March 2008

Question of the Month: Books and Film

by Susan Henderson on March 30, 2008

What book would you love to see made into a movie, and who would you cast in it?


Thanks to everyone for giving me the time, space and support to work on my edits last month. I am very very close but need one more month away to get this book in its final form. To help me do that, two very smart writers, editors, and film junkies will cover for me. You’ll meet them on Wednesday, but here’s a sneak peek.

litpark steve erickson zeroville

Steve Erickson is the author of the eight novels, including Our Ecstatic Days, Tours of the Black Clock, Days Between Stations, and his latest, Zeroville, which was chosen as one of the Best Books of the Year by Newsweek, The Washington Post, and Los Angeles Times Book Review. Steve is a teacher in the CalArts MFA writing program, editor of Black Clock literary magazine, and film critic for Los Angeles magazine. His writing has appeared in Esquire, Rolling Stone, Spin, Salon and The New York Times Magazine. And by the way, if you’d like to hear Steve read, he’ll be at REDCAT (the Roy and Edna Disney/CalArts Theater) on Tuesday, April 15th at 8:30pm.

litpark steve erickson zeroville

Talking with Steve on Wednesday will be Anthony Miller, an editor of Black Clock who writes for Bookforum, L.A. Weekly, and Los Angeles CityBeat. In 2007, he received a Los Angeles Press Club award for feature writing.

I gave these guys no rules or limits of any kind, so you will have to see what they do with that freedom. I can tell you that, besides talking about Zeroville, there will be much of interest to lovers of film, music, and Jenna Jameson. I hope you’ll make them feel welcome here!

Okay, play on!


The Little Truths Writing Contest – Who Won?

by Susan Henderson on March 14, 2008

Oronte Churm has posted the winners of the Little Truths Writing Contest over at his superblog. Click through and see if you’ve won! Churm and I want to thank all of you who entered the contest and visited to read over the last two weeks. It was great fun!

Here is a photo of the Little Truths judge, Steve Davenport:

litpark mcsweeney's little truths writing contest steve davenport

Many thanks, Steve, for all your work and the great, quirky comments you left on the winning entries! Again, to all of you, you rock, and it was a pleasure to read your work!


Riding the Rollercoaster

by Susan Henderson on March 7, 2008

Around the time I was still being congratulated for landing my first book deal, and for landing it at a big house without an agent, things started to go downhill.


I’d been feeling under the weather ever since I received the edits on my manuscript. I always get a little tender when people strike out favorite passages, or write “NO!” in the margins, but I expected that. I even swallowed down the idea that this editor planned to market my book YA so many of the edits were about dumbing down the language and adding training wheels to the storyline. But what was breaking me was something that, in retrospect, I should’ve spoken up about. The editor had asked me to change the voice of the story, to have the character see the world differently. And for me to do that, every single sentence of the book, and every single action taken by this character would have to change.

I never spoke up. Never defended my position. I didn’t want to be one of those difficult types. I remembered what it felt like to have no book deal, and who was I to complain?

So I was driving my kids to a local amusement park, where they were supposed to sing with their school and then enjoy the rides. It was my first real day coming out of the fetal position. (You think I’m kidding.) And halfway there, I got a call from the editor who asked if I could get these changes to her by the end of the month. I pulled over on the side of the road and just started sobbing with my poor, confused children looking on from the backseat.

A few weeks later, I was on a panel at a conference and had lost so much weight, friends wondered aloud if I had cancer. Against all instincts and without a plan, I had dismantled the entire book and had no idea, and no interest, in how to put it back together. The despair I had felt in trying to get this book published didn’t come close to the feeling of overseeing its destruction. After the conference, I went out for an African-fusion meal with Patry Francis and Tish Cohen. And afterward, we went to a writer’s party, though I wasn’t in the mood.

The last person I wanted to meet was an agent–I was that fed up with the business–but I met one, we got along easily and talked the next day. AndĀ over the next several months of working with him, we broke contract with that publishing company as I went to work finding my way back into the novel. I no longer had a book deal, which was scary, to say the least, but I was going to get this book right. Gradually, my body got healthy again, I rediscovered the joy in writing, and I am ever so grateful for that chance meeting!



Daisuke "Dice" Tsutsumi

by Susan Henderson on March 5, 2008

Dice Tsutsumi is an illustrator, painter, graphic novelist, and art director. He’s worked on such films as Ice Age, Robots, and Horton Hears a Who. Because he has his hand in so many creative endeavors, I was interested in hearing his thoughts on the difference between collaborative and solo projects.


A current anthology he’s in focuses on this very idea. The anthology is called, OUT OF PICTURE, a term used to describe material that is cut from a movie. The book features the solo work of animators from Blue Sky Studios, including Dice and past LitPark guest, Peter de Seve.


From the forward by Chris Wedge, Director of Blue Sky Studios:

This process by which each contributes a focused ray of their own talent, then steps aside to allow the next the same is one of measured sacrifice. In giving only what is asked of them, each holds back a reservoir of creative potential that roils, impatient for escape, within their hearts.


You come from a family of writers, and yet you are a visual artist. When (and in what way) was it clear to you that you were a different kind of artist?

