If you've been following my posts on social media, you'll know I've got an exciting event coming up early next year. My first picture book, Marjorie Magic will be published by Dixi Books. One thing that made this experience so different from publishing adult fiction, was the fabulous opportunity to work with an illustrator.
For my manuscript the publisher selected Anushka Shenoy as the illustrator to bring my story and characters to life. I couldn't be more pleased with the process and can't wait to share the end product with you!
For now, I have the opportunity of introducing you to Anushka. I recently had the chance to ask her several questions about books, her craft, and the process of making Marjorie Magic. Please check out her responses below:
1. Hello Anushka! Could you share with us one of your favourite picture books growing up? What do you remember most about it?
The one picture book that I vividly remember is a small board book titled ‘Patch the Puppy.’ It was about a little puppy that dreamed of being a sheep dog like his uncle. It is quite memorable because I was so obsessed with that one little book, that I had memorised the whole story and used to narrate it to everyone of my family. I still can remember the first few lines like the back of my hand.
My mother had brought a whole collection of different picture books growing up which ranged from the ‘Bubbles’ series to Lion King to Indian mythological comics. I think that started out my love of reading books.
2. What techniques or medium do you enjoy working with the most?
Currently, I am a big fan of my IPad and the procreate app. It is the most versatile medium that can work for oil, watercolour, gouache and many more. My style mostly is working with crayon, and chalk brushes along with gouache. I love exploring and adding textures and layers to my artwork. Especially adding little textures like the blush red to characters cheeks and nose, simple but detailed hair textures. I like to use simple strokes and shapes to colour my art and not make it very realistic, hence giving it a unique and fun style.
3. What was your process for creating the illustrations for Marjorie Magic?
It was a very immersive process with both the Publisher, author and the illustrator working together giving inputs and bettering the product. I started out with reading through the whole story, imagining the character, where she lives? what kind of environment is it? What would she look like? How can I make her unique by adding some distinct characteristic to her outfit/hair/look? Here, it was the huge glasses for Marjorie, the chubby, cute cheeks for Mason, and the bell for Clara. Joy and Ayse’s inputs on making the character unique was very useful. I sketched out various different options for the Marjorie, with different looks and unique additions before finalizing on one.
Then came creating the environment, and how the story would flow in all the 32 pages. The storyboard went through a lot of changes, and different ways in which the words can be pictured on the page through images. Rough, preliminary sketches focusing on the story flow, rather than too much details was important in the first stage. After which feedback and back and forth resulted in a refined storyboard. The colour palette of each character as well as the book as a whole was very important to show that its a magical, fantasy kind of story.
Here is what the storyboard looked like for the first few pages of Marjorie Magic.
The colour palette of each character as well as the book as a whole was very important to show that its a magical, fantasy kind of story. Using vibrant hues of pinks, purples and teals I tried to make the palette Magical and exciting along with the addition of light and sparkle. The colour palette, characters and storyboard being the most important aspect of the process, made it quite smooth to move on to colouring and refining each individual image. We wanted the text and the illustrations to co-exist beautifully on the page by playing with the text highlighting, and giving the text some kind of flow and bounce in some pages.
Creating the magic book to make it feel old, and exciting with its serif typography and small drawings was really exciting. We wanted the reader to feel like they had actually opened the magic book and would be excited to turn the page and know what is going to happen next. Adding and depicting each emotion that Marjorie was going through in her facial expression was very important in order to depict the story correctly. Adding small checkboxes to each ingredients of the recipe while Marjorie is collecting each of them is a fun way for the kid to follow along as well. Overall it was fun to create this magical world that Marjorie is living in.
4. When did you know that you wanted to create illustrations as a career? What led you down this path?
When I was in design school, and even before that, I really liked drawing and sketching and I would try to emulate different designers style in order to develop my own. I came to know about illustration in design school. I worked on children’s books as part of my degree project for my final year, and really enjoyed the process of it, and aspired to get to illustrate for Children’s publishers. I also received the ‘Best Illustration’ award for those books in my final year. I have only worked on a few full picture book projects till now, but am looking forward to more such projects with amazing authors and publishers. I’m looking forward to working on more diverse, inclusive and fun children’s books in my career.
