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A Young Aspiring Writer Asked Me a Few Questions:

Filed under: Uncategorized | September 9, 2019

What is a typical work day for you?

First, after my kids go off school, I read and respond to emails and look over my to-do list for the day (which includes work and non-work stuff) then, I feel free to let my creative brain drive for the rest of my work time (while the kids are at school). That may be brainstorming text for a story I’m pondering or sketching out a book dummy at the Barrel House coffee shop or painting spreads at my home studio space. If I’m in the thick of writing or revising a manuscript, I typical work at home (because I constantly read my written words out loud, over and over, to achieve the right cadence and rhythm).

How many hours do you work in a typical week?
30-40

What parts of your job do you find most challenging?
I find writing the most challenging. It doesn’t come very easy to me. I’m much better at art and ideas J

What do you find most enjoyable?

There’s so many things … but maybe when you know you have a killer idea and you can’t even sleep because you are so excited to write down notes and thoughts right then and there. That’s such a rush! And it’s even better when you wake up the next day and still feel pumped for it. (Sometimes, I wake up and say – What was I thinking? That ideas blows!)

I also LOVE reading to kids and seeing them enjoy the story, root for your characters, and laugh and get the jokes J

I love that I get paid to improve my craft. I love being a part of the book world … and of kids’ childhoods all over the world because my book reached them there.

What are some aspects of your job, besides writing, that one might not expect?

There’s a lot of public speaking involved! From school visits to conferences- I’ve definitely had to face that fear. But now, I really enjoy it.

Can you describe the process of creating a book from an idea?

When I get a great idea… a really great idea that I believe would: 1.) Be fun to create and 2.) Sell, I start by writing down lots of thoughts in the Notes app on my phone. Maybe plot points, clever possible titles, jokes, characters, and maybe even a sketch or two. Then I let that idea simmer for a day or so. Then, I share the idea with my husband, Ben. He’s my first filter almost always. If he responds well to the idea, then I go deeper into fleshing out the idea into a synopsis or a rough manuscript to share with my critique groups. Then I revise and revise until I feel ready to show it to my agent. Then, there’s usually more revising rounds until it’s ready to submit to editors. Sometimes an editor will want it, sometimes they don’t. If they don’t, then I may keep studying and revising to figure out why it wasn’t appealing enough at the time. But if an editor buys it, then there’s usually more editing and revising based on their feedback. Little by little, it will get better and better and when it’s ready, I get the green light to illustrate J That takes about 4-6 months. And the book comes out about 1 year after the illustrations are completed.

How do you go about getting your work published?

I found an agent that believes in my work. I believe her 15% fee is worth every penny. She constantly lunches with various editors, travels to various conferences, etc. She networks for me so I can spend my time creating!

Did you acquire a specific education as a prerequisite for your career? If so, can you describe it/your experience?

The best education I got for my specific work is what I learned from attending many many SCBWI (Society of Childrens Book Writers and Illustrators) conferences and by being very involved in a writers (critique) group.

What educational path would you recommend I take to become successful as a professional writer?

I would most recommend joining an association (like SCBWI) for the type of writing you want to pursue. I’m sure studying creative writing formally or informally would be greatly beneficial.

What skills do you think are necessary for a professional writer?

The ability to wear many different hats such as: a writer, a business person, a creative person, a marketer, a public speaker, and be self-disciplined with your work time.

Are these skills unique to an author?  No. Do you think they would apply to other writing careers? Definitely.

I understand that it is not easy to be successful in the writing field. How do you set yourself apart from others?

I guess I’m just myself, but I also strive to create something that is really hard for the “gatekeepers” to turn down. I don’t always achieve it, but I believe a killer idea + great writing + professionalism and being nice to work with + great art = a pretty good chance of getting published and enjoyed by readers :)

What advice would you give me as I pursue a writing career?

Read what you strive to write. Read a lot. Write. Get your butt in the chair and write even when you don’t feel like it. Most times you won’t. Strive simply for growth in everything you attempt to write and do, not perfection. And listen to well-meaning criticism of your work, but only act on the criticism that resonates with you. Trust your gut. Most of the time, it’s right.

Free T-BONE THE DRONE Activities!

Filed under: Uncategorized | June 17, 2019

I’m starting to gear up for the release of T-BONE THE DRONE on September 10, 2019! Similar to some of my DOLL-E 1.0 activities, I created some coloring pages and a how-to-draw a drone activity :) Click on the images below to print. Happy drawing! Happy coloring!

-Shanda

My Texas Tour!

Filed under: Uncategorized | February 15, 2019

My very first out-of-town school visit was a 5-school event over 3 days! I can’t believe it has already come and gone. It was a really fun experience with many firsts… First out-of-state school visit, first multi-school event, first time in the Houston area, first time speaking in a gym to a really big group, first time speaking at an evening family event, and even the first time experiencing a student get sick in the middle of my presentation – HA!

These are such fun memories that I’ll remember always. I hope the kids remember it too!

