From a Word Processor to Paint Brushes

“And the winner of the 2013 American Christian Fiction Writer’s YA Category is… Loraine Kemp!”

I was dumbfounded! But over-the-top-excited!

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My writing goals seemed to be forging ahead with two contest wins and acquiring an amazing agent in the same year. There was little doubt in my mind about where God was leading me and what my future had in store.

How completely wrong I was. At least for the next few years.

After a year of working with the agent and sending my novel in various directions, lukewarm responses were the result. I felt deflated and confused. “But, but God, I thought…”

That’s when a completely new direction was literally dropped in my lap.

I’ve always been an artist (I’ve provided illustrations for 3 novels to date) but when my buddy Karen Autio asked her publisher to offer the job of illustrating her historical picture book Growing Up In Wild Horse Canyon to me, I couldn’t say no, and signed a contract soon after. With my writing goals not being realized, I had some time on my hands.

To say I was overwhelmed by this illustration project would have been a gigantic understatement. I hadn’t painted for years and the book is an advanced picture book with 28 full-colour pictures that needed to be designed and painted. Not only was there research involved with making this historical fiction come to life (Karen had already done a mammoth amount already), but I also had to take many pictures in Wild Horse Canyon, which was a two-hour hike from our city.

In 2003, a wildfire devoured most of the trees in the canyon, so I had to rely heavily on my imagination to construct the illustrations that took place in the canyon.

I was also deeply worried that I wouldn’t physically be able to illustrate that huge a project under a deadline. Just thinking of it, my back cringed, as sitting for hours on end sent my back into spasms.

I felt strongly that this was a test of faith and that I had to trust God was with me on this one. As grace would have it, I now own the ideal set-up for illustrating: a stand-up chair with many positions available and an adjustable-height table. So far so good.

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To start the process, a year and a half ago, Karen and I talked about each illustration. Normally illustrators and authors don’t work together, but Karen’s historical knowledge was invaluable. Tiny rough drawings of each scene (thumbnails) were finished first, and approved by the publisher. Then came the full-size drawings, again approved by the publisher. Then last fall I began the process of scouring through my thousands of photos (scenery, horses, other animals, and local students posing as historical characters) and painting the illustrations.

To show you all the different stages, I will take one illustration and walk you visually through the steps.

Here is the small thumbnail sketch of the ‘First Contact’ illustration where the fur traders are meeting the native first nation’s band, the Syilx. It is about 3″ by 5″.

first contact thumbnail

Then came the full size drawing. After some research I added a fish drier in the background. The below illustration is about 8″ X 10″

 

first contact full size

 

Now you will have to forgive my bad photography of the painting steps, as my camera wasn’t good at the time. But you will see that I start in one corner and progress.

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I found out that the pinto, (brown and white horse) needed to be changed to an appaloosa, a much coveted horse by the band. The coat my fur trader wore wasn’t going to work. So out came the white paint and the changes were made.

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In addition, the western saddle was not used. A lower, more close-to-the-horse-but-very-uncomfortable saddle had been used. After I spoke to a consultant, I decided that the clothing should have been more what you see below, plus I needed to have an elder overseeing this meeting. (Penciled in below) I had to move the woman and her kids next to the fish dryer to accommodate the elder.

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Almost done. However the rolled blanket on the horse’s saddle is one from the Hudson’s Bay company, not the Pacific Fur Company. Out came more white paint. Plus I completed the rest. I’d had many more tries to get it right than you see here. In all, probably four more changes were involved.

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And just for fun, here are a few more pictures from our book. You will see even more on my website, http://www.lorainekemp.com and look under my portfolio. Or go to my Facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/lorainekempartist. Our book will be out this fall and you will see much more on this site about it. It is for kids and adults alike.

The below is a young Syilx man on a vision quest, sort of a ‘coming of age’ occurrence for every young man. Here he is painting the rock faces.

finished vision quest

The below is all about the beginnings of the young in Wild Horse Canyon, a ponderosa pine,  and the wild foal jumping over it.

foal and seedling

Now don’t think for an instant that I am going to get rid of my word processor. I have some ideas for novels that I want to expand on that will need some illustrations as well. I feel that I have learned a great deal about myself and the strengths that I have through this complicated process that I would never have found out if God hadn’t pressed me in this direction. My plans were derailed for something else God had in mind for me, and I’m happy now with that, though admittedly I was not in the beginning. I’m still also a writer, and will always be. I just needed to be open for God’s new gifts for me.

