UP!–It’s NATIONAL LIBRARY WEEK, sooo…

NYPL Lion & The Cat in the Hat with TEXT for blog post

For the few of you who were privy to this blog before I officially launched in Sept. 2014, this image of the NYPL Lion with The Cat in the Hat may look familiar to you. I had it filling space at that time, simply to have an image on the page and stated I would eventually post the article I wrote for which I’d done this artwork. I realize you’ve been waiting with bated breath having suffered sleepless nights with the anticipation having been so overwhelming 😉 Well, your Patience (yes, we’ll consider this lion Patience rather than Fortitude) has been greatly appreciated and hopefully worth the wait.

This was originally written for our NJ SCBWI magazine Sprouts (no longer printed) way back in January 2010, though it had been heavily trimmed due to page space constraints. I chose to post it now, in its full version, in honor of National Library Week, April 12–18 🙂 Keep in mind that some things that were stated 5 years ago are no longer current in respect to the state of the market/industry, etc. I’d like to point out that at that time, the monthly events were known as the Children’s Literary Cafe, now known as the Children’s Literary Salon. Also, since that time I’ve had the privilege to meet Betsy (Elizabeth) Byrd at the recent Bank Street Book Store Grand Re-opening enabling me to give her a copy of this article including the artwork 😀 .

As you read, it will be obvious how much I enjoyed this event. If you are ever able to attend, you can search for upcoming events on their site. I highly recommend it! So here we gooooo…

TV at the Public Library…New York, That Is

I felt a mix of excitement, anticipation and nervous uncertainty as I made my way past the famous, majestic lions Patience and Fortitude, up the broad marble steps and through the regal entrance of the New York Public Library. Only three days before I had no intention of being anywhere but home that Saturday, but on Kathy Temean’s trusted blog, she announced the event I was about to attend: “From the Page to the Screen…Television Screen, That Is”, presented by The Children’s Literary Café*.

NYPL Lion photo for blog

My being an aspiring children’s author and illustrator, the panel of guests had an irresistible, magnetic pull, each being very successful somewhere in the field of animation, children’s television and/or children’s literature. It wasn’t just the invaluable information and words of wisdom I expected them to impart that pushed me through the $8.00 toll to cross the G. W. Bridge and into a $27.00 parking lot in midtown Manhattan; it was the chance to network in yet another arena relating to the children’s publishing industry. I was unable to find out whether I’d have the opportunity to meet any of the speakers, but I went prepared—just in case.

I descended the very long, multi-level flight of glass steps to the ground level of the building and was pleasantly welcomed at the entrance to the auditorium by a rolling cart filled with children’s books—free for the picking! I don’t know about you, but children’s books—especially FREE children’s books—tickle and thrill me and in this case, if for no other reason, I knew I wouldn’t be leaving the event empty-handed.

Upon entering I could taste the delicious anticipation that filled the brightly-lit space. I found a seat behind a friendly man whose book he was hoping would make its way onto the little screen. He’d driven from Massachusetts to attend the event with his co-author, making the cost of my toll and parking fees sting a little less. I also spotted a dark-skinned woman, several rows down, whose face I was positive I knew yet couldn’t place because I was stuck in the mindset that perhaps I’d seen her at one of the NJ SCBWI conferences, not stopping to think that at this event were people outside the children’s publishing industry.

Elizabeth Bird, the children’s librarian, took the podium, made her opening remarks then introduced the four guest speakers along with the mediator, Liz Nealon, who had brought the panel together, she having suggested this aspect of children’s literature as the focus of one of the Café’s monthly meetings. This esteemed panel included: Linda Simensky, Diana Manson, Laura Vaccaro Seeger and Jim Jinkins (**for bios). During the 1 ½-hour session, which ended with a brief question/answer period, a wealth of information was imparted, along with large-screen, PowerPoint video entertainment, all of which can only be highlighted here.

Supported unanimously were several aspects of the nature of the process of adapting picture books to TV animation, one being the fact that most picture book characters cannot be adapted, or not adapted easily. Sometimes the characters aren’t full enough, or there are too many or too few characters. The characters and world must lend themselves to original story lines that can carry a series. For PBS, if not already a part of it, curriculum has to be integrated. The idiosyncrasies of a particular cast of characters or setting determine how drastic the changes need to be to make the adaptation work.

