Archive for June, 2012

HOW Conference Wrap

June 28, 2012

Sam Harrison preps for his session.

Well, my intention of posting a few blog entries from this year’s HOW Conference wasn’t fully realized. There was so much going on that I didn’t really have the time. But I had a great time at the conference and wanted to touch on a few of the highlights from the show.

I really enjoyed the opening keynote with Sam Harrison, author of IdeaSelling. Harrison stepped onstage and immediately struck me as a down to earth yet super smart guy who was sincere in his message. And his message was to take charge of your creative choices. By this he meant that the things you decide to do shape your future and it’s important to take risks, choose to strive to forward your own creativity, and never find yourself settling for good enough. Harrison advised be the best “you” that you can be. “We need you,” he said, “You’re the only one of you we have.” And that’s something that you can take to heart whether your a designer, an illustrator, an artist, a writer, or any sort of creative. (You can download a webcast with Harrison on selling ideas here).

I also really enjoyed a presentation called “Under the Covers” by rock star book cover designer Chip Kidd. Kidd’s session was laugh out loud funny as he went through the process and struggles that he went through as he created some of his most recent book covers for such heavy hitting authors as Haruki Murakami, Augusten Burroughs, and Oliver Sacks. As a book industry professional I really related to his funny accounts of the sort of back and forth that happens with every book cover between designers, authors, editors, and marketing execs. The whole thing can be quite frustrating, even for super star designers like Kidd.

Kidd’s session later lapsed into a fun discussion of his latest pet project: a Bat Man graphic novel he penned titled Death by Design. The whole thing is kind of an art deco, 1930s Fountainhead-esque Bat Man romp all centered around architecture and big buildings going “BOOM.” Really cool stuff. I’m a comic book fanboy and as Kidd showcased some of the panels from the book, going so far as to read bits of dialogue in the Joker’s voice, I was at the height of a conference nerd out.  Great stuff.

Another session I enjoyed was Stefan Mumaw’s “Chasing the Monster Idea” (Mumaw is a very inspiring speaker whose creativity exercise books include Caffeine for the Creative Mind and Caffeine for the Creative Team). Mumaw said a lot of great things during his talk, but perhaps one of the things that really resonated with me was this: monster ideas tell a story. Mumaw believes that storytelling is something that speaks to everyone and that if you really want to capture someone’s imagination, then you should tell a story. It doesn’t matter if it’s an animated spot or simply a photograph. The best work tells some sort of story (or hints at one). As a writer, reader, and storyteller at heart, I couldn’t agree more. (A great collection from Stefan Mumaw is available here).

HOW Conference Day 1

June 22, 2012

Having a great time at HOW conference. This morning I took a brainstorming workshop with David Sherwin, author of Creative Workshop and the forthcoming Success by Design. It was filled with fun group exercises – we brainstormed a magazine concept asked on a word association exercise and created a concept for a children’s picture book.



HOW Conference Bound

June 19, 2012

I’m getting ready to go to HOW Design Live, “the biggest gathering of designers, freelancers, creative team managers, and other creative professionals in the country.” I’m excited about this trip on many levels. As I’ve mentioned earlier, I’m keen on learning some more about the design industry, not just because I’m now editing design books, but also because I think the integration of writing and design is so important. As a writer, I find it interesting to talk with designers and see the ways they express their ideas and ways that images, or even font choice can affect the tone of a written piece.

I’ve got a fair amount of work to do at the show, but I’m also looking forward to getting to sit in on a few sessions as well. Here are a few of the sessions I’m planning to attend:

  • a session on brainstorming with David Sherwin, author of the forthcoming Success by Design (due November 2012)
  • “Chasing the Monster Idea” with Stefan Mumaw, author of Caffeine for the Creative Mind and Caffeine for the Creative Team
  • “Creative Story Telling for Designers and Unicorns” with Walt Disney innovation director Christopher Chapman
  • “How to Survive Your Soul Crushing Day Job” with Operation Nice blogger Melissa Morris Ivone

Full report when I return.

What would a hobbit do?

June 13, 2012

So, I’m working on a pretty fun side project right now. Along with a couple of other authors I’m contributing to a book titled The Unofficial Hobbit Handbook. The best way to describe the book is that it’s a sort of “What Would A Hobbit Do?” type of book that gives Tolkien-esque solutions for daily life. (Hobbit self help, perhaps?)

So for the past couple months, when not working at my day job I’ve been researching hobbit society and culture and examining self defense techniques that might be drawn from Middle-earth combat. Not to mention conversing with dragons (in my mind, of course). Here’s hoping the whole thing comes together without a hitch. My chapters have been a lot of fun to write. Think equal parts tongue in cheek humor  and actual life lessons (advice on etiquette, and the like).

Also working on the project are Peter Archer (who has written for Wizards of the Coast), Jeff Gerke (founder of Lord Marcher Press, a publisher of Christian speculative fiction), and Ben Patrick (the same illustrator I worked with on Monster Spotter’s Guide to North America).

I’ll share more about the book as it nears completion. For now check out the cover (illustrated by Ben Patrick and designed by Claudean Wheeler).