Today’s the release day for the second book in my Geeger the Robot series of early chapter books! I hope this somewhat silly take on the serious subject of self-doubt brings readers joy, delight, confidence, comfort, and hope.
Thanks to everyone who has supported this series so far. The books are a total blast to create, and I’m very proud of how they’re turning out. I’m excited to share more about the next books in the Geeger the Robot series soon!
In case you missed the announcement on social media, I’ve launched a brand-new online project!
Every Friday morning, I’ll post a creative activity or challenge on my social media platforms: Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. Responses to the activity or challenge can be submitted as replies to the post itself. (They must be, in fact — I will not read or consider responses submitted by other means.) I will read and consider the properly submitted responses as they come in, and will continue to do so for each activity or challenge until I’ve posted the following week’s activity or challenge. And once I’ve done that, I’ll select and announce the previous week’s winner (or winners, if I decide that more than one response is win-worthy!). The winner will receive a signed copy of my first activity book, Give This Book a Title.
Also, please note: there are no age limits or requirements for entry. Kids can enter. Grown-ups can enter. Parents can enter on behalf of their kids. Educators can enter on behalf of their students. And, yeah, I suppose even kids and students can enter on behalf of their parents and educators!
The first activity or challenge will be posted this morning, in less than an hour’s time! So keep an eye out, or come find me on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook to participate. I hope this project proves fun, and that it helps reveal the creativity within every one of us and encourages people to more often share that creativity with the world.
Want to learn more about my activity book, Give This Book a Title, which comes out tomorrow?
If you answered yes to both of the questions above, I’ve got some very good news for you…
Tonight at 8 pm EST I’ll be going live over on Instagram to give a tour of the book, share about the creation process, do some drawing demos, and answer questions! You can find me on there at @jarrett_lerner. I plan to post the video to Facebook once the event is over, so if you can’t make it at eight o’clock, you can still check things out.
As a kid, I believed that to be an author was to be able to write easily. I assumed that authors sat down at their desks and banged out an entire novel in an afternoon, every sentence unspooling perfectly from their fingers on the first try. Thinking this prevented me, for a long time, from believing that I could be an author. Because writing was far from easy for me. I loved doing it. But easy? No way. My sentences and stories required lots of reworking before they were just how I wanted them, before they were exactly how they seemed to need to be.
All of this is why, when I work with kids, I emphasize the importance of revision. Every presentation I give, every workshop I hold — there is always a discussion of revision, often an in-depth one, and I regularly do exercises to help make this essential part of the writing process more approachable and enjoyable. Typically, the teachers of the kids I work with are extremely grateful for all this. Revision, they say, is something their students usually don’t want to talk about, much less do. But revision isn’t just an essential part of the writing process — it’s an essential part of the creative process. Any kind of creation.
If you follow me here and/or elsewhere, you’re no doubt aware that I’m an advocate for visual learners, and that I believe that visual literacy does not get the respect and attention it deserves in our schools and classrooms (though there are plenty of incredible teachers fighting against that trend, and I’m honored to call so many of them colleagues and friends).
As kids, we all draw. We draw long before we can write. And mark-making — even that done by a toddler — is a form of expression, an attempt at communication. But something happens as we grow older. So many of us stop drawing. And for some reason that is frustratingly unfathomable to me, we begin to believe that drawing, that visual expression and communication is something we either can or can’t do. It’s an either/or. We’re either born with it or we’re not.
And all of this is why, when I work with kids and adults, I emphasize the importance of revision in illustration. Because somewhere or other, as we age, we’re disabused of the notion that an author can effortlessly write an entire novel in an afternoon. But the same can’t be said of the myths that get built up around illustrators, or even just people who can, and do, draw — people who, in other words, can express themselves and communicate clearly with images as opposed to, or in addition to, words.
Recently, to try and further dispel some of these myths, I shared on social media a bit about just how much work goes into the creation of the art for a book cover. Again, if you follow me here and/or elsewhere, you’ve no doubt seen this:
This, of course, is the cover of Give This Book a Title, my first activity book (which comes THIS Tuesday, December 15th, by the way!). And this artwork — just like every single illustration inside the book — was the end product of a long process, one filled with revision and all the things that come along with it (the missteps and mistakes, the detours and doubts).
The process began, more or less, here (I say “more or less” because even this rough drawing was revised many times before it was passed along):
This is a cover art mock-up I made to go along with the book proposal that my agent and I sent out to publishers. I shared it knowing full well that, if the book sold, everything about it might change — and not just the layout or composition, but even the title. And, indeed, for a while it did. Because after the book sold and I began to work with an art director, we decided to explore alternate cover ideas. I explored some different concepts in a sketchbook, filling pages of pages. Out of all that messy meandering came just one solid, shareable idea.
