Thursday, October 18, 2012

Q&A with Stacy Innerst

Our very own Stacy Innerst set aside some time to answer a few pre-conference questions for us about his illustration work (and Texas, of all things). In case you missed it, Stacy will be leading one of our breakout sessions at the Western PA SCBWI conference on Saturday, Nov. 10. Details on the conference and the registration form can be found here:

Make sure you take a good, long look at Stacy's award-winning work on his site: Trust me.

SCBWI: Most of your picture books (I guess except for The Worm Family) are non-fiction. A couple questions: First, do you figure they’ve pegged you for a good non-fiction illustrator because of your years of editorial work? And second, do you really care?

STACY: I think that has something to do with it. When I took my portfolio to Harcourt, all I had were editorial pieces to show the editor. Some of them were pretty dark and conceptual. She saw something in them, though, and said she'd look for the right project to come along. Two years later I got a book. I've done a little bit of everything, though most of the books are strictly defined as non-fiction. M is for Music is an alphabet book, obviously, but there is a great deal of fiction in the pictures I made for it. Levi Strauss is a tall tale, not really a biography. My editor likes me to push the non-literal boundaries in the illustrations and the authors that I've worked with are very creative non-fiction writers, so there is always space to be imaginative. So, no, I don't really care. I'm up for anything.

SCBWI: So the names Kathleen Krull and Tony Johnston come up a lot with your picture books. Are they represented by the same agency you work with or was that a Harcourt editor’s idea?

STACY: We are represented by the same agency (Writers House) but I had done books with each of them before I had an agent there. My Harcourt editor did the first pairing when I illustrated Kathy's book (M is for Music) and Tony's (The Worm Family).

SCBWI: Is that a Texas Longhorns baseball cap you’re wearing on your author page on Amazon? Ouch.

STACY: Long (boring) story. I grew up in New Mexico where the hatred of Texas runs deep. A popular bumper sticker in NM read: "If God wanted Texans to ski he would have given them a mountain." Anyway, I ended up moving to West Texas for a job and I discovered, to my astonishment, that I really liked the people there.

I'm not a Texas sports fan or anything but the Longhorns  "branding" (pardon the pun)—burnt orange color and steer head—is, in my opinion, among the very best anywhere. The artist/designer in me really appreciates that. The odd thing is, every time I wear that cap, perfect strangers give me the "hook 'em horns" sign on the street. Texas fans (and foes) are everywhere apparently.

SCBWI: You’re so prolific. How many hours a day do you spend just on making art? And, how much of the business side of illustration are you able to leave to your rep?

STACY: It varies depending on what the deadlines look like but I try to spend at least a few hours a day making something. I pretty much do all of the business myself, except for negotiating contracts. My agent reaches out to art directors and editors in NY and I do the email blasts and mailings and sourcebook ads myself. I'm doing both editorial illustration and kids books so I'm staying pretty busy. In addition, I've pulled out oil paints again and am trying to do more personal work. I had put that aside for a long time, but I've found that I really need to do things just for myself in order to not blow a gasket.

SCBWI: When you work on the things that “keep you sane,” what do those things look like?

STACY: Oddly enough they are kind of a combination of figurative and abstract. I can't seem to do anything that doesn't tell a story of some kind but I really admire abstract expressionism and always have. I love the surface of paintings and the expressiveness of paint. Illustrations are by their nature flattened out once they go through the printing process or are scanned and digitized, so I like to work on paintings that are objects in and of themselves, and retain the sense of having been made by a human.

SCBWI: You said you like to use tin as a surface for your illustrations and you used denim for Levi Strauss. What’s the oddest surface you’ve thought to use?

STACY: Well, the most ill-advised surface that I've used was a wall at my middle school when I was thirteen. The police were not amused. Neither were my parents.

The most challenging was painting on football helmets, I think. I painted custom helmets for a charity auction that the Steelers were having a couple of years ago. That shiny curved surface threw me for a loop at first, but I figured out how to make the paint stick and I think they were pretty beautiful in the end. I did one for Hines Ward, one for Jerome Bettis and one for Jeff Reed.

Also, I did some paintings on roofing tar paper many years ago. I don't know where they are now and I'm not sure I want to know—maybe under some shingles somewhere.

Monday, October 8, 2012

2012 SCBWI Student Illustrator Contest applications open

SCBWI offers a great opportunity for the student illustrator with scholarships providing:
  • Admission to all 2013 New York Winter Conference events including keynotes and breakout sessions
  • Entry in the Juried Portfolio Showcase. (*Note: The winner of the Los Angeles portfolio showcase receives a trip to New York City to meet with art directors)
  • The Illustration Master Class (Los Angeles) or the Illustrator Intensive (New York) 
  • An individual portfolio consultation with an illustrator or art director  (Los Angeles only)
  • Exclusive exposure to art directors at the conference
  • One year's SCBWI membership dues.
See for more details. Applications are due Dec. 3, 2012.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

2012 WPaSCBWI Conference Registration

Registration is now open for the 2012 Western Pennsylvania SCBWI Fall Conference. This year's speakers include:
For those of you who are new (or fairly new) to an SCBWI conference, here's a good place to start: The Do's and Don't's of Conference Etiquette. After you read it, you'll know whether that trip to the bathroom with the editor was a good idea.

