Thursday, December 31, 2015

Goodbye 2015 It's Been Great!

Happy New Year!!
2015 has been amazing for me in so many ways.



Mostly because I have put everything on hold and spent thousands, literally around $16,000 on SCBWI events, conferences, workshops, the Highlights Foundation, plane tickets, hotel expenses, online writing classes with top people in the industry, all to make my goal of getting traditionally published in YA.

With that came working literally every single day on my novel-writing every single day without exception. That sounds easier than it is when you work full time, have a boyfriend, and a dog, and go to the gym, etc., but I did it!

This year and giving up so much time and money, was/is scary as hell, as I have basically only paid min payments to bills, and not saved a dime for taxes because every extra cent I have is going to my young adult writing.

When I decided to stop acting and go into animation, this is what I did. Yes I was offered a job by Disney at an audition from doodling on my call sheet-this is true, but I turned that down. I stomped out of the room, "I'm an actress!" ala Miss Piggy-style and forgot about it for two years. Then back in Los Angeles fearful I'd never make it in anything and a friend said, "didn't Disney offer you a job?" I drove over to Disney, and they turned me down flat, but told me how to get in. For almost two years I gave up everything to get in there. I took tons of drawing classes at the animation guild, and animation classes, and I didn't pay any bills. When you are in your twenties, this is way less scary than in your forties. It's like in your twenties people expect it, but in your forties, you get the "why don't you own property?" "You can't pay your taxes?" "get your shit together" and it's a bit harder to give up everything to reach a goal. That said, it's working.

I know it is. I am such a better writer than I have been in the past, not saying that I'm perfect in any way-just like any creative career we are always learning, but I'm so much stronger because I have sacrificed so much and I will continue to do this forever because it's who I am.

The plan is to pay off everything someday-hopefully sooner than later, and, of course, continue to grow as a writer.

Some of you know me and have known me for years since I was writing chick-lit under a pen name and pandering to the "trends" instead of following my heart, which has always been for teen novels. Some of you know me from TV and film writing-which I love both and haven't given that up, but now I'm just concentrating on my novels. I love writing novels, I always have. It's in my body and soul like being alive is.

I also spent a great deal of 2015 giving back by donating to a different charity every month, and also going to galas, events, dinners, etc. to help raise money for charities. I have donated time, writing and illustrations, and that felt great!

I don't believe in resolutions in any way-they just set us up to fail, but I do believe in goals, so I am going to share my 2016 goals, and or plans, and themes for the next year.

1) Continue to go to workshops, retreats and take online classes to become a stronger storyteller
2) Sign with a new agent (yes I'm finally sending out this year to only a few because I want the right agent this time)
3) Sell my first YA
4) Make my next YA stronger and better
5) Work on my personal business plans
6) Continue to give back, and maybe start something myself towards the end of the year
7) Keep drawing and working on my own art projects as well as get more work as the job I'm currently on is ending this summer.

These are general plans, ideas, hopes, dreams, etc.

I also plan to KEEP DREAMING! KEEP REACHING! KEEP BEING BRAVE!!!

On this page on my website, I have listed great resources for writing and drawing
http://www.stepholivieri.com/#!resources/c1558

And I will say this. If you are writing for kids (any age) join SCBWI http://www.scbwi.org/
For YA writing, I recommend (in addition to SCBWI events, workshops, conferences)

A PATH TO PUBLISHING
SARAH ARONSON
THE HIGHLIGHTS FOUNDATION




Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Facts and Myths About Suicide

There are many resources out there in today's world. Here is just one article with facts and myths about suicide that I found in less than 5 minutes of searching...http://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20507781,00.html 

I think it's important for people, especially in the days of social media to do some research before getting on the internet and stating things as facts when they are either completely wrong or just opinions. 

Suicide is one of the things that is so often stereotyped, and that is hurting people not helping them.

 For example, saying that all suicides are caused by clinical depression is wrong, it also makes people afraid to admit they have thought about it, or gone through a rough patch.

 The only fact about suicide is that when people do it they are doing it for one reason, and that is,  a way out, that's it. A way out of pain, a way out of a situation, a way out of a life they don't want.

 It's a permanent solution to a temporary problem, and while yes, some suicides are caused by mental illness, not all of them are.

If you are feeling suicidal PLEASE get help, if someone judges you, go to someone else. You are NOT alone, and people do understand and people will be there for you. 

http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

If you know someone who is struggling, instead of telling them that they are mentally ill, listen to them and then share links or numbers to someone who can help. If you are not a trained suicide specialist/therapist, know that you can't save them, you need help, they need help. Be careful of telling them that they are clinically "depressed" or "bi-polar" or anything like that. 

I recently had a discussion with someone on Facebook who was saying on her page as FACT that everyone who has even thought about it is mentally ill. That is a problem, because it's not true. She sent me private messages saying that she has the right to her opinion, and while that may be true, what if she just made a statement that lead someone to hurt themself because they were just told that they have a mental illness? They may, but they may not. It's dangerous to claim opinions as fact especially if you aren't trained. 