A meeting was had. My editor, my art director, and I spoke at length about these two different cover concepts. We analyzed them and reanalyzed them. We tried to imagine ourselves seeing the covers for the first time — on a computer or on a phone or in a bookstore, as a kid or a teacher or a parent. We made lists of pros and cons, things we liked and didn’t like. And over the course of the conversation, and the days that followed, the items on those lists often flip-flopped, as we re-reanalyzed and thought of something we hadn’t considered before.
And then, finally, we made a decision. We went with the original concept. And that was when the work really began. First, my art director sent me this:
It was a revised version of my original mock-up, with several subtle but extremely significant alterations. For instance, the subtitle was made smaller. The cloud shape was inserted — which, even in this somewhat crude, black-and-white state, my art director knew would add depth to the cover and help set the words off against the images. My art director also gave more life and energy to the drawing by angling some of the extra images she included (like the pencils). All together, these seemingly minor changes create a more cohesive and excitingly complex cover.
With this mock-up as my template, I created a tighter ink drawing:
(Note, though, that this is the final version of the ink drawing. It went through many rounds of revision — I replaced the parachuting dot with the frantic bird, the oozing pizza with a skeptical ice cream cone, the surprised ghost with a giggling one, and two of the pencils with other writing/drawing implements, and, as you’ll see below, briefly removed the sunglasses-wearing sun and sprinting chicks, only to put them back — before we arrived here.)
Once we were all satisfied with the sizing, placement, and positioning of the words and images, I moved onto coloring. This part of the process, at first, consists of one thing: play! I dropped all sorts of colors into the drawing, trying all different kinds of combinations, then sitting back and considering how I reacted to them, and how potential purchasers of the book might react to them. Eventually, I settled on a selection of colors that I liked, and sent it onto my editor and art director.
While my editor and art director didn’t hate this, they decided the color choices were too sedate. Which, basically, is another way of saying BORING. A word we kept coming back to was vibrant. We wanted this book to really leap off the shelf (or screen). We wanted it to cause people to stop in their tracks. We wanted to catch their eye, and force them to pause and take a closer look.
So, it was back to the drawing board, so to speak. There was more play — but this play was informed by something else. Research. I studied book covers, hundreds of them. I picked through my shelf, I headed to the bookstore (I’m always looking for an excuse to head there…), I scrolled through websites. I even studied some brand logos and clothes, trying to get a sense of all the possible color combinations there were, and trying to figure out how each one made me feel.
I came up with lots of possibilities. Like, LOTS. Let’s just say, in the end, I threw 17 — yes, seventeen — different options at my editor and art director. (See: LOTS.)
Another meeting was had. We analyzed, reanalyzed, and — again — even re-reanalyzed, and finally settled on the cover as you have now seen it.
But even this long telling of the cover-creation process doesn’t quite account for ALL the revision that occurred. It would be impossible to account for all the minor alterations that took place. How many times did I ever so slightly shift the placement of the title, subtitle, and byline? Hundreds. Easy. How many times did a just the motion and emphasis lines surrounding the characters? Maybe thousands.
I hope, if you’ve joined me on this behind-the-scenes tour of this process, you’ve gained a deeper, more informed understanding of just how much revision there is in every creative product. I often say that “writers” should really be called “revisers” — because that’s mostly what we do. When it comes to illustration, there’s no similar term for it — redrawers? re-illustrators? — but the same is true. And I believe the same is true, in some form or another, for every creative endeavor. By chipping away at the myths that surround various forms of creativity — and that often prevent people from recognizing, embracing, celebrating, and sharing their creativity — I believe we can help make the world a brighter, more beautiful, and better place.
Note: my art director for this project, who is AMAZING, is Alicia Mikles. You can learn more about Alicia and her work here.Karin Paprocki, who has served (and continues to serve) as art director for all my other books, also played a role in the directing of this project.
The next few weeks are going to be a busy and exciting one for me. And, not only because of the holidays — but because, over the course of the next eight weeks, I’ve got THREE books coming out! The first, Give This Book a Title, is my very first activity book. That comes out on December 15th. Just a few weeks later, on January 5th, the second book in my Geeger the Robot early chapter book series, Geeger the Robot: Lost and Found, pubs. After a month later, the third novel in my EngiNerds series, The EngiNerds Strike Back, hits shelves.
To thank my fans and supporters, I’ve launched preorder giveaways for each of these releases:
— If you preorder Give This Book a Title, you can be entered to win a custom work of art by me — to be clear, that’s a work of art that YOU get to customize. I’ll work with you to come up with and execute something you want, either for yourself or someone in your life.
— If you preorder Geeger the Robot: Lost and Found, you can be entered to win 50 (yep — that’s fifty) copies of the first book in the Geeger the Robot series, Geeger the Robot Goes to School. And every single one of those copies will be signed and doodled in!
— If you preorder The EngiNerds Strike Back, you can be entered to win 25 copies of each of the first two books in the EngiNerds series, EngiNerds and Revenge of the EngiNerds. And as above, all of those copies will be signed and doodled in!
