Tuesday, June 23, 2009

SRS Smackdown Spotlight #4: Kjersten Anna Hayes

I think it's time to hear from an illustrator (and picture book writer), don't you?

But first, don't forget to stop by Holly's where she's spotlighting Beth Kephart.

But let's get back to spotlighting an illustrator smackdowning. She was our first Whip of the Week, it's Kjersten Anna Hayes! Visit her website, Collage Clips blog, and Etsy Shop!
First, I asked Kjersten to tell us a about her current revision project:

My current revision project is an illustrated dummy of a picture book story I wrote, called Patchwork by the River. I love working on it because the main characters, Opossum, Crow and Armadillo are scrappy, full of heart and fun to draw. Plus Tree houses are involved. Who wouldn’t want to sit around drawing tree houses?

I’m also working on an illustration assignment for the SCBWI Nevada Mentor program that I’m participating in. It’s a blast.

And for a revision tip, Kjersten offers the following:

I try to approach drawing, writing and revising all with a spirit of play. This is especially important with revision because it’s the easiest part to bog and clog up on.

What I mean is, revision can often be like the parachute jumper trying not to land on the only tree in the field but ends up there anyway because it’s the only part of the field she was focusing on. When you focus on what doesn’t work with your writing, you clog up your mind; you end up tangled in your obstacles because they were what you focused on.

Instead of focusing on what sucks in my work, I prefer to aim my wings towards where I want them to go. Revision is asking the question, "What can I do to make this better?" over and over and over. And then it’s answering that question with a spirit of play by brainstorming.

Brainstorming simply means trying lots of stuff. It means sitting down and working. I ask "what if" questions and "how about I try" questions. I draw and draw and draw some more. I keep trying different things like I’m playfully solving a puzzle in the Sunday paper. If something new or better comes along, I take note. I hone in. I draw until one part is markedly improved and then move to the next challenge.

When I revise, I go through this process with every drawing, every composition and every page turn. Even the ones I already like. I ask myself the same question over and over. "What can I do to make this better? What can I do to make this better? What can I do to make this better?" Then when I’m done I go back around for a second revision or a third or as many as it takes.
Because that’s my job as an illustrator: to make my picture books be the best they can possibly be.

Great message, Kjersten! Hey, smackdowners...where will you put your focus during this last week of the smackdown?

Plus, I love Kjersten's fresh take on journaling...check it out HERE.


Martha Brockenbrough said...

Such great advice! No wonder KJ is producing such dazzling work these days.

Sara Easterly said...

I agree with Martha, Kjersten. Really great advice that applies to us all! Thank you for sharing your insights with us all!

Kjersten said...

You all are super nice. Thanks for the spotlight, Jolie!

BJW said...

All right Kjersten! Good advice and I loved your pics and thoughts on journaling as a playground too.

We writers tend to be an uptight bunch and it takes a clever crossover writer/illustrator like yourself to kick open the prison bars and show us the light. ( lines like prison bars indeed)

Thank you Kjersten and thank you Jolie for continuing to spotlight clever people.

holly cupala said...

I love to see Kjersten's and hear her wise advice! Thank you, Kjersten and Jolie.

Jaime Temairik said...

Totally tubular as always, Kjersten! Dazzling as Martha says and insightful. Thank you! I also recommend Kjersten's videos on her site:

Maybe I mean 'video', I think that is the only, so here is a non-subtle hint to make more, please :)

BJW said...


Just watched Kirsten's book dragon video and...

HOLY ^%(#&%!!!!!! What a freaking creative force of nature you are!! WOW.

I'm impressed. Can you tell? Book Dragon is published yes? Up for the caldecott? No, well it sure as spit will be. Man, you guys (ok pretty much all girls but you know what I mean) post nice friendly comments and then I go and learn a little here and there from your blogs and grow more and more impressed and then WHAM, your talent blows me on my rear. What the heck is going on around here?

Martha is a closet hemingway (but funny too), not to mention could step into any pub house and take over their children's book section in a second...

Kjersten is nice to everybody and very complimentary, and there she is quietly putting Robert Sabuda to shame. Not to mention revolutionizing children's book multi-media presentations... Geesh. (Kjersten my dad illustrated the pics for my first book on Elephant dung paper, thought you might like to know that)

Then Cocoa Stomp doesn't stomp cocoa at all just is funnier and cleverer... ( more clever, Martha help) than us all and has more talent in her little cup of water she rinses her brushes in. She's good at everything and a clever etsy merchant to boot. Phew.

Sara Easterly and Jolie are on their way to running the country after the bang-up job they did with the WWA SCBWI and both dang talented in their own rights as writers... All while having families, life, puppies, and everything else to juggle. What? No problem.

Holly, yeah, we'll see you on the NY times bestseller list and your books in the movies and all that, not to mention on all the children's book writer's fashion lists. Is there a kid book paparazzi? There will be just as soon as you and your hubby enter the NY scene...

Who am I missing? I turn around and there's talent smacking me in the face left and right. I don't belong here, where's the dang bunny slope?

Sorry this is so long. I'm hopped up on coffee. But you all impress me. Had to be said.

BJW said...

Martha, I meant kid book DEPARTMENT, like at Scholastic, Harper Collins, etc. Not section, like an aisle in a bookstore or something. You'd have titles like VP or Senior Editor or The Next Ursula Nordstrom, before or after your name and on your door.

And not pub like where you order a guinness but like publishing house.

Kjersten said...

I'm blushing. Thanks, Ben. And Holly, Jaime, Sara, and Martha.

I second Ben's comment that there's some pretty awesome talent lurking around bloggy land. I constantly feel humbled and amazed at the work of my fellow writers and illustrators.

Ben: That's awesome that your dad used elephant dung paper! That stuff is so cool. Or I should say warm. It really warms up the paintings and gives them texture too.

i, chihuahua said...

i agree with bjw in calling kjerstin a force of nature. she never ceases to inspire me, as well as offer up such essential seeds of advice.

thank you for showing us the potential of relentless play as the foundation for hard work!