Monday, November 14, 2016

A bear hug, a mouse hug, take one, give one...

Bear Hugs FREE Take one! Give One! ©Shirley Ng-Benitez
For everyone – #hugsfromkidlit

Hi everyone -
It's been a very, very big and long week. 

Though you don't know me as one to talk of my political beliefs, etc., I'm writing this down now as I have to share my thoughts on why I felt compelled to join the kidlit community with the piece above.

I've listened and read so much this past week and have spent the past year and a half immersed in the political news and world events–especially our own heated and contentious US election. Our country has become such a divided place, and as I continue to educate my children, I continue to educate myself about injustices, rights, the economy, race relations, global issues, religion and of course politics. My personal feelings about the election results are mine and though you may not agree, I hope that you respect mine, but I have to say that I am truly saddened about the outcome. I am working to understand all aspects of what this means for the future, but will continue to hope for wisdom and compassion to surround the transition from the Obama to Trump Presidency, and that it guides the future President and his staff, for the betterment of our country and future generations. I state this not to go into dialog about my thoughts, but just to let you know that I continue to support and hold high the work of people who treat people equally and justly, and without prejudice. Respectful words mean something to me, they always have, they always will. Devolving can be corrected and must be corrected. We must educate others by listening, reading, learning, and doing.

I've been thinking a lot about the recent movement by Jarrett J. Krosoczka (@studioJJK on Twitter) and the kidlit community (#hugsfromkidlit on Twitter) and their efforts to bring hope to the children in our communities who may feel scared or worried, or worse. I'm joining by offering this small piece so that educators and librarians can print and post images of hope in their schools. I'll be donating to organizations who continue to work for the rights of the underprivileged and underrepresented this year as well.

If you'd like to print this for yourself, please feel free to do so.

We can all help guide our children with messages of hope, compassion, wisdom and empathy and that is what is intended for in this piece.

Sending my best for a peaceful and happy holiday season ahead to all of you ~ Shirley

Monday, September 5, 2016

Hello, it's been awhile...dustin' off the blog with a long post: Sun and sand (vacation), SF Illustrator's Day, an update...

Warning, this is a mighty long post, so if you feel like cuttin' to the chase, you can fast forward and leap to this great recap of the 10th Annual SF SCBWI Illustrator Day, by Sarah Baker.
Hello dear bloggy friends, it's been far too long and I apologize for such a delay between posts.

Truth be told, I've been offline ever since I posted my last "100 day" sketch because after that, I prepared for a fantastic family vacation right before school started for my kids and then it was right back to school and two huge deadlines for work and I'm finally able to come up for air. It had been five years since our previous vacation, so I focused on really enjoying the time away with my family. I can't tell you how absolutely beautiful and calming the entire trip was and I highly recommend taking breaks from work to recharge and rest. :)

The beautiful views in Kauai - McBryde & Allerton Botanical Gardens, Polihale St. Park, Poipu, and more...
Once back from vacation, I have been frantically working on projects in order to make deadlines, and although I've loved the work, the pace has been in 6th gear. I haven't had a chance until this weekend to be able to share a proper post as one of my deadlines has a bit of a reprieve, for which I am grateful (thanks to my agent and editor...thank you!).

Two weeks ago, between projects, I was able to prepare very quickly, a printed booklet of the "100 day project" so that I could bring it to the 10th Annual SCBWI SF Illustrator's Day in San Francisco. I had a few hours Thursday night to print, and then a few more on Friday, the night before the event to create the book. YouTube has it's merits, I must say..and this super video by Sea Lemon inspired me on Thursday night to go run out on Friday to buy some waxed thread, an awl, and some curved bookbinding needles. Friday evening came quickly as I paused, played, paused, played the video to finally stitch up my book, and here it was actually quite meditative once I got the swing of it!