5. What advice do you have for emerging artists/illustrators of children's books?
I am also an emerging illustrator hoping to get to work on way more projects in future, but the advice I would give is to keep practising and drawing all the time, take the time to put your resume and work out there, send those emails to publishers, and you will get noticed and get to work on more projects.
To learn more about the fabulously talented Anushka Shenoy, please check out her instagram page, and if you are interested in preordering your own copy of Marjorie Magic, you can do so here.
Read how I answered these same questions in my interview over on the Picture Books, Eh? website.
My family, who generally do not spend Friday nights listening to poetry, were particularly blown away by the the poets who shared their pieces at the launch event. And we all enjoyed the hilarious and entertaining emcee duo, Robin van Eck and PJ Vernon.
If you’d like to hear an excerpt of SALT, you can catch me reading at about 1 hour and 47 minutes in the below recording. Or make yourself a nice big mug of tea and listen to the whole thing to discover some amazing talent.
If you’d like to pick up your own copy of WonderShift, you can do so at Owls Nest.
It was a thrilling experience to have Flying the Nest chosen as an Airdrie Reads finalist for 2021. There were several amazing Alberta titles in the mix--from the 10 that made the shortlist to the final 5 that were championed by local leaders.
I was so excited to know Kiersten Mohr would be championing Flying the Nest. Kiersten is a gender diversity and inclusion consultant as well as president of Airdrie Pride, so I knew I would value her opinion of the book, given diversity and inclusion are values that are also important to me. Check out the final video, and hear what Kiersten had to say about Flying the Nest here.
And also, if you are looking for a local book to enjoy, why not check out the other shortlisted titles as well as the final five selected to go head to head. In the end the Airdrie Reads 2021 winner (with all the bragging rights!) was In Veritas by C.J. Lavigne, championed by Daniel Nelles.
Hear what champion Kiersten Mohr had to say about
This will be the only in-person book event I will participate in this season. If you’d like to do a bit of local Christmas shopping and stop by to say hi, I would love to see a friendly, masked face or two! Of course masks and hand sanitizing will be required.
The Triwood Community Association will be limiting the number of shoppers allowed into the event at any one time.
I’ll have copies of both Flying the Nest and Out of Play available for purchase, as well as some fun bookish gift tags for the gift giving season ahead.
As one agent told me: "this would sell much better if you changed the main character into a woman." But honestly, as a reader I'm tired of reading about insecure women, and confidence is a big part of what my main character struggles with.
And so I give you Chad, a slightly insecure, slightly unlucky member of the male species who has truckloads of potential. I'm super fond of Chad and his emotional journey in Flying the Nest, and I hope you will enjoy him too.
Here is a sneak peak, a little look-see into who Chad is at the beginning of Flying the Nest.
I tried not to stare, tried not to commit the dreaded male gaze by keeping my head tilted toward the window across from me. It was a battle keeping my eyes from wandering back to her. Every movement she made seemed graceful and elegant. I’d watched from afar for weeks yet had barely been able to maintain eye contact when she filled my coffee cup. And now here I was. Sitting nearly beside her on the number six bus.
A strange warmth filled me. Optimism? Hope? Who the hell knew, but what was certain: I was not about to waste this opportunity. Should I suggest going for a drink? As I tried to work up the courage, I found myself distracted by the way she bit her lower lip while thumb-typing into her phone. I could practically feel her tongue tracing a line along my clavicle. My ex, Kate, had once said my collarbone looked just like Jake Gyllenhaal’s and I reminded myself of that every time I got out of the shower and caught my reflection in the bathroom mirror. It was, perhaps, the kindest gift she’d given me.
Lila reached over to the chrome rail and pushed the button to indicate she wanted the bus driver to pull over at the next stop. “It was nice to meet you, Chuck.”
“Oh right. Chad. See ya’ around.”
