Tag Archives: kidlit

Getting Social

26 May

On May 18th, I had the pleasure of joining the amazing Laura Backes Bard, the founder of Children’s Book Insider, for a live Zoom chat focusing on board books.

Click here to watch the replay on CBI’s YouTube channel. Considering that this was my first live interview, I think it went pretty well. Whew!

An Unexpected Cover Reveal

While prepping the day before the interview, I discovered that HarperCollins had revealed the cover of my latest board book, Let’s Be Friends, several weeks earlier than I was expecting. How perfect! I was able to share the cover during the interview.

Board Books

If given a do over, I would spend a few minutes gushing over little ones and their caregivers, all of whom have my heart. Board books, after all, are at the center of the sacred ritual of reading to babies and toddlers. When I was a young mother, I took every opportunity to snuggle with my baby and a book. Libraries and bookstores were our regular haunts. At night, when my son begged me to keep reading past his bedtime, I usually indulged him. Childhood is fleeting, after all. In hindsight, I know I made the right choice, despite the brain cells that I certainly lost to lack of sleep. :o)

Human babies are only tiny for an instant—their growing up is as swift as the beat of a hummingbird’s wing.

Kelly Barnhill, The Girl Who Drank the Moon

Board books give authors and illustrators opportunities to share in all of that good stuff. What a gift.

This CBI interview made me realize that board books are a sweet spot for me. I absolutely adore babies, and two-thirds of my writing credits are board books, but before this interview, I had never considered that I had a specialty. As I learn to write for older kids, it’s comforting to think of board books as home.

My friend Michelle and her daughter Sophia, enjoying “Healthy, Healthy, Love, Love, Love.”

Dreaming of Writing for Children?

Laura Backes and her husband Jon Bard have spent decades collecting helpful information for children’s book writers. If you want to get into the business of children’s books, explore Write4Kids.org and Children’s Book Insider.

CBI’s YouTube channel is a great place to start! There are tons of topics from which to choose. I’ve listened to every interview, and have learned from all of them.

Write4Kids.org is chock full of helpful info, too. While you’re there, sign up for the CBI newsletter, which is amazing! Priceless content, for the price of a cup of coffee.

If you’re looking for a class, CBI has got you covered. Their Writing Blueprints are revolutionary self-paced online courses tailored to various genres, at a very reasonable rate. I’m about to begin my own journey with one of these blueprints, and will keep you posted!

Meanwhile, if you have any questions about board books, give a shout!

Here are my two most recent board books. :o)

Click here to order Healthy, Healthy, Love, Love, Love

Click here to pre-order Let’s Be Friends (available everywhere on Dec 1, and in stores on Dec 14)

Studio Time

1 Apr

Office Space

Inspired by internet photos of awesome-looking illustration studios and cozy, inviting writing nooks, I once went to a lot of trouble to decorate my studio. A few months after every last detail was perfected, my husband got a new job out of state.

One of the only photos I have of my sweet little studio in Savannah, GA (circa 2012).

We sold the house, packed up my studio along with everything else, and moved north. The new home office was nice enough—same furniture (slightly banged up from the move), same colors—but was definitely not as precise and perfect. Not long after that, my husband began taking international gigs. We sold a bunch of stuff and put everything else in a POD, not knowing what the future would hold. Ultimately we became globe hoppers, never staying in one place for very long.

LEFT: One of my New Zealand work spaces. Had to hang a hoodie on the desk lamp to protect my eyes from the sun. RIGHT: Zooming into a midwestern classroom from the office space in our apartment in China.

While I have fond memories of the perfect little studio space that I decorated all of those years ago—especially my books, which are still in storage in the US—I’ve gotten used to working at any available table-like surface, preferably with a comfortable chair and a solid wifi signal.

Quiet Times

In late October 2020, my husband and I moved to Malaysia for his new position at the international boarding school where we now live. We were given keys to a lovely small apartment in the residence building, and a set of auxiliary rooms across the hall.

In the mornings I’ve been taking an on-line class, working on new book ideas, and writing. When I’m thinking, writing, trying to catch illusive flutters of creativity, I need silence. As in, please don’t drop any pins.

Stay-at-home orders had my noisy husband, whom I adore, working from home. Constant loud classic rock and Jets news (egad!) filled the place. God help me. To preserve my sanity, I had to get out of there. Luckily we had keys to those auxiliary rooms!

Bare-boned, but blissfully quiet. We moved my work table across the hall.

Working on my latest book (HarperColins/Spring 2022) in my lovely new work space.

Turn Up the Volume

When I’m illustrating final art for a book and most of the important decisions have already been made, I do listen to stuff while I work: music, TED talks, audiobooks, podcasts. Illustrating an entire book takes some serious time, so there are many silent hours to fill. I once binge-listened the entire canon of Gilmore Girls (153 hour-long episodes) when working toward multiple simultaneous deadlines, followed by one and a half traces through all 279 episodes of The Big Bang Theory. No joke.