How do you enter these giveaways? Just send proof of preorder to LernerPreorder@gmail.com. If you preorder multiple titles, you can send proof separately or together — doesn’t matter! We’ll figure it out. And, as always, if you do your preordering from an independent bookseller, you’ll be entered into the giveaway for that title TWICE!
Preordering books is hugely, HUGELY helpful for creators. So to all of those who have and plan to preorder: thank you, thank you, THANK YOU!
THANK YOU again to everyone who supported my most recent round of fundraising campaigns by purchasing or sharing about my Ask Me What I’m Reading T-shirts and masks. I am STILL blown away by the success of the campaigns, which altogether raised nearly $17,000! Some of that money was donated to various organizations that work to improve kids’ book access in the United States and around the world, and some was used to purchase and send books directly to teachers and librarians whose budgets, this year, are in worse shape than ever. The latter work was done with the aid of the Clear the List project/hashtag, as well as my own efforts to support teachers’ and librarians’ local independent bookstores.
Shortly after the T-shirts and masks started shipping, I received a number of requests about putting the Ask Me What I’m Reading design on some cold-weather gear. So I once again worked with Custom Ink to put together a long-sleeve T-shirt and sweatshirt campaign. The campaign went live last week, and will be up for another week or so.
Please note that the crewneck sweatshirts come in youth sizes! And THANK YOU again to everyone who has shared and/or supported these efforts of mine. Together, we’ve been able to put a lot of books in a lot of kids’ hands!
For many kids, teachers, and librarians, the school is coming (or has just come) to a close. And what a strange school year it was. Especially the last quarter of it. None of us could’ve foreseen that we’d be told to cancel all our plans, to stay at home — and to figure out how to teach a country full of kids remotely.
Last week, Amy Holmes — an educator from Waterford, Michigan — reached out to ask me whether I was planning to create some sort of “end of the school year” activity sheet. I hadn’t been, but thought it was a great idea. I figured both kids AND adults could benefit from some solid reflection after the past few months.
And so, I created this activity sheet:
My hope is that the prompts are broad and open enough to get anyone’s brain churning, and that they lead to some positive, productive thinking. You can download a free, printable version of the activity sheet by clicking HERE. You can also find it at my ACTIVITIES page along with all my other activities.
Here’s hoping next school year is as “normal” as it safely can be. And here’s to never again taking for granted the time we get to spend teaching (and learning from!) kids in schools and the wonderful spaces — the classrooms, libraries, hallways, and fields — that they contain.
Last week, people began receiving my The World Needs Your Story T-shirts that they ordered during my fundraiser for the Author Experience and continued kids’ book access efforts. Lots of people reached out to me to say that they forgot to order a shirt, and wanted one, or were just seeing the design for the first time and would love to get one.
So, we’re doing another round of fundraising! This time, however, proceeds from sales will be evenly split between the Author Experience and We Need Diverse Books, an incredible “non-profit…grassroots organization of children’s book lovers that advocates essential changes in the publishing industry.” We Need Diverse Books’ aim is “to help produce and promote literature that reflects and honors the lives of all young people.”
If you’re not familiar with We Need Diverse Books and all the wonderful work they do, I highly encourage you to visit their site and social media feeds and learn more. You can also, of course, donate directly to We Need Diverse Books — now, or after this T-shirt fundraiser ends.
In case you missed the link up top, click HERE to get to the T-shirt fundraising page. And as always, THANK YOU!
This week is Teacher Appreciation week, and so it seems like a particularly good time to share the dedication to my next book, Geeger the Robot Goes to School:
For all my teachers,
both past and present
Throughout my life, I’ve been fortunate to have many incredible teachers — both in the classroom and outside of it. And because this first book in the Geeger the Robot series is, among other things, about Geeger learning just what school is all about, it felt right to give him an incredible teacher. Once you get a chance to read Geeger the Robot Goes to School, I hope you’ll agree the Ms. Bork of Amblerville Elementary School is one of the good ones.
The book hits shelves in a few months — on August 25th — but is available for preorder now wherever books are sold. As always, I encourage you to preorder and purchase books from your local independent bookstore. If you don’t have one in your area, two other great options are online retailers IndieBound and Bookshop. I’ve placed links to my books on both sites below:
And now I’m excited to share that this drawing is on a whole bunch of T-shirts:
Even better, funds from the sales of the shirt will help support The Author Experience, as well as other organizations and efforts that work for book access equity:
To purchase a shirt and/or donate, click HERE. And to learn more about the Author Experience, head to their site (linked up above), or see below.
. . .
The Author Experience is an organization that works to support the literacy growth of students in communities facing economic challenges. Through a unique collaboration with schools, The Author Experience delivers a sustainable program grounded in the transformative power of story.
Our goal is to build a lasting culture of literacy—one in which students, their families, and educators craft their stories and develop their voices together. The pillars of The Author Experience are author partnerships, family engagements, and targeted professional development.
Participating students demonstrate increased confidence, self-efficacy, and literacy proficiency. In addition, the students and adults in the greater school community become more connected.