CAROL What drew you to Jennifer's work?
JENN Initially I discovered Jennifer's work at the 2013 SCBWI Carolinas Fall Conference. The faculty received postcards in a bag when we arrived for the conference and also had time to preview illustrator's portfolios. During the time we had to preview the portfolios an editor and myself both commented to each other that Jenn's work was really fun and unique. Later I went back to my stack of postcards and searched for Jenn's. Once I discovered it I tucked it (and one other) away for safe keeping until I could email her later.
CAROL What made her work stand apart from the other submissions you receive?
JENN My exact words in the first email I sent Jenn were these: "Your characters were fun, a little quirky, and very accessible to children's books."
When I first saw her work online (she had a really well put together blog, website and had great involvement on Twitter with #kidlitart and #inktober) I was instantly pulled in by her characters. I'm constantly looking for the ever-elusive "different" or "spark" with illustrators and Jenn definitely has it. She had one character in particular I loved, a little girl with a huge amount of hair that constantly pulled in a variety of objects and animals. As they say "the devil is in the details" and in Jenn's work there were/are plenty of details and personality popping out everywhere.
In addition to those elusive details that Jenn brought to the table, it was her submission that showed me she wanted to be a children's book illustrator more than anything else. She mentioned goals she had and her background as a working mom. Jenn's dedication to her craft and her daughter were clear to me and as someone who wants to help to build the career of the clients I work with over the years, these were very appealing to me. Obviously how I found Jenn wasn't exactly a typical submission process and I won't always know this much detail about a potential client's life right away, but knowing that we shared similar priorities was a huge draw to me.
|Jenn's illustration for the July, 2014 |
issue of Talking Story
CAROL Can you share your collaborative process?
JENN Over the next few months Jenn and I exchanged emails and phone calls while discussing not only text for her picture books, but also the illustration samples she was working on. The edition of the manuscript Jenn first sent me was originally over 900 words (larger than what I'd recommend sending to me, but again, this was an unusual situation) and over those months we whittled it down to under 500 words. I do this with all of my writing clients as I'm more of an editorial agent and prefer to send a polished manuscript on submission.
Jenn and I also worked to polish her illustration samples. First, Jenn completed a full dummy for the picture book. I don't always ask for this, but because we'd not worked together before I wanted to see her full vision for the story before proceeding. We exchanged a number of phone calls after this to discuss details about the samples we were prepping for submission. Again, I look for details and though I knew Jenn had done amazing work already, I knew she could do even better with a bit of a push. She did! Jenn fine tuned things as seemingly simple as bushes, among other things, and in the end her book is something I am proud to share with editors.
Thank you, Carol, for giving me the opportunity to share this process with you and your readers. As I mentioned, Jenn's experience may be a little different than "typical" submissions, but I find that discovering new talent is anything but a "typical" process and always an adventure.
For more than six years Danielle Smith has been the well-known blogger behind the online review site There’s a Book, voted the BBAW’s Best Kidlit Book Review Blog and host to over two-hundred thousand page views per month. Her children’s book reviews have also appeared in top online and print publications such as Parenting Magazine and Women’s World. “There is something magical about working with children’s books,” says Smith who still cherishes the time she’s able to read with her own two children each day. As the latest addition to Red Fox Literary, Smith looks to further expand on the sterling reputation she's built within the children’s trade publishing world. Her client list includes both authors and illustrators working in genres from board books to picture books to young adult novels. Click here for submission information.