Sunday, March 25, 2012
Saturday, May 21, 2011
Wednesday, April 20, 2011
Below: I finished off March visiting Windsor Park Elementary in Corpus Christi, Texas. It was a very sharp group of kids.
Below: A week later, I found myself back in Corpus Christi, presenting to kids at the Children's Book Festival. On the night before the festival, there was a book signing in which college students performed two of my books -- illustrated and all. Here I am with a few of the artists:
On the day of the festival, we presented to little under a thousand kids. The two other authors were Keith Graves and Salima Alikhan, pictured below:
Then it was off to present at a local school. Yes, that's me, very tiny, presenting to the the entire 4th grade student body:
Last week was the Texas Library Association conference. This year it was held in Austin. I had the pleasure of signing SHE LOVED BASEBALL with author Audrey Vernick, at the HarperCollins booth. Here's a few random shots:
Immediately following TLA, I hightailed it to Houston where I presented to students at Key Middle School, for their Books, Boxers and Boys: Inspiring Young Males to Read conference. Other authors: Charles R. Smith Jr., Mat Johnson.
But that's not all. I have two more dates in April. I'll be at Hart Elementary school in Austin on the 29th, and then PJ Hoover and I will do The Write Stuff program in Pfluggerville, TX on the 30th.
Friday, April 01, 2011
Earlier this week on Twitter, I predicted a good week ahead. And a good week it has been. First of all, I received the good news that I was awarded a scholarship to attend the Highlights Foundation's 2011 Chautauqua workshops. A special thanks goes out to my publisher, Charlesbridge, for making this happen. I've heard nothing but wonderful stories from authors and illustrators who have attended the Chautauqua workshops, so I'm looking forward to it.
On Wednesday, I was contacted by an art collector and former minor league baseball team owner. He was interested in purchasing several original pieces of art from the Effa Manley book, SHE LOVED BASEBALL. At first I was reluctant because I almost never sell my art. Crazy, I know, an artist who doesn't sell art. But I use my art for school visits. I loosened up a bit and decided to sell a few pieces from this book.
On Thursday, I traveled to Corpus Christi, where I presented to students at Windsor Park Elementary school. It's an international baccalaureate school for advanced academics. I'm not quite sure what that means, but the kids were very smart.
Funny though, the situation I found myself in. Between presentations, an enthusiastic parent asked me to visit her child's classroom for a photograph. Upon entering the classroom, I hear the words, "Mr. Tate, would you popcorn dance with our class?" And a little voice in my head said, "Heck no! No-no-no, I don't dance." But before I could stop the scene, I was surrounded by kids shaking their butts, squatting way down low, and then popping up to the sky. I had no choice but to join in, and I prayed my knees wouldn't give out squatting that low. For those of you who know me, this is way out of my character, and when I told my son about it, he literally fell on the floor laughing.
Before leaving the school, one of the classrooms gave me a stack of letters. I enjoyed them all, but I got a big kick out of one letter in particular, where a kid drew a picture of me drawing cartoons. Isn't it great?
Next week, I'll return to Corpus Christi to participate in the 11th Annual Children's Book Festival.
Tuesday, March 22, 2011
This morning I visited BookPeople, Austin's local independent book store. I had a ball.
I used to visit bookstores all the time, mainly hanging out in the picture book section. But that was back in the day when bookstores had wall-to-wall displays of new picture book titles, and aisle after aisle of shelves filled with picture books.
Not to diss Dr. Seus or Goodnight Moon or Velveteen Rabbit. These are classics, well deserving of their permanent book space. But I already know about these books. Don't you? I like to visit bookstores to see the new stuff—picture books written and illustrated by contemporary authors and artists. But the newer books are practically gone in the large chains! At least in Austin they are. So what has this meant for books featuring brown characters? Nonfiction picture books? Those written and illustrated by locals? They're not in the chains either.
Recently, I went to Borders looking for a copy of Yummy and Bamboo People, award-winning books published in the past couple years. They told me they no longer stock books by smaller independent book publishers. What?
