Art

Happy PubDay Piper Perish!

Happy PubDay to the phenomenal PIPER PERISH, by Kayla Cagan!

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Piper Perish inhales air and exhales art. The sooner she and her best friends can get out of Houston and get to New York City, the better. Art school has been Piper’s dream her whole life, and now that senior year is halfway over, she’s never felt more ready. But in the final months before graduation, things are weird with her friends and stressful with three different guys, and Piper’s sister’s tyrannical mental state seems to thwart every attempt at happiness for the close-knit Perish family. Piper’s art just might be enough to get her out. But is she brave enough to seize that power when it means giving up so much? Debut author Kayla Cagan breathes new life into fiction in this dynamic, utterly authentic work featuring interior art from Rookie magazine illustrator Maria Ines Gul. Piper will have readers asking big questions along with her. What is love? What is friendship? What is family? What is home? And who is a person when she’s missing any one of these things?

“A character readers will remember.”-Kirkus Reviews

“Will embolden budding teen artists.”-School Library Journal

“Piper Perish is smart, fresh, and utterly engaging. Infused with a love and respect for art that shines through on every page, Kayla Cagan’s debut is equal parts funny and heartbreaking. You won’t put it down.”-Brandy Colbert, author of Pointe and Little and Lion

“Get ready for all the feels! Urgent, funny, and achingly real, Piper Perish will pull you into her artsy, messy, and love-rich world on the first page and hold you tight until the very end. The voice is so fresh and intimate you’ll swear you’ve known Piper your whole life. I read this book on a tear and when I finished-breathless and teary and hopeful-I not only knew I’d discovered an amazing author, I also felt like I had a new friend. Stop what you’re doing and go read Piper Perish now!” -Leila Howland, author of Hello, Sunshine

“Cagan tells Piper’s story with amazing authenticity. soulful reading for any artistic teen with a dream.”-Booklist, starred review

“After reading Piper Perish I want to start my own handwritten, doodle-filled journal full of creativity, dreams, and adventures. This book captured that excitement I felt when I was a young artist full of hope tackling a big city. If a book could be my BFF, it would be this one.” -Bonnie Burton, author of Crafting with Feminism and Girls Against Girls

“A smart, complicated, emotionally mature, coming-of-age story that leaps off the page and reminds you why you ever dared to dream. Bonus points for every Houston shout-out.” -Pamela Ribon, bestselling author of Notes to Boys: And Other Things I Shouldn’t Share in Public

“A love-letter to the artistic life, filled with glamour, passion, hunger and heartbreak.” – author, graphic novelist, and two-time Eisner Award Winner Hope Larson

Order PIPER PERISH on Amazon, B&N, and Indiebound, or check it out on Goodreads!

You can follow Kayla on twitter at https://twitter.com/KaylaCagan

 

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The Legend of Victor Bailey

screen-shot-2017-03-04-at-8-02-46-amJazz bass guitarist Victor Randall Bailey of Boston, MA passed away peacefully in Stafford at the age of 56 of ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease).

Born in Philadelphia, PA, Victor was a professor of music at Berklee College of Music in Boston, MA.

 

 

 

 

Last night I received a text from my mother, linking to the above obituary. “The legend is dead,” she wrote.

The name Victor Bailey really was the stuff of legends in my childhood home. My parents were musicians. My mother was a song writer and piano teacher, my stepfather played guitar, and on the weekends their wedding band practiced in our basement. When the house wasn’t filled with the sound of live top 40 hits or my mother’s students plunking away at Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, my family’s impressive stereo system played everything from Bill Evans to early-90s grunge. There was never silence.

If you picked up a Jazz, or heck, a stereo magazine in those years, you might have spotted Victor Bailey on the cover. But his renown as a bassist wasn’t why he was famous in our house. Or at least, that wasn’t all of it.

My mother tells the story like this. In the early 80s she was a student at Berklee College of Music in Boston. She was a jazz composition major, but played out regularly (and missed commencement because she had a gig– a fact of which I am inordinately proud. Mom had her priorities straight). She was a pretty good pianist, and though she wrote a little, her speciality was performing. But like all artists she was self-conscious. In an attempt to improve she was overly aware of her flaws, and worried too much what other players thought of her technique.

One day, so the story goes, a truly renowned and genius Jazz bassist came to speak at Berklee. He sat on stage with his instrument in his lap, answering a moderator’s questions while occasionally playing for the crowd. My mother was in awe. It was like having a Q&A with Jesus, she said, and seeing this master play in person, just a few feet away, was awesome.

Seated next to her was her friend, Victor. Throughout the performance Victor sat with crossed arms and sour but intent expression. Like my mother and the other audience members he was rapt, but less enchanted. When the Famous Bassist finished a particularly impressive riff that left the rest of the hall in appreciative silence, Victor got to his feet and shouted at the stage.

