Beating The Odds: Guest Post From Author/Illustrator Alison K. Hertz AND A Giveaway!

Today I’m delighted to share a guest post from author/illustrator Alison Hertz, whose debut picture book FLAP! was released from Magic Dreams Publishing in November!

One quick thing first: seriously, you guys have to remind me when I space things out!  I forgot to mention in Friday’s post that the winners of my blogiversary giveaway, who shall receive a 5 pack of Tracy Campbell’s gorgeous hand-crafted greeting cards, are Rhythm (who is technically a dog, but I’m pretty sure s/he’s got a mom who will enjoy the cards :)) and Laura Anne Miller!!!  Laura, it’s entirely possible I have your address from sending the Perfect Picture Book bookmarks, but Rhythm, I’m going to need yours, so please email me when you get a chance!  (Handy Email Me button in right side bar or you can do it the old-fashioned way and type in susanna[at]susannahill[dot]com.)  Congratulations to the winners, and thank you ALL for being such wonderful involved participants in my blog – you guys are what make it all such fun 🙂

Oh wait!  One more quick thing.  For the first time in WYRI history, we had a tie for the November Pitch Pick!  Kim and Larissa scored the same number of votes!  I can really only send one pitch per month to Erin, so I’m going to have to ask you all to vote again and choose between these two talented writers!

#1 Kim
How The Bull Lost His Feathers – PB – ages 4-8
Long, long ago in a faraway land, bulls actually had feathers.  And they were big, colorful peacock-like feathers at that!  Discover how one very stubborn yet lovable bull lost every one of his feathers– not only for himself, but for all the bulls born in the world after him. This fable-like tale also reveals why the color red will always make a bull’s temper flare!

#2 Larissa
Dim Sum Dog – PB – ages 4-8
With business dwindling, Chang and his family fear they will have to close their dim sum stand. But with the help of a special dim sum-loving dog who entertains customers, they may save the stand after all.

Please vote by noon tomorrow EST (tomorrow being Tuesday Dec. 11) so I can announce the winner on Wednesday!

Okay!  On with the show!

Alison K. Hertz, author/illustrator of FLAP!

Welcome, Alison!  And thank you so much for joining us today!

I’m very happy to be guest posting on Susanna’s blog today. As a writer and an illustrator, I often get asked about how I work. How does an illustrator write stories? How does a writer illustrate stories? How did you create FLAP!? Well, that’s actually kind of complex to answer. The process that I used for FLAP! was quite different from how I write and illustrate stories now. Let me explain.
When I wrote the manuscript for FLAP!, I didn’t plan to illustrate it. In fact, I submitted it to editors and agents describing myself as a writer (not mentioning any art training or design experience at all). Actually, I have two college degrees in art (city planning and toy design) and was a professional toy designer for many years. I designed hundreds of toys that were produced and sold in major retail stores but all of that changed in an instant. On my way to the toy company, to finalize some models for a major toy retailer presentation, I was in a terrible car accident.  My left arm was broken and permanently dislocated (and I’m a lefty). I also had a bunch of other horrible injuries but there’s no need to go into that now. In short, I was told by the doctors and physical therapists that my arm would have basic function but never be near the level of fine motor movement that I had before. I temporarily became a righty, earned a teaching degree, and began teaching middle school art and technology (both art and tech are used together constantly as a toy designer).
Alison’s work space
Fast forward to 14 years later…Shortly after sending out FLAP! for submission, I received a call from a small traditional press in Illinois that explained they were expanding their line and starting an imprint for children’s books. I had sent it to them because their description was pretty general. They loved my story and wanted to publish it. After the contract was signed, they began their search for the right illustrator for my story. At the same time, the economy tanked and budgets tightened. I was told a year later that they could not afford to hire an illustrator for my story and would probably have drop it from their line. I cringed as I explained to the publisher that I had been a toy designer and an art teacher and that I could illustrate the book. I had not been drawing for many years (except to model examples for my students, which was nowhere near the same thing as illustrating a presentation quality piece). I sent her sketches. She loved them and I became the illustrator for FLAP!
Alison drew sketches by hand
I was excited at the opportunity to get published as a writer and an illustrator but scared that my arm couldn’t handle creating 30 finished pieces. It was incredibly difficult to draw for long stretches of time (more than 40 minutes), my wrist and my arm could not handle the extended use of holding a pencil or stylus and the movements required for drawing. I was on a very tight schedule because of the planned publication date and had only 10 weeks to create all of the illustrations from sketch to final. I created the roughs (sketches) by hand. (See above) Once the roughs were approved by the publisher, I scanned the drawings in and taught myself how to use Sketchbook Pro as I created the line drawings. Those drawings went through another approval by the publisher and I was given the okay to create the final, color illustrations.
some interior artwork from FLAP!
When the illustrations for FLAP! were finished, I accepted that I could be an artist again. I had retrained my left arm to draw.
I now use a much different method of writing and illustrating. When I submit manuscripts to editors, I refer to myself a writer and an illustrator and send samples along with a link to my online portfolio. I challenge myself to things like SkADaMo that require me to draw everyday. I will prove the doctors and physical therapists wrong. I believe that someday I will get back the fine motor function of my left arm if I continue to draw everyday and rebuild those muscles. As Watty Piper once wrote, “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.”
FLAP! is available through 
And my website at: www.AlisonHertz.com– (autographed copies available here)
Places to find me:
My website (listed above)
Twitter: @AlisonHertz
In addition to writing and illustrating, I am using my graphic design skills to design bookmarks, postcards, coloring sheets, business cards, etc… for authors and other professionals. Check out AH Designs at: http://www.alisonhertz.com/graphic-design.htmlfor details, samples, and pricing.
Thank you so much for joining us, Alison.  Your story is so inspiring.  I’m sure I speak for all of us when I say I’m glad you pulled through with such flying colors and proved those doctors wrong.  I hope you sent them an autographed copy of FLAP! to serve as inspiration to future patients 🙂  And if you haven’t had a chance to see Alison’s work, hop on over to her blog and check out the sketches she did for SkADaMo – they’re wonderful!  (And as many of you probably know, Alison designed 3 different sets of book marks for me and they’re all terrific – I can highly recommend her work!)
Alison has generously offered to give away a signed copy of FLAP! to one lucky winner!  In the book, twins Max and Katie decide to teach their little sister Lilly to fly.  At the end, Max says, “I have an idea for tomorrow.”  To qualify for a chance to win the book, please write in the comments what bright idea you think Max had – what are those kids are going to get up to tomorrow?  Or, if it’s too early on Monday morning and you’re not sufficiently caffeinated to be creative, you can just say who you’d like the book for 🙂  Of course, what Alison would really love is pictures of people flapping – especially kids – so if you can add such a picture to your comment you will get an extra chance at winning!  Please enter your comment by Wednesday December 12.  Winner will be chosen by random.org.  And it could be a holiday gift for someone 🙂  For a nice review of the book, please go HERE.

