art, Behind the brush, Book Updates!, illustration, Uncategorized

A Picture’s Worth: Behind the Brush

Delightful Children's Book! For ages birth to 7.
Sweet, sweet bedtime story for kids ages 3-8

 

Although you may have seen the official release of debut children’s book author Erin Broestl back in 2019, I’m adding it to the list of wonderful things happening in 2020.

There are so many aspects of this highly-acclaimed Christian children’s picture book (CPB) that I could blog about it for a month of Sundays.  Eventually, I’ll secure an interview with the gifted wordsmith whose — should I call it poetic prose?– seems to speak a language all its own. The making of God Made the Moonlight is the perfect topic for a “Behind the Brush” post. That is, it’s a great example of how illustrations can shape a story. Therefore, I’d like to share a look back at the illustration journey that brought out a second, rather unexpected, meaning to Mrs. Broestl’s God Made the Moonlight.

I can’t believe it’s been three years, but it has. While this is not completely unusual as far as the typical amount of time it takes to bring a new CPB to life, it’s a bit longer than I’m used to. As usually happens in the illustration business, I received the author’s manuscript, nicely-typed, with “illustration notes” next to each block of text. Many, I’d even venture to say most, new authors of children’s books include such notes with their submissions, in varying degrees of details, along side their stories.  Erin’s little notes were blessedly few, but she did have some idea of certain colors and other elements she envisioned for her first book. She suggested a sort of genre (fantasy, in this case, “I’m seeing castles, a fairy-tale,”) and even lent me a book with images that she liked.

For almost two years I sketched out scenes of hazy moons and foggy, night-time castle scenes. While there was nothing technically wrong with the watercolor sketches, I suppose, the “meh” feeling I got from them kept me up at night. Since the Broestls had just welcomed a new member to their family, I chanced that Erin might also be awake.

 

ink-and-wash painting for proposed manuscript
Early idea for “God Made the Moon”

 

“Erin, would it be ok with you if I rearranged the order of some of your lines?”  I texted.

I proposed the idea of using the phases of the moon to guide the sequence of the picture-story that was just beginning to come to life inside my head. (To understand this sequence of events, I highly recommend re-reading your copy of GMtM right now and trying to imagine the text alone on a single sheet of paper.) The verbiage was already there in Broestl’s quiet, charmingly unassuming manuscript:

  • Each day, the moon’s shape changes a little.
  • Tonight, it looks like the Cheshire Cat’s smile.
  • Soon, it will be so dark that I can hardly see it.  A new moon!

There were references to car rides, and airplanes, and city lights. And then,

I love the moon! Just knowing that it is there makes me feel at home, no matter where I am.

There it was: the longing, the pull, the emotion, the universal themes of journeying, going out into the unknown with a spirit of adventure, yet yearning for the familiarity of home.

The story.

I could see the girl on the page, packing her suitcase, the child being read to asking, “Where is she going?” There is a boy on the next spread: her little brother. They are out of their norm, experiencing things that are all new. They are happy, but sometimes the unfamiliarity of a situation can be a little scary.

Packing her suitcase
A young girl sets out on a journey from the city to the country.

 

How blessed I am to work with such a gifted writer as my friend, Erin Broestl! And I’m so thankful that she was open to listening to my new “vision” of GMtM. I sketched out, verbally and on paper, my ideas for a “subplot” to the revised manuscript. The images came to me more easily now, and I worked with a clearer goal in mind. Erin and I collaborated, filled with a new energy.  Over the next months I painted, adjusted, and sometimes even deleted new spreads of artworks. (Here’s a deleted scene from the storyboard before we had the full new story worked out:)

Screen Shot 2020-01-13 at 12.28.19 PM

 

This one’s Erin’s favorite (it made the cut):

scene from God Made the Moonlight by Erin Broestl and Jean Schoonover-Egolf
The moon plays peek-a-boo through the treetops.

 

“It’s like you saw inside my mind,” says Broestl, who recalls a family trip from her childhood. Believe me, it is a rare thing when an illustrator can actually see what the author “has in mind” for the proposed manuscript. And I assured Erin that this was just a coincidence! I’ve since said this, so many times, to so many children’s book authors:

“An illustrator’s happiest clients are the ones who, when it comes to the artwork,  completely hand over the reins to the artist.” 

The simple truth is that, no, the illustrator cannot see inside the author’s mind. The more details the author has already conjured up in his or her mind about the way each page “should” look, the more that author is setting himself/herself up for disappointment with almost any illustrator’s work. Please see my post on “How to prepare a children’s book manuscript for your illustrator.”

Mrs. Erin Broestl is one amazing woman, folks. She blogs at Eight Hobbits. Although God Made the Moonlight is Broestl’s first published children’s book, she’s no stranger to the writing industry. I’ve no doubt we can expect more great volumes from Erin.