BookPeople, however, does. And best of all, they continue to stock picture books. Sure picture book real estate at BookPeople has shrunk. And — ahem! — they didn't even have any of my books stocked today (phooey, phooey, phooey). But regardless, they have best selection of children and YA books in town.
Here are a few books that caught my eye this afternoon:
The Secret River. I bought this bad boy. Didn't even have to think about it. Leo and Diane Dillon have done it again.
He Came With the Couch is not particularly new, it published in 2005. But that's what I like about BookPeople, they stock the old, the new, and the classics. Such a funny story, very cool illustrations.
Illustrator Sophie Blackall, she practically has her own section of the bookstore. I love Sophie's illustrations, we have similar styles in that we both illustrate our characters with really big heads. Last year I submitted my work to a publisher, and they rejected me, basically saying: "We know who you are, but you draw your character's heads too big." Then they went on to say that if I ever considered downsizing, they'd consider working with me. Hm, but look at Sophie, I think she's on to something. I'm not giving up my big-headed characters.
And there were so many books by local friends, too:
Noodle & Lou by Liz Garton Scanlon. I actually ran into Liz at BookPeople, so I could have gotten a picture of her holding her book. But we started chatting, and I completely forgot to ask. I feel kinda like a distant uncle to this book because I had the honor of reading an early draft.
Chris Barton's Shark vs. Train and The Day-Glo Brothers. When I saw these books, I wanted to start waving my hands and announce, "Hey, I know this author! I know his wife! I know his kids! His chickens! His rabbit!" At least I think he has a rabbit. Anyway, it's been so much fun watching Chris' star rise and shine.
Now this is fellow Texas Sweetheart Jo Whittemore's book. Not her newest book. But her new book before her newest-newest book. A book that actually releases. . . today! The book above, Front Page Face-off. Her newest book, Odd Girl In.
Bethany Hegedus' Truth with a Capital T. I know so many dog-on cool people, I ought to be cool myself. Maybe I am, too.
Hope for Haiti, written AND illustrated by Jesse Joshua Watson. I haven't had the pleasure of meeting Jesse in person, I've only chatted with him online. As my grandma would have said, "Jesse is good people."
There were many others that I was excited about—Audrey Vernick's Is Your Buffalo Ready for Kindergarten, Bob Staake's Look! A Book!, Kadir Nelson's Joe Louis book—but I had to leave the store before I spent all of my money.
Friday, March 11, 2011
"Graceful antidote to the still present ‘white is right’ mentality, the color black is celebrated in its fullest from a sleek black limousine to a shiny black beetle. A little girl is daydreaming in the moon glow with simple rhymes. Fun illustrations conjure up every beautiful black thing she can imagine until she drifts off to sleep. This was a Connecticut Book Award Finalist at first publication."
Black All Around! has received some of the best reviews and comments of my career, I'm happy. Great end to a busy week.
Thursday, March 03, 2011
Sunday, January 30, 2011
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
This is an old cartoon, originally posted on my now defunct Brotha Buck blog. I revived this strip, used it on my holiday cards, and I sent to a few art directors, editors and licensing clients. Although the blog is now closed down, the cartoons still exist. Looking back, I still think they're funny. When I get some time later next year, I plan to move the cartoons here and continue the saga of Brotha Buck, Tamsy and Kirby.
Friday, December 03, 2010
Because I'm a children's book illustrator, and a loud-mouth social networker, I tend to attract A LOT! of proposals from authors with book ideas. I hate turning people away, and I'd love to assist if I could. But please know, I'm a book creator myself. I illustrate. I write. And I'm knocking doors just like you, trying to figure out this crazy business.
If you're an author who's messaged me with a book idea, and I haven't responded to you, please know I'm not intentionally ignoring you. If you've emailed a manuscript to me, and I haven't responded, please don't take it personally — I'm just not sure what to do with it and all the other requests. If I took the time to respond to every email, Facebook personal message, direct message tweet, I wouldn't have time to do what I do -- write and illustrate children's books (and social network).
In the meantime, I highly advise you to join your local and national SCBWI.