As well, if you have a mental illness, that does not mean that everyone else does. Yes, it's great if you want to share your experiences to help others, but also know that not everyone has the same thing. 

The only facts are that some people who commit/ or attempt suicide have a mental illness and some don't. 

Please think before you judge others, especially those in need. 

Friday, October 16, 2015

AT LAST: *Press Release* RFP to Construct Suicide Deterrent on the Golden Gate Bridge‏

The Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District requests proposals from qualified bidders to construct a suicide deterrent on the Golden Gate Bridge.  The details of the RFP may be found here:http://goldengate.org/contracts/documents/2016-b-01-notice.pdf
 
“This is an important and vital step in building the suicide deterrent,” says Chief Engineer Ewa Bauer.  “We have been in the planning and design phase of the project for several years, with a lot of work happening behind the scenes.  Today signals a change to the construction phase.  We are all eager to put this deterrent in place and diminish future tragedy from suicides on the Golden Gate Bridge.”
 
The bid process will take several months to complete.  Interested bidders must sign a non-disclosure agreement, submit identification for background checks, and tour the property with District staff.  After the pre-bid, information gathering time passes, the District will begin accepting bids in January.  The District will vet vendors based on several factors, including past work experience, current staffing, compliance with DBE and other regulatory programs, cost.  Per state regulations, this construction project will be awarded to the qualified vendor with the lowest bid. The bid will be awarded in the spring of 2016, following approvals of the selected vendor by CalTrans, the Federal Highway Administration, and the Bridge District’s Board of Directors.
 
The suicide deterrent design is a long, stainless steel net along the length of the Golden Gate Bridge, on both sides.  The cantilevered net will be located about 20 feet down from the Bridge sidewalk, extending out 20 feet, with a slight upturn at the outside edge.  The net is not soft, but rather, will be made of very hard and durable metal.  Anyone jumping into the net is likely to experience the sort of significant injury expected from falling two stories onto a steel platform.  Since such nets have been installed in various locations over the past decade, they have been very successful in preventing suicide attempts. 
 
The steel net and its supports will be manufactured off-site.  The public will begin to see installation activity in late 2017.  The contractor will install the net first along the east side of the Golden Gate Bridge and then the west side. The project is expected to take three-and-a-half to four years.
 
The Golden Gate Bridge suicide deterrent project is expected to cost at least $76 million, with $22 million through federal Local Highway Bridge Program (HBP) funds programmed by CalTrans, $27 million in federal Surface Transportation Program funds (STP) programmed by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC), $7 million of California State Mental Service Health Act Funds (Proposition 63), and $20 million from Bridge District reserves.
 
Here are some renderings to show what the suicide deterrent will look like, from two vantage points.  Please cite Courtesy of the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District in your use of these images.
 
    

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

GREAT YA-NOT AFTER EVERYTHING by Michelle Levy

Do you want a GREAT YA novel about a truly sad, messed up kid dealing with overwhelming grief? Read NOT AFTER EVERYTHING by Michelle Levy
Boy-on-steps-400x300
*I chose the above photo because to me, it says everything about the main character in this story. I found it on the internet, but here is the actual cover.
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This book is the BEST book with a boy lead that I have read in years. I can say that immediately it reminded me of S.E. Hinton’s THE OUTSIDERS, and J.D. Salinger’s THE CATCHER IN THE RYE. I was obsessed with both of these books as a middle school kid going through more than any kid should-and they are why I became a writer.
When I opened Michelle’s book I couldn’t stop reading it. Although since I was on a plane headed to a workshop for writers, I had to. I picked it back up on the return flight and finished it. The day I finished it, I started again from page one and read it a second time. I rarely reread a book the same day that I finish it, but I wanted to savor every single word because it’s so authentic, gritty, raw and tragic.
To say that I love this book is a gross understatement. I beyond loved it. The reason? TYLER-the main character is so REAL that it’s scary. If I didn’t know Michelle personally I would swear this was written by a man because she nails the voice of a teen boy. I even have read passages from it to my boyfriend who agrees wholeheartedly.
*I also write boy leads from the POV of the boy, so this gives me so much inspiration to know that I can do it. Michelle is my female-writer-boy-POV-guru! :)
This book reminds me of Andrew Smith’s work. Andrew is the author of many teen books with male leads such as GRASSHOPPER JUNGLE, 100 SIDEWAYS MILES, STICK, and my favorite WINGER (and now the sequel STAND-OFF). When I first started reading Andrew’s books, I was taken in immediately by the voice. Michelle Levy does the same thing in NOT AFTER EVERYTHING.
I don’t like reviews that give away everything in a story or rewrite a synopsis so I will spare you that. But I will say that this is a tremendous look into grief, heartache, pain, addiction, social bullshit that comes in highschool and financial hardship. TYLER has lost his mother to suicide before we even meet him. His plans for college and his future have been undone by the actions of his mother. He is struggling to find his way back throughout the book. He discovers a lot about himself through his new friendship with Jordyn-a goth girl at school, who he used to be friends with before he became popular and she became weird.
At the beginning of the book, he isn’t playing football anymore, and things with his girlfriend are falling apart. The only time they are together she is using him just to be seen helping the sad, sad, boy. Told in the first person point of view, the reader gets an awesome insight into the mind of this kid going through hell. When they break up, he is even more alone and depressed. Then he reconnects with Jordyn and she is the only one who isn’t pussyfooting around him, feeling sorry for him, or treating him differently. While it takes them a bit to connect when they finally do, it’s amazing.
There is a part in the book where he hooks up with a random girl who he meets at his job. I especially like this passage because the way he feels when she leaves is HONEST. He feels even more alone than he did before she came over, which is very real, even for guys.
Now onto the big issue his mother’s death by taking her own life. Suicide is a particularly hard thing to deal with, especially for a teen. Whenever we lose anyone in life, it’s hard. When the person is a family member, it’s really hard. When the person is a family member, and they kill themselves, it’s devastating. How we react is everything about who we are. How Tyler reacts to his mother’s death is tragic, hard to watch and yet beautifully sad at the same time.
This book was compared with a couple other books that I just don’t understand. If I were to say anything about where this belongs on the shelves, besides the TEEN BEST SELLER list, it would be with Jay Asher’s THIRTEEN REASONS WHY and Jennifer Niven’s ALL THE BRIGHT PLACES. Not just because they are books that involve suicide and death because they are books that deal with the way characters handle suicide and death.
Or I would say, and am saying this. If you like Andrew Smith’s WINGER, and you like Jay Asher’s THIRTEEN REASONS WHY, you’ll LOVE Michelle Levy’s new book NOT AFTER EVERYTHING.
If it were a few decades back, I would say the same but replace the above books with S.E. Hinton’s THE OUTSIDES and J.D. Salinger’s THE CATCHER IN THE RYE.
Buy this book, tell your friends about it, because it’s deserving of it, and you will love it. If you really want to get inside the head of someone going through some tough times, read this book.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Yup, You Know You're A Southern Californian When....(I am)

