Mar 20, 2012 Jason Emerson Uncategorized
Skaneateles students in grades three through five last week learned how books are written and illustrated from the married team of Mary Jane and Herm Auch, the authors/illustrators of more than 20 books, who spoke at State Street School’s visiting author’s day on March 15.
The Auchs, who live in Ontario, NY, described their experiences writing and illustrating children’s books and writing young adult chapter books, as well as answered questions during three separate sessions, one for each grade level.
“We’re known for a lot of chicken books,” said Herm Auch, books such as “The Plot Chickens,” “Poultrygeist” and “Beauty and the Beaks.”
“And there are a lot of really bad puns in our books,” added Mary Jane Auch.
Mary Jane Auch has been writing and illustrating books since 1984. Herm Auch was a newspaper artist and photo director for 40 years before he retired and began helping his wife illustrate books in 2000.
Mary Jane writes the books and begins book illustration by painting characters and scenes. Herm plans the books out and scans Mary Jane’s art into the computer, after which he can edit, adjust and manipulate the images any way they desire.
The Auchs used a Tablet connected to a Smartboard to show the students exactly how the book illustrations are made.
For the book “Beauty and Beaks,” for example, the Auchs made clay models of all the chicken characters (complete with wardrobes made by Mary Jane) that Mary Jane used to paint the illustrations. Herm then uses different layers in the computer program to composite the chicken characters and images.
Using computer graphics programs make it easier to edit the artwork, Herm Auch said, but “it doesn’t take the place of knowing how to draw; it’s just another tool.”
Mary Jane Auch also writes chapter books for children, and gave the students advice on how to write. “When you write fiction, you need an interesting character to start with, but don’t have a character who’s totally comfortable. You need some conflict, some troubles,” she said.
Mary Jane told the students that perseverance is the key to success in anything, and her first book received 13 publisher rejections before being published.
“If you really want to do it, just do it. Don’t give up, have the persistence to keep going,” she said. “Writing takes time but it is all fun. I can’t think of another job I’d rather have.”
The Auchs also answered numerous questions from the students about the writing, illustrating and publishing processes.
“I found the Auch’s collaboration so unique, and it will inspire my students to be writer and illustrators – I’m certain of it,” said Deb Covell, State Street School library media specialist.
The Auch’s visit, and the Visiting Author’s Day at State Street School was sponsored by the Skaneateles Elementary Parent Teacher Committee, which has been sponsoring such author events annually for multiple years.
“The PTC has been the backbone of this event and funding, and has been very supportive,” said Kendra Witter, former Waterman Elementary School Librarian and PTC chair. “We [the PTC] saw the need for this years ago, but most of the credit goes to [artist and author] Patience Brewster. She wanted to see it done and did the first year’s program for free.”
In addition to the PTC support, the elementary school library and students also received the support of the Skaneateles Education Foundation, which recently awarded a $1,750 grant to the school district to purchase 25 digital tablets for student use and learning – the same type of tablet Herm Auch used during his demonstration of digital illustration and editing.
For more information on the Auchs’ books, visit mjauch.com.
Jason Emerson is editor of the Skaneateles Press. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jason Emerson is editor of the Cazenovia Republican and Eagle Bulletin newspapers.