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Husband and wife author/illustrator team inspire elementary students

Author-illustrators Mary Jane and Herm Auch spoke to third, fourth and fifth grade students at State Street School last week as part of Visiting Authors Day, sponsored by the elementary PTC.

Author-illustrators Mary Jane and Herm Auch spoke to third, fourth and fifth grade students at State Street School last week as part of Visiting Authors Day, sponsored by the elementary PTC. Photo by Jason Emerson.

— 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.

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