Linda Simensky’s straightforward approach was delivered with soft-spoken warmth and touches of humor. She was sure to point out one key difference between the writing/illustrating process from that of TV animation: writing tends to be a solitary process, where as TV animation is inherently collaborative and it is not the author who has the final say. Generally the author gives up one’s rights and is often not a part of the collaborative process. Not having direct input is sometimes by choice, though Linda stated that when the author has some input, it can often make for a better outcome overall. She also stressed, for those considering pursuing TV animation on some level, to thoroughly research the industry and understand it before considering entering into it; you must be informed—know what you’re getting into!

Those who attended had the pleasure of viewing a 2-minute clip from the upcoming PBS series based on The Cat in the Hat. Linda described the decision-making process as to how to keep the series true to the books and Dr. Seuss’s creation. Being an avid, life-long fan of his work, I was warmed by what was on the screen; in my opinion, they hit it spot-on and I look forward to the series airing on PBS, Fall 2010.

Diana Manson pointed out how this industry is not immune to the effects of a suffering economy; the sponsors and broadcasters have also tightened their belts which makes the production process more difficult and selective. The panel agreed when she stressed that working in TV animation production is an arduous job; you invest much time and effort in projects, each of which can take on years of your life.

Her dry, Australian wit was the perfect segue as she generously entertained us with sketchy clips of the upcoming series Olivia, showing examples of the different style renderings (classic vs. CG, etc.). To say the least, the audience was impressed and laughing throughout. Watching Olivia strut to Aretha Franklin’s “Respect” was sheer perfection in animation characterization.

Laura Vaccaro Seeger described her personal experience of having her books transformed into animation. Her take was somewhat unique, having worked in animation before writing and illustrating picture books. Her clever use of die-cuts are very effective in her concept books: Lemons Are Not Red, One Boy, and her award winning First the Egg. The way in which First the Egg was adapted to screen proved interesting, effective and enjoyable. She offered a short clip showing the transformation from the egg to the chick to the chicken, retaining the soft, sketchy look of her illustrations. Also presented was the work-in-progress version of the adaptation of the first story from Dog and Bear, Two Friends – Three Stories. It was adorable and entertaining in animated form narrated by Laura herself (to be changed later).

A down-to-earth Jim Jinkins (creator of Doug) proved to be the entertainer at heart that he is, his passion for the work evident throughout. He took great joy in giving us a behind-the-scenes tour of the creation of all things Pinky Dinky Doo. His daughter’s rendering of the character, which served as the springboard for Pinky’s ultimate look, was displayed side-by side with his. Because the series incorporates traditional animation with photographic sets and images, a Canadian-based company developed a CG 3-D program to accommodate the effects. We got a sneak peek at the overhead graphic images of the Pinky Dinky Doo set and characters, along with the underlying “skeletons” of the main characters.

I sighed as Elizabeth announced that portion of the meeting was coming to a close at which time Liz Nealon posed a final question to the panel, asking each about what they would consider their “dream project”. In essence: Diana responded wistfully, wishing to again work with someone she’d worked with years ago; Linda mentioned someone by name, asking anyone in the audience who might know the person, to please put in a good word; Laura is hopeful and looking forward to her work being adapted to screen, and Jim has become passionate for an environmental project he is working on.

The meeting’s conclusion was a brief question and answer session, several questions being posed by librarians and teachers. One topic addressed was that of the need of more media inter-relation as in: videos created to correspond with book series, etc. The meeting seemed to end in the blink of an eye, and though one speaker feared she’d been long-winded and boring at times, afterward I had the opportunity to tell her I enjoyed every minute and easily could’ve spent the whole day listening to everything they had to say.

When all was said and done, members of the audience made their way to the guest speakers who were now milling about, on and around the stage area. I was the first to reach Linda Simensky; she gave me a very generous and thorough answer to my question, “Is it necessary to have an agent to propose an idea for a show?” Though her answer was “No, not initially…” she again emphasized how important it is to do research and learn about the industry before trying to become a part of it, suggesting that ASIFA was a good place to start.