I have been fighting, and not sure why, the idea that I have become a true Californian, and more importantly, a Southern Californian. I guess stereotypes exist for a reason, and that doesn't mean that I, or anyone, walks around saying "dude" or "like" all day long-that said, many do, and sometimes I do say like, but I rarely say dude.

It means that I have lived here so long that things that seem normal to me in everyday life, really aren't in the rest of the country.

I do belong to two gyms, yes TWO, most of my friends belong to at least one, and then go to a specialized yoga, zumba, piloxing, cardio barre or something. I belong to two that covers all that. OMG I am such a stereotype!


Recently I was at a week long writing workshop in the middle of the country, and not in the middle of America, in the middle of the rural countryside of PA. It was awesome, but Oh. My. God, It was so quiet, that it freaked me out.

Growing up in New England for the most part, even though I like to call myself a New Yorker, most of my childhood was spent in Southern Vermont. It wasn't that quiet because we were in a town, even in snow you could walk to a store, or something and there were street lights. The countryside was close, but not where we were. In fact the street I grew up on there was much like every suburb here in Los Angeles, except with just a little more land between properties, but even that, it was really like the burbs here, just with a main street full of quaint shops etc.

So at this workshop-which was awesome-things that made me realize how much of a stereotype I have become started to become apparent.

The one thing that I don't yet have is that, I don't think it's cold at 70. Oh how I wish that I did because my life would be so much better. I still have all my back eastness there. 40-60 is awesome. 70-80 is hot, 80-90 is nasty, 90-100 is beyond nasty, and 100-120 is evil. I don't like to be hot. I also don't like to be in the sun, and I don't live at the beach. I guess that's two things, but honestly SoCal is divided into two groups, the ones who love the beach & surf, and those of us who still need mountains, hiking and being surrounding by trees, I am the second kind.
Runyon Canyon

The San Fernando Valley

And we walk everywhere. The myth that no one walks here is just that a myth. Everyone walks everywhere, if they can. Meaning not in certain areas with known gangs, etc.. but everywhere else, yes we walk.

FOOD!! Okay, years and years ago I went to visit my sister in New Orleans, pre Katrina, pre Andrew (or whatever that other big one was in 1998), and pre it becoming one of the trendy culinary cities that it is now. We went out to eat and the choices for salad were "houses" salad and "mixed" greens. Being from L.A. I ordered mixed greens. I was so excited! They brought me; iceberg lettuce, one tomato slice, on slice of cucumber and a carrot. I said, "Sorry I didn't order the house salad" only to be horrified that there a mixed greens salad was iceberg lettuce mixed with one tom, one cucumber and one carrot, and my sister saying, "sorry she's from California". SIGH. (It's much better now, and New Orleans has great local foods, that I basically filled up on when there-most of it blackened and most of it rice and beans).

So at this workshop, I was really in a state of shock at the food that they thought was healthy. Here's an example. Putting out romaine lettuce and oil & vinegar and calling it a healthy meal is strange to me. That was the salad-the only salad. I CRAVED veggies & beans. It was weird to me. They are awesome at this place and really try to make everyone happy. I realized quickly that it was where I live that was the problem. My issue, not there's. They were GREAT. I just want to make that clear. 