Have a wonderful Monday, everyone! 🙂

85 thoughts on “Beating The Odds: Guest Post From Author/Illustrator Alison K. Hertz AND A Giveaway!

  1. delores @ thefeatherednest says:

    Uh oh….I hope his idea isn't to go up on the roof and jump off. I did that once and ended up with a nail in my foot. Talk about being grounded.

  2. Tina Cho says:

    Inspiring testimony, Alison! That's great you're using your left arm again. I like Susanna's idea to send the dr's a copy of your book!

  3. Robyn Campbell says:

    I'm thinkin' Lilly is going to find the birds in the nest in that tree and hang with them awhile. She's not gonna fly outta the tree, right? Maybe she'll float down to the ground. Great post! Lovely to meet you Alison. I cannot wait to read FLAP! It sounds great.

    *waves to Susanna* Going to vote now. One of my picks is up there.

  4. Joanna Marple says:

    So inspiring to read of this creative determination. FLAP is such a success story. I am sure the discipline of daily drawing is and will pay off. Bravo, Alison!

  5. Angela Brown says:

    I'm just in awe of this story all around. It's difficult enough to get our stories accepted but it's inspiring to see that extra challenge accepted when push came to shove. I hope each challenge further's Alison's fine motor movement and wishing FLAP! the very best 🙂

  6. Vivian Kirkfield says:

    “I know I can…I know I can!” should be YOUR mantra, Alison! Thank you so much for sharing this incredible journey with us! And best of luck with “FLAP”. 🙂

    Susanna, I voted…it was definitely a tough decision. 🙂 Thanks for spotlighting Alison.
    I'm looking forward to the Holiday Contest…can't wait to read the great entries!

  7. Laura Miller says:

    Alison, you continue to amaze me by your ability to overcome obstacles and make them stepping stones. You are inspiring.
    Susanna, Wheee!! I am so happy to receive the cards. They are so beautiful I will have a hard time parting with any of them. Thank you so much. I'm sorry I haven't been participating in WYRI. I've been grandbaby sitting on Wednesdays for 3 hours in the a.m. 3 kids aged 1, 2, 4. By the time I get home and recoup it's time to cook for our weekly church potluck and then teach my class. I feel bad not to support everyone but I so appreciate what you do!

  8. Susanna Leonard Hill says:

    You are exactly right, Vivian! And thank you for voting – I've been so interested in Alison's story I forgot about the vote 🙂 I can't WAIT to read the holiday stories… hope you're going to enter one (actually, you've probably told me already and it's gone right through my sieve of a brain :))

  9. Susanna Leonard Hill says:

    Glad you're excited, Laura – the cards are really beautiful 🙂 And no worries – we all do the best we can, and there are only so many hours in the day 🙂 Maybe while you're grand baby sitting, though, you'll be inspired to think up a holiday story for the contest 🙂

  10. Sue Heavenrich says:

    Oh wow! what an inspiring post! I will quit whining about my creaky joints when it rains and be grateful for the use of my dominant hand…
    As for flying – been there; done that. I remember (I think 2nd or 3rd grade) I was convinced that if I just ran down my hill fast enough while flapping my arms, and just lifted my feet off the ground (bending knees) I would surely fly. at least a bit – it was a really steep hill. I put holes in the knees of many a pair of tights.