 

art, Behind the brush, illustration, Uncategorized

Behind the Brush: An Illustrator’s Advice on HOW to Prepare Your Children’s Book Manuscript for Your Illustrator

Many prospective children’s book authors are already familiar with the concept of storyboarding, but I’ve come to realize that it is important to help wordsmiths understand the purpose of pictures in a book.

Despite what Wiktionary might say, illustrations that merely echo the author’s words do not belong in Children’s Picture Books (CPBs). A good illustrator doesn’t repeat, in pictures, what the author has already stated in the text. Envision, if you will, a page with an apple and the word “apple” typed underneath. While this type of literal illustration has its place in school readers, such obvious image-feeding only serves to bore the audience seeking a story for entertainment. Chip Kidd said it best in this 2012 Ted Talk (for adults only!) about designing the cover for Stephen King’s Jurassic Park, “Because this (putting the word “apple” under the picture of the apple) is treating your audience like a moron. And they deserve better.”

Illustrators are trained to create in a way that is quite different from how an author writes. Rather, our job is to compliment and expand your text, similar to the way a composer adds a harmony part to the melody. What a dull piece it would be if every member of the choir sang the exact same notes! Our ears, and our eyes, delight more in intertwining phrases and media that seem to dance like two partners who’ve known each other for 50 years but still find something new about one another every dance.

In children’s books, it is important to avoid “spoon-feeding” the story to the reader/listener. Using more open-ended sentences and “breathing room,” in the story is essential to writing great children’s literature. Leaving space for the child’s imagination to work invites the child to become an active participant in the story. To some extent, you can let your reader fill in his/her own details in your story. Give children something to think about and wonder over. When the child is actively trying to guess what’s going to happen or how exactly something did happen, he/she becomes invested in the story’s outcome and wants to see it (or hear it) through to the end.

An author’s words should tell the reader only so much. Even most adults who cozy up with a good book don’t appreciate an overly “voicey,” commanding, or condescending commentary. I don’t want to be told what to feel! Make me feel it! Likewise, there’s a better way to express, “Sally felt sad because her favorite toy was broken.” Let the illustrator (and designer) express that sadness, not only in Sally’s face, but also in the page spread’s sudden hue change to a cool palette, a lower position of the words relative to the image, a thinner, more deflated-looking font, and so on. Perhaps you don’t even need to reiterate that it was her favorite toy because the illustrator has done such a great job, on previous pages, of showing how important that toy was to Sally.

Some of the suggestions in this post fall outside of the typical illustrator’s scope of advice-giving. I’m coming at you from the point of view of someone who’s had the pleasure of working as an author, an illustrator, a graphic designer, an art director, and, most recently, a publisher. From this more global perspective, I’ve collected (and paraphrased) the following pieces of useful advice to authors writing children’s books:

Bark less, wag more.

You have only 500-1000 words to use. Make them count. (More than 1500 words and you are moving into another genre such as early reader.) Skip the colorful descriptions, strings of adverbs, and long-winded character development. Focus on a strong, well-timed rising plot with a single, clear-cut resolution. A well-executed drawing of a woman peeling a large, bright, juicy orange in a sunny kitchen has no need for the words “the woman was peeling a large, bright, juicy orange in the sunny kitchen.” Now you have more space to write, “Mom said the children must hurry, so she helped with breakfast.”

Show, don’t tell.

As you write, ask yourself, “What ideas could be expressed in pictures rather than in words?” Leave plenty of breathing room, that is, ample creative space, for the illustrator to add visual layers to your story. In the third book of my Molly McBride series, never once did I mention in words that Dominic’s mom found the missing invitation: that entire twist of events was left to the illustrations!

The missing invitation is discovered!
Molly and Dominic are BUSTED! Moms rock.

But the Amazon reviews clearly told me that I correctly conveyed, via illustrations alone, this crucial plot point. My readers were able to surmise how it came to light that Molly and Dominic had misbehaved.

Chapel scene from Book # of the Molly McBride series
Mass before Ora et Labora

 

Organize from the get-go.

I advise authors submitting CPB manuscripts to number a sheet of paper from three to 30. The first page, page 3, will be single, right-sided (recto) page. The rest will be in spreads with the lesser-value even number on the left (verso) and the odd number on the right. (E. g. the first spread will be pages 4-5.) Place small chunks of your text beside the page and spreads on this list. Even better, check out this free tool on the Perpetual Light Publishing website.

 

Keep the pages turning.

End each odd page on a mini “cliff-hanger.” For example, instead of page 5 reading something like, “Joey saw the weirdest-looking ball he’d ever seen hovering in the air,” put “He stopped in his tracks. Hovering in the air in front of him was the weirdest thing Joey had ever seen.” Don’t reveal that it was a ball until spread 6-7. Better yet, don’t use the word “ball” at all. Let the illustrator paint it!

