Friday, July 6, 2018

Meet Our 2018-2019 Mentors: Picture Book Text AND Illustration!

Meet our mentors from our Mentorship Program 2018-2019

      Here’s what Picture Book Text and Illustration Mentors, Kevan Atteberry and Laura McGee Kvasnosky, have to say.


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

Kevan: I am a writer and illustrator of over a dozen books for children. Some of them award-winners. After several books I’d illustrated for other writers under my belt, my first book I both penned and illustrated, BUNNIES!!!, came out. I am currently working on a book that comes out next year. It is completely different than anything I’ve ever done before and it has been challenging for me. But I’m thrilled with how it is turning out.

Laura: My sister Kate McGee and I are finishing the illustrations for SQUEAK, so my studio is papered with photos of animals and the landscape of Yellowstone. The story follows a cause-and-effect alarm clock that wakens the animals early early before the sun is up. I am drawing realistic mice, chipmunks, trout, elk, eagles, bears, wolves, big horned sheep, bison and 12 other animals. This is a big challenge since I have illustrated most of my books in a fanciful way (i.e. foxes in clothes). Thank God for google image search. SQUEAK is scheduled to come out from Philomel in Spring 2019. Kate and I first collaborated on LITTLE WOLF’S FIRST HOWLING, Spring 2017. I love making books with her.

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

Kevan: Being a mentor allows me to step back a little in my career. It is easy to get jaded and assume all knowledge is known and forget about how getting to every milestone is a journey. The ability to share with someone working the same or similar path as me is motivating and a little exciting.

Laura: I started toward my dream of creating children’s books when I turned 40 – that was 27 years ago.  Ten years into it, I was a founding teacher in the UW Extension certificate in Writing for Children program. A year after that I taught the first of what were 10 winter semesters in Vermont College’s Writing for Children and Young Adults MFA program. I signed on to be a SCBWI mentor because I miss the freshening that mentoring brings too my own work; the way it helps me meet what I know in a new way and make new discoveries. I love to see new stories and talent and help nurture it along. Also, I have received so much from SCBWI and want to give back.

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

Kevan: The biggest challenges for my writing and illustrating career has been, predictably, financial. Very few folks in this industry make a living solely creating books. But fortunately, there are other venues. I’ve been just lucky and successful enough not to need a “day job.” And I can supplement my publishing income with school visits and conference opportunities.

Laura: Challenges: believing in my work, hanging in there, riding the ups and downs of the industry and life. My critique group and a supportive husband and family as well as wonderful mentors and fellow writers have helped keep me on course.

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

Kevan: Do what you want to do—writing and/or illustrating—a lot. I mean a whole lot. Do it when you don’t have something in particular to work towards. I tell illustrators to always have a sketch book and pencil with them, and SKETCH. At a restaurant, in a waiting room, at the DMV, while watching TV, for crying out loud! This is something I’ve had to relearn myself and remind myself to do as, over the years, I became more and more of a digital artist. Writing is similar. Write. And then write some more—with or without something to actually write about. Even writing about nothing and without intention is going to help you. Pick up a favorite picture book and type (or write) out the whole story. See how it looks on paper, where the highs and lows are, how the arc flows. And finally, read. Read the kind of books you want to make. Lots of ‘em.

Laura: Go for it! Sing your own song. Remember how you love the process. They say it takes 10,000 hours to master anything. Be patient and put in the hours. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Listen to your inner self. Listen to the work itself. Join SCBWI. Take classes. Get a critique group.

            For more details of the mentorship program check here.

Kevan Atteberry is a writer and illustrator of award-winning children’s books. Before breaking into picture books —a lifetime goal of his—he spent decades running a graphic design studio, owning a greeting card company, and toying with fine art. . His books include, Bunnies!!!Puddles!!!, and the recently released I Love You More than the Smell of Swamp Gas. Among books he has illustrated for others are Halloween Hustle by Charlotte Gunnufson, Tickle Monster by Josie Bissett, and Frankie Stein by Lola Schaefer.
But Kevan’s biggest claim to fame may be creating Clippy the Paperclip, the Microsoft Word helper. At one point it was annoying hundreds of millions of people a day. He finds an odd kind of pride in this…

Laura McGee Kvasnosky is an award-winning author/illustrator of 18 picture books, best known for her series about fox sisters Zelda and Ivy. The eponymous original won dual SCBWI Golden Kite honors and Zelda and Ivy the Runaways won the ALA’s Theodor Seuss Geisel Award. Laura’s newest book, Little Wolf’s First Howling, illustrated with Kate McGee, debuted to three starred reviews, followed by numerous “best books of 2017” listings and the Margaret Wise Brown Honor. Laura was a founding instructor of the UW’s certificate in children’s writing program and taught nine semesters at Vermont College of Fine Arts. She co-founded the SCBWI’s “Inside Story” salon for new books.

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