Note that I could actually cohabit with my fella and his playlists—and even the NY Jets—during this phase of the illustration process, and often do, but now that I have a space across the hall, that’s where you’ll find me. Fred is back to work in his own office and our apartment is empty during the day, but I’ve grown to love this white box with it’s powerful ceiling fan and… well, that’s pretty much it! Just me in an otherwise empty, completely unadorned room.

For Your Listening Pleasure… and Professional Edification

Now that I’ve exhausted my Netflix favorites, podcasts have become my listening preference. Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend and Office Ladies are perpetual favorites. Funny, insightful, heartwarming, inspirational. Great stuff.

Recently, though, I made an important discovery: Children’s Book Insider‘s KidLit Distancing Socials!

Photo of the first CBI Kidlit Distancing Social that I was able to join live, after listening to most of the recorded sessions via Youtube. My Photoshop file at the top of the screen is blurred because it’s much too soon to share the art I was working on that day, which is for the same upcoming book referenced above.

These weekly socials (recordings of Zoom calls, basically) feature amazing interviews with all sorts of kidlit professionals. I’ve learned so much from these videos! They easily get five stars from me; I highly recommend CBI’s Kidlit Distancing Socials to anyone who is interested in writing books for children—from absolute beginners to highly published pros. You can join live via Zoom or catch the replays on YouTube. In the first few minutes of every episode, you’ll learn everything you need to know to get connected to Children’s Book Insider and their website WriteForKids.org, which is an amazing resource. Drumroll: newsletters are involved—newsletters!—and they are jam packed with seriously incredible content.

CBI’s Kidlit Distancing Socials have broadened my horizons, which was a delightful surprise. Who knew such treasures were available on Youtube?


Click here to be redirected to Children’s Book Insider, and/or click here for CBI’s Youtube channel where you’ll find replays all of their wonderful, informative Kidlit Distancing Socials.

And You?

Do you need silence when you work? If not, what are your listening preferences? Let me know in the comments section below.

Happy creating!!

A new iMovie Trailer…

2 Dec

…for Healthy, Healthy. Love, Love, Love!

As usual, I’m probably late to the party. For the first time ever, I’ve created a movie trailer. Woo-hoo! Yep, I used iMovie’s “Retro” template to create a trailer for my latest book, Healthy, Healthy: Love, Love, Love.

Making the Trailer

If you’ve never messed around with iMovie’s trailer templates, oooh, you are missing out. Treat yourself! Adding images and tinkering with the text is fairly intuitive; I only had to ask Google one or two questions. Not bad. And results are instant, which is always gratifying. It took me about a day and a half to finish this trailer. Next time might be a little bit quicker, now that I know my way around, but realistically, between gathering all of the images and editing, editing, editing… if you’re making a trailer to promote an actual product, expect it to take at least a day.

True to form, I got overly excited and posted to YouTube a bit too soon. After this trailer went live I continued editing it a bit. The edited version is better, but I had already shared the YouTube link with my publisher. So… the YouTube version, linked above, will live forever. This is helping me with another hobby of mine: accepting personal mistakes and imperfections with grace. (Making iMovie trailers is easier, ha.)

YouTube

In coming months I hope to create more video content for my YouTube channel, including tutorials for kids. Would you like that? Let me know, and stay tuned. Move video content coming soon! Meanwhile, if you’d like to check out the videos I’ve posted over the years, click here. Be sure to follow my channel, so you won’t miss the good stuff that will be coming.

Get the book

I’m super excited about this new little board book for toddlers and will post much more about it soon, but for now, here are the basics:

Healthy, Healthy: Love, Love, Love by Violet Lemay (HarperCollins) will be in bookstores Dec. 15, 2020 (◕‿◕✿) Preorder now!

The Story Behind “The Obamas: A Lift-the-Flap Book”

9 Oct

obama cover w white dress

Finding the Format

The Essential Backstory

100 Pablo Picassos.

In 2014 I had the pleasure of illustrating 100 Pablo Picassos. Author Mauricio Velázquez de León cooked up the delicious idea for this interactive biography which invites kids to find one hundred instances of Picasso peppered throughout a fanciful 32-page book, resplendent with Picasso-inspired art.

cubism spread

Since then I have moved to New Zealand, voted for Hillary (from abroad! yes!), and have illustrated many other books, but One Hundred Pablo Picassos has always stayed with me. It helps that it’s been translated into several languages and was included in an exhibit at Korea’s Museum of Kids’ Books and Art.

The Lightning Bolt Moment

One quiet morning in April 2018, after listening to month after month of depressing political shenanigans from the US, I was remembering the hope and pride I used to feel when watching the news during the Obama years.

