Monday, June 29, 2009

Illustration / Interview with Art Director *Cecilia Yung*

I was thrilled to work on MERMAIDS ON PARADE with Cecilia Yung, art director of Penguin's Putnam and Philomel imprints. Her talk entitled, "The Informed Message", at my local SCBWI NY Metro Chapter left quite an impression. In fact, I've expanded on that idea to teach about it to other illustrators.

Cecilia's feng shui touches transformed my densely crammed sketches and created more space, balance and simplicity. I loved how she really listened to my personal philosophies that informed each illustration. Cecilia also was a great teacher for the narrative arc and color contrasts part of my book.

We are very fortunate to share her knowledge here.

Q: What is an art director’s role when working with an illustrator?

CY: My overall responsibility is for all visual elements of a book: illustration, design and production. When I work with an illustrator, my role is in three main areas.

First, I consider the editorial issues. This is the content of the book— It includes the story, the focus and the “angle”. (What are we talking about, why is it important and why do we care?)

Second, I look at the visual presentation of the story: the casting of the characters, the choice of location, composition, point of view, and most important of all, the rhythm and pacing of the book. (Who, what, where, how)

Lastly, I check the effectiveness of the artwork: the accuracy of the details (do they agree with the text/story/fact), the legibility of the pictures (do we understand what is going on), consistency and variety, does the story have the effect intended, the impact it needs.

Q: How does an art director work with an editor to find an artist?

CY: This varies a great deal depending on the editor and the project in question. Generally, we try to find a style that complements the author’s voice and highlights the crucial elements of the book and balances any weakness or concern we may have for the story. We also try to find an artist who has expertise and interest in the topic in question.

Q: What is unique about MERMAIDS ON PARADE?

CY: It is a book that is big and small at the same time: it is both global and local, both a festive event and a warm personal story. Melanie’s folk art style gives a specific local event a timeless folkloric aura, yet the charming details bring the character to life and turns the crowds and the noise into one little girl’s story.

Thanks, Cecilia

Art: MerCecilia, Queen of the Hudson River. Copyright Melanie Hope Greenberg

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Superfine Wins Silver *Mermaid Parade'09*

The Superfine mermaids win the silver prize as the Best Push-Pull Float!

ROLLER COASTER OF LOVE *Click to enlarge*

See all the Mermaid Parade awards here.
Photo credit: Don Wiss

Monday, June 22, 2009

UNIT: Mermaids / *Interview with Melanie*

Who isn’t mesmerized by mermaids? Can you name other magical sea creatures?

Mermaid Temporary Tatoos
I love to wear these beautiful tatoos in the Mermaid Parade. The tatoos were also a big hit at my book launch party. The incredible artist, Ruth Soffer, is a neighbor on my block who has been a Nature illustrator for the past 25 years. The first publication of her mermaid tatoos was in 1996. See all her gorgeous artwork for Dover Publications here.

Mermaid Legends
The Little Mermaid by Hans Christian Andersen adapted into film and a Broadway show.
Mermaids Book List

With permission of Nicole Feliciano I post the entire blog interview.
Thanks, Nicole!

What little girl doesn't love mermaids! Brooklyn author and illustrator, Melanie Hope Greenberg, tapped into this love with her new book, MERMAIDS ON PARADE. Greenberg celebrates a Brooklyn tradition with her latest book. Every year thousands of spectators watch this art parade in Coney Island. This book turns the spectacle into a dreamy backdrop for a little girl's fantasy. The award-winning book is stuffed with colorful gouache illustrations and sure to delight fanciful girls. I caught up with the author to learn more about what inspires her work.

Q: Did you like to read as a kid?

MHG: My two older sisters taught me to read before I started kindergarten. I developed a love of reading. My books were on my toy shelf. That’s how I saw books, they were toys. I did not own many books, I mostly borrowed books from my local public library branch.

Q: Why do you think little girls love Mermaids?

MHG: Mermaids are magical, shiny and beautiful. They spark the imagination. They stretch the boundaries of reality which children do quite naturally. Mythological creatures bring us inside ourselves, to the mysterious wonder of existence. I think mermaids help little girls feel their gorgeous femaleness, as well as feel smart and strong.

Q: What were some of your favorite books growing up?

MHG: I adored a book called “Little Witch” by Anna Elizabeth Bennett. I re-read it so many times. I still think about the main character, Minx, mixing colorful powdered potion combinations when I mix my paints. I also loved a book called “Lisa and Lottie” by Erich Kastner. The bookwas the original story for the movie “The Parent Trap”. I loved the Nancy Drew series too. My parents subscribed to Life and Look Magazines and I think my love for dramatic pictorial storytelling was influenced by looking at the photos in these magazines.

