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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Illustrator Q&A: Sean Tiffany

Sean Tiffany has illustrated dozens of Stone Arch Books's Jake Maddox Sports Stories, including Free Throw, Storm Surfer, BMX Bully, and Board Rebel (and many more!). Here, he answers questions from the Stone Arch Books staff. Thanks, Sean!

Stone Arch Books: How did you become an illustrator?
Sean Tiffany: Art was always something I did as a kid. If I had the free time, you'd find me drawing. When I was 18, I went to art school in New Jersey at the Joe Kubert School of Cartoon and Graphic Art. I loved the assignments and loved to be able to draw all day for school and homework. Once I graduated, I became an assistant artist at a studio that did a lot of production work for comic book merchandise. I learned a lot there with a ton of on the job training. I left when I started to work for Marvel Comics, doing a lot of airbrush painting and inking work. I finally got sick of New Jersey and moved to Colorado. Don't ask me why...it seemed like a good idea at the time. I've been busy drawing for a living ever since.

SAB: What’s your illustrating process?
ST: I get the newest Jake Maddox manuscript from my art director and read through it, taking notes as I go and doing little sketches. Then, usually during lunch at my favorite bagel shop, I draw out little thumbnail sketches of each illustration so I can give myself a blueprint of what I am going to draw and show my art director what my ideas are. I also do little head shots of each of the main characters. Once everything is approved I pencil out each illustration for the book. I send those off to my art director and await approval. Once those are OKed I go to inking each piece. When everything is inked I scan my finished pieces into the computer and add grays to the interior pieces and color to the covers using Adobe Photoshop. I also use Adobe Illustrator sometimes to add numbers to jerseys or logos to t-shirts. Anything to add those little details. When all is done and looks good, I upload the finished art to Stone Arch's website and await my paycheck! Hooray art!

SAB: What were you like as a kid?
ST: I was quiet and a bit shy. I also think I was very very focused on art to the point where it's all I cared about. Getting older, I've learned to open up a bit more to new things and have found new loves for sports, like hockey and football, and playing music. All these things I wish I had loved and tried when I was younger. Ah well, better late than never.

SAB: What’s your favorite book?
ST: L. Frank Baum's The Wizard of Oz. I absolutely love the archetypes of all the various characters and always find myself drawn back to this story. The fact that it's survived so long in so many forms proves it's a classic story able to stand the test of times. But, even with all the various interpretations, it's hard to beat the original book.

SAB: When you were a kid (the age of your readers) what did you want to be when you grew up?
ST: An artist...always an artist. For me, there really wasn't any other choice. Now, back to the drawing board!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

9 THINGS I LOVED ABOUT IRA (A countdown to a reading explosion!)

9. Words, words, words
Being a logophile and lover of books since elementary school, I enjoy being around words and those who like words – readers, writers, critics, fans. And I get jazzed whenever I’m with a group of people who are as concerned and connected with literacy as the IRA crowd. Sitting at one of the convention cafes with a hot chocolate or walking through the exhibit hall, overhearing bytes of conversations about kids and reading and “reading assessment” and “instructional strategies” made me realize at once that I had found my people.

8. Sign Time
On the third day of the conference I had the opportunity to autograph books at the Red Brick Learning booth. Red Brick is the classroom division of Capstone Publishers, so it was a natural fit for me to sign there and meet with those teachers who actually use my books in the classroom. What a thrill to hear about kids getting excited about the Library of Doom, or one of my Superman stories, or even the book I wrote for Picture Window, If You Were A Palindrome. (I always wished I had one of those names that was a palindrome, like Bob or Otto!)

7. The Red Brick booth
The booth looked great! Colorful book covers, eye-popping posters hanging against the black backdrop, and cool videos playing on a monitor.

6. Jon Scieszka
Yes! I was able to meet him – the Ambassador of Books for Boys. He is one of my all-time heroes. A funny, humble, and creative guy who never stops inspiring people to read and to write. And I like his hairstylist. In fact, I think he and I have the same one.

5. The Food.
Just kidding. Although I did share a lunch outdoors with Joan Berge, the president of Capstone Fiction, on one of those glorious spring Minnesota afternoons. Azure sky, puffy clouds, bright sunshine, and a humidity-free 70 degrees. Like a day at the lake, right?

4. Standing Room Only
I co-presented a workshop on graphic novels in the classroom with Dr. Stephen Sargent from Northeastern State University in Oklahoma. Stephan is a brilliant professor of reading and literacy and was a great partner to work with (and had some excellent hand-outs, btw). The two of us had been told to expect between 25 and 30 participants. We had 72! The graphic wave continues to roll!
And I received great feedback on some of our Graphic Revolve retellings, like Swiss Family Robinson. It’s amazing how a even single illustration can provoke so much thought and delight and discussion!
3. Swag
Lots of free posters, banners, books, bookmarks, and giveaways. I had fun handing out our Stone Arch DC Superhero poster and the one on the Power of Reading. The graphic of the four Recon Academy teen heroes looks appropriately high-tech and tough.

2. Invisible Creatures
The one major element of the crowd that you couldn’t see, but definitely made their presence known each day – the kids! That’s why we were all there. To get kids reading better, reading more, and reading for pleasure. There was enough energy and creativity at the Minneapolis IRA conference to explode in a cloud of literacy that would cover the country. I think it’s begun.

1. Blast off!

--Michael Dahl
Editorial Director

Monday, May 11, 2009

Reading builds teamwork

I wrote Over the Net about a volleyball player struggling to master a skill and struggling with her self-confidence. Although Allie plays volleyball, I saw a lot of her in many of the athletes on my varsity basketball team during our 2008-2009 season. We practiced very hard and loved to play, but we couldn’t seem to execute skills in game situations.

I decided to have all of my varsity players read Over the Net and then autograph my copy as both a team-building exercise and a motivation. Some girls read the book in groups out loud to each other. Others read alone on the bus rides to games. Without fail, the girls identified with Allie. My idea did not help us win any games, but I got my message to my athletes without preaching, and I got a great team souvenir!

--Val Priebe

It's Sports and Fitness Month. Today's post comes from author Val Priebe, who wrote the text for the Jake Maddox books Running Rivals, Full Court Dreams, Over the Net, and Stolen Bases. She is also a high-school basketball and lacrosse coach in Minneapolis.

Friday, May 8, 2009

IRA was so fun, but don't take my word for it--check out our author Chris Everheart's blog post about signing books over at his blog, Million Boys Read. (Chris is actively trying to get boys to read--awesome.)

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Free Comic Book Day

362 days! If you missed Free Comic Book Day last Saturday, May 2, that’s how long you’ll have to wait until the next celebration. I, for one, will be marking my calendar. Since 2002, this annual freebie frenzy has gotten bigger and better every year, and this past weekend was no exception. Not only has the list of available comics grown (40 free comics this year!!), but the variety of comics has expanded as well. From Drawn & Quarterly’s retro pick Nancy & Melvin Monster and laughs for the little ones with The Simpsons to DC and Marvel’s contemporary superhero fare and more grown-up graphics like Mercy Sparks and Love and Rockets, Free Comic Book Day has something for everyone. So this coming week, I’ll be rereading my freebies, and hopefully kids (and adults) around the country will be doing the same. And, if you didn’t get your grab bag last weekend, there’s still a chance to pick up some great free reads (including Stone Arch Books) before next year . . . at the library.

Donnie Lemke
Senior Editor, SAB

Monday, May 4, 2009

We are at IRA Minneapolis this week. We've got author signings at our Red Brick Learning booth all three days--come by booth 1526 and say hi!