Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Time, 10,000 hrs, Craft

Last year, I faced the turning of my years from 36 to 37 with humour. How many of you recall the scene in Monty Python Quest for the Holy Grail where Arthur has a conversation with Dennis the peasant. “I’m not old, I’m 37” Dennis retorts after being called old by his King. Well. I’m now 38 and wish I could still reference that scene when confronting my age.

Awe, well time passes. I was reminded of this yesterday as I listened to Chris Oatley’s artcast where he spoke to Robert Simon’s One of the things that struck me was the age of these two very successful storytellers. I started to dwell on the fact that until about 7 years ago I started working more seriously at the craft side of illustrating. The fear that sprung up in my thinking is that I’ve missed so much time at the drawing board that I have missed a window in which to develop my potential as a visual creator. I think this is compounded by dwelling on the 10,000 hrs required to become masterful at something.

Age and time are against me it seems. I can’t fault myself for the choices I’ve made in where I’ve invested my time over the past 7 years. I’ve poured considerably into my children, my relationship with my wife and the other important relationships around me; to the best of my ability. Those hrs maybe matter more in the long run. They most certainly do if I consider them in relationship to my idea of what a successful life looks like. Nonetheless, the distance I feel from where I think I should be as a creator and where I am currently, stings.

Having Our 1984 closer to realization hasn’t seemed to lessen this sting any. The cold fact is that Our 1984 is one tiny piece in fulfilling the dream of one day being a full time storyteller. I need to qualify this, I do an awful lot of storytelling in my work at Pulp Studios Inc. and I’m grateful for that, but there is an unquenchable thirst to tell my own stories through children’s books, novels and graphic novels. This just won’t go away, and so, I have chosen to face it head on. Face it with the skill I currently possess, such as it is, and try to make a way to the other side of the fence one day.

In reflection and conversation with my wife and fellow creatives, I think it is highly possible that the stories I want to tell would possibly not have been feasible when I was younger. In spite of my belly aching about time, I have grown as a creator. Also, my maturity level has increased (for those who know me, you may laugh at that, I hear your mocking chuckles) and my understanding and distillation of what I want to say is far more clear.

I have resolved to just continue to push myself in spite of time, age and self doubt. Insert smart proverb about “Do or do not, there is no try.” or whatever. Bottom line, I won’t quit and I’ll continue to hold my dreams tight and water those suckers until they grow.


Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Bending Through the Process of Publishing a Children's Book

Nine weeks had come and gone, several attempts at communication went unanswered, the story had begun developing a thin layer of dust and my optimism wavered. Then, finally, on Friday last I made contact with my editor. *Phew* - deep exhalation. I can finally breathe again. 

I had a good, short, conversation with the editor who was apologetic for the lack of response to my communications. She expressed a struggle on her end to articulate her thoughts on the story in it’s current incarnation. However, she managed to put those reflections together for me over the phone. 

Working with an editor has been an interesting process. The story is most certainly changing and I believe for the better. The process has challenged me on many levels. I’ll try to share some of them as concisely as possible.

BE FLEXIBLE - As a creator, it is sometimes hard to separate myself from my ideas. This process has pulled me away from my story and forced me to stand back from it and consider it from new perspectives. In doing so, the original vision for the piece has changed, insomuch as the delivery of the story. What I mean by that is that the nuances of the story, the events, the characters and the sequencing is evolving. At the same time the heart of the story seems to be growing. The process is pealing away cloudiness in some areas and increasing focus in others to allow the story to come through. 
BE PATIENT - Working in the commercial field, I am used to high pace of creativity. Often, I am working under much tighter time constraints during my day to day at Pulp Studios Inc. This process couldn’t be more different.
BE OPEN - I believe I’ve mentioned before that I am a huge proponent of collaborating. I’ve been collaborating with the editor through this process and have also found my friends and family a great source of inspiration and reflection on the story. Talking through the story with people has helped me along greatly. Their ideas, input and questions help me find nuances I wouldn’t on my own and help me push it to the next level. In the end, this story will belong to many people. Not just me. That is really special.
BE HUMBLE - Writing is hard. Storytelling is hard. Rewarding beyond anything I do creatively, but hard. I’ve had to take a step back, realize my shortfalls in this area and work at growing my understanding of story, character, plot, pacing, etc. etc. etc. There is so much beauty in this because at the age of 38, I feel like I’m only just beginning to grasp some of these concepts. I feel as though I have so much to look forward to learning over the years ahead. 
BELIEVE - I’ve had to have faith, in the story, in my ability, in God’s timing, that this can work, that I shouldn’t give up. This process has stretched my faith in many ways. It’s not easy. The work is fun but very challenging. It’s a labour above and beyond my day to day. It’s time that is already sparse and precious spent in the pursuit of a passion. It’s late nights and early mornings. It’s strategizing how to fit this all in and not lose my connection with my kids and wife. During the lack of communication over the last nine weeks my resolve has been tested and proven to posses zeal and resilience. 
BE PERSISTENT - I’ve proven to myself an ability to stay steadfast in the face of uncertainty. This will serve me well through this journey, I have no doubt. I’ve maintained a professional level of decorum while maintaining consistency in my attempts to connect with the editor. This has been hard but valuable. 
BE VULNERABLE - I am very grateful to my wife, my business partner and my family who have listened to me belly ache over the last nine months about not know what is going on. They have consistently held me up and pushed me forward.

