Cyndi Marko puts the POW in Kung Pow Chicken — The book series, not the food (maybe also the food). She is a writer and illustrator. She started off her career hoping to sell picture books. Things don’t always happen the way we plan, but Cyndi did end up selling books. Just not the picture books she had planned.
Cyndi has now created a wonderful collection of superhero chicken books called Kung Pow Chicken. This was my son’s first chapter book. I read them to him when he was in kindergarten. It’s still on the top of my list for fun chapter book series! Cyndi’s new book Kung Pow Chicken: Jurassic Peck comes out in September. The Kung Pow Chicken Collection can be now bought as a 4 in 1 book!
Check out Cyndi’s Website here: https://www.cyndimarko.com/
Dani: Besides writing and illustration, What is your superpower?
Cyndi: Well, I’m actually pretty put out that I can’t fly or shoot lasers from my eyeballs, but I am a fairly decent cook. I love to put on loud music and just lose myself in the kitchen, and I always sing while I cook.
Cooking is a creative outlet for me separate from book work stuff. I’m particularly good at creating dishes from whatever’s on hand when there’s almost no food left in the house because I haven’t gone grocery shopping (which I hate doing), and I’m also good at recreating dishes I’ve had at restaurants. I hardly ever use recipes (except for when baking because science) and prefer to just go by instinct as I’m cooking. (Pro tip: there’s no such thing as too much garlic!)
I love to bake as well, and have been making sourdough from my own starter for about a year now. I think I most enjoy making soups (I save bones and make my own stock) and baking fancy cookies at Christmas time. I think this love of cooking comes through in my books because I almost always find a way to incorporate food into my stories. There are candy corn cupcakes in KUNG POW CHICKEN and stale jelly donuts in THIS LITTLE PIGGY.
Dani: How has your process changed since you first started creating books?
Cyndi: I’m much faster now, for one thing. It used to take me months to make a sketch dummy for a picture book, and writing was like pulling teeth. But now I can sketch a dummy for a picture book in about a week, and a book like KUNG POW CHICKEN in about two weeks.
The biggest difference is scale, I think. I used to sketch at full size and it led me to be a perfectionist. Over the years my sketches got progressively smaller. Now I sketch at thumbnail size and then enlarge when I scan. I can then edit the composition in PhotoShop, and print off and trace using my lightbox when I go to final art.
As for writing, I’m much more likely to start with a loose outline before jumping into a first draft, which has totally helped my productivity. Also, I found a writing partner who writes and illustrates the same types of books as I do and getting feedback from a peer has been invaluable. (Hi, Troy!)
Dani What’s it like writing your 5th book in a series? Is it hard keeping a series fresh so far into the series?
Cyndi: It had been about five years since KUNG POW CHICKEN 4, so it was interesting to jump back in with book 5 (JURASSIC PECK). I had to reread the previous books to make sure I got all the details right. It surprised me how little I remembered writing the words or painting the art!
But I had SO much fun working on book 5. We had more time in the schedule for each step of the book, and I found I was faster and more experienced. KPC 5 also has dinosaurs, and I have always wanted to do a book with dinosaurs so I was pretty much geeking out the entire time. I really love the end result and I hope we get to do many more KPC books. I don’t think I’ll ever run out of adventures for those plucky little chickens!
Dani: What is your favorite way to relax?
Cyndi: Reading a book while having a glass of wine and eating Sour Patch Kids (pairs nicely with merlot) or spending time with friends. During social distancing I’ve found ways to spend time with friends online: playing tabletop games on Roll20 or watching a series or movie at the same time and chatting about it over messenger.
Dani What are you working on now?
Cyndi: So many things!
First there’s SLOTH SLEUTH, a graphic novel series about a sloth named Paz who solves mysteries on the fantastical island of Winklefuss. The first two books will come out in 2021 and 2022, published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. I’ve also got BOO! HISS! (Aladdin, 2021), about a ghost and a snake who are roommates in a haunted (by them) house.
I also have a couple dozen (I’m not kidding) WIPs—works in progress for the layperson—on the go. I’m working on picture books, chapter books, graphic novels, middle grade novels, and maybe a humorous coffee table book for grown-ups. I am sometimes overwhelmed by so many ideas that I am dying to work on that I end up working on none of them and just drink too much coffee and share too many memes. But I am determined to prioritize!