People were like, "what do you eat?", and I'd say, "I eat healthy" only to get perplexed expressions of complete and utter confusion back.

When I said that I ate a lot of rice and beans with veggies, people were really confused.



Here is what I eat normally: avocados, eggs (they did have eggs for breakfast and sometimes slices at lunch, so I ate a lot of eggs there), cucumbers, tomatoes, red-yellow-orange-green peppers, onions, (at least three or four different kinds) garlic, zucchini, squash, sweet potatoes, potatoes, (like three different kinds) black beans, rice, plantains, cashews, broccoli (which they did have once or twice), french green beans, chick peas (as hummus and plain), corn, kale, spinach, arugula, romaine, etc.. all the salad mixes, fresh herbs, sometimes pasta, rice-especially with beans. Salmon, and tuna sometimes. Fruit smoothies, tons of green juices. Meat usually twice a week-sorry vegans, my body needs it. And, this is just off the top of my head. I follow the Blue Zone diet-it's a healthy way to eat. I am not extreme in either direction.






Oh and like once every two weeks, salad pizza. Which is a pizza base, no sauce, some kind of cheese with fruit, and then a salad on top-I know this is super California, but it's awesome.


I don't eat, processed cereals, chips, cookies, etc.. that they had out. I found myself starving. Out of desperation, I grabbed a trail mix at Walmart, (cuz a few of us needed things and that was 8 miles away) and ate Kashi cereal in the morning, with whole milk that I had to ask for. I guess back east people still think that low-fat milk is healthy, it's not, it's heavily processed.

Everyone else loved the food-well there were a few of us who by Thursday talked in our own little group about how starving we were, but since everyone else was happy with it, that was as far as it went.

The things they had that I did eat, and do eat in real life, just not every day, was cheese, and tuna. They made a great tuna salad with white beans one day at lunch that was amazing, it didn't have mayo or anything and I loved it, but it was only once.

I lost 8 lbs, and was sick every night on a non planned fast/cleanse, and was craving real food. I lost eight pounds in a week.

About midweek, I realized. HOLY SHIT I'M A CALIFORNIAN! I guess I thought that everyone eats this way. They don't. I honestly believe that here there are staple foods; red-yellow-green peppers, onions, black beans, red beans, rice, corn, cilantro, tomatoes, etc..and then all the greens, we eat a lot of greens here, and AVOCADOS! Yes I eat them every day, I do. Someone actually said, "you eat those every day??" Like I was from Mars. Yup, I do. I missed them.


It's okay, I'm embracing my new realization, and I will be more mentally prepared next time I leave my little world here. Unless I go to a city, I will plan to eat differently.

I am happy that I lost 8 lbs, it's nice to come home to my clothes being a little looser. :)

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Social Media Blunders

Sometimes social media can be difficult, mostly because people do a lot of things that they wouldn't do in an office or social event.

For example:


Last week a long time FB friend deleted and blocked me, since I have known her for a while, I asked her why via email, and she said. "you posted about the confederate flag and.. yadda yadda."

I replied "Nope that wasn't me, I never posted about it on my page or replied to a comment on someone else's."

She said that it was on her friend's page-someone I don't even know. I replied back telling her that, and she said, "I don't have time to deal with this, I'm not even reading it." so.. now guess what?

 She deleted the wrong person. It doesn't bother me, but my suggestion for people who do this kind of thing, be sure you are paying attention to who you are deleting etc. This kind of behavior causes unneeded drama. Now I don't care, whatever, it's her life, but what if she did that to someone who is not as nice as I am?

Another thing to avoid is complaining on your page about your agent, editor, boss or peers. This happens all the time, it's a real problem.

Cyber bullying or stalking someone.

Etc.. so just remember DO UNTO OTHERS.


Saturday, June 27, 2015

I Posted About Equality Today and What Happened Next Shocked Me

Today something amazing happened in this country----yup you know it. Finally equal rights for everyone on marriage. This is a huge and I'm so happy to call myself an American-FINALLY, I can stand up tall and be thrilled with news. I was so excited in fact, that I posted three articles about it on Facebook.


Little did I know. 

Three words often used in literature to lead into something bad... little did I know that..

I was about to be sent a friggen' ISIS video to "teach me a lesson" from a fellow (aspiring) teen author.

This person actually deleted me from FB, because I posted the news, but before she did that, she sent me this HORRIFIC video, that I can't ever get out of my mind now to show me what non Christians (her words not mine) do to Christians, and the world needs to be rid of people like me. (again her words.... who does that sound like? WOW--rid of people like me... the words are raw, stale and full of hate.)

 Now, I'm not sure how me posting articles about equal rights makes me the same as a terrorist, but in her eyes we are the same. The video was of a few men being drowned. I wish I could ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND it out of my head. I can't. I wish that I had not opened it. I wish that there wasn't so much hate in the world.

I also do my best not to judge others for their beliefs, but I don't know what version of the bible she is reading that has taught her that having love for all people is the same as carrying out an act of terrorism. I think that she needs to reread it because I'm sure she has missed the point entirely of what it's teaching.