Moving on to the portfolio, for every year, because we've had the fortune of being critiqued by panel members in the industry, and especially from Professor John Clapp, SJSU, who stated that year after year, we should have fresh new work to show, I scrambled to print the latest work since showing my work last year. Thankfully the NYSCBWI conference I attended in February pushed me to create new work and so some of the pieces stayed in this latest book. My goal in preparing this book was to bring pieces to discuss with my paid portfolio critquer, the amazingly inspiring Marla Frazee! When the guests were announced for this year's event, I immediately signed up and chose Marla as I have been such a big fan of hers for many, many years. Her technique, her stories, her breadth of work continues to inspire me, and after spending the day listening to her, her amazing editor, Allyn Johnston, VP & Publisher of Beach Lane Books, a San Diego-based imprint of Simon & Schuster's children's imprints, and Ann Bobco, Executive Art Director overseeing picture book design in three of S&S's children's imprints: Atheneum, Beach Lane, and McElderry Books, I am even more inspired.

I passed out late Friday night, and was back up early to head to San Francisco (about a 2 hour drive), and was so happy to see my friends, author/illustrators Tracy Bishop, Laura Zarrin, and Joy Steuerwald at the reg. table. They saved seats for me and author/illustrator Laura Lee, a friend from the NY conference up front which was fantastico! As I settled in, I said hello to a woman a few seats away, Debbi she said, and it was noneother than Deb Pehrson Haun! What a treat to get to know and meet Debbi as we've been online friends for some time now. During the day, I was thrilled to see my friend, Bethanie Murguia (my roomie from the NY conference) and catch up with her, and friends Susan Rankin-Pollard, Josh Nash, Brian Bowes, as well as meeting Elizabeth Stevens Omlor and many others. One of the highlights of these events is getting to see friends and meet new ones..I highly recommend getting out of our bat-caves! :)
Debbi and Laura
Debbi, me, Elizabeth, Josh

Laura, Phyllis, Tracy, Joy, Sue, and me
Lea Lyon and I
The stellar event, hosted by SCBWI SF/South Illustrator Coordinator author/illustrator Lea Lyon,
and her team: SCBWI SF/South RA, Naomi Kinsman Downing, SCBWI SF/South ARA – Tim McCanna and SCBWI SF/South ARA – Kristi Wright, was held at the Fire House, Fort Mason, San Francisco. What a fantastic venue each year!

We started the day listening to Allyn and Marla speak about how they create their books together and were treated to many great background stories of how these books came to be: A Couple of Boys Have Best Week Ever, The Farmer And The Clown, Is Mommy? and Boss Baby.

After a break where we could view portfolios and critques were held, we listened to Ann Bobco and her design process including Marla's. Ann's design aesthetic and choices of letterforms were fascinating to me as we viewed her beautiful work on All The World,  Is Mommy?,  The Man in the Moon and more!

After lunch, we listened to Sarah Baker, Director, Illustration and Artist Programs at SCBWI headquarters, and Priscilla Burris, US Illustrator Coordinator and member of SCBWI Board of Advisors speak about the benefits of the SCBWI and how there are so many ways to participate and share your illustration with so many viewers around the world. We listened to Marla, Ally and Ann talk about Boss Baby, and the sequel, Bossier Baby. We are all SO thrilled for Marla's upcoming film in March, 2017!

After another break, the panel commented on participating attendees' "first look" assignment, which was given earlier in the summer, a series of three sequential illustrations interpreting a passage of one of Lyle Lovett's songs but the only part of the song that should be interpreted is the excerpt provided below. The rest of the song is not to be considered. These lines can be a launching off point to whatever story the illustrator wants to tell.

If I had a boat
I'd go out on the ocean
And if I had a pony
I'd ride him on my boat
And we could all together
Go out on the ocean
Me upon my pony on my boat

It was a fascinating part of the day, hearing all of the feedback from the panel's perspectives. From considerations of color, design, book considerations, i.e. gutter, page turns, etc., we learned a lot and were able to get feedback from the experts. I always get so much from these "first look" assignments!

