Student Success Stories: Ken Lamug
I first encountered Ken Lamug on a webinar with Arree Chung in January of 2017. He was the attendee asking all of the questions that I wanted to ask before I typed them out. We'd both signed up for Arree's free webinar, and then we both signed up for Arree's class afterwards. This webinar was also my first experience with Arree.
Not long after starting Arree's class, I attended my first SCBWI conference, where I met Ken in person. Ken is the Illustrator Coordinator for our SCBWI region, and he runs the picture book critique group for our region. He's as generous with his experience as Arree, which is saying something.
If you're a Storyteller Academy student, you might know him from our website intensive earlier this year. Ken taught it.
Albert Whitman & Company released his first traditionally published picture book for children last month, so I'm excited to have him on the blog as a Student Success Story. I wanted to give away a copy of Ghastly Ghosts, but Ken is giving away a copy of two books instead. You can enter at the end of this blog post, but Ken has accumulated a lot of experience over the last 20 years, so I hope you're here to learn and be inspired by him.
Here's his latest book.
Ken: First off, thanks again for inviting me on the blog. I appreciate the Storyteller Academy community, and it’s amazing what Arree and the SA team have built. The site just keeps getting better and better!
Myrna: Thank YOU! How did you start illustrating picture books?
Ken: It was around 2010 when I got the bug to write and illustrate picture books. At that time, I was fascinated with spooky and macabre stories which you can see in my earlier projects.
Before picture books, my creativity was focused on photography and filmmaking. And due to family obligations, I needed to be creative while staying close to home.
Like most people, I illustrated when I was younger, but nothing too serious. So, I had to do a lot of learning and studying if I was going to pursue a writing and illustration career. The following year I joined SCBWI and went to my first local conference.
Myrna: What is your background?
Ken: My background is in computer programming and website development. I think that being around computers sparked my curiosity, which is a very important artistic trait. As a programmer, I was thinking of creative ways to solve tasks and puzzles.
I don’t have any art training other than I loved drawing when I was a kid. But I pretty much forgot all of that through most of my adulthood.
Myrna: Curiosity is definitely important. How long did it take you to get published?
Ken: My path to publication seemed more like an aimless stumbling from project to project, rather than a clear, thought-out plan. I self published my first book, A Box Story, in 2011. And I did a few unpaid comic book projects until I finally signed two books in 2015: Hurts Like a Mother with Doubleday, and The Stumps of Flattop Hill with One Peace Books.
Ken: Most of my work during this time revolved around spooky stories, and so the books I published are a reflection of that, like A is for Asteroids, Z is for Zombies with Andrews McMeel.
So, it’s good to remember that in the publishing world, the kind of work you put out there will most likely be the type of projects you will be asked to work on.
I had a lot of fun working on these books, even though they’re not very child-focused. Each one of them taught me something new and helped build my portfolio of books.
I eventually updated my art portfolio to cater to the children’s market so that potential publishers would know I had the ability to illustrate those kinds of books.
Myrna: As an illustrator, what are your primary tools?
Ken: When I first started, I primarily used pen and paper. Since then I’ve switched to entirely digital work. While it allows me to work faster and makes life easier when it comes to revisions, it also makes other art styles difficult to achieve. But the challenge also makes it interesting.
With the popularity of iPad and drawing tablets, digital art is even more accessible to those who want to try it.
And even though the high-tech tools are nice to have, it all comes down to the basics … eat your vegetables!
Myrna: Haha! I know that Arree would agree with you on that! Why did you take Arree Chung’s Making Picture Book Stories class?
Ken: Before joining Arree’s class, I had attended quite a few workshops, and most of them were focused on illustrating picture books.
I found out that my illustration skills were pretty good and that I needed a good story focused class.
That was when I attended Arree’s January 2017 webinar. The class was helpful, and Arree’s honest, firsthand insight was very valuable. I liked that it was easy to understand and presented in a meat and potatoes kind of way (no fluff). I became a member right after that class.
I met Arree at the NYC SCBWI conference that same year, and the rest is history.
Myrna: How did taking Arree's class change the way you write picture books?