Q: What makes a great children's book?

MHG: Truthfully, I think the public decides. Sometimes a book comes out at the right time and strikes the fancy of the collective. There is no one formula for successful publishing because the public mood and tastes are a part of the formula. And the public’s tastes and moods change all the time. All a publisher can do is take a chance on a book idea they love and hope that the public falls in love too.

Mermaid Tatoo artwork by Ruth Soffer for Dover Publications

Thursday, June 18, 2009

MERMAIDS ON PARADE* 2 Booksignings Celebrate the Mermaid Parade

Cheer on the Superfine Dinettes as the ROLLER COASTER OF LOVE during the Mermaid Parade, the largest art parade in the United States. June 20 2pm in Coney Island.

at Superfine's Mermaid Parade After Party!
Starting 8pm will also feature video screenings of the day's events, past Mermaid Parades and photo exhibit “Mermaids by the Sea” by Steven Harris.

* Autographed copies of MERMAIDS ON PARADE are on sale during the parade and all through the year at Superfine 126 Front Street Dumbo Brooklyn 718 243-9005.

*Book Reading and Signing* MERMAIDS ON PARADE
Sun June 21 3:30-4pm 7th Heaven Fair
The Community Book Store 143 7 Ave Park Slope, Brooklyn.
A great line up of picture book authors and illustrators from 11am-4pm.

Contest: We have a Winner! Thanks to all who participated!

Cyclone Image: Detail from MERMAIDS ON PARADE copyright Melanie Hope Greenberg

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Artists in My Book / *Herb Hernandez* Interview

Herb Hernandez is the webmaster for my website. Herb is multi-talented, he designs clothing and jewelry, he dances and acts, he reads Tarot cards and has his own photography blog. You've seen his name on my blog several times for photo credits.

Herb became King Neptune in my book, MERMAIDS ON PARADE.

Here is his interview:

Q: If you had a mermaid name what would it be?

HH: Conchita. I would blow a conch shell like a horn to summon people to the seashore for fun.

Q: What does Coney Island mean to you?

HH: Affordable fun, beach and great sights to photograph.

Q: Why do you enjoy taking photos at the Mermaid Parade?

HH: Taking photos of the mermaid parade is like enjoying a delicious dessert with all your favorite toppings! A tasty photo is happening every moment.

Q: What are your current creative endeavors?

I am enjoying photographing shadows and reflections of light on the walls when the Sun is rising or setting. They seem mysterious and beautiful to me.

Thanks, Herb!

Photos: Herb Hernandez
Top photo and illustration detail: Melanie Hope Greenberg
ps that's Melanie at the 2008 Mermaid Parade

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Art Exhibition / Curator *Barbara Wing* Interview

LAST WEEK! "Ordinary into Extraordinary" is up until June 13 at Brooklyn Central Library 10 Grand Army Plaza.


I met BPL curator Barbara Wing in April 2008 at the Dweck Auditorium. She had been sitting in the audience for my program. Afterwards, she asked that I write a proposal for an exhibition of my picture book art. The rest is history.

Q: Why is it important to show original picture book art at Brooklyn Central Library?

BW: The main reason to show original picture book art is to share the illustrators’ original artwork with children and adults, before it is printed into an actual book. Children can view wonderful art that is vibrant, exciting, full of color and form, and hopefully imaginations will be stirred by the artists’ illustrations which relate to children’s everyday experiences and fantasies.

We are fortunate to have so many terrific children’s picture book illustrators living and working in Brooklyn to provide us with a rich reading and art experience.

Q: How do you choose the picture book artists?

BW: The library has an exhibitions committee that decides upon which picture book illustrator will have an exhibition. The committee includes artists, teachers, librarians, gallery owners and specialists from the library’s programs & exhibitions department.

Q: What does a curator do?

BW: A curator usually selects the artwork of a guest artist, especially at a gallery, museum, library or other place of exhibition. Part of the curator’s responsibility is to look after the artwork and to take good care of it. Frequently, the curator will have a theme or topic in mind, and both the curator and artist will work together to determine how the artist’s art will be featured, organized and displayed.

Q: If you had a mermaid name, what would it be?

BW: I’ve always liked the name, KAI (pronounced kye and rhymes with sky). It is of Hawaiian origin and its meaning is “the sea.”

Thanks for making the experience such a pleasure, Barbara!

Photo: Herb Hernandez

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Artists in My Book / *Jay Asher* Interview

The first time I met New York Times bestselling author, Jay Asher, he was dressed as a mermaid.