“I can play that shit.”

Now here’s the thing. Victor could not play that shit. Victor was a sub-par bassist at best. But Victor never let that stop him. As my mother tells it, he would boast his way into sessions with musicians of much greater experience and talent, ignoring their stares as, a few songs in, his lack of skill became all too apparent. But it didn’t matter to Victor. He showed up. He played that shit, even if it sounded like shit.

So cut to my mother in the auditorium, slipping lower and lower in her seat, trying to cover her face, as Victor stands beside her, claiming to be on par with the guest speaker. Not just claiming, certain. “I don’t know him,” Mom whispered to the horrified girl beside her.

So how did Victor go from the hacky loudmouth to a famous bassist in his own right, and a professor to boot? Well, while my mother, by her own admission, sought out musicians whose skill was equal to or less developed than hers, Victor was never afraid to embarrass himself. As such, he was always surrounded by the best players. In those sessions, there was nowhere to go but up, and he learned from the better players around him. He watched them play, grew by observing, mimicking, and drawing from their experience. In the end his infectious attitude endeared him to his bandmates, but more importantly, his skills improved. And improved and improved.

“You always want to be the dumbest person in the room, Kate,” he told my mother.

And this piece of advice is precisely what my mother told me.

The Legend of Victor Bailey, as told by Mom, probably grew and stretched over the years like most legends do, but decades after Victor Bailey and my mother had fallen out of touch, the phrase, “I can play that shit,” was bandied around my house. To my stepfather it was more of a joke, but to my mother and me it’s a kind of battle cry. A reminder to throw yourself in, of the power in ignoring self-doubt, the wisdom of being the dumbest person in the room.

Failure is not only inevitable but necessary for progress. I am a chronic over-thinker, but I’ve thrown myself into a few deep ends, and never regretted it for long. Seeing that Mr. Bailey passed recently, at such a young age, is sad, but he accomplished so much in his all-too-short life. He didn’t wait, he stood up. He jumped in. That’s a life well-lived.

Keep playing that shit, man.

 

Welcome Julie Olson!

JulieOlsonHeadshotI’m delighted to welcome veteran artist and author/illustrator Julie Olson to Greenhouse! Julie and I met in 2012 at the Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers conference in Utah (which I highly recommend), where Julie was teaching a class on illustrating picture books. Though I’d worked with picture book authors before, this was my first experience addressing a room full of illustrators. Throughout my talk Julie stood off to the side, and whenever I was a bit uncertain she’d shoot me an encouraging thumbs up. For the rest of the conference Julie was my sometime driver, showing me the sights of beautiful Provo and also ensuring I visited Starbucks at least twice a day. Julie kept me sane, punctual, and caffeinated all week.

So it was a delight to see her this year when I returned to WIFYR. Julie was hosting an author shindig at Salt Lake’s legendary independent bookstore, King’s English. We caught up over stuffed peppers and pigs-in-blankets, and she told me about her latest book, Discover America. We discussed the picture book world, the commercial art world, and I mentioned I thought artists ought to have a dedicated illustration agent, as separate from their commercial artwork representation, as the markets are so different.

Julie considered this, and sipped her sparkling apple cider.

Now, lo, it’s a few months later, and Julie and I are going to be working together, which makes me deliriously happy. Whenever a new client joins the agency, we ask them a few questions about their work, their process, etc. Julie’s answers are fabulous. Check it out:

When and how did you start writing and/or illustrating?

Well apparently my artistic history goes all the way back to my toddler days. Apparently, my mom would often turn around from her task at hand to find me quietly drawing tiny circles in ballpoint pen all along the baseboards of her white walls. Being the patient woman she was, she simply shook her head in amazement at my finger dexterity and provided plenty of paper and art supplies from then on. As I grew older, I checked out “how-to-draw” books from the local library and even set the old VCR to record Bob Ross and other PBS painting shows. I asked Santa for my first set of real artist paints at the age of 11 and from then on I’d get home from school and try copying the PBS masters’ paintings. In the meantime, my love of the written word developed as well. My favorite times were when my busy dad would spend time reading Mark Twain stories in all the voices or when my sister and would stay up late telling each other stories of “Marshmallow Pie Bar Mysteries.”

IMG_7816Can you remember the first book that made an impact on you? Who were your childhood storytelling heroes?

We loved books in my house so it’s hard to pin down only one book. My siblings and I even set up a neighborhood library for the kids on our street. Complete with card pockets on the inside of every book cover. Mostly we just liked to stamp the card and check out the books to ourselves, but we had a grand time with it. Some of my early favorite books included Lillian Holban’s Frances series, “The Country Bunny and the Little Golden Shoes,” and Nora Smaridge’s “The Big Tidy Up.” I also always loved to read Mrs. Piggle Wiggle, Pippy Longstocking and Judy Blume books, along with “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.”  And of course, a soft spot for Mark Twain (in my dad’s voice).

