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Inspiration needs perspiration to bear fruit

J.C. Amberlyn, far right, poses with students who participate in the Black Mountain school’s GEAR UP program Tuesday evening in Golden Valley.

There's more - a lot more - to getting published than meets the eye

J.C. Amberlyn was obviously nervous. The microphone in her trembling hand shook ever so slightly.

Her voice caught in her throat for a moment or two and her kind and respectful audience seemed to silently pray the lady speaking to them would find her way.

And then, with the stroke of a pencil, Amberlyn got her groove back.

The Kingman Daily Miner photographer and accomplished book author, working with a pencil and a sketch pad projected onto a screen at Black Mountain Elementary School in Golden Valley, began drawing.

The case of the nerves that plagues all but the most confident public speakers vanished into thin air.

She quickly drew a squirrel and then, after students eagerly asked for a second exhibition, a bat and a fish. Children and their parents watched transfixed.

It was as if Amberlyn was not simply drawing creatures, but performing magic. Her now-steady hand flew across the page as she created something out of nothing.

That's the scene that unfolded Tuesday evening, when Amberlyn spoke of the hard work required to get a book published.

There is more to it than merely putting a story on paper, she said, and like most things worthwhile, the devil is in the details.

Amberlyn has authored three books published by Watson-Guptill Publications, a division of publishing heavyweight Random House, all related to two of her main loves: drawing and wildlife.

Her first book, appropriately titled, "Drawing Wildlife," was a success. Her second book, "Drawing Manga Animals, Chibis, and other Adorable Creatures," was equally well received. Her third, "The Artist's Guide to Drawing Animals: How to Draw Cats, Dogs, and Other Favorite Pets," was published two months ago.

But Amberlyn was far from the only book writer and artist in the audience. The middle school students at Black Mountain had written and illustrated their own books, and Nationwide Publishers bound many of them free of charge.

Amberlyn was there to motivate those students who would like to pursue authoring a book after their school days end.

She said she studied writers' markets, sent in samples of her writing and drawing, and a letter that answered the question, "Why you might want to publish my book."

She struck gold early on.

"The first time I got a response, it was from Random House," she said. "I was very happy, but there was lots of work to do after that."

This is where those pesky details come into play. What followed was a grueling three years that consisted of Amberlyn and the publisher "going back and forth so everybody was happy."

She was asked to provide a national focus to her book to widen audience appeal, a request that required her to study wildlife that live outside her beloved Arizona.

The second year was when the actual writing took place and the final year was spent on revisions and editing, she said.

"Basically, it was a lot of, 'Take this out, change this,'" said Amberlyn. "It was kind of tedious."

To aspiring young authors, she had this advice: "Look at the different genres, look up publishers and use the Internet to help guide you."

She said illustrators will want to study real wildlife and their anatomy.

Most important, never be afraid to draw something the wrong way. Paraphrasing Thomas Edison, she said,

"First you have to make 10,000 mistakes, and then you're an artist. You never stop learning."

She also encouraged students to follow their dreams.

"Find the things that you love," she said. "Study them. Pay attention to the details and pay attention to what your teachers tell you. These are the kinds of things that will help you succeed."

For more information on Amberlyn and her books, visit her website, www.jcamberlyn.com.


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