Fall events! More on the writing process blog tour…

JackandtheBeanstalkjktsmFall book fair fun! Please join me and other fantastic authors and illustrators in the Book Barn this Saturday October 25 at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden Ghouls and Gourds Festival from 12 – 4pm and next Saturday November 1 at the Albany Children’s Book Festival from 10am – 4pm.

On September 2, 2014, I wrote a post about my writing process. Good friend and fellow author/illustrator, Marisabina Russo, had tagged me in this blogger’s “game.” I in turn tagged two other talented author/illustrator friends – Selina Alko and Javaka Steptoe. Well, almost two months have passed and more author/illustrators have joined in. Selina tagged new writer, Abby Hanlon, who tagged one of my favorites, Hyewon Yum, who tagged another favorite, Tao Nyeu. Javaka has broken his answers out into separate blog posts, you’ll find the link to the first one below.

What fun! I really love getting insights into other people’s process and have enjoyed these posts a lot. I wanted to make a map, but wasn’t quite up to the technical challenges. Here’s a short list of links, instead, organized in order of “tagging”.

http://www.pagemcbrier.com/#!The-Writing-Process-Blog-Tour/ → http://marisabinarusso.wordpress.com/2014/08/22/the-writing-process-blog-tour/ → https://ninacrews.wordpress.com/2014/09/02/writing-process-blog-tour → http://javakasteptoe.wordpress.com/2014/09/10/the-writing-process-blog-tour/ → http://selinaalko.blogspot.com/2014/09/blog-tour-tag-im-it.html → http://abbyhanlon.tumblr.com/post/98147718474/writing-process-blog-tour → http://www.hyewonbook.com/2014/09/writing-process-blog-tour.html → http://www.taonyeu.com/v2/2014/10/16/writing-process-blog-tour/ → http://www.jumpin.shadrastrickland.com/living-the-dream/ → ???????


Reflections: The work of Ann Jonas

Bird Talk
©Ann Jonas – Bird Talk 1999

There is an exhibition of my mother, Ann Jonas’s, picture books on display now at the Brooklyn Public Library’s Central branch. We are so pleased with this exhibition that includes many of her books, early student work and design work. It has given us a great opportunity to reflect upon her wonderful career.

When mom passed away last fall, it was easy to talk at length about how much we loved her and all of the special things she did for us. She was a loving mother and wife; nearly a daughter to her mother-in-law; sister to her sister’s-in-law; good sister; aunt and special friend.

My parents ran their own business from home, Donald and Ann Crews Design, and I felt pretty involved in what they did. My sister and I spent many hours in their studio. We mostly had our own art supplies, but were always given what we needed from the studio to complete any project. When deadlines were near, we might be told to go play in another room and we would hear them working well into the night.

When my mother started doing picture books, I was in high school and actually able to help her out a little. Her first two books were done with pre-separated art and I helped by filling in outlined images; labeling and checking completed art to make certain everything was ready to go. Later when I was in college, I would come home and talk with my mom about the projects she was working on. I’d try to apply ideas I’d learned in my art classes to her work. I’m sure I was pretty obnoxious, but she seemed to enjoy it anyway.

Color Dance
Ann Jonas – Poster for Color Dance 1989

Because while my mother was very open to listening to the opinions of others, by the time she was putting a book together she was pretty sure of what she wanted to do. There might still be challenges and details to decide, but the concepts were thought through and the direction already decided.

My mother was fond of Swiss design and preferred standard sans serif fonts like Helvetica and Akzidenz Grotesk. By her fourth book, she started using Dr. Martin’s watercolor dyes and continued to use them almost exclusively for their clarity and intensity of color. These choices of typeface and artist media reflect her love of clarity. In her books she created magical, intellectual adventures and presented them honestly and unadorned. And these choices reflect exactly who she was. Honest, clear in act and opinion, and very smart.

Please stop by the Central Branch of the Brooklyn Public Library to see the work in person. The last day of the show is Sept 21, 2014!

Round Trip
©Ann Jonas – Round Trip 1990



Liar, Liar, Liar!