Ken: Storyteller Academy classes are wonderful and deserve multiple viewings, even for the veteran picture book makers.
What I do love is the focus on writing with dummies, as well as his techniques for idea generation. It’s fun and very organic.
But I think what’s even more powerful is Arree’s focus on the creative lifestyle and the philosophies around time and energy management. These are values that will help all of us in the long term.
Myrna: Oh, I agree! Developing healthy creative habits was a breakthrough for me. Could you tell us the story behind your most recent book, Ghastly Ghosts?
Ken: Ghastly Ghosts is a picture book that I illustrated that's written by Teresa Bateman, and published by Albert Whitman. The publisher queried my agent on January 2018, so it’s been just a little shy of two years from illustration to publication. Unfortunately, I don’t have the details of how long it took from writing to acquisition.
The publisher was familiar with some of my earlier work and believed that my style—along with my love for this genre—was a good combination for Ghastly Ghosts.
Ghastly Ghosts combined my love for spooky stories and my goal of traditionally publishing a children’s picture book, so it worked out well.
I created a series of videos regarding the illustration side of Ghastly Ghosts, where I talk about character design, colors, and cover design.
Ken: While the publisher doesn’t officially consider Ghastly Ghosts a Halloween book, this is really the perfect season for its release. I think that kids and adults will enjoy the story and art.
Myrna: It's a great Halloween read, but there's definitely more to it than that. Do you have any more tips for illustration students?
Ken: What seems to have worked for me in the past is putting my work out there into the world.
All of my illustrating projects came about because I was always working on projects and sharing them with the world. It could be a simple picture on Instagram, Facebook, a postcard mailing, etc. These little seeds that you plant will eventually grow into trees and will come back bearing fruits.
And you know what they say: “The best time to plant a tree was yesterday; and the next best time is today.”
Myrna: What's next for you?
Ken: I just finished illustrating The Whole Hole Story, written by Vivian McInerny, for Versify. It’s slated to be released late 2020. It’s a fun imagination-filled book about a girl who discovers a hole in her pocket.
I am also working on my very first author/illustrator middle-grade graphic novel, Mischief and Mayhem, for Katherine Tegen Books, which is slated for completion toward the end of 2020.
This story started out as a picture book and grew into a 240-page full-color graphic novel filled with action, comedy, and lots of heart. It’s taking up all of my time, and I’m looking forward to sharing that journey with the rest of the Storyteller Academy family when it’s ready.
Myrna: I can't wait to see them, Ken. Where can readers find you on the Internet?
Myrna: Where can we buy your books?
- Ghastly Ghosts https://amzn.to/2HtRExg
- A is for Asteroids, Z is for Zombies https://amzn.to/33ZNTcp
- Hurts Like a Mother: A Cautionary Alphabet https://amzn.to/2HqyacD
- Petro and the Flea King https://amzn.to/2KYEJp1
- The Stumps of Flattop Hill https://amzn.to/2KYosR1
Myrna: Thank you so much, Ken!
Book Giveaway Details
Ken is giving away a copy of Ghastly Ghosts, and a copy of Petro and the Flea King. If you enter, you win both. These two are both child friendly, wonderful books. To enter, let me know something interesting that you've learned from Ken in the comments by midnight on November 8. You don’t have to buy anything or be a student.
Please share this post on social media for extra entries, and paste the link to wherever you shared as a reply to your original comment.
Thank you for reading!
Myrna Foster writes and edits content for Storyteller Academy and the WriteRiders Newsletter for SCBWI Nevada. She has spent a lot of time teaching and coaching children, including five years as a preschool teacher. She's also worked as a journalist, and Highlights High Five has published six of her poems.
Arree Chung is an author/illustrator and the founder of Storyteller Academy. Arree’s Ninja! series has received starred reviews from Kirkus and School Library Journal. Kirkus also gave a starred review to Mixed, which recently won the FCGB award.
Today Arree lives a creative life, making stories for children. Arree spends most of his time making picture books, writing middle grade novels, and sharing his love for art, design, and storytelling with kids and dreamers everywhere.