We met in Los Angeles at the SCBWI 2005 National Conference Beach Bash party. Jay's writing pals, Robin and Eve, were mermaids too. A few months later they started blogging together as the Disco Mermaids. The trio had just won first place in the party's costume contest.

Shiny and glittery Melanie and Disco Mermaids Jay, Eve and Robin.

I believe in lucky omens. Having just marched in my first Mermaid Parade in Brooklyn, I swam over to my west coast counterparts and took a photo for book research.

The Disco Mermaids L to R: Jay, Eve, Robin in MERMAIDS ON PARADE.

Jay and I still cross paths from time to time. His first published YA novel, THIRTEEN REASONS WHY, published by Razorbill, Penguin USA, was in progress in 2005. Now the book is a big hit!

Jay kindly took time to answer my interview questions.

Q: Why were you in a mermaid costume and make-up? 
JA: We were attending a conference for children's book writers and illustrators.  Every year, that conference has a theme party.  That year, the theme was a Beach Bash.  My two friends and I liked to dress up in similar costumes each year, so we went to a costume shop in the hopes of finding three similar beach-related costumes.  The only thing they had three of were mermaid costumes, so that's what we dressed as.  And, in the costume contest, we won first place! 
Q: Why do mermaids hold such fascintation? 
JA: I think it has to do with childhood fantasies.  When I was a kid, I loved wolves and running out in nature, so werewolves have always been fascinating to me.  A lot of kids love swimming and ocean animals like dolphins, seahorses, and starfish.  Mermaids are these semi-human beings who get to swim all day with those animals.  How cool would that be!  Plus, mermaids are usually portrayed as very beautiful. 

Thanks, Jay!


Photo and Image: Melanie Hope Greenberg. Copyright 2008

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

*CONTEST* Win FREE Autographed Books!

Penguin USA was very generous to give me copies of MERMAIDS ON PARADE that I will autograph for some lucky winners. The Mermaid Parade is Saturday June 20, 2009 at Coney Island. Here’s a way fo join all the glittery fun.

Each year I march with the Superfine Dinettes who star as characters in my book, MERMAIDS ON PARADE.

Who will the Superfine Dinettes be marching as for the 2009 Mermaid Parade?

CLUE: It is a title of a song.

Read about the origins of the Superfine Dinettes.
In other years they were:
The Hip Hop Hula Mermaids
The MerMod Squad
The Ladies Mermalade

1) Answer in the comment box on my blog.
(Remember to leave your website, blog link or some way to get in touch).
2) Email your answer to

I will announce the lucky winners very soon after the Mermaid Parade.

Photo: Tim Galbreath 2006

Monday, June 1, 2009

Costumes and Characters / *Virpi Kanervo* Interview

When I first met Virpi Kanervo I had recently sold MERMAIDS ON PARADE to GP Putnam’s Sons, an imprint of Penguin USA. She generously loaned me her photographs from the 2004 Mermaid Parade. Those photos helped to create some of the costumes and characters in my book.

This shark made a bold statement against the destruction of family homes in Brooklyn in order to build a sports arena.

Virpi and the Shark in MERMAIDS ON PARADE.

I really appreciate Virpi’s welcome and for introducing me to so many creative people in the Brooklyn arts community. I consider her a force of nature who channels her boundless energy in so many diverse areas.

Here’s her interview.

Q: If you had a mermaid name what would it be?

VK: Eline, because there is a famous statue of The Little Mermaid in the Copenhagen Harbor in Denmark. H.C. Anderson, who wrote the story of the little mermaid, was from Copenhagen. Eline Eriksen was the model for the statue, and she was also the wife of the sculptor Edvard Eriksen who made the statue. 
Q: How does the Coney Island community touch your life?

VK: Coney Island is that crazy never-never-land that we all need in our lives. It is especially great to have this beach-front-amusement-district-conveniently-in-the-City. Coney Island is unique and irrreplacable - especially the Mermaid Parade - and I sure hope it stays in the future. 

Q: Why do enjoy photographing the Mermaid Parade?

VK: The sun (or the rain), the light, the movement, the colors, the exitement, the comradership, the intense fun ... It is not just snapping a picture here and there, but documenting the whole ensalada that is the Mermaid Parade. 

Q: What are currently working on?

VK: I am currently working on finishing my finals and graduating. So, I am sitting in the George Washington University Law Library studying ... oops, I mean answering what I am currently working on. 
Thanks, Virpi!

Photo: Virpi Kanervo
Image: Detail from MERMAIDS ON PARADE.
Copyright Melanie Hope Greenberg