During the course of the meeting, through occasional discourse between the speakers and individuals in the audience, it had become apparent to me that perhaps 25-30 percent of the attendees were people in the TV industry (such as executive producers, etc.). This is why, when working my way through the huddles toward Jim Jinkins, and met the dark-skinned woman I had recognized in the audience, I learned she was, in fact, a very personable Sonia Manzano—“Maria” from Sesame Street. Duh! She was attending with an executive producer of the show, who I also had the pleasure of meeting.

IMAG1375While waiting my turn to speak with Jim, I enjoyed the blips of conversation between him and those in line before me. Speaking with him was a sincere pleasure and by that time, the crowd was beginning to disperse; the guest speakers and “friend” attendees were getting the logistics straight as to where they were eating lunch. My next move was to spend some time in the magnificent building which is “the” New York Public Library, not leaving before visiting the Main Reading Room located on the 3rd floor. In all sincerity, if there were a recliner in that breathtaking room, I could spend an indefinite amount of time luxuriating in that “sea” of literature while gazing at the artistry of its stunning, mural-painted, carved, gold-decorated “piece of sky”.

That afternoon as I descended the broad, marble steps and bid the lions farewell, I was filled with a feeling of great satisfaction; the feeling that can only come from time spent surrounded by exquisite literature within a historic, magnificent building, having shared time with exceptional like-minded, creative people with similar passions.

  • Gas, tolls and parking: $45
  • Admission to the New York Public Library: FREE
  • My morning at The Children’s Literary Café: priceless

From the official site of the New York Public Library:

  • The Children’s Literary Café is a monthly gathering of adults who are fans of children’s literature. Professionals, librarians, authors, illustrators, publishers, booksellers, teachers. And anyone else interested in the field are welcome to attend our meetings. The Literary Café provides free Advanced Readers galleys, a rotating series of talks with professionals in the field, and great conversation. This program is for adults only.

**The following “bio blips”, as I call them, are directly quoted from The Children’s Literary Café handout:

Liz Nealon is a children’s media executive and the former General Manager of KIDZ BOP, LLC (internet).

Linda Simensky — As Vice President of Children’s Programming for PBS, she collaborates with producers, co-production partners and distributors throughout development, production, post-production, and broadcast for existing and new series including Curious George, Dinosaur Train, Super Why, The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About That, Martha Speaks and Sid the Science Kid for PBS KIDS, and FETCH! With Ruff Ruffman, WordGirl and The Electric Company for PBS KIDS GO!. Linda has served as an executive for Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network. Currently she is the head of programming for PBS Kids and is one of the most respected animation development executives in the industry.

Diana Manson co-founded Silver Lining Productions in 1998 which has since molded properties as diverse as the new Mr. Men series, Ian Falconer’s Olivia and the new series of Noddy in Toyland for the company Silver Lining Productions, which she founded in 1998.

Laura Vaccaro Seeger is a New York Times best-selling author/illustrator and the recipient of a 2008 Caldecott Honor for First the Egg amongst other honors.

Jim Jinkins is the author and illustrator of the Pinky Dinky Doo book series. He and his team at Jumbo Pictures have produced the television shows Doug and PB&J Otter.

 

 

Well, gang, I hope you enjoyed that article. It’s been a long time coming! I often wish I could attend more, but grab what I can get 🙂 Do you attend events such as these in your area? Have you ever attended a Children’s Literary Salon?

 

 

 

29 thoughts on “UP!–It’s NATIONAL LIBRARY WEEK, sooo…

  1. Oooh, you are mean. You do like to make me jealous! This sounds like a marvelous event and you have done well to capture it all in this one post. I love your final rundown on the costs. You wouldn’t have forgiven yourself had you saved the $47!.
    It was very interesting to read of the considerations that must be made when adapting picture books for television. And I’m so pleased you finally told me who the woman was you had spotted earlier in the day. I thought you were going to forget!
    You have such a love of and enthusiasm for children’s literature. I’m looking forward to seeing some of your own in print sometime soon. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Donna, What a wonderful post! I’ve always wondered about how one goes about getting a project on the screen. With a best seller, like Olivia and Cat and the Hat, it seems like a natural but what of lesser notable titles. I can think of two mice detectives who’d love a chance to show their dance moves to the tune of R-e-s-p-e-c-t ….
    On another note, do the salons still meet once a month? Terrific post, Donna!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Robin! Yes, they most definitely have been doing them all along, every month I think. I’m hoping to get a better link (if there is one) from Betsy, but until then, this is the closest I could find to help search the site for upcoming events: http://tinyurl.com/k373jvr

