Saturday, August 24, 2013

Book Status Update, Summer 2013 #LittleRaindropsBigPlunge

Well, hello!

The summer is nearing its end, and the new school year is about to begin! It sounds like a perfect time to give everyone an update on the book's progress and our upcoming plans.

Sometimes working on a book can be a difficult thing for us authors and illustrators, because it's such a HUGE process. Lots of the things that we do (like revising the story) are time consuming, and sometimes things (like researching certain topics) can be a tad dull, and some things (like sketching and re-sketching) can even be very tiring. But the worst part is, no one but us gets to see all the hard work we put into these things! And these things are VERY important things!

So what I like to do each time I work is sign into a Time Sheet. It might sound silly, but it's great because, over time, we get to see how far we've come since the start of the project! Take a look at only one of my Time Sheets. (I have at least TEN of these!)

And that's not even ALL of it!

In fact, here is what we have done so far. (Keep in mind that Mr. H is a full time teacher, and not only do I work elsewhere full time, but I also have been taking classes in the evenings. So we aren't the fastest turtles. But we sure work hard!) The cool part about this is that I pretty much blogged about it all fairly early on, which helped me to keep track of what happened!

"Our Story's Story"
The Very Beginning:

-Mr. H wrote Little Raindrop's story! (We will have to ask how long it took him to do that part!)
-Mr. H decides he wants to publish his story.
-Mr. H decides he also needs an illustrator.
July, 2011:
-Mr. H looks for an illustrator online, and then finds me on the SCBWI site!
-I do a few sketches for Mr. H. (here they are!)
August, 2011:
-Mr. H and I talk about the project. We decide it would be a good test for me to illustrate a full color double page spread to see if we will enjoy working together on this project. Mr. H mails me a section of the story, the River Habitat.
-I sketch out a few different layouts for the spread. I decide I like a certain layout. But I realize I don't know how to draw some of these animals!
-I research kinds of animals that live in a River Habitat. Then I sketch and sketch and sketch them. (see the sketches here)
-I worked on the final piece. It took me long enough, (about 32 hours!) but I finally completed it! (See the work from Start to Finish here.)
September, 2011:
-Mr. H sends me the rest of the story. I like it!
-Mr. H and I decide we really want to work on Little Raindrop's book together, so we write up a contract!
-I research how to write a GOOD contract! One that is fair to both the author and illustrator. This is the not-fun part of the job. The paperwork... ugh!
October, 2011:
-I start up Little Raindrop's Blog, Facebook, and Twitter accounts. (click here to see the first blog post!)
November, 2011:
-Little Raindrop needs to be a true character. So I sketch and sketch until he shows himself! (see the sketches)
December, 2011:
-I go through the manuscript to plot out my layout. I realize there is a TON of awesome stuff in this story. So Mr. H and I have a chat and decide this book needs to not only be a Chapter Book, but also a trilogy! (here's the proof!)
January-March, 2012:
-I organize the text for layout purposes. I am actively editing and revising the story as I go at this point in time. Chopping things off here, adding things on here, etc.
-I sketch out some double page spreads. (see examples here)
-I try to figure out a consistent way to present certain pages in the book. Sometimes I needed help from Mr. H's class!-I also work out how I want to paint and illustrate the story, and the steps I need to take to draw them quicker and easier!
-Somewhere along the line here, we both did some research on how we want to Self Publish! This was one crazy Time Eater! But in the end we figured it all out. And it gave me lots of knowledge on the topic that I could pass along to my readers. (Like this stuff, here.)
March-May, 2012:
-I actively work through the spring to draw and layout the pages for the book dummy.
-I re-work the cover. (see it here)
-I complete the first two chapters of the dummy book! PHEW! (here it is!)
-I learn that I have too much stuff going on at once, and I decide not to take any more classes until I complete Little Raindrop's book. (Talk about having Crazy Eyes!)
-I design and print up bookmarks and buttons for marketing!
-Little Raindrop's Cafe Press store opens!
June, 2012:
-I visit Mr. H's classroom of totally awesome kids! (see it here)
June-August, 2012:
-I learn about Kickstarter, and Mr. H and I discuss that it might be the way to go for us!
-I read a book on marketing, and I realize I need to know more about our target age, and what kinds of books Third Graders really like to read.
-I do a lot of research on other books in Little Raindrop's genre. I check word counts, vocabulary, page numbers, numbers of chapters, artistic styles, topics, how the books handle layout and design- EVERYTHING AND ANYTHING I can think of to see where Little Raindrop fits in. Now that I have a dummy book in hand, I can really see what needs to be changed or re-worked as far as fitting in with the crowd.
-The Little Raindrop plushies are born! :D (you can see them here)
-I design and print up business cards for sharing!
September-November, 2012:
-Mr. H continues writing the last few chapters of the book. I take some time to work on stuff for my own business, MLC Illustration. (For things like calendars!)
December, 2012:
-We launch the Around the World with Little Raindrop section of the blog!
January, 2013:
-Mr. H sends me the last four chapters of the book!
January-August, 2013:
-I finish up on some non Little Raindrop projects.
-I continually blog about Little Raindrop's spring and summer adventures.
-I hunker down and weed through the entire manuscript, to be sure we have all the correct vocabulary, that the chapters are all the same length, that all the science topics needed are covered, and all scientific facts are correct. I add a few more Activity Pages, so that each chapter now has four instead of two. I check the story for consistency in characters speech and actions, for number of Quote Drops and Fascinating Facts, and to be sure the story flows naturally. (Just like water!)
August, 2013:
-I do a video chat with Mr. H's class of 2013! (learn more here)
-Mr H. comes to visit, and we bring Little Raindrop to Mystic Aquarium! (blog post coming soon)
-I near completion on the manuscript's revision and cleanup.
September, 2013:
-I should be completely done with the entire manuscript revision/cleanup!

