Awestruck by teaching, part 1

Glove cat and sock cat, created by Ella German
One of the bonuses of teaching at UCSD Extension is the diversity of the students themselves. It was a pleasure getting to know them through the work they produced in class.

For their final project, a 32-page book dummy, I gave my students the options of (a) working with their own original story; (b) re-illustrating an already published book; or (c) re-telling a traditional folk tale.

Here’s a peek into some of of the results…




"Pearl and Bear" , sock kittens created by Ella GermanFollowing a positive portfolio consultation with David Diaz at a SCBWI-San Diego One-Day-Conference, Ella German was eager to further develop the characters she drew from the sock kitten characters she created (right, and above top).

Ella brought her sock kittens, Pearl & Bear to class, plus a story outline. The manuscript went through several revisions. We discussed the motivations behind all the characters involved against the setting itself, and the theme of her story.

After numerous weedings, she rendered thumbnail sketches before moving on to her  book dummy, which she actively shared with multiple critique groups that formed within our class.

“Let’s visit the SCBWI Summer Conference in L.A.!”



Illustration by Anna Guillotte

Illustration by Anna Guillotte

Anna Guillotte's original illustration, "Le Petit Pessimiste"

Anna Guillotte's original illustration, "Le Petit Pessimiste"

Another participant was Anna Guillotte, an accomplished fine artist who brought her own story about “a little pessimist,” an anxiety-ridden little girl. Anna wanted to encourage children there are ways to rise above everyday situations they could be anxious about.

We discussed how her  story would need to spotlight a tangible challenge her character wants to overcome. And demonstrate how her “little pessimist” could triumph over her situation through her own actions.Getting ready for a math test

Anna decided to have her character face an upcoming math test (right), which became her character’s challenge. A secondary character, her favorite stuffed bunny, was created as her alter ego/reactor.

The little girl’s studies, on top of her own anxieties, envelope her on test day. On her way to school, she encounters a Math Monster….

Math Monster by Anna Guillotte

Here’s a book trailer Anna created to highlight her book premise:




Cover from "My Penguin Osbert", written by Elizabeth Cody Kimmel

Cover from "My Penguin Osbert"

Freelance illustrator/video game programmer Charles Eubanks chose to work on a story his own kids loved, My Penguin Osbert by Elizabeth Cody Kimmel.

Charles jumped into producing storyboards. Then he cut-and-pasted the text manuscript into a landscape format, marking page breaks. Corresponding thumbnail sketches  were placed next to each text block.

Preliminary text breaks for Charles Eubanks' book dummy

Ms. text breaks for Charles Eubanks' book dummy

character study - 2 by Charles EubanksCharacter studies were followed by a 32-page book dummy.

Preliminary character studies by Charles Eubanks

Character sketches by Charles Eubanks




Little Red Riding Hood by Andrea Zuill

'Little Red Riding Hood by Andrea Zuill

A needlepoint design by Andrea Zuill

Andrea Zuill displays and sells her work through Etsy and many craft fairs. In class, she’d regale us with stories about her world of hand-crafted art creators, online and in person. Threaded throughout her work is her sly humor.

Snow White by Andrea Zuille

Andrea's 'Snow White & the Usual Suspects'

sketches by Andrea Zuill

"Say Hello to Zorro" by Carter Goodrich

"Say Hello to Zorro" by Carter Goodrich

For her class project, Andrea chose to illustrate her own version of Carter Goodrich’s Say Hello to Zorro!.

Andrea Zuill's dogs for "Make Way for Zorro"
Andrea captured canine personality through close observation of her own dogs, rendering many sketches.

Andrea's dog, and its reaction to cats in boxes

Andrea's dog, and its reaction to cats in boxes




To be continued….

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9 responses to “Awestruck by teaching, part 1

  1. What a cool shout-out! You’re an amazing reporter, Joy, gathering all those tidbits of our work! Thank you for the amazing mentorship and giving us a class that has shaped all of our paths. And speaking of mentorship, yeah, Andrea!!!!

    • Hi Ella,
      Your story evolved into something magical and loving during the course of our time together. I think your characters are off to the start of a terrific adventure! Loved having you, Pearl and Bear sitting there in class. Yeah! 🙂

  2. Ya know, I’ve never been one to like school – but this was an incredible class, and such an enjoyable learning experience. Both you, Joy, and classmates were so inspiring and professional — it made me look at the classroom experience in a positive light : )

    • Anna,
      It was a pleasure to observe how you blossomed in class. You embraced the class discussions when books were brought in to share, not to mention our own discussions about your story, and the break-out critique groups. You also discovered the gratification of continual revisions, and how they progressively improve your work exponentially. Just think, this is only the beginning! It can only get richer!

  3. Pingback: Awestruck by teaching, part deux | got story countdown

  4. More please….! 🙂

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