Archive for October, 2009

October 1, 2009

A little background…

To those out there, and I hope there are one or two, I am a writer, photographer and illustrator. But hold on, I wasn’t always that and how I got the opportunity to write about treehouses is a story in itself. So here goes.

I studied undergraduate at UCLA and got a degree in painting and graphics. I was not prepared at all to get a job so I went to graduate school or post graduate school at Art Center College of Design in Pasedena. There I found myself and decided I wanted to be an illustrator or an art director. After I graduated there I worked freelance as an illustrator doing anything and everything I could get paid for. But it occured to me early on that art director may be a better path for me as I like telling people what to do instead being told.

I took a few night classes to freshen my portfolio and eventually landed at 20th Century Fox as an AD in the feature film department. I progress through the ranks and worked on dozens of feature film campaigns such as; Romancing the Stone, Cocoon, The Star Wars Trilogy, Jewel of the Nile and others. Eventually I was made creative director and my duties were expanded to include on-air, radio and promotion. After a few years I moved on to studios like Sony, New Century, Saban Entertainment and finally Warner Bros. My last position was Senior Director of Warner Bros. Worldwide Marketing. I was in charge of the art department that serviced syndicated television, feature films, animation and the studio in general. In 2006 I left. I had decided that I wanted to illustrate and write children’s books. So I started to go to each and every event I could and meet people. I had a thin portfolio of work but was able to convince a few brave souls that I could illustrate books for them. Twenty-seven books later, I am fairly sure I made the right decision. But how did I come to write a book about treehouses? Believe me it was dumb luck and a little hard work.

In 2005, I met a fellow at Book Expo in Chicago named Brooks Sumberg. His business was buying remainders and reselling them. We became fast friends and he walked me around the trade show floor introducing me to people he knew. Afterwards we’d go for a beer or dinner or just hung out. It was during one of these times he mentioned he had a contact in Connecticut that may want to use my talents. He gave me the number.

It wasn’t until I got home that I started to follow up on leads, one of which was his contact, Maureen Graney, senior editor of Globe Pequot Press. I spoke with Maureen and she was very nice and helpful but didn’t have a project for me. It took a while before something came from this contact, but when it did it was very significant. I got an email for Maureen one day giving me an introduction to another editor in her company named Scott Adams. Scott worked for a division of Globe called Falcon Press, a publisher of “How-to-Books”.
Scott was looking for an illustrator who could work in a style like mine on eleven books. The job was mine if I wanted it. It took me almost six months to complete more than 200 illustrations for the books. The whole time I was sending Maureen jpegs of the art so she could see what I was doing. My hope was she’d be so impressed she’d hire me to do a book for her. It didn’t happen.
In February of 2009 I went to New York as I’ve done every year since 2004 to attend the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) conference. While I was there I asked Brooks if we could go up to New Haven and take Maureen out to lunch to thank her for the work she helped me get. He agreed and we met her in later February on a sunny, cool, brisk day. As soon as we sat down at the restaurant table Maureen slap a coffee table sized book on the table and said I have something I’d like you to do. This book is part of an upscale “How-to-Book” called the Knack, “How You Do It” series. I want you to do a surfing book.

Ok so now you’re saying Surfing book?, how did he end up doing a treehouse book? We discussed the book for a half hour or so and ate our lunch. When we split up, Maureen said she’d send a proposal template to me by email and once I filled it out and it was approved I’d be ready to go.

Back at home I started working on the proposal when I got a call from Maureen. “Lon, do you know anyone who could write a book about treehouses? They need to have a building background.” I thought a second about this and said “Yes, I do….me! I have a building background and I can shoot the photography myself. I can also manage the project as I have management experience.” It took a few minutes of convincing, then Maureen agreed to allow me to send a proposal for the treehouse book as well. Within a couple weeks I had been approved.

I had two weeks to organize a two hundred and fifty page book about a subject matter I knew nothing about. I scoured the internet looking for treehouse builders and I came across Dan Wright of Treetop Builders. I was impressed by his work and his background so I called him. That was my first great stroke of luck in putting together “Treehouses”