The Neighborhood Sing-Along - Miss Mary Mack
©Nina Crews from The Neighborhood Sing-Along 2011

I have just returned from Sheboygan Wisconsin. Spent a day talking about my books at the Mead Public Library and leading an art workshop at the Kohler Art Center. Spent two evenings talking shop with other authors and illustrators while tasting Wisconsin specialties like fried cheese curds. (Yes, fried cheese curds.) Here are some photos of me in an article about the festival from the  Sheboygan Press. You can look at them here.  (But be patient, there are lots of photos of Steven Kellogg first!)

During my morning presentation I learned something new which is the reason why this post is titled “Liar, Liar, Liar”. Apparently in Chicago, the song, “Miss Mary Mack,” is sung a little differently than what is printed in my book, The Neighborhood Sing-Along. Children’s author  James Kennedy sat in on my session and told us that when kids get the end of the song they shout “liar, liar, liar!” because the song is all lies. I am sad to say that I don’t think I ever really got the joke as a kid, but no room for subtleness in Chi-town. Fun!

Also fun is James Kennedy’s project the 90 second Newbery.  Kids of all ages create a 90 second film based on their favorite Newbery award winning book.

Climbing the Beanstalk

Jack and the Beanstalk © Nina Crews. Published by Christy Ottaviano Books, Henry Holt Books for Young Readers.

I am so pleased that my retelling of Jack and the Beanstalk will be published next week! I started thinking about the story way back in 2004 and wrote my first drafts in 2006. It’s about time!

The visual possibilities excited me first. I loved the idea of a huge beanstalk curling into the sky past a brick apartment building.

Jack and the Beanstalk © Nina Crews

I then did a little online research and learned that that the story as I knew it was one of many possible versions of a basic sketch – a boy, called Jack, climbs a beanstalk and meets a giant. From there almost anything can happen. In the earliest English versions, Jack is simply a giant slayer, killing giants who terrorize Cornwall. In Victorian versions, Jack is often portrayed as a naughty, lazy, stupid boy in need of redemption. In recent years, the story has continued to undergo big changes – Jack has even become Kate in one notable example. With such a wide range of interpretations, I thought a contemporary Brooklyn take on the tale had possibilities, and then, out of the blue, I found a small article in the local newspaper about a boy who grew a giant beanstalk with some exotic beans that he’d found in a local store. I definitely wanted to explore this idea further.

Jack and the Beanstalk © Nina Crews

As I wrote, I had to resolve how to address two themes that loom large in this story – justice and a restoration of the social order. The giant is a thief and killer. Jack’s own stealing and killing are justified by the fact that the giant has either killed his father or has killed other young boys and threatens him. Was my Jack poor? Fatherless? A thief? Perhaps, I worried too much (after all nobody can truly climb a giant beanstalk), but I felt that if I was going to set this in the present then present day values had to come be considered.

Jack and the Beanstalk © Nina Crews

My Jack is not poor and his story is not a tale of vigilante justice. He is a curious young boy and the giant is a braggart. The giant is living the large caught up in the clouds. Jack gets his magic beans doing chores for his neighbor, and climbs up to the giant’s castle. Curiosity sends Jack up. And through his escape from the giant’s castle, he brings the giant “down to size.”

Jack and the Beanstalk © Nina Crews

There are risks and rewards in working with familiar material. I love the many versions of this tale and I enjoyed building my version from them. I also had fun making some big changes to the story. My hope is that readers will find this retelling a satisfying twist on well-known material.

news, f-stops and the wardrobe

news, f-stops and the wardrobe

Welcome to my first blog post!

Why did I subtitle this blog news, f-stops and the wardrobe? To let readers know what I plan to write about in the upcoming months and years.

News? This blog will include news about me – new books and news on upcoming and recent events.

F-stops? Fairly obvious – as a children’s author who uses photography, I want to spend some time talking about my illustration and writing process including the tools I use. F-stops will also include other work such as this photograph taken on a recent, almost-spring day.

daffodil and shadows

The wardrobe? In the first chapter of the first volume of the CS Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia, Lucy steps into the wardrobe and the adventure begins. The door of the wardrobe opens up into an imagined world. A similar step is taken by simply opening a book and beginning to read. I have created many stories in which adventures spring from the imaginative games of children. I will write about some themes of my children’s books and other thoughts on children’s literature.

Thanks for reading this! Please come back soon!