She went on to say that people like me (SIGH) shouldn't be allowed to write for kids, and she is going to write a letter to the head of the SCBWI to tell them that all members need to be "Christians" because we need to teach kids this, and it's unsafe to have people like me as members-all because I posted the news today.



I can't believe that she did this.

I knew this woman was conservative because she was in a writing group that I was in and she read my first chapter of one of my novels and promptly bitched me out for having the teens at a party drinking and what teens do at parties. Yes she is older, she could be my mother, and yes she is conservative, but today she went too far.

Instead of teaching teens hate, shouldn't we be teaching them about LOVE, and EQUALITY for everyone? Shouldn't we lead by example? 

I don't understand why it matters to anyone who gets married to whom, and who sleeps with who--I don't understand the hate.

I'm so disturbed by this woman's behavior today.

I for one, am so happy that we finally have equality in this country. Aren't we supposed to be the leaders in this kind of thing? Other countries, have had equality for years.


Today I am proud to be an American. It's been a great week, and our president is awesome.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

RIGHT TO WORK Contracts & Copyright, What it Means for Artists


RIGHT TO WORK Contracts & Copyright, What it Means for Artists

(mostly in this blog I'm talking about children's books)

 Earlier this week on Facebook,  there was a discussion from an artist about taking work for hire work as an illustrator and whether or not she could ask for royalties, it was/is a great discussion, but it did get side tracked and turned into a conversation on copyright.

I am just sharing information.

 One of the persons in the conversation said that artists automatically keep the copyright and just look in any book on the shelves-those are NOT "work for hire" books, they are from big publishers and yes that is the case, artists do retain the copyright. It is standard for artists to retain copyrights, but if an artist is signing a "work for hire" contract they do need to add in a "right of use" clause or just have a right of use contract instead of the work for hire.

I am talking specifically about WORK FOR HIRE here, not traditional publishing.

There are exceptions to every rule, and yes many authors and illustrators pair up and work together for splits, that is their choice, but for illustrators working for flat rates, for hire, etc.. they do need to know that they need to have this clause in there, or they will not hold the copyright.

It's just like working for a big company like Disney, etc-here is a link about the law-this is worldwide, not just in the USA.

I am sharing this information not to be a know it all, but just sharing so both authors and illustrators understand.

I didn't know any of this until about my 5th book and my author said, "you signed a work for hire, so I own all the drawings." I did get credit from her, but she was the first one who told me what "work for hire" meant in that way.

 I posted about it on my FB personal page and about 60 other artists confirmed my worst nightmare, that I did NOT own the copyright anymore.

So now I do "right to use" so I don't get burned, it works well. If I let the copyright go, then I charge a lot more; unless of course this is work on an existing property.

All of this information can be found with a little time and Google. The Writers and Illustrator market books are also good, and the SCBWI, and the Graphic Artist Guild. I apologize to anyone if my comments offended anyone, as that is never my intention. I just want to share what I've learned. Thanks so much and I hope this helps clear it up. http://worksmadeforhire.com/ I'm in the US so I am posting the US one, but in that other thread I posted one about world wide copyright.

It's a very tricky thing for artists and we all need to be aware. Just read your contracts thoroughly before you sigh. Most authors have no problems with the "right to use" clause.  ;)

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Will Terry on Doing Test (FREE) Illustrations for Jobs

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Q2KP0kVNsE&feature=em-subs_digest

I am posting this video today because I really like what my colleague-Will Terry has to say.
Some artists get really upset with this kind of thing, but it's part of being an artist.
In animation and illustration it is common and for the most part I don't mind doing a test image.
Sometimes companies, or people will pay for the test and sometimes they don't. It really depends, so before you decide to do it, you really have to ask yourself a few questions.

1. Do I have time to do a professional test?
2. Is this job worth it for me?
3. What is the likelihood that I will get the job?

The last one is because sometimes in animation, the studios will give 100+ people the same test and then it really is just a Craps shoot on whether you will get the job or not. Usually, these days, I stay away from those. I used to do them, but one animation studio-who I won't say which-I passed the same test 9 times, yup NINE and they never hired me, so I was wasting a week (40 hours) each time I did it.

I think as artists we really have to know our own time, strengths and whether it is worth it.

Have a great day making art everyone and you can find Will via this video or here.
http://willterry.blogspot.com/

and here

https://svslearn.com/

Here are some of my test images that I have done for some jobs

:






