A GLORIOUS FREEDOM | INTERVIEW WITH CHERYL STRAYED

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The glory of growing older is the freedom to be more truly ourselves—with age we gain the liberty to pursue bold new endeavors and worry less about what other people think. In this richly illustrated volume, bestselling author and artist Lisa Congdon explores the power of women over the age of forty who are thriving and living life on their own terms. Profiles, interviews, and essays from women—including Vera Wang, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Julia Child, Cheryl Strayed, and many more—who’ve found creative fulfillment and accomplished great things in the second half of their lives are lavishly illustrated and hand-lettered in Congdon’s signature style. The perfect gift for women of all ages, A Glorious Freedom celebrates extraordinary lives and redefines what it means to gain wisdom and maturity.

The following is an extract from A Glorious Freedom by Lisa Congdon.


Cheryl’s famous memoir Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail was published when she was 43 years old. It took her two and a half years to trace the steps, challenges, and revelations she faced during her three-month, 1,100-mile hike from the Mojave Desert to the Pacific Northwest onto paper—and about two minutes for the finished book to land on the New York Times bestseller list. In the months following, Cheryl experienced instant fame—from Oprah’s Book Club 2.0 to the film adaptation championed by Reese Witherspoon and Nick Hornby, Wild went, well, wild. It is an international bestseller and a recipient of the Barnes & Noble Discover Award and the Oregon Book Award. Cheryl is also the author of the New York Times bestsellers Tiny Beautiful Things and Brave Enough. Her first novel, Torch, was published in 2007. Her essays have been published in the New York Times Magazine, the Washington Post, Vogue, and Tin House, among others, and her work has been selected three times for inclusion in the The Best American Essays. She anonymously authored The Rumpus’s popular Dear Sugar advice column from 2010 to 2012, for which she now cohosts a podcast. She currently lives and writes in Portland, Oregon.

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Lisa: You worked for many years at writing, and it wasn’t until just a few short years ago, in your early 40s, you published the book that made you a household name. I encounter a lot of young artists who imagine that if they just concoct some magical formula they can have “instant success.” How would you describe the role of purpose, work, and patience in your own journey?

Cheryl: I was a successful writer long before Wild was published. What happened with Wild wasn’t “success.” It was crazy lightning striking. I’m always taken aback when people imply that I achieved success in my 40s. In fact, I had a pretty steady upward career trajectory as a writer, and all of that came about because, as you say, I showed up each day to do the work. I began publishing in my 20s. By the time I was in my early 30s I had won many awards and grants, and was publishing in respected magazines, and I’d earned my MFA in creative writing. In my mid-30s I sold my first novel to a major publisher and it was broadly reviewed and sold well. Meanwhile, I was continuing to publish essays in prominent places and I was also teaching writing.

I was known in the literary community. Then Wild happened and with that came fame and a much broader international audience. It was astounding and glorious, but it didn’t, for me, mark the beginning of the sense that I’d arrived as a writer. I was already there and I’m still here—working my tail off. That’s the magic formula: work.

Lisa: One of the most life-changing lessons I’ve learned over the past ten years is the power of embracing all of my life experience, and this is something you write about as well. Why is this idea of owning and learning to love all of your experience (even the stuff that makes us cringe or that would normally make us feel shame), why is it so important?

Cheryl: I’ve long believed our mistakes and failures teach us as much as our victories and successes. When you acknowledge the full spectrum of your possibility—as both someone who can be great and as someone who is sometimes not so great—you can bring the full force of your humanity to everything you do.

Lisa: What for you is the best part of getting older?

Cheryl: Feeling more secure about who I am. Feeling stronger about being okay with disappointing people. Putting up less of a facade. Being gentler with myself and others, too.

Lisa: What do you think is the relationship between forgiveness and the ability to age joyfully?

Cheryl: I’ve written about forgiveness a lot and it all pretty much boils down to the fact that when you can’t forgive people who have harmed you (or forgive yourself for the harm you’ve done to others) you stay locked in that struggle. Forgiveness is, to me, really acceptance. Accepting that what’s true is true. It’s saying, this is the way it was and onward we go.

Lisa: What are the three greatest lessons you’ve learned in the last ten years?