I hope these reflections prove useful to someone else starting their creative journey someday.

Now, moving forward I will be reworking the manuscript and page roughs. I’ll hopefully have this done before the end of October and then see where things go from there. 

In regards to number 4 above, here are some resources online for you writers who may be looking for tools to help you grow. 

In the meantime, I’ve been working at improving my drawing skills. You can see my work at my instagram account. 

If I only had a ... #sketch #trainmyeye - jumped in with graphite today.

A photo posted by Corey Lansdell (@coreylansdell) on



Thursday, August 20, 2015

The Waiting is the Hardest Part

Good day!
Happy near end of summer!
Hope you had some water fights this summer.

It's been almost 2 months since the last feedback I received from the editor. Since then, I did some reworks to the book and re-submitted my script to them, which was about 5 weeks ago. I've exchanged a couple emails with them since then and the last indicated there would be further feedback. I'm finding the wait to be challenging. I really want to move forward on this book and I feel as thought time is slipping away.

My understanding is that the world of publishing operates at a slow pace. This could be an exercise in patients for me.

In the meantime, I did begin writing another story about a girl, her horse and a blizzard. I think I need to work on focusing on other projects as I wait to keep my mojo going.

I've also been working on a graphic novel script with my good friend and business partner, Kelly Mellings. It is going to be sooooo awesome! At least I think so.

Since Toronto, I feel a little bit broken. Haha. I feel as though I've seen the pasture I want to be in but between me and it there is a pack of wolves, a mountain, two raging rivers and possibly a troll under a bridge. It feels like it's going to be a good bit of work to get from here to there. I'm estimating that a full on transition from creative service work to full time work in children's books and YA literature will be about 5-7 years of HARD work.

Being 38 now, that feels rather daunting. However, if I can get there, I could have a good 20-30 years of productivity in that market.

I'm praying and struggling to be patient. I trust for the best and will keep my nose to the grind stone to do my part.

Blessings all!

P.S. If you are interested in writing fantasy novels or stories, check out this podcast. Great bits of information on writing in short 15 - 20 minute stints.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Feedback From the Editor

It’s been a month and a half since I was in Toronto for the Toronto Comic Arts Festival. 
Just over three weeks ago I delivered the rough manuscript and page roughs for SHELTER to one of the publishers we met while there. 

An illustration I did recently for a client. I was able to incorporate the older brother from Our 1984 - Shelter in the mix. 

Today, I received an email back. 

Let me just say, I am a strong believer in the collaborative process. The editor I’m in touch with didn’t jump on the work and tell me it’s the most amazing thing in the world rather, provided me with some strong constructive feedback. 

Here are a couple of paraphrased highlights 

it’s good that the book shows cooperative, imaginative play, between caring siblings rather than conflict between them. 
The story is structured well, the action scenes are very dynamic and kids will love them.
I should delve deeper into the emotional core of the book. Provide context to the reader as to the reason for the imaginative play that the boys find themselves in. 

Here is a direct quote from the email. 

“That said, I also have some (hopefully constructive) criticism that I offer very much with an eye toward what is already on the market, and in hopes that Shelter can be a classic, too!”

I’m very delighted to have received a constructive response like this. 

In my experience, collaboration with experts in their field yields tremendous results and in the end makes me look way better than I am on my own. haha!

After receiving her email I spoke with my wife about it and she and I chatted through some possible approaches to writing in the emotional core more contextually. We both ended up in tears over it. Haha. 

I’m very motivated by this feedback and look forward to writing in some more meat to the story and seeing what else we can do to polish this story further. 

What a fun, challenging and exciting journey this is. 

Here are some links to stories that the editor suggested I look at as reference. I own JOURNEY (love that book) Thought you may enjoy them too. 

Another quote from the editor regarding the stories above. 

“…what makes each of these critically acclaimed is that—underneath it all—they're also about something else: boredom (in a digital age), community building (in soulless subdivisions), childhood depression (and creativity).”

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Toronto, TCAF, Publishers - Oh My!

A week and a half ago now I touched down at YEG Airport sitting in seat 25E (I think) next to a wonderful human being, talented artist and constant inspiration. We had just spent the last 4 hrs writing the script and some panel breakdowns for an Intellectual Property we’re working on. (IP if your in “the biz”) We were laughing until we cried at times, 4 hrs well spent. Kelly Mellings, my business partner had been invited to attend the Toronto Comics Arts Festival doing signings and a few speaking engagements to promote The Outside Circle, a graphic novel he illustrated in partnership with Dr. Patti Laboucane-Benson of Native Counselling Services of Alberta. I’m so proud of the work they did together and happy to have been a support as Kelly worked on the book. 