Can you talk us through the writing of your first book? What were the key moments?

I had been illustrating books for about 9 years as well as attending conferences, meeting with writers, and studying the art of writing all along. Finally, I decided to really give it a go. I had just spent the weekend hosting author/illustrator Janet Stevens at a book conference and she and I had had some great discussions. After dropping her off at the airport, I was stuck in traffic and a little idea started. I grabbed the back of my name tag and a ballpoint pen from the dash and scribbled a few words down on the back (don’t worry…traffic was completely at a stand still). The words I wrote were, “Groundhog. Scratch my back. Tickle. Tingle. Twitch. Itch. Porcupine. Alligator. Thistle.” From those few words came my first book, “Tickle, Tickle! Itch, Twitch!” Of course I say that like it was simple, when it wasn’t. But it all began there.

groundhog idea

Was it hard to get an agent ? Can you talk us through the process?

I actually went out on my own without an agent for the first 9 years of my career. Since I was an illustrator and a mom to young kids, I took the route of finding my own work and managing the flow of it without the worry of disappointing an agent when I needed to turn a job down to spend time with my little ones. However, I finally came to the realization that an agent could actually HELP me spend more time with my family by taking all of the busy work off my plate. Then I could focus on my art. I began with an art rep who illustrator friends of mine used instead of a literary agent because at the time I wasn’t as focused on the writing aspect of picture books. I submitted my work to them and they took me in as one of their own. I was able to work on books but a lot of other interesting projects for various industries as well. However, after 5 more years in the industry and one book authored under my belt, I finally realized that creating an entire book is what I NEEDED to keep doing. My art rep was having a bit of a hard time helping me in that goal since their focus was primarily on the art and not the writing. I was explaining this to a literary agent, who I’d met a year previously at a conference, while we chatted at another event. After our talk that night, I realized that it was time to make a change in my focus and in my career. It was very scary for me to give up my art rep who I got along well with and move to a literary rep, but I knew it was the right thing to do. That literary agent I chatted with and subsequently signed on with was John Cusick, of Greenhouse Literary Agency. I am so excited to work with him and the Greenhouse team and take the leap of faith into my dreams.

p12-1Describe your writing/illustrating day. Where do you work? How do you organize your time? Where do you look for inspiration?

As a mom, and an artist, it’s hard for me to keep set hours. I work when the kids sleep. I work when the kids are at school. I work when I’m at the dentist. I work while I’m at the park. I even work while I’m in the car. Whenever I find a free and quiet moment, I think books. I think art. I think stories. However, when I’m on a deadline, I work out some childcare help to get some good solid painting time in. I’m lucky that both of my kids’ grandmothers live close enough to help out when I’m in a pinch. But truthfully, a lot of my work happens with kids in my office painting at their little mini desk, banging on the piano or electric guitars upstairs and downstairs, or not so quietly reminding me they need to be fed. I am lucky to have an art studio in my home so I don’t have to go far. And I think growing up in a big family (9 kids and two parents) allowed me to be able to work amongst noise and craziness when I need to. Honestly, I think these kids are my greatest inspiration…life with them provides all sorts of ideas.

Can you tell us about your next book?

I currently have two books I’m working on. One is silly and the other is completely the opposite, serious and emotional. Both are picture books. I really hope they find a home and get to provide more laughter and love in the world.

Are there any tips you could give aspiring writers/illustrators who are looking to get published?

The best advice I have is to PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE your craft. Go to writing and illustrating workshops and conferences. Learn from professionals in the industry. Network there. READ  A LOT OF BOOKS in the genre you are interested in and then lots of books in general. Overall, take the advice, constructive criticism and tips you receive from editors and professionals and put them to use. Let them build your work into something better instead of allowing it to tear you down personally.

Which favorite authors/illustrators would you invite to a dinner party? What fictional character do you wish you’d invented?

Kay Thompson and Hilary Knight (because I would love to witness and learn from their friendship), David Small and Sarah Stewart (because they are one of the sweetest couples I know…true opposites attracting), and Aaron Becker, Dan Santat, Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen (to keep the blood young, hip and hilarious) — The whole dinner I would soak up all I could from these amazing artist in word and sight

I wish I’d invented Eloise. Because she’s got such spunk and truly speaks to my own inner sassy know-it-all child. However, I don’t know that I was ever that spoiled (actually I know I wasn’t…there were 9 kids in my family, remember?)

Check out Julie’s picture books at Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and Indiebound. You can also follow Julie, and add her work on Goodreads too!

BTW if you yourself are an author/illustrator or illustrator, I highly recommend you check out Julie’s blog for all kinds of great resources.