Friday, May 8, 2015

What I Realized at a Book Signing-Teens LOVE Characters Like Real People

I chose this photo just because the book I am working on now is set in a private school,
well that and a hospital, and the city of Boston. :) I love photos and just like to have them in my posts.
belmont
I have never thought about killing off my characters more than, this is what I need to tell this story. It has to happen. I don’t sit down and say, “hrm? How can I make people cry?” Or “I want to write a boo-hoo (as a fellow author friend of mine calls them) book.”
I went to a book signing and talk last night that a friend and fellow author was giving for her book-All The Bright Places- (Jennifer Niven). It was great, and I love supporting my friends, and great books. What was especially cool was sitting in the room with about 100 teenages. Watching their reactions to the book and how the book made them feel really hit home with me.
I thought.
Oh. My. God. “They are going to hate me, I kill of characters in every book.”
They didn’t hate Jennifer, but a lot of them were sad, and some destroyed because of something that happens in the book.
It’s funny how we as adults feel like we know and love these characters, but for teens, well, I am learning, there is a whole new level of “REAL” when it comes to our work.
I brought my first 10 pages to a Starbucks a few months ago. I bought all the teens in the room coffee and treats and asked for their opinions on my first chapter. It was amazing, and what was great was that they had totally different reactions than my critique group-who at the time was mostly middle aged and older women-who don’t want to think that their sons would ever do anything wrong. So I had to get teens to weigh in.
When I then told them what happens in the story, in a clumsy not-the-way-I-would-pitch-it way, they had STRONG reactions. One girl actually teared up-WHY???? why does that character have to die-why??? I could see it in her face. Broke my heart a little, and it excited me at the same time.
My goal is not to make teens, or anyone cry, but to tell a powerful story. I am trying, learning, revising, reworking, working on my craft daily so I can achieve this. Last night gave me a whole new perspective on just how personal these stories can be to these kids.
Also helps me be ready to answer these questions when I am up there giving a talk.
When I used to read my chick lit books at signings-I just hoped for some laughs-the books didn’t mean anything, they were just fluff and fun. Now I have shifted into wanting my work to mean something to kids even if that means I may have to pair up with Kleenex and sell tissues with each copy (just kidding of course).
If you haven’t read All The Bright Places, I highly recommend it. It’s powerful, beautiful and just great. Finch and Violet will take you ‘wandering’ into their lives, dreams, hopes, despair and love.
atbp_m

Monday, April 20, 2015

Yay, It's OKAY to Be CARTOONY and ME!

OMG guys, I was just at the SCBWI Houston conference and I am happy to say that I have beeing feeling so insecure (you may not know that I actually am insecure about my work, even if I appear confident due to years as a professional artist) about my "cartoony" style for children's books. Even though I have done many, I still get the "your style won't work for children's books" comments etc, from more "artsy" folks in the industry. Well I received AMAZING comments in my portfolio which was on display. I always get good comments, and at every conference, including New York and Los Angeles, I have gotten calls about work from them, but I am ALWAYS NERVOUS-because of the aforementioned cartoony-ness of my work. So it was great to talk with a fellow cartoony illustrator, who is doing really well in children's books with her debut book, that just came out this past year, and I had a critique session with, who has a similar background to me and know that it's okay and I can be myself. YAY! 

Friday, April 10, 2015

Da Beers-Blood Diamonds & Engagement Ring Scam

http://www.diamondboycott.com/


I rarely am political on social media, but this is something that I really believe in. It's ridiculous-the whole diamond industry. I am shocked at how many people are okay with it, and also argue that no one died so they could wear that big rock on their finger.
Especially my vegan friends! Come on, it's not okay to kill a chicken for food, but it's okay for CHILDREN to constantly be slaughtered, or arms cut off, or forced into slavery so you can wear a diamond? It boils my blood.

In 2006/2007 I did volunteer work AGAINST Da Beers and the diamond industry.
I can't stand diamonds, I can't stand the ads that run all the time about them and I can't stand that people turn their heads and pretend that what's happening isn't.
Also why should a guy spend so much on a ring? It's stupid. I'd rather go to France or Italy for a week, put a down payment on a condo/house. Seriously I don't get it.
http://expandedconsciousness.com/2015/04/10/scam-alert-the-awful-truth-about-diamond-engagement-rings/



Friday, March 27, 2015

Don't Blame Lufthansa






  • This plane crash thing is just a nightmare-but I am seeing a lot of posts on social media to boycott Lufthansa/Germanwings-I disagree-the guy clearly hid his illness. I understand that people are angry, but Lufthansa is historically a great airline. The whole situation is just tragic. My Westie Finnegan and I flew Lufthansa back from Denmark. We flew KLM over-they are both great for that as well as Air New Zealand to Sydney. KLM actually flies horses a lot and Finn was on the same level as we were in the back.  But I feel terrible for Lufthansa and everyone involved. I understand the rage, but I think boycotting is not the way to go. It could happen anywhere. I think changing the way of only having one person in the cockpit is the next step for all airlines. Yesterday people were posting saying that in the US all airlines do this, but it's not true, on the short hops (like this flight was) sometimes one person is left up there. That said, I am sure the FAA will make more changes. Maybe because my father worked for the airlines for a long time-I come from an airline family in a way-I can see the other side of this nightmare. It's so easy to blame the airline for the actions of one person. Flying is still safe. I saw yesterday a report saying that more than 150 people have died in the world in car accidents since this plane crash and yet people still get into their cars everyday, text, etc without giving it a second thought.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Luck? No It's Hard Work

Yes it is possible to make 100% of your living as a creative-artist, writer, musician, actor, etc. You can do it. 