Thanks for your patience, I'm rooting for you.
What a fine resource Kyra has created.
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
In March I finished a nonfiction picture book that I wrote and illustrated. My agent began to shop it around after a few rounds of revisions. You know the routine, rejection, rejection, rejection. Very nice, complimentary, rejections, but rejections none the less. It would have sold quicker in a better book-buying economy.
On the flip-side, several editors have shown interest, and it's currently in the hands of a fantastic editor. I’ve made a round of revisions with her, and it’s under consideration by the publisher. I'm confident an offer will follow soon. Fingers crossed.
In April, a month following shoulder surgery, I began sketching Duke Ellington's Nutcracker Suite, a picture book written by Anna Harwell Celenza. It’s slated to publish with Charlesbridge late next year. Recovery from surgery went much slower than my doctor predicted. He figured, guy like me — in shape, works out several times per week — would heal quickly. He was wrong. Three months after the surgery, I was still in intense pain, I could not raise my hand above my shoulders, and then my shoulder froze. I began two months of physical therapy.
Because of the time invested in physical therapy, and then the challenges of summer — family reunions, vacations, my grandpa's 90th birthday — I didn't finish the sketches until fall. So I'm a bit behind. But the book has turned out well, and I'm looking forward to painting it soon, this time, in watercolor and ink (I normally paint in oil or acrylic).
In October, She Loved Baseball: The Effa Manley Story, written by Audrey Vernick, published with HarperCollins. Reviews have been favorable, and we even received a star from School Library Journal. Top it off, Audrey commissioned a wonderful book trailer that, to date, has received more than 500 hits -- it's gone viral!
Yesterday on Facebook, I announced my next book project: THE CART, written by the beloved and legendary Eve Bunting. It’s a brilliant story, unexpected, clever, creative, and it ends with a new twist. But that’s all I can say at this time. The book is going to require a bit of research, so I'm looking forward to making a little one-day trip to the east coast in the spring. I’ll visit museums and historic sites, and I’ll meet with a few author/illustrator friends in the area.
Recently I finished a first draft of another nonfiction picture book. The topic is a sports figure. Can you believe, me? writing about sports? Writing a nonfiction picture book about a subject not published before is nerve wrecking. I'm afraid at any day someone else will publish the story, and I'll have wasted my time, money and energy. That has happened to me before. I'd done some preliminary research, ordered and read some books on the subject, began a first draft. And soon afterwards another author came out with the same book -- same title and everything! Ug. Right now my sports book is out to a few critique buddies (I’m so lucky to have such friends) and I’m hoping to do another revision shortly after the new year.
I have only one regret this year. My first authored book didn't publish this year as planned. It was supposed to publish last spring, 2009. Then it was set for the fall. Then again this past spring, 2010. Then again this fall. Then spring 2011. And now it's off for the spring, and , well, no one really knows when, it's all up in the air. Sigh. I’m told this happens sometimes. I'm confident it will indeed publish, someday. I keep telling myself, It will publish when it is supposed to publish, and not a second sooner. That's a good thing.
It's been a great year, I can’t complain.
Monday, November 15, 2010
Over the past few days, I had the pleasure of participating in two very special book events — a signing at Menchaca Elementary School's Scholastic Book Fair and the Savannah Children's Book festival. I had an absolutely fantastic time at both events, though each one had it's own way of feeding or starving my ego.
Last Thursday evening, I signed books at Menchaca. The librarians there are SO good. They really excited the kids about my book Ron's Big Mission, so much so that it became the hottest seller at the fair. It sold 99 copies and I was honored to be there to sign most of them. Check out the nice display behind the table. I can't thank the librarians enough.
Following that event, I flew to Georgia where I was a featured author-ilustrator in the the 7th annual Savannah Children's Book Festival. This is a top-notch festival, to say the least. More than 30,000 people attended the festival last year, and this year was even bigger. The lineup included included Judy Schachner, “Skippyjon Jones”; Anna Dewdney, “Llama Llama Red Pajama”, in addition to Alan Katz, Brian Jordan, Pat Mora, Vicky Alvear Schecter, Charles R. Smith, others. I was especially excited to meet two very young authors, 9- and 11-year-old Miles and William Rabun, who wrote the book "My Grandma's Backyard." Behind Judy and Anna, they were clearly the most popular authors at the festival.