One thing I’ll be eternally grateful for, is that during the contest mentioned above, I was taken on as a Scriblerian. They rock!

Have you ever been sure of your directions and then had the rug pulled out from under you to reveal a new direction?

 

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Mislabeled

LABEL 5

The word “Superstar” was stamped across her bum,
the “A” a multi-coloured, glittery star.

The little dictator yelled her list of demands to the other girls in her class,
her face firetruck red with fury.
She couldn’t have been older than eight.

I soon noticed she wasn’t the only one mislabeled.
A boy with “Awesome” stamped across his chest pushed another boy off the swing.
A girl with an angel hat had thrown herself on the ground in a full tantrum.

It got me thinking about Labels.

Not the ones that others give to us:
Jock, Stupid, Braniac…
But the ones we give ourselves:

Mother, Wife, Teacher, Employee.

Oh yes, they are all very functional labels.
And as humans we love to put things into boxes.
It makes us feel safe.

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But how often do we use labels,
to keep ourselves safe?

I can’t do that I’m a “Busy Mother.”
I’m “Not A Public Speaker.”
Me? I am “Not A Leader.”

Labeling is not a bad thing in and of itself.

But when it keeps us from moving outside of our box,
keeps us from trusting that God knows best.
Then it is a problem.

So be careful that your self-labels aren’t keeping you from being obedient to God.

After all, when it comes to labels God knows best.
Beloved.
Treasure.

Mine…

Do you have a label that keeps you from fulfilling the grand plan God has for your life? Share it in the comment box. I love to hear from you!

 

Karen deBlieck

Karen deBlieck

A Rainbow Kind of Day

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It’s been a rainbow kind of day.
Not the kind that have been splattered across social media of late.
No.

You know what I speak of:
a spring day when a fine mist falls from the sky,
the clouds are dark and menacing,
yet the sun is still out.
A perfect day for a stunning rainbow.

I am at home in bed due to a brutal cold,
sadly missing my friend from high school’s wedding. 😦

This day is filled with a deep sadness,
crammed into the nooks and crannies,
hiding in the shadows.
My church is packed to say goodbye to Walt Hartholt after a year and a half fight with cancer.
Thankfully the church is streaming the service so I can still partake.

Walt was active in the community,
father, husband, principal, teacher and mentor.
He touched so many peoples lives  there is now a hole where he used to be.
There is a deep sadness at his passing.
But as I hear his family and close friends speak about his faith.
About his conviction that “God is good” even through this season.
I am struck by God’s faithfulness.

Through the sorrow and rain of today,
God’s rainbow, His faithfulness, stretches across generations.

Lately,
I’ve felt like my life has been filled with bad news:
friends losing a child,
parents dying before they see their children grown,
families splitting.

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It is enough to make me only see the dark clouds,
to feel the weight of the world and all its sin on my shoulders.

When I heard how Walt, even through the pain,
remembered God’s goodness and faithfulness.
This reminder filled my heart with joy.

Thank you Walt for this final gift.
That even through the trials and pains of this world,
as Christians our joy through it all remains like bedrock.

Like a rainbow,
more beautiful for the dark clouds behind.

“God is good…
it is well with my soul.”

Please feel free to share your “dark clouds” in the comment section below or just ask for prayer. I’d love to pray for you!

Karen deBlieck

Karen deBlieck

The Aesthetics of Genre: Horror

deep-sea-anglerfishWhen it comes to the genre of horror, many Christians have pronounced it ugly, sinful, nasty, and won’t give it the time of day. Others may enjoy the adrenalin rush of a good scare from the safe distance of a book or theater seat, but may not admit it to their church friends. Then there are individuals, like myself, that find the genre of horror useful.

 

I like to read things that make me better, challenge me in someway. Good horror, like good science fiction and fantasy, will do that for me.  That’s not to say that contemporary fiction or YA fiction doesn’t do that either, but good horror has a very special way of challenging a reader on deeper topics. Before you chastise me for not mentioning the Bible, remember that you will find all the known genres, including horror, in that Book of books.

