Friday, June 15, 2018

Meet Our 2018-2019 Mentors: Illustration!

Meet our mentors from our Mentorship Program 2018-2019

      Here’s what Illustration Portfolio Mentors - Amy Hevron and Erik Brooks have to say.


Tell us a little bit about what you are working on now and your current projects.

Amy: Currently I’m illustrating MOON BABIES, a picture book written by debut author Karen Jameson. I am also in the process of revising a few non-fiction picture book manuscripts

Erik: I just recently finished two board book illustration projects and I am currently working on some technical exercise drawings for a climbers/endurance athletes training guide (to be published by Patagonia Books). The later is bit of a departure from picture book illustration, but jobs like this help to fill in the occasional gaps.
Later this summer I’ll be diving into a new picture book project and hope to be making submissions on two new picture book projects of my own and my first attempt at a graphic novel. I have ongoing weekly commitments as well to my local newspaper comic strip, Welcome to Harts Pass :)

How does being a mentor influence and inform your work and why do you do it?

In my author/illustrator journey, I have benefited greatly from mentors in this industry. So, I look forward to returning the favor and helping guide others on their path. In reviewing other people’s work, it helps me to evaluate my own work more objectively.

Erik: Being a mentor is a lot like how I feel when giving elementary schools workshops and/or presenting to kids. A thoughtful consideration of my own process, habits, inspirations, faults and successes always becomes a great mirror for comparing how I actually work vs how I could be working. Inevitably, this ends up helping both the student and the teacher, as the renewed understanding of my own approach makes me better too! As a certified K-12 art instructor, these mentorship opportunities also nicely engage that part of my brain that at one time wanted to be a teacher.

What are some challenges you have encountered in your writing/illustration journey? How did you manage to survive through them and achieve success?

Amy: I’ve experienced rejections, book projects falling through, and book projects I had to pass on. With each challenge, I look for the learning moment. These take aways have helped me focus my portfolio, improve my writing, and better my understanding for when I’m not a fit for a project. In challenging times, I lean on supportive family and friends who encourage me and love everything I do not matter what. I’ll seek out inspiration for new stories or characters by walking around the neighborhood or going to a museum. Staying positive and continuing to create help me to push through challenges.

Erik: My first book was an IndieBound Pick-of-the-Lists, a Publisher’s Weekly “Flying Start.” Six months later (unbeknownst to me and shortly after I’d earned my first royalty check) the publisher filed for bankruptcy. The book/career with a fairly auspicious beginning was quickly DOA with a first title no longer available for distribution - and to this day the publisher (18 years later) still owes me money and only recently returned the rights.

It was with a small publisher, I was 28 and totally naive about the business, and I was also just maybe a little too “nice” about getting the rug pulled out from under me. I rolled with the punch. I kept doing school visits, and I started working on those next book ideas. I’d never expected to have a first book actually sell that well, so I simply persisted - in a manner of speaking - and just tried to work and do what seemed like the next “right thing.”

Ten years and 14 books later, a similar “momentum buster” happened again when Marshall Cavendish sold its picture book list to Amazon Publishing — and independent bookstores dropped a book of mine that had been selling well only three months into its release. Totally out of my hands. Just another “luck of the draw” situation, but one again with definite financial consequences!

Anyway, this is an unpredictable journey with many ups and downs. The beauty is that you have the ideas and you create the next thing that you are trying to sell — be that an entire book or a portfolio update that will hopefully catch an editor’s eye. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t, but on a certain level, the ball is always in your court to keep on forging ahead.

As another hedge against the ups and downs, I also spend at least part of almost every day doing non-writing/illustrating things. I parent, I coach, I volunteer, I visit school and libraries, I plot other ideas like starting a hat-making business or a collective studio art space in town… Whatever the case, I move some energy and effort around to other things. I know that my “Job” is to write and to illustrate the best books that I can possibly make, but it certainly helps when there are other outlets for success and failure. Sometimes I’m a better coach or parent or teacher than I am an illustrator, but that positive uptick feeds itself along the line eventually back to other things.

What advice would you give to your beginner self who is just starting out to make a creative career?  

Amy: Enjoy this time in your career while you’re just starting out. Experiment and play and relish that no one’s watching yet. Take classes to improve your skills or learn new ones. Join SCBWI to meet peers who are at a similar place in their career journey and stay connected with them. Limit social media while you’re creating. For me, it’s dampens my creativity rather than energizes it. Know that you’ll have good creative days and blah creative days. Try to make the most of whatever kind of day it is.

Erik: Rejection and some failure are definitely part of the game, but I got used to that quickly and kept plugging along. To my younger self: I could have sought to find a better “team” to have my back or help to improve my work (outside of my lovely wife and a few consistent editors along the way) - an illustration community, an agent etc.. Yes, I jumped in and have figured out a LOT in 18 years, and I also take a certain amount of pride in publishing 26+ books and making this work without an agent or closer group— but it IS a little harder and perhaps a little more isolating this way.

As a second thought, and I lucked into this myself, learn some computer skills applicable to design and layout programs. This is perhaps a given these days and part of every current illustrator’s worldview, but I know that there are at least a few colored pencil and watercolor artists out there who still don’t know much about scanning or color correction or how to use technology to capture your artwork and put your best foot forward for submissions. I spent 18 months in a graphic design department learning on the job with the Adobe Creative Suite and InDesign just prior to my first attempt at writing and illustrating for kids. My first book submissions were in the era of faxing sketches and photocopied book dummies at Kinkos, but it all changed pretty quickly with the advent of the internet. Those skills that I learned with Photoshop and Illustrator… I still use them almost every single week. The transition to sharp looking PDFs, creating my own promo postcards, website portfolio, etc. were all made SO much easier given that time and fluency spent on the computer. I still prefer painting and drawing on paper, but whenever I want to mix it up with digital media — or have a publisher asking me to make corrections digitally — I am totally up to the task.

            For more details of the mentorship program check here.

Amy Hevron is an illustrator, designer, and children’s book author living in Seattle, Washington. She is a two-time winner of the Portfolio Honor Award from the SCBWI. She illustrated Trevor written by Jim Averbeck coming in 2018. And her author/illustrator debut Dust Bunny Wants a Friend arrives in 2019. Prior to focusing on children’s books, Amy worked as an art director at design firms and game companies. She is represented by Kirsten Hall of Catbird Agency. Amy’s portfolio can be viewed at

Erik Brooks is the author and/or illustrator of many books, including the Washington State Book Award winner, POLAR OPPOSITES, and the CBC/IRA Children’s Choices award winner, THE PRACTICALLY PERFECT PAJAMAS. His most recently illustrated board book, IF I WERE A WHALE, will soon be joined by two additional titles. From his home in Winthrop, WA, Erik also writes and draws a weekly comic strip for his local paper, visits schools and libraries around the country, and plays in the woods like a wolverine! View Erik’s portfolio at

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