International Women’s Day Gifts

In conjunction with International Women’s Day, Oyez and I came up with fewa gift sets for women (girls too).

We developed three sets of pencil case and plain notebook. You can use the notebook to write down the things that you yourself want to change or what you see around that should be changed. After all, big change starts with small one and often with ourselves first. After all, big changes start with small ones first and often with ourselves first.

I will update this with the links where to buy and how much per set. Stay tuned!


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How to illustrate picture books

Left: my illustration, right: my student’s illustration (Heidi).

Do you want to illustrate children’s or picture books? Here’s a step-by-step guide by me:

1. First and foremost, practice your drawings.
Get yourself a basic sketchbook, a pen and a mechanical pencil (with an eraser on one end). Draw whenever you can; while waiting for the bus, while waiting for a meeting, while cooking, while waiting for food to arrive while eating out, etc. Fill those pages with sketches: characters, be it kids, monsters, animals, buildings or scenery. You can even draw your food.

2. Read a lot of children’s books. Study the illustrations.
If your friends buy novels at the bookshop, don’t be shy to buy children’s books for yourself. It’s normal. Tell them Emila buys children’s books too for herself.

I can suggest those from Oyez!Books for local children’s books. For international ones, you can browse Kinokuniya shelves and look for Oliver Jeffers, Maurice Sendak, Isabella Arsenault, Beatrix Potter, Rebecca Dautremer, Eric Carle, Quentin Blake, etc. The international ones are expensive but what the heck, for the sake of learning, why not spend money on good books, right?

3. Copy! Copy! Copy!
I don’t mean copy all per se. You can copy Maurice Sendak’s monster’s eyes and put it on Oliver Jeffer’s boy but perhaps with real legs (not stick, hehe), and add a dreamy background like Satoe Tone’s with Mirdinara’s foliage. Soon, you will get ideas on how to create your own. This is only for your learning purpose, not for commercial purpose, ya.

4. Practice illustrating words.
You can begin with a word a day then gradually to one paragraph of a story and so on and so forth. You can also illustrate quotes, lyrics, your own retelling of folktales, etc.

5. Love what you do.
When you do what you love, it’ll show in your drawings/illustrations.

6. Don’t worry about being not perfect.
By doing more drawing practices, you will get better than most other people. You know, I don’t consider myself as a born artist. I have to work hard to make drawings/illustrations I like.

7. Upgrade your sketchbook, colour your illustrations.
Buy good sketchbook (with 200gsm paper). I can suggest Monologue Soft Sketchbook or Moleskine Folio or Sketchbook. Get yourself a watercolour, or colour pencils, acrylic, or others. Try those on your sketchbook. This way you will get hands-on experience using colours.

8. Find free online tutorials.
Check out Youtube! There are tonnes of free tutorials on how to draw, how to apply a technique, how to use your brush correctly, etc.

9. Share your drawings.
Share it with your family and friends. You can share it online as well. Get people to give you constructive comments.

10. Join a workshop!
If you think you are ready to illustrate children’s picture book, do join a picture book illustrations workshop, or perhaps join E&E Workshop (Emila and Evi)! We will guide you on the process of how to create children’s book.

Pitching your book manuscripts/illustrations to publishers is not included in our workshop but we can help list down those that accept submissions.

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Writing for picture books

Writing picture books may seem easy but by far, it is the most difficult one.

A novel can have more than 10,000 words but picture book may be only 100 words long (can be up to 1000 words but the less the better). Those words must be well chosen. If you read poetry or haiku, you know the difficulty of containing large thoughts in small spaces.

Here are some guides to help you write:

  1. Word count. 500-600 words is a good number to aim for. Some publishers accept 1000 words but it is better to keep it up to 600. The standard text is for 32 pages. The prelim, title page, dedication, takes up several pages. This leaves you with 25-28 pages to tell your story.
  2. Plot. Keep it clear and simple, based on a single situation that involves some action.
  3. Think visually. As you write, imagine the pictures that could accompany it.
  4. Pacing: Think about how you’d like the text to be broken up (page-break). It’s very important in a picture book to have a good rhythm, pace, and contain the drama of the page turn.
  5. Use interesting word. Never look down on the little readers.
  6. Go straight to your story. There’s no time for introduction or prolog.
  7. No need to describe things that can be shown in the illustrations. Example: you can write ‘Jenab found a book’ instead of ‘Jenab found a book lying on a bench in a park’. (Illustration: Jenab looking at a book lying on a bench in a park. To show that it is a park, you can illustrate a pond, some ducks, trees, people walking in the background). You get the idea, right?
  8. Avoid rhyming. Most publishers will remind authors not to rhyme because it will be hard for them to translate it into other languages.
  9. Read over and over again. Adjust and rewrite as you go until you are sure you can’t make it any better. Leave it for few days, and read again. You might have something to add or delete.
  10. Themes. Good children’s picture books need strong, universal themes. Examples: acceptance, tolerance, economic disparity, try something new, adventure, animals, gratitude, admitting mistakes, arts, autism, be yourself, courage, bullying, cause and effect, disabilities, friendship, judgement hope, war/peace, bereavement and much more. Ideally, good picture books have the power to change thinking and offer a new perspective.

Books in photo: Thumbelina( Hans Christian Anderson, retold by Brian Alderson/Bagram Ibatoulline), A Child Of Books (Oliver Jeffers/Sam Winston) and You Belong Here (MH Clark/Isabelle Arnault).

Alternatively, you can find these tips in Bahasa Melayu at TabulaKata. Thanks TabulaKata for the feature!

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