My book signing (above) was a bit, um, humbling. But that happens sometimes, and I found much humor in the situation.
When I returned, I received this wonderful letter from the mother of an attendee. This made my day and I thank her for sending this along.
Hello Don,Also from the festival, see me writing on the walls of the Bull Street Library.
I am the mother of Julia, the little girl with twists you drew at the Savannah Book Festival. She was so honored! This was the first time she wore her hair in twists and you commented on them. She was so shocked! She has told everyone about you and your wonderful illustrations. Her favorite was the illustration with the spoons from The Hidden Feast because of the movement in the swirls. This of course came from your comment about creating movement in a still illustration in the Black All Around book. She is very proud of being a black girl and hearing that story along with the comment on her twists was a high-five to her confidence! Upon returning home she immediately colored your drawing as you had instructed her to do. Her father, as per her request, framed it along with the SBF article of you and it now hangs in her bedroom. So don't worry about the book signing. You signed a little girl's heart that day.
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
Today, October 19, is release day for She Loved Baseball: The Effa Manley Story, a book that I illustrated, written by the wonderful Audrey Vernick. The book released with this wonderful trailer put together by Kristen Cappy of Curious City. Ain’t it grand?
But even before release day, She Loved Baseball was honored as a Junior Library Guild 2010 fall selection. And just today, we received more good news: A starred review from School Library Journal! Whoo-hoo!
Here’s what else folks are saying:
Both author and illustrator are on top of their games as they bring this inspiring story to life.
-- School Library Journal
Tate’s muscular illustrations illuminate and breathe life into the events. He skillfully emphasizes emotions, giving every character a distinct personality and demeanor.
Vernick adds appeal to this straightforward biography with repetitive phrases that emphasize Manley’s activist spirit, while Tate’s slightly stylized acrylic paintings convey both the historical setting and the timeless excitement in the ballpark.
Tate's energetic illustrations harmonize well with Vernick's fresh and engaging text.
-- Publisher’s Weekly
Thanks, Audrey, for writing such a wonderful and important story. And for having this very cool trailer made.
Monday, October 18, 2010
I had a fantastic weekend at the Texas Book Festival. On Friday evening, I attended the coolest party with the coolest people -- authors and illustrators from all over the country. The party was hosted at the home of literary director Clay Smith. I hung out mostly with local austin writers, but I also rubbed elbows with the likes of Peter Brown, David Weisner, Tony DiTerlizzi. I also got to meet Duncan Tonatiuh, a relative new-comer to the children's literature scene, but a shooting star none the less.
On Saturday morning, I had the honor of introducing author Phillip Hoose, National Book Award winner for CLAUDETTE COVIN: TWICE TOWARDS JUSTICE. Phil's presentation was informative, and his passion for the subject lit the dark senate chambers like a light tower. Towards the end of the session, when a photo of an elderly Claudette was displayed, I even felt a bit choked up. This woman played a major part in desegregating the Montgomery, Alabama bus system -- and therefore elevating civil rights for Blacks in this country as a whole. Heck, she started it all, refusing to give up her seat on a bus to a white passenger months before Rosa Parks. But Claudette was shunned by history -- likely because she didn't have the right hair, the right background, the right look. And because she got pregnant as a teen. I'm happy this woman is finally getting her story told and taking her due place in history.
Saturday evening, my wife and I attended a cocktail party for Texas Book Festival authors and moderators. It was on the 32nd floor of the Four Seasons hotel. Very classy. Very posh. Somehow all that ritz made us forget how poor we really are -- we were literally lulled into thinking we could dine at a thirty-seven dollar a bowl gumbo restaurant. But the realization of how empty our bank accounts really were sent us fleeing from the restaurant before the waiter could take our water order.
