Friday, January 27, 2017

Project Popcorn By Laura Driscoll, Illustrated by me :) / Kane Press

Woohoooooo! I'm shouting it to the rooftops!

Yipppee! The smell of fresh books on a sunshiney day....

 I'm so excited and happy to share with you my most recent book project,
Project Popcorn by Laura Driscoll
with the very awesome people at Kane Press!

So why am I so excited and happy? Well, truth be told, it's because this book was the result of a wish. A year ago at this time, I was steadily working on my portfolio pieces, some very new pieces built on a focus of "story" and adding a narrative to my personal pieces. I was working like a madwoman over the holidays, steadily trying to get my portfolio to a point where I could share it with the world as I was getting ready for my very first SCBWI New York Conference. I had bitten the bullet and was looking forward to my solo trip back east in super freezing temps. This post shared my experience there.

So in prepping for the event, we were able to bring our portfolios and I believe up to 100 postcards to leave with our portfolios at the "Portfolio Showcase", which was a closed viewing of over 200 portfolios for the publishing industry representatives.

Long story short, one of my postcards was picked up by a Kane Press author, and about a week later, turned into this wonderful book project. I can't ask for any better to come from an event which completely blew me away, both inspirationally and motivationally. It was the cherry on top, and I am so honored.

What's even better than the cherry on top? If it were me, a side of truffle fries, or something equally delicious! And if that were translated to working relationships, well, working with the awesome Juliana and Edward at KP, are the truffle fries of clients. Thanks very much to Juliana, Edward, and my dear agent, Nicole Tugeau at for making this all's been a delight!
Ed did a great job adding touches like the popcorn on the frames..thanks Ed!

Here's a little about the book and series:
Project Popcorn
by Laura Driscoll; illustrated by Shirley Ng-Benitez
The Community Champs have an extra-special fundraiser this year—donating Thanksgiving dinners to families in need. With three weeks to go, can William and Lizzie sell more popcorn than ever before?

Math Matters is one of Kane Press' wonderful reading series, focused on math concepts while extending reading and math skills.
Here's a link to order


Share a story or give a shoutout

to an awesome volunteer (maybe it's you?!)

in your community

for a chance to WIN A COPY!

 I'll be picking a winner on February 1, 2017, 12noon PST, and will share swing on back!

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Hello! And a belated Happy New Year to you

Happy new year and I hope you're all well! 

 I wanted to give my blog a bit of an update and share a few recent pieces I did for my agent's promotional emails. The theme was "Hello", and as I often do, I had a lot of different ideas and characters in my sketches, and so I just went ahead and tried a few options. I gave Nicole both and asked her to share whichever one she preferred.

I'm curious which one you would choose... 

Thank you for visiting! It's always great to read your comments and I wish you all good health, peace, and a lot of fun projects ahead!

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays everyone!

Sending you all my best wishes for a happy, healthy holiday! ~ Shirley

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Monday, December 5, 2016

Happy December!

Hope you're all well and enjoying December so far!
Over on Instagram, I've been posting an illustration a day and hope to continue to do so for all of the days leading up to Christmas. I noticed a wonderful post by Penny Neville Lee who started the #illo_advent and was inspired. I'm not sure if I'll make all of the days, but so far, I've been enjoying it and have successfully posted for four days in a row. :)

I wanted to give myself a prompt that would tie each piece together and so I came up with trying to do 25 of the USA's fifty states, starting with Alabama. I searched online for the states' symbols and as I always gravitate to animals, was happy to find Alabama's State mammal, the black bear! I then decided to add something that he could "do" - and so I thought about things that I would hope that we all could wish for or try to do this holiday season, or the year ahead..and the word CULTIVATE came up. Perfect..I'll try to cultivate things for each post.

So here are the first four and I hope that you all have happy, healthy days ahead. If you're inclined, please do join along..and you can post the hashtag #illo_advent along with it wherever you post (Facebook, Twitter, IG).

If you're on Twitter or IG, I'm @shirleysillos I look forward to seeing you out there sharing your wonderful work!

Alabama's Black Bear, blackberries and Northern Flicker

Alaska's Moose & King Salmon

Arizona's Ringtail and Cactus Wren

Arkansas' White-tailed Deer

Monday, November 14, 2016

A bear hug, a mouse hug, take one, give one...

Bear Hugs FREE Take one! Give One! ©Shirley Ng-Benitez
For everyone – #hugsfromkidlit

Hi everyone -
It's been a very, very big and long week. 

Though you don't know me as one to talk of my political beliefs, etc., I'm writing this down now as I have to share my thoughts on why I felt compelled to join the kidlit community with the piece above.

