1. When you were my age, did you like to read? I’ve always loved comics and comic strips. When I was your age I liked to read fantasy and sci-fi novels, especially if they had humor in them, but around that time I was also discovering superhero comics like X-Men.
The Cows Go Moo
The Cows Go Moo
Questions from Bridget:
Absolutely! My parents weekly brought me to our public library in Hingham, Massachusetts. I can remember exactly where the children’s section was. I would always gravitate to books on how to draw animals and cars, two things that I love! I would also check out a lot of picture books to bring home and read either on my own or with my parents. Of all those years spending time in libraries who knew I would eventually become a children’s book author and illustrator and have my own book on the shelf!
If I were to choose one of many, I would choose, “Start Something That Matters” by Blake Mycoskie. He is the guy who started TOMS shoes. When you buy a pair of TOMS shoes another pair is donated to a child living in a place or situation where they might not have access to good footwear. He calls this, “One for One.” The very evening that I finished reading that book, I said to myself, “I want to do something like that with my book!” Since my book series is about cows I came up with the, “Buy-A-Book / Give-A-Cow” project. Ten percent of the profits from all of my sales of my books and Moo Merch goes to providing real cows to a family’s living in poverty through Heifer International. The families are trained on how to care for their cow and start their own cow milking business to help provide for their family’s needs. I am very thankful that I read that book when I did!
I am full of ideas! So are my family members. Whenever we come up with a book idea, I write it down on a piece of paper and put it in my “book ideas” file, or I type it into the “notes” on my iPhone. As of right now I am focusing mostly onideas for, “The Cows Go Moo!” series. I have some other animal-based stories that I am working on as well. One of which, is about our Silver Labrador Retriever named Earl! Both of my daughters encouraged me to write, “The Cows Go Moo!” based on a silly song I wrote back in high school. A song I wrote in college has become thebasis for my second book, “The Cows Go Moo Shuffle!” Which will hopefully publish before the end of the year. Then my youngest daughter Sophia said, “Dad you should do a coloring book!” “The Cows Go Moo! Udderly Crazy Activity & Coloring Book” will be available in May 2019! Ideas are cool already, but when you see your ideas become a reality it is very cool!
Since middle school I have been involved in supporting non-profits such as World Vision, Compassion International, Boston Rescue Mission and others. Over the years I would regularly volunteer at homeless shelters, clothing drives, soup kitchens, food banks and as a youth worker. My dad was a homeless person for the majority of his adult life, so I have a special desire to support people in need. I have also had the opportunity to serve in schools, camps, and orphanages all around the world including Guatemala, Russia, Haiti, and Peru, as well as in many cities within the US. My support of Heifer International provides the opportunity and the training to families in need of assistance and this not only provides money for food, clothing and school, but it also builds other important aspects within a person’s life. Heifer International also does this cool thing called, “Passing on the Gift.” Whenever one of these family’s cows gives birth to a calf, that calf is passed along to another family in need within their community to continue the means to help end poverty! I have personally been given so much in my life and it is a privilegeand joy to pass that on to others.
For sure! There is an author who lives near me whose author name is G. Johnson. She wrote a wonderful children’s picture book entitled, “Seacoo.” The book was beautifully illustrated by Yifan Luo. The story is about a little panda bear named, Seacoo who loves to read. The story is a fun tale about his family, making friends with Coco and the beauty of change. When I was first considering turning my song into a picture book, I met with G. Johnson to get her advice based on her own experience of writing and publishing. The best piece of advice she gave me was, “finish the book!” This became a driving mantra and encouragement to help keep me focused and MOOving forward to finish the book! I encourage you to check out, “Seacoo!”
Be curious! What I mean by that, is to look for the amazing, funny, mysterious, and fantastical happenings in the world (or universe) around you, within your family, school, friends, experiences, likes, dislikes, dreams and imagination. Gather these ideas in a file and write about some of them. One helpful tool that I learned about writing was to do a Story Map! Take a blank sheet of paper, put it horizontal and write your idea right in the middle of the page. Now start brainstorming! Write down as many funny, strange, challenging, etc. etc. elements, memories, personal stories, etc. etc. that you can think of… this is often called a brain dump! Draw little pictures, circle words and connect themes. You can occasionally take this Map out and add to it again and again. Then you can start to write about it. Get the ideas out, have fun and learn as much as you can from others about becoming an author. Keep at it and don’t forget to, “finish the book!”
