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.

Ken with His Grandma
Peter Brown with Ken (not his first conference)

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?

Ken: 

Myrna: Where can we buy your books? 

Ken: 

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!

Blog Contributors

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.

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28 thoughts on “Student Success Stories: Ken Lamug”

  1. Linda Kay Hardie

    I learned that Ken likes ghosts and illustrated a book with ghosts in it. I love ghosts! I’d love to win his book.

  2. My biggest takeaway is developing a creative lifestyle and energy management. I have been talking about building writing habits with several people lately. In addition I love that Ken loves scary stories. I have written and told scary stories in my places including a couple of cemeteries.

  3. Cynthia A. Ritsko

    WOW! 10 different Daves! Thank you for a glimpse into your process and sharing some of your journey highlights. You are inspirational!

  4. Wonderful interview! Ken is the real deal- such a hard worker and a true professional. And thanks to Storyteller Academy, I get to be in a critique group with him! 😍😍😍

  5. Cynthia A. Ritsko

    Ken, you make your process look so easy in person; had no idea there was so much behind the scenes. This is somewhere between scary and better et to work! Thanks for sharing.

  6. Hi Ken,
    Thanks for sharing the way you have made a picture book. I like that there is a spooky story for kids to enjoy. Plus I am intrigued to know more about Petro and the Flea King, and admire its retro style.

  7. Chris Ann Derby

    Thanks for sharing your success! I am pleased to learn that one can be successful without an Arts Degree! I really enjoyed seeing your drawings during the process of developing the character.

  8. “My path to publication seemed more like an aimless stumbling from project to project, rather than a clear, thought-out plan.” This is so how I feel about my own writing journey thus far. I’ve been dabbling in the kidlit world for several years now and it’s only during the past year that I feel like I’m finally understanding how to both read and write picture books with a clear focus on story, structure, and character development. My recent classes at Storyteller Academy have been a key factor in improving my skills. I wish I had enrolled sooner. Thanks, Arree and Myrna. 🙂

  9. “Get your work out there.” This is my takeaway. I am a writer, so I need to find ways to talk about my characters, the story arc, and my perspective during writing & editing. I agree that creating dummy’s as taught by Arree is key to flow and great compositions, even in longer length works. Thanks.

  10. Florbela Nienaber

    Great blog post Myrna and Ken!

    I enjoyed seeing your process Ken. You’ve shared some of it in our critique group before, but it was great to hear your detailed process. Great tip about punching the color for print too.

    Thanks for sharing and best wishes for your books. – Florbela

  11. Ken says to put your work out there. It’s always a scary thought, but I need to get over it, and do what he suggests. Thanks Ken for sharing.
    I love seeing how your ideas came to be books, such a great journey and accomplishment. BRAVO!

  12. Chris Ann Derby

    Thanks for sharing your process on character development. I didn’t realize that dotted eyes make a character look younger. I definitely want to read your books!

  13. Thank You for going through your process, step by step.
    I found this most helpful and liberating.
    I look forward to seeing more.
    Sincerely,
    Becky

  14. I love how animated his videos were and how he said it took work and revisions but anyone that has a heart for doing it can do it.

    1. Gayle, it’s been over a month since I first emailed you. I just sent a second email. If I don’t hear back from you this week, I’ll need to choose another winner. If you see this comment, please send your mailing address to myrna@storytelleracademy.com. Thanks!

  15. Stana Milanovich

    Loved how Ken talked about keepong going and the importance of ‘seeds’, plus the next best time to plant a tree. Thanks!

  16. Annette Schottenfeld

    Your work and ‘your’ story are inspirational. Congratulations and I can’t wait to read Ghastly Ghosts! My daughter was born on Halloween, so naturally we like spooky stories too. 🙂

  17. Elizabeth Burns

    I met Ken (and Arree, Myrna and Jim!) at the Nevada Regional SCBWI conference earlier this year. Ken was kind, encouraging and honest and gave a great presentation. Thank you for this blogpost, Myrna. It was a good interview and “get your work out there” is an excellent quote.

    1. You’re welcome, Elizabeth! You’re one of my favorite people I’ve met at a conference. Thank you for being you.

  18. Jessica mercado

    I like reading these kinds of posts. Ken’s success story inspires me.
    I learned that he shared his work via multiple methods. The postcard is an investment into one’s career for sure.
    Thanks Myrna

  19. I liked hearing that Arree’s focus on a creative lifestyle and philosophies around time and energy management have been helpful for him.

  20. Howdy Myrna and Ken! I love these interviews. My favorite part of what Ken said was about planting trees. I have always had self doubt with my work and my procrastination can get pretty bad. Planting those seeds are so important and I couldn’t agree more about following through of simply sharing my work to the world and hopefully one day someone will see me.

    Thank you Myrna for this interview with Ken.

  21. Creative habits are so important! I also loved how he talks about his he is constantly planting seeds like sending postcards, connecting with people, making social media posts, etc. When we work on projects and share them with the world we are planting seeds. These seeds grow into magnificent trees that begin to bear scrumptious fruit. It’s so delightful to see the fruit that Ken is now harvesting for all of us to enjoy. Thanks Ken and Myrna for sharing these thoughts in this blog post!

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