People seldom equate being frightened as useful.Like I pointed out in my last blog entry, being afraid of the right things can be helpful. To me, good horror isn’t about inciting blind fear or terrifying an audience. There is horror like that, and I almost never waste my time on that. Good horror it’s about challenging fear in the right way. This is where aesthetics come in. All genres have aesthetics (linked to definition above), it is what happens when an author’s story collides with a readers expectations, imagination, and world view. These are a few that a great horror story will touch on for me.

  • What is beauty?
  • What makes something beautiful?
  • What is good?
  • What makes something bad?
  • What is evil?
  • What makes something or someone evil?
  • If something looks beautiful, is it automatically good?
  • Can God redeem Evil?
  • Should God redeem Evil?
  • Should those given to Evil be redeemed?
  • If something is ugly to me does that make me the monster?
  • What happens when a human tries to play God (you know mad scientists)?
  • What does it mean to be human?

As frightening as a horror story may appear on first blush, it is my response to it that always interests me. Some of the most frightening stores to me portray Evil as banal or everyday. A good example of this is the bureaucracy of Hell in Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters.

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There are several things I find useful in good horror, and it isn’t blood and gore or the fact that a story may give me nightmares for months. In fact, the shock and gore horror is something I rarely care for, much like jump scare scenes in movies. Such tactics are nothing more than a trick at your audience’s expense, tricking an audience is inexcusable.

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All fiction has the ability to challenge and inform. What makes horror so different is it’s ability to challenge specifically the things we fear. When done right, even cause us to evaluate those fears and perhaps strengthen our humanity. For your viewing pleasure, here is a good example of something from a sub-genre of horror. Something that actually hits a little closer to home and current events. The type of horror I find useful (It’s in two parts).

 

 

Would you classify these videos as horror? Why or why not?

 

The next post I do is on the topic of sub-genres of Horror. You might be surprised as to what you find in them.

Don’t Wanna

 

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“Don’t Wanna.”

The two words made everyone in the grocery line freeze in terror.
The three-year old stood,
feet planted apart,
hands clenched at her side,
head lifted in defiance.

This was a temper tantrum.

As a mother myself I knew the signs:
there was no stopping this train.
It had already left the station.

I was oh, so glad that it wasn’t my child.

But when I read my Bible the next morning a phrase hit me:
For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. (Romans 8:14)

My train of thought went something like this:

I am a child of God.
What a comforting thought.
Father/daughter images of post bathtub snuggles,
and bedtime story reading fill my head.

How wonderful…
*smiling all proud like*

But wait…
*furrowed brow of confusion*
the Bible refers to me as a child...

A defiant,
hand clenching,
anger filled child!

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Hadn’t my own children just interrupted me that morning,
after I’d gotten knee deep into my work?

I had a plan,
a carefully laid out plan.
It was what I wanted to do.

But God said no.

And what was my first reaction?

Don’t Wanna.

In fact, that was my default setting.

My child, this direction.
Defiance.
But this will make you smile.
Hands clenched.
This will hurt for now,
but it will bless you later.

Feet planted.
I know that path is well worn,
but it’s not the one I want you to take.
Full. Blown. Temper. Tantrum.

How many gifts have I missed?
How many blessings have I ignored?
Because I didn’t want His way,
I wanted my own.

No matter that his gifts are good and perfect.
I’d much rather sit playing with my broken crayons,
then see the jewelled miracles and blessings he offers in the everyday interruptions.

Tonight my youngest comes running.
Tears marring her cheeks.
No physical marks,
only a battered heart.

On the tip of my tongue are the words:

Not now.
Too busy.
You’re fine.

Instead, I close my laptop,
and take her into my lap.
Yes, Lord.

Her feet nearly touch the floor.
A head covered in soft ringlets rests on my shoulder,
instead of under my chin.
How long until…

My child, this is a moment to take ahold of,
too soon it will pass.

I hold her close to comfort her,
just as my Father does for me.
Yes.

It’s Good.

No.
Perfect.

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When has an annoying “Don’t Wanna” moment turned into a blessing? Try to find moments in your day to transform your “Don’t Wanna” into “Yes”. I’d love to hear your thoughts!

It’s More than Okay to Love your Mom

A couple of weeks ago, Lisa posted a blog in Scriblerians talking about moms in YA literature. I reacted quite strongly about the lack of good mom role models in modern YA novels.

 

Bamboo People

 

The very next week, I read a novel by Mitali Perkins titled Bamboo People. Not only did it have an excellent role model in the main character’s mom, two other moms stood out as women to be admired as well. AND two dads! I was so excited to find an author who wrote in a style I admired, that I emailed her and gushed my appreciation. I also asked for an interview for a future Scriblerian post. She graciously agreed. Stay tuned!

 

But back to Bamboo People. This is the kind of fiction that I love. Realistic. Gripping. Teens striving to be the best people they can be – so their parents will be proud of them!

 

By the title alone, you know the story does not take place in America. The setting is Burma. Or Myanmar if you are supportive of the communist regime that runs its government. (Another tidbit that I learned from this real, gripping, fictional story.)

 

Burma

 

 

Chiko is the son of a doctor. His father has been sent to prison on a trumped up crime. In Burma the reality is that an educated man should be feared, thus imprisoned. Chiko is forced into the army, and he must figure out how to survive without shaming his parents.

 

Tu Reh is a member of the Karenni tribe. Strongly independent, mostly Christian, his people flee from the army’s intended annihilation. When he stumbles upon a wounded Chiko, Tu Reh must decide: kill the enemy or offer a wounded boy refuge. Which decision would his Christian father find most honorable? Since his father is away on a mission, Tu Reh cannot ask for advice directly.

 

credit to deepspeakingup.wordpress.com

credit to deepspeakingup.wordpress.com

 

The mothers do not tell their sons what to do. Mitali Perkins writes in such a way that the reader knows the mothers have already instilled righteous values in their boys. They encourage, they praise, but each boy must make an adult decision on his own. This is the perfect meld of the protagonist solving his own problem AND his parents as influential mentors in his decision.

 

When I returned to  my local library, I searched the shelves for more Mitali Perkins books. They only had one: Extreme American Makeover. Totally different premise, far more lighthearted, but the parents were there, married, loving each other, teaching their daughter right from wrong. Mitali has several other books published. I’m looking forward to reading them all.

 

Realistic and gripping, with excellent parent role models. What other YA books are out there that you may know? Inform me!

“I Won’t Grow Up”

Recognize the title? Peter Pan sings the song with his Lost Boys. While I could review that original novel (maybe I will someday), I want to share with you the bittersweet story of Peter Pan’s female counterpart, Lucinda Wyman. The book is Roller Skates by Ruth Sawyer and tells the story of a girl you will fall in love with, a girl who discovers how to love life.

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Roller Skates was published in 1936, a Newbery Medalist in 1937, and is set in New York City in the 1890’s. Too old-fashioned, you think? Ah, but that’s what makes a classic. The story is timeless, for every human soul longs for friends and desires to be a good friend to others.

Like The Little Princess, Lucinda is the poor little rich girl. In her case, Mother and Father still live, but no one in her family pays attention to her other than to bemoan the fact that she isn’t a lady and will never be beautiful. With that kind of nurture, Lucinda has been labeled a “problem child” whose temper is constantly on the rampage. When her mother needs a year in Italy to regain her health, they send Lucinda to live with a trusted teacher at her school. And that wonderful lady understands children.

Lucinda has the freedom to explore the wonders of people. Her enthusiastic interest in everything around her, her desire to learn about the people she meets endears her to all of them: the hansom cab driver, the Italian immigrants who run a fruit stand, the Irish policeman on her block, guests at her parents’ hotel, the poor family who rents the apartment above her teacher’s, and many more.

Children playing in the street circa 1900

Children playing in the street circa 1900

As she experiences one adventure after another, Lucinda literally roller skates through New York. Her energy is contagious, and as the reader, I wished I had taken advantage of all those small precious moments when I was a child.

At the end of the story, Lucinda must return to her own home. Will she strive to continue to savor life’s little moments? Or will she allow herself to be molded into a young lady of high society? The author gives you a hint (I won’t tell you where in the story such hint occurs.). Let’s just say Ruth Sawyer wrote an autobiography of one slice of her life.

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