Yes! Because I have a catchy song that goes along with my book, I have received many videos on Facebook of kid’s singing the song, holding up the book, dancing and mooing around! It has been very funny, encouraging and heart–warming to see and hear that my book is bringing joy into people’slives and homes. I also hear a lot from parents. One just told me, “My son loves your book!” One of my favorite reviews was from a grandmother who said, “I was playing the recording of “The Cows Go Moo!” song and reading the book to my five and half year-old grandson when all of a sudden he exclaimed, “Grammy this is better than “Who Let the Dogs Out?” isn’t it?” Great job with the book and catchy tune!” Some of the best experiences are on author visits when we sing the song together, read the book and do some drawings of the characters. Instant feedback and great fun!
Great question! There are many books I can think of where that would be very cool to be able to do. The book that comes to the front of my mind right now is actually a series of wordless picture booksby Aaron Becker, “Journey, Quest & Return.” I love the fantastical settings, the colors, the way the main character can draw a boat or anything rightwithin the story to be able to escape danger or travel to a far away land. Being a wordless book allows the reader to imagine the words for themselves, to scream, to greet, or to cry with their own voice. The intricate artwork and vivid colors are amazing. I have always loved the medium of pen & ink with watercolor. That was actually how I started doing my first book, but then I moved into using all ink with Copic markers. More recently I have been doing some digital artwork on an iPad that I received for Christmas! Aaron Becker and I both live in Massachusetts, so I guess the both of us currently journey in the same land! Moochas gracias for interviewing me for your terrific website!
My website kevinsylvesterbooks.com
I’m on facebook at facebook.com/kevinsylvesterbooks
I’m on twitter @kevinarts
and also check out neilflambe.com
check out my blog kevinarts.blogspot.com
1. When you were my age, did you read a lot? I was not a great reader when I was a kid. That’s actually only half true. I loved to read Spider-Man comic books, the backs of baseball cards and anything with images. But that also got me into reading Beatrix Potter and then the Hardy Boys and finally longer books such as the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings. Sp I loved to read, but wasn’t able to read the books more “word literate” kids were reading.
2. What was your favorite book? Spider-Man. Anything with Spider-Man. Also, the Tailor of Gloucester and then the Hobbit.
3. How do you get ideas for your books? By being a curious person.. The ideas for books often come from bits of unrelated ideas banging into each other like charged atoms. So, Neil Flambé is the Hardy Boys mashed together with celebrity chefs. MINRs is a space story mashed together with some of the bad things that happen in the real world around mining colonies.
4. What authors do you like right now? There are so many amazing authors that I love. Some are friends (such as Debbie Ohi or Jonathan Auxier) and others are people whom I only know through books. Nerd Camp was amazing for that. Dogman Dav Pilkey is amazing. I absolutely loved meeting Arree Chung and reading his amazing book Mixed: A Colorful Story.
5. Do you have any new or lesser known authors to recommend? Hmmmm.. Lesser known depends on where it is that people don’t know them. For example, I live in Canada and we have so many amazing authors here that aren’t huge in the US. Authors such as Heather Camlot (who just released her first book – Clutch – which is great!) I’ve got a new series coming out with Ted Staunton, Richard Scrimger and Lesley Livingston (link is here http://www.scholastic.ca/books/series/almost-epic/ ). They are all amazing and successful, and everyone should read their books.
6. Do you have any advice for kids who want to be authors? Read. Read. Read. Read. Read. Read. And think about what the authors you like are actually doing. What verbs do they use? What images? What excited you about their plots? Steal that stuff for your own story.
7. Do you hear a lot from readers and what do you like? I hear from kids a lot (partially because I do a lot of school visits, and also because kids like to send me letters, and I answer them all). I like hearing why they like a boo AND why they don’t. Some things (like the ending to my book MINRs) can really make some kids angry! And that lets me know if I’m writing stories that actually mean anything to kids. The worst thing is to write a story that makes a kid shrug and go “yeah, that was okay”. Authors want readers to feel and think alongside their characters. Also, when we write a story (or draw pictures for them like I also do) we are often doing that alone in our studios. So we have no idea if there are real kids out there who will like our books.
8. If you could portal into any book, what book would it be? I want to eat at Chez Flambé and have Neil make me an amazing meal.
9. What do you use to make your illustrations? Everything and anything. I do a lot of my illustrations using pens and simple blank paper. Nothing fancy. But I do also do a lot of editing and even original drawing on my Cintiq tablet. It lets me fix mistakes really quickly and make edits (my editors always want changes) without having to start over from scratch.
10. Any advice for kids who want to be illustrators? Draw. Draw. Draw. Draw. Draw. Draw. And think about keeping your hand loose. Also, pay close attention to MATH. Knowing how shapes and spatial relations work will help you draw better stuff. The best book I’ve ever read that helped me learn those lessons? How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way.