I barely got out a goodbye before she ambled up to the front and got off. The bus pulled away and she didn’t look back. Not once. I know because I watched as she turned and walked down Seventeenth Avenue, the bus rumbling away.
Here’s a quick little cameo for you to enjoy while waiting for the November 28th release:
"What we need is something warm and affectionate for residents to hold.” Something that wouldn’t leave a person feeling so damn alone. Fish could not help with that. They swam about in their cold water, cold blood flowing through their cold veins. Rosie couldn’t name a less emotive animal. “It’s touch everyone at the Eldernest is starving for. You can’t pet a fish.”
“We’ve got the psychologist on Tuesdays if people are feeling lonely, Mrs. Dylan. I highly encourage anyone feeling lonely,” he paused and raised his eyebrows suggestively at Rosie, “to make an appointment with the psychologist.”
Rosie’s cheeks flamed. She picked up her PET-ition and rolled it into a tight bat. She imagined whacking Director Knightly about the ears with it. Or, better yet, she could get one of those sledgehammers from her nephew’s costume shop and smack it down on Knightly’s lollipop head.
Preorder worldwide with free shipping at The Book Depository.
It’s a good thing to be awake too, because the coffee is on and I get to enjoy some quiet reading time. Right now I’m reading The Things We Wish Were True. Its engaging, alternating between various point of view characters much like my current writing project.
Maybe more than this particular book its the habit of reading, (or is it an addiction to escapism?) that has me waking up and picking up a book. Cause honestly, it sometimes feels a bit like pouring that first cup of coffee in the morning or sneaking into the kids Halloween candy after they’ve gone to bed (shhhh!)😊. Addiction is a fairly strong word though, so maybe let’s just call it ‘the love of good things.’
Last year I managed to immerse myself in ‘good things’ enough times that I read 50 books. I know! Think of how many barre classes that could add up to; how many binge sessions watching something or other on Netflix. What can I say? I have no regrets. I love stories and maybe I was so immersed it saved me from excess trips raiding the kids Halloween and Easter stashes. See? We are all happy😊.
For you ‘non-readers’ out there you might be wondering, “Does this woman not have a life? Does she keep a tally beside her bedside table or what?” Well…I’m about to blow you non-readers away: we’ve got apps for that, haha. Two reader’s apps that I’m on are Goodreads (see my complete list of books read in 2018 here) and Litsy. Litsy is a bit more interactive and a cross between Instagram and Goodreads, but I like how you can keep lists on Goodreads and I use it more often.
Here are my top picks from those books I read in 2018 via random category at no one’s discretion but my own 😉:
Joy’s Pick for Canadian Fiction: The Break. Okay, the act of putting this book list together made me realize how many stories centre around violence against women, child or vulnerable animal. The Break is right up there on that account so you’ve got to be strong to read it. Regardless, you should read it: the state of violence against Indigenous Women in Canada is horrendous and appalling. This particular story is balanced with beautiful and lyrical language, strong female characters and HOPE.
Joy’s Pick for Contemporary Young Adult: Optimists Die First. This will be no surprise to anyone who follows me: I am a devoted fan of Susin Nielsen and wish to all good things that one day I'll get a chance to learn about storytelling from her. She’s a master at conquering life's sadness with humour and wit and so I deeply admire her…even though I’m not an optimist!
Joy’s Pick for Middle Grade: The One and Only Ivan. Yup, almost every book on this list is a tear-jerker. My personal philosophy is: if a book does not make you feel anything than it might not be worth reading. That’s me though. This book was a recommendation from my 9 year old daughter and it’ll kick you in the gut. But again, it’s lovely and real and this one definitely has a happy ending😊.
Joy’s Pick for WW2 Story: Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet. I read three WW2 books in 2018 and three in 2017. I’m choosing Bitter and Sweet because every other WW2 book I read in two years takes place in France. They were all super good (and many had fabulous female protagonists! Shout out to The Alice Network who may have took it otherwise) but it was a nice change to see how the war impacted people on the other side of the globe. This book centres around the internment of Japanese Americans.