Here’s the gist of the trip in photos:

First stop, Jane Long Elementary :)
Second stop, Williams Elementary!
Kid art up on the wall – a hairy and scary robot!
A comedian robot named Beef-E 1.0 :)
And a dino/dragon-making robot!
Third stop, Adolphus Elementary!
Look at all the kids that ride bikes to school here :)
Then, we had several hours to ourselves. So, Ben drove us to see the ocean at Galveston, TX.
Nice frizz.
We tried to find sharks teeth in the sand with no luck, but we did find some cool sea glass, shells, and crab pincers.
Fourth stop was an evening family event at Dickinson Elementary :)
This was longer trip than usual, and seemed particularly tough on my babies :( But we got through it with lots of FaceTime calls, prayers… and promises of surprises :)

(Thank God for Didi and Amama too!)
The fifth and final school stop was at Huggins Elementary!
But before we left the Houston area, we HAD to visit the awesome Blue Willow Books!
I signed a few copies of Doll-E 1.0 there. They were SO kind, and they even had me “sign the wall” because thats what authors and illustrators that come through there get to do!
I signed under Salina Yoon and above Amy Krouse Rosenthal!
There it is! I officially left my mark in Houston, Texas, and I’m so glad I did.
Cool kids, fantastic librarians, and bodacious booksellers were found here!

My Book Inspired A Makey-Makey Maker!

Photo by Colleen Graves

Photo by Colleen Graves

So many cool things have happened as a result of the writing/publishing of DOLL-E 1.0. I am so humbled to be a part of a circuit of creatives! So many hands touched this book from its conception to birth … critique groups, editors, art directors, publicists, my husband, my kids, my mom, sales departments, educators, librarians, bookstores, etc.!

 

And now another creative hand has tinkered with this book and made its existence even cooler … a real coder and “maker” … a girl named Colleen Graves! She creates activities and guides for Makey-Makey (that appears multiple times in the illustrations of Doll-E 1.0). So, Colleen was charged up to create an activity guide for creating your own doll or robot from spare parts and a Makey-Makey, then adding words to its database using Scratch! It. Is. RAD!

 

If you are a STEM or STEAM teacher, I truly hope you check this out and share your creations with us! It’s reading, creating, problem solving, programing, electronics, engineering, and fun all in one! Colleen suggests this project works best with grades 3-6. So without further adieu, here is the guide:

https://labz.makeymakey.com/cwists/preview/1657x

 

And here is Colleen’s blogpost about the inspiration behind creating the guide:

Making and Literacy Guide for Doll-E 1.0

 

 

 

FREE Doll-E Coloring Sheets!

Filed under: Doll-E,Free Stuff,Uncategorized | February 28, 2018

Feel free to COLOR! Just click on a thumbnail for a large, printable version. ENJOY!

Headed to NYC today!

Right now, I am sitting in the Atlanta airport waiting on my flight to New York City to attend my first SCBWI national conference.  I have my love, Ben, beside me, which is nice. He works in New York often, so it was awesome that we could travel together!

ny14scbwi

I have always dreamed of attending the NYC SCBWI conference, although now that I’m headed there today, things aren’t exactly as I imagined them being. Not a bad thing, just different, because (if you didn’t know already) I am 5 months pregnant with another precious girl! And I feel really great these days, so I knew I had to seize this opportunity before I have a newborn in my life again :)  I also got to experience a full body pat down for the first time at the airport! I didn’t want to walk through the x-ray scanner being pregnant and all. The lady really explored my maternity pants. I guess you could really hide some stuff in all that extra stretchy fabric!

February has been a busy, packed month preparing for this adventure. My to-do list looked almost impossible for the month of February (March will be the same way), but I did everything! It’s amazing what a little planning can do. Here’s a little bit of what I was working on for this trip:

 

Illustrating a mandatory assignment for the illustrator’s intensive…

Research:

snowwhite_research

Thumbnails:
snow_thumbnails
Character sketches:
snowwhite_sketch
Layout Sketches:
snowsketch
snow_sketch2
Value Study:
value
Color:Snow White by Shanda McCloskey

Preparing my portfolio for the Portfolio Showcase… (I am really looking forward to seeing other’s portfolios and how they crafted and organized them.)

portfolio

It also helped that my 3-year-old started a little preschool program this month. So, for 2 mornings each week I had work time to myself, and it was really fun to see HJ discover school, have a Valentine party, overcome some shyness and anxiety, learn about frogs, learn to write her name, choose a packed lunch or what the other kids were having, and be picked for a table cleaning job. This was all stuff she told me about when I pick her up after lunch.  I also can’t forget about the help and support I have from my mom, mother-in-law, and sister-in-law when it comes to HJ. She is one loved little girl, and I know she’ll be happy and safe all weekend (having 3 different slumber parties with them) while I’m gone.

supermanI miss her though! 5 days is the longest I have ever been apart from her. I know she’ll be just fine, but it feels really strange still. We found PINKY, the owl, in our bed this morning :)  So, I brought her with me!

pinky
Okay, here we go!

Shanda McCloskey, Children's Illustrator & Author