Sunday, December 18, 2011

Candid Taylor, a writer who has a blog called, Children Kissed by the Sun, contacted me not too long ago because she had written about Colors of Me on her blog.

Her blog is dedicated to African American children's literature and she does a very nice job highlighting titles, authors and illustrators connected to this slice of the bookshelf. In our correspondence, I became aware of the significant role she played as an intern for Sleeping Bear Press in getting Colors of Me to print. I was curious and asked her a bunch of questions! I think her answers shed some light into how random the process  can be for getting a book in print!

What inspired you to seek an internship at Sleeping Bear Press?

I was an elementary teacher for two years and decided that I didn't want to be in the classroom anymore, but I wanted to be connected to education. I decided to get my Masters in Children's Literature in order to figure exactly what I wanted to do. During my program I decided that I wanted to work in publishing and write. I did an Internet search for publishing companies in Michigan and found Sleeping Bear Press (SBP). I contacted them and inquired about  internship opportunities. Three or Four months later, I received an email from the publisher asking me to come in for an interview. I was with them for a little over a year. I loved it there. It was such a great experience. The entire SBP staff was so gracious to me and allowed me to be hands on and experiment. I learned so much from them. I will never forget my experience there.

How did you come across the manuscript for Colors of Me?

One of my graduate courses was a writing class for children. Brynne Barnes was in that class with me. It was in that class, I first read Colors of Me (which was originally called Blinkurpelloween) during a peer review.

Can you describe your role as an intern in seeing that title come to print? 

I approached one of the editors with the manuscript and she agreed to look at it. She liked it and decided to take it to an editorial meeting. From there all the editors liked it and decided it should go to the acquisition meeting. It was my job to pitch it at the acquisition meeting. I had to research the comparable titles, price points, and the potential market. It passed acquisition which was the biggest hurdle.From there the editor took over the project and a contract was offered. Obviously she accepted! It was a very exciting moment for both of us!

How was the decision made to seek a collage artist to illustrate the story? 

 The editors wanted something different for this project. They wanted a style that was not typical for  SBP. One of the editors was familiar with your work and collectively agreed that you would be great for the project.

Do you see certain styles of art being more accessible to particular market segments in particular books dealing with multiculturalism?
I don't believe there is a more accessible style of art for books dealing with multiculturalism. I believe that we (adults) should expose children to a variety of styles so that they can become appreciative of different art forms. I believe it is important for an illustrator for multicultural picture books to be true to their art form as well as authentic and accurate.

What authors or illustrators you encountered as a youngster stand out in your memory?

When I was younger, I liked book(s) by Eric Carle, Ezra Jack Keats, John Steptoe, Patricia McKissack, Beverly Cleary, Maurice Sendak, and Verna Aardema. Probably more but those are the ones that stand out.

Do you think the current market does a better job in offering books that speak to our diverse population? 

It could be better. But the publishing industry has come a mighty long way in offering diverse books for children. It's definitely getting better but there is still a disparaging gap. According to Cooperative Children's Book Center, they received 3,400 books that were published in 2010 and of those,
156 books had significant African or African American content
102 books were by Black authors and/or illustrators
22 books featured American Indian themes, topics, or characters
9 were created by American Indian authors and/or illustrators
64 had significant Asian/Pacific or Asian/Pacific American content
60 books were created by authors and/or illustrators of Asian/Pacific heritage
66 books had significant Latino content
55 books were created by Latino authors and/or illustrators
Just to give you an idea of the gap :)

Any words of advise for aspiring illustrators from the perspective of an intern? 

My advice would be to make sure you have a website that displays your artwork. It was so helpful to be able to go to illustrators websites, see their versatility and their artistic style. Editors want to know if your artwork can translate into illustrations and if your versatile they will keep you in mind for other projects. Learn the industry and make sure your outreach to publishers meet industry standards. Once you have been contracted, stick to the deadlines set for you. A delay on the illustrations can really effect the entire process. Get out there! There are so many conferences, go to them and network. You will be surprise who you may come across.

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