Reading at the Mennonite Heritage Village

Yesterday I did a reading of "Magic at the Museum" at the Fall on the Farm festival at the Mennonite Heritage Village in Steinbach, Manitoba (Canada). It is the best museum in my home town. :-) I read my book to the admiring audience, and then answered some questions about how I did the watercolours and wrote the story.

It was great fun to be at such a huge community event and meet lots of people from my childhood. I even got a short visit from Mr. Martens, my grade 8 home room teacher. He hasn't changed a bit!

I did a little pen and ink sketch of the wonderful windmill. The town has largely dutch-german heritage, and we built wonderful windmills to grind the prairie wheat into flour for the best bread in the world. I'll post a scan of the sketch shortly, but for the moment, to keep your curiosity sated, I will post a photograph...

Manitoba Book Awards Results

The results from the Manitoba Book Awards ceremony are in!

Magic at the Museum was short-listed for the "best illustrated" award, but did not win. The winner in the category was "The Harry Winrob Collection of Inuit Sculpture" published by the Winnipeg Art Gallery. The Winnipeg Art Gallery has won the "best illustrated" award three years in a row, and this year was no exception.

The "best illustrated" category was for all genres of books: fiction, non-fiction, children's, and poetry. "Magic at the Museum" was the only children's book short-listed for this category, which means that it was the best illustrated children's book in Manitoba! The other three nominees for "best illustrated" were poetry and non-fiction. That makes me feel like a winner, even if I didn't get the final prize.

In addition, it was humbling to sit in an auditorium filled with Western Canada's writing and publishing royalty: Miriam Toews, David Bergen, and all the major Canadian publishers. To have my name and my book mentioned in the same breath as theirs made me feel like I'd stepped into a dream.

The jury's comments about "Magic at the Museum" were:

"The watercolour technique suits this children's book. This technique creates a playful, dream-like mood which is both mysterious and magical. The illustrations and the wonderful use of colour really bring this book's characters to life."

I think they understood the mood and intention of the book perfectly, which is satisfying.


"Magic at the Museum" shortlisted for Manitoba Book Awards

I have some very exciting news to share!

My children's book Magic at the Museum  was shortlisted for "Best Illustrated Book of the Year (2008)" in the Manitoba Book Awards. The final ceremony will be on April 25 at the Winnipeg Art Gallery and it will be hosted by CBC broadcaster Shelagh Rogers. My Mom will represent me at the awards as I am still studying in London (UK).


I worked very hard to make the illustrations as true to the Courtauld Gallery and its paintings as possible, but also impart a sense of magic and imagination. It was an exciting challenge, especially since it was my first attempt at illustrating a children's book.

I am so excited to be nominated that it doesn't even matter to me whether or not I win. It is affirmation enough for my first  book to be recognized in this way.

Medieval Ivories and Works of Art in the Thomas Collection

I received my copy of "Medieval Ivories and Works of Art in the Thomas Collection" this week. It is co-written by my wonderful Courtauld tutor, John Lowden. He commissioned me to do an illustration representing the anatomy of an elephant tusk and skull and how ivory sculptures were harvested from the tusks. In his opinion, it was to be 'the definitive representation of how ivories were carved from tusks.'

This illustration sums up why I love my craft. Though I had helped John Lowden research some of these ivories whilst studying with him, I realized that I had no practical knowledge of how the anatomical structure of a tusk worked. I called the Grant Museum of Zoology and asked for their advice. They humored me and my ignorant queries generously and sent a diagram of the Elephantidae skeletal system.

As an illustrator, one never knows what one is going to learn next!

It was a difficult and involved commission, but it turned out wonderfully. The book is beautiful. It is full of colour photographs of the statues and objects, and even has several pull-out sections of ivory diptychs. Stunning. I am so happy to have been a part of the project.

These ivories resided in the Courtauld Institute in London for many years, but they were actually owned by the Canadian collector Ken Thomson. He decided that they should be relocated to and exhibited in the Art Gallery of Ontario. Thus the book was born. The irony is that they should find a Canadian illustrator to illustrate Canadian ivories which were both residing in Britain at the time. Talk about synchronicity!

How to do a radio interview for artists

This morning I had my first radio interview at CHSM1250 and MIX96.7 in Steinbach to promote my book signing and reading of Magic at the Museum tomorrow evening at the Jake Epp Library. These stations cover most of South-Eastern Manitoba and it was the morning show, which meant that hundreds of commuters would be listening is as they drove to work. I was incredibly nervous, but it ended up being more fun than I anticipated (and now I can't wait to do it again!).

A radio interview is like a conversation, but with legions of invisible people listening in. This is simultaneously comforting and unnerving; while you are recording it feels like there are only two people present, but rationally you know that there are many more silent participants in the exchange.

Interviews are excellent way of communicating your message or information about your products to the media. Marketing essentially means making people aware that a product exists and communicating its value and uniqueness to customers. The problem with promoting art over the radio is (obviously) that radio is an aural experience while art is visual. The best way to overcome this limitation is to paint word pictures to describe your work and use illustrative examples in your conversation. You want people to be able to visualize what you are talking about as they drive to work.

The interviewers Michelle Sawatzky and Corny Rempel made me feel immediately comfortable, so my nerves passed very quickly. However, no matter how comfortable you feel, it is still good to have a few guidelines to follow:

1. Have your talking points in front of you, concentrate on getting them across.

2. If it is live, find out how long it will be and how many commercial breaks or songs there are. Commercial breaks are great for planning the topics of the next segment with the interviewer.

3. Find out what kind of audience the show attracts, and pitch yourself appropriately.

4. Avoid talking fast (or too slow), and avoid saying too many ‘aahs’, ‘umms’ and ‘like, you-knows’. Avoid jargon. Annunciate, annunciate, annunciate.

5. Keep your voice even, warm and animated, you want the listeners to like you.

6. Radio stations are always on the lookout for good sound-bytes. See if you can record a promotional for the station saying something like, “Hi, I’m author Jane Heinrichs. Thanks for supporting the arts and listening to MIX96.7.” That way your name will frequently be heard, and you are also advertising the station. It is a win-win situation.

7. Always say thank-you to your host on air, and use his or her name.

8. Keep answers brief, but interesting. You don’t want your host going overtime.

9. Good interviews take practice, the best way to improve is through experience.

10. Send the producer or host a thank-you note afterwards.

Next time I would like to do a phone-in competition or giveaway to up viewer participation. Perhaps my next opportunity will be next summer when we do an official book launch at McNally Robinson Grant Park as well as several school visits and events.

Download the Podcast


Book Signing at Chapters St Vital

I hosted my first Winnipeg book signing at Chapters St Vital a week ago. It was the last Saturday before Christmas, and the mall was buzzing with eager (and stressed) shoppers. My table was set up in the middle of Chapters at the junction where the roads to the parking lot, the mall and Starbucks merge; all roads led to Magic at the Museum.

I started out very nervous, in fact, I wanted to run as far away as possible (perhaps to Plum Coulee) and never come back. The excitement in the mall was infectious, and very soon I was comfortable and enjoying the rhythmic buzz of the crowd.