So, for starters we are totally amazed at your website and the intelligence and charisma that you have for your age, Bridget! We think your love of books and reading is so wonderful.
1. When you were my age (9), did you like to read?
Not really, and because of I didn’t enjoy reading, I wasn’t doing very good in school. That was until I had a teacher who gave me a Nancy Drew Mystery Series book. After that, I developed a passion for reading, which has continued through this day. Since then, I just can’t read enough – too many books, too little time.
2. Who was your favorite author or what was your favorite story?
When I was young, it was Carolyn Keene of the Nancy Drew Mystery Series, who we now know was not really Carolyn Keene, but several different ghost writers.
Today, I love reading so many different types of books, that I really can’t pick one author. But of course, Dr. Suess will always be one of my favorites, and Shel Silverstein, and I like other books written by comedians (Woody Allen, Steve Martin, Tina Fey) and biographies.
3. How do you get your book ideas?
I always wondered about myths – aliens, Bigfoot, Champ. When I initially had the idea about myths, I started researching them, and that’s’ when I was hooked. If found it so odd and mysterious that so many people actually say they saw alien spacecraft, or that they saw Bigfoot, so I just had to write about it. And, at the time I started our series, our son Mick was ten, and I decided he would be the perfect main character for the book.
4. Is it hard to work together or does it help the process?
That’s a great question, and a lot of people wonder how a married couple work together – but since we have worked together since we did comedy together, it is actually a lot of fun, and yes, for us, it does help the process. We know that at times we might have different ideas for the art, but we can always laugh about it – and that is the key to getting through anything in life.
5. Why did you become an author and illustrator?
Karen: I was originally a copywriter, and wrote for radio, magazines, etc. Also, when we did comedy, although it was improv, we would write sketches, too. Years ago when Darrin was illustrating children’s book covers for other people, we decided to do our own children’s books – especially since we love sharing our creativity and humor with children.
Darrin: I had been drawing since I was very little. I always loved creating art. I was working at a creative agency – which I still do now, I’m the VP of Creative for Helloworld. With Karen being a creative writer, and with my art, and our comedy background, it really seemed like the perfect mix for us to do our fun, scary humorous books for children.
6. What authors and illustrators do you like right now? Any recommendations on lesser known ones for kids?
Karen: I have so many that I love, it would take up your whole blog! I have always been a fan of many of the famous ones…But, there are so many wonderful local authors I enjoy reading, that are just as fantastic as famous writers and illustrators. My suggestion is to go to the Michigan section in the bookstore, or your local library and ask for Michigan authors. It’s amazing how many wonderful books are out by Michigan people.
7. Any advice for kids who want to be an author or illustrator?
Karen: To start with you have to have it in your heart – whether you want to be a writer or an illustrator, you have to have passion for it. You have to practice, a lot. Which means you have to sit down and do it, even when you don’t feel like it. As an author, you should also read as much as you can. And, go different places, see different things – to help your imagination grow (museums, parks, plays, etc.). Keep a journal with you so that you can take notes when you see things that inspire you. Also, have fun, laugh, and don’t take your writing or yourself to seriously, that way when you sit down to write – you can make it something fun. Oh, and practice – did I say practice, well yes I did…PRACTICE, a lot, and don’t judge yourself.
Both Darrin and I read lots of books on writing and artwork. We spend so much time in bookstores and libraries (they are some of our favorite places).
8. Do you like hearing from readers? What do you like about it?
We love hearing from readers! It is our favorite part of our writing and illustrating. Especially when we do school visits, because if we are inspiring children to read, write and draw, and of course laugh – then we have accomplished our job.
I am @chadsell01 on Twitter and Instagram, and the official CK account is @thecardboardk on IG and Twitter.
– When you were my age (9), did you like to read?
Yes! Although I read all kinds of things, I was obsessed with comic books! I would eagerly seek out the comics section in every book store (if they even had them) and beg my parents to take me to comic shops whenever we took trips!
– What was your favorite author or book?
Since I was such a huge comics nerd of the 90’s, my favorite comic was probably Chris Claremont’s run on X-Men!
– how do you get your story ideas?
I think a lot of my writing naturally emerges out of whatever it is I’m thinking a lot about. But it can be hard to take those big ideas and make them into a story! It takes me a long time to work through different options for a character and many drafts of a script. Sometimes I get stuck on something, or I don’t know how to resolve part of the plot. Most of my breakthrough moments are during long walks that I take to clear my head!