Hey everyone so this is a carryover from a discussion on FB about working as a writer and artist or one or the other.

I write this blog today because it seems that people are misunderstanding some things that were said at the SCBWI winter conference in New York earlier this month. One of the editors made a comment that it always scares him when his first time authors say the words, "I quit my day job." Now everyone is on social media freaking out saying that it was said at the conference NOT to quit your day job because you can't survive as an artist or a writer. Funny, I was there and didn't hear that at all.

What I heard was an editor being truthful about his part in the publication process and how much stress that puts on him when someone does that. The truth is, that editors work too, and if a book is successful or isn't, it affects them as well. Telling your editor, especially on your first book, that you are now depending on your book to hit, and stay, on the New York Times Bestseller list, is a lot of pressure.

To be realistic. Authors don't make a lot of money. That is the truth and it's been the truth as long as writing books has been around. It surprises me that new writers are shocked to hear that they aren't going to be rich when they get an agent and sell their book-the great American novel. Yes there are some that do. We can all name them off the top of our heads-even the people who don't read that much know them. SOME AUTHORS ARE: Stephen King, John Grisham, Michael Crichton, Tom Clancy, George R.R. Martin, Jennifer Weiner, Helen Fielding, and in children's books- J.K. Rowling, Judy Blume, Philip Pullman, Stephenie Meyers, and recently, John Green, Jay Asher, James Dashner. To name a FEW. But these are the exceptions, not the rule.

Wouldn't it be great if we all made money on our novels? And don't forget Dan Brown and E.L. James. Not the best written books of all times, but they are laughing all the way to the bank.

It can be done, but it's not the normal. I have plenty of author friends on the bestseller lists who work day jobs on the side. Most of them are well known in the writing community.

This doesn't discourage me at all. Why? Because I know the truth about it and I don't do it for the money. I have been published in the adult (just meaning non-children's books) world. I jumped at the opportunity to get published with smaller publishers and was wildly unsuccessful because I knew NOTHING about editing, the process, or marketing. I am a published author and yet I still work, have a day job.

I also have been hired, work for hire as a picture book writer. People alway say, "but you wrote like 16 books for FarFaria, can't you live on that?" hahaha, yeah, no. That was for a flat rate on each book, so I could gain experience in PBs etc.

I am now concentrating on my YA (teen fiction) books because I LOVE writing for teens, not to get rich. I wouldn't mind it. I daydream about my book(s) as films, but I don't do it for that reason.

Most of you know that my day job is as an artist-specifically a children's book illustrator. Yes I am one of the ones who makes her living drawing. I have for the last 20 years. I started in animation and then I went to children's books. But guess what? I also do TONS of other illustration and graphic design jobs from painting doggie portraits, to licensing my work, to logos, greeting cards, educational books, magazine illustrations, consumer products, storyboarding, character design, background design, being in art shows etc. See? I work all the time because I do a lot of different things.

One person said to me that I was lucky when I started. That may be true to a point in that I got my foot in the door by luck. The luck was that I was doodling at an audition for Disney when they saw my quick sketches and offered me a job in their animation internship. I turned it down, then a couple years later, sick of my mother telling me how I was going to be a waitress forever, I decided to call up Disney and work as an artist. That's the short version. What people forget when telling that story is that I worked my arse off for almost two years in classes at the animation guild while working full time at the Cheesecake Factory to make that happen.

I drew 8-12 hours a day. I slept about 2-4 hours a night. I took classes 5 days a week, all day long ones on anatomy, life drawing, quick sketch, animals and animation. I busted my hump to make that happen. It wasn't luck it was hard work. Then when I got into animation I worked on 7 films, back to back, to back.. etc.. for 3 years, 6-7 days a week, with an average work week being 70+ hours. I also continued to take art classes and animation classes on the side. Again sleep didn't happen much.

I still take art classes. I still take writing classes. When I got my first novel published in 2003, I had been out of work, when animation crashed in 2001, for two years. I had only worked briefly on a couple films and commercials, but for the most part I wasn't working, so I dove into writing. I took tons and tons of classes with Gotham's online courses and the Children's Institute of Literature. Then in 2007 I was offered a job on a TV show for ABC, it got cancelled the day I started-I know, what rotten luck. Well I dove into TV and film writing courses, workshops etc. I continued to take novel writing courses. Etc. Get it? I worked my butt off and I still do.

To work and make a living as a writer, you have to do more than just get an agent and sell your book. You have to do other things like; being a reader for the studios and publishing houses, be an editor, write copy, write shorts, write for magazines, work in tv and film, etc. Just like art, you have to do more.

So while there may be some element of luck to how I got into art in the first place. I continue to work because I work at it. I network all the time. I continue to take classes. I improve my skills. I used to split my income between writing and illustrating, but these days, I am focusing on my YA novels and so my art is my day job for the most part. I still read scripts, TV shows, specs, etc.. I still do consulting, but for the most part, my day job is illustration. I work on greeting cards and children's books mostly right now, but also do other side jobs when they come in.

