Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Jenn Bower: A SCBWI-Carolinas story- Authorstrator Part IV

In this last installment in this series, Jenn Bower shares how she connected with her agent, and her advice to her fellow writers, illustrators, and "authorstrators." Next week her agent, Danielle Smith of Red Fox Literary, gives us a glimpse of why she decided to represent Jenn. (You can find links to the previous blogs here.)

CAROL How did you find your agent? 

JENN My agent found me at the 2013 SCBWI – Carolinas conference.  Bonnie Adamson, Regional Illustrator Coordinator, had the brilliant idea of including illustrator postcards in the conference faculty welcome packets.  My agent, Danielle Smith picked out mine and fellow North Carolinian, Brandon Reese, to contact.  (Brandon also signed with Danielle following the conference.) Danielle and I followed each other on Twitter and Facebook for about a month while we dialogued.  She asked me to submit a writing sample and about one month later we talked on the phone. 

You always hear how finding an agent is a lot like finding a marriage partner.  Communication is key, as well as common core values, goals, ideas about the industry, and a clear understanding of how each other works.  I was really fortunate.  I sent her one story about a painting horse which she loved.  Then she asked me to send her thumbnails to show I knew how to pace and tell the story through pictures.  I passed those interviews  and that is when she offered me representation.  She is so passionate about the industry and very particular about the product we put out for submission.  We try to talk monthly and engage almost daily via social media.  I love having her by my side.  She can handle the business of getting my books in front of the right people so I can focus on creating.

CAROL: How do you work together with Danielle now?
JENNWe try to talk on the phone at least once a month. I share what I am working on or the "next great idea." Danielle will give me her feedback on where to focus based on the market and what she is hearing editors request.

I will work on a draft and try not to submit until I know it's been through the critique rounds several times and I feel 90% confident it's close. Then Danielle and I discuss her thoughts and the feedback from my critique group. She saw me really struggling through one story and finally suggested I put it down and start something new. My current 'turban' project resulted from that suggestion. Once the manuscript is fairly firm them I start 'character auditions' and sketches.

CAROL: Do you have any advice for other writers and illustrators?

JENN: #1: Don't quit your day job. Not until you are booked out at least a year in advance with projects.  This allows you to be selective about the work you WANT and LOVE to take and put out your best product.  If you are chasing a dollar to make ends meet than the choices tend to be less palatable and I think the end result suffers.  I've seen so many peers do this and end up with work they don't want to put into their portfolio.

#2 Be patient.  We are such an instant gratification oriented society.  Slow down. Take your time. Allow your voice/style to develop before launching it out into the world. Make certain it is the image you truly want to portray. I've learned this with the illustration side, the hard way.  I rushed some pieces and then had to go back and re-work them once the dust settled.  I am still learning this lesson on the writing side.  Something magical happens when you allow work to marinate a bit.

#3 Be involved. Get involved in your local SCBWI chapter.  Go to conferences, not to be discovered, but to absorb and learn.  Be involved in critique groups.  It's amazing how much you'll grow and discover through the editorial process.

#4 Be persistent. This industry is full of high/low moments.  Learn to ride the the sweet spot of the wake so you don't get beaten around so much.  Creativity is a process and not always linear.  Find ways to unwind - I knit, exercise, ride horses, do yoga and get myself unstuck often in those moments when I'm not staring at a blinking cursor on a screen.  Set achievable goals for yourself and don't overload your plate.

#5 Write a mission and vision statement for your career.  I did this in 2012 and it helped me stay focused on the tasks I needed to accomplish to complete my mission.  It was one of the biggest steps I took in moving my career forward.  I taped it up in my studio.

CAROL: Can you tell us about your book out on submission?

JENN: I am sworn to secrecy but I can say it is a book I love.  It is a story about doing what you love, at whatever the cost and coming out a winner in the end.  It’s told from the perspective of a horse who loves to paint.  I’m excited because I don’t really know of another story out there like it.

CAROL: Thank you, Jenn, for sharing your talent and advice with other writers and illustrators. I can't wait to announce, "You heard it here first," when you sign your first publishing contract! 


Jenn has promised to share her "character audition" sketches for her current work-in-progress. Since I am a part of Jenn's critique group, I can tell you that her story and accompanying illustrations will be a winner.

Meanwhile, check out Jenn's customized illustration for the current issue of Talking Story. Joyce Hostetter and I were delighted with how she cleverly illustrated the theme of "Technology and Brain Health." 


sheri levy said...

Fascinating!It's been fun following Jenn's accomplishments and seeing the patience and dedication she has with her work.
It has definitely paid off! Congratulations!!

Carol Baldwin said...

thanks, Sheri. Glad you have enjoyed Jenn's posts.

Linda A. said...

Great post, ladies. What a great success story.

Linda Phillips said...

Again I've enjoyed the inside scoop on an artist's life, especially snagging an agent. Great work, Carol and Jenn!

Joyce Moyer Hostetter said...

"Something magical happens when you allow work to marinate a bit."

Congrats Jenn on getting the agent and also on the projects you've got going!

And thanks so very much for the illustration you created for Talking Story! I do love it! I'm glad Carol has introduced us.

Kathleen said...

Wonderful post. Thank you Jenn for sharing and I too cannot wait to hear you are published!

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks, friends. We are all encouraged by Jenn's journey!

Unknown said...

Such a positive piece! Thanks for sharing. Congrats and wishing you much success!

Marilee Haynes said...

I still remember Jenn's illustrations from last year's conference. The "girl with the red ponytail" struck me instantly and stayed stuck in my mind. I found myself wanting to write her a story :) Congratulations Jenn on signing with Danielle (I'm anxiously awaiting her decision on my full MG MS right now) - she sounds like a wonderful ally!

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks Jennifer and Marilee, for stopping by. If an illustration has stuck in your mind for an ENTIRE year--that says a lot, Marilee!

Shirley said...

Wonderful interview and such sound advice. Jenn's perseverance and talent are such inspiration..can't wait to see Jenn's wonderful books in the stores!

Carol Baldwin said...

Me too, Shirley! And I hope you'll read about it here first!

JenniferNBower said...

I have goosebumps reading all of these wonderful comments. I know what it means to be touched and inspired by someone's journey and story. I am so grateful to 'pay it forward' and for the opportunity to do so here. Shirley has been with me so long on this journey. *waves*
Marilee!!! WOW! Just, WOW!!! I am thrilled to hear Hazel stuck. Haha! Thank you for sharing that. XOXO to you all.

Rosi said...

This has been a great series. I'd like to know how Jenn got my grandson to sit still for her Technology and the Brain illustration!

Carol Baldwin said...

So funny, Rosi! Yes, I didn't know Jenn had a model for this illustration too.

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