first draft to a “finalized” piece?

I like to create work in many ways but for my last portfolio I was mainly using a mixed media technique where I actually collage different painted elements of the characters, foregrounds and backgrounds. I ended up with this technique because I wanted to loosen up with how tightly I was drawing and painting. (from years of work inking in animation) As well, I am working more digitally now in Photoshop now. I also do love drawing with line as well and hope to someday incorporate this as an additional style. As for timing, I tend to sketch and do the color studies rather quickly – the real work comes with the mixed media technique. It takes me anywhere from 1 to 3.5 days to do a piece.  A very detailed piece could take up to 4-5 days.

Character sketches

You had to submit up to 16 pieces of your portfolio for this mentorship program. How difficult was it for you to choose the pieces you ended up sending? What was it about them you felt gave you the best chance?

I submitted most of the pieces featured on my last on-line portfolio. As well, I included a dummy and some artwork from that story I had finished for the Europolitan conference. I thought the pieces would give her a sense of what my style is as of now.

What attracted you to try out for the mentorship program?
Illustration by Kerry Dwyer

Well, I really respond to Bridget’s work- so I thought her feedback would be very valuable. As well- One thing I love about working in illustration is the independence of it but also I like the times of collaboration. I thought it would be very nice to share the process of expanding my portfolio with a mentor and have access to her thoughts and insights.

Kerry's studio in Switzerland
And finally, what do you expect to achieve by the end of this mentorship?

I look forward to seeing what this collaboration will bring. 2016 was a busy time with my other
work- so I look forward to this time of focus on evolving my techniques and getting Bridget’s feedback on some projects and ideas I would now like to illustrate. I have a list of changes I would like to make and I am keen to receive her thoughts on them. I am also interested in getting Bridget’s reviews of some digital pieces. As well as how she would advise varying my portfolio but still keeping it cohesive. It would just be very nice to work with someone of her talent.

Thank you for joining us, Kerry! We wish you lots of luck on your new adventure and we'll check in with you again next Spring.