With all the stuff we have already done, it's hard to believe we still have SO much work to do! But here is our checklist, nonetheless:

Mega To-Do List!
-Send the entire manuscript to our professional editor
-Send the manuscript to a few of our science and teacher friends for revision
-While waiting for revision to be completed, complete the Marketing Plan
-Meet with the editor for feedback
-Final revision of manuscript
-Plot the visual layout of the pages of entire book (this can be done while waiting for feedback, too.)
-Create a FULL, COMPLETE dummy book
-Gather names for the Pre-Order and Email list
-Determine price of printed books and estimated time of printing
-Send complete dummy book to art and layout friends for revision
-Revise and edit; maybe send to editor one last time
-Final art must be completed. (That's drawing all the comics, all the double page spreads and special items throughout.)
-Final art scanned and merged with layout and text components.
-(Don't forget to order/pay for the text font!)
-Launch Kickstarter campaign
-Complete and print final book on regular printer. Check for mistakes, and send the final version to mistake-checkers!
-Get ISBN number, register the story and copyrights and all that legal stuff!
-Double check everything with the Printer. (From colors, to text, to layout and design. This might take a trip to VA.)
-Print the books!
-Plan and prepare for two book launch parties
-Send the books for Pre-Order customers
-Send special Thank You gifts for all our wonderful helpers!
-Sell those books, baby!
-Create Little Raindrop's Official web site at some point
-Plot and outline the next two books
And there is probably a lot more that I am missing right now! I will add and subtract things as we go along, but this list sure is going to help me to stay on track! And it will help the readers see just how much work gets put into an awesome book like this one!

Thanks for reading, and for all your support! We could never accomplish such a task without our readers and fans like you!

See you soon!
~Miss Melanie

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Tales of a Third Grade Classroom: Videochat with Miss Melanie, aaand POSTCARDS! #fanmail

Well, hello there!

It looks like it's been a busy summer for everyone, and boy has it been HOT! But before the summer heat came to get us, I did a video chat with Mr. H's class of 2013!

Last year I had been able to visit Mr. H and his classroom, but this year I couldn't make the trip. I was sad that I couldn't meet the kids in person, but our video chat turned out really well! In fact, it was a lot of fun! The kids all asked some great questions, and they got a chance to see some of the art I created when I was in third grade, (like a million years ago). On top of that, they even got a tour of my at-home studio!

I was even able to record the whole thing, except for the SOUND! So I have it all on video, but everyone will have to read our lips to figure out what we're saying. Technology can be such a blessing and a curse, I tell you! I am going to try my best to figure out how to do it right for the next video chat we do.

Here are some snapshots from the chat! :D

Hello, class! Nice to meet you!

Showing off some original artwork from Little Raindrop's book!

This is what my drawing looked like in grade school!

Having a good time!

Bye, everyone! See you around! :)

I didn't even get to tell you the best part- later on that week, I found a giant envelope covered in raindrops... Mr. H's students all wrote me postcard letters!

Look at all these awesome letters! I can't wait to read them all!

For the privacy of the students, I have erased everyone's last names. But I'm pretty sure you all can recognize your own handwriting! :) Also, PLEASE email me if I accidentally missed somebody or mixed up anyone's pictures with their letters, and I can fix it right away! (Some of my files got a little mixed up.)

Thanks, Alexandra! It looks like you've already got your drawing skills down! And how did you know we would have some old granny and grandpa raindrops to come in the future? :)

Hi, Heather! Sorry, I didn't know you had been waiting for a link! But you can still email me your photos if you'd like, and I can help Little Raindrop put them here on the blog! ( It was really nice seeing you!

Thank you, Abigail! You are REALLY good at drawing horses! I have always thought they were the hardest kinds of animals to draw. I think that's pretty awesome of you!

Hi, Max! I like looking at your drawings, too! Well, don't you worry about our little Dare Devil Drop- he's going to play a BIG part in Book 2, which is ALL about water, too!

Hi, Andres! So YOU'RE the one with that excellent mustache shirt! Haha, I thought it was pretty funny! To answer your question, I somehow always knew in my heart I wanted to be an artist. I said so when I was in First Grade!

Thank you, Ethan! It's cool that you like to draw snakes! I think snakes are just a little big scary, especially the BIG ones! I really like the way you drew all those raindrops! Thanks for video chatting with me!