Joy’s Top Pick if you Really Want to Ugly Cry as early as Page 2: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. Intersectionality of poverty and racism, yet the main character is incredibly loveable. You can’t help but love this one.
If you happen to pick up (and read) any of these books I’d love to know what you think.
Wishing everyone a 2019 with loads of good stories, the odd Barre class (or two) and perhaps a stolen chocolate to sweeten the deal along the way. Happy New Year!
Pam Wheeler checked every box. Happy marriage? Check. Fantastic kid? Check. Booming career? Check.
So when her husband dies in a freak accident and their DIY empire goes on life support, Pam must fix the relationship with her troubled and grief-stricken daughter and save the family business.
Sounds interesting, right? Author Sarahlyn Bruck writes contemporary women's fiction and her debut novel, Designer You is set to publish in just a few short hours. I recently had a chance to chat with her and learn more about the inspiration behind her book. Why not pour yourself a nice cup of tea (or a large glass of wine because sometimes that's just what's needed) and listen in?
Joy: The main character in Designer You works within the home renovation industry. As a former addict of the original Trading Spaces (yes, I do own my own coveted Trading Spaces smock) and having lived through both a home and travel trailer DIY reno, I was instantly fascinated. Is home reno and design a particular passion of yours and why did you choose to write about it?
Sarahlyn: We live in an old Philadelphia townhome—built in 1869. Our family loves the house and we live in a really special neighborhood with great friends who share a love of old homes. In fact, Pam and Grace’s house was modeled after mine. And I think it’d be tough to live in one of these homes if you didn’t have at least a passing interest in renovation and design—they take a lot of maintenance. When we moved into the house six years ago, the third floor was a shell. It didn’t even have walls yet and the floor was a mess. My husband put up walls and installed the kitchenette. We had the floors refinished and built in a full bathroom. It’s now a very functional little apartment. And my husband built the adjacent deck, too (which inspired the beginning of my book, FYI).
Joy: Goodness! Your home is older than my country. (Go Canada!)
Designer You explores the themes of grief, loss and moving on. When I read the Designer You blurb this resonated with me as there are similar themes in my debut, Out of Play. What type of research did you do? And can you tell us what you learned about yourself from writing on these topics?
Sarahlyn: Great question! My mom lost my dad when they were both only 55, an age when my siblings and I were starting to leave the nest and my parents were looking forward to the next stage in both their lives. And I had just gotten married which at the time seemed like such a weird juxtaposition—I was at the beginning of this life with my new husband and my mom was sadly at the end. And I watched her grieve and pick herself up and move forward. She had to completely redefine her life and adjust her identity. She’s an incredible, strong woman. And very happy today!
Joy: I'm very sorry to hear. It sounds like it was a very pivotal time in your life. And you mom--I can't help but be inspired just listening to her story.
The central characters in Designer You are not only married, but run a business together. That means they probably spend...oh, I don't know...24/7 together! I'm slightly amazed by couples who can do this and maintain a happy and healthy relationship. Can you see yourself doing this or are you more of an absence-makes-the-heart-grow-fonder kind of person?
Sarahlyn: Oh goodness, I don’t think my husband and I could work like Pam and Nate. We work very differently, and what we have now—I work primarily from home, he outside the home—suits us both just fine. I need long stretches of quiet time to focus and concentrate. He likes noise and energy buzzing around him. I think if we worked together, we’d both drive each other crazy. Right now, we look forward to seeing each other at the end of the day.
Joy: If you were able to have a glass of wine and chat with Pam, the main character of Designer You, what would you want to ask her? What characteristic do you find most inspiring about her?
Sarahlyn: I’d want to ask her about her eye for design detail. I am missing the design gene, and I’d love to pick her brain over a glass of wine and ask her advice about what to do in my own home!
Sounds like fun! Let me grab my smock and join you :)
One last question: where can we get our hands on a copy of Designer You? And where can readers find out more about you?
Thank YOU, Joy! It’s been so much fun. I appreciate the opportunity to talk a little about my book. You can find Designer You here.
And more about me here:
social worker, writer, family woman, Canadian, coffee-a-holic
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