Cheryl: 1. Saying no is one form of saying yes. 2. Our ideas about famous people are projections of who we are, not a reflection of who they are. 3. Everyone struggles. Everyone hurts. Everyone wants to be told it’s all going to be okay.

Lisa: What advice do you have for women who fear getting older?

Cheryl: The fear of getting older is about the false notion that one’s power was rooted in the things that youth offers us—namely, beauty. My advice would be to see that for the lie that it always was. Our power is never about how pretty we are. Our power is about how we live our lives. Start living it.


A Glorious Freedom by Lisa Congdon publishes on 03 October 2017. Find out more here. 

See the stunning book trailer here

Celtic Tales

Kate Forrester, illustrator behind the bold illustrations in Celtic Tales, talks inspiration, loving what you do and the beauty that comes from stepping out of your comfort zone.

Celtic Tales_Book Cover

Every now and then I get sent a commission that really allows me to push the boat out and create something really special. So often my jobs are very heavily art directed and don’t require as much imagination as you would think but this was no such project.

Before I had even got my hands on the manuscript, I knew this project was going to be right up my street! When i spoke to Emily, the designer from Chronicle, I knew we would be approaching this with the same vision. As well as illustrating the stories, she wanted me to design various patterns and bring the traditional Celtic knot work into my work and those are the kind of details i adore. I knew that it would work well to keep the illustration quite simple and the colours flat – my work is often likened to paper cuts or silhouette art – so this balanced nicely with the decorative borders and end papers she had in mind. Despite the traditional nature of the tales, I knew from the start that i didn’t want my illustrations to be too quaint or conventional so this was a challenge to overcome.

Once I read the manuscript, I was even more excited to be asked to illustrate such a rich collection of stories. There were sea monsters, princesses and even a 3 headed giant! Being very character driven, it was quite different to my usual commissions which tend to involve hand lettering as the main starting point. But it was refreshing to do something different and out of my comfort zone.

As luck would have it, right about the time I accepted this job,there was a big exhibition at The British Museum on the art and identity of The Celts. It was such a perfect start to my research. The exhibition was brilliant – dark and atmospheric and featuring lots of knot patterned metal and ceramic tools in pleasing shapes.

The way I work is to sketch out the rough layout of each story illustration using pencil and pen on paper and fill in heavy areas of dark shades to make sure they are more or less balanced designs. I do not keep my sketches and they are not beautiful!

Rough Sketches_Celtic Tales

 

But I was happy to know that my roughs were accepted pretty much as they were with very little amends before moving on to the final images.
The next stage for me was to develop the colour scheme as this was to tie all the tales together and was to be quite limited (I think there are only 8 or 9 shades in the whole book.) I also saw this as a chance to inject a more modern element to the book with some nice clashing shades of coral pink and mustard yellow. Colour is always important in my work but for this project it was vital to get it right!

Celtic tales Colour scheme

I guess the most laborious (but satisfying!) part of the task was researching and re-imagining the Celtic knot borders. Luckily my research at the British Museum had  left me with a wealth of books and visual reference to draw from. Once the 16 designs were complete, the cover was a breeze. I simply chose my 4 favourite characters from the stories and used them as a starting point to fit in the rough layout given to me by Emily.

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We tried a few different colour ways but i was very pleased when my favourite coral and teal version was chosen for the final jacket.

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It was a dream project and I was so excited when the final book landed on my desk this week. I just hope everyone else enjoys reading those crazy , wonderful tales as much as I did!

We think you did an incredible job Kate! 

Find out more about Kate and Celtic Tales here.

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Meet Tinyville Town’s Residents!

Welcome to Tinyville Town!

Tinyville Town
Text and illustrations copyright © 2016 Brian Biggs

Tinyville Town, a new series from the bestselling author and illustrator Brian Biggs, is launching with three books: Tinyville Town Get’s to Work, a world-establishing picture book that introduces the town and its many residents; I’m a Veterinarian, a day in the life of the town vet; and I’m a Firefighter, a day in the life of Charlie the town firefighter.