– is it hard to write a book?
Yes! Very! That’s why I had a team of ten writers to help me with The Cardboard Kingdom!
– what authors do you like right now? Any lesser known ones you can recommend?
Oh wow! Well, I still read a lot, so I have several recommendations. I loved The Stars Beneath Our Feet by David Barclay Moore. One of my biggest author crushes of the past several years is on Leigh Bardugo – I love all the books in her two different Grisha series! And Molly Ostertag wrote the wonderful graphic novel The Witch Boy.
– what is the best part of being an author?
Being an author can be very difficult. It can also be very lonely! But the best part is seeing my work spark a reaction in another person – whether it’s my editor, my collaborators, or the kids who read it!
– What do you use to complete your illustrations?
Most of my work is done digitally. I have a desktop computer with a tablet monitor hooked up to it, which allows me to draw right on the screen! I use a program called Clip Studio Paint – 99% of my work on The Cardboard Kingdom was done with that software!
– any advice for a kid who wants to be an author?
Creativity is wonderful! If you are a creative person, you should treasure that about yourself. You should seek out opportunities to develop your craft, but you should never expect perfection. Don’t let your own self-criticism or the negativity of anyone else keep you from making what you want! The important thing is to keep developing as a person, an artist, and an author. You are capable of great things!
– If you could portal into any of your works, which would you portal into?
That’s a good question! Although I love all the kids in The Cardboard Kingdom, I feel like I already live in their world of creativity and cardboard. Especially since I see so much of them in their creators, whom I get to chat with all the time! Maybe the world of THE CLOUD (https://chadsellcomics.com/thecloud/) because it’s about a cloud who becomes an adorable superhero, and I think he would be a great friend to have.
Website/social media: www.elizabetvukovic.com / instagram/twitter @elizabetvukovic
Tell me a little about yourself:
Hi, I’m Elizabet Vuković, 32 years old, born in Rotterdam, the Netherlands.
This is where I live next door to my sister, she’s my neighbor, we bought a house together. I also have a much older brother. Things about me I speak multiple languages Dutch, Croatian, English & German. A huge supporter for animal rights, CAT obsessed (my last 2 cats passed ± a year ago, both aged around 18).
Love riding my bicycle it’s my transportation and also my therapist. I’m a bit eccentric, I guess (collecting unusual things like prosthetic eyes, they are beauties), curious, enthusiastic, a listener, contradictory, introvert mostly, but when comfortable an entertainer. Have done some terrifying stuff for an introvert like talk to a huge crowd of people in English and German about scientific ophthalmological study.
1.How long have you been illustrating books?
I’ve been working as a full-time freelance illustrator ± 3 years, about 2 years into illustrating children books.
2.How did you become a book illustrator?
I always loved drawing, as I grew older I drew less but never fully stopped. I never considered illustration as a profession, although teachers told my mom that I had some sense for art.
So when I had to decide what to do after highschool I convinced myself Biomedical Laboratory Technology would be the way to go, only to decide very last minute to study Optometry.
After graduating I knew this was not what I was suppose to do, this was my backup plan and to satisfy/ensure my parents that I would be able to take care of myself.
While working 8 years as an optometrist I saved up money to take online classes at the Academy of Art University, San Francisco for a degree in illustration. During the day I worked full-time and in the evening and weekends I studied illustration, that took 4 years.
I kept working to pay off my mortgage in this time I also worked on my portfolio and participated in childrens book competitions. There I developed new ideas for my portfolio, send out my work to an agency and the same day they got back to me with an offer to represent me. I was SUPER happy when I heard the news.
This happened just before I went to visit Montreal for a month workshop and conference in, Burbank. After I came back from my trip I had a few children illustration jobs waiting for me, I was so lucky to get a good start.
3.When you were my age, did you read alot? What was your favorite book?
Must admit I didn’t read a lot, spend way too much time playing outside (everybody in the neighborhood did) my mom had to call out to get inside for dinner 😉
But my absolute favorite books were from the author Roald Dahl I was obsessed with ”Mathilda”. And growing up and we had a famous dutch author ”Annie M.G. Schmidt” whose books were very popular and timeless, like ”Jip & Janneke”, ”Pluk van de Petteflet” , ”Floddertje” very funny books. But as I got older (age 10 and up) books from the author ”Anke de Vries” especially ”Blauwe Plekken” were very impactful.
- I love Jasmine Toguchi. How did you design her?
When I read ”Jasmine Toguchi Mochi Queen” I felt I could relate to Jasmine a lot, being the youngest sibling of three.