Here's the link for the registration brochure:

Fall Issue of The Golden Penn

The 2012 fall issue of the Western Pennsylvania SCBWI newsletter, The Golden Penn, is now available for download:

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Lapel Pin competition at WPaSCBWI Fall Conference

Call for Submissions (part 2)

If you've attended our fall conferences in the recent past, you might be familiar with the lapel pin contest that we have for our attending illustrators. If you're not familiar, here's how it works:

Create a design that can be used for a lapel pin and send it in (details below). Designs will be displayed anonymously in the main ballroom at this year's regional SCBWI fall conference in Pittsburgh. All conference attendees have the option to vote for any one of the designs submitted. The design with the most votes will have their design die struck into a lapel pin for next year's (2013) conference attendees as well as receive a free conference next year.

Here are the specs:
  1. Design must be simple enough to translate into a 1" lapel pin. Too much detail will not work.
  2. Only use sans serif fonts, as serif fonts may be too detailed for such a small area.
  3. Design can only contain solid areas of color. No gradients, washes or textures.
  4. Do not use more than five colors in your design. You don't have to use all five; one or two colors are perfectly fine. You can also figure in a "background" color of gold (brass), silver (nickel) or black. This will be the color of the pin and will be the metal part (the line art) that will show between all your other colors.
  5. Designs should contain no overlapping lines and will be die struck with a metal border between all colors. Please see the manufacturer's FAQ page for an explanation of what that means.
  6. Design must contain the acronym "WPaSCBWI" and the year "2013."
  7. Designs created in a vector program (like Adobe Illustrator) work best. If a design is submitted that needs to be redrawn to pass the manufacturer's specs, the design may be disqualified if too much additional work will be required.
  8. For judging we will use hard copies of your design. If your work is chosen, you will be required to email a digital version. Digital specs for the winning design will be sent to the winning entrant.
  9. Hard copies must be no larger than 10" in either direction.
  10. Hard copies of your design should be mailed to: Nora Thompson, PO Box 10, Whitney PA 15693. Please include on a separate sheet your name, phone number and email address.
  11. Only one entry per illustrator.
  12. Deadline for entries: October 26, 2012. No exceptions.
  13. Only conference attendees may submit.
Good luck!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

"First Looks" at WPaSCBWI Fall Conference

Call for Submissions

This year’s WPaSCBWI conference in Pittsburgh will include a new event to showcase your illustrations. In previous years during the conference break after lunch, writers participated in “First Pages” where the first page of several anonymous stories (randomly chosen) were read aloud in the ballroom and commented on by conference faculty, including editors and agents. This year we will be sliding in “First Looks” between readings, also critiqued by faculty.
  1. Create three illustrations that are related, preferably sequential. They can be color or black and white. You can illustrate any subject matter as long as it’s kid-related and could be published as such. Show that you can carry characters through a story.
  2. Save all three illustrations SEPARATELY (we will need three individual files):
    1. 72 dpi
    2. RGB
    3. No larger than 720 pixels in either direction
  3. Only three illustrations will be accepted per member.
  4. Digital files only.
  5. Conference organizers won’t be scanning, color correcting or sizing anyone’s work, so make sure it looks the way it’s supposed to and save it correctly.
  6. Email your three files to with the subject line "First Looks."
  7. Only one set of three images are allowed per illustrator.
  8. Deadline for submissions: November 1, 2012.
  9. Only conference attendees may submit.
  10. If your files do not adhere to the above specs, your submission could be rejected.
Good luck!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

The Golden Penn needs your art!

The copy for the Spring issue of The Golden Penn arrived on ChrisAnn Goossen's desk this morning with some great articles, and she needs some springy art to go with them. Contributions from WPaSCBWI illustrators would be greatly appreciated. Jpeg and full color work great with our online presentation.

Please send illustrations to ChrisAnn at If she can't use the piece for this issue she'll keep it on file for a future one.

Thank you for making The Golden Penn a publication our region can feel good about.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Jack Gantos wins the Newbery

Congratulations to Jack Gantos for winning the John Newbery Award for the most outstanding contribution to children's literature!

For those of you who don't know, Jack grew up in Norvelt, Pennsylvania (born in Mount Pleasant), and his mother still lives in the area. The book that won him the award was Dead End in Norvelt, released last September. If you ever have the chance to see Mr. Gantos speak live, I would highly recommend it.

Again, congratulations to one of our own!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Show your work at the Bologna Book Fair

Submit your illustration work for the SCBWI Portfolio at Bologna

SCBWI will be running a stand at this year’s Bologna Book Fair, the most prestigious gathering of children’s publishers in the world. 

The Illustration Display Portfolio (IDP) will be available for browsing throughout  the fair and is open to submissions from PAL (Published and Listed) SCBWI members of all regions.

You don’t need to be attending the Fair in order to submit to the portfolio.

(see also

Illustrators are requested to email a low resolution PDF of the
promotional piece they'd like to exhibit to by
February 14, 2012.

The promotional PDF should:
  • contain up to 3 images maximum, with your name and contact details clearly visible
  • be on one side of a letter (8.5 x 11 inch) size page
  • be in portrait format (i.e. height taller than width)
  • have a Maximum size of 1MB.
All artwork will then be reviewed for inclusion.

Successful applicants will be asked to make a high-definition (300+ dpi) quality PRINT OUT of their accepted sample page, at A4 size which will then be mailed to the IDP. The print will be included in the Illustration Display Portfolio and taken to Bologna.

Participation in the Illustration Display Portfolio is free but space is
limited so a careful selection will be made of pieces that work for the
publishing world at Bologna.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

WPa Illustrators in Gettysburg

A few of the members of the Western Pennsylvania chapter of the SCBWI are also members of the region's Pittsburgh Society of Illustrators, who publish a newsletter each month for their members. December's issue includes an article covering the Tri-Regional SCBWI conference in Gettysburg last November on pages six and seven. The newsletter is in pdf format, and can be downloaded here:

Tuesday, January 3, 2012