On Sunday, I hung out with a few of my SCBWI writing friends. We gathered together to watch Chris Barton read his book SHARK VS. TRAIN. I also took in Duncan Tonatiuh (DEAR PRIMO: A LETTER TO MY COUSIN), and Cynthia Leitich Smith (HOLLER LOUDLY).
In the afternoon, I attended a very interesting and scholarly discussion with author-historian Neil Foley. He discussed his book, QUEST FOR EQUALITY, which deals with civil rights and race relations between whites, Blacks and Mexicans in Texas and California. Very enlightening.
I ended the day with sessions given by Tony DiTerlizzi and M.T Anderson. I’m jazzed now, but I’m also a bit behind. Time to catch up on my own literary projects.
More pics on my Facebook album.
Photos taken by my wife, and authors Jo Whittemore and Jeanette Larson.
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
I was honored to have been invited to join the group, they've made quite a name for themselves in the children's literature community. I immediately accepted their invitation. But the name, the name! What were we going to do about that?
I told my wife, "Honey, I'm joining a group of girls, we're calling ourselves the Texas Sweethearts."
And she asked, "So you're pledging a sorority?" That was enough for me, we had to change the name.
I made some suggestions: Texas Sweethearts And one Dude; Texas Sweethearts And a Somewhat Nice Guy; The Texas Sweethearts And Their Brotha From Anotha Motha. None of these names truck a chord with the ladies.
They made suggestions, too: Texas Sweethearts & Arts; Texas Sweethearts & A Sweet Hunk; Texas sweethearts and one Texas Ranger; Texas Sweethearts and one Cowboy. None of these names struck a chord with me. I don't see myself as a sweetheart or a cowboy either.
I sensed frustration. I didn't want to cause a headache with the ladies, but Sweetheart . . . come on, now. Seriously.
Finally, one of the new Sweethearts – Jeanette Larson — suggested a name that I absolutely loved: Texas Sweethearts & Scoundrels. I could do that!
So it was final. We are calling ourselves the Texas Sweethearts & Scoundrels: Seven Authors and Illustrators Who Write for Teens. The team: P.J. Hoover, Jessica Lee Anderson, Jo Whittemore, K.A. Holt, Emma J. Virján, Jeanette Larson, and me, Don Tate aka, Devas the Scoundrel.
So, what do we do now? We'll visit schools. Do conferences. We'll highlight other authors on the blog. Support each other in our marketing efforts. Most of all, we'll have a lot of fun!
Sunday, October 10, 2010
In celebration of the Million Man March 15-year anniversary, author Kelly Starling Lyons embarks on a two-week virtual tour, which will highlight her book ONE MILLION MEN and ME (Just Us Books). The tour includes interviews about the book, information about Kelly’s writing life, guest posts and many other surprises.
Today I have the pleasure of hosting the tour here on my blog with an interview of Peter Ambush, the illustrator for ONE MILLION MEN and ME.
Peter is an award-winning fine artist and illustrator. His portfolio includes artwork for newspapers, greeting cards, book jackets and children’s books. While I’m a fan of his commercial art, it’s his fine art – specifically his portraiture work -- that blows me away. They are simply stunning.
I’m honored to host this interview with Peter:
Don: The Million Man March came to symbolize unity, atonement and brotherhood among African American men. Can you talk about how these principles manifest in your own life?
Peter: Being an African American man, a lot of things that have happened to our race affect me in some way or another. But, I'm a Christian first and I have been most of my life, so my principles and values have been based on God's Word long before the Million Man March. My goals have always been to love God and then love my fellow man, whatever color that may be.
Don: My favorite image from ONE MILLION MEN and ME is the cover. It features a tender moment between father and daughter. Please discuss how you went about capturing the emotion in that scene.
Peter: I'm more of a realist artist be nature, I tend not to exaggerate too much in my art. The emotion that I get comes from interacting with whomever I'm working with. It's a push and pull relationship. I asked for something and they give me what I want or something unexpected.