      And I could definitely see Griswold and Wilcox on the little screen! 🙂 The industry is so selective (as is publishing, though more so, I think), it wouldn’t be an easy task. A little tidbit: Back in the late 90s I actually met with 2 producers in Manhattan and they loved what I pitched! Unfortunately, the person who arranged the meeting (a music promoter), deserted me so it never went anywhere. It was a “wizard and kids” show, something as it turns out, I created at the same point in time J.K. Rowliing was fleshing out the HP series. It would’ve been timely, but what can you do?

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Free books, now that is a great start to any event! How awesome to get advice from somebody in the industry who knows how it works. It all seemed very close knit and friendly and that is what you want, not people viewing each other as potential competition but as peers. Peers with free books!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ste J, it really was so much fun 🙂 And I have to say, for the most part, people involved with things for kids are generally very supportive of each other rather than competitive. That’s not to say I haven’t witnessed competitiveness and even unscrupulous behavior as you do pretty much in any venue anywhere, but I’d say it’s VERY few and far between 🙂 I LOVE being a part of the kidlit community!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I love the idea of “for adults only”!!
    And I’d like to visit the NY library! I’ll find out if those kind of events exist here. It’d be nice if my kids get the love for books! 🙂 (So far, they LOVE the mouse pad!! :D)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Just so you know, the “adults only” doesn’t mean adult content. It simply means “no kids invited” 🙂 And you never know when your kids will love books. Mine got back into reading fiction in college! SO happy they like the mouse pad 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Maria! I was in love with Maria when I was a tyke in the 1970s. It’s probably good that I wasn’t there; I would’ve hugged her until it got awkward.

    This sounds like an amazing event, Donna. Thanks for the recap.

    And, by the way, I looooove your illustration. (But I think you already know that I’m a fan.)

    Liked by 1 person

    • I can see you hugging Maria like that. Somehow I don’t think she’d mind 🙂 It WAS amazing and I wish I could go to them every month, but I can’t. Lately I’ve taken the plunge, though, and attended two events in NYC. If it wasn’t costly, I’d go MUCH more often!

      And thanks, Mike 🙂 Yes, I know you like my work, ever since “The Bears” 😀

      Like

  6. It’s posts like these that have me wishing I lived on the East Coast, sometimes. Then your winters happen and I forget about it. :p Thanks for allowing us to live vicariously through your posts, Donna! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    • Cathy, I totally hear you on that. There are pros and cons to both coasts and everything in between. I live close to NYC, but the expense of traveling in by car (I can’t do public transportation ) is a lot for me. If it wasn’t, there are so many more events I would attend! I’m glad you enjoyed this, though 🙂

      We all live vicariously through these things, right? The miracle of imagery, ever since cameras were invented, has enabled us to see/experience SO much vicarously. We’re so lucky in this way 😀 After all, since most of us don’t actually go to or do most things on this planet (and off it!), could we have seen what lay beneath the ocean’s surface? Or seen the view from the top of Mt. Everest without cameras? Or the insides of a living human, for that matter? Amazing really!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Again, a tad late to be commenting (well, it is really never too late) . . . and again soooo jealous of your day. What a great day. I have loved your illustration, especially the image on the TV–it looks perfect perspectively (perspectively perfect?)–since you first used it to entice me to bug you, “When are you going to start posting?” 🙂 Another lovely post. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Well, I’m finally catching up a bit. 🙂 I read this post when you originally posted it but it has taken me this long to comment. Sheesh. Pinky Dinky Doo – we watched quite a bit of that when DD was younger and Sonia Manzano – what fun! A fantastic post, as always. {{Hugs}}
    ~Cool Mom for the Gang

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi,Christine! I haven’t been around for a couple of weeks and it’ll be weeks before I am, so I haven’t “gone missing”—just REALLY busy with conference prep and other stuff. I already know I won’t try to catch up on all of it,but know I’m missing all kinds of good stuff! Glad you liked this post, my dear. It was SUCH a fun event 🙂

      Like

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