I've listened and read so much this past week and have spent the past year and a half immersed in the political news and world events–especially our own heated and contentious US election. Our country has become such a divided place, and as I continue to educate my children, I continue to educate myself about injustices, rights, the economy, race relations, global issues, religion and of course politics. My personal feelings about the election results are mine and though you may not agree, I hope that you respect mine, but I have to say that I am truly saddened about the outcome. I am working to understand all aspects of what this means for the future, but will continue to hope for wisdom and compassion to surround the transition from the Obama to Trump Presidency, and that it guides the future President and his staff, for the betterment of our country and future generations. I state this not to go into dialog about my thoughts, but just to let you know that I continue to support and hold high the work of people who treat people equally and justly, and without prejudice. Respectful words mean something to me, they always have, they always will. Devolving can be corrected and must be corrected. We must educate others by listening, reading, learning, and doing.

I've been thinking a lot about the recent movement by Jarrett J. Krosoczka (@studioJJK on Twitter) and the kidlit community (#hugsfromkidlit on Twitter) and their efforts to bring hope to the children in our communities who may feel scared or worried, or worse. I'm joining by offering this small piece so that educators and librarians can print and post images of hope in their schools. I'll be donating to organizations who continue to work for the rights of the underprivileged and underrepresented this year as well.

If you'd like to print this for yourself, please feel free to do so.

We can all help guide our children with messages of hope, compassion, wisdom and empathy and that is what is intended for in this piece.

Sending my best for a peaceful and happy holiday season ahead to all of you ~ Shirley

Monday, September 5, 2016

Hello, it's been awhile...dustin' off the blog with a long post: Sun and sand (vacation), SF Illustrator's Day, an update...

Warning, this is a mighty long post, so if you feel like cuttin' to the chase, you can fast forward and leap to this great recap of the 10th Annual SF SCBWI Illustrator Day, by Sarah Baker.
Hello dear bloggy friends, it's been far too long and I apologize for such a delay between posts.

Truth be told, I've been offline ever since I posted my last "100 day" sketch because after that, I prepared for a fantastic family vacation right before school started for my kids and then it was right back to school and two huge deadlines for work and I'm finally able to come up for air. It had been five years since our previous vacation, so I focused on really enjoying the time away with my family. I can't tell you how absolutely beautiful and calming the entire trip was and I highly recommend taking breaks from work to recharge and rest. :)

The beautiful views in Kauai - McBryde & Allerton Botanical Gardens, Polihale St. Park, Poipu, and more...
Once back from vacation, I have been frantically working on projects in order to make deadlines, and although I've loved the work, the pace has been in 6th gear. I haven't had a chance until this weekend to be able to share a proper post as one of my deadlines has a bit of a reprieve, for which I am grateful (thanks to my agent and editor...thank you!).

Two weeks ago, between projects, I was able to prepare very quickly, a printed booklet of the "100 day project" so that I could bring it to the 10th Annual SCBWI SF Illustrator's Day in San Francisco. I had a few hours Thursday night to print, and then a few more on Friday, the night before the event to create the book. YouTube has it's merits, I must say..and this super video by Sea Lemon inspired me on Thursday night to go run out on Friday to buy some waxed thread, an awl, and some curved bookbinding needles. Friday evening came quickly as I paused, played, paused, played the video to finally stitch up my book, and here it was actually quite meditative once I got the swing of it!

Moving on to the portfolio, for every year, because we've had the fortune of being critiqued by panel members in the industry, and especially from Professor John Clapp, SJSU, who stated that year after year, we should have fresh new work to show, I scrambled to print the latest work since showing my work last year. Thankfully the NYSCBWI conference I attended in February pushed me to create new work and so some of the pieces stayed in this latest book. My goal in preparing this book was to bring pieces to discuss with my paid portfolio critquer, the amazingly inspiring Marla Frazee! When the guests were announced for this year's event, I immediately signed up and chose Marla as I have been such a big fan of hers for many, many years. Her technique, her stories, her breadth of work continues to inspire me, and after spending the day listening to her, her amazing editor, Allyn Johnston, VP & Publisher of Beach Lane Books, a San Diego-based imprint of Simon & Schuster's children's imprints, and Ann Bobco, Executive Art Director overseeing picture book design in three of S&S's children's imprints: Atheneum, Beach Lane, and McElderry Books, I am even more inspired.

