Review: Dream Friends & Interview with You Byun

Dream Friends cover  by You Byun

A couple of weeks ago I won a copy of debut author and illustrator You Byun's Dream Friends (Nancy Paulsen Books, 2013) in a Writer's Digest giveaway. 

In this charming picture book, Melody plays and goes on fantastic adventures with a special friend in her dreams, but she is too shy in real life to make friends. One lonely day on the playground, Melody dances as she remembers fun times with her dream friend, which catches the attention of the other kids and leads to new friendships. The bright pastel palette and the whimsical, textured illustrations complement the story perfectly.

You Byun was nice enough to answer some questions:

Q. Can you tell me briefly about your journey to publication?

I always have loved anything with images and stories - like children's books! I studied Graphic Design in Hong-ik University in Korea and received an MFA in Illustration as Visual Essay at the School of Visual Arts in NYC.    

After graduating, I took Pat Cummings' Children's Book Boot Camp (CBBC), where I made a dummy book. I went to the SCBWI New York Conference in 2010, where I won the grand prize and portfolio prize. This led me to meet lots of great Art Directors. Eventually, the dummy book I made at CBBC ended up with my publisher Nancy Paulsen of Nancy Paulsen Books, An Imprint of Penguin Young Readers. It couldn't have been better since then – because it's so important to meet someone who knows and understands what you are trying to do!

Q. What is the most surprising thing you learned in having your first book published?

The most surprising part was how much time the team at my publisher put into a book. It blew my mind. It took about 2.5 years in total to see the book in bookstores.

Q. How did that process roughly break down?

I cannot recall it clearly, but roughly: 

  • writing took about 6 months (from having a little hint of an idea to making a final book dummy)
  • a few months for meetings with the dummy book and a contract (which took time, with documents back and forth)
  • about a year of editing and artwork revisions
  • 9+ months until the book was in bookshelves (the publisher was probably dealing with designing, printing, marketing, and other similar activities)

Q. What was your illustration process for Dream Friends?

It's pretty simple and straightforward. First, I draw on paper with brush and ink. My work is line-based so this is the most important and difficult part to get right. I sometimes re-draw the whole spread a few times if I'm not happy with it. Then I scan them in, then color them in Photoshop. Done. Here is a sketch from the dummy book and the final artwork:

dummy sketch from Dream Friends by You Byun

Color Spread from Dream Friends by You Byun
© 2013 You Byun

Q. What is the one piece of advice you would give to aspiring picture book writers or illustrators?

I am sure you already know what you are doing. So I would say, be out there all the time until you finally meet someone who likes your work. The key is to keep trying everything you can do.

Q. What other projects are you working on?

I have two books coming up, also with Nancy Paulsen Books, an Imprint of Penguin for Young Readers. I will be collaborating with a brilliant writer, Linda Ashman, for a book called Little Baby Buttercup, and I am making my own book which I will do both writing and illustrating. I am developing sketches and refining ideas at this point. I am so happy to work with the same team again.

You Byun can be reached online on Facebook and Twitter, and check out her art prints or her website.

If you enjoyed this post, you may also like: