Category Archives: Melanie Hope Greenberg

10 questions

10 | Recent activities

question 10

Speaking of juggling work schedules, please tell us about your recent activities and upcoming events.

Melanie Hope Greenberg: I have much on my plate. I recently participated in a few auctions such as Ripple, and the 826LA. I’m donating art for the 2011 Texas Library Association’s Disaster Relief Fund raffle. There are readings and signings at The Brooklyn Book Festival, DUMBO Arts Festival, and the Atlantic Antic.

I’m also in the “Drawn In Brooklyn” opening at the Brooklyn Central Library from September 21, 2010 through January 23, 2011. It’s a festival and exhibition of children’s book art, curated by John Bemelmans Marciano, author/illustrator; and grandson of Ludwig Bemelmans, author of “Madeline.” The exhibition features the work of over 30 illustrators who live and work in Brooklyn, from the most exciting newcomers in publishing to the legends of the business. The exhibition showcases over a hundred pieces of art

Drawn in Brooklyn:



ET: One last question! I always wonder what illustrators do with their original book illustrations after the book is printed- I know some of yours are used for exhibits like the upcoming one at the Brooklyn Public Library, but what about the rest? After 16 books- that’s a lot of art! 🙂

MHG: That’s a lot of art is right! I have almost all the art here in my tiny studio. Not willing to sell them yet. With all the new technology and getting my rights back with books that go OP the art might just be needed again. Am I being crazy?

JC @ Melanie: You might consider having all of your art scanned professionally, and archive them for future accessibility.

There is also the possibility of obtaining a duplicate set of the high-resolution scans that were used to create your most recent books. Your publisher’s production manager or art director will know exactly how to make such arrangements, as their department is responsible for ordering reprints of your books. You might need to bring them a box of donuts 😉

JC @ Erin: That’s one of the bonuses of creating art for picture books: The artist winds up with enough art for his/her own art exhibit! 

It’s all there — consistent style, a theme, and — best of all — books to sell alongside the show!

JC @ Everyone: it should be pointed out that when art is created for picture books, the publisher is purchasing the right to reproduce them for said book.

In other words, they do not own the artwork itself. It’s not work-for-hire. The artist retains the work itself. They can sell the artwork, or use it to raise funding for literacy events.

And how fortunate are the people who purchase and own an original signed piece from a children’s book illustrator. They can gaze at it anytime, and think story!

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ET: I hope I can get to the Eric Carle Museum someday. I think it’s great that he made a place where the public can enjoy original art from today’s illustrators like Lisbeth Zwerger and Kadir Nelson as well as masters like Leo Lionni and Virginia Lee Burton (so sad I missed that one!).  And I wonder sometimes about illustrators like Maurice Sendak.  I don’t know how many books he’s done but the art could probably fill a museum. Where does he keep it all?!  

And I guess I always thought that even if books went out of print the publisher kept some kind of printing proofs in case they would want to reprint.

MHG:  I also want to point out the Mazza Museum of International Picture Book Art in Findlay, Ohio. That is where I met Anne Rockwell and Chris Demarest.

 Please keep in mind that 80% of the population in the industry are women and 80% of picture books are painted by men. Let’s let children grow up knowing that women become great artists too. Let’s not leave them off of our favorites lists. You have a good mix there, Erin! Brava!

JC: @ Erin: When a book is officially out-of-print, that’s it! That publisher is done. The reality is the publisher will simply move on to other matters. Too many other books to oversee. That’s why it’s prudent for the artist to scoop up reproduction rights if their work goes out-of-print (OOP), or it can be totally forgotten.  It’s also possible that another publisher could purchase those rights, and give that same book a renewed life.

JC: @ Melanie: Speaking of the Eric Carle Museum, isn’t there a page dedicated to your work at their website? How did that happen?

ET: I didn’t know there was a children’s art museum in Ohio. That’s good to know! 

When I was at the conference last winter there were over a thousand people, 800 of them were woman in a field is dominated by men. At my lunch table, there was a discussion about why that is. I’m very inspired by women illustrators. My favorite artist is Mary Blair. She did a lot of concept art for Disney (also dominated by men), designed the Small World ride, and did children’s book like I Can Fly. She’s not as well known as others but oh- her work is stunning.

ET: @ Joy- the reprint issue makes me think of the M. Sasek “This Is…” series from the 60’s that has been reprinted recently. Sasek died in 1980, left no heir, and nobody knows who owns the copyright to the series. The royalties are being held in a fund until they can figure it out. And I don’t know how they found all the original work to reprint 18 books, but I’m grateful to whoever did!

MHG:   Joy, Yes there is a webpage with my books at the Eric Carle Museum  🙂 List to over 100 online links about my books, author visits, events, awards, exhibitions, and more. A visual way to see what my world is about:

Denise Hilton Campbell: Thank you, Melanie and Joy,  for this discussion! It’s been enlightening and validating and I look forward to many more!

MHG: Thanks Denise! Your comment means so much to me. I’m so happy we got you buzzed about book creation. Best of Luck and may you have many publishing successes!

JC: Don’t miss this interview on Diversity in Picture Books with Melanie here:

Jama Kim Rattigan: Great piece!

MHG: Thanks everyone for participating in the Got Story Countdown! Whether you asked questions or read or send me well wishes silently, I appreciate it! You are all great! Last but not least, THANK YOU, Joy Chu! What a pleasure to work with you. Let’s do it again real soon!


9 | Scheduling

melanie tile 9

Tell us about a typical day. How much time is devoted to networking? Promotion? Exercise? Working at the drawing board? Do you stick to a schedule? Is there a method to the madness?

Melanie Hope Greenberg: By the way, the spot art above (next to the number 9) is Brian Mulroney, from my favorite local band, The Jug Addicts. He plays washboard, for real.

Janis Marziotto: I’d like to know more about your process about working your illustrations into someone else’s story. How do you start? Do you let the story speak to you and whatever pictures pop into your head those are what you go with? As a writer, when I look at pictures, the pictures speak to me in words.

MHG: That is really hard to answer. Everyday is different according to what is currently going on. When I have deadlines that keeps me more on a schedule. I’m very organized person, I think the free-form schedule balances things out so I’m not too rigid. Even with a free-form schedule, if I have a school visit or an appointment, I honor the arrival times and the people I connect with.

MHG: @JM: Your question (on working with someone else’s story) is addressed (with specifics) in question #7. There is a breakdown of the process there.

Erin Taylor: I think this is such an interesting question and I always like seeing how other illustrators split their time. For me, it’s a constant struggle to balance it all. I have a couple of part-time jobs and the rest of my time is divided between marketing and creating new work. Lately, I have gotten a few public art commissions which is taking time away from getting my book dummy revised, or any new illustrations, as well as promoting and getting a site back up. There’s just never enough time! With any that I have left over, I take long walks 2-to-3 times a week.  It’s important to step away from everything, and breathe, and observe what’s going on outside  🙂

Oh, and I keep a daily journal where I write down everything I did with my illustration career. Even if it’s just reading a blog. It’s been really helpful for me to see how I am balancing illustrating, marketing, and networking.

Joy Chu: @ Melanie: I think Janis is addressing what it’s like to work on someone else’s story vs. your own story.

For example, when you worked on Anne Rockwell’s manuscript,  GOOD MORNING, DIGGER.  It is understood that the illustrator is never in direct contact with the author (all non-pros are often shocked by this basic rule of the book biz), but rather with the editor and art director.

On the other hand, the author must have been in on your process in terms of factual information and pictorial details on your book dummy.

Would you share how such a collaboration works, and in particular, with Anne? I’m sure inquiring minds will want to know how you reckon machinations involved with books like “Good Morning Digger” with your overall routiine.

 [Yes folks, this is a JOB!]


This is my studio.


Janis Marziotto:  Yes, thanks for clarifying, Joy! Also, Melanie, I had the great pleasure of hearing your presentation at the last SCBWI conference regarding marketing. Your powerpoint presentation spoke to how much time you spend networking and keeping tabs of contacts. I loved the photo of you, exhausted over a pile of your own books. Images really do speak a thousand words. Another great photo was your office space, to show that we all need one. So, in reference to keeping your work space in working order, and the time you spend marketing yourself, I think it absolutely amazing that you can corral all of this in free-form schedule! Still my burning question is this; if you had to prioritize just one part of your day, besides nourishment, what would that be?

MHG:  Hi, today is a busy one. 

 When there is a job deadline and there’s many other people — the publisher, editor, art director, printer, marketing folks — expecting me to honor that deadline, then everything else flies off the top of the pile. Anne Rockwell, a highly skilled professional picture book illustrator with over 150 books, was extremely gracious and very professional to step out of the way of my vision. We had no collaboration once her vision was handed over to me to embellish.

MHG: Keep asking questions!!!
 I will answer fully later today. 
Busy day! Perfect example of the #9 Answer  🙂  CU later!

JC: Hahahaha!

MHG: Hi all, don’t miss my answers at question #7 for more on the above.

MHG: @Janis :  Your question re; if I had to prioritize just one part of my day, besides nourishment, what would that be?

  I remembered your Q above as I got out of the shower this morning.
  🙂 My answer is:  Grooming!

JC: 🙂

Kit Grady: Love these comments, And still, there are folks to whom you still have to explain. . . that it IS a job, and you are working at home.

MHG: Thanks, Kit. I’ve had to tell friends to stop calling me in the middle of the day to have a chat.

MHG: @ Everyone: In reference to this topic, do check out the dialogue at questions 7 and 8, also.  🙂

8 | On having an agent


Do you have an agent?

Melanie Hope Greenberg: I did for a long time, we published 16 picture books together. It’s a relationship and they can change. I might want another agent but currently trying to make the rounds on my own first. Repping myself has been a total re-education. I’m quietly learning who the art directors and editors are in juvenile publishing. I send them art samples while creating new picture book dummies and manuscripts to submit. Navigating this business is a big maze. It’s fun to create that book project. The next step is finding out the appropriate editor to send it to. That’s a whole new education. If I do get an agent I would be a good partner with all I have learned.

Erin Taylor: Were you actively searching for an agent when you found the one you had through the 16 books?

Stefania Candeliere: Can you contact an editor directly? If so, will they listen? When you started, did you look for an editor or for an agent?

MHG: Yes. Two people gave me her name in the same week. I was very lucky to be chosen right away.

MHG: @SC: I fell into this business with no clue about who was who and what they did. Thank goodness I found an agent who could open doors for me. I am forever grateful.

Contacting editors is tricky. It’s not a one size fits all business. Each editor has their own protocol. That is why I have taught myself who they all are and what they like. Some like the personal approach, some are hands off. Some like dog stories, some dislike dog stories. A good agent will know their preferences and will send your book projects accordingly.

Whether I have an agent or not, postcard samples are sent to editors and art directors.


Erin Taylor: Also, when I was listening to a panel of editors/art directors, some of whom said they look at agented material first. Have you found any difference since you have started to do your own repping?

MHG: I’m just about to get out there again after a year,  plus studying and re-aligning. Will let you know how it goes. The reason editors will see agented work is because the submissions will likely be much more polished.

JC: @ Stefania: A great way to meet editors and art directors is through the various conferences and meetings sponsored by the SCBWI chapters throughout the country. Often these events will include one-on-one critiques for an added fee. More about SCBWI (the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) can be found here:

Erin Taylor: I agree! There is such a benefit to meeting the editors/art directors face to face, as opposed to being a name on a mailing. At the national conferences you’ve got a couple hundred editors and agents seeing your work! And at a regional conference I had a portfolio review with an award-winning author/illustrator and she loved my work so much that she personally introduced me to her editor. I go to the conferences to learn and network, not just hoping to be discovered . . . but there is always a better chance of it happening if you attend  🙂

JC: I must say it’s impressive how much more polished illustrator presentations have become at SCBWI portfolio reviews. The best ones take the time to focus on one project that best displays how well they can develop a variety of characters in a consistent style, with both a book dummy and finished samples of work printed out in book size format. Complete with polished business cards!

7 | On “Mermaids on Parade”

Tell us about MERMAIDS ON PARADE. How did you get the idea of creating your book about this unique Brooklyn event?

Melanie Hope Greenberg: MERMAIDS ON PARADE was an idea which grew out of community. In 2005, during an author visit at the Brooklyn Central Library, the Division Managers told me what was missing on their bookshelf. They said children get excited to read by seeing themselves or their own environment in books. That gave me the seed to my future vision.

Adding serendipity, around the same time I was invited to join a Brooklyn local performance art troupe, the Superfine Dinettes, and march in the upcoming Coney Island Mermaid Parade. The invitation gave structure to the vision.


Superfine Dinettes

Superfine Dinettes


As the writing process started I interviewed the Dinettes at dance rehearsals and while creating costumes at the “Tail Factory”. One of the Dinettes said that marching in the parade helped her “come out of my shell”. That became the theme of the book. I took photos of dazzling costumes and learned how to make a mermaid tail.

Tim Travaglini first heard my request to show him a dummy in Los Angeles at the 2005 National SCBWI. We’d been crossing paths traveling as SCBWI faculty for a few years. I did not tell Tim any specifics of my book idea in LA. When I presented my book proposal to him as a manuscript with storyboards in NYC several months later, he took it right away.

Tim was already a fan of my artwork. Plus, I’d done my research and knew there were no other picture books published on my subject matter. I need to add that, having published 16 picture books, I am coming from a different perspective than if I were brand new.

Erin Taylor: On books that you are the author as well as illustrator, do you create the visual story and then add the words, or do you do the writing first?

Melanie Hope Greenberg: Good question, Erin. It’s a mix. Mostly, I start with a story idea, outline the idea on “the map” or the thumbnail grids to see the 32 page sequence. Words start to flow better when I have visual references. 

The visual references can just be the map, not the compositions for each spread. Those visuals come later or during the grid and storyboard phases. Things shift in these phases. What works in our minds might not translate well to art or words. Or the pacing is off and shifting text to a new spread or omitting text means the art needs to change sometimes. 

All the hard work is done in these early stages. Once the kinks are worked out, painting the book is fun, and there’s a map you’ve created to help navigate the job.


Thumbnail storyboard for MERMAIDS ON PARADE



I create a thumbnail grid. It helps me see the overall sequences of scenes in a 32 page picture book. Usually, books start on pages 4/5. I had so much to share in MERMAIDS ON PARADE that I started on pages 2/3. The dedication and copyright pages were combined on the last page, page 32.


Enlarged storyboard

Enlarged storyboard for MERMAIDS


My thumbnails get a bit larger to create storyboards, combining text with art. Here is where I start to see things in terms of camera angles. Close-ups, long shots, looking down, over a shoulder. What works with the text in that scene? Does each turn of the page have something new to offer? The storyboard is a good place to figure out the pacing of the text.

Erin Taylor: I’ve been doing a lot back and forth with balancing art and words in my dummy, too- it’s really one big puzzle! But the writing part is much harder for me, and the editor for my story asked me to keep it to one or two words per spread. Now another question! When I was in New York for the conference a lot of editors/AD showed examples of all the revisions an illustrator goes through before the book is finished. Do you go through several storyboards or dummies during your process in the early stages when trying to get the art/words worked out?

MHG: Yes, I go through at least 5-10 storyboards/dummies. Yowza, this job is not simple. I have a copy machine that I cannot live without.

Erin Taylor: I’ve gone through several storyboards, on my second dummy! Not complaining, just hoping to get a little closer to nailing it on this next one!

It’s a picture book about a dog and a cake — Allyn Johnston from Beach Lane is the editor who likes it. She suggested using the same word (cake) in different ways “Cake?” “Cake!” that sort of thing- with a few other words thrown in here and there. I have gotten past the first challenge of coming up with an a different ending. She thought the first one was too predictable — which I could see. Now I just have the writing to do. I think she is a really good editor so I want to at least give it a try.

MHG: Of course, give it a try. 

PS, tell your book ideas to ONLY your most trusted friends and colleagues.


32 page book dummy for MERMAIDS

32-page book dummy for MERMAIDS


When I feel satisfied with my storyboards, I enlarge the sketches and place the text into a 32 page dummy, or prototype book. This is what an author-illustrator sends with a submission proposal (cover letter, manuscript, color sample) to an editor or publishing house to get a book contract. If an illustrator is chosen to paint for a particular author, the process is the same: thumbnails, storyboards and dummy.

Joy Chu:  Good point about the value of revision.

 Diane D’Andrade (friend and former Harcourt acquiring editor) tells me that the average number of total picture book manuscript revisions is 17. Yes, you heard right. 17. Not tweaks. Complete REVISIONS.

When she said that, I replied “ONLY 17???”  


Erin Taylor: @ Melanie: That is good advice- thanks. Have only shown dummy to a few people — when people ask about the project I say it’s about a dog and a cake. I don’t give much more than that— it’s too complicated to try and explain the plot of a picture book w/o the pictures.

Erin Taylor: @Joy:   17… WOW.

I had one more thought on the subject of the revision process.  I can’t count the number of times I have been approached by a new writer who wanted me to illustrate a story they were going to self-publish. The reason for their wanting to self-publish is because they do not want an editor touching their story and changing it.  Or they want to be in more control over what the illustrator does. I don’t want to produce a book this way. I think that editors/art directors can see things that authors or illustrators do not, and all of those revisions,  storyboards, and dummies make a great book, and not just an okay one. The only author/illustrator I can think of in the history of children’s books whose work editors did not touch was Dr. Seuss.

MHG: Touché Erin! When I was the 2005 SCBWI Golden Kite Award judge, I looked at 300 books. I really saw how the self-published books had many obvious flaws. Text and art did not match up, or art was not composed correctly, such as important elements painted in the gutter (the crease in the middle of the book). 

Getting a book published professionally is not a fast fix. A team develops with one’s editor and art director. The collaborative effort keeps polishing the idea until there’s shiny, vibrant words and art.

JC: I’ll betcha Dr Seuss rewrote his words way more than 17 times. And read them aloud a bazillion-fold to Smallville types of all stripes (in other words, children).

MHG: Pretty sure the neighbors think I’m daft talking to myself   🙂

Erin Taylor: I guess I thought the Golden Kite Awards were only for books that were published by a publishing house? 300 entries, wow. I was the featured illustrator on the SCBWI website last summer and I got bombarded with people wanting me to illustrate their book for self-publishing. I was irritated by the ones who thought that their work was perfect, and did not need anything changed. They wanted full control over how I would illustrate — and one guy asked if I could have it done in a couple weeks because he was in a hurry!!

I watched an interview that Ted Geisel’s wife, Audrey gave. She said the one thing that would just make him so mad was when other authors or illustrators would come to visit, and talk about getting a book done over the weekend. He took the process seriously and yes, I am sure he made more that 17 revisions!

JC: Re: SCBWI Golden Kite requirements. I just looked at the submission guidelines. Are self-published books handled as a separate category? I see there’s publisher-submitted rules, and then there’s individual-submitted rules. 

It’s true about self-published books standing out for their relatively amateurish handling of text and content, art, and overall typography and layout. In many such cases, ego seems to trump good business sense.

MHG: When I received the award books they came to my mailbox randomly. I put them in boxes alphabetically by publisher. I had to log in their data. They were all together, trade and self-published books on one long list. The books shifted around in the boxes as I got closer to the short list and eventually the winners.

 A craft is perfected over and over. It takes perfected skills to make a craft look so easy.

Erin Taylor: @ Melanie:  So over a period of time you got 300 books in your mailbox?! Did you keep them after the judging or send them back?

Erin Taylor: @ Joy:  Ego, yes. Good business sense would understand how hard it is to make a profit and how much work it would be to market and sell the books (and time = money, too.) I’ve seen it happen with some self-publishing ventures I turned down.

MHG: I kept the winners and asked the illustrators for signed bookplates.  😉   I kept a few books for myself that I loved. My friend’s children got some books. And the major bulk went to two school libraries in NYC.

Erin Taylor: Sounds like a lot of work but I bet it was fun to see such a wide array of stories and different styles. Nice that you donated the rest  🙂

MHG: I learned what makes a book the “cut above” the rest. My craft only got better reading all those books with a critical eye.


Detail from final art

Detail from final art


The shy main character in MERMAIDS ON PARADE has come out of her shell. Many silent stories build a tapestry of layers that transcend and enhance the text. This opens discussion with young readers.


The winner!



JC: @ Melanie: This is a carry-over of Janis Marziotto’s original query, which appeared during Question 5.  

I believe Janis is addressing the issue of working on someone else’s story vs. your own story. 

For example, when you worked on Anne Rockwell’s manuscript, Good Morning Digger. It is understood that the illustrator is never in direct contact with the author (all non-pros are often shocked by this basic rule of the book biz), but rather with the editor and art director. 

On the other hand, the author must have been in on your process in terms of factual information and pictorial details on your book dummy. Would you share how such a collaboration works, and in particular, with Anne? 

I’m sure inquiring minds will want to know how you juggle machinations involved with books like Good Morning Digger with your overall routine. 


JC: PS: And for reference, here is the original question:

Janis Marziotto: “I’d like to know more about your process about working your illustrations into someone else’s story. How do you start? Do you let the story speak to you and whatever pictures pop into your head those are what you go with? As a writer, when I look at pictures, the pictures speak to me in words.”

MHG: @ Joy: Usually the authors and illustrators never meet. I have been fortunate in my career that I have met many of my authors. Anne Rockwell and I met and connected, and she bravely requested my art for her book at Viking. Once I was on board, Anne, a highly skilled professional picture book author and illustrator with over 150 books published, was extremely gracious and very professional to step out of the way of my vision. We had no collaboration once her vision was handed over to me to embellish. I really appreciated that room.

MHG: @ Janis: When I read a manuscript that is not my own,  the author’s visual writings bring up images in my mind’s eye right away.  Many of my early doodles go on a pad or right on the thumbnail grid at times. I try to get the image from my mind onto paper quickly. Then research comes in. I might loosely sketch a digger, but I need to see what one really looks like for the final art.

JC: @ Melanie:  Did you attach any scrap or photocopies of your references to your sketches? Just to show the editor you did the prerequisite homework? And did you visit construction sites yourself?

MHG: My goal is to show all the homework synthesized into the illustration. However, it can’t hurt to have a sketchbook with you. IIlustrator  Dan Yaccarino brought his sketchbook to editorial meetings, and some published picture books came from that.

 Yes, I did visit a real construction site right near my house that was painted in GOOD MORNING, DIGGER. There was also a digger underneath the Manhattan Bridge that’s in the spread 
where ‘Digger’ is resting on a mound of dirt. I also borrow books from the public library as research or look on Google Images.

Janis Marziotto: Thank you.

JC : @ Everyone: You can see GOOD MORNING, DIGGER at these links: Children’s Literature Network / Writer Anne Rockwell

Look inside the book at

JC: Anne Rockwell sent her comments earlier today on working with Melanie on GOOD MORNING, DIGGER, printed below with her permission.


“I had written GOOD MORNING, DIGGER, originally with the idea that I would illustrate it. But I was having a lot of problems with arthritis in my right thumb, and couldn’t see myself taking on an illustration project that required so much detail so that little kids could imagine themselves making those big machines *work.*

I met Melanie at a conference in Findley, Ohio. We made friends readily. Something in Melanie’s work–the bright colors, the childlike eye for detail, and the urban settings — reminded me of my own way of approaching artwork for little children. I asked her if she’d be interested and she said “yes”.

The rest was up to me, and I was scared, because editors and/or art directors don’t welcome meddlesome authors — even when the author wrote the words with very specific images in her mind’s eye.

The editor agreed to take a look at Melanie’s portfolio. But by some miracle, the head of the department had also seen Melanie’s work, and hoped something would come along she was right for. So things clicked.

As an illustrator myself, I wouldn’t want an author breathing down my neck and saying “But I thought she’d have curly hair…” or the like. So I stayed put. I waited patiently until I saw f&gs and found them perfect.

I should say that I find my texts very straightforward, and if the illustrator just paints what the words say, they’ll be fine. Melanie did just that. It’s there in the composition, the color, the point of view.

Picture books for young children are books where they read the pictures, while listening to the words, and author and illustrator must both understand that so the story is seamless. Children and their parents tell me they love this book. And I do too. 

Thank you, Melanie, for making DIGGER and his pals live.”

— Anne Rockwell | Sept 1, 2010


Chris Demarest: I did a similar thing for a book called ALL ABOARD. The idea was an ABC book that had a feel of old travel posters. When it finally came to working on samples to show the art director, Ann Bobco, at McElderry Books, I couldn’t make it work. So I told Ann to find someone else. Artist Bill Mayer was brought in, and he did a great job. It’s an interesting position for an illustrator to be in. It reminded me of George C. Scott turning down his Oscar for Patton. He said if other actors had also portrayed the same role, and they still felt he was the best, then he’d take it. The point is, every artist will make a story different so kudos to you, Anne for being brave and letting go.

JC: Chris raises an excellent point. You can hand a variety of illustrators exactly the same story, and each one will offer their own special vision — without changing a single word. 

You could wind up with a comedy, drama, zombie tale, satire, mystery, period piece, or super-realistic portraiture. We did this in my classes with Red Riding Hood and The 3 Pigs. Illustrators can really illuminate a fine manuscript. The possibilities are endless! 

For example, I can envision how Ms. Melanie Hope Greenberg might render  Red Riding Hood, The 3 PigsSnow White, or The Wizard of Oz. Perhaps they would take place all over Brooklyn, or all five boroughs, at a costume party. And at the very end, there would be a huge cheering crowd, and a welcome-home extravaganza by a B-52s/jug band! Plus a book-signing party at the best diner in. . . . Queens?

Chris Demarest: @Joy:  Thanks for expanding that. Using Melanie’s neighborhood and her artistic style is a great example. An author, of course, has a vision while they write a story, but unless it’s central to the story, ie non-fiction, it could take place almost anywhere.  My son, years ago, played one of the Lollipop Guild in a production of the Wizard of Oz. The Munchkins emerged from a giant Duncan Donut box and the WWOTW came in leather on the back of a motorcycle! Break out of the box, illustrators!

JC: Wotta image, Chris! And wotta memorable production that must’ve been.

 Me, I’m already envisioning a double-page spread: a Melanie version of the Emerald City, swarming with mermaids, construction workers, and other wildly costumed folk. And high in the sky, a witch riding a giant souped up Dirt Devil vac, sky-writing :   “G O T  –  S T O R Y ?. . . . .”

Chris Demarest: LOVE IT!!!!!!!!
  This would be a great art project: a giant mural with several artists interpreting the same thing. Fun for your class to try.  Frankly though, I’m more the Dyson ball kind of guy!

MHG: I’m missing all the fun. Had no idea there was a good conversation going on over here. Love the visuals, Joy and Chris.  🙂

JC: @ Chris: Hmm. . . mayhaps this will be the next mid-term project in class. Hahahaha!

  @ Melanie: Now I’m seeing Melanie versions of all the profile pix in my FB Friends gallery. Time for more coffee. . . .


MHG: Thank you Anne, for that wonderful recap of our connection with GOOD MORNING, DIGGER. I really enjoyed illustrating that book. The text was quiet and that made it quirky for an urban environment. Your language just right for very young children. My colors tried to match your voice to set the mood. Thanks for being brave enough to ask Viking to look at my art. Forever grateful

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6 | On using computers

Do you think every children’s book illustrator need to be computer-literate nowadays? If yes, what basics should they know in today’s market?

Melanie Hope Greenberg: By the way, both the owner and a chef at Superfine appear in the above image (#6).  Superfine is the award winning restaurant, gallery and performance space in the DUMBO neighborhood, in Brooklyn. The Superfine Dinettes star in my book.

Interview with owner, Tanya Rynd (the blue mermaid):

Julia Zaychenko: ‎^_^!!!!!! Super awesome, Melanie!!!!  Lovely to be of inspiration to you, and cheers to many more amazing projects integrating life and art to come! xo!

Melanie Hope Greenberg: @ Julia:  Thanks forever!

@ Everyone: It’s vital to have email. It’s an important online tool. Many job offers come in emails and I also get phone calls. I have a website that is a static billboard for my books, art, author visits. The website also connects to my blog. I really enjoy the blog format. I can control the context, and blogs are fluid and in real time. I can keep everyone up to date.

However, art directors are swamped with images. I believe an illustration printed on a postcard can be tacked onto an art director’s wall.  It’s a reminder that you are looking for work. Digital files go by so fast. Using both channels doubles the chances.

Got Story Interview Photo Album:

My website:

My Blog is called Mermaids on Parade

Erin Taylor: I remember the conference in Omaha a few years back that you were at and your editor Tim Travaglini (hope I spelled that right) told all the illustrators that they needed a website, because if he liked our work he wanted to be able to look at more right away instead of mailing back a request and then waiting another few weeks.

I don’t know if all editors work that way but it made a lot of sense to me and I ran home and found someone to put together a simple site. I never send samples via email either, though — I think it shows I made a personal effort, to get a nicely printed postcard that I put a stamp on and hand-addressed, and I didn’t just send out a mass email to every editor and art director in the business.

MHG: Erin, so that is how we met, in Omaha! I loved that conference! I send both emails and snail mail postcards. However, email images are sent only after I have met that editor/AD in person and have gotten their permission to send.
This is not a one size fits all business. Each editor/ AD has their own personal preference. It’s always better to ask for what they want, make notes and follow through.

Erin Taylor: Yes, that was fun! I have only attended two of the SCBWI-NE conferences because they usually don’t have anything for illustrators. 

I get the Children’s Writer’s/Illustrators Market book every year and use a highlighter and a pen for notes next to the guidelines for publishers I’m interested in and also check their websites.

I did send an email w/ art attached to an agent because they requested it that way, but most of them want some other form of contact initially. 

How often do you update your website? Do you do that yourself of have a web design person do it for you?

MHG: I do not change the website often because I need to pay a webmaster. However, I use my blog as an extension of the website so that I can control it on my own anytime I wish and it’s free.

Erin Taylor: I had my old website taken down last year and hired someone new to make a new one. He did a horrible job, found out he was not really a professional web designer and was using a program from 1996. I was referred to another person in Arizona who said what I was wanting was simple and he could do it for me easily. I gave up after multiple times calling/emailing to get it finished. Now I have been waiting for another designer, a woman I knew in Atlanta, and it’s been two months. I’ve had addressed postcards with my site name sitting in my studio for several months and no site. That’s why I was wondering if you learned to do some of it yourself or had someone to do it for you.

MHG: I suggest this politely 😉   Dump the website idea and do a blog where you can feature your art and all your info. Stop waiting. Get a Google ID and use their Blogger template. I am a techno-peasant but intuitive enough to design Blogger on my own. You’ll be great:)  Send people to your blog every time you post 😉

Erin Taylor: I do have a blog, so when I give my card to people I tell them that they can view my newest art on there. The thing with the blogspot is if I want to show an editor/AD my best pieces they have to scroll through everything, there’s no way to do a portfolio with that site.

I have a lot invested in business cards/postcards/etc. with the name of a website that isn’t there. So I’ll have to toss all of it and start over- but I am frustrated enough with designers that aren’t following through that I want to do it myself. I will check out Google ID and their blogger template.  Glad you say it’s easy enough to figure out because I am also a “techno-peasant.”  🙂  Thanks!

MHG: On my blog I’ve created links on the sidebar to take me to the postings that I want others to see. Tag all your art postings together, then announce it with a link on the sidebar and send that link to your art directors. Best of Luck.

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Erin Taylor: Oh, great idea!  🙂

Joan Hansen:  Another idea might be to take a web design class at a junior college. I did that and learned Dreamweaver, so when I need to update my website, I don’t have to hire someone to do it.

Erin Taylor: That’s a good idea.  I actually have been trying to find a class like that. The community college in my town does not offer anything to non full-time students.  The same thing in Omaha (nearest big city.)  It would be nice if I could find a designer to come to my home and give me a few classes one on one.

Joy Chu: @ Erin: You might approach your community college teachers and see if they offer private tutoring. One of my former students — she teaches Photoshop, Illustrator, and Indesign at two colleges here in San Diego — teaches at an hourly rate (two hour minimum; 3 hour minimum if more than 25 miles away).

If you have your questions ready alongside a real project, it’s probably the optimal way to learn. And it would be on YOUR computer!

Erin Taylor: Hi Joy, 

That is a very good idea, thank you! 🙂  I have created all the pieces for my website myself in Photoshop, I just don’t understand how the coding works and putting it all together. I think it would be a good investment to learn these things so that in the future I could make all changes and updates myself and not have to rely on a designer.

Joy Chu: Take plenty of notes as your tutor demos the steps you need to execute. There will be a sequence, and you must echo them. It will seem oh so easy when you watch. But you’ll forget it all after the tutor leaves your place, if you don’t practice, practice, practice. It’s like piano lessons! If you don’t use it, you’ll lose it. . . . FAST.

Carmina Caballes: Look into MAT 125 at MiraCosta College, this beginning web design class is offered online so you can take it from afar. Register early because the online classes fill up. Next semester starts in January.

Photoshop will make a web gallery for you. If you could figure out how to place it into a public folder available on the web, then you’ll have at least a gallery you can link to from your blog. In Photoshop, view File> Automate> Web Photo Gallery. I think in the newest version of Photoshop,  you have to do it through the Bridge application. Just look up “Automate” in the help section.

Joy Chu: Carmina shared a terrific tip! 

The Web Photo Gallery feature within Photoshop will generate an instant portfolio website for you. Simply fill one folder with your images — they should all be sharp & bright jpegs, RGB format, aprox 80 kb maximum file size (the smaller the better) for best results. Then go to the ‘Automate’ feature of Photoshop, and follow the prompts that request filling in all your contact information for your prospective customers.

JC: @ Erin: If you have a friend who has Photoshop, perhaps you can swap favors.

  @ Carmina: Hi!  Were your ears burning? 🙂 

Great tip about Miracosta’s on-line classes too. I’ve taken a few of them, and they are excellent.

JC :  @ Erin: Reread earlier posts. If you already have Photoshop, I’d try out Carmina’s suggestion.

Denise Hilton Campbell: Wish I’d been in on this from the beginning. 

It doesn’t take much to learn how to do your own web page. There are more and more do-it-yourself web design sites out there that are featuring more sophisticated templates. It’s a good place to start, in my opinion, until you learn the ropes.

There are also some free online tutorials to learn code and designing web pages. It does take a little time but it’s worth it. You can also change it or keep refining it as you go. It’s kind of addictive, actually.

 I agree with Carmina and Joy that Photoshop is the best place to start if you have a newer version.

 I’m developing a blog too and I’m finding I almost like it better than a website.

Erin Taylor: Thank you everyone for all of the great ideas on how I can get a simple site up for my portfolio! I checked on my Photoshop, and saw the web gallery option in the drop down list.  My version of the program is about five years old (ancient in computer years!) so hopefully it would still work okay.  And I will definitely check out those online classes, this is something I have wanted to learn to do for a while now.

Denise Hilton Campbell: Mine is ancient too, Erin. One of my goals this year is a new computer so I can upgrade all of my software. The older versions of Photoshop don’t have some of the bells and whistles of the newer versions, but you can still get something going.

5 | On portfolios

tile 5

You met with art directors at the Intensive. What did you learn from encountering them? Did they share tips for everyone?

Janis Marziotto: I’d like to know more about your process about working your illustrations into someone else’s story. How do you start? Do you let the story speak to you and whatever pictures pop into your head those are what you go with? As a writer, when I look at pictures, the pictures speak to me in words.

Melanie Hope Greenberg: At the SBCWI NY Metro Illustrator’s Intensive portfolio critiques were done privately with three art directors and an agent. I’m sure each illustrator gathered new knowledge and inspiration at their personal critiques. I took the opportunity to have a critique. Learned that my portfolio needs to always be updated. Don’t rest on my laurels. Show new work. 

I show picture book art on my website

I started a blog to keep adding new art. These illustrations are also for sale.

Joy Chu: @ Janis: When you experience a picture book, do you notice what the illustrator has done to enrich what the author has written? That is, what’s NOT mentioned in the text?

JC: @ Melanie: Did Laurent Linn indicate what he looks for on behalf of his publisher, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers?
MHG:   @ Janis, that’s an excellent question and Joy brought up something very important about the under layers of a story to transcend the text into silent stories. I am going to discuss this further in Question #7.

Either way, as author-illustrator or just the illustrator, I need to breakdown the text to a 32 page format. Books are printed in increments of eights.

 See my post at the Mermaid on Parade Blog to visually learn about my process.

MHG:   I was in Pat Cummings‘ class at the same time Laurent was teaching next door.  I do not remember that question addressed when Pat and Laurent came together.  I suggest to Google an interview with him and find out what he likes.

The good news is that I found the handout from that day. Here is what Laurent prefers: Send snail-mail samples of illustration, postcards are ideal. No email samples. 

Send to: Laurent Linn, Art Director, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 1230 Avenue of the Americas, NY, NY 10020

JC: Aha. So what gems of wisdom did Pat share with you? I love the vibrancy of her art.

MHG: And remember folks… NEVER send original art, only reproductions that the publisher can keep on file.

JC: Thanks for that LL mailing tip, by the way.  
Adding to Melanie’s excellent advice on art samples: Make sure your sample fits neatly into an 8.5 x 11″ file folder. In other words, never send anything larger. And it should always be a reproduction, not an original. Each piece should have all your vital contact information.

MHG: Students in Pat’s class had homework to create art for their story. One at a time, each student displayed their illustration in front of the whole class to be critiqued. Pat discussed composition, character development, narrative arc, color palettes, child friendliness, text placement, among many other nuances that come up when illustrating a picture book. Very informative session. We all came away learning how to be better at this craft.

Judy Salinsky Oh… I have been reading every post, I am learning so much. Living in San Diego is a wonderful place and Joy’s class was so informative, wish we had more. I love this. Seems like many artists are “self-taught”,  hit-and-miss. Hopefully, I will get a hit someday. I wanted to post a THANK YOU to Erin for recommending  Drawn to Life: 20 Golden Years of Disney Master Classes: Volume 1: The Walt Stanchfield Lectures. Amazon offers a ‘Look Inside the Book.’ Oh my goodness, what a gem. Thanks so much for welcoming me to my first on-line discussion group, this is wonderful.

Judy Salinsky: @ Melanie: Will you ever do a workshop in California, or another one in New York! I would love to learn more!

MHG: Invite me to California and I am there!

Janis Marziotto: @Joy:  Yes, I do. In fact, as a writer, we are reminded that if our words don’t do a good job o conjuring images then we didn’t do our job. I think of white space when pondering your inquiry. Even if a book is just words, the white space speaks volumes as well. I was just wondering about Melanie’s process. Thank you.

JC: Glad you jumped right into the countdown, Janis. Let’s re-visit your query when we get to Question 7, as Melanie suggests. 


4 | Illustrators & SCBWI

You were a participant at the recent SCBWI Illustrator’s Intensive in NYC. Could you tell us about your activities there?

Melanie Hope Greenberg: I facilitated and introduced the students to the faculty, including Pat Cummings, an author, illustrator and educator at Parsons School of Design. Took care of necessary details, plus serving the cookies and food 🙂

I got to sit in on Pat’s informative session with the illustrators who came with a portfolio sample. As their art was critiqued we learned what works and what doesn’t work for picture books.

We then joined another group working with Simon and Schuster’s art director, Laurent Linn. Pat and Laurent answered random questions from the audience. This conference had great information and was fun.

I’ve served on the SCBWI NY Metro steering committee for over 15 years. I’ve done so many things; sent welcome mailings; write articles for the Tuesday Professional Series (and recently was a speaker for the Series); manage their Conferences and Courses lists; even haul chairs and serve cookies.

SCBWI NY Metro Steering Committee member:

Articles I’ve written for the SCBWI NY Metro Tuesday Night Professional Series



Joy Chu: Wow. These are excellent articles, Melanie. Thank you for sharing them. I didn’t know you wrote features on the business too.

MHG: Writing for the NY Metro on line newsletter is fun. I like it 🙂

Suzanne Santillan: What great articles! Thanks for sharing them.

Erin Taylor: I always see the Tuesday Professional Series in the SCBWI Bulletin and wish that I was close enough to attend. Is it held every Tuesday or once a month? Maybe when I visit I can make it to one, they sound like a great thing to be a part of.

MHG: Erin, the Professional Series is held monthly from Oct through June.

Judy Salinsky: You mentioned “art was critiqued we learned what works and what doesn’t work for picture books.” Is it possible to go more in depth about this topic?

[See Question 5 for a reply to this query]

MHG: How fantastic that author Anne Rockwell is on Facebook. Here’s an album of the book we did together.

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3 | On art medium

[The following appeared in Facebook 8/25 to 8/26]

What is your favorite medium?

Melanie Hope Greenberg: Taught myself using gouache and still love it. Also work with color gel pens for precise details. I started out creating collages. The collages were cutouts from newspapers and magazines. They evolved into cutouts of my own art to create 3-Dimensional Reliefs.

Chris Demarest: Even though I was an art major in college, most of what I learned in the ensuing years as a children’s book illustrator was self-taught or should I say sacrificed. Thankfully I was paid for my early work which I’d describe as tentative, color-wise, at best. It wasn’t until I tackled Firefighters A to Z, where I’d been asked to do something in a different medium, that I’d felt a real challenge in decades. The learning curve of chalk pastels was intimidating but thrilling. And I found it was the perfect medium for both fire and water. I have Brenda Bowen and Emma Dryden to thank for this challenge.

Melanie Hope Greenberg: Hi Chris, I like your cartoonish art as well as the later style. Now you have a variety of styles that can probably get you more work.

Chris Demarest: You’d think. I’m just an old dinosaur in this business. I’m heading to Scotland to paint and eat the heather. In my dreams….But thanks. I hope you remain busy forever!

Ned Norman: Hi Melanie, great to be part of this discussion. What determines your palette? Do you have a set of signature colors that you use regularly or are the colors based on the subject of your story?

Melanie Hope Greenberg: That’s a great question. Each color palette is determined by the story I am expressing in a book or any other illustration job I might have. In The Wind’s Garden, various shades of green described the changing of the seasons from early spring into summer. Usually, my jobs call for bright colors, I think of them as the sharp notes in music.

Ned Norman: Thanks Melanie! Apologies for my delayed response, and I appreciate your reply!

Melanie's tools
These are my tools.—MHG 

Joan Hansen: It appears that you have created tints, labeled them, and stored them by color tone. Very smart. Are the pan colors gouche?

MHG: Good eye Joan. Having similar colors next to each other has taught me to be fluent in reading colors. Most times I can breakdown the mixtures in a tint. The tins are gouache.

Vera Lisa Smetzer: You are wonderfully organized, Melanie! Interesting to see the tint creations!


I love mixing colors.—MHG


Joan Hansen: [Your art is] absolutely wonderful!  Do you work to the finished size of the book, or larger so that it can be tightened up when it is reduced to the book size?

Melanie Hope Greenberg: I work to the finish size of the book. Also, I add a “bleed” or a border of extra art about 1/2″ to 1″ around the painting. The art gets printed onto over-sized paper and the printer needs to cut the paper to size of the book. The extra border leaves room for less mistakes when the paper is cut.

Joan Hansen: That sounds like a wise decision. I’m impressed that you are allowed to both write and illustrate the books. It was my understanding that most illustrators illustrate other writers’ work. Yeah for you!!

Melanie Hope Greenberg: Actually, illustrators can break into children’s publishing faster if they write the books themselves. The author and illustrator usually come together via the publishing house. Sometimes we know the author or maybe have never met the author or we meet them casually at conferences. There are no fast rules. Thanks for the great questions.

Joan Hansen: You are very kind to share you wealth of knowledge with us. Thank you!

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2 | Getting started

melanie_tile2[The following appeared in Facebook  8/21 to 8/24]

What drew you to illustrating children’s books? And how did you get started?

Melanie Hope Greenberg: I am a self taught artist. When I was young there was no idea I was schooling myself. Art is fun and practice was play. In my 20’s, I started doing graphic art for a living. At the same time, I also sold my art to be published as greeting cards, stationery and gift ware. Even sold my art at street fairs.

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MHG:  So many people asked if I had illustrated picture books, that I took the hint. Through an agent directory, I met Dilys Evans. She instilled confidence that I had a good chance in this business. But Evans was no longer taking new artists. She suggested another rep who became my agent for over 20 years.

MHG:  I learned how to craft a dummy with text and landed my first book contract with Dutton Children’s Books. I jumped right in, and truly learned on the job.


Melanie Hope Greenberg's first children's picture book, published in 1989.

My first book with Dutton Children's Books was published in 1989.—MHG


Catherine Lazure: So great to hear that you don’t necessarily need a lot of formal training to enter this field.

MHG: It’s best to get some training as far as knowing how to sell the art and words and get it published. I highly recommend  The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. They hold many great classes, conferences, etc. to learn how to properly navigate the juvenile publishing business

Richard Jesse Watson: Good point Melanie. I got involved in children’s book publishing by attending the SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) conference. The recent LA conference was fabulous. For those who didn’t attend, check out their blog.

Joy Chu: @ Richard: Like Melanie, you previously did greeting cards too, yes?

Catherine Lazure: Thanks Melanie for the link to the SCBWI link. Aside from the Master Classes that I see you can buy (on CD I guess?), do they have live classes?

Richard Jesse Watson: Yes, Joy, I did greeting cards as well. I was an artist for Hallmark cards, then did freelance for Sunrise. When I was at Hallmark I often heard about my art, “Oh, that looks too ‘storybook’ “. Finally it dawned on me, “That’s because I want to be doing storybook illustrations”. One day I put on a red cape, grabbed my Viking helmet, quit, and went into the jungle.

Joy Chu: @ Richard: Love it!
@ Catherine:  Live master classes happen at the SCBWI Conference sites themselves, I believe. There are local chapters, and two national conferences, at NYC (Winter) and L.A. (Summer).

JC: Melanie participated at a recent SCBWI-NYC event. Ask her about that! 🙂

MHG: Good idea Joy, here’s a link to an article about my presentation called Marketing to the Max.

Denise Hilton Campbell: Thank you for this article, Melanie, this was going to be one of my questions. I have a Facebook* account and a “page” but I’m not sure how separate they are.

MHG: They are separate, as Joy and I found out trying to launch the Countdown. I suggest a personal account and a professional account. Yes, I am boring, I only post professional blurbs on my Wall. I hardly ever go to Pages. Who are you trying to attract? That is the message to give out. And stay on message. Your meals and notes to Aunt Tillie are going to confuse people

Denise Hilton Campbell: Thank you Melanie! My original intention with Facebook was to attract potential clients and be able to get feedback from colleges. Of course Aunt Tillie seemed to come with the package. It also gets confusing when I link it to my blog. I’ll set it up right away! I may still keep my Page for the benefit of the Aunt Tillies that want to follow my art… or maybe not. We’ll see…

MHG: Facebook is user friendly to all needs. Find what works for you. For the most part professionals are not really “Friends”. We are colleagues on FB. That will keep you on message. All the best, Denise.

[*SPECIAL NOTE. After the above exchange took place, the following was discovered about Facebook:  You can set up either a business account or a social account. But you cannot have both. It becomes your primary account. You can create other pages — ie, fan pages, associations, clubs, — but they must be connected to one primary page account. And you must apply the same   email address to each of them. —JC]

Marie Elena Good:  There is some great information out here. I’m not an illustrator (couldn’t draw a decent pic if my life was at stake). I’m in awe of you folks!

JC: With picture books, it’s a mutual admiration / collaboration between artist and writer.
🙂 😉

Marie Elena Good: Melanie, perhaps you already addressed these questions somewhere else. If so, please forgive the redundancy: Do you WRITE the books as well? Or illustrate books written by others? Or both?

MHG: Yes I write them too. Illustrators can do both, lucky us!

Christina A. Tugeau: An inside sense of HOW and WHY an artist and/or writer gets into and going in this industry is good for ALL to hear. it’s just fun hard work, practice and persistence often… talent is helpful! 🙂 enjoying this!

JC: Thanks for the props, Christina! So happy seeing you here.
@ everyone: Christina is an artist rep AND an illustrator extraordinaire!

MHG: Thanks! 🙂 Why aren’t we FB Friends yet? Off to invite you 🙂 mhg

Paul Brewer: My wife, Kathleen Krull (author of many children’s books) got me interested in art again after a long hiatus. I studied art at college right after high school but lost my mojo and quit. Nearly 25 years ago Kathy coaxed me into going back to school to study art. One of the many classes I took was Illustrating Books for Children, given by Kathi McCord at UCSD Extension. I worked on my technique, created “my” style and submitted samples in pursuit of a book project. In 1995 I got my 1st book deal! My 1st book was written by a 13 yr old boy on the subject of how to be annoying. It was called French Fries Up Your Nose: 208 Ways to Annoy People. It did not sell well at all because for some strange reason parents do not want to buy their children books on “how to be annoying.” I know, I know, it surprised the hell out of me too!

Lori Mitchell: I always knew I wanted to be an artist but didn’t know what I wanted to do with it. I went to Art Center College of Design and graduated with an illustration degree. My favorites were Maurice Sendak, Leo and Diane Dillon and Carl Larson. I …got to meet Leo and Diane at my first International Readers conference and it was such a treat!! Here I was with my first book out and they had inspired me with their work for so many years. I wrote and illustrated my first book in 1999. It was inspired by my daughter and her skin condition. It’s called Different Just Like Me and is about how we may look very different but we are all alike. I have illustrated 9 books total and I’m working on a couple more of my own.

MHG: Hi Paul and Lori. Thanks for writing in, nice to see you.

Joan Hansen:  Good morning Melanie. Do you create your illustrations in Photoshop or Illustrator, or do you paint them? If you paint them, what medium and substrate do you use?

MHG: Hi Joan, Currently, my ten fingers are my digital age ;0) I use the computer for marketing and archiving of original artwork. Never say never. I might use a computer to generate art in the future.  Medium: gouache, color pens, inks, pencils. I love experimenting with many color mixtures with real paints and cold press 140 lb watercolor paper or lanaquarelle paper. I like a bit of texture in the paper to absorb the honey like quality of the gouache.

Joan Hansen: That’s good to hear. I wondered if the watercolor paper would have too much texture for reproduction. Thanks for the info.

Tavner Delcamp: What percentage is computer-drawn versus hand-drawn?

MHG: Computer: 0%
Hand-drawn: 100%

Denise Hilton Campbell: I do love what the computer can do to make the process simpler and faster and I enjoy the work of many of the artists who use the computer but it’s nice to know there are others out there who still like to work with their hands.

Paul Brewer: It’s funny how when computer art first came about some people were saying it would eventually replace all the other art media. I doubt that. It’s just one other way to produce artwork, like with watercolor or oils or gouache. The worst part about computer art is that you are not left with a wonderful piece of “original” art that you can frame, hang up, give away or sell. I guess you could always frame the disc or thumb-drive and stick that on the wall. There…that looks nice!

MHG: I’ve seen some very beautiful digital art that is printed and further manipulated. It always good to follow the path that feels right for one’s art. ps The Superfine Dinettes used out dated computer disks and CDs as the wheels on their ‘Roller Coaster of Love’ roller coaster car costumes at last year’s Mermaid Parade.

Michael McKeown: Any advice about the PANIC OF THE BLANK PAGE? Do you keep a file of ideas to develop, or have some creative process or protocols for coming up with great ideas? Or do you just sit down and start doodling or writing and warm up until the ideas start taking on a life of their own?

MHG: Thanks for your question. I keep a library of images to get ideas. I save my sketches in a library as well. Usually several book ideas are in development at various stages. Some ideas just born with only an outline. Some in the writing phase or storyboard phase or dummy phase or being submitted phase. For me writing is the hard part. Art is second nature. That is why I also love to illustrate for wonderful authors.

Michael McKeown: Thank you for your wisdom!

Judy Salinsky: Thanks for giving me the spirit to create once again. I was fortunate to be able to take Joy’s class at UCSD. I started a “dummy” and drawings; but I was told my drawings looked like I was “raised in the 50′” HELLO! I was. Is it wrong to have a style-influenced by the cartoons we watched?

MHG: Hi Judy, We are probably around the same age 🙂 Do you like your style? Then other’s opinions need not matter unless it is so not kid friendly. Can’t please everyone. If we follow trends we are not artistic, we are trendy. I’ve seen 50’s style used in picture books before.

Joy Chu: Hi Judy! Have you tried telling a wordless picture story? This is where the accordion dummy works well. It’ll feel as though you are doing a continuous mural, and help keep within one style for the same story. I’d try this with 20-pages (10… double-page spreads) first, to get your feet wet. Just a thought.

Denise Hilton Campbell: @ Melanie. Just had this same discussion with my husband this evening. I guess I’m just not a trend follower. Still trying to figure out what it is that I am…

Joy Chu: @ Judy: Who said that to you? Sounds like THEY are not with it! What a lame comment. . . . probably indicative of the commentator him/herself and not you.

MHG: My interns would tell me stories about teachers who would say cruel things and make them cry. My interns loved me

Judy Salinsky: Hello to All: We are only at the second question and I am already feeling my creative juices saying” finally you have meant the right support group that are saying “GO FOR YOUR PASSION”.  NO I am NOT a trendy 55 years young artist, I am my own creative spirit and I will fellow my heart, and my art directors wishes 🙂 THANKS keep those questions coming I like this!

MHG: If art isn’t fun, then what’s the point? Thanks Judy, glad my interview is working out so well! 🙂

Denise Hilton Campbell: Thank you, Melanie! I agree on both counts!

Judy Salinsky: I have a strong background in life drawing.. how do I “loosen-up”?

MHG: Maybe go to a park and draw children, they’ll be moving I’m sure. It might be fun to capture their energy

Erin Taylor:  There are a couple of books that really helped me with this- the first is Drawn to Life by Walt Stanchfield. He taught animators how to put life and emotion into their figures- after he died someone collected all of his lecture notes and made a two volume set. The second book is Drawing Lab for Mixed Media Artists by Carla Sonheim. She teaches art workshops for adults on how to loosen up their drawing. The exercises are really fun.

Joy Chu: I don’t recall seeing any children in your portfolio. Judy. Give ’em a try!!! Think Olivia. . . .

Denise Hilton Campbell: In life drawing, we were given exercises to do an entire drawing in just five minutes. It really works to loosen you up.

Judy Salinsky: Thanks…I will look into the books. Presently, I am taking a class in drawing “quick-sketch” of the children on the beach and playground. Oh my, do they move!  What I should have written was this:  How do I convert a human figure into  an illustrated animal doing human things?  “Olivia“— she’s a piggy doing wonderful human dancing movements as well as reaching. I would assume it takes a long time to convert animals into human action and once the book is published, we don’t realize the homework it took to get to the final “Olivia”. She just looks so alive. Thanks for all your support!

1 | Early influences

[Note: The following posts appeared in Facebook on 8/19 and 8/20]

Would you tell us a little about your childhood? What were your favorite books, and which ones affected you most? Other significant influences?

Melanie Hope Greenberg: My childhood in the South Bronx was filled with creativity. I did arts and crafts at the Y, sang and danced to the jukebox and had birthday parties at my father’s luncheonette. My oldest sister attended Art and Design High School and Fashion Institute in Manhattan; her castoff art supplies were my toys.


Hansel and Gretel, a Golden Book, illustrated by Eloise Wilkin

Golden Books were a part of my childhood library. —MHG


I did not own many picture books. I remember Golden Books, Disney cartoon books, comic books, Dr Seuss, Aesop Fables, fairy tales. Mostly I read books from the public library, the Classon Point Branch, or books from school. TV cartoon art also influenced my senses: Betty Boop, Popeye, Bugs Bunny, Tweety Bird.

My most favorite chapter books were Lottie and Lisa by Erich Kastner; the original Parent Trap.  And Little Witch by Anna Elizabeth Bennett. I love the art, it’s sweet and sophisticated. I sometimes think of Minx mixing her colored powders together as I create new paint colors.


I read this book countless times. It must've gotten to me, now I am a professional Tarot card reader. It was a story of goodness overcoming evil doings. —MHG


Marie Elena Good: I soooo remember this one!

Joy Chu: Ah. Eloise Wilkin (illustrator of Hansel & Gretel, above) .

Chris Demarest: Thanks for sharing, Melanie. I’m catching up on all the reading. It’s fun to relive our childhood reading. I also loved Captain Kangaroo when he read stories. Even in b/w,  it was a story to get into. Loved the Littlest Lighthouse based on the real one beneath the George Washington bridge. Ever visit it?

Joy Chu: Ah, the Classon Point Branch of the Bronx NYPL! It’s where I was first introduced to quality children’s books. I noticed that every picture book published by the Viking Press was exquisite to read, touch and gaze at. I could also tell which publishers were the cheapskates, bookmaking wise. Ha! And I was only 7!!!

Melanie Hope Greenberg: Loved this art. Elegant and emotional.

Janis Marziotto: Yes, those beautiful cherubic faces. I wish I still had mine!

Chris Demarest: Very funny. I am amazed when I read about artists in particular who knew they wanted to do books when they grew up. Particularly the images of N.C. Wyeth so blew me away, I went outside to play ball instead. His was a league I never thought to attempt.  On that note, it was interesting to read that when N.C.’s son Andrew garnered fame, he felt that somehow his own work was of less value. I’d take N.C. over his son (or grandson’s) any day.

Joy Chu: Tangent: I met an illustrator who pretended to be a Wyeth. He used that name to get jacket work. . . and did! He was caught, but not before having 3 pieces published.  [Note to my students: Don’t even THINK about doing that!]

Chris Demarest: That’s amazing. Good warning to your students. You lie, you will get caught. Having said that, I once met a very confused kid. In his mind, my name was Chris Van Demarest!  And this just in:  Roger Clemens is being indicted for lying to Congress.

Melanie Hope Greenberg: This character from Mermaids on Parade is Cara Lee Sparry, the owner of Superfine. An award winning restaurant, gallery, and performance art space in Dumbo, Brooklyn. I marched with the Superfine Dinettes in the Coney Island Mermaid Parade. They star in my book. Here’s a photo of the Superfine Dinettes to the album. You will see the costume of the #1 character in the lead tile.


The Superfine Dinettes performed as the 'Mer-Mades In The Shade' at the Coney Island Mermaid Parade 2006.


Chris Demarest: I just checked it out. Very fun.

Janis Marziotto: My first and favorite book was my oldest sister’s Melinda, Belinda,  I don’t recall the author, but I must have read it a billion times. My sister’s name was Linda, so I guess that was why they bought it for her.

Barbara Ehrentreau: Melanie, I always learn something new from you!  Joy, you were definitely a precocious reader! I didn’t even know there were publishers until I had to write it for a footnote. 🙂

Deborah Mori: Great dialog… looking forward to more. I LOVE that you marched in the parade, Melanie! I remember you talking about it in your workshop at the SCBWI conference in LA two summers ago. I learned quite a bit from you in 45 minutes! Thanks!

Melanie Hope Greenberg: Thanks Deborah! I remember you too 🙂

Elie Bernhardt: The old Loony Tunes and Disney cartoons were great to watch and introduced classical music to kids. It’s too bad you can’t find them on TV anymore. Melanie, did you find your drawing style right away or did it evolve?

Melanie Hope Greenberg: I am self taught. It evolved as I practiced.

Ernie Martinez: In regards to what cartoon or show influenced me as a child, there are a handful such as Kimba the White Lion, Speed Racer, Tom and Jerry, but among the list you asked, definitely Loony Tunes and Bug Bunny. The one cartoon that sticks out and I get a kick out of watching it from time-to-time is the Looney Tunes version… of the three little pigs and the big bad wolf. It’s hip, upbeat, funny, and in my opinion, brilliance… in a cartoon way. Of course who didn’t appreciate Mr. Rogers!

Joy Chu: Hi Ernie! Are you reading picture books to your baby yet? You should check out Melanie’s mermaid book, by the way.

Melanie Hope Greenberg: Mermaids on Parade can be gotten at the public library. Or through me as it went out of print.

Judy Salinsky: Melanie, did you have a strong passion to become a children’s author/illustrator from what you read or did you have other interests, and it evolved from ideas you created?

Melanie Hope Greenberg: Hi Judy, How intuitive! Your question will be covered in answer #2. There were stepping stones along the way to getting published.

Maria Elena: Good point, Elie, about the classical music.

Melanie Hope Greenberg: Hey everyone! Thanks so much for bringing your wonderful ideas to this discussion.

Joy Chu: We will resume with question #2 tomorrow morning. Bring freshly brewed coffee or tea!