The day wrapped up with the announcement for Portfolio awards, and surprising to me, I won one of the two Honor awards! I must say, I was in complete shock, a happy shock, and was asked to stand as Lea announced that I had one "something" :). Grace Chen won the other honor award, and the Grand Prize winner was Miya Huang! I am so honored by this acknowledgement, especially because the portfolios were judged by such an esteemed group: Marla Frazee, Allyn Johnston, Ann Bobco, Kristine Brogno, Children's Design Director, Chronicle Books; Danielle Smith, Agent, Red Fox Literary; Simon Stahl, Art Director, Creston Books; Julie Downing, Author/Illustrator & Children's Lit Teacher; Dr. Mira Reisberg, Award-winning mentor, Director Children's Book Academy.

I had a very, very helpful and insightful review with Marla..I cannot thank her enough for her advice and feedback! Marla pointed out areas of my work that were and weren't working as well, and her thoughts about how to approach my work to "play to my strengths". I have definitely been struggling but was able to have a few pieces that she spoke to where I must "go to" when creating..the pieces that have emotion and energy, and the ones that I spent less time fussing with, and just completely enjoying, so that was HUGE for me. :) I can't wait to dig in!
Thank you doesn't say enough, Marla! What an honor!
All in all, what a fantastic day! Each year, I appreciate the opportunity to meet with friends, make new friends, and learn more and more about children's books and the publishing industry. It means so much to me to be able to share the love of children's books with such a generous community. Each year I set out new goals for myself and I've found that when I'm prepping my portfolio for this event, it's really a great time to reflect upon what I've learned throughout the year and all of the highs and lows of this journey I'm on. I pinch myself knowing that I am so lucky to be doing what I love! Grateful, grateful, grateful is what I am.

I hope everyone's been well and hope that I can come up for air again sometime soon. I'm currently working on two books, and sketching for a third. I'll be sharing more as soon as I can. In the meantime, I am writing and working on stories for my own books and hope that I can push those forward in the year ahead. Have a wonderful FALL coming up, everyone! My best to you ~ Shirley
This little one's got a story to tell...

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Grow Peace

Hello everyone! It's been far too long since I've updated my dusty but beloved blog..I really am sorry for the absence! I hope you've all been well!

So many very tragic and sad things have occurred all over the planet and today, I again, woke up to another shooting, this time of police officers in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. It's time for peace. It's time for a change to the light. It's time for humanity, compassion, rational and open dialog, and our ability to think beyond what we feel is not fixable, but work towards a better tomorrow. I'm worried about the future our children and their children will inherit.

If we could all in our own way, move towards the positive, and share our love and light, we can keep the darkness short, grow peace. Wishing you all well, my friends!
~ Shirley

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Coming soon! Baxter Turns Down His Buzz, Magination Press

Welcome June! I can't believe how quickly time flies. May was a wonderful blur of so many celebrations..Mother's Day, my father's birthday, my birthday, my anniversary. I am so fortunate to have such a wonderful family and friends who continue to make me feel special year round. I thank you all..and I also thank this wonderful community, the artists here and on the social networks who make my world interesting, active, thoughtful, inspired, rich, and eager to keep learning and growing. Thank you! This year has brought a lot of long nights of hard work, some pressure and worry, a lot of wonderful feedback and a whole lot of inspiration and more energy to keep pushing forward on this journey of illustrating picture books. I am grateful for so much!

I just received word that I can share the cover and release date for a new book coming soon by the wonderful people at Magination Press. Dr. James A. Foley has written another book for the press called, Baxter Turns Down His Buzz, A Story for Little Kids About ADHD. It was such a joy to create the characters and illustrations for this sweet book, which hopefully will become a great resource to little ones and caregivers who care for those coping with ADHD. Thank you to my agent, Nicole Tugeau, and the great folks at Magination Press for this incredible opportunity. T

In a few weeks, I'll share the link as well as further information from the site once it's ready. In the meantime, I wanted to share a snippet or two, and what I consider the first equine endorsement of a little children's book ever. :)

The horses ask, "Are there any carrots in this book?"

These two characters aren't so happy with young Baxter bunny.