I think there is a huge misconception of the creative industries that we don't work-I think that we work harder than most industries. That has been my experience. It's the same for actors and musicians. The friends of mine who are making a living at it, work all the time. The aren't relying on one thing to make them famous, they are working.

So my advice to anyone who is new, don't give up, but know that you have to work at it, all the time. If you end up as the next J.K. Rowling, than great! (don't forget me! Hehe)

Also to be a professional creative-you have to LOVE what you do. I always say that I don't have a choice in the matter, this is why I was born. Rich, poor, broke, flush-none of that matters to me. Trust me, I am always up and down with money, that is part of the deal. :)

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

YA For Boys

So many of you know that I write from the male POV. I am not trying to change the way things are done in teen fiction or any of that, it's just what comes to me. I do, however, feel that boys are grossly under represented, in that most of the teen fiction that have strong male leads are MG action adventure-not that there is anything wrong with that. I LOVE the Maze Runner and Percy Jackson books as much as the next person.
I write contemporary YA fiction from the male POV. Maybe it's because I was obsessed with S. E. Hinton in middle school or that I just like boy driven stories better, but that is how I write. I am writing for the teenage boys. Hopefully girls will like my books too. Recently I was at a SCBWI convention and someone said to me, "you are writing Boo-hoo fiction like John Green" because yes in my first book there will be some deaths. I don't think of it as Boo-hoo fiction, I look at it like intense there are consequences to your actions stories from the boy's POV.
I just got an idea and have already plotted it out. I don't mind sharing, because I think there could be tons of books on this subject and we would all write it differently.
I am going to write a YA about a boy who gets drunk and sleeps with a girl, who is also drunk and then gets accused of rape. This is a VERY important storyline and poor guys, they are always just called assholes. What about when it ISN'T rape? Who is sticking up for these boys?
This is all stemmed from a recent storyline on a popular ABC Family teen show that I watch. I blogged about it here on my other blog. I am happy to hear your thoughts on it, but please be respectful of others. Thanks.

https://stepholivieriwriter.wordpress.com/2015/02/11/switched-at-birth-important-rape-storyline/


Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Great Article - Advice for New Illustrators

Hey everyone, I know, I know, I know, there is nothing worse than a blog that gets no love for months. I apologize, I got slammed with work and also finishing both my MG and my YA, really working hard at both in revision workshops and classes, and of course the writing.


So it won't happen again. I promise.

I came across this article today and I think it's great so I am sharing it here.

http://www.shauntan.net/images/essay%20Advice%20for%20New%20Illustrators.html

Andreas Deja's Book on Disney Animation

Andreas Deja's Book on Disney Animation

Yay! How cool is this? Andreas was my first supervising animator at Disney on Hercules. When I met him I was clueless about who anyone was in the industry, I just thought he was the hilarious guy I met in my friend Jacquie's cubicle when I was getting my drawings looked at. LOL.. He was an amazing friend to me when my mom was dying. He is one of the best people I have ever met.

http://www.cartoonbrew.com/books/focal-press-to-publish-andreas-dejas-book-on-disney-animation-techniques-103487.html

How to Make A Living As An Artist


Hey everyone! Happy Thursday. How are you? I am doing great. I wanted to share something with you all because I think that it's important if you want to make a living as an artist. When I say artist, I don't just mean someone who draws or paints, I mean any creative. As you know I make my living as an illustrator AND a writer. For illustration slash "artist" I work in many areas. That is how I make a living.

People always ask me for advice on how to do this, what's the trick, secret, etc? Well the truth is, IF YOU REALLY WANT THE TRUTH, and most people don't, is that making your living as an artist is HARD. Do you hear me? It's hard. It's one of those careers that has a lot of rejection and sometimes months where you don't have any work coming in. 

I started my art career in animation. I worked 80-100 hours a week and put in 110% giving it my all on 10 films back to back to back... and I thought, "well I'll always have work because I work so hard and people like that." HA! Joke was on me. In 2003 traditional animation hit a real low with the closing of Disney Florida. Over here in La la land we had already seen it fall and then that was the final nail. Everyone was out of work, I am talking hundreds of qualified people who all had to reinvent themselves. Which we all did.

I continued to work in animation for years from project to project and that was great, but also hard as the traditional.hand drawn jobs became fewer and fewer. I loved drawing for kids so I went into children's books and I am happy to say that I am about to start on my 20th. I love illustrating for kids' books, but it doesn't cover everything as they take a long time. So what else do I do? I still work in animation, I paint, I do commissions, I do graphic design, I do logos, I do greeting cards, I work as a character designer, background painter, visual development, I am a colorist, I do infographics.....get it? I work on tons of different things and that is how I am making it as an artist. Truth is, I am not sure I could do anything else. This is what I know.

I am also a writer-but that is for another day. I work as a consultant (see my workshop and consulting pages) and help writers reach their goals. I am going to have a course for creatives called I Love Mondays, so please sign up for my newsletter for information on that.

I really want people to know that they can make a living as an artist, but until that is ready, here is a GREAT video from Marie Forleo (who is one of my business coaches-I am in B School and learning from her all the time) I hope you like it, it's really great and she basically says what I just said in her cute, Marie way.