I passed out late Friday night, and was back up early to head to San Francisco (about a 2 hour drive), and was so happy to see my friends, author/illustrators Tracy Bishop, Laura Zarrin, and Joy Steuerwald at the reg. table. They saved seats for me and author/illustrator Laura Lee, a friend from the NY conference up front which was fantastico! As I settled in, I said hello to a woman a few seats away, Debbi she said, and it was noneother than Deb Pehrson Haun! What a treat to get to know and meet Debbi as we've been online friends for some time now. During the day, I was thrilled to see my friend, Bethanie Murguia (my roomie from the NY conference) and catch up with her, and friends Susan Rankin-Pollard, Josh Nash, Brian Bowes, as well as meeting Elizabeth Stevens Omlor and many others. One of the highlights of these events is getting to see friends and meet new ones..I highly recommend getting out of our bat-caves! :)
Debbi and Laura
Debbi, me, Elizabeth, Josh

Laura, Phyllis, Tracy, Joy, Sue, and me
Lea Lyon and I
The stellar event, hosted by SCBWI SF/South Illustrator Coordinator author/illustrator Lea Lyon,
and her team: SCBWI SF/South RA, Naomi Kinsman Downing, SCBWI SF/South ARA – Tim McCanna and SCBWI SF/South ARA – Kristi Wright, was held at the Fire House, Fort Mason, San Francisco. What a fantastic venue each year!

We started the day listening to Allyn and Marla speak about how they create their books together and were treated to many great background stories of how these books came to be: A Couple of Boys Have Best Week Ever, The Farmer And The Clown, Is Mommy? and Boss Baby.

After a break where we could view portfolios and critques were held, we listened to Ann Bobco and her design process including Marla's. Ann's design aesthetic and choices of letterforms were fascinating to me as we viewed her beautiful work on All The World,  Is Mommy?,  The Man in the Moon and more!

After lunch, we listened to Sarah Baker, Director, Illustration and Artist Programs at SCBWI headquarters, and Priscilla Burris, US Illustrator Coordinator and member of SCBWI Board of Advisors speak about the benefits of the SCBWI and how there are so many ways to participate and share your illustration with so many viewers around the world. We listened to Marla, Ally and Ann talk about Boss Baby, and the sequel, Bossier Baby. We are all SO thrilled for Marla's upcoming film in March, 2017!

After another break, the panel commented on participating attendees' "first look" assignment, which was given earlier in the summer, a series of three sequential illustrations interpreting a passage of one of Lyle Lovett's songs but the only part of the song that should be interpreted is the excerpt provided below. The rest of the song is not to be considered. These lines can be a launching off point to whatever story the illustrator wants to tell.

If I had a boat
I'd go out on the ocean
And if I had a pony
I'd ride him on my boat
And we could all together
Go out on the ocean
Me upon my pony on my boat

It was a fascinating part of the day, hearing all of the feedback from the panel's perspectives. From considerations of color, design, book considerations, i.e. gutter, page turns, etc., we learned a lot and were able to get feedback from the experts. I always get so much from these "first look" assignments!

The day wrapped up with the announcement for Portfolio awards, and surprising to me, I won one of the two Honor awards! I must say, I was in complete shock, a happy shock, and was asked to stand as Lea announced that I had one "something" :). Grace Chen won the other honor award, and the Grand Prize winner was Miya Huang! I am so honored by this acknowledgement, especially because the portfolios were judged by such an esteemed group: Marla Frazee, Allyn Johnston, Ann Bobco, Kristine Brogno, Children's Design Director, Chronicle Books; Danielle Smith, Agent, Red Fox Literary; Simon Stahl, Art Director, Creston Books; Julie Downing, Author/Illustrator & Children's Lit Teacher; Dr. Mira Reisberg, Award-winning mentor, Director Children's Book Academy.

I had a very, very helpful and insightful review with Marla..I cannot thank her enough for her advice and feedback! Marla pointed out areas of my work that were and weren't working as well, and her thoughts about how to approach my work to "play to my strengths". I have definitely been struggling but was able to have a few pieces that she spoke to where I must "go to" when creating..the pieces that have emotion and energy, and the ones that I spent less time fussing with, and just completely enjoying, so that was HUGE for me. :) I can't wait to dig in!
Thank you doesn't say enough, Marla! What an honor!
All in all, what a fantastic day! Each year, I appreciate the opportunity to meet with friends, make new friends, and learn more and more about children's books and the publishing industry. It means so much to me to be able to share the love of children's books with such a generous community. Each year I set out new goals for myself and I've found that when I'm prepping my portfolio for this event, it's really a great time to reflect upon what I've learned throughout the year and all of the highs and lows of this journey I'm on. I pinch myself knowing that I am so lucky to be doing what I love! Grateful, grateful, grateful is what I am.

I hope everyone's been well and hope that I can come up for air again sometime soon. I'm currently working on two books, and sketching for a third. I'll be sharing more as soon as I can. In the meantime, I am writing and working on stories for my own books and hope that I can push those forward in the year ahead. Have a wonderful FALL coming up, everyone! My best to you ~ Shirley
This little one's got a story to tell...