Hope you're all doing well and wish you a wonderful June! ~ Shirley

Friday, April 29, 2016

National Picture Book Writing Week - Get Ready, Get Set...May 1-7, 2016 - JOIN IN!

What is National Picture Book Writing Week? 
It's WRITING seven picture books in seven days, with your host,
author extraordinaire, Paula Yoo!
Logo artwork by Janie Bynum
She'll have wonderful guests on her blog for all of the seven days, and I am SO incredibly honored to be a part of her line up. You'll also get a chance to win prizes including a print from yours truly. :)

This year’s NaPiBoWriWee will be May 1-7, 2016 with lots of fun writing advice blogs plus Q&A’s with some special guests.

Here are the basic rules from Paula:

From Midnight May 1st (your time zone) to 11:59 PM May 7th (your time zone), you must try to write 7 picture books in 7 days. We go by the Honor Code, so you do NOT need to send me any “proof.” Please participate daily by posting a comment in my blogs. I will keep track of everyone’s names and put them all in a hat for a fun contest prize random drawing on May 8th. You are allowed to BRAINSTORM IDEAS, RESEARCH and even OUTLINE before May 1st. But absolute NO MANUSCRIPT WRITING until the big day! 

For more details on this entire event, please visit the ABOUT section of my website here:
This will be my first time trying it, I'm nervous, excited, and know I'll be a bit of a mess trying to write, write, write, as I know it is hard work, but it is incredibly exciting and I am SO pumped up for the challenge. Paula, this couldn't have happened at a better time for me and my creative journey, and I'm just so thankful to you for creating this event (since 2009!!!, congratulations!!) that helps so many writers out there keep moving forward on their creative journeys. I'm looking forward to the inspiring Q&A's that will help guide me and push me to keep that pencil to paper. THANK YOU again!

OK everyone, are you ready for the challenge? GO FOR IT and I'm cheering you all on!!! See you Sunday, May 1st! ~ Shirley

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Danny and the Blue Cloud: Happy Book Birthday!!!

I'm so pleased to share with you a wonderful book I had the privilege of illustrating recently....

Happy book birthday to:
Danny and the Blue Cloud, Coping with Childhood Depression
by Dr. James M. Foley, DEd, published by Magination Press!

When I received the opportunity to work on this book, I read the manuscript and immediately wanted to hug little Danny. Though I have not personally experienced or have known someone with childhood depression, I have had the days where I feel that my mood and demeanor is completely different. For me, I'm sure it's aging, but thinking about little ones who may suffer from childhood depression, I found it very important to try to portray the feelings of sadness, grumpiness, and dilemma that Danny feels. Dr. Foley's text and Barnaby Rabbit's "Feel-Good Rules" are encouraging, lively, and motivating for little Danny, and I hope that his experience in the book gives readers some tools for their toolbox of coping. It's been a true delight sketching, illustrating and receiving kind reviews such as this one by 5 year old, Bryan!

The very wonderful folks at Magination Press also interviewed me recently, and I'd like to share that with you here. Also, here is an interview of the is great to read of his background and writing endeavors!

I'll have a book giveaway soon, so stay tuned, and many thanks dear readers and friends for all of your support through the years! It's been an amazing journey and I am just so happy to be doing what I've loved for so long, illustrating picture books. This is one of those moments in time that I am pinching myself. ~ Best to you! Shirley

Danny and the Blue Cloud is available today!
At the American Psychological Association's Magination Press site: Includes FREE shipping!  

or on Amazon (currently 15% off)
Click here

Monday, April 4, 2016

Congratulations, Grandma Nancy! You're the winner!

So very happy for Grandma Nancy and her little readers! I thank you so much for participating everyone, and I wanted to share that the publisher let me know that the books are already in reprint, which is fabulous! I hope they reach an amazing amount of readers out there. Thanks again to the wonderful folk at Lee and Low Books, my sweet agent, Nicole Tugeau, and the talented Paula Yoo for the opportunity to work on these. I'm currently working on the next two stories and am thrilled!

Have a great April and week ahead everyone! ~ Shirley