Also her character is funny, messy, independent and wants to be strong and that is what I was like as a kid.
I think I wanted to catch up with my siblings being stronger, faster then they are.
I would be so proud when someone would be surprised I could carry more then they thought I could, everything was competition I guess… 😉
(Even went as far as I convinced my dentist I didn’t need anesthesia for a root canal, I was 14 at the time, it hurt terrible but I didn’t show it. My dentist and dad where impressed, I was so stubborn and thought I can’t prove them right after I claimed I didn’t need it)
Back to Jasmine, I love how Debbi described this character I could see much of myself in this character and that helped design Jasmine.
There were some facts I got like her age, her ethnic background so I knew more about her physical appearance.
Jasmine is an active child so I thought she needs a ponytail (I actually always wear a ponytail) and comfortable clothing so that she can climb and play, she lives in California so I thought the weather isn’t too cold she could wear t-shirts and shorts and my favorite sneakers.
I must admit I think I made Jasmine look a bit like myself 🙂
- Do you have a favorite book you have illustrated?
Oh that’s a difficult question for me, every time I illustrate a book it’s like a mental game in my head, I like it but I also see all the things I could have done better. I keep learning and improving with every book, but I must say ”Jasmine Toguchi Drummer Girl” is one of my absolute favorites so far.
- Do you illustrate by hand or by computer?
I do both, sometimes I start the sketch and finish the illustration totally in the computer.
Most of the time I sketch with a regular pencil and scan the drawing, then either color it in the computer or start painting/pastel/pencil on paper and later scan that too in the computer.
- Who are some of your favorite authors/illustrators?
There are so many I’ll probably forget a lot (these are just the illustrators)
Fiep Westendorp, Sempé, Alice & Martin Provensens, Brian Wildsmith, Miloslav Sasek, Isabelle Arsenault, Anton Pieck, Beatrice Allemagna, Javier Zabala, Leo Lionni, Quentin Blake, Annette Marnat, Tove Jansson, Jan Balet.
Author website/social media:
When you were my age, did you like to read? Yes, very much! In fact, sometimes it seemed like that’s all I did. I learned how to read at a very young age, because I saw my older siblings reading and I wanted to do it too! So by the time I was 3 I was reading, and when I first went to school I would just sit and read every book in the classroom. Going to the library was one of my favorite things in the world.
What was your favorite story? I have so many, but I think my absolute favorite book was Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator by Roald Dahl. I loved how weird and imaginative it was – the author came up with some unbelievable things!
How do you get your ideas? I like this question, because it really makes me think about how my ideas come to me. Sometimes it’s hard to know where ideas come from; one day you’re sitting around and suddenly POOF, a brand new idea pops into your head from out of nowhere! And you’re so excited that you don’t even think to ask how it got there. But if I had to guess, I’d say a lot of my ideas come from things I’ve seen and done in my life, places I’ve been, people I’ve met. I have all those experiences swirling around in my head, and sometimes when I need an idea I think, ‘Hey! Why don’t I use that funny thing that happened to me?’ It’s incredibly helpful to have experiences!
Is it hard to illustrate a book? I don’t know if I’d call it hard, because I’ve been drawing and making comics for so long that I know a lot about them, and it makes it much easier to make something when you’ve been working at it for a while. But, I will say that making comics is still a lot of work, and I still have a lot to learn!
Do you have a favorite among the books you have illustrated? There was a book I drew that came out earlier this year called Animal Crackers: Circus Mayhem that was one of the most fun times I’ve ever had drawing. It’s about a kid who finds a box of animal crackers that are magic, and when you eat one you turn into that animal! So the book is filled with wild goofy action and it was really fun to draw all the comedy and magic.
What author do you like right now? I really like Drew Weing, who has a book called Margo Maloo
What advice do you have for a kid who wants to be an author? If you have a story that you want to tell, and you just have to tell someone…always write it down first! If you tell the story to someone before you write it down, it’s very easy to feel satisfied with that and then you don’t end up writing the story after all – which is the entire job of an author! I know so many people (even professional writers!) who say “I’ve got a great story to tell!”, and they get very excited, but they end up telling the story to people before they’ve written it down, and then they don’t feel like writing it anymore! So if you’ve got a really good story, try to make sure that when you’re finally ready to show it to an audience, even if it’s just one person, that you’ve written it out as a complete story first.
Do you get mistaken for the other Mike Holmes? Haha, I used to years ago! Not because we look alike, but we’re both Canadian and it was confusing for some people when my name would be on a book or in the paper. It doesn’t really happen that much anymore, and I have to admit I’m relieved!