The series is set in a cozy community where mobile phones don’t exist, the bus is always on time and everyone buys their doughnuts at same bakery. The people are kind and everyone does their part to keep things running smoothly. Tinyville Town is a growing, thriving city full of interesting people. They can’t wait to show you around!

Welcome to Tinyville Town

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Tinyville Townsfolk Tinyville Townsfolk

Available now: 

Tinyville Town: Gets to Work

Tinyville Town: I'm a Firefighter  Tinyville Town: I'm a Veterinarian

Coming Spring 2017: Tinyville Town: I’m a Librarian

 

The Evolution of Frank Einstein

FRANKcoverscan

 

I first learned about this book series back in the fall of 2012. Jon had just come up with the idea and was tossing ideas around. I worked up some sketches (seen below), and the next thing I knew, there was a contract and a deadline. As Jon wrote the first book over most of 2013, I completed work on Everything Goes and some other books, checking in every now and then and producing the odd sketch here and there.

I’d never worked on a book where the author had not yet finished the manuscript. This created a very different kind of process, where I was sketching covers that included characters that did not even end up in the final script, for example. We didn’t know what the characters should look like, and we didn’t know what personalities the robots had. At some points, the tall robot would be the erudite, smart guy, and the short robot would be the emotional goofball. Jon felt that this overlapped C3PO and R2D2 in Star Wars a bit much, so he went with the reverse in the end. In some ways, my early sketches influenced some of the characters and scenes in the book and it was pretty interesting to be part of the process so early. For this reason, these early sketches I’m posting here are different from early sketches of most of my projects. Interesting to note that on the cover sketch, the name of the book didn’t even exist yet. Jon went through several possible titles, some of which you’ll see in later sketches here.

The first sketch of Frank and the robots. It's like looking at dinosaurs.

Early early cover design.

Klanks. Or are they Klinks?

Very early Klink. He became  Klank.

early versions of Klink and Klank

Sketch of Frank used in the original proposal.

Robot Army?

We tried various directions as we contemplated the cover art. One of the suggestions from former teenage heart-throb Charlie Kochman, the editor of the series, was to consider an invention of some kind on the cover. Like something Rube Goldberg would design. I love Goldberg and this made a lot of sense to me immediately, but I had no idea how we’d pull it off, and the idea of “inventing” my own Goldberg was pretty daunting. Here are a few that show the invention idea just kind of dummied in, and then a batch of sketches that show a more action-packed cover that I thought was reminiscent of a movie poster.

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FRANKsketches

We liked aspects of these, but I was having a hard time making them work. I really liked the movie-poster ones, but apparently no one else did!

Jon had suggested in various ways that the books might look like journals. Like something a scientist would carry around in their pocket to make notes and record observations. I knocked off this field-guide-looking version at some point, and Jon and I both loved it. There was no way that we’d ever get this to be “the cover” but it was an interesting place to start.

A Field Guide to Robots, apparently

Not knowing then that this was eventually going to be a dead-end street, I started digging up reference and inspiration for this kind of thing. Journals, science-fiction manuals, and especially old text books had such a great look to them. I felt that with the older crowd that we were shooting for here (as opposed to 3-5 year olds as we might be for a picture book) that we might be able to do something with this that had a retro-sophisticated spin.

inspiration

Several directions came from this exploration. I loved the idea of breaking up the cover into these panels, where we could show various characters and scenes from the book, but also symbolize various scientific principles and ideas. They reminded me of comic-book panels, which I thought was perfect. I imagined they would be in three-color printing: black and two other colors. You can see that when the two colors overlap, they create a third.

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FRANKas-textbook

Amazingly, we got a preliminary go-ahead on this direction with the caveat that there was one more meeting coming up where the concept had to pass muster. I kept my fingers crossed. Alas, it was a no-go. One never knows exactly who said what or how things went, but the general consensus that I understood was something along the lines of “oh my god, everyone hated this.” It was too subtle and esoteric for the kind of audience they were aiming at, and it was just too weird and busy. The problem now is that we were late late late with the cover, and marketing really needed something to work with. Chad, the art director of the project, went back to some early concepts that were more straightforward, more direct, simpler to understand, and simpler to execute. Sounds like a plan.
I’d designed this type treatment for the Frank Einstein title, which was a nice anchor.