I always liked drawing since I was little while my sister was always into reading and writing. But I never thought I was that good of an artist. There were so many kids around me who could draw so much better. It’s just that I knew I wasn’t going to be a writer since I never did well in literature/writing classes.


Tell me about your career in the visual arts. How did you get started in this field? What kinds of projects have you worked on?

I studied very traditional oil painting. When I graduated, my visa didn’t allow me to stay in the States unless I got a full time job. That’s how I got into a video game company as a concept artist. Immediately, I fell in love with my job where I collaborate with many other talented artists. I soon made a shift to concept design for animated films.

I have worked on Ice Age, Robots, and upcoming Horton Hears A Who as a concept artist at Blue Sky Studios and recently I moved to Pixar.


How do you approach collaborative projects, and how are they different from the personal or solo work you do?

It has its own set of challenges. Team work is so important. There are so many artists who are just as talented as everyone else. They all have great opinions but not necessarily the same one. So lots of compromises. But when it works, the final product comes out a million times stronger. It is very educational. I feel like I’m learning from my colleagues everyday just like how it was in school.

You told me you consider yourself to be a storyteller, and yet, you are not a writer. How so?

I honestly don’t have the writing chops, especially in my second language. But I always love to tell a story. Even in my single image of illustration, I would like to tell a story. I believe you can tell stories just with images. I think of good old silent movies. Some of them tell stories so much better and more clearly than current movies.

That’s why my graphic novels are my true passion. I have a long way to go but I’d like to keep working on my visual story telling skills.


Talk to me about the Out of Picture project and about your contribution to it.

I came up with the idea of outside project with my artist friends at Blue Sky Studios. I always believed in my group who are all story tellers although we all illustrate someone else’s (our directors’) stories. I also managed the group along with Michael Knapp who is also a contributor of the book. It was a real tough challenge because managing your friends, especially if they are ARTISTS, wasn’t easy. Everyone had their reasons to be late or opinions on how to make the book. But someone had to still lead the group to one place.

Of course, on top of that, I killed myself trying to finish my own story which was really difficult. We all learned so much out of this experience.

Anything uniquely satisfying or difficult with telling a story through pictures?

Well, first of all, telling your very own stories with whatever talent you got is satisfying no matter what. Whether it’s in writing, singing, music, or images…

Looking back at OOP 1, there are things I would have done differently but that’s all part of the learning experience. I think my story for OOP 2 came out a lot better. If I can tell more with less writing, that’ll be my goal. Maybe I’ll do a graphic novel with no word at all one day.


Do you have any more graphic novels in your future?

Yes, Out of Picture 2 is coming out in June 2008. Out of Picture 1 just came out in December.

Do you read any of the graphic novels out there? And if so, who do you enjoy?

I read A LOT of Japanese graphic novels. I guess I still prefer it because lots of them tend to have subtle storytelling. I’m sure there are tons of amazing non-Japanese graphic novels too. I recently read American Born Chinese and Persepolis, and both were amazing.

You have a project with your mother in the works. Can you tell me about that?


My mother is a poet but she recently started writing children’s books. It was both our dreams to collaborate and finally we are making a children’s book that she writes and I illustrate. We are quite excited about it. It’ll be published in Japan but hope it’ll make its way to the American market too!


Can you tell my readers about Sketchtravel. What is it, and how did this idea begin?

This is a project my friend Gerald Guerlais and I came up where we connect with artists around the world through one little sketch book. Each artist does an original sketch on each page of the book and “hand delivers” the book to the next artist. It’s been about 18 months since we started and we have 26 sketches done. Check out the website so you can see what has been done.

We recently were informed that there will be a French film maker to shoot the documentary of the project. It is a long process but it has picked up quite a momentum on its own.

Any advice to young artists just starting out?

Hope you are in it because you love it. If you love it, the money you make, the social status you have, or praises you get from critics won’t matter. You will keep creating simply it’s so much fun and by default, you will have a solid training without knowing. It’s got to be fun.




Born and raised in Tokyo, Dice moved to NY in ’93. After graduating from School of Visual Arts in 98, he started his career as a staff illustrator for Lucas Learning Ltd. in San Francico. Two years later, Dice moved back to NY to work for Blue Sky Studios as a visual development/color key artist on their blockbuster film projects such as Ice Age, Robots and upcoming Horton Hears A Who. After his long adventurous 7 year run at Blue Sky Studios, he has recently accepted the new challenge to join as an art director at Pixar Animation Studios.

Dice has actively been pursuing his illustration career outside of animation as well. His graphic novel, Noche y Dia is a part of critically acclaimed anthology Out of Picture. His next short graphic novel, Dream of Kyosuke as a part of Out of Picture issue #2 is due May 2008 from Random House Publishing. He also has been involved with a few potential children’s book projects.

Meanwhile, Dice continues to create his plein air oil paintings that have been featured in numerous gallery exhibitions. He currently lives in San Francisco.


Question of the Month: Dice

by Susan Henderson on March 3, 2008

What’s your favorite game involving dice? And if you have a story to share about you and that game, let me hear it.


Wednesday, Daisuke Tsutsumi will be here. He’s a fabulous illustrator who goes by the nickname of “Dice.” I hope you’ll be back to see his art and join the conversation.