I was able to make it out for the weekend as well and I filled my time taking in TCAF. What a great festival. So many people attended I got a little crowd crazed on Saturday, but I sure enjoyed perusing the creators work on display. 

It was a very eclectic crowd as was the array of books and story’s available. TCAF is different than any convention I’ve attended, a sort of pool of story tellers who have produced a deluge of unique, heartfelt, meaningful, important, challenging and original stories. A large volume of creators there appeared to be promoting work they’ve been pursuing in their “spare” time apart from their day-to-day. If I could encapsulate my feelings about the Festival, it would be that it solidified the notion that this kind of work is a labour of love. This was apparent in everyone from the young novice to the master of the comic medium himself, Scott McCloud. I listened to a panel discussion featuring him, Raina Telgemeier, Professor Glen Downey and George O’Connor (which was very interesting and gave me a lengthy list of works to read). I also had the opportunity to speak with him briefly on three occasions.

He was promoting his new labour of love The Sculptor. It’s all of the descriptors I listed earlier and more. There are moments in this book where you are carried by the medium through time and emotion, in amazing ways. It’s a testament to the deep knowledge he posseses about sequential art. If you’re interested in the medium, read The Sculptor and his other books. The Sculptor does carry challenging themes around life, death and purpose and there are some sexy bits and language though their use all felt real and honest and not a "sex sells" kind of usage. I leave it to you to discern whether you read it and who you share it with. It’s extremely well done and will likely linger with me for a while. Mr. McCloud is a genuine, humble, enthusiastic creator. Meeting him and his wife Ivy was one of the highlights for me. Thank you for being a genuine, passionate creator and impacting the medium the way you have Scott McCloud.  

I enjoyed listening to Patti and Kelly share about “The Outside Circle”. Couple of regular celebrities those two! In all seriousness, the audience for their talks was small but very engaged. 

 Dr. Patti Laboucane-Benson and Kelly Mellings at the House of Anansi booth.

This book is very impactful and full of important content. It was a delight to see them sitting at the House of Anansi table at the Festival. I also had the pleasure of meeting much of the team at Anansi as well. Tremendously talented, motivated, generous and engaged people. 

Overall, the festival, for me was a terrific experience. I’d definitely attend again. It was refreshing  and inspiring to see so many people working so hard to promote their work. 


We stayed on in Toronto until Wednesday and had two meetings, one with an Editorial Director and the other with a Publisher, both of whom will currently remain nameless. Oooooo mysterious, right?! 

Our meeting on Monday was very good. We displayed our portfolio from Pulp Studios Inc. and the response was warm. Particularly to the IP I mentioned in the opening of this post. Very exciting! We have some momentum now and purpose to make quick strides on it. 

I also shared Our 1984 with both Publishing Houses. One has expressed interest in seeing the manuscript and the page roughs. I presented 5 finished pages and some page roughs when we met. I also had the opportunity to express my larger vision of a series of books. It was great having someone express interest in the work. When we left the meeting on Monday I felt as though a weight had lifted. My intentions are to push this work out into the light, one way or the other but to have someone say it was lovely, or beautiful, or whatever they said in positive response to the art, (I can’t recall the precise words used now, it was kind of a sweaty palms moment) felt fantastic. They expressed that they wanted me to not complete any further pages but provide the manuscript and roughs so they can work with me on crafting something amazing. I’m very excited about what this may turn into. 

Our 1984 page 4 and 5 in my presentation to the publishers.

Both meetings provided me some incite into the industry. It’s like a whole other world that we’ve only now scratched the surface of. I brought Our 1984 to the second Publishing House and was told that if the other has publisher expressed some interest, etiquette states that I offer them first right of refusal. Who knew? They stated that if I were doing a blanket submission to multiple publishers that I could choose to speak to more than one. The second publishing house also expressed interest in it and said they could see the potential for a series. There was more immediate feedback on the artwork, because they tend to publish more organic, natural feeling work. Our 1984 definitely has a more animated, cartoony feel to it. It was a great experience to get an opportunity to see a little bit about how this world works. 


Kelly and I will be pushing more on our IP. I have already polished up the manuscript and need to complete my last page roughs to send along to the first Publisher. We’ll see what happens from there. 

I’m very excited about the road ahead. It’s a long road, we still need to push on Pulp while we work at completing these projects. Kelly and I both came home feeling that we had had a glimpse of the promised land and now need to work diligently to get there. The transition to shifting our revenue streams will not happen overnight, and nor should it, every thing worth doing takes some doing. Or something like that. 


Sunday, April 12, 2015

The Long Road

It's been a great while since I posted on this blog. I just spent an hour fixing all the broken image links. So the site at least looks somewhat as it used to.

This post is going to be very short. I'm back on the horse. I'll be heading to Toronto in May with Kelly. He has recently been published through House of Anansi press for his work on the Outside Circle. A graphic novel of much import in relation to the First Nations community of Alberta and I'd say beyond. He'll be speaking at the seven cities writing conference and we intend to make use of the time there to connect with other creators as well as lean the ear of a few publishers.

My goal is to have 5 or so pages finished of my book to show them.

The push is on. We'll see what happens.