Buy the Kung Pow Chicken Collection: https://shop.scholastic.com/parent-ecommerce/books/kung-pow-chicken-collection-books-1-4-9781338599213.html
Preorder Kung Pow Chicken 5: https://www.amazon.com/Jurassic-Peck-Branches-Book-Chicken/dp/1338596640/
Indiebound links to all of Cyndi’s Books: https://www.cyndimarko.com/my-books
Lisa Chen-Wing is just hilarious. Anyone can write a story about their life, but it takes a special kind of person to make other people laugh about that experience. Lisa’s webcomic Whiny Whiny Pancakes is all about Lisa’s life with her kids. This comic is hilarious and very dear to my heart. I love reading this comic and I hope you will too!
Lisa’s website: http://whinywhinypancakes.com/
9 Reasons Why
By Lisa Whiny Whiny Pancakes
2 Reasons why I started a semi-autobiographical web comic
- My friend looked at a web comic and said ‘Hey, you could do that!’
- I said ‘Hey, I could do that.’
5 Reasons why you should start a web comic.
- Making more social media accounts is extremely easy.
- The best way to get better at something is to do it regularly.
- It’s a great way to practice new skills and techniques.
- Getting a few likes from randos on the internet is a great ego boost.
- It’s not a huge time commitment.
1 Reason why you shouldn’t start to draw a web comic
- Nobody really cares about your web comic.
1 Reason you should draw your web comic anyway.
- Outsider artists, the ones who toil their whole lives in obscurity, are the real heroes.
Since I don’t have the integrity of an outsider artist, only the same number of followers: (Instagram @whinywhinypancakes, Twitter @WhinyPancakes, Facebook @whinywhinypancakes, URL: whinywhinypancakes.com, other URL: elsiedub.com)
I just can’t wait until Spring into Writing. It is going to be a fantastic event. I have so many wonderful people sending me their posts right now. Things are happening. You can register here if you haven’t yet: https://www.daniduck.com/register-for-spring-into-writing/
So what I should have done for the last few weeks is set up posts. What I have been doing is working on artwork. I swear sometimes I’m the only one who procrastinates working on work with other, more complicated work. I mean it makes no sense. There it is. I’ve been skipping out on my blogging duties with my art drawing.
I am currently working on a graphic novel pitch. If you don’t know I have been working on picture books for the longest time. I was so devoted to making the picture book that I created the event Smart Dummies to help others do so as well.
Now I’m just cheating on picture books with my love of the graphic novel. My work is still for children. I’m working on a middle grade graphic novel, so that’s fun, but I didn’t know what I was doing when I started.
I started in Mira’s Children’s Book Academy making this book. https://www.childrensbookacademy.com/ I took the Craft and Business of Illustrating Children’s Books. I finished two spreads and went blissfully on creating lots of sketches to send in. The graphic novel package is pretty open to interpretation and there is no one size fits all.
I was pointed here not long ago http://www.mariavicente.com/blog/graphic-novel-pitch-package This isn’t a new site to me, but I didn’t think that my book pitch would be longer than a picture book. Or at least not enough to change my submission style. I think I was wrong, so now I’m finishing up 3 more spreads for my submission. I am a bit frustrated that I spent so much time doing all those extra sketches, but I think it’s going to benefit me in the long run. It’s going to help me edit my story better. When someone picks up my story, I will have extra preliminary work done. In the end it’s a win-win for me. Now to work on setting it aside so I can get Spring into Writing up and running!
I’d like to formally invite you to join my discord server! This server is for both writers and illustrators! This app can be downloaded to your mobile device (both tablet and phone), used in the browser or in the discord app!
If you are old enough you’ll remember chat rooms. Discord is like that, but better! It’s like a whole chat house of different chat rooms that only select people can access! You never officially leave the room so you can get messages that occur when you aren’t online. You can also share files, images and gifs.
I think this server will be a great tool along with our Facebook group to keep our community active and better connected all year round!
This is a Private server, so please do not post on Social Media. I would like to keep it to just Smart Dummies followers so please don’t hand this out to everyone. Here is the link to the server: https://discord.gg/JQHZefz
This link expires after 100 uses. If you find that it’s not working please go to our Smart Dummies Facebook group here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/548159692008535/
Or Spring into Writing here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1117605075090170/
I would love it if you could come join me on Patreon! I am posting lots of videos and images and posts. Some of the videos are instructional, some are for fun and others videos of me creating art!
It’s just $1 a month for access to all these posts! It’s not much and you’ll be getting a lot of content every month. Please take a minute to check it out! I have more plans for both Patreon and this blog so stay tuned!