  11. Beth Stilborn says:

    Alison, I was absolutely stunned to read about your accident and the process you've gone through to rehabilitate your arm and hand. WOW. I had no idea. Amazing and inspiring indeed. Thank you for sharing with us.

    I think that the next day, having found that flapping won't work, they're going to attempt to build an airplane. Wright brothers, watch out!

    If I win, I *should* ask to have the book autographed to James or Emma, both of whom are heading for their second birthdays, but I'd *really* like to have it autographed to me! (I'm selfish that way…)

  12. Patricia Nozell says:

    What an inspiring post, Susanna & Alison! A true PB-worthy story for sure. And for tomorrow? From flapping to the skies, I think they could dig down into the earth – who knows, maybe they'd be the first to reach the other side. As for a flapping picture, the family is scattered to the winds, but at least one Orange Pup had a tail flapping in the breeze as she waded in the lake last summer. Finally, the voting: tough one, I can see why they tied, but I voted!

  13. Genevieve says:

    I think they will teach Lilly to bake a cake. Kids baking can be a mine field of fun and disaster. I love this post! Beating the odds is the perfect title.

  14. Kim says:

    I had the pleasure of meeting Alison at our regional SCBWI (Southern Breeze) conference this past October… she was telling my friend and I about Flap! and how it was about to come out, how she found her small publisher, and how she was a toy designer… but I had no idea about her injury! Truly inspiring… thanks for sharing, Alison and Susanna!

  15. Pam Courtney says:

    Susanna and Sue, I'm thinking the two of you should collaborated on a picture book with both of your ideas. I really laughed out loud when I read each of your comments__too funny, ladies!

  16. Pam Courtney says:

    I voted, but it was hard. Just as hard as last time. It was obvious everyone had done some considerable reworking of their pitches.

    Congratulations to Laura and Rhythm on their wins!

    Alison,
    after reading your story, I will purpose in my heart never to complain
    about not having time to write, writer's block, or anything having to do with writing. What an
    inspiring story.

    When we were younger we'd play jump board. We'd go soaring into the air as the big kids jumped on the opposite end of a long, raised board. With vigorous flapping, she may get some real lift.

    As always, I'd love to share this book with the kids in my early literacy group. They get a big kick when I say that a new author friend has sent us their special to book to share. Thanks for a wonderful post, Susanna.

  17. Julie Rowan-Zoch says:

    Congrats to Laura and Rhythm! Wow Alison, your story is incredible! No more whining for me! I have often wondered what life would be like if I couldn't draw, if something happened to my right hand, and have attempted using my left once in a while. That you have come so far is just so amazing! Best of luck to you, in all you do!

  18. nrhatch says:

    Great guest post, Allison. Your book and illustrations are darling. So glad you're proving the doctors wrong.

    “I have an idea for tomorrow,” said Max. “We should teach Lilly to ride a bike.”

    “That's a wonderful idea, Max,” Katie replied.

    Lilly, still dazed from learning to fly, wasn't so sure. She could hear their expected encouragement: “Pedal . . . pedal . . . pedal.”

    And the resulting . . . CRASH.

    Ah, well . . . that's what Bike Helmets are for. 😀

  19. Carrie Finison says:

    What an inspiring story, Alison! I'm so glad you made the effort and now have your published book to show for it. Congratulations!

    Hmmm. Let's see. Since the twins already tried to teach their sister to fly, maybe tomorrow their idea is to teach her to swim?

  20. Susanna Leonard Hill says:

    POSTED FOR TRACY at http://www.tracycampbell.net/blog

    Congratulations to Rhythm and Laura Anne on winning a pack of my greeting cards. I hope you enjoy them! 😀

    Thank you again, Susanna for your support.

    I ate up every word about Alison. Wow, Alison! Now that's what I call perseverance. Your artwork is just lovely. Thank you for inspiring me.

    Tracy

    Susanna's loyal follower, hanging out on the fringe.

  21. Susanna Leonard Hill says:

    I was so sure I had some Mary Poppins in me, Pam 🙂

    Pam Courtney (unregistered) wrote, in response to Susanna Leonard Hill:

    Susanna and Sue, I'm thinking the two of you should collaborated on a picture book with both of your ideas. I really laughed out loud when I read each of your comments__too funny, ladies!

    Link to comment
    IP address: 72.145.243.189

  22. Alison Kipnis Hertz says:

    Beth, I knew this post would surprise some of you. I truly believe in seizing the day. Everything changes in an instant so be the person you dream of being, learn the things you want to know, try the things you want to do. Just don't cause harm to yourself or others in the process.

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