Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Introducing Jenn Bower, "Authorstrator": Part I

Being a member of a SCBWI critique group has lots of advantages: I receive feedback about my manuscript and have the opportunity to learn more about writing by critiquing others. I also meet wonderful writers who are serious about honing their craft and getting published. And every once in awhile, skilled illustrators wander into our group and I'm astonished at their work. Since I can barely draw a stick figure, I'm always in awe of their abilities to tell stories through art and to deepen a story's impact through images.

Jenn Bower is new to the Charlotte SCBWI critique group, but not new to the creative arts. When she started talking about how she illustrates digitally, I begged her to educate me--and my readers--on how this is done. She agreed to fit me into her busy schedule and answer several questions.

Jenn also introduced me to the idea of "Authorstrator"--writers who are also illustrators. I think you will agree that the next four blog posts demonstrate her skills as both. Take it away, Jenn!

CAROL: Tell us a little about yourself and why you consider yourself to be an "authorstrator”.

From "Bo Peep Gets a Makeover"

JENN: As a kid, I dreamed of being a model, actor, and architect.  I loved telling stories with laughable characters and regaled my relatives with ‘Myrtle the Turtle’ and ‘Chubby’ imitations.  I always made things: Barbie clothes, Barbie homes out of wood blocks, sewing and knitting projects, homemade cards.  I also wrote, produced, directed, costumed, set designed, and stared in some form of homespun Holiday two-man pageant, with my younger sister, or performed in all the school plays.  I knew, since the First Grade when I won the Great Pumpkin Decorating Contest, I was born to create.  

A bit of a late bloomer with a horrible sense of direction, I attended UNC-Chapel Hill for Journalism & Advertising and then earned my BFA-Interior Design degree from Winthrop University.  Too clumsy to be a model, too camera shy to be an actress and lacking any affinity for load bearing wall calculations
, I then promptly went to work in the insurance, luxury retail, and investment holding industries.  I hated my life and was insanely jealous of my younger sister who was pursuing her second degree in Children’s Illustration.

The birth of my daughter made me examine the shape of my own life as I was molding hers.  What examples did I want to set?  I always dreamed as a child but fear addled the pursuit.  In 2001 I enrolled in writing for children literature course but found my writing to
be acerbic and serious.  I needed to peel back layers of adulthood so from 2008-2010 I wrote and published poems and short stories under a pseudonym.  There was a fantastic online community at the time called URBIS.  I connected with a talented group of writers who really challenged my writing.

In 2010 while cleaning out a closet I unearthed my old college art bin.  As I tested decades old markers and pens for life, I doodled a character and then posted a picture on Facebook.  It was the most commented on and ‘liked’ post of the year.  The match was struck and I couldn’t stop drawing again.  I tend to work in extremes so when the drawing rocketed the writing abruptly halted.
From "Kidlitart Process Post"
In 2011 I joined SCBWI, primarily as an illustrator.  At the 2012 Regional Carolinas conference an editor said something that stuck with me: “You illustrators need to step up your game and learn to write as well.”  Frankly, it pissed me off.  I wondered why this individual didn’t toss down the same white glove to writers.  It nagged at me for a year.  

I participated in PiBoIdMo that November and generated a month’s worth of picture book ideas.  They hibernated in a Moleskein pocket sketchbook. Here is a short video showing me paging through a similar notebook:

At the 2013 conference I participated in the Illustrator’s Intensive led by Dan Yaccarino and his Art Director, Patty Ann Harris from Little Brown Books for Young Readers.  They gave us an actual working manuscript and tasked us to develop characters based on the story.  Something clicked during the process and I knew I was a storyteller that had to write and illustrate my own stories.  The remainder of the conference I sat in on every breakout session related to the craft of picture book writing. 
Join us next week when Jenn shares her creative process!

Until then, here is Jenn's Facebook profile picture. You can see this lady is someone special!
Jenn getting kisses from Trinity,
her 18 month old, 82lb Doberman rescue.


Linda Phillips said...

What a refreshing and informative profile of a very talented lady. Thanks Carol, and kudos to you, Jenn.

Kathleen said...

I really enjoyed hearing about Jenn's story. I too admire someone who can draw. I cannot draw a straight line with a ruler :)

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks Linda and Kathy. Us writerly types admire the artists!

JenniferNBower said...

And us artists types admire the writerly!! Thank you for the feature and asking the questions. Love getting to know you and your words.

danielle said...

This is great. When you're born to create, doing anything else is pretty miserable, eh? Looking forward to more on Jenn's process. Love, a fellow late bloomer. :)

Kit Grady said...

Thanks Carol, I truly enjoyed your interview with Jenn- Such a talented gal.
Kit Grady

Carol Baldwin said...

Danielle--from your picture, you are hardly a late bloomer! I qualify at 60! Glad you enjoyed the blog and isn't it fun for all of us to learn from each other? A Big thanks to Jenn who is sharing so much with us!

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks, Kit. She is and I'm in the "I'll be able to say I knew her when" camp! ALong with you too!

Rosi said...

Thanks for an interesting post, Carol. I look forward to Part II.

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks, Rosi. I thought you would like this!

Joyce Moyer Hostetter said...

Fascinating journey!

Jenn, I am so glad you gave up a life you hated to focus on joyful work!

sheri levy said...

I loved the interview and can't wait to read more. How awesome to be able to do both, illustrating and writing. Very talented lady!!

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks, Sheri. She is and I'm fortunate to host her!

Linda A. said...

Thanks for inviting Jenn Bower to tell her story. It was fascinating. Thanks ladies.

Carol Baldwin said...

Stay tuned, Linda. 3 more posts PLUS one from her agent--coming up!

Vanessa Brantley Newton said...

This was divine and very inspirational! I enjoyed finding out more about my sisterfriend Jennifer. This was wonderful!!!

SO MUCH MORE TO HELEN! The Passion and Pursuits of Helen Keller: A Picture Book Biography and Giveaway

  What do you know about Helen Keller? Many of us have grown up knowing the story of how Annie Sullivan taught Helen to sign her first word...