Mentor Monday ~ Jennifer Thermes

Jennifer Thermes is the author/illustrator of SAM BENNETT’S NEW SHOES and WHEN I WAS BUILT. She has also done endpaper maps for books such as THE WATER SEEKER by Kimberly Willis Holt, and REVOLUTION IS NOT A DINNER PARTY by Ying Chang Compestine. Recent projects include cover and black & white interior illustrations for a middle-grade chapter book written by Valerie Hobbs, to be released by Henry Holt Books for Young Readers in 2011. Please take the time to go to Jen’s website. Her artwork is just beautiful!

I met Jennifer when I went down to a Shoreline Arts event and heard her speak. I liked her immediately. Seeing her art work was one of those times that I longed to be an artist. I just love the colors she uses and her drawings have such a sweet quality to them. (Professional artists would talk about lines and tone and such. I just like them!) Her maps are genius! Someday, I intend to hire her to do one for me.

Based on her easy going nature, talent, and presentation, I later invited her to be our author/illustrator mentor at Whispering Pines. She agreed but wanted to know a bit more about the weekend. We agreed to a quick phone chat. Three hours later…Needless to say, we hit it off, and I feel so very fortunate for two things tonight. (1) That Jennifer will be our author/illustrator mentor this weekend at Whispering Pines in Rhode Island, and (2) I have a wonderful, talented, funny, caring friend that I didn’t have a year ago! Huzzah!

Without further ado…Here is Jen!

I can’t remember ever having had just one mentor in my life, in the traditional sense of the word. It’s been more like many. I’ve been fortunate.

There were teachers– the elementary school Art teacher who let me draw horses endlessly, because he knew it was my passion. (What better way to encourage creativity than to let a child follow their passion?) And a junior high school English teacher who patiently helped me revise, over and over, my telling of a traumatic event during a family trip to Maine. She taught me that writing clearly was more than scribbling words in an angsty, teenage diary: writing was in the revising.

I had an awesome Art Director and co-workers in my first job out of art school. They taught me the realities of deadlines, how to produce a magazine, and how to keep you sense of humor while doing it! The illustrators that I hired and the freelancers I met were huge inspirations when it came time to take the terrifying leap from a full-time job into my own life as a freelance illustrator.

There was the magazine editor I collaborated with on many projects. He taught me the mental game of how to stay sane through the ups and downs of working for oneself.
My first art rep was a guy with a terrific head for business. From him I learned not to fear negotiation! And then there was the editor he had worked with who loved my maps, and wondered if I wrote, as well. Her inquiry set into motion a course of combining art and words, and opened my mind to the possibilities of working in the world of children’s books.

My writing group, ever supportive, has been priceless; as have been old friends and new ones made serendipitously.

I am a confessed writing-and-art-craft book addict– if you mention it, I will buy it–because sometimes that “I get it now!” moment happens when something is explained for the hundred-and-second time.

And then there’s the Internet. Hard to imagine it didn’t exist when I first started out. It feeds my learning curve through blogs, tweets, and chat boards. Also, working on your own can be a challenge when you’re faced with a problem. But through the online community I can always find someone who has gone through something similar. Although many people I’ve met in cyberspace have become friends, most aren’t even aware of the inspiration they’ve provided.

I truly believe mentors are everywhere, if you remain open and curious. Consider this post one big thank-you to all of mine, whether you know you’ve been one or not.

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