Tag Archives: writing

The Making of NY Dogs

4 Sep

NYDogs_cover w JorgeIn July 2015, I was hit by an idea for a book about dogs in New York City. As an illustrator (and occasional author) of books for little kids, I imagined a picture book for children.

Local Baby coversAfter having illustrated New York Baby, Brooklyn Baby, and a string of other Local Baby titles for duopress, I could see this new project following a similar format. Or, not! I could see it going in other directions, too. But the years I spent working on Local Baby books for duopress helped spark the dog book concept, so I couldn’t wait to share this new idea with them.

duopress loved my canine brainstorm—hooray! THANK YOU, duopress!

But after writing the manuscript, settling on the title BARK NYC or BARK New York, and trying some sample covers, a shocking question entered the conversation: Is this a book for children? Perhaps BARK should be a book for adults?

Behind the scenes duopress, a publisher of innovative books and games for curious children, was busy opening up a subsidiary line of books and games for adults under the name punchline.

punchline

BARK became a punchline project. To break from the original intended audience of kiddos—which had been the focus of my career in recent years (click here to see my portfolio)—we changed our book’s name and cover design. After trying a variety of options, we settled on the title NY Dogs. The final cover is at the top of this post. Below are two of the many options we created during the transition.

bark covers

Besides getting a new title and cover, the content of NY Dogs also had to be re-written, and had to cover 96 rather than 24 pages. Suddenly I was writing for adult New Yorkers, a notoriously tough crowd. Awesome, yes, but the challenge didn’t stop there. With a publisher named punchline, NY Dogs had to be funny. Clever and witty are closer to my wheelhouse. I needed help! Thankfully there are some very smart and extremely funny people in my life. A handful of them got snagged into contributing to NY Dogs. One of these funny folks had no choice, because he is my roommate. And because we’ve been married for 21 years.

Fred Fruisen

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My husband Fred’s funniness is sprinkled through NY Dogs. Finally, his poop jokes have found a broader audience. Congrats, Babe! And… thank you thank you thank you.

Fred Fruisen is a PGA teaching pro and a golf humorist. His first book, 50 Reasons to Hate Golf and Why You Should Never Stop Playing, will be released in May, 2017. Check out Fred’s blog, and like the 50 Reasons to Hate Golf facebook page to follow his progress. I am so pleased and happy for him.

:0)

Doreen Chila-Jones

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And of course: my friend Doreen! A former Broadway performer and current stay-at-home mom/freelance writer, Doreen Chila-Jones is one of the funniest people I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting.

Because of her close ties to NYC and love of all creatures—at last count her menagerie included two dogs, a cat, and a pair of guinea pigs—she was the perfect co-conspirator for NY Dogs. 

Doreen is always busy with writing projects, and she keeps a blog about the joys and challenges of raising teens with some very special needs. Her family’s story is amazing. Follow her!

Julia Jones

Screen Shot 2016-09-05 at 9.01.09 AMDoreen is the wife of my college bestie Julia Jones, who is also hilarious. These two are the power couple of Funny, and they are both very talented writers.

Although the demands of Julia’s Broadway stage management career prevented her from becoming an official contributor to NY Dogs, and her humility prevented her from allowing us to credit her at the back of the book along with Fred and Doreen, Julia provided guidance along the way. Follow her wonderful blog five plus banana splits to find out “what happens when experience of the theater crosses with children.”

 

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I had some help with one of the visuals in NY Dogs as well, but my studio assistant would scowl at me over the rims of his glasses at dinner tonight if I wrote his name on the internet—so you’ll have to buy your own copy of NY Dogs and read the credits at the end to learn his identity.

THANK YOU to the entire team, including our many fabulous Facebook fans who submitted photos of their furry best friends. We included every single one of their adorable faces in NY Dogs.

Like our Facebook page to follow along!

And click here to order your copy of NY Dogs (punchline/2016) today!

collaborate

26 May

ISS_Cover

A while back, after having made several books together, my publisher friend Mauricio Velázquez de León (owner of duporess) invited me to a Skype lunch. While he sat at an outdoor cafe somewhere in Baltimore with a tasty-looking sandwich, I ate a salad in a Savannah Panera, and we talked about this and that.

Before he let me go, he asked what made me tick, artistically—a very interesting question that threw me off guard, and really made me think. I love to draw cities, and kids, and animals…. but if there was one thing we weren’t already doing that made my artist’s heart sing, it had to be SHOES.

During the rest of that Skype lunch and for a long while after, we talked about shoes, and how to make them into a book. We shot ideas back and forth leisurely for quite a while (one year? two??), and then somehow or other “The Shoe Book” made it onto a tentative production schedule. We were actually gonna do it. So, I had to write it.

love_lossNow, I’m not a writer, I am an illustrator, but I can string a few words together in a pinch. With a vague idea in my head based on the amazing classic Love, Loss, and What I Wore, a book I had read years earlier, I spent a week or two typing up a charming little manuscript. Mauricio called the draft “lovely” or something to that effect, and, despite my bent toward self-deprication, I agreed with him. It was a lovely manuscript. (In keeping with my amateur writer status, it was largely auto-biographical—so predictable!) But it wasn’t a book for duopress. Not yet. After thinking about it for a while, he came back with suggestions.

Duopress publishes innovative books for curious children. “The Shoe Book” had to be an innovative. Maybe even interactive. My original manuscript was very nice, but there was nothing innovative about it.

I started over, converting the words into an activity book. Letting go of my original approach wasn’t easy, but I trusted Mauricio and forged ahead, trying to combine his ideas and requirements for the project with my initial inspiration. The result was more than a manuscript for an activity book, because it had a voice: there was a story, told by a little girl. Her name changed a few times but eventually became Isabella. Page by page Isa shared not only her love of shoes, but her obvious love for her family and friends, and for the process of design.

“The Shoe Book” was becoming not only innovative, but special!

partySCANWith a working manuscript I made some art samples, including this painting. Although this watercolor didn’t come close to making it into the book, it helped me find the look of the book. Just part of the process.

Mauricio and I went back and forth revising the manuscript too many times to count, making changes even as I was up to my elbows in ink chasing that drop-dead-absolutely-final art deadline. It had to happen that way, because the book was innovative—something totally new and different—and every spread generated more creative ideas. Input from duopress’s copy editor, distributor, family friends, and our beloved designer Charla Pettingill also helped form the final product.

The result: Isabella’s Shoe Studio, which will be available this fall. We will be promoting the book this weekend at Book Expo America.

My name is on the cover, but Isabella’s Shoe Studio was most definitely a group effort, a true collaboration. The project evolved,  and we rolled with it. What a pleasure.

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The story about how this doodle storybook came to life has two morals:

First, for publishers: Get to know your team and encourage them to explore their passions. You’ll be glad you did. (It may interest you to know that Mauricio only owns 3 pairs of shoes, and two are exactly the same! If he hadn’t asked what made me tick, it’s doubtful that duopress would have a shoe book on the horizon.)

Second, for my fellow artists: Don’t be afraid to collaborate. Good ideas can always be improved, and they may die if they aren’t allowed to be shaped by smart people who are in the position to do something with them.

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It’s better to have a partner than go it alone. Share the work, share the wealth. And if one falls down, the other helps, but if there’s no one to help, tough!

Ecclesiastes 4:10, from The Message by Eugene Peterson