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FRANK-EINSTEIN-oldtype

Chad’s direction was something like “let’s just get the three main characters in the middle, doing something, and let’s put the type on the top.” It worked!

finally, something good!

Here’s a cleaner furthering of this idea.

Frank cover sketch

Everybody loved it! They had no choice! We had to get this done! But everyone loved it anyway!

Closer....

Ironically, there were some issues with the title typography which Chad solved with the sleek sophisticated logotype below. As a small aside, this is the first book I’ve ever illustrated that I didn’t hand-letter the title. Just a little trivia for you there.

Chad's type treatment

I designed this atomic-themed background pattern to replace the graph paper,

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Chad put everything together into a crazy complicated Photoshop file, and voila! We have a cover.

The final cover

Now that was easy, wasn’t it?

One of the cool, more subtle things about this cover (and the five remaining as well) is that it’s not just a scene of the characters “doing something.” We kept the Rube Goldberg-inspired riff, where the mechanics of the illustration are explained with text on the back cover. Here’s an example of a Goldberg cartoon:

Rube Goldberg

And here is the text as it was placed on the back cover of Frank Einstein.

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I’m also posting a few interior illustrations and some of the early earliest sketches of the same scenes. Certain aspects of the book Jon had locked in from the beginning. Like the climactic confrontation at an old industrial site/factory/power plant. And the Frankenstein riff at the beginning. It’s weird to see the drawings here, created more than a year apart.

climactic scene, after

climactic scene, before

opening scene, before

opening scene, after

Again, the book is out now now now and you can go get it at your favorite bookseller or, if you must, a big chain store or online retailer.

Read the book? Like the book? Leave a comment…
Thanks and please enjoy!

Secret Sidekicks

 

SofieMagdeleneDahl

The Who, The What and, The When -A love letter to the unsung heroes of history. Including some literary geniuses…

Ever wondered who inspired Roald Dahl’s stories?

SOFIE MAGDALENE (HESSELBERG) DAHL 1885 – 1967

ROALD DAHL’S MOTHER

An old, wrinkled grandmother fills out every inch of an armchair, chewing with relish on a foul-smelling black cigar, in the Witches, one of the many popular children’s stories written by Roald Dahl. Smoke encircles her large body as she tells the young main character the “gospel truth” about how to identify witches. “She was a wonderful story-teller and I was enthralled by everything she told me,” the character narrates.

The description purposefully echoes how Roald thought of his own mother, Sofie. He based the grandmother’s character on her in a tribute to “undoubtedly the absolute primary influence on my own life,” Roald says in More About Boy, an expanded version of his memoir of his earlier years.

The Norwegian Sofie married Roald’s father, Harald, in 1911, and she moved to Wales to be with him and his two children from a previous marriage. She had three children of her own, two girls and Roald, before her seven-year-old daughter, Astri, died from appendicitis in 1920. Only three weeks later, Harald also passed away from pneumonia, leaving a pregnant Sofie alone to raise her soon-to-be five children.

Rather than return to Norway to live with her parents, she respected her late husband’s wishes that she stay in Wales and have her children educated in British schools. And despite her children’s mischievous activities while growing up, she was “a rock, a real rock, always on your side whatever you’d done,” Roald noted. “It gave me the most tremendous feeling of security.” Roald was her favourite child, and although the family called him “Boy,” she also called him “Apple.”

To entertain the children, Sofie told tales, pulling creative inspiration from folklore from her home country. “When we were young, she told us stories about Norwegian trolls and all the other mythical Norwegian creatures that lived in the dark pine forests, for she was a great teller of tales,” Roald wrote in More About Boy. “Her memory was prodigious and nothing that ever happened to her in her life was forgotten.”

Roald reciprocated this creative storytelling when Sofie enrolled him into boarding school when he was nine years old. He started writing letters to Sofie, telling stories about his life that meant to entertain and amuse.

In one letter in 1929, after Sofie gave him a pair of roller skates for his birthday, Roald tells his mother about skating in his school’s yard. “At one time I had eight chaps pulling me with a long rope, at a terrific lick, and I sat down in the middle of it,” Roald wrote. “My bottom is all blue now!”