Below is one of the images I posted recently along with one other patterned image. I’m going to keep making more great posts here, and don’t worry I haven’t forgotten about this blog either. To see more go here: https://www.patreon.com/DaniDuck
The last couple of days I’ve been feeling really off. I’ve been tired, irritable, so and did I mention tired? I’m sick again for the 3rd time in 2 months (The first two sicks maybe should be considered 1 because I didn’t fully recover on the first antibiotics). In any case I’m not here to complain about my sickness but more to talk about what happens when I get sick.
When I’m sick I generally try to work through it. I have 2 kids and I have to take care of them if I’m sick and often I do the same thing when working on my art. This leads to me being sicker in the end and I actually get worse because I don’t take that break.
A bit ago I was worried about doing a book review. Part of the problem was that I don’t understand the full logistics of doing book reviews, and the other part is being sick is making everything harder. It may be that book reviews aren’t my thing and I will look at that again with a clear head. I also don’t HAVE to do a book review right now. It’s not in anyway necessary. I wanted that to be a regular part of my blog, but no one is depending so much on my book reviewing skills that it’s a necessity for me to finish this one review.
There are times in life where you will have to work through being sick. If you don’t have a strictly enforced deadline then give yourself a break! Only you know when you are sick enough to take that break. Many publishers and workplaces will give you a break if you let them know what’s happening.
If you are pre-published or working on your next book project then know you can and maybe should take a break if you are really sick. If you have a family emergency you are allowed to take time off. In many cases you will get more done and be under so much less stress if you give yourself a break!
Be nice to yourself my friends!
I am making some goals for the coming year. If you know me, you know that I don’t like making resolutions. They are pass and fail. I want to make goals that will help me in my career!
Are you making goals for the year? You should! Start by making a list of SMART Goals.
Specific- If your goal is to create some illustrations or some stories, that’s not specific enough. Your goal could be I’m going to write 4 stories. I’m going to finish 3 illustrations. If you need some ideas for stories check out Storystorm: https://taralazar.com/ it’s a great event for coming up with ideas!
Measurable- You can measure the amount of things you do physically and mentally. If you are doing something with no measurements involved you wont know when you have achieved your goal.
Achievable- You can send your work out to 50 agents. You can send your work out to 50 editors. You have no control over how those agents and editors will react to your work. At least you can do your best to make your work strong, but art is subjective and maybe someone else will like it and maybe they wont. Make sure your goals are focused on things you can completely control.
Relevant- Make sure your goals are relevant to your ultimate goals! It might seem like a good idea to write a short story for an anthology or help a friend out with an illustration, but neither of those things are likely to bring you closer to finishing your work!
Time- Try to have time limits for your goals! Make sure that you give yourself a reasonable amount of time to get things done, but do limit yourself. It will put some pressure on you to finish in a reasonable time.
Work on your goals for the coming year this week and let me know what you come up with!
I usually don’t do holiday things so early, so you’ll have to forgive me with this one. My toddler was watching a Christmas kitten video. One of those where kittens play and instrumental Christmas music runs in the background. If you want you can wait until December to watch the video. I don’t have a book review for this week so I thought this would be a fun replacement.
I’ll be finishing up this illustration as a Patreon exclusive! Go to https://www.patreon.com/SmartDummies to see more. I will be updating Patreon exclusive videos and images there. Before I did this video I had an image and the process didn’t get recorded. I will be posting that image as a Patreon exclusive as well!
I wanted to show a little bit of shading from flat colors. I used the same cat in all of the paintings and used flat colors as a base. These were all done fairly quickly in Clip Studio Paint so they are a little messy. I’ll be posting 2 more ways to shade a cat on my Patreon next month! https://www.patreon.com/SmartDummies
The first cat was created using the crayon tool. The second with the pen tool and blurring the edges with the running color on fiber blur tool. The third is with an oil paint brush and the blur tool.
Smart Dummies is winding down. I have a few more great sites for art tips and tutorials. I wanted to share these before Smart Dummies ends!
Instagram:Gabrielle Patrick: https://www.instagram.com/gabs_art_tips/Robin and Lorenzo: Eterington: https://www.instagram.com/etheringtonbrothers/Griz and Norm Lemay: https://www.instagram.com/grizandnorm/
SVS Learn has a #Inktober special on right now. Sign up in October and get 30 days for FREE: https://www.svslearn.com/
Mira Reisberg’s the Craft and Business of Children’s Book Illustration class has been delayed, which it means there is still time to sign up for the 2020 class. This may be the last live Children’s Book Academy class so sign up now! https://www.childrensbookacademy.com