The main challenge was finding the right models to represent Nia and her daddy. At first, I thought of using my daughter for the part, but she was a little older than the little girl in the book. A fellow choir member at my church and his daughter agreed to be my models. As far as research is concerned, I get it from everywhere I can, from Kelly the author or the publishers or just searching online.
When I start reading a story, images come to mind and then I sketch them out with somewhat of an idea of what I want to convey. But, then I'll start shooting my photos for references and wonderful unexpected things happen that sparks new concepts. The model will look a certain way or have a great expression on their face that works a lot better than what I originally thought of.
Don: A School Library Journal reviewer noted how you successfully varied the scenes to include both warm close-ups and wider views. What challenges were presented in creating large crowd scenes, and how did you solve the problem?
Peter: Well, as far as book illustrating goes, I kind of let the story tell me what it wants to be. Like I said before, images will come to me but I try to vary each from another to keep it exciting.
Don: When did you first realize you had an interest in art?
Peter: Back when I was about 5 or 6yrs. old. I think it started when I saw a pastel drawing my father had done of a nativity scene for our church. After that I started drawing cartoons like Mighty Mouse and Bambi all the time.
Don: As a child, how did your parents and family support/encourage your artistic endeavors?
Peter: My parents never stopped me or said anything against me drawing. But I was not necessarily influenced or inspired to make it a career. I don't think they — or myself for that matter — thought I would make being an artist my choice in life. I really didn't decide to go to art school until my senior year in high school.
Don: Do you consider yourself a fine artist, commercial artist, how would you characterize your artwork?
Peter: I would say I'm an artist first, and then depending on what I have to do that day, I could be a computer graphic artist, a portrait artist, an airbrush artist, the list goes on. I love a lot of different styles and mediums of art, which gets me in trouble sometimes. There's so many different things that I would like to experiment with that it keeps me from focusing on one thing. It's the "Jack of all trades and master of none" scenario.
Don: Your comment about styles hits a nerve with me because I tend to use more than a few styles, too. Do you think having several styles hinders or hurts an artist?
Peter: I've heard that having a lot of different styles in your portfolio can hinder an artist, because if you're showing it to a gallery, they want to be sure you can be consistent with creating the same thing over and over again. I've spoken with other galleries that love for you to have different styles to keep having new things to spark excitement with their customers. Really, for the most part, the most successful artists I've seen out there have one or maybe two styles of working. I think the key is to use that one or two styles in many different genres. I think it's best to discover that one thing you love to do, that totally comes from your spirit and seems natural to you. When you're happy with what you do, it show's in your work and people will recognize it. I love to airbrush. I use it in fine art, portraits, illustration, T-shirts and the list goes on. It's something that I've done for many years and I believe it's something that I was born to do. I still have plenty to learn, but I'm having fun doing it.
Don: What do you enjoy most about being an artist?
Peter: I love being able to create something out of a thought that I have or some outside influence and being able to talk to people about it. My wife calls me a social butterfly. I just love talking to people.
Don: What advice can you give to aspiring children’s book illustrators?
Peter: Well, this is something I wish someone had told me early in my life. Learn to draw and keep drawing. Draw from life and take extra classes when you can. It's the foundation to all representational art. And, I don't know if this is good advice or bad advice. I spoke a little about it earlier. I have found it to be somewhat good to be able to do a lot of different types of art. Sometimes people are looking for computer graphics, newsletters, logo designs, fliers or a pencil drawing, painted portrait or even their Winnebago airbrushed painted. With my background in working in a lot of different fields of art, I'm able to flow with tides, so to speak. I'm not stuck in one place waiting for winds to blow my way. Also, when working on a project, think about it, make a plan and stick to it.
Don’t miss the remainder of the tour:
October 12 – Scribbly Katia
October 13 – Mitali’s Fire Escape
October 14 – Kristi’s Book Nook
October 16 – 15th ANNIVERSARY OF THE MILLION MAN MARCH — 11 a.m. Storytime & Reading Hour at International Civil Rights Center & Museum
October 18 – 6 p.m. March Anniversary Program at the August Wilson Center for African American Culture