From those very first letters until Sofie died thirty-two years later in 1967, he wrote her at least once a week whenever he was not home, including his time in school, when he worked with the Shell Oil company in Africa, and when he flew with the Royal Air Force in the Mediterranean during World War II.

Sofie secretly collected every single letter, amounting to more than six hundred from 1925 until 1945, into neat bundles with green tape, according to Roald. Only one term’s worth of letters are missing: the fall of 1928, which were damaged in a bombing in 1940. At the bottom of each letter, he signed his love with his given name—all except his first semester at boarding school, when he simply wrote “love from Boy.”

written by JACKI E LEAVITT

www.jackie-leavitt.com

illustrated by J ENSINE ECKWALL

www.jensineeckwall.com

The Who, The What and the When: 65 Artists Illustrate the Secret Sidekicks of History, reveals 65 people you’ve probably never heard of, but who helped shape the word as we know it. Muses and neighbours, friends and relatives, accomplices and benefactors, such as Michael and Joy Brown, who gifted Harper Lee a year’s worth of wages to help her write To Kill a Mockingbird. Or John Ordway, the colleague who walked with Lewis and Clark every step of the way. Each eye-opening story of these unsung heroes is written by a notable historian and illustrated by a top indie artist, making The Who, the What, and the When a treasure trove of word and image for history buffs, art lovers and anyone who rejoices in unexpected discovery.

Want to find out more? Follow the #SecretSidekicks hashtag!

5 Question Monday

Illustrator of Happy Birthday Madame Chapeau, Liverpudlian, milliner and all-round lovely chap, David Roberts answers out London Fashion Week 5 Question Monday!

1.       How do you like your eggs in the morning?

Poached 

2.       What’s your favourite joke?

Oh it’s to rude to repeat.

3.       What film character are you most like?

Ratty from The Wind in the Willows, I am never happier than when I am in a rowing boat.

4.       What is the first book you ever read?

A Hole is to Dig by Ruth Krauss and Maurice Sendak, I bought it when I was 8 or 9 and it is still my favourite book ever ever ever, it contains the words Boodlyboodlyboodly and Doodleedoodleedoodleedoo! Need I say more.

5.       Would you rather make a hat for The Queen or Paddington Bear?

Is this a trick question? I think Paddington Bear would get sticky marmalade all over it, which would be horrendous to clean, so I will go for the Queen, I would love to see her in one of Madame Chapeau’s creations! Or Paddington bear’s hat!

BOODLYBOODLYBOODLY David! We think the Queen in Paddington Bear’s hat would be second only to the Queen in a Madame Chapeau creation!

http://www.davidrobertsillustration.com/

Photograph of David by Lynn

Happy Birthday Madame Chapeau, 9781419712197, Abrams Books for Young Readers, £10.99, September 14

Magma – #BookstoreoftheWeek

Oh happy day!!

It is time for Bookstore of the Week! Today we are taking a peek inside Magma.

This dynamic bookstore has three locations, two in London and one in Manchester (you lucky things.) We could be a little biased, but, we have a soft-spot for their Clerkenwell store… *pictures are from this location*

Magma is a story of two disheartened book lovers who wanted more than 3 for 2’s and floors upon floors of books. Although that is the dream for some, Marc and Montse wished for something more…Inspiring.

Something more…Vibrant.

Something more…Niche.

Something more…well, just MORE

The small space they began with (they started their venture in Covent Garden back in 2000) forced them to be selective about their products & although they have expanded through their two other stores, and their range of titles along with it, their selectivity remains. Meaning Magma is a collection of handpicked books & gifts (and t-shirts!) that can’t help but enthuse. A haven for design savvy, Magma, is engaging and open. Plus, we love them because they love our books!

Magma, thank you for following your dream & for getting over the fight about Bjork *you’ve gotta read their biography to get that joke…http://www.magmabooks.com/content/service/biography.asp*We think you are champs. Three cheers for Magma!

Hip Hip, Hooray!

http://www.magmabooks.com/

Magma Clerkenwell
117-119 Clerkenwell Road
London EC1R 5BY
United Kingdom

T +44 (0)20 7242 9503

enquiries@magmabooks.com