Thank you SO much, Tommy! Yes, Disney World has roller coasters, so it is very fun. I really wish I can go on a Disney Cruise one day! I LOVE the Harry Potter books, too! Those are my favorite books, and I have a few favorite movies. They are: "Lilo and Stitch," "Tangled" and "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone". I might look like an adult, but I'm just a kid at heart!

Hi, Max! Yep, Little Raindrop has a mommy! And there IS an owl in the first book! He is on page 24 of the story so far. That is a very good idea to have a bald eagle in the next book. We will have to see where he will fit in! Thanks for your help! :)

Thank you, Ethan! I agree- colors are pretty but drawing in black and white can be really cool. I used to love drawing mountains when I was your age! My very first oil painting was a mountain scene, and my dad let me use his very expensive paints to paint it!

Hi, Paul! I am so glad you learned some new stuff about book making! I still am learning new things every day, believe it or not! I got the idea of how to draw the character from drawing a lot of sketches in my sketchbook. I knew that I like drawing round and chubby things, so I started there!

Hi, Chloe! Thank you so much! I liked talking with everybody, too! Your drawing came out really nice- I like how you filled up the whole square with rain drops!

Hi, Amelia! Your cat Cosmo is SO CUTE! I love Bengals! My mom and stepdad have a Bengal and his name is Sparky. He is a really crazy but beautiful cat. That's so cool that you drew a dragon! Dragons are so much fun to draw!

Hi, Sara! Wow, I can tell you like to draw a lot! I love the little doormat you drew, it's so cute! I used to make little books for my family, too! I would take my grandma's note pads and fill them up with little pictures and staple them together like a book. She still has some of them even today!

Thank you, Andrea! My favorite books to take out of the library used to be "How to Draw" books! I have a whole bunch of them in my collection now, and they really helped me learn how to draw better. Your picture came out beautifully, and I love the little blue owl in the tree!

Hi, Alina! Thank you so much! I LOVE that you love owls, too! I just got a new owl book and it has loads of photographs of all different types of owls and it's AMAZING. I really like your drawing, and how you put little raindrops in the corners of the page. So cute!

Thank you, Caroline! It was lots of fun chatting with you all! Little Raindrop's book is my first book ever, so I don't have any other books. But I have written a LOT of stories that I want to have published one day! A book like Little Raindrop's takes a very long time- so far it has taken us a few years! Picture books can be made in as quick as a few months, but that's if you're lucky!

Thank you, Eliana! I really like your drawing, too! I like how you used two different blues in the waves. Sometimes I even surprise myself, I don't always know how I do it! I just look down, and suddenly I have a really cool drawing all done! I guess it takes just the right music, with just the right amount of chocolate! ;)

Hi, Owen! Wow, your bald eagle is excellent! You should be really proud- I am very impressed! Yes, Mr. H and I tested the video chat program before we tried it in class. Mr. H and I are both learning new ways to get in touch on the computer, because we live so far away from each other! The best part, though, is getting to meet all of you kids! :)

Hi, Sophia! Thank you so much! Yes, I am glad, too, that Mr. H found my art online! I don't know where I would be if I didn't have Little Raindrop in my life. And getting to know such talented kids like YOU sure is a blessing! I love your picture of Little Raindrop and his parents! Keep on drawing every day, and keep a sketchbook, and before you know it, you will be an artist!

Thank you, Rebecca! That is SO COOL that you are going to Art Camp! I wish I had gone to Art Camp when I was a kid! I once spent a summer at the YMCA camp, and my favorite things to do there were all the crafts, tie-dye t-shirts, and the archery lessons! I liked spending time in the woods and walking along the dirt paths. But I did NOT like all the sports we had to play, haha! Great job on Crabby Cumulonimbus, by the way!

Hi, Sami! I have to say, your drawing made me laugh so hard! It is so cute and funny! I like the Redwall books, too! I haven't read them all yet, but I want to. I have never heard of Secret Zoo books, though. I think if you like them, I might too! I will check them out!

Hi, Regebe! No, I did not know there was an owl in Mr. H's play! That's really cool! I will have to ask him about it the next time we talk. It was really great chatting with everyone. I sure hope to visit next year! I really want to have LOTS  more to show you kids, so we will have to just wait and see what happens I guess! Thanks so much! :)

This drawing is SO funny! I love it!

Aren't they wonderful? I want to thank each and every student for all the hard work they put into these post cards! You kids did an amazing job, and I will keep them forever! Thank you sooooo much!

Getting fan mail from kids is the very best part of my job, because it reminds me why I am working so hard to help make this book the best book I possibly can... because of YOU! You might feel small sometimes, and that we adults don't listen or pay attention... but the truth is, YOU are the future! So you're very important people! This is why we need to protect nature and our fresh water, so kids like you can enjoy it for generations to come.

This was a looong post! Thanks for sticking around and reading up to this point! Mr. H, Little Raindrop, and I sure appreciate all our supporters. Thank you for all you do!

Ta ta for now!
~Miss Melanie