President Obama was a role model, admired and respected globally. The current holder of the office? Not so much. Nostalgia washed over me and I thought, we should make a book. We should make 100 Barack Obamas.

Mauricio loved the idea of an Obama book for kids, but didn’t think the “100” concept would work. We had included self-portraits in 100 Pablo Picassos‘ overall count, which was very clever and added spice to the “find this guy one hundred times” concept.

100pp_self portraits

The self-portraits were an essential ingredient that could only be included for a visual artist. Mauricio also pointed out that Picasso’s entire life was perhaps a bit more colorful than that that of anyone who gives speeches for a living.

Yep. Fair enough.

More importantly, we wanted to include Michelle as an equal partner, and the girls.

tiny ObamasWe considered the title 100 Obamas (instead of 100 Barack Obamas) but I was the only one who could visualize the resulting book. In my imagination it looked incredible, but sketching the whole thing in an attempt to sell the idea would have been such a giant time commitment that I wimped out immediately. Time to switch gears.

After researching popular kidlit biographies and the Obamas, I wrote three or four manuscripts (okay, six) of varying lengths, targeting different audiences with different types of books. Don’t be fooled: this took some quality time.

first Obama sketch

one of the first sketches made for The Obamas: A Lift-the-Flap Book

Ultimately we settled on the most concise manuscript, which utilized the device of flaps to make the book interactive.

Finding the Look

The Technique

Next decision: How should the art look?

After getting a concept approved for The Obamas: A Lift-the-Flap Book, I tried out several techniques and presented them to the publisher. Simple flat color? Or my usual use of textures and patterns with minimal rendering? Or… how about adding paint texture? Using, like, real paint?

paints

We liked all of the choices but—of course—settled on the paint option, which was by far the most challenging. And time-consuming.

In case you’re wondering, writing and illustrating a book about Barack and Michelle Obama was, for me, incredibly intimidating. My artistic desires for this book outweighed my abilities. Thankfully, art director Tyler Garrison was there. Tyler’s guidance was invaluable. Never underestimate the value of good art direction. Can I get an Amen?

The Design

Speaking of trying out options, I also submitted a buffet of flap designs for every single spread. So. Many. Sketches. I will be forever grateful to duopress for their patience with my monkey brain.

early Obamas sketch_HOPE

one of the unused layout options for “The Obamas: A Lift-the-Flap Book”

Finding the Book!

9781947458826_3D

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.The Obamas: A Lift-the-Flap Book was released on Oct. 1, 2019 by duopress and is available everywhere books are sold, thanks to distribution by Workman Publishing.

Click here to see more samples from The Obamas: A Lift-the-Flap Book on my website.

LEARN_marketing

Click here to order your copy today!

Artists and Their Pets

18 Aug

Artists-and-Their-Pets

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I’m excited to announce the imminent release of a wonderful new book, Artists and Their Pets—written by Susie Hodge, with illustrations by Yours Truly, Violet Lemay. The book is full of fascinating stories. In light of recent world events, I thought I’d share one in particular.

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Matisse, Picasso, and The Dove of Peace

sidebar

Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso, two of the twenty artists featured in Artists and Their Pets, had a lot in common. Friends and rivals, they both loved animals and kept pigeons and doves. Toward the end of his life when Matisse was ill, he entrusted Picasso to look after his fancy pet pigeons. Here is a snippet of the story from Artists and Their Pets:

Matisse-sample

There wasn’t room in Artists and Their Pets for this part of the story:

peace dove*

Picasso’s lithograph “La Colombe” (The Dove)—which was actually a rendering of a pigeon—was used on a poster commemorating the Peace Conference in Paris in 1949. The poster was plastered everywhere, making Picasso’s dove famous, and linking his art with the cause of peace.

Picasso continued drawing doves, stylizing and simplifying the form of the bird as he went.

 

I originally had the pleasure of illustrating Picasso and his doves for Mauricio Velázquez de León’s 2014 picture book 100 Pablo Picassos—a lovely and creative biography of Picasso for small children. Here is a sketch…hands y dove… and a peek at how the whole thing came together.

peace

In response to the recent terror attack in Barcelona, duopress—publisher of Artists and Their Pets and 100 Pablo Picassos—posted a snapshot of these pages on Instagram today, along with these words: Picasso’s simple drawing of a dove became a symbol of peace in 1945. #picasso would be shocked by the attacks in #barcelona, a city he loved. This image from our book #100pablopicassos is our message of #peace to all the victims of yesterday coward attack and all the citizens of #spain  #love  #noviolence #stopterrorism #nomoreviolence

Well said.

Wishing you all peace, joy, love… and art. ❤

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Click here to pre-order Artists and Their Pets (available everywhere September 15, 2017)

Click here to order 100 Pablo Picassos (available everywhere books are sold)