 

Plot a traditional plot.

Known in some circles as “the traditional plot,” there is a practically no-fail secret to making anything entertaining. And yes, it takes plotting. It goes like this: introduce the character, introduce the conflict, build up the action (most of the book), climax, resolve.  This works just as well for an Indiana Jones movie as for a Backyardigans episode. Knowing that you have to get all this in between pages 3 and 30, you can even look at the list of page numbers from “Organize” above, and do some tightening up to ensure you are giving these essential parts of the story the proper order and length. There are plenty of articles online about this.

PLOTplot-01

Good things come in threes.

From pigs to bears, the golden rule of children’s picture books (and many other forms of entertainment) is that Rule of Threes. In a nutshell, this generally means it takes your main character three attempts to resolve the conflict. This is a proven, old-as-the-hills storytelling strategy can be used in other elements of the story as well, such as three supporting characters or a setting of three rooms. Look for additional design elements in sets of three, like text boxes and background details.

In summary, a book’s illustrations have the power to not only bring out the best in the author’s words, but also to beckon the reader’s imagination to become an active participant in the story. And that’s what we all want, isn’t it? We want our books to be creative works that beg to be enjoyed again and again, for generations to come.

Dr. Jean Schoonover-Egolf, creator of the award-winning Molly McBride series of Catholic children's books.

Jean Schoonover-Egolf is a retired Internal Medicine physician-turned-homeschooling-mom/author/illustrator/publisher. A catechist and volunteer librarian at St. Patrick Parish in downtown Columbus, Ohio (Go, Bucks!), Dr. Egolf spends her free time gardening and rearranging the dishwasher.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Book Updates!, It's sharing time!, Uncategorized

Stories: Gift That Keep on Giving

photo of christmas presents

Christmas Promo! New titles being added daily, so keep on checking in with us.

Visit our bookstore, below. Enter code CHRISTMAS19 at checkout.

Perpetua Lux Books: Carefully Curated Books for Catholics

It's sharing time!, Recommended Reads, Uncategorized

7 Must-Know Authors of Catholic Children’s Books

Momma’s loving these kind (and hilarious) words from author Theresa Linden, award-winning novelist of the West Brothers’ series and many more!image.pngvia 7 Must-Know Authors of Catholic Children’s Books

“I have actually met this talented and amazing author in person! Jean Schoonover-Egolf and I both attended the Columbus Catholic Women’s Conference, making our books available to attendees. At one point, a sister in a purple habit approached Jean Egolf’s table and the two of them stood talking for a moment. Well, I was impressed. This woman loves Jeanie Egolf’s books so much, I thought, that she dressed up like the main character in her Molly McBride and the Purple Habit series!

“Well, I was wrong. She was a real Sister! There really is an order of Sisters who wear purple habits! They are called the Children of Mary and they are a new community in the service of the Church “to satiate the thirst of Jesus to be loved in the Most Blessed Sacrament.”

“Through entertaining and beautifully illustrated stories, the Molly McBride and the Purple Habit series promotes charity, virtue and even plants the seeds for vocations in little hearts.”

Religious vocations awareness through children's literature
Sister and Molly have a heart-to-heart.
Purple Nun with Molly
Yes, The “purple nuns” are real!
It's sharing time!, Recommended Reads, Uncategorized

As Promised: Great War, Great Love 3!

Friends, you know how I love me some Ellen Gable. She does historical fiction/Catholic romance like nobody’s business! I am so happy that I no longer have to keep this one a secret, and secret I did promise to keep, because I had a tiny role in Ella’s Promise. (I helped with some of the medical info! Every now and then I still get to use that M. D.)

“When she joins the war effort during the Great War, American nurse Ella Neumann doesn’t see allies or enemies. The daughter of German immigrants, Ella sees only human beings in need of care. A promise to herself and a promise made to her by an enemy officer become the catalyst for the life she plans to lead after the war. But a handsome Canadian soldier may complicate her plans. In this third installment of the Great War – Great Love series, join Ella in a tale of promises, betrayal and unconditional love.”

In case you forgot, m’girl Ellen is an award-winning author (2010 IPPY, 2015 IAN finalist, 2019 IAN Finalist), publisher (2016 CALA), editor, self-publishing book coach, speaker, NFP teacher, Marriage Preparation Instructor, Theology of the Body for Teens instructor, and past president of the Catholic Writers Guild. She is an author of ten books and a contributor to numerous others. Her novels have been collectively downloaded 750,000 times. Some of her books have been translated into Portuguese, Italian, French, and Spanish. She and her husband, James, are the parents of five adult sons, seven precious souls in heaven and one cherished grandson. In her spare time, Ellen enjoys reading on her Kindle, genealogy, and watching classic movies and TV shows. Her website is http://www.ellengable.com. Ellen is past President of the Catholic Writers Guild (2012-2015). She has appeared numerous times on EWTN’s Bookmark with Doug Keck, EWTN radio and other Catholic TV and radio shows. A frequent presenter at Catholic conferences and Catholic high schools, Ellen speaks on a variety of topics: Pregnancy Loss, Theology of the Body for Teens, Responsible Parenthood, Natural Family Planning and various writing topics. She and her husband of 37 years, James Hrkach, live in Pakenham, Ontario Canada.

You can follow the amazing Ellen Gable on her Blog: Plot Line and Sinker.

More Info Link:  https://www.fullquiverpublishing.com/our-publications/great-war-great-love-series-julias-gifts-by-ellen-gable/

Buy Link Kindle:   https://www.amazon.com/Ellas-Promise-Great-Love-Book-ebook/dp/B07Z5G6GT6/

Book Updates!, It's sharing time!, Uncategorized

Molly McBride 4 Tackles OBEDIENCE

And CHRISTMAS!

Friends, I am so excited to announce the forthcoming release of the FOURTH book in the Molly McBride series of Catholic children’s picture books fostering vocations:

Molly McBride and the Christmas Pageant: A Story About the Virtue of Obedience

https://www.amazon.com/dp/1733493506/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=molly+McBride+and+the+Christmas+Pageant&qid=1572118114&s=books&sr=1-1
Christmas Pageant

From the back cover:

The kindergarten class at Holy Trinity School is having a Christmas pageant, complete with stable, angels, barn animals, and baby Jesus. Molly McBride thinks she’s a shoo-in for the role of Mary, while her bestie, priest-wanna-be Dominic, has his heart set on the role of Joseph. But Mrs. Rose, kindergarten teacher extraordinaire, might not have quite the same “vision” for this year’s Nativity that the kids have, leading to an upset that snowballs into a lesson on obedience.

Will Molly’s feisty temperament ruin the whole play? Or will she find the strength, through the intercession of the Blessed Mother, to say, “Thy will be done?”

From Amazon: Christmas Pageant: A Story About the Virtue of Obedience is the fourth book in the Molly McBride series about a little girl who wants to be a nun when she grows up. Catholic kids young and old have fallen in love with the feisty, red-haired five-year-old heroine and her faithful wolf-pet-named-Francis. The tales, along with their charming illustrations, help school teachers, parents, and grandparents pass on our beautiful Faith to children around the world. The Molly McBride series not only deights readers with the funny and familiar antics of childhood, but also makes learning about virtues, Sacraments, and the Bible stories enjoyable. Because the stories feature religious sisters and priests as role models, both girls and boys become acquainted with religious vocations.

Preorder Molly McBride and the Christmas Pageant: A Story About the Virtue of Obedience by clicking here.

Blessings,

“Momma McBride”

It's sharing time!, Recommended Reads

For Eden’s Sake: Pro-Life Blockbuster Pending

We are so close, friends.

It’s been years since the Pro-Life Movement has made such great strides. Clinics are closing at record rates, and awareness hasn’t been this high since Roe V. Wade.

But we’ve still miles to go. And you all know my thing, of course. Redemption through reading, preach in parables, all that. I’ve found us the perfect book.

For Eden’s Sake by T. M. Gaouette is a pro-life story like I’ve never seen or read before: DAD’s side of the story. By alternating points-of-view between pro-life Isaac and pro-choice Rebecca, Gaouette masterfully gives a voice to the often-ignored victims of abortion, the fathers. Sometimes seemingly ridiculous in his passionate beliefs, co-protagonist Isaac’s behavior, through Rebecca’s eyes, gives us a glimpse into the minds of the pro-choice contingent. True, we pro-lifers must seem similarly ridiculous at times. But as readers come to learn the story of these young adults, as well as Rebecca’s father, her angry roommate Tess, Isaac’s loving parents, and a mysterious stalker, I believe even the hardest of hearts will come to see why such passionate faith in Life is the only truth.

For Eden's Sake

Even though the baby is conceived during a drunken one-night-stand, Issac is deeply regretful of his mistake and tries desperately to right his wrongs. As for Rebecca, there’s a lot more to her than meets the eye. It is rare that a book moves me to tears. This one did it to me. It’s very compelling. The plot is suspenseful from the very beginning, and readers will wonder how God can ever fix the mess these two young adults have made. Gaouette has woven a truly creative and celebratory story. A pro-life blockbuster waiting to happen, For Eden’s Sake is a masterpiece and a must-read for every young adult.

Friends, pray with me that some Hollywood producer or the like will see this review and read this book and help us to reach more people and save more souls by making For Eden’s Sake into the beautiful film it deserves to be.

Coming soon: “An interview with T. M. Gaouette: Inspiration Behind For Eden’